The Art of Inquiry
In any field of endeavor – whether science, physics, medicine, religion, or spirituality – there is a need for genuine inquiry. This examination can be approached in different ways depending on the field. In science for example, there is a need to demonstrate through deduction, to eliminate variables through exact processes and come to true conclusions. It is all about logic.
There is another form of inquiry that requires a certain level of judgement and experience to fill in the gaps, this involves an element of art. The logical thinkers would place this inquiry in the realm of rhetoric – in other words; persuade me of your knowing, even though you cannot prove it with demonstrable evidence. There is a long and storied history of arguments and debates rooted in rhetorical inquiry going as far back as the ancient Greeks.
Recently I was in the mountains, sitting alongside a creek, my thoughts targeted in on a specific question. I followed it all the way to its source, but it took some time to make the journey, I’ll explain why in just a minute. Inquiry can be used to explore all types of questions, patterns, and beliefs arising from the psyche (totality of conscious and unconscious mind), including our shadow aspects. It’s important to note that shadow isn’t entirely composed of darkness or evil traits. In shadow we find hidden patterns like taboos that may be cultural no-no’s; relating to sexuality, anger, race and gender and many others. If an aspect or trait is in shadow it may be there for a number of reasons. Through inquiry we may learn that it was hidden by subtle forms of social conditioning, perhaps molded by religious beliefs, or inspired by the rigid realm of science.
These programmed beliefs and opinions enter our field of awareness at an early age, often by those we trust and respect. Eventually we must ask ourselves – Has this person really thought about this answer? Do they really know and understand what they are talking about? Often we will find they do not… they are simply mimicking what they’ve been told. This is how beliefs and opinions are usually transmitted, by the unconscious mimic.
There are many examples of how to follow a line of inquiry. Let’s say we recognize a pattern or behavior that we know is hurtful to others, yet we find ourselves doing it anyway. Here’s a good example: The comment threads on any website. Specifically: the verbal and mental abuse that we find on so many comment threads. One way to visualize this is to see the line of inquiry as a thread that we need to follow to it’s source. Along that thread we see the various effects and consequences of the act, and eventually we reach the source of the thought. The endgame here is to identify and neutralize the behavior then create a new pattern leading in the opposite direction.
Now let’s follow the line of inquiry and feel the consequences of the act: Let’s pretend we’ve intentionally insulted someone on a comment thread. How did it it effect the other person on the receiving end? Feel the potential outcomes, at least a few. How did it effect the other readers? Feel their different perspectives. Now looking further inward – Why would we say this in first place? Go deeper into the source of the thought. The cause. There may be a few reasons why we said this. Who else have we hurt from this behavior, belief or opinion? Expand awareness into all facets of the behavior. As we reach closer to the source of the thought, we can intuitively listen for a word or two to confirm ‘why’ it was said. Listen to the answer.
If there is doubt surrounding this initial inquiry, this is fine. We are shining the light of awareness on a destructive pattern. If we persist in this effort, we will reach a clear conclusion, sooner or later. This is the moment where it flips and we shift into a new pattern. The intent of this new pattern needs to be understood as well. Looking at the above example; If the source of the thought is related to disdain, where is this disdain coming from? This is when inquiry gets real. It’s time to own it. Now what is the opposite of disdain? Perhaps respect?
The effects from negative comments / flaming on comment threads are far more damaging than most people realize. It creates a pattern of degradation that ripples out into the collective unconscious… adding to the pulse of insanity that we see in the human condition today. It attracts a dark attention. It’s toxic. Better to go in the opposite direction, towards silence and sanity.
Ultimately it is our responsibility to witness our behavior patterns through some form of inquiry. In these efforts we learn to exercise the muscle of intuition. We learn proper discernment through examination. Eventually we may even create our own simple philosophy. As we heal ourselves, we help heal those around us. This is possible through the art of inquiry.