In Greek, meta (μετά) means “after” or “beyond.”
When Aristotle wrote his book, Metaphysics, his primary intention was to provide another work “after” his previous work, The Physics, which was a compilation of writings after the previous work (τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικά).
The implication, however, is more than chronological order. After hundreds of years of pursuit, metaphysics has become one of the main fields of philosophy to seek the realm of “beyond” the physical world. In it, we search for the wisdom for hope, faith, love, and God, or the transcendentals such as truth, goodness, and beauty.
In a similar analogy, we can recall the term, metanoia (μετάνοια). It means beyond (meta, μετά) mind (noia, νοια). In theology, moreover, we use this word as repentance. That is to say, “beyond” what we think in our lives, we encounter the change in our way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.
Jesus started his mission with this word of repentance.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.Matthew 4:17
In these meta perspectives, we are self-referential and reflexive. It means that instead of facing the physical world as is, we step back further and reflect on how we exist in the world we live in. We ask ourselves:
- Who am I?
- Where did we come from?
- Why are we here?
- Where are we going?
Thus, metaphysics is supposed to provide the answers to these ontological arguments on being. And yet, Heidegger pointed out the inherent limitation of articulating being itself.
Even if we can define the meaning of being, this metaphysical argument is not different from describing the physical world such as physics and all types of sciences – the third world argumentation to develop the objective knowledge in Popper’s term. Otherwise, it sounds like a mere articulation of the quasi-physical world.
In the same way, Kierkegaard criticized Hegelian treatise. Even we can define the meaning of being, absolute spirit, God, or anything intangible, the act of articulating them in a language might be a wrong approach in the first place. After all, faith is not someone else persuading you to have it by explaining it, and it is rather the conviction of your subjectivity.
How can we understand that we exist? What is our being on earth?
Can we step back further from our being to understand and objectify it without making it a mere physical, scientific description? In other words, can we know our being in the way God (or anything transcendental) sees our being from the meta perspectives?
Stepping back further from your being means denying your being even to the extent that you can’t articulate your being anymore. Where are you then? You are non-being as the eye of Being.
Eckhart said it is possible in the true obedience, saying:
When we go out of ourselves through obedience and strip ourselves of what is ours, then God must enter into us; for when someone wills nothing for themselves, then God must will on their behalf just as he does for himself.
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians