There are many subjects or topics for conducting research in Social Sciences. The Table 1 ‘Interrelation between methodologies pertaining to tangible and intangible realities’ divides them into 11 columns. They may be relating to particular forms of Reality – I, II, III or IV (col. 1).
However, a piece of reality may be falling into more than one or two categories. In case, it relates to one particular form of reality, it would be useful to apply methods and techniques available for doing research in that area (col. 6). In the Table 1 each level of reality largely relates itself with particular category of research or research design (RD) (col. 2), form of reality (col. 3), usual contents (col. 4), and subjects or disciplines usually dealing with them (col. 5).
When an area of research, as in education, is related to two or three forms of social reality, it would require application of all (col. 8) methods, tools and techniques developed for studying those phenomena. Tangible studies, as on voting or student behaviour, have methods like observation, interview, questionnaire etc. Second level (col. I) studies on personality, nation, race etc. would include methods and techniques meant for the investigation of both first and second forms of reality (col. 8).
Methods of internalization, empathy, introspection, group discussion etc. would come into play when subjective entities, like emotions, aptitude, habits, culture, backwardness, poverty etc. (col. 3) are being put under investigation. It may be pointed out that study of the third level or form of reality, when existing at or connected with first and second levels, would involve means, methods and techniques available at these three levels (col. 8).
By using these methods we would be transforming knowledge of the second and third category of intangibles into first category knowledge of tangible through specifying indicators, using process of operationalization, drawing out generalizations, and replication.
The fourth level (col. i) of spiritual reality is trans empirical. It can be comprehended directly by specific individual only through meditation, reflection, identification, faith or transcendence (see the process below the Table). However, experience of knowing that reality would remain confined to the practitioner. It cannot be handed over or reproduced by him in a direct manner to anyone. It is non-transferable, non-comparable and unique, therefore, stands beyond the purview of empirical science. However, there are two other ways or categories of knowing its existence.
One is either observation of the result or consequence of that realisation by some person or watching of the whole process by him in the form of physical indicators or statements uttered by the practitioner of spirituality. The other way is to make an estimate of his influence on individuals, institutions, conduct, acts and activities of his followers. A comparative study of influences earned by two or more practitioners of spiritual reality can also be made.
One can also study them empirically by knowing attitudes, beliefs, opinions, likings, relations and responses of the believers concerned. While undertaking such a venture, the researcher would have to employ all the available methods and techniques of studying the three forms of reality to the extent that spiritual reality turns into some kind of empirical evidence (cols. 8 and 9).
There are many areas, such as, study of Gandhian leadership or impact of Buddha or Hindu culture on Indian democracy which demand application of all the methods, tools and techniques attached with the four levels of Reality (col. 9). While studying such topics one cannot stop either at first (tangible) or second (mentally tangible/non-observable) or third (analytical/conceptual) level. Unless one goes deep into ‘spiritual’ attainments of Gandhi, he or she cannot do any fruitful research in that field. So is the case with other topics of similar nature.
Observing things belonging to Gandhi or looking into the working of the institutions founded by Gandhi, or reading about his emotions and feelings from his autobiography or knowing observations of Gandhi’s followers about him may not lead one to knowing of reality. All such attempts may not reveal the ‘truth’ lying behind his leadership.
Similarly, those who leave the spiritual or value aspects of Mohammad AM Jinnah and other Muslim leaders or jehadi terrorists, and study the rest (col. lo) cannot comprehend these people in totality. The Indian National Congress, by neglecting this aspect, failed to understand why Jinnah and the Muslim Leaguers insisted upon partitioning India at all costs and rejected all persuasion, requests and concessions from Congress.
It is unfortunate that Social Sciences, as usual, have totally neglected the study of the role, experience, attainments and efforts of great religious leaders like Buddha, Mahavira, Christ and several others. They have conducted their studies only in known and usual areas of caste, tradition, hierarchy, family etc. The social scientists ignorantly forget that what the great founders of religions and other saints have attained and advocated, knowingly or unknowingly, did not remain confined to them only.
The outcome of their spiritual heights, teaching and doings have been in forms of millions of committed followers, establishment of thousands of socio-religious institutions, generation of great traditions and generous beliefs, creation of art and literature, and many other things. Later, their influence has appeared in the form of empires and kingdoms. All this has revolutionised the lives of the poor, depressed, women and children.
Their followers have also created as well as destroyed communities and kingdoms. All of them have been left untouched by the social scientists owing to their methodological blindness. Most of them still do not understand that there is a direct relationship between metaphysics and spirituality with politics, culture, education, wars and peace.
It has long been known that the scope, nature, contents and methodology of physical sciences is quite specific and unique to their subject-matter and desired goals. Still the social scientists have not given up their habit of adhering to an alien methodology. By blindly imitating them, they have suffered on all counts: credibility, status, utility and progress. Against all advice from David Hume (1711-1776), Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and Karl R. Popper (1902-1994) they continue to confine themselves to the labyrinth of ’empirical science’.
Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) had talked a lot about the dangers of ‘technology’ which is the gift of empirical (sensory experience and empiricism) sciences. Without normative basis, all revolutions have been converted into Bureaucracy or mere Technocratic Social Management. The liberal ideal has been routinised into election, media exercise and so on. In this manner, liberalism has been buried deeply.