Monday, December 16, 2013
Reason and intuition
They often hold each other in contempt of one another; and one might roughly say that scientists favor reason, while religious people favor intuition. The distinction is certainly too broad; scientists often use intuition, even though many of them may prefer not to admit it, and religious people can hardly go anywhere without using reason once in a while, although some of them appear to abandon it on a not infrequent basis.
Reason, in its basic form, is a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event. It presumes that everything has explanations; it presumes that there is no arising or phenomenon that cannot be explained using logic. Logic, by the way, is defined as reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity, just as reasoning is called thinking by a logical method, so the very words and actions that we use to describe reason and logic are — surprise! — circular in terms of their logic...
or is it reasoning? Damn, that's confusing.
Oh, my, what a conundrum. Whatever shall we do?
Abracadabra! Intuition does not pretend to use reason. It specifically means the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning; and is specifically ascribed to a spiritual insight or spiritual communication in its original late middle English form. That is to say, when we engaging intuition, we think from what Swedenborg called our understanding; whereas when we reason, we try to understand with our eyes.
We live in a society that has elevated reason beyond all reason; that is, reason is believed to have a trump value over every other method of understanding life. It's based strictly on the analysis of the outer conditions, materials science, mathematics, physics, and various laws that constrain the action of electromagnetism and chemistry. Materialists believe that everything can be explained by these things, even though there are clearly things, as I pointed out in my last post, that are actually quite impossible to explain using these systems. Proponents of the systems of reason and logic prefer to avoid grappling with such questions, because it makes them profoundly uncomfortable. To a man who thinks only through his reason, the idea that there are things that could lie outside its abilities is... well... unreasonable. And since the axiomatic premise of reason is that nothing is able to lie outside the realm of reason, things that do lie outside it must be assiduously ignored.
At the same time, the intuitive value of human nature is valid across the entire spectrum of our activities. It would be impossible for us to live without intuition; this instantaneous understanding of the reality around us, which is impossible to measure in any process using the thinking mind — which operates at a much slower rate of speed — is very much like the relationship between particles that have undergone quantum entanglement — whereby two separate entities instantaneously communicate no matter how far apart they are.
Just as entangled particles encompass a single reality that is instantly shared regardless of location, intuition allows the mind to instantly come into full relationship with the reality that it dwells in. In this moment of no separation, action is always correct, because it is unerring and in alignment.
In any event, as I have pointed out on a number of occasions, Jeanne de Salzmann's challenge to us is to transcend the known; and this quality of intuition comes from a place that cannot be reasoned. Its very nature stands in opposition to reason, because it comes from spiritual insight, not logical deductions and progressions.
Chinese master DaHui compared the logical mind to poisonous snakes and fierce tigers; it is worse, he argued, because you can escape poisonous snakes and fierce tigers, but not this mind.
Perhaps the oddest and most persistent feature of our psyche is the dogged determination with which it insists on pursuing this mission using all of the logical faculties that will inevitably prevent its success. We do it all the time; but we never admit the contradiction.
I remember a retreat with Ravi Ravindra many years ago at which a very bright gentleman with great expertise in Hatha yoga asked a rather intellectual question about inner work. It was breathtaking in its structure and complexity.
Ravi was taken aback for a moment. The room seemed to draw in a collective breath with him; how would he deal with this impressive but very complicated question?
After a moment, he sighed and smiled the same ineffable and joyful smile you will see at his webpage.
"Some things," Ravi said, "do not fare well under the cold light of logical analysis."