The goal of an academic discipline is to understand reality so that its knowledge may be used in the service of man and his universe.’ In the context of man, this reality appears in two broad forms: tangible and intangible.
It may be observable or non-observable. Human and social sciences have so far been dealing mostly with tangible, empirical, sensory or temporal form of reality, and have neglected its intangible forms. In order to maintain their status quo as ‘science’, they avoid the latter. They overlook the simple fact that behind every tangible, there is ubiquitous presence of abounding intangibles. The intangibles may be explicit or implicit, express or hidden, known or unknown, causal, catalytic or neutral.
This intangible reality broadly appears in three forms:
1. Invisible objects:
These are subtle elements or abstractions of tangible things, e.g., air, electricity, nationality, race etc. which human senses normally cannot comprehend. Only sophisticated tools and devices can enable us to know them, and make that reality understandable.
2. Mental and emotional phenomena:
There exists a vast area of head and heart, encompassing feelings, emotions, memory, habits and imagination which when internalised over a period of time tends to become a perceived reality. A major part of human life is usually and deeply immersed in them; and
It falls beyond the domain of human senses. Its experience or knowledge requires higher level of comprehension or consciousness and may not be perceived or appreciated by all in common with others. Experience of its existence is confined to the individual concerned.
An individual may or may not be able to tell or explain it to others, but others or onlookers can witness it on the basis of change in his mode of speaking, living and behaving. This is only an individual proof of his experience of spirituality, supernatural, transcendental or metaphysical reality.
However, one can himself verify its presence in some personal way through meditation, faith, reflection, revelation, identification, self-realisation, samadhi or dhyan. On empirical grounds, scholars can analyse, interpret, ascertain and calculate consequences of such experience in individuals, communities and groups.
At this level, its existence can only be argued, analysed and interpreted in some indirect manner. Every social scientist may not be able to appreciate or realise it at personal level. But it does not imply that it does not exist or does not condition behaviour, relations and interactions of human beings involved. Results and consequences of experiencing spirituality can, thus, be studied indirectly on empirical grounds.
These three forms of intangible reality have certain characteristics:
1. They have independent existence and are exclusive experiences.
2. Still in diverse ways, they are related and intensely associated with each other.
3. Understanding only one particular form of reality without knowing about and caring for the other related forms, often creates confusion, uncertainty and distortion of the entire research venture. By separating them, one may not know even partial aspect of that reality.
4. Means, methods, tools and devices to know these segments of reality are special to them and to researches related to those forms. Their use and application can vary from case to case.
5. Stop gap arrangements or temporary measures to deal with them or leaving parts of research ventures may not be treated as permanent solutions.
In Diagram 3, Reality as a whole (shown as rectangle) is divided broadly as Tangible and Intangible. There are four levels of Reality – I, II, III and IV. The first ground level pertains to pure and simple tangible reality. It shows that all other levels ultimate are based on it and have to come down to prove their substance. Second level belongs to invisible objects, third to mental phenomena, and fourth to spiritual entities. Particular disciplines are closely situated at these various levels.