May 18, 2015

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”
~ Joseph Campbell


When most people think of the word metaphysics,  the common meaning that comes to mind is “beyond physics” or “the study of what lies beyond the physical world”.  However, the origin of the word was as a title of a work by Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, and the original meaning was all about location, location, location.

The word metaphysics was first used by Andronicus of Rhodes, another Greek philosopher, who lived in the 1st century BC.  Rhodes is known for editing, organizing and publishing Aristotle’s original texts.  Meta is a Greek preposition meaning 1) “after, behind” or 2) “changed, altered” or 3) “higher, beyond”.  Prepositions are words that indicate location (such as on, in or beside).  Rhodes added the preposition meta to the noun physics, merely to indicate the book’s position in the collection.  He named this particular work Metaphysics, not because it addressed subjects of a lofty and spiritual nature, but simply because this particular work happened to be “the book that comes after the book titled Physics”.

The modern understanding of the term as “the science of that which transcends the physical” with all of its mystical, philosophical and new age associations, is the result of a misinterpretation of Rhodes’ title of this particular work of Aristotle by Latin writers in later centuries.

It is actually ironically appropriate that the word’s original meaning was changed over the centuries.  The second definition of meta is “changed, altered”.  Therefore, many words containing this element indicate transformation.  The Greek word metabole, which our word “metabolize” came from, means “transmutation” or “the act of changing or the state of being changed into another form.”

Transmutation was/is the goal of spiritual alchemy.  Think of the Prayer of St. Francis: “Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith…”  The ability to go within and change sadness into joy, sickness into healing, stubbornness into surrender and fear into faith creates in one’s heart the true philosopher’s stone, capable of transforming (spiritual) lead into (spiritual) gold.

The transformative power of gratitude was/is the basis for The Philosopher’s Spoon, the title of this blog and the original book it was based on.  After years of dieting with little or no results, I found that by simply giving thanks before each meal, my relationship with food was transformed and, as a result, my digestion, my choices, my weight and my life were transformed as well.

Here is what I say before each meal:

Thank you to the plants, animals and people who gave their lives, time and energy to bring me this delicious, nutritious and healing food.  Help me transform this gift of life into a blessing that I can share with each person I meet and each, in turn, who is touched by them.

Maybe some of you will choose to give saying thank you before each meal a try.  Whether the results are physical or beyond the physical, may this practice bring you joyful transformation.


A regular Philosopher’s Spoon reader requested this lip-smackingly delicious recipe for Horiatiki (Greek Salad) Tacos, which was featured in the July 22, 2013 blog post.


Horiatiki Tacos with Marinated Feta
Greek Salad (Horiatiki Salata) makes a delicious filling for this super-tasty, virtually no-cook summer meal.  This is a vegetarian-friendly recipe, but you can add cooked shrimp as a variation for pescavores.  Make the Marinated Feta one day to one week ahead.

1 clove of garlic, smashed
1 (15 oz) can organic garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (plus more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 green onions, trimmed and chopped (green & white parts)
1 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1 cup diced cucumber
2 cups diced ripe heirloom tomatoes
8 (approximately 7″ flour tortillas or lavash-style flatbreads)
Marinated Feta (recipe below)

1 (16 oz) package of frozen, cooked, peeled, medium-sized tail-off shrimp, thawed


In a large bowl, stir together garlic, beans, lemon juice and oregano.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove and discard garlic clove.  Add onions, bell pepper, cucumber and tomato (if you are using shrimp, add them here).  Stir and taste for seasoning.  Add more salt, pepper and lemon juice, if needed.  Set aside.

Heat tortillas over a low stove flame, using tongs to circulate the tortilla over the flame.  When it begins to puff, turn tortilla and heat other side (do not leave unattended!).

Alternatively, you can heat tortillas in a microwave-safe plastic bag for about 30 to 60 seconds or until steaming.  Keep warm in a basket or bowl, covered with a damp towel.

Serve salad alongside Marinated Feta and warm tortillas.  Have guests make their own tacos (using a slotted spoon to serve the salad) by filling the tortillas with some salad, topped with the Marinated Feta.

Serves 8 (more with shrimp added).


Marinated Feta
You will need a pint or quart-sized jar with a lid.

About 8 oz of Feta cheese, cubed
1 to 2 small, whole, hot dried chilies
Several sprigs of fresh dill
Several sprigs of fresh mint
or Several sprigs of fresh rosemary (you can sub crumbled dried rosemary)
Several fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Zest of one lemon
Extra virgin olive oil to cover (about 1 & 1/2 cups)

Combine Feta, herbs and seasonings in jar.  Cover with oil.  Seal jar and shake gently.  Marinate in fridge several hours or overnight.  Shake a few times during marinating time.

Use leftover oil in jar to toss with cooked pasta, rice, salad or as a dip for bread.


2 Responses to “Meta”

  1. Janet Mercurio

    Explaining the term “meta” was very timely for me. I have been hearing it a lot lately on NPR and I wasn’t sure what it meant. The way they were using it was to mean “self-referential” but they must have gotten the term from the Greek. Thank you for this informative definition as well as for sharing the words of your lovely grace.

  2. Gina

    Thank you, Janet! Yes, I’ve heard “meta” being used to mean “self-referential” as well. For instance, meta jokes (like those Dave Letterman is famous for) are supposed to be “jokes about jokes”. It’s become a slang term used in this way. So I guess my post all about the word meta being titled “Meta” could be referred to as “soooo meta!” 🙂