The Institute for Dialectical metaRealism @

Methodological Focuses for the Heartfulness Inquiry
of The Institute for Dialectical metaRealism
as the research agency of The MarkFoster.NETwork

Mark A. Foster, Ph.D., M.A., A.B.J., A.A.
Sociologist • Advocacy Journalist • Historian

A research methodology, or a scientific method, incorporates more than research techniques or “methods,” such as participant observation (ethnography) and content analysis. Broadly characterized, a methodology is a systematic application of epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge, within a field of study.

A methodology must be carefully formulated in the context of a particular discipline or, to be precise, as a distinct undertaking within that discipline. Each methodology encompasses research techniques (either singly or in “triangulation”), a philosophy of science (pragmatism, empiricism, and so forth), a theoretical (explanatory) perspective, the axiology (value system) of the researcher (whether made explicit or left unstated), and relevant modes of presentation or pedagogy (instruction).

The MarkFoster.NETwork™ project centers around Dialectical metaRealism™. Heartfulness Inquiry™, the theory’s methodology, reflects a distinction between the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften, literally, spiritual sciences), a term which can be traced back to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and the natural sciences. Today, the Geisteswissenschaften are a curricular area in German universities, including the social sciences, many of the humanities, and theology.

Using the methodology of Heartfulness Inquiry, the researcher forms heart-centered relationships (a type of structurization or agency) with the attributes of unifying essences (essential unities or webs of interconnectedness) which can be cognitively identified by name. The innermost Essence, or the Essence of all essences, is God. These essences are the fabric of existence. However, they cannot be directly known, perceived, or observed.

Heartfulness Inquiry  resembles other human science research designs, such as heuristic inquiry, intuitive inquiry, individual lived inquiry, integrated inquiry, integral inquiry, mindful inquiry, organic inquiry, autoethnography, participant observation, and others.

The Internet, as a metasociety, is analogous to the concept of virtual communities. This digital society operates beyond particular geopolitical boundaries, and, in its bits and bytes (tropes or attributes), is a socially formation of the web (or essence) of unity which connects everyone.

The methodology is explained in the book, Heartfulness Inquiry, but the project has three principal areas of focus:

  1. In its participant observational aspects, the Internet, synchronous and asynchronous, will be explored through active engagement in, and utilization of, online communications media. Social construction, discussed below, is taken as heuristics and, in the social construction of online lifeworlds, as praxis. One set of behaviors to be explored is within the ongoing cultural history project in mass media. As a reflexive sociology, the construction of The MarkFoster.NETwork  is examined through active engagement with others – on email lists, in chat rooms, and on message boards.
  2. The attributes of unities, such as the unity (essence) of humanity will, be explored through contemplation and spiritual communion.
  3. As a sociology of religion, the project includes numerous activities, including the development of Ṣūfī Information Central™. It is the largest Ṣūfī resource of its kind on the web.
  4. As a clinical sociology, the methodology, Heartfulness Inquiry, is taught to others.

Conceptual (Preoperational) Definitions

Disciplinary Definitions

For definitions of clinical sociology, sociological practice, and applied sociology, see my portal.

For definitions of public sociology, visit my website. In The MarkFoster.NETwork, public sociology is a branch, or an application, of clinical sociology.

Dictionary Definitions

Pronunciation: 'si[ng]-kr&-n&s, 'sin-
Function: adjective
Etymology: Late Latin synchronos, from Greek, from syn- + chronos time
Date: 1669
1 : happening, existing, or arising at precisely the same time
2 : recurring or operating at exactly the same periods
3 : involving or indicating synchronism
4 a : having the same period; also : having the same period and phase b : GEOSTATIONARY
5 : of, used in, or being digital communication (as between computers) in which a common timing signal is established that dictates when individual bits can be transmitted, in which characters are not individually delimited, and which allows for very high rates of data transfer

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary © 2002 (Online Edition)

Pronunciation: (")A-'si[ng]-kr&-n&s, -'sin-
Function: adjective
Date: 1748
1 : not synchronous
2 : of, used in, or being digital communication (as between computers) in which there is no timing requirement for transmission and in which the start of each character is individually signaled by the transmitting device
- asyn·chro·nous·ly adverb

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary © 2002 (Online Edition)

plural usually media...a channel or system of communication, information, or entertainment

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Methodological Quotations

All of us have a lifeworld; it is all that we are and all that we do. It is the sense that we have of ourselves, how we feel emotionally, what our bodies can do physically, the relationships that we have with others, our hopes and ambitions, our perceptions of time past and the future in front of us, the things that we do and all that we value. Although the way that we experience them will be unique for each of us, these aspects of being alive will be shared by all of us....

Body – impact on the physical and emotional
Temporality – present, past and future
Project - interests, activities, goals and aspirations
Spatiality – places we go
Sociality – relationships with others
Selfhood – how we view ourselves, feel viewed by others
Discourse – the words used to describe experiences, changes in language

Interviews centre around these fractions...
No attempt made to extract essential, universal truths or common theories from the data
The reader will judge the validity of the data
The research process needs to be transparent
Bassey (1999) ‘fuzzy generalisations’.

Barnes (2003) central defining characteristic [of emancipatory methodology] is the empowerment of the research participant
Understanding the perspective of the participant gives value to their being
Participants understanding of the experience is the only ‘truth’

Sayer(2000:172): ‘the lifeworld can be a site of domination and misrecognition’
Lifeworld enables this to be recognised
Research has traditionally marginalised disabled people (Moore, et al.; Walmsley, 2001; Barnes, 2003)
Lifeworld places participants at the centre of the research process (Hodge, 2006)
The focus is on the participant’s agenda and not the researcher’s (Kvale, 1996; Hodge, 2006)
Unlike emancipatory research and feminism Lifeworld does not have a political agenda (Hodge, 2006)....

Lifeworld is a useful critical framework
Participants are at the centre of the research process
Participants are facilitated in recognising their own understanding of their experience
The research agenda is never less than shared.

Hodge, Nick, "Lifeworld as a Tool of Emancipatory Research." PowerPoint. Retrieved on June 14, 2009.

In this paper I will talk about my own experience of involvement in what might be classed as ‘emancipatory methodologies’ in a mental health context, but first I want to consider some of the differences between the role and prevalence of emancipatory research in the field of disability and the field of mental health. There is a distinct tradition of ‘emancipatory research’ within the Disabled People’s Movements. The term was coined by Oliver in 1992 and has been used ever since to describe research which has critiqued mainstream disability research and which instead has offered a perspective that draws on disabled people’s experiences, ‘illustrating the complexity of the process of disablement with reference to environmental and social factors,’ (Colin Barnes, 2001:4). The legacy of Oliver’s 1992 statement has enjoyed a far higher profile within disability research than it has in mental health research....

The disability movements are in a different social place than the mental health movements. Beresford and Wallcraft (1997) talk about some of the reasons for these differences. The primary difference they identify is in the relationship between service users and service providers. Beresford and Wallcraft (1997) contend that the disability movements in the UK, through their utilisation of the social model, have developed Largely independently of the disability professionals and the disability service system. It has placed an emphasis on developing organisations of disabled people and challenging the traditional dominance of organisations for disabled people (1997:70).

The distinction between ‘of’ and ‘for’ is one that crops up again in the literature; it is related to issues of empowerment and is one that I will return to later in the paper (see also Barnes, 2001: 47-8). However, this does not simply mean that the social model can be extended to encompass issues of emotional distress. Plumb (1994) has argued that there are distinct differences between the two movements. She argues that the prevalence of the social model within the disability field could well lead to the colonisation of mental health service users, to the extent that their specific needs may be subsumed under the social model of disability. However, to return to the original point, this distinction or distance from service providers within the disability movement is not found to be the same when UK mental health movements are considered. Mental health organisations have been much more closely tied into the mental health service system. In relation to the Irish context, the dominant type of mental health organisations would tend to be organisations for users of services (see Speed, 2002), but within these self same organisations there is a move towards some representation of users by users....

... Empowerment methodologies, I would argue, are fundamentally different from emancipatory methodologies. I would further this distinction by stating that, (particularly in relation to mental health): empowerment methodologies and research projects are a necessary precursor to emancipatory methodologies and research projects.

The disability movement has succeeded (to a degree) in moving from a framework of empowerment to a framework of emancipation (the idea that people are readily familiar with a notion of emancipatory research within the disability movement is in itself a reflection of progress). This has been achieved in part, by the utilisation and development of empowerment methodologies.

Essentially my argument here is that emancipatory research is part of a process, or is bound up in a process, of movement development. Empowerment research is a necessary pre-cursor to emancipatory research, empowerment research might be thought of as the tool, which can re-distribute or even open up (an important distinction) what up to now has been professionally dominated power. It is through these changes in power relations that it becomes possible to build projects and programmes which can then be identified as emancipatory projects.

Speed, Ewen [Department of Sociology, Trinity College, Dublin], "What Exactly is an Emancipatory Methodology?" Word file. Retrieved on June 14, 2009.

Many use the term empowerment without understanding what it really means. A literature review resulted in no clear definition of the concept, especially one that could cross-disciplinary lines. This article defines empowerment as a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power in people for use in their own lives, their communities and in their society, by acting on issues they define as important.

... we see empowerment as a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power in people for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society by acting on issues that they define as important. In PEP as in Extension we strive to teach people skills and knowledge that will motivate them to take steps to improve their own lives – to be empowered.

Page, Nanette and Czuba, Cheryl E., "Empowerment: What Is It?" Journal of Extension. October 1999. volume 37. number 5. Retrieved on June 14, 2009.

The concept of empowerment is studied from an individual perspective even though the phenomenon comprises a collective component [35,43]. From an individual perspective, empowerment is a social process whereby the acquisition of skills by the person to satisfy his or her needs, resolve his or her problems and mobilize the necessary resources to take control over his or her life is recognized, supported and valued....

Promoting selfcare initiatives by relying on a person's strengths and supporting his or her progress towards this goal is not a simple task. Studies like this one are needed to understand the processes involved. The use of a reflective approach to study enabling interventions and individual empowerment is therefore an innovative aspect of this research. It should provide cues on how to better support health care professionals in their efforts to adapt and transform their practices so they can guide their clients towards greater autonomy.

Tribble, Denise St-Cyr et al., "Empowerment Interventions, Knowledge Translation and Exchange: Perspectives of Home Care Professionals, Clients and Caregivers." BMC Health Services Research. Volume 8. August 20, 2008. Retrieved on June 14, 2009.

Empowerment is a construct that links individual strengths and competencies, natural helping systems, and proactive behaviors to social policy and social change (Rappaport 1981, 1984). Empowerment theory, research, and intervention link individual and social well-being with the larger political and social environment. Theoretically, the construct connects mental health to mutual help and the struggle to create a responsive community. It compels us to think in terms of wellness versus illness, competence versus deficits, and strength versus weakness.... Empowerment-oriented interventions enhance wellness while they also aim to ameliorate problems, provide opportunities for participants to develop knowledge and skills, and engage professionals and collaborators instead of authoritative experts.

Perkins, Douglas D. and Zimmerman Marc A., "Empowerment Theory, Research, and Application." American Journal of Community Psychology. Volume 23. Number 5. 1995.

The path to be taken in understanding the person with dementia is now clear – we should focus on the description of the person's lifeworld. The carer becomes an informal phenomenologist of a kind.....

Bracketing presuppositions in order to reveal the lifeworld of the person with dementia is the process indicated (Ashworth, 1997). This epoche is something which has continually to be undertaken....

So, throughout the attempt to describe the lifeworld of the person with dementia, the process of entering into the experience itself "in its appearing" entails exercising a form of epoche.

Ashworth, Ann and Ashworth, Peter, "The lifeworld as phenomenon and as research heuristic, exemplified by a study of the lifeworld of a person suffering Alzheimer's disease." Journal of Phenomenological Psychology. Volume 23. Number 2. 2003.


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