Subject Clearing (old-3)


Please see Course on Subject Clearing

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When studying a subject one should be able to detect the hidden assumptions and subjectivity present in it. This is especially necessary when one is studying the fundamentals of a subject. Such subjectivity can be very pervasive. It may even enter the definitions of words provided in dictionaries.

Study of a subject must improve one’s objective perceptions in that area. It must be accompanied by full awareness of assumptions and subjectivity in the fundamentals of that subject.

The following procedure may help one detect and clear assumptions and subjectivity present in a subject being studied.


MINDFULNESS APP: To Engage in Subject Clearing

1.    Make a list of key words that describe the concepts in that subject.

Skim through the chapter that you are going to study, and make a list of key words that introduce new concepts in that chapter. Put that list on an Excel worksheet, so you can rearrange their order as necessary. You may add key words from previous chapters, or from other books, that you have studied. This list may grow as your studies get deeper into the subject.

2.    Write down the broad concept associated with the word.

In a dictionary you may find the broad concept listed under the ‘history’, ‘origin’, or ‘derivation’ of the word. This may appear either before, or after the definitions. For example, when you look up ARITHMETIC, you may find the underlying concept expressed as “skill with numbers.”

Look for broad concept only. Sometimes you may have to piece together the concept from the derivations given. Ignore most other details. Once you have grasped the broad concept note it down next to the word on your Excel worksheet.

3.    Locate the definition of the word that fits the context.

Scan through the definitions provided for that word, and locate the one that seems to be most appropriate in the current context. Note down this definition in your Excel worksheet.

It may help to visualize the definition through applications, such as, “Google Image” on the Internet. You may visualize more abstract concepts through personal experiences and through examples provided in dictionaries and books.

Of course, if there are words in the definition that you do not understand then you need to look them up in the same way. You may modify your notes on Excel worksheet as you gain more familiarity with the concept over time through application of mindfulness.

4.    Gradually build upon each concept for that subject.

Study the materials of the subject one paragraph at a time. Reduce a paragraph to its main thought before proceeding to the next paragraph. 

It is useful to have the study material in an editable document on a computer. Then you can note down your thoughts and comments under each paragraph. If the paragraph is difficult to reduce to its main thought then look for words in that paragraph that may not be clear in that context. If the difficulty with a paragraph still persists then note down the confusion at the bottom of the paragraph. It may get clarified by something you read later.

This may provide you with additional conceptual understanding. If so, then note it down next to the appropriate word on your Excel worksheet.

5.    Keep the purpose of study in mind.

Since additional information on a subject may easily be accessed through Internet these days, the purpose of study is not to memorize but to improve one’s critical thinking.

The true purpose of study is to resolve inconsistencies (things that do not make sense) as you come across them in a subject. This develops clarity of mind and the ability to think fast on your feet.

6.    Arrange the key words with their concepts in proper sequence.

The concepts in any subject are always connected to each other. There is a sequence in which they evolved. The key words on your Excel worksheet should be separated in a group that expresses fundamental concepts from the group of secondary concepts.

Arrange the fundamental concepts in the sequence they evolved. Then place the secondary concepts in the order that they were derived. Move the words expressing more fundamental concepts toward the top. Move the words expressing derived concepts toward the bottom.

This sequencing may not be totally linear. Connections may be more like that in a multidimensional matrix. The whole idea is to arrange these words so you can easily see the connection among various concepts.

You may create a “Priority column” in the worksheet with numbers assigned to each row in such a way that you can look at the key concepts in various arrangements.

7.    Note any inconsistencies among the concepts and clarify them.

As the study of the subject progresses and better understanding comes about, rearrange the list of key words to examine consistency among the various concepts. You are looking for things that appear inconsistent and do not make sense. There may be holes among these concepts that need to be filled.

Deeper research may be required to discover such holes and fill them. First review your materials to clarify any inconsistency. If it does not clarify easily then note it down on the worksheet and research through other materials in the library or on Internet.

8.    Clarify the fundamentals of the subject as a priority.

The fundamentals concepts of a subject must be consistent. Any inconsistency at the fundamental level must be handled as a priority. The consistency of the fundamentals determines the consistency of the whole subject.

If an observed inconsistency does not resolve upon proper research of the materials on that subject then test the fundamentals for possible assumptions. Arbitrary assumptions may reveal gaps in the subject itself.

There are likely to be many contributors to a subject. For example, many different cultures have contributed to the broad subject of religious knowledge. You may find similar concepts referred to by different words from different sources. Note down such words and study the differences among their concepts.

Develop your own understanding by seeking consistency among these concepts.

9.    Make the subject as complete as possible.

There are many examples in the subject of religion where gaps in knowledge are hidden under assumptions and dubious explanations. This may be the case with any subject where inconsistencies abound.

Underlying such assumptions and dubious explanations is subjectivity coming from a narrow viewpoint. As this viewpoint is recognized and expanded upon greater objectivity and consistency is achieved. The gaps in knowledge become obvious. Real progress becomes possible now.

Fill gaps in the subject with wider research. Make the subject as complete as possible through experimentation and direct experience.


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