By George A. Boyd © 2015
Questioning is a powerful tool to arrive at understanding and insight. There are seven major types:
- Questioning to arrive at facts or evidence – Interrogation typifies this type of questioning. It attempts to determine what actually happened. It attempts to arrive at the truth about what someone did or said. Investigators and reporters use this type of questioning.
- Social questioning – This type of question interviews another person to learn about their experience, beliefs, values, and perspective on the world. This type of questioning lets another person feel known, and establishes an atmosphere of trust and empathic rapport. It is the basis of friendship. It is used in psychotherapy.
- Intellectual questioning – This type of questioning aims to assess intellectual knowledge and skills acquired through learning. It is the foundation of academic testing. Questioning on topics of interest, framed as a hypothesis, forms the basis of scientific research. Educators and scientists use this type of questioning.
- Experiential questioning – This type of questioning seeks to know what a person is experiencing in the present time. Examples of this are “what are you feeling right now?” It leads to the uncovering of a person’s immediate and intimate experience. This type also is used in psychotherapy.
- Structured process questioning – This type of questioning asks a repetitive question to the unconscious mind, with the objective of uncovering the origin incident that triggered a pattern of belief, behavior, or emotional upset. This type of questioning is utilized in Scientology™ and other groups that rely upon process meditation to work with emotionalized issues and dysfunctional patterns.
- Spiritual questioning – This type of questioning seeks to gain understanding of spiritual ideas, to master the practice of meditation, and to realize one’s spiritual essences—the attentional principle, the spirit, one of the nuclei of identity, or the ensouling entity. This type of question develops the faculty of inner insight and discernment, and builds the Illumined mind (Buddhi). Spiritual aspirants and disciples ask these questions; spiritual teachers and Initiates answer these questions.
- Evocative questioning – This type of question seeks to make a person think deeply about their assumptions, beliefs, and their sense about what is possible, achievable, or doable. It is a heuristic type of questioning, for it aids insight and discovery. It can lead people to reject other people’s values and beliefs, and authentically embrace their own. It can lead people to discover the truth about who they are. It can empower people to make new bold and life-changing choices. This type of questioning is found in the Socratic method that philosophers utilize, in philosophical inquiry, and in the evocative queries of life coaches.
Skillful questioning is a key skill in acquiring knowledge, insight, and wisdom. It is a way of knowing oneself; it is a way of knowing others and the world.
Meditation primarily relies upon type 6, spiritual questioning, in which the chela asks a question to the Guru and receives an answer. This type of questioning may also be dome internally: one can ask questions to a spiritual guide, an angel, the Holy Spirit, or to the Master or Initiate supervising one’s religion or spiritual group.
In the Mudrashram® system of Integral meditation, which uses a broader range of meditation techniques than unitive systems—i.e., unitive systems highlight one major meditation technique, with some supportive methods to facilitate the practice of that technique—questioning also embraces type 4, experiential questioning; type 5, structured process meditation; and type 7, evocative questioning.
Type 4 enables the aspirant to study the vehicles of consciousness and to contemplate their function, and to discover the authentic integrative centers: the Self and the Soul.
Type 5 facilitates the working out of issues that impede optimal functioning.
Type 7 empowers insight and change.
So, in addition to gaining spiritual insight, Integral meditation seeks to give the aspirant the tools to make the personality into an instrument of the Soul, and function optimally. Rather than reject the personality as an illusion or an impediment to spiritual progress, Integral meditation assists the aspirant to work through life issues and become fully functioning; and to actualize personal potentials along with spiritual ones.
We encourage you to reflect upon these seven types of questioning, and to think deeply about how you can utilize each of these types more effectively to enhance your knowledge of reality, your relationships, your scholarship and research, and your journey of personal and spiritual discovery.