The 4 spheres are Social, Martial, Qi, and Tao. The 4 spheres are considered really to be different domains of reality–having different rule sets, different areas of influence, and creating different human experiences.
Social is considered to be the world as it is constructed by language.
It is the reality that can not exist without language (whether verbal, written, or body), and collapses without its presence. Many think of this sphere as being the sphere of relationships, but that is not true. Relationships have parts that exist within all 4 spheres. As a side note, if you have been studying the Taoist writing on the website, Social Mind is not restricted to the Social sphere. Social Mind affects the experience of all the spheres.
Martial is the sphere of physical action.
It is often expressed or described in terms of force of arms. Force of arms can be expressed through things like hunting, the military, martial arts, or police forces. However, the meaning of martial is really captured through the thought of physical manipulation, and embodies destruction and creation. It is also the sphere of the physical body and the senses.
Qi is the world of energy.
In the modern era, this realm is poorly understood by the general population, but it is actually responsible for most of our health, well-being, and success. It powers actions within the first two spheres even though people dominated by the first two spheres are unaware of it.
Tao is the sphere of True reality and direct spirituality.
Most religion is social, existing solely within the world of talk. The Tao sphere refers to you and the direct experience Tao. It also refers to the purity underlying all things.
In our current age, humans dwell mostly within the Social sphere. Much of human dissatisfaction–not liking what you are, not liking what you are doing, not feeling good about your get-up-everyday existence–comes from expecting more from the Social sphere than it can provide. If you are wondering, “Hey, is that the source of my problem? Am I expecting more from the Social Sphere than it can provide?” The test for these questions is simple: has anything you said or that’s been said to you changed your discontent or do you remain discontent?
If the answer is that you remain discontent, the solution to your problem is at some other level. There are no magic words that are going to help you and you will need to broaden your experience into the other spheres to create a more content life.
Master Mikel Steenrod
Keeper of the Gate of Man and Heaven
(Lineage Holder of the 4 Ascendant Spheres Purity Adept School of the Tao)