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It is evident that the vast majority of major decisions made by human beings are not based on science and it is evident that this cannot be so either. There are all kinds of extra-scientific questions of personal life, social planning and policy, international development, peace-keeping, protection of the environment, co-operation or conflict between groupings or nations, cultures, religions, economic systems and so on ad infinitum. This does not necessarily mean that, without scientific guidance, no one can solve these questions. Some, at least, are constantly being solved and this does not just happen fortuitously... there are able minds behind most positive developments. The understanding reached by those minds is proof that there are kinds of understanding that surpass all the knowledge that the sciences collectively can provide. Scientific fact and theory contribute to the whole, no doubt, but give only parts of answers or provide background information for decisions of policy.

There are many examples now known to the public where major problems have arisen where important decisions are made entirely or even mainly on current scientific grounds... such as the huge problems of radiation, waste and many other uncontrollable consequences created by developing the nuclear industry (both military and civil), the hazards of gene-modification in ecological systems, the inability to act 'without scientific evidence' in disasters like mad cow disease and so on.


Theories like relativity, quantum theory and so forth, universal though they may be as regards material factuality, are obviously far removed from what is required in reaching understanding of all the most important questions in the human world. Such naturalistic theories have to confine themselves to specific classes of problem and phenomena, whether at the macro- medio- or micro-physical levels and also to interpret these within an exclusively materialistic and non-participatory view of the universe (i.e physicalism). They involve no understanding of people as persons and human subjects or of our minds and spirits or what this can imply for life in its huge diversity of circumstances and challenges.

The faculties that are decisive in most life-influencing decisions are many and varied. They include practical sense, developed sensibility and intuition, wide-ranging 'philosophy of life', aesthetical sense, identification with other human beings and living creatures, ethical insight and can include other specialised abilities and currently unclassifiable forms of knowledge. Together with systematic science, they go to make up the faculty of understanding. The human understanding embodies values, such as empathy, peacability, diplomacy and selfless love, qualities that can mostly not be systematised as knowledge by any scientific approach. Such understanding is definitely not the preserve of any ideology, social stratum, religion, philosophy or science. It is immeasurable and is spread wide throughout the various cultures, their many social groupings and ways of life and is what informs at many levels the majority of sane and intelligent persons everywhere. Were this no so, democracy would doubtless be one of the most dangerous forms of political and social organisation.

What science can explain for us and what it cannot may only be decided fully when the nature of human understanding itself is realised. This has been investigated in many philosophies, theologies and other connections throughout the history of the world. It is a subject to which science contributes, but over which no science is equipped to judge. For many reasons, scientific methods are wholly inadequate to study the nature and scope of human understanding itself.

All conscious human activity and interaction expresses some kind or degree of understanding. Though people vary as to the extent of their development and application of the faculty to understand, it is an inseparable part of every human being. The organisation of families, tribes and societies and even large civilisations from pre-historical times onwards took place without the aid of any but the most rudimentary shadows of scientific thought. This shows that other forms of understanding have always been predominant.

Except where technological development is concerned, scientific thought is not necessarily superior to other forms of understanding. It all depends on which values we hold, which aims we give highest priority and how we view the purpose of life and the world. Neither in the development and sustenance of human cultures, nor in the solving of social and racial conflicts or international aggression, have the sciences made any very noteworthy impact, not compared to those people and institutions impelled by other kinds of understanding.

It has been shown here how most social science excludes from its scope many matters that have always played an important and often vital role in human affairs. My conviction is that the inclusion of such matters in the pursuit of new approaches to the understanding of the cosmos - without excluding humanity - is essential today and will become increasingly important and widespread tomorrow. No empirical science is capable of handling these concerns, neither do their assumptions about reality or being, nor their reductive methods regarding objectivity, provide any means for dealing with the really 'big questions'.

The eternal questions deal, not with the physical universe, but with the entire cosmos regarded as a meaningful event rather than a blind effect of some accident or astrophysical explosion. The phenomenon of meaning itself is qualitative, something irreducible... that is to say, it cannot be explained scientifically, only understood by individuals or personally. Meaning can be expressed in various ways and more or less well. Its expression may well be interpreted in various ways, but again, the interpretations are not the meaning itself, but only its articulation. Either one understands a communicated meaning or not, and this depends first and last on the direct intuition of meaning. Likewise, our understanding of nature depends upon discovery of meaning, which is inherent in its many forms and their various functions within the whole of existence.

This includes the meaning of each of the human faculties and of human life itself, a view rejected by scientism and most of the liberal academic world, not least because it is thought to represent a return to dogmatic religion. Yet it is possible, figuratively speaking, to rescue the baby without all the bathwater or superstition and ignorant or repressive priesthoods. One way is through recognising that meaning is not entirely dependent upon human minds, but it does imply that all values are not equally good, that there are both values and anti-values or that goodness is not merely a subjective phenomenon, that theories and doctrines can be both true and false, and are most often a blend of the two.

Meta-science relies on the human understanding in its fullest sense. Understanding is a suitable word for the 'master method of methods' in all human inquiry. Everyone has it as an inherent faculty, though it is developed in highly differing differing degrees. Unity is its guiding ideal, meaning seeking the whole in diverse reality, aiming for an integrity of values and the common good of humanity. The nature of human understanding, its chief qualities, how it develops and organises knowledge into wholes, as well as what it may and presumably may not achieve, is to be discussed at length.


In short, most scientific work is concerned with questions that can be called 'analytical'. This means that they tend to deal with elemental parts of much large questions, which have been gradually pared down or 'analysed' into more and more specific questions about less and less common or universal areas of interest. For example, a researcher may spend decades on studying the functions of a given type of protein and its existing or possible blocking agents. These proteins form but an extremely small interactive part of a system containing vast arrays of bio-molecules, thousands of other proteins, chemicals, bacteria and other agents to within which these are inter-related and about which relatively little is known. Such super-specialisation is evident in all micro studies in biology and physics, but equally so in macro studies like the specialised fields within astrophysics (eg. the study of quasars or of distribution of galaxies), in meteorology (eg. measuring of global ocean temperatures or the effects of the ozone layer). The field of interest of researchers are progressively narrowed and technicalised, while the human being and society recede from its sphere and are no longer reckoned with except sometimes as vague extra-scientific factors.

All analytic work obviously also involves synthesising movements of thought, for research is partly guided by general theory and hypotheses are mostly formed that would extend the conformity of the established paradigms and thus integrate any new findings within the much larger body of knowledge. The aim of many scientific researches is indeed to contribute the answer to specific questions in the interests of putting together a general picture and answering a more general question. For example, separate studies in ocean temperature, ozone depletion and dozens of other factors can eventually add up to answer the question 'Is global warming actually caused by human activity?' However, exactly what is selected from the infinitude of reality to be analysed, why and why, is limited very largely by the prevailing paradigms of method and theory. The great shortcoming of this is again that radically new thinking, new holistic visions, are excluded by existing paradigmas, backed up by the tremendous momentum of the body of science.

Scientific discoveries at the highest level of general theory - such as relativity, quantum theory, the double helix model - are untypical of science and are very seldom made. The great mass of scientific work - doubtless well over 90% - is applied to answering specific questions in highly specialised areas of pre-defined interest. Such work may at any time unexpectedly turn up the seed of a revolution, but only once in a blue moon.

The fact remains that all science is specialised in some way. One result of this is the great resistance to major changes of direction that science exerts. Of course, even all specialised studies are somewhat synthesising in their attempt to integrate facts into theory. The whole consisting of many parts, however, can itself be but part of a much more embracing whole, and that again is part of a greater unity with a much broader context. Many examples of issues calling for a broad and holistic synthesis rather than partial analysis could be given from very different areas of life. Science is only equipped to deal with physical questions of a comprehensive scope. All others have to be broken down analytically, often into so many descending sub-levels that the whole is soon lost from view. Usually, therefore, scientific researches start with specialised questions and not from a holistic approach.

The institutionalised ways in which modern industrial nations deal with and finance the 'knowledge industry' have their own biasses and set their own limitations on what ends us as known or accepted fact. This often occurs due to the current methods of administrating these functions of researching, disseminating and legitimately using knowledge. Existing lines of scientific approach are invariably already institutionalised and this creates an inertia against those who would break out into new directions, especially where more holistic understanding is called for.

Most science is an extension of what has gone before, such that it is often not equipped to handle cross-disciplinary questions and cross-cultural issues, and it is slow to organise research along lines required by the rapidly increasing problems of changing society, internationalising cultures and global concerns. This is shown by the time lag - often many decades - between the arousal of public concern and the acceptance of innovative researchers into established science on many issues that scientific study could help clarify. Instead, many scientific bodies act more as an obscurantist hindrance to public worries, especially where these concern to application of science itself. 'There is no scientific proof' is the official cry 'so carry on', when exactly the opposite conclusion should be drawn. Mad cow disease, nuclear safety hazards and the unforseen consequences of rapid introduction of gene-modifications into the environment are some of the latest cases of a long line of scientific hand-washings.

The long and continuing struggle to awaken biological science to ecological thinking, bio-pollution and a host of environmental issues; to put the most widespread illnesses and ailments properly on the agenda of medical research (eg. dental amalgam poisoning, chronic fatigue syndrome and many other unresearched but very common ailments) and to encourage new promising approaches instead of entrenched researches that try to path up rather than obvious. 'Allopathic' medicine must open itself to the serious, unprejudiced study of effective 'alternative' holistic therapies. Psychology and related sciences must be redirected, away from analytical specialisation and from the fragmented vision of laboratory experimentation and person-alienating quantitative methods of personality measurement towards the understanding of persons qua persons, to holistic approaches to human behaviour and towards reassessing with a new humility what was already known through the ages about the enigmatic human psyche, both in health and sickness. As one telling example of the patent failure of the social sciences to adjust their theories until long after the sensible wider public took issue is their blanket refusal for decades to consider seriously that increasingly many cases of violence and rape are causally related to media violence and pornography. This relationship is evident enough from the holistic viewpoint, but specialised studies on causal connections between isolated events get lost in narrow absurdities.

At a rather practical level, for example, the study of many apparent mental 'illnesses' can only avoid provincial narrowness and ignorant injustice in psychiatric diagnosis and treatment by turning towards holistic, existentially-situated understanding as the basis. This would include person-to-person and heart-to-heart approaches as well as comparative studies of highly-differing values and norms between various cultures. Likewise, what drives different kinds of social-economic movement varies greatly with the unique ethnic ways of human relations, with the interaction of a wide range of human activities and bio-systems at all environmental levels of comprehensivity... and so on throughout most areas of human concern.

For example, the causes of health or illness are regarded as the subject of the medical study of the human body. This deals largely with analysis of the bio-chemical, genetical and physiological factors that influence health, and particularly negatively because of the general emphasis on disease and pathology. The medical micro-perspective on health has its counterpart in a macro-perspective which regards the effects on health of such factors as hygiene, diet, hygiene and climate. Even this, however, falls short of many a more holistic approach to health and illness as represented by some forms of effective and reliable 'alternative' medicine. Compared to ayurvedic system's perception of healthy living and its long-term preventative strategies, for example, modern medicine falls far short of a holistic understanding of body, mind and soul.

The point here is in which respects scientific knowledge represents a lesser order of synthesis than holistic understanding, which integrates knowledge and values within a wider comprehension. Its reasoning includes awareness of all areas of human experience and which organises very diverse forms of knowledge - of nature, history, society, the human mind and of values etc. This organising process is 'regulative' - taking account of conceptions unavoidable in human thought which are 'ideal' and normative and are thus ideas not limited only to experience. Holistic comprehension is forward-looking but is not so much predictive as ideal or norm-setting in its function. It is knowledge that integrates practicality with ethicality, but obviously without being of the moralistic or absolutistic stamp because the scope of possible uncertainties is never excluded.


The developments in holistic understanding to be outlined here form at one a basis for and an example of meta-science, which is mainly concerned with questions that exceed the subject material or perspectives of the each specific sciences. Meta-science consists in comparative, holistic thought with any system of knowledge, value and culture as its field. It lays weight on the synthesising intuitions of well-founded reason as determining at the overall level for the analysis of experience. So its the movement of thought is holistic and is opposed to scientific reductionism. The most important and general questions of life can be solved only through this expansion of understanding.

No amount of scientific analysis is sufficient to form human policies in most areas of life, as the failure of all politics run by so-called scientific 'experts' has demonstrated more amply than one might wish. No more can endless masses of military detail amount to a master plan for victory, however much deduction or generalisation is produced from them. The indefinable human elements are always crucial: vision, flexibility of mind, determination, morale, will to succeed and other yet higher values such as truth and good.

Meta-science then, also covers what lies beyond science, and beyond the scope of astro-physicalistic 'cosmology'. It could equally well be termed philosophy, but for the fact that what goes under this name in most universities today is a foreshortened kind of thought. It has very largely become a kind of 'philosophy for philosophy's sake', either a kind of historical or argumentational navel-gazing. Meta-science rejects science's pretentions to wisdom and would reinstate philosophy as a 'love of wisdom' in the Socratic sense of the widest possible investigation both of the cosmos and of the self. It begins where science ends, both in the sense of dealing what is beyond examination according to physicalistic science and of becoming more crucial in the human for greater understanding where science becomes exhausted as a source of guidance and discovery of truth. It has also recently been suggested that (natural) science is virtually nearing its end, that it has advanced so far theoretically that there is relatively little more left for science to discover within its relevant fields of inquiry1 . This seems highly unlikely; as one example, understanding the inter-related function of the human genes is reckoned by biologists as being a task for at least 100 years.

One basic assumption that underpins and informs meta-science is that life and the cosmos do have meaning, whatever it may be thought to be, however it is to be discovered and expressed. This meaning is not simply created by human fiat for it is intuited from nature, whereupon it can be interpreted, ordered and imagined into many forms. The faculty of understanding itself with its many universal features - the vehicle of meaning - is not created by us, though it is variously articulated through human culture. This approach is not empirically incompatible with any of the sciences, but it is opposed by scientism or those who believe only in strict objectivistic physicalism. The study of meaning will be extended in the next chapter.

Meta-science should in general be less a theory or a doctrine than a programme for further reflection, expansion of horizons of understanding and a stimulus to integrating the plurality of viewpoints both within and between world cultures. Its chief aim would always remain universality of understanding in the interests of peaceful global integration of cultures and the furtherance of human values, rather than insistence on the relative truths of any scientific, religious or political viewpoint. Meta-science must always recognise that, since the world is a flux, any recorded truth about worldly matters is always conditional.

Specific meta-science includes the study of questions usually dealt with by one or more of the specific sciences, as well as studies of their assumptions, methods, practices and all kinds of consequences of those sciences. Those insights of philosophy dealing with the assumptions, objectives, limitations and consequences of each of the sciences and their various groupings are the business of meta-scientific studies. Subjects of public interest or importance may often fall between the many stools of established scientific disciplines, or may be excluded from any science at all. Such inter-disciplinary researches become meta-science, unless or until such time as science is modified to integrate their results. Thus, meta-science also deals with the gathering, correlating and evaluation of information that is systematically excluded, overlooked or otherwise ignored by mainstream science. Such studies may or may not be acceptable to the main body of opinion in the sciences involved, but the separate sciences very seldom tend to generate such studies themselves, often for reasons of maintaining institutional spheres of interest and boundaries which affect prestige, budgeting, personnel policy, tradition and many others.

Immanuel Kant reflected deeply over the process of 'knowing' and its relationship to the more observable and logically-organisable facts of 'separate' sciences and practical studies.2 He called this type of 'knowledge' metaphysical and he regarded it as having an ordering or 'regulatory' role in the intellectual make-up of the thinking person, which it also can be said to have to some extent in the social organisation of knowledge systems and beliefs.

Meta-science is now a preferable name for this type of knowledge, to distinguish it from the older kind of over-rationalistic 'metaphysics', with its frequent excesses of fantasy and arbitrariness. Meta-science (lit. after or beyond science) refers to knowledge relating to all the sciences and not just physics. It indicates a more inclusive order of understanding than the systematic empirical theories of the separate sciences. Though science means many things to many men, its original spirit of inquiry into the world, not just the mind or soul, must be nurtured and its achievements must be evaluated through and integrated into any future philosophy and cosmology Meta-science, however, also steps well beyond science in the scope of its embrace and in the universality of all the human values it should embody.

Kant showed that there are areas of intellectual investigation that have a vital function in the organisation of human understanding altogether, corresponding to three ideals or 'regulative ideas'. These areas and their corresponding ideas he named respectively as 1) ontology which investigates Being (Das Ding an Sich), 2) psychology, which investigates the Self, and 3) theology, which investigates God. This classification is useful as an orientation for meta-scientific studies.

Though the three regulative ideas of the Kantian metaphysic still do span the field of possible investigations, the many kinds of investigation in meta-science need not be classified under these and may well be guided or structured by other universal and non-empirical ideal concepts.

The system-building 'rationalist' philosophers assumed or simply believed that the use of human reason could eventually bring us to a position in which 'everything' could be explained. Only the most naive of them thought that this was already within reach or even largely achieved, just as only philosophically naive scientists today believe that a theory of all and everything is just around the next corner, and that this is necessarily a theory springing from physics. To become too attached to rationality itself, however, so that unexpected or unaccountable facts of experience are denied or rationalised away is about as common a mistake in institutionalised science as it is in party politics or church theology. The ideological power of the mind to structure and restructure experience until it becomes distorted is exemplified in established science's rejection of hundreds of major discoveries for which science nevertheless generally claims credit. Were it not for determined individuals who have struggled long against the weight of 'irrationally rational' scientific authorities, we would quite likely be able to enjoy neither telephones, radio, electric light, sound recording, film, powered flight, turbine power, electronics, computers and many another commonplace technical wonder that has, despite massive opposition, managed to survive.

It is well known from the literature of great intellectual discoveries that inductive or synthesising acts of the mind are not merely logical steps, for the whole cannot be deduced from the parts. Such a discovery leaps well ahead of the facts and introduces one or more key conceptions that allows new and efficient ways of relating and reconciling given facts. The discovery of most famous equations of maths and physics and of the DNA double helix structure exemplify this well because of their economy and their then unprecedented success in organising masses of otherwise confusing empirical information, including data still to be obtained. These feats of intellectual intuition are unpredictable, and they are by no means confined to the physical sciences.

With the aid of reason, our intellect or our intuition somehow conceives or recognises the wholes into which otherwise disparate parts can be organised in a consistent way. These holistic conceptions exhibit a more organic than mechanistic structure, because many kinds of disparate relationship at various levels of integration can go to make up the whole. Holistic thought is moreover not merely of a descriptive kind, for it is conceptually transcendent of its materials, just as the whole is greater than its parts taken together. Therefore, a chief goal of general or holistic meta-science is the removal of barriers to understanding; in having emancipatory aims it is cautiously critical of false doctrine and of unfruitful or unintelligible traditional conceptions. It can draw upon many methods that are designed to remove hindrances to understanding, obviously on scientific method as well as the meta-critique of the special sciences. The writer Edward W. Said has stated the general critical task well as being "to break down stereotypes and reductive categories that are a limiting influence in human thought". Such emancipatory techniques, having both social and personal consequences, are found among works on linguistic analysis, the critique of ideology and propaganda, critical sociology examining the repression of truth by social forces, therapeutic techniques in psychotherapies.

Many fields of phenomena - all kinds of major human, social, historical and psychological complexities - have been regarded holistically by many great minds. The most embracing achievements of this kind are often lesser known because of the inability of their peers to appreciate their achievements and the consequent lack of publicity. For example, some great social anthropologists achieved such things, as have others in many fields not part of any official sciences. Ground-breaking investigations in both intellectual and practical understanding have been carried out by thousands of little-known people in the process of developing civilisation and world culture. High levels of holistic understanding of human life also evidently occur today in different societies, cultures and languages, many of which have theories of life and health, cosmologies, philosophies and theologies of a sublime and workable character... often differing from and mostly unknown to Western systems of education.

The purpose of all the many kinds of extra-scientific investigations that meta-science includes is the development and articulation of understanding; its organisation in comprehensive and holistic forms of thought and their expression in language. As shall be shown, understanding is not limited to mental cogitation, for it includes many kinds of identification with other persons and peoples through active life experience. It has as its main purpose the discovery and demonstration of unity in nature and mankind and of these with one another. It certainly cannot therefore be confined in principle to the ideas and purposes of modern Western culture, but must be ready to learn and eager to integrate both the knowledge, insights and values of the many non-Western cultures of the world.

Because of its overall holistic perspective, meta-science concerns itself with such questions as excesses of concentration of research in one area compared to another, distortions in science due to traditional blinkers or extra-scientific prejudices. This book, taken as a contribution to meta-science, relies on a combination of sociology of knowledge with philosophical investigation.

It is often said, and on sound grounds, that scientific discovery has outrun progress in other human concerns, contributing very much to certain social upheavals while failing to seek the kind of knowledge appropriate to righting the worst problems and injustices of the world.

Seen from an overall perspective on human knowledge and basing itself on what is most likely to be in the interests of human unity, meta-science would carry out studies of each special science, independently of the various more or less ideological schools within and around them, looking into their actual and potential functions in society. This would be in the interest of aiding the sciences in responsibly regulating their own work in the direction of prioritising knowledge that clearly will benefit mankind. What cannot be argued convincingly as justified in respect of mankind's existent problems should be down-graded. What is likely to fulfil known and justifiable requirement, not to mention the glaring needs of mankind as a whole, should be given resources and high financial priority. What is doubtful as to its goodness - or downright questionable - should also be considered seriously. This is admittedly a very difficult task, due to the unpredictability of some scientific discoveries, but the direction of major efforts and resources is obviously still the main factor influencing what science produces.


The ultimate guiding ideals of meta-science are the wholeness, inclusivity and coherence of understanding. Their overall aim is to forward understanding that can lead to human unity. Because of its nature and scope, there can be no definitive single type of general test of meta-scientific knowledge, such as verification by observation aided by experiment. There are nonetheless principles of understanding it must fulfil which can include a wide variety of rational and experiential tests. This may well be frustrating to those who are used to the single-dimensional way of thought, such as in specialised analytic work where the real synthesis is assumed unreflectively but is itself never made the object of investigation.

Scientific researches try to forget the realm of politics, public opinion and practical policies, which nevertheless remain there in the background and, after scientific conclusions are adopted, again often becomes a foreground arena of debate and influence. Meta-science would naturally take account of surrounding circumstances that are often relegated to some place outside the laboratory, and would work at questions raised that by nature take us beyond systematic scientific study.

While not being merely information that can be labelled, stored or computed etc., meta-scientific knowledge is expressible through speech, writing and other media. Because of the role that holistic forms of understanding play in it, however, it is more subject-dependent than is simpler information or data. Meta-scientific propositions cannot necessarily be tested as such by analytical experimentation.

The chief rational test of meta-scientific knowledge is the coherence of understanding to which it gives rise. This test applies to all scientific theories, but they tend each to deal with a specific field of phenomena and information (eg. astrophysics, bio-genetics etc.). A meta-scientific approach must be extremely cautious, however, not to reject facts, information or testimony out of hand because it disturbs an otherwise coherent overview. A key principle must always be reservation of judgement and leaving loose ends to be seen where no answers are available. Meta-science must ever be on guard against claiming rational comprehensivity while there are facts, experiences or even points of view for which one cannot fully account.

Now, understanding is a human experience, a subjective fact which becomes a relatively communal fact when it is shared by a sufficient number of others (or at least some 'influential' others). The degree of such inter-subjective understanding can sometimes be measured in one way by the number of persons who concur or agree on the intelligibility of the knowledge. Another way, usually more reliable, will be to grade the 'quality' rather than the quantity of consensus.

An important practical test of any knowledge applies to meta-science, consensus, more particularly over a lengthy period of time. Meta-science naturally often depends for its acceptance on 'qualified' persons' consensus too, but this should not be defined only by professional status or qualifications as scientists, philosophers etc., for the task is to seek universal understanding and approval. Ideally, consensus should be as representative of divergent cultures and faiths as possible. However, its having often to be a critical discipline, makes it unlikely that meta-science it could easily be established within existing social institutions like universities. Consensus will therefore usually begin through a process of familiarisation and spreading insight among the a wide variety of thinkers, opinion-formers, reformers and the informed public. Therefore, general acceptance will usually be long in coming, by which time the outermost frontiers may well have advanced to include yet more unfamiliar territory.

Coherence of understanding depends upon the tests of logic, which can be demonstrated. This understanding of coherence is an internal or 'intra-subjective' experience, similar to 'seeing' the necessity of a mathematical or logical proof. The degree of comprehension it brings about depends upon the individual mind's capacity, clarity, experience, knowledge, structuring and other qualities.

All in all, comprehensibility and coherence can only be judged in clear-minded reflection by each individual person. This basis of judgement is in any case the unavoidable basis for the widespread accepted of any knowledge. It applies even to the supposedly most hard-data information or the most well-established or accepted scientific theory. The state of meta-science - how broadly it succeeds in influencing society - will therefore tend more or less to reflect the general level of understanding of a wide public. There is no simple test that the layman can apply to meta-scientific knowledge, nor are there any infallible tests of its overall truth. It can really only be evaluated in terms of the depth and breadth of understanding it opens for and how much it accounts for in an intelligible and unitary manner. The validity of meta-scientific explanation can perhaps be judged best by observing the effect it has through time on the thought and behaviour of individuals who base their actions upon it.

Philosophy of science teaches that there is never the certainty of definitive proof about the physical world. Inner knowledge, on the other hand, when properly refined through experience and spiritual practice, attains an intuitive immediacy of comprehension that becomes more and more self-transparent to the observer. This is the certainty of self-evidence or immediate givenness, which is employs the same intuition or 'inner grasp' that makes valid proofs in maths and logic certain. Inner convictions can be communicated and demonstrated rationally, but only if they are of a relatively limited sort. On major questions, however, the inner evidence can be so far-reaching as to be beyond any normal or practical means of demonstration.


A simplified example can help show how inner evidence forms the basis of true judgements. Consider any person who has a mother and father, has lived with them for 30 years, has a birth certificate, has contact with relatives who have known his parents and the circumstances of their lives and his own birth. That person will also have a voluminous recollection of thousands of memories of incidents of all kinds which confirm that his father and mother really are his parents. If then this person has some apparently plausible reason to consider whether he may have been adopted and not be the genetic son, his mind will normally review all the 'inner evidence', compare, analyse and summarise its materials until the truth is know. If there was reasonable room for doubt, perhaps new evidence, such as blood type and genetic comparisons would then be sought.

Let us assume that all possible evidence and testimony is eventually collected and held before the mind's eye... the mind then can make a judgement. Such a judgement may not always be final, but if the inner whole is adequate, the decision that the person is the true son of his parents will then be direct, immediate and 'apodeictic' (i.e. having self-evident certainty). This exemplifies how the understanding can arrive at truth. Moreover, it is always the understanding relying on inner reviews that makes any decision of truth or falsity. To make even a simple observation involves the same basic process of understanding, with its questioning, interpretative, self-checking, comparing, evaluating and other capacities.

So-called 'subjective' understanding can of course agree both with accepted fact and actual fact (i.e. can be both inter-subjectively valid and objectively true). Understanding of some given problem - say the reasons for the use of narcotics in world society, or the mental crisis of a person with a long history of major problems - is often historically or individually unique. This is often due to the sheer range of facts involved combined with the considerations of diverse and often incompatible attitudes that can be relevant to a valid understanding. Especially when dealing with subjects that are extremely intricate and many-sided - as are most questions dealing with mankind, society or the meaning of life - the level of understanding varies vastly with individuals and the phases of their life, personal development and intelligence etc. The insight acquired by a very experienced person - in whatever field of inquiry - cannot normally be stated clearly, concisely in terms that make it subject to testing or experiment. The sheer mass of information and experience that lies behind a mature person's expertise in matters of society and life cannot be listed or summarised in a systematic manner that would qualify it as scientific.

Knowing the truth of anything demands a sound grasp of objective facts and of inner observations, refined in deep self-reflection. Intuitive judgement of the truth of weighty assertions or beliefs does not exclude the use either of reasoning plus or observing the facts of experience. When we hear a lucid explanation of some question that accounts for all the known facts and which also fits in perfectly with reasoning intuition, we recognise compelling knowledge. We may not have all the relevant, correct facts on which to reach an 'intuitive' judgement of the rightness of some explanation. Yet when there is something not in accordance with truth, a really well-developed rational intuition also invariably knows that to be so... 'something's not quite as it should be here'. Presuming that we have an the known, accurate facts relevant to any serious question (i.e. not trivial details), rational intuition can judge an adequate or correct interpretation of them. But it can also very often contribute to the clearing up of the facts themselves, primarily where these have become confused or distorted through human error.

Any of the various pieces of evidence that go to make up a final review of a whole question or subject may, of course, be mistaken, fictitious, imagined and result from inaccurate perception, false testimony, poor reasoning, distorted interpretation and so on. The memory is subject to various possible faults, as the induction of 'false memory syndromes'3 demonstrate in a very striking manner indeed. In short, understanding informed by sound inner intuition is not easily come by.

To extend the scope of understanding sufficiently and over a wide enough range of human experience to deal with questions that exceed experimental or measurable conditions is to move beyond science into meta-science. Life experience won through self-inquiry, self-discipline, sustained altruistic efforts and suffering are all human capabilities.

Such embracing issues as, for example, human nature vs. nurture, the balance between freedom and discipline in upbringing or in society besides, the problem of the normal vs. the abnormal in human behaviour, the universality of values in religious and other doctrines, and how valid theological cosmologies may be are never be solved by science alone. They involve many levels of interpretation and complex historical or cultural conflicts of perception and testimony and they may require the evaluation of a great range of experiences, phenomena, relationships and interactions.

One definitive difference between meta-science and theories claiming truth but exhibiting narrowness, is inclusivity. This means that the scope must be satisfactory - taking account of all serious knowledge and viewpoints relevant to the subject with which it deals in any instance. Theories based on one master idea or on limited doctrine obviously cannot qualify as holistic. This does not mean that all viewpoints are validated by it, but that they are accounted for in a way satisfactory to the questioning intelligence. Where this is not possible, one strictly avoids out-of-hand rejection and practices the only wise alternative; abeyance of judgement.

The use of reason working on its materials - sorting the reliable grain from the fictitious chaff - and guided insights that come through intuition, can sometimes reach convincing demonstrable explanations which give as complete an overview of the truth of a matter as the present world level of available human knowledge makes possible. In its adherence to such an 'whole truth', there is the possibility of increased error, but this is no argument for not attempting it. Its benefits to understanding in the wider sense, and hence to humanity's quest for illumination and reconciliation - can also be the greater too. New facts that may well emerge in future, will probably not seldom shake the holistic foundation of such systematic meta-scientific research as often as reshape parts of it. Major eruptions in the foundations of existing theories will invariably be due, not to the observation of some new discrete facts, but to the overturning of deep-rooted assumption and cultural blind-spots or unrevealed social biases or prejudice.

Meta-science has the multiple task of carrying out the critique of scientific theories that have been based too narrowly on analysis or on conformism to tradition, collegial opinion, special interests and the like. It must seriously examine the foundations of any beliefs and theories that defy or ignore human values or contravene human rights. Above all, however, meta-science seeks the overall reconciliation and integration of many different facts and perspectives from otherwise unrelated disciplines. Some examples of subjects that, because of their embracing nature, only a very broad-based holistic approach of a meta-scientific scope can illumine and provide a basis for sound judgement are escatological questions concerning the psychological and social phenomena of apocaplyptism and millennialism, the important issue in all its variants of repression and recovered memories vs. false memory syndrome, the vital question for the future of the unity through common human values of the essential teachings of all religions despite the widespread aberrations, incomplete and garbled transmissions of source materials, cultural prejudices and dogmatic impositions.

Modern medicine and its functions in society and business provides a very rich mine for the critical mind of a metascientist. As a different kind of example, many major unanswered questions in historical, geological and biological sciences are raised by the likely hypothesis that a world catastrophe caused the recession of the ice age, global flooding and the loss of historical and civilisational continuity from previous ancient human civilisation.

The need for holistic understanding is emerging with increasing persistence in subject after subject as the process of globalisation extends itself further and further and human relations extend across old divides. Growing recognition of the many kinds of planetary inter-dependence of environments, societies and nations has accentuated the need to assert the unity of mankind and to develop understanding of a kind which forwards this both in theory and practice. The chief motive and guiding principle of understanding and of meta-science is therefore to discover unity in diversity.

The chief assumption already stated here is that, just as the human being is essentially the same the world over, so is the essentially human faculty of understanding universal. As such it can be analysed and explicated so as to improve the development of unifying theories in philosophy, the sciences, the humanities and daily living.


1. The End of Science ,John Horgan (1996)
2. The Critique of Practical Reason, Immanuel Kant (1788)
3. Apart from the many psycho-analytic works on repressed memory, the book which opened the floodgates of unregulated therapies and dilettantism that produced repressed memory cases was The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis, (1988). Critical works on 'false memory syndrome' include Making Monsters - False memories and allegations of sexual abuse - by R. Ofshe and E. Watters. Myth of a Repressed Memory - False Memories, Psychotherapy and Sexual Hysteria - by E. Loftus and K. Ketcham and Victims of Memory, Mark Prendergast, (1997)

Continue to Ch. 3: Understanding and Unity
The above material is the copyright of Robert Priddy, Oslo 1999