Metaphysics Definition and Philosophy – Theoretical vs. Practical

By Desa | Metaphysics

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While exploring our options for spiritual growth, we are bound to come across the topic of metaphysics. There are many competing, confusing ideas about this topic both as a philosophy and as a spiritual path, so that I feel laying out a more clear-cut metaphysics definition and philosophy here could be helpful specifically for those who are interested in learning how studying metaphysics can benefit them spiritually.

In this post, we will look at the root of the two main branches of metaphysics, and what uses they might have for us today. We will also introduce some tools of the practical branch of metaphysics, and touch on some relevant circumstances for those pursuing this path today.

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Briefest of Histories of one of the Most Ancient of Studies

The term “metaphysics” is originally attributed to a collection of fourteen written works by Aristotle. These books were not named by Aristotle, but most likely by an editor of his works more than a hundred years after his death. The Greek meaning of metaphysics is “that which comes after the physical” and it has been suggested that this simultaneously couches two distinct meanings.

The first meaning: students should initially focus on grounding themselves in the study of the physical sciences of the natural world before embarking on the study of metaphysics. In AristAristotleotle’s view, the physical world is that which is ever-changing, the direct effect of something non-physical.

Incredibly, many topics Aristotle and pre-seventeenth century philosophers placed under the category of the physical sciences–free will, personality, mind-body connection as some examples–were later re-categorized as nonphysical. How interesting that they saw such topics as otherwise!

The second subtler meaning: that metaphysics is a study of things that take place beyond that which is merely of the physical world. Metaphysics is concerned with unchanging first causes which directly create, sustain, and continually transform the physical world.

Here is where the two primary branches of what we today call metaphysics have their beginnings as two distinct lines of study: theoretical and the practical.

Theoretical vs. Practical Metaphysics

Theoretical metaphysics–or philosophical metaphysics–traces its origins back to Aristotle as described above. It is mainly a highly abstract, intellectual study of the nature of being, reality, and existence. It asks questions that consensus says cannot be proven by objective experience.

Feel free to dive in to the numerous resources at your local library or online if you are most interested in this line of study.

Practical metaphysics–which is the study I am concerned with and will continue to explore in every post on this blog–has its roots long before Aristotle.

While I cannot tell you what it was called before the term metaphysics was coined, we would today call this most ancient tradition mysticism, and it has been with mankind almost since the very beginning. Through every religious and spiritual tradition from the ancient world up through today, this thread of the mystical path has been strung, tying it all together.

Practical metaphysics offers a wealth of knowledge based on direct spiritual observation and experience. “In its purest form, higher metaphysics is a sacred art, practiced by trained mystics who can see beyond the physical veil of life,” is how one great modern metaphysical teacher, Barbara Y Martin, describes it.

While what is pursued in the philosophical study of metaphysics is declared to be unknowable, it still serves the purpose of stimulating that first potential awakening of the mind to at least ask: is there something more to life than the physical?

Practical metaphysics then serves to take these questions of the so-called unknowable gleaned from intellectual contemplation, and offer a path that anyone can follow–when they are ready–that will lead to actual KNOWING.

From the faith and devotion born of the religious life to actual knowing–the branch of practical metaphysics is where spiritual aspirants learn how to bridge that gap.

Some Tools of Practical Metaphysics

Building up psychic abilities is not what practical metaphysics is about, nor is the awakening of mystical gifts. (By the way, there is a big difference between the psychic and the mystic, but that is for another post.) These things can and do happen as a natural by-product of one’s spiritual growth while in earnest pursuit of the metaphysical spiritual path, but these gifts are not the goal. The goal is your spiritual growth.

The main tools of practical metaphysics are prayer, meditating with divine light, and spiritual healing. Working with spiritual energy and studying the aura fall under the umbrella of practical metaphysics. Studying mathematics, science, history, the spiritual hierarchy, the mind, the body, sacred texts of the world, and much more is also part of the genuine metaphysical path. You must come with a deep love of learning!

Again, the goal is not to learn to see auras, which is a natural mystical (not psychic) gift that may happen as you grow spiritually. However wonderful it may be to get to the point that you have awakened the ability to see the aura and angels, the goal is to fulfill your highest purpose in life by achieving your highest spiritual potential so that you may know God through direct experience.

All the prayer and meditation and healing work and study is aimed at helping you draw closer to God so you can overcome your weaknesses and strengthen your character. As you do this, you expand your ability to fulfill your unique place in the divine plan by being of greater and greater service to others because the spiritual path is never just about you.

Metaphysics is a Crockpot Path, Not a Microwave

You could spend an entire lifetime just learning the singular lesson of patience…but it would be a lifetime well spent.

There is no such thing as instant enlightenment or instant attunement. Yes, a person may have been born into a life already so developed spiritually that they could achieve it more quickly than some others. Yet even then that person would study for years with an awakened spiritual teacher first before they achieved their own enlightenment.

The spiritual path of practical metaphysics is a long, challenging lifetime pursuit. But it is totally worth it!

Are You Retracing Your Steps from Lives Past?

There has never been a time to grow more spiritually in the entire history of the world than today, and there are many, many who have earned the right in this lifetime to pursue the metaphysical path.

Some who are drawn to metaphysics today are even retracing steps taken in lifetimes past. You might call it a “make-up” lifetime. For those souls, it is possible to cover a lot of ground much more quickly than someone who is exploring metaphysics for the first time.

Either way, the metaphysical path is a beautiful and exciting one. If you are feeling yourself drawn to this work, I encourage you to look into studying more deeply and finding your own true teacher. There are various schools of metaphysics today. I personally recommend classes offered at The Spiritual Arts Institute, but go with what speaks to you.


Metaphysics is defined as that which comes after the physical. There are two branches, theoretical and practical. Theoretical has it roots in Aristotle and is concerned with exploring what are believed to be the unknowable questions of the nature of being.

Practical metaphysics is a much more ancient, sacred tradition that bridges the gap between faith and knowing. Its tools are prayer, meditating with Divine Light, spiritual healing, and continuous study. Practical metaphysics is about spiritual growth, not instant enlightenment or psychic development, though such gifts can awaken naturally as a side effect for those on this path. Practical metaphysics is a long but beautiful path that eventually leads to spiritual enlightenment and beyond.

Many today are being called to this path; some are even retracing steps taken in lifetimes past and could therefore grow much more quickly. All sincere students need an awakened spiritual teacher to help them reach their full potential. There are a few schools of metaphysics today. I recommend the Spiritual Arts Institute.

Hope you have found this post helpful and interesting! This is a deep subject we have only touched on here, so it is natural to have a lot of questions! Let me know what you think. Just leave your questions and comments below.

I look forward to sharing and learning more with you!

In Light & Love,


  • AvatarDesa says:

    Thank you so much for reading this Zuchii; as for your questions:

    1. What I am trying to present in this post is that there are really two branches of metaphysics–one is purely intellectual or you might say reserved for academia. The other form of metaphysics is practical, in other words, it involves certain activities and habits in a way of approaching life from a spiritual perspective. The first type of metaphysics may certainly ponder questions about art or science, as everything can fall under the umbrella of merely intellectualizing, but suggests no action and rarely comes to any conclusion or has an ultimate purpose in mind other than to enjoy thinking; but the latter form of metaphysics is an art and a science of actions aimed at achieving certain beneficial ends for ourselves spiritually (such as enlightenment).

    2. There is much to the path of practical metaphysics, but three of its chief components are prayer, mediation, and continuous character refinement. The goal of practical metaphysics is to help the soul evolve so that it can achieve its highest spiritual potential and become a conscious participant in the spiritual processes of life. As far as what it achieves in our lives, the mystical traditions have kept the lamp of truth burning for humanity no matter how dark the times may get. There are heavenly souls working quietly behind the scenes in all avenues and activities of life, working tirelessly to usher us into the New Day and beyond. We are all destined one day to achieve enlightenment and one day win the crown of life, Jesus Christ as yet being the most well-known example of this goal. In our ordinary daily lives as human, following the path of practical metaphysics will help us live up to our true potential, and it will also help us to come to truly know God.

    These answers are bound to only raise even more questions for you! It was just the same for me, and the beauty is the more you learn, the more you realize there is still to learn. It is an exciting and rewarding way of life. If you feel metaphysics calling to you, I urge you to trust that inspiration and explore it further. Two of the most clear-cut, easy to read and understand, non- woo-woo books I recommend on this vast subject are Change Your Aura, Change Your Life and Karma & Reincarnation.

    Thank you for these excellent, deep questions! I can tell you have a very sharp and beautiful mind. 

    Take care,


  • AvatarDesa says:

    Thank you Kevin! Congratulations on the excitement of embarking on the path of your spiritual awakening. Your notice of metaphysics strikes me as no accident–atheist or agnostic you may presently identify as but I think your soul is just plucking up the nerve to explore; and you hit the nail right on the head when you said you remain “open-minded.” 

    We are often given a very limited, narrow, immature or weak idea of God early in life; it doesn’t take much to have that initial impression shaken and then shattered, and when this happens it is so easy–almost natural really–to fall into atheism or agnosticism. 

    The thing is we are meant to dive deeper when that first disillusionment happens, not give up and retreat. But the soul may resist this because it has been frustrated a bit.

    It is like St. Francis Bacon said, “A little philosophy will lead a man to atheism, but a depth of philosophy will bring him back around to religion.” He is talking about just this, how easily the initial ideas we have of God can be challenged and broken with just a little study of the world; but that if we TRULY dig deep and keep searching and exploring spiritual truth, science, philosophy and life itself, we will find God. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

    I am honored to have whetted your appetite, and I say keeps those fires of curiosity and open-mindedness burning. The early phase of our awakening is like a honeymoon phase where we are meant to explore what’s out there spiritually. If you have an inspiration, follow it. If you desire to know more, and find your teachers in this life, then as you keep seeking, you will find. 

    Congrats again and take care,


  • AvatarDesa says:

    Thank you Sylvia! It is wonderful that you were born with psychic or mystical gifts in this life, and just like any talent we are born with, they are given for a reason–and it is use it or else they fade. 

    What ever we are born with is only the beginning…that is our natural talent, but we are meant to take our natural talents and develop them into a trained talent. That requires education and training from others, no matter the gift. Whether your gifts are psychic or mystical, we still need a spiritual teacher to help us understand, develop, harness, control and rightly use those gifts for the benefit of others. I do hope you will find your true spiritual teacher in this life as I have mine. Take hope from the fact that the searching sets up the conditions for finding. 

    You are correct that there is “no rush” for spiritual development–it is not a race, certainly–and you will also be given as many lifetimes as you need to finally learn all your lessons and win the crown of life. You are also right that everyone’s journey to that ultimate goal is sacred and unique as far as the individual conditions; however, the actual steps and the process of enlightenment are the exact same for everyone actually, and the amount of lifetimes needed averages 800. 

    I don’t think of this fact as one size fits all, it is simply that there is a natural sequence to the path of enlightenment, as with any other process in nature. 

    Clouds must form before we can have rain;  thunder follows lightning; water flows downhill; an egg must be fertilized, grow into an embryo, then a fetus, then be born; a seed must be planted and watered and receive light or else it does not grow. Just the same, a human soul must be planted in the garden of creation to experience every aspect of human life and build up the necessary amount of spiritual power to “break through the soil” to each and every level of the astral planes before entering the heaven worlds. 

    You don’t go to heaven, you grow to heaven. And that process is the same for every soul on earth.

    Take care and best wishes in your spiritual journey in this life!


  • AvatarDesa says:

    Hi Mary Ann,

    Great question! I think that any person who is genuinely pursuing an authentic spiritual or religious practice is more at peace and more aware of the world around them…and happier too. In fact, I’ve heard of all kinds of scientific studies that back up those facts.

    What I find special about taking the practical metaphysical path of study–from my own personal experience–is that not only do I enjoy that greater sense of peace and awareness, but I have learned and experienced things that have only deepened my faith and helped to bring all the seemingly confusing pieces of life together into a beautiful unity. Life, God, soul, the world, everything just makes so much more sense! And I am empowered with the best tools to help me grow spiritually and personally more than ever before.

    Mary Ann, I would say that if you are feeling inspired to pursue this subject THAT IS NO ACCIDENT! Intuition and inspiration are some of the very first means that the Divine use to speak to us. Trust your inspiration and follow it!

    If you have any other questions, just let me know!

    Take Care,


  • AvatarDesa says:

    You are very wise Edwin for that is exactly the purpose of metaphysics as a spiritual path–to bridge the gap between faith and knowing. 

    The theoretical study of metaphysics is more a branch of academia that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what we might call the supernatural: a study of those persistent questions like “what is the meaning of life” “who am I” “what am I” “does God exist”. Starting to think about this these is great because it is just that…a start.

    I like practical metaphysics because it actually puts the right knowledge and tools in your hands to get to some of those answers FROM DIRECT EXPERIENCE. 

  • AvatarSylvia says:

    I do appreciate your article and thoroughness on the subject. I am on my own spiritual path for the last 26 years, after I have re-connected to my spiritual gift, which I have opposed so greatly since I was in my teens. I wanted to avoid being outcast by my peers.

    Nevertheless, if there is a purpose for your gift it will come back. The sacred space I have created within me is important to my spiritual growth, learning the importance of forgiveness, and patience. It is not important if I “graduate” since in my opinion, there is no rush or time limit as we know of here on earth.

    I want to find a good spiritual school to help me to understand but, most of all, to accept that there are no one size fits all when it comes to learning and engaging in your own spiritual path. Each path is sacred on its own.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful gift of writing.

  • AvatarKevin says:

    Thank you so much for an interesting and insightful article. I have only recently started to be aware of metaphysics through my own journey of self-discovery. I am what I would call a spiritual atheist, or maybe that should be agnostic, as I would like to think I am open-minded enough to change my mind.

    I am fortunate to live in a very spiritual part of the world, and have had very positive experiences with both faith healing and reiki. Our lives are a continual journey of discovery and your article has whet my appetite to learn more. Thank you so much, an excellent introduction to a fascinating topic. I look forward to reading future articles.

  • Avatarzuchii says:

    Having read through, I have some questions:

    1. Is metaphysics an art or science, or is it a form of spirituality.
    2. What are the components of metaphysics and where does it lead to? Are there any ultimate goals and aspirations of metaphysics?
    3. What does it achieve in our society and in our lives as humans?

    These are a few of my many questions, please I would like to know. Thanks.

  • AvatarMary Ann says:

    You are correct Desa – this is a very ‘deep’ subject and one that I know very little about. However, it is something that I think would be worthwhile pursuing. Would you say that people who study this are more at peace with themselves and more aware of the world around them?

  • AvatarEdwin IBU says:

    Metaphysics is an area I don’t mind knowing more about. Is it theoretical or practical? Is it about the supernatural?

    I always thought this has to do with spirituality and self discovery. Metaphysics affects our well-being personally. I assumed it all had to do with personal experience with spiritual being(s) like angels and the like. It also bridges faith with knowledge. In my opinion, it should be sought after.

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