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Conatus: The Psychology of Metaphysics

Conatus: The Psychology of Metaphysics

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The continuous drive toward perfection—some label that perfection as God, Buddha, Jesus, Allah, Spirit, and many other names—is how we derive happiness. In philosophical terms this is known as “conatus,” or striving and effort. When our striving is free to succeed, we are happy; when opposed, we are sad or angered. It is that striving that defines metaphysical virtue—overcoming the opposition makes us virtuous and creates joy. In psychological terms, we are beings with subjective realities living and existing in a natural universe filled with objective reality. Navigating those inner and outer realities is challenging at best.

Since ancient Egypt, tarot and other psychic activities have helped navigate life. While imperfect, these early activities helped—and continue to help—bridge the gap between people and create intimacy where none has previously existed. As Itai Ivtzan states:

“Within the paranormal approach it is claimed by occultists that the tarot reveals the quality of the moment for a consulting individual. It is important to say that the cards cannot predict the future as if it is fixed and fated (in contradiction with common belief and common practice of many tarot readers). The cards, therefore, portray opportunities, hidden motives, and potentials and do not describe unchangeable events. According to a variety of writers working with tarot, tarot cards allow the reader to deeply penetrate the meaning of the moment for a client by creating more awareness regarding its potentials and influences.”

So, in the sense that tarot readers can guide and help their clients find answers to problems, it can be quite effective. After all, one first needs to understand and empathize with others before they can advise them.

Science and the Metaphysical
Most scientific theorists find it far too simplistic to make a distinction between falsifiable science and unfalsifiable metaphysics. While a subject of debate, many have argued that today’s quantum mechanical physics borders on validating the metaphysical and spiritual. Terms like “God particle” and “Theory of Everything” have entered mainstream culture.

Psychologists require evidence that something works. A scientific experiment must be repeatable, with consistent results. Many would argue metaphysics isn’t evidence based. But, it can be. In her paper for the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, Fiona J. Hibberd states:

“We are attempting to identify the categorial features of reality because only then can we derive implications from them and justify our conceptual and methodological practices on that ontological basis. If the categories and their logic permeate the metaphysical structure of all situations, they are the universal “placeholders for knowledge” and “excluders” for error. This is what it means to say that metaphysics is in Psychology.”

This means that metaphysical practices aren’t simply something that can be dismissed as “woo-woo.” Psychology provides a framework. As a point of note, complementary alternative medicine (CAM) practices such as Reiki, yoga, and herbal medicine are already in use in medical settings. They are showing promising results.

David Kaplan is a former software engineer and studying psychology at Harvard University. Wendy Feltner is a Reiki Master/Teacher, intuitive reader, and businesswoman. Together they own Mystical Bookshop in Fort Myers, Florida. 239.338.7816 | www.mysticalbookshop.com | 13141 McGregor Blvd # 7, Fort Myers, FL 33919.