Continued from Stuck? 6 Levels of Being
The Four Fields of Knowledge
Schumacher goes on to consider the question of what can we know about the world. He identifies four fundamentally distinct fields of such knowledge[i], corresponding with combinations of the two pairs ‘I / the world’, and ‘inner experience / outer appearance’. These four fields are each different and require different approaches to gaining knowledge – and in each field knowledge can be gained about the Levels of Being.
The ‘inner I’ is the field of the subjective – of inner psychological and spiritual development. Here applies the Delphian inscription ‘know thyself’.
The field of ‘inner world’ relates to our understanding of (and empathy with) the inner world of others, and our culture. The traditional wisdom says that we can understand other beings only to the extent that we know ourselves, so there is a crucial relationship with the ‘inner I’.
In these two ‘inner’ fields we find ‘my own’ and ‘shared’ values respectively, and Plato’s divine qualities of the beautiful and the good[ii], the aesthetic and moral dimensions. These are the fields neglected by the obsession with objectivity, and here lie today’s neglected qualities and values.
The ‘outer I’ is the field of ‘myself as known to others’, and the ‘outer world’ is the physical world around us. Here objective science has established its domain. We can describe, form theories about, and experiment on the world, so long as we remember that this supposed objectivity has its reflection in the inner fields. These two outer fields are the domain of Plato’s third divine quality, the true.
Schumacher makes the useful distinction between the ‘descriptive’ sciences such as botany, which ask “what do I encounter”, and the ‘instructional’ sciences such as physics, which ask “what must I do to obtain a certain result”.
The instructional sciences are the domain of ‘proof’, and only effectively operate with lower Levels of Being (higher Levels of Being have too many degrees of freedom for such strict causality). Instructional sciences are only relevant to the ‘outer’ fields. The descriptive sciences, he suggests, are sterile without ideas from inner experience, hence are not so confined. (Goethe pointed the way many years ago with his science of wholeness[iii].) However, there is no concept of ‘proof’ in the descriptive sciences. For example, we can never conclusively ‘prove’ the Theory of Evolution.
Ken Wilber suggests that science needs to operate with awareness of the Four Fields of Knowledge – and scientists operating within the subjective fields will change themselves – no longer the objective observer, but participatory in nature[iv]. For example, future astronomers may reconnect with the ancient knowledge of astrology that their some of their 20th century equivalents have so assiduously denigrated[v].
So we have the framework of the Four Fields of Knowledge which encompasses objective science, but is not dominated by it. It demonstrates the restricted scope of scientific materialism, and the ‘inner’ fields it wilfully excludes.
And we have the previously almost universally accepted Levels of Being, which provide a coherent framework for a universal spirituality. The Four Fields of Knowledge indicate the necessary scope of that spirituality in terms of how we relate to, and are seen by, others – and indicate different ways in which science can seek to understand spirituality.
For me, these provide a convincing and satisfying framework within which science and spirituality can happily co-exist. Wilber discusses this reconciliation in more depth[vi], suggesting that both sciences and religions need to release their attachment to the belief that their myths are the only valid ones.
Of course, the adoption of such a framework has implications on growth and transformation for everyone on the planet, and for humanity as a whole. When we have faith in it, it will become reality, and humanity will become more than it is today.
2023 perspective: I sense that this framework is becoming much better understood through work of such as the Scientific and Medical Network and the Institute Of Noetic Sciences. Here is evidence of the cracks of change undermining the materialistic mental mind.
The featured image shows Ken Wilber’s four quadrants, similar to Schumacher’s framework.
[i] The Four Fields of Knowledge, or four quadrants, have more recently been extensively explored by Ken Wilber in his various works such as A Theory of Everything. Wilber uses the similar (but not identical) split ‘individual / collective’, rather than ‘I / the world’.
[ii] In A Brief History of Everything, Ken Wilber relates Plato’s ‘big three’, the Beautiful/ Good/ True to the four quadrants and to similar major concerns of philosophers such as Popper (subjective/ cultural/ objective), Habermas (subjective sincerity/ intersubjective justness/ objective truth) and Kant (critiques of judgement/ practical reason/ pure reason).
[iii] Goethe’s approach to science is outlined in The Wholeness of Nature: Goethe’s Way of Science, Henri Bortoft. For discussion of a science of quality see How the Leopard Changed Its Spots, Brian Goodwin.
[iv] For an extended discussion of participation see The Participatory Mind, Henryk Skolimowski
[v] Indeed astrology is today used as a tool to help in psychological development. See e.g. Astrological Psychosynthesis, Bruno Huber.
[vi] Reconciliation of science and religion is discussed at length in The Marriage of Sense and Soul, Ken Wilber