When I studied philosophy (which now feels like ages ago), I learned about different types of three worlds theories. Famous philosophers like Karl Popper and even Aristotle had a worldview that consisted of three different parts; which are different but not separate and influence each other. I think a three worlds theory can help us heal, understand our minds and even support our spiritual journey. Let me explain how.
Popper’s three worlds
The most famous theory of three worlds is by Karl Popper. According to Popper, there is a physical, objective world; a psychological, subjective world; and a conceptual, abstract world. World 1 is the real world around us: matter. World 2 is our emotions and interpretations about world 1. World 3 then, is theory and conceptualisation (products of the mind) of world 1.
All these worlds influence each other. What happens in the real world, affects how you feel. The theories and concepts we have of the real world, affect our feelings too. But how we feel also influences how we form theories and conceptualise, and thus how we see the world. Still following?
Aristotle’s three souls
Aristotle’s view on the soul also consists of three parts. These are not different worlds, but do influence our worldview and how we understand ourselves. Aristotle says there’s a vegetative soul, which plants, animals and humans have. They all can reproduce and grow, an just be. Then there’s the sensitive soul, which animals and humans have. They can move and sense feelings or emotions. And finally there’s the rational soul, which only humans have. They have thought and can reflect on them.
Of course, there are new scientific reasons for believing (some) animals can think and reflect too, and that (some) plants are sensible. However, for a three worlds or souls theory to be useful in our own lives, this isn’t important.
How to use
If we summarise Popper’s and Aristotle’s views together (they’ll hate me for it – I’m not sorry) we can generally say that human beings have three different worlds or states of being: the world of matter, or simply being; the world of emotions, a.k.a feeling; and the world of concepts, meaning thinking.
When you have a problem (with life, yourself, or something specific), you feel low, or you want to figure something out, you can use this theory to your advantage. The trick is to 1. identify in which world or state this problem REALLY exists, and 2. approach the problem from the correct world or state.
You see, many problems we have, arise from approaching or trying to fix something from the wrong world (out of our three worlds). Many emotional problems (world 2) are actually reactions to the physical world (world 1). Trying to heal your pain by ‘figuring it out’ is wrongly hoping to fix your your physical (world 1) or emotional (world 2) damage with a conceptual remedy (world 3).
Be, feel or think?
Do you see where I’m getting at? When we tell other people to ‘just let it be’, we are actually saying: don’t let something in the material world affect your inner emotional world. And when there’s a flaw in our reasoning, we are often affected emotionally or even want to change things in the material world, while the problem actually only exists in and stems from our mind.
So the next time you run into some troubles, ask yourself in which world the problem actually exists, and from which state you can rightly approach it. Sometimes, you don’t have to think it through, but just feel or be. Other times, you can stop your tears by simply changing your mindset about it.
Even if one world and one soul seems more than enough, I’m curious to know your progress once you start living with three!
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