Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The heart of knowledge, part IV: intuition

Today I want to come back to something I said in part II of this series of posts. Or, more exactly, what Jeanne de Salzmann said on page 181 of  The Reality of Being:

"We have to guard against judging with our mind before we have allowed our intuition, which is at the heart of the experience, to bring us knowledge."

Her understanding was that our intuition brings us knowledge.

But just what is intuition?

 Both the word intuition and the word tuition ultimately derive from the Latin tueri, to watch, or guard. They come to us by way of late middle English (in the sense of custody, or care.) Interestingly, in late middle English, the word intuition denoted spiritual insight or immediate spiritual communication.  So the word has always had a spiritual context. Yet its original roots lie in the act of watching, or guarding.

The word intuition is, actually, connected to the idea of having a wish and having an attention. The action of guarding and the action of watching require both care and attention; so the word is perfectly appropriate to the understanding of the inner quality that is required to bring us knowledge. Yet today's use of the word brings us to some other connotations it has acquired over the years.

An intuition is more than an instinct: it is an inner knowing, a quite definite sense of things that involves more than just the mind. Anyone who has had a distinct and powerful intuition knows that it has both a physical and emotional content. As such, intuition, in the way that it is experienced — not just according to our etymological analysis — is a three centered experience. So, when Jeanne de Salzmann uses this simple expression in this simple sentence, she is actually alluding, with the single word intuition, to the whole practice. Not only does she deftly advise us to pay attention; she advises us to have a wish, and participate in an organic sensation and a feeling quality in order to understand. This, she advises us, is at the heart of the experience. And it indicates how very carefully chosen her apparently simple words are.

The Sufi understanding of knowledge as the heart of Being,  and the heart as the seat of knowledge, are entirely consistent with these points of view. Knowledge — three centered experience — lies at the core of our existence, very close to the force of life that keeps our energy in circulation. And it is this circulation we are interested in; because if it isn't strong in us, we are weak in everything, first of all in ourselves, and then, in life. So intuition is an essential quality required to understand, and then fuel, one's work.

The transformation of impressions in the human being is meant to bring the sensory knowledge — the experience that falls into the body in the form of sensations, emotions, and intelligible thoughts — into a unified entity. This union is alchemical, that is, it causes a transmutation. Taken individually, the impressions, as they fall into the various centers, are of a lower order. The allegorical context is that of base metals. If there is heat, however (she calls it friction in the section "Can Being Change?" from which the quote is taken) these elements can fuse. And it is the distinct inner sensation of the fusion of elements that creates a higher order of experience.

 This fusion takes place, we are advised, because of the friction between yes and no. And perhaps that brings yet another element of mystery into the equation, because we may not be sure of what that means. It cannot, for example, just mean an intellectual struggle between yes and no. The struggle takes place in a different piece of territory; perhaps in a piece of territory which used to be labeled temptation in the religions, but in any event, a piece of territory not accessible to intellectual arguments based on facts. Yes and no only struggle with one another if each one represents a desire; otherwise, they have no attractive force. So it is the struggle between desires and non-desires that comes into play here.

 As I write this, I am following my own intuition to see if I can discover where this leads us. All of the essays on the subject have been of that order; they are experiences in real time in an effort to think carefully about how these things are arranged. I didn't sit down with a prepared set of ideas to expound; readers are along for the ride in an evolving experiment in understanding.

 Is it the watchfulness, the intuition, that helps us to see the struggle between yes and no? It must be. And here we come to the meaning of the second and derivative word, tuition. Intuition is inward tuition, that is, inward payment.  So if we are watchful, if we use our attention, if we pay attention, in a certain sense, we are using our intuition. Our intuition is a form of inward attention that we pay for what we need with.

Will talk about that more in the next post.

 May your soul be filled with light.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.