Current Update as of August 07, 2002
Inspired by The Edgar Cayce Institute for Intuitive Studies
Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
(Editor's note: For many years--this book was first published in 1983--was THE book on intuition, providing a comprehensive coverage of what had been written about the topic, either by philosophers, academics and others. At the time of its publication, perhaps the only other widely read book on the subject was Awakening Intuition, by Francis Vaughan. Today, there are countless books on intuition; however, The Intuitive Edge remains as an authoritative source. We are grateful to Zahid for his diligence in digesting it for you.
Driven by a deep-set passion to liberate the misconceptions about intuition, Philip Goldberg, a psychologist and educator, tells us how intuition can provide a crucial edge, enhancing our ability to discover, create, predict and evaluate. He teaches us how to recognize it and cultivate it, while showing the central role intuition plays for great scientists and imaginative thinkers. He firmly believes the cultivation of intuition will lead the world to be a better place.
1. The Emergence of Intuition
Intuition is a valuable asset that has existed since time immemorial. Left unrecognized by the majority, it has recently emerged from obscurity being an important ingredient in what we call genius and a subtle guide to daily living. This book is an effort to bring intuition out into the open, recognize the global shift in values, and engender respect for the world within.
Both ancient and modern philosophers have pointed to higher, intuitive forms of knowing, ones that defy traditional, rational, and empirical formulas of proof. However, the scientific world has used the objective tools of learning, with logic and reason, to try to answer questions of the psyche, the spirit and society. Intuition has been subject to various forms of censure and constraint, which has served to drive it underground rather than eradicate it.
The real objectivity of science is the rigorous evaluation of hunches, beliefs and intuitive convictions. What survives we call objective, scientific knowledge. Both Einstein and Newton agreed that the path to the natural laws rested on extraordinary intuition being the instrument of discovery. Individuals become intense advocates of their ideas, not always because of rational deduction but because of unexplainable convictions, which, when proven incorrect, we call them madmen; but, when they are right, they secure a place in history.
Intuition cannot be arranged into a set of rules that can be taught the way logic and quantitative procedures are. It cannot be pinned down, cannot be directly observed and measured. It has also been considered as a chance phenomenon, something that either happens or doesn't. It is for the same reasons that we have courses dealing with sex education but not with love.
Despite our rational-empirical training for processing information and making decisions, we often jump to conclusions, and are oftentimes more right than wrong, using our intuition. Mathematical formulas and sophisticated models fail to accurately forecast our positions or walks of life. Learned economists are baffled by their inability to explain why their formal methodologies do not always culminate in the verity they profess. Yet the person with an intuitive edge comes out on top, using the ‘gut feel' that the rationalist abhors.
2. What It Is: Definitions and Distinctions
Intuition is defined by what it is not: reason, logic, analysis and observation. It is a single event, a snapshot, and it just happens when least expected, without rules. Intuition is inexplicable. Rationality may both precede, and follow, an intuitive breakthrough. Actually, rationality and intuition are symbiotic, work in tandem, and surprisingly, intuition is a part of rational thinking. How often does it happen that we start to analyze something, then have a spontaneous hunch and leap to another track entirely? While deduction follows the rules of logic, intuitive insights can spark an inductive process drawing conclusions from a limited set of observations.
Intuition and psychic phenomena have a relationship to the extent that only precognition qualifies as intuition. The others like telepathy, clairvoyance, and clairaudience offer other sensory channels bringing in data subliminally or psychically. Intuition implies the unexpected. The knowledge revealed cannot be something that most people would come up with under the same circumstances.
3. The Many Faces of Intuition
There are six functional types of experience when we think of intuition: Discovery, Creativity, Evaluation, Operation, Prediction, and Illumination. Discovery is like the "Eureka!" of Archimedes or Watson's breakthrough with the structure of the DNA molecule. Dogged rational work precedes the phase when the inspirational spark of intuition is kindled. Creative intuition is much like discovery intuition except that creative intuition deals with alternatives, options and possibilities. Evaluative intuition is a process that tells us go or don't go, yes or no. Writers and artists evaluate intuitively all the time since there is no way for them to evaluate their work beyond technical considerations like syntax and grammar. Operative intuition is more like a sense of direction than a map, often responsible for what seems like luck. It accounts for Carl Jung's uncanny phenomenon of "synchronicity", those uncanny coincidences of outer and inner events with apparent causal relationship - the accident, both fortuitous and disparaging. Predictive intuition has an element of prophecy. Decisions are by nature predictive since you are banking on an outcome. Hence the ability to accurately forecast is a prized trait in leadership circles. It can also be used as an excellent warning device. Intuitive illumination transcends all the other 5 categories. It is transcendence, and has been given other names like nirvana, cosmic consciousness, samadhi, satori, self-realization.
4. The Intuitive Experience
In a typical intuitive experience, there is a sense of being a recipient as opposed to an initiator. It is the "Aha" which comes spontaneously, a sudden dawning, or total shock. Intuition is holistic to the extent that it is a flash containing an extraordinary amount of information worth a thousand pictures, yet not necessarily focused on any details - the whole rather than the parts. It is the capturing of this intuitive flash and committing it to paper that made musicians and writers like Mozart and Shelley so famous.
Intuition manifests itself in visual, verbal (auditory) or kinesthetic modes - though neither of these is exclusive. Intuition is often symbolic and may be expressed as a visual picture, as words, or as a feeling. At times, the modalities may be combined as when Coleridge saw the images and heard the words to "Kubla Khan". Physical sensations, similarly, interact with images and words, at times producing behavioral instructions, a sudden muscular tension, without a discernable message, just an urge.
An emotion might be a simultaneous expression of an intuition, like an unexplainable happy feeling, or an uncanny uncomfortable feeling. The emotional significance of important intuitions seems to center around happiness, harmony, and beauty. When actually creating, suffering artists were in bliss, their souls delighted. They experienced anguish and misery when they could not create, a lack of illumination, a dramatic expression of the tension, frustration, and sense of incompleteness that accompanies ignorance.
5. Who Is Intuitive
While everybody is intuitive, there are varying degrees of manifestation, acceptance and realization. Psychological studies and research have found that educated people find it easier to let intuition take over while protecting themselves from the social milieu behind a facade of empirical, analytical data. Intuition too can be specialized in one domain - the more practice that is put into it, the better and more effective it gets - just as with anything we do. There is a circular relationship among values, style and intuitive ability. Intuitive style and intuitive quality are two different things - one could simply be a wild guesser, while the other approaches a problem in a systematic, orderly manner. Validity and accuracy are the only ways to gauge quality though consistency is also a valuable consideration.
Certain types of humanity are seen as being more intuitive than others, like women, children, Easterners and primitive tribes. Since empirical evidence suggests that women pick up more peripheral and subliminal material than men, it may well be that the information they have to hand processes an intuitive insight. Whereas men have superior spatial visualization capabilities, a woman tends to have greater ease in switching between left and the right side brain functions. Perhaps cultural factors have indeed made women more intuitive, or it could be argued that women just appear more intuitive because they don't hesitate to express their intuition.
Without stereotyping cultures, it would appear that the non-Western world has more respect for the inner dimension, the non-physical, and the wisdom of symbols, dreams and rituals. However, non-Western scholars and scientists value logical inquiry and rationalism as much as their Western counterparts.
Children have intuitive knowing and unprogrammed perceptions. According to Piaget's model, children go through four stages of development: the sensory motor stage (birth to 1.5 or 2 years), the preoperational stage (from 2 to 7), the concrete operational stage (ages 7 to 11 or 12), and formal operations (between 11 and 15). During the evolution of the child to adulthood, educational institutions stifle the natural intuitive abilities. Systematic, logical thought patterns are demanded in excess, and children are taught not to listen to their "inner" voice. Notwithstanding this, children have the intuitive potential and certain natural qualities that aid intuition: curiosity, receptivity, innocence, and wonder. Children have a natural way of surrendering to experience. Their minds are open to intuition and extra-rational discovery.
Carl Jung took intuition most seriously. For him intuition is a kind of instinctive apprehension. He claims personality and behavior can be understood in terms of four distinct functions - thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. In turn, they are further divided into pairs of polar opposites, with thinking and feeling on the one axis, and sensation and intuition on the other. According to the Jungian framework, each of us would be located at a certain point on each axis and would fall into one of the 4 quadrants. Sensing and perception are perception functions, while thinking and feeling are judgment functions. Intuition comes from within, looking beyond appearances to inner meanings, relationships, interpretations, and possibilities.
There are various psychological testing instruments to ascertain the learning styles of people as well as the suitability of a type of person to a particular work environment and area of responsibility. In Jungian terminology, the two perception functions work along with the tow judgment functions - thinking and feeling. Both are deliberate, conscious ways of deciding. The late Isabel Briggs Myers designed the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MTBI) used by many corporations to classify people according to their Jungian types. Others have since created variations of it. They are used sometimes in classrooms to gear teaching procedures, and in other instances to find the most suitable person for a particular employment.
There are no easy answers to the question, "Who is intuitive?" The available tests and personality portraits can help us recognize intuitive people. While it is no guarantee, the chances are that independent, confident, flexible people will have learned to use their intuition better than most. They trust their "inner voices".
6. Right Brain, Wrong Theory
Since the 70's, right-brain and left-brain theories became so popular that people tended to use them more often than their astrological types. Scientists generally agree that the left brain represents more the linear or sequential processes, whereas the right brain is interpreted with the terms simultaneous, holistic, or non-linear. Thus intuition is placed in the right hemisphere of the brain in an oversimplification of the intuitive process simply because intuition exhibits right brain characteristics - instantaneous, global, diffuse and without linguistic content, whereas knowledge arrived at through reason is usually packaged with words and dependent upon precise categorization of symbols and concepts.
However, the simple explanations of left and/or right brain activities has normally been the result of inconclusive stimuli being given to subjects who are asked to respond to it. The readings may be just simple perception or a simple response. The tests study how the hemispheres respond to incoming information. There is actually a lot more going on when one has a hunch about an unsolved problem, or the answer to a nagging problem hits you by surprise. What comes together at the intuitive moment most probably has been contributed by both cortical hemispheres, and probably by areas of the brain outside the cortex as well.
The two hemispheres of the brain are connected by the corpus callosum which contains about 200 million fibers enabling as many as 2 billion information events traveling across the corpus callosum every second. We haven't even begun to appreciate the degree of cooperation between the hemispheres.
Research has also shown that inter-hemispheric coherence is highest during transcendental meditation. And yet it will always be quite impossible to explain the mind on the basis of neuronal action within the brain alone.
Stanford University neuropsychologist Karl Pribram brought forth the theory that the brain stores information much the same way as does a hologram. Just as the ripples formed by different objects on a calm surface of water may interact synchronously or in opposition, similarly are light wave patterns on a photographic plate able to store and reconstruct an image of what was - in three-dimensional space.
If the brain works like a hologram, storing information in such a way that every bit of information is accessible in every part, then knowledge may not depend entirely on neuronal connections over time and across physical space. Thus do we find the amazing rapidity of intuition!
Holography is a very efficient method of encoding; its principles may very well apply to something as efficient as the intuitive mind.
Another neurobiologist Oliver Sacks connects the mind with what lies "beyond" us, claiming we mirror the nature which made us.
A former colleague of Einstein's, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of London, David Bohm, maintains that the familiar world of cause and effect derives from a deeper realm that exists outside time and space. According to him, we may think of the universe as a vast interference pattern (like the many ripples on a water surface), with every event and every thought contributing to it, like pebbles dropped into a pond. Each mind could then contain within it all the information that ever was in all the universe. We would, in effect, be pieces of an all-pervading holographic plate.
7. The Intuitive Mind
From the philosophies of the Vedas in India, the interpretations of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, to Aldous Huxley and Descartes, we know that Knowing is contained within our individual consciousness; a part of the whole is the whole of a part. Intuition in particular forms a state of consciousness that fluctuates with experiences of awareness. Intuition is favored by a combination of low arousal and high alertness, a calm, wakeful, receptive state with relatively little extraneous mental noise to interfere with the input of the intuitive mind.
The more coherent the nervous system, the more appropriately can intuition come into its own right, placing the knower's attention to the right place within the mind. If the mind were an ocean, the ripples on the surface represent ordinary active awareness - turbulent and ever changing. Beneath that lies a range of deeper levels, which encompass all unconscious processes and structures.
The quality of intuition depends upon the state of consciousness - expressed in terms of layers of the mind. At maximum coherence, the full range of the ocean could be traversed and the illumination of transcendence would occur. This could only be realized with the calming of the mind from everyday material occupation.
Freud's acknowledgment of the subconscious (as well as the psychologist, Eric Berne) has linked the subconscious to intuition. In this view primal instincts and early experience shape what we do, think and believe. With the holographic model, in which each mind has access to the whole of a universal pattern, follows that anything that happens in the universe, including thought, is simultaneously encoded everywhere else. This concept is not far removed from "perennial philosophy" and modern physics.
From the same reasoning, the deep levels of material creation are all interconnected and the brain is made of the same stuff, as are rocks and stars, as is human consciousness. In physics we have the EPR effect (stands for Einstein and two colleagues, Podolsky and Rosen), which explains the astounding phenomena, associated with subatomic particle reality, in which two subatomic particles that once interacted can respond instantaneously to changes in each other even when they have been separated in space and time.
Carl Jung claims that the mind's depths contain not just the mere depositary of the past, but also future psychic situations and ideas. In Jung's schema, there are two layers of the unconscious, the personal and the collective. The personal contains all the psychic material from forgotten and repressed memories, and impressions gathered from both sensory and subliminal means. The collective is the unconscious that includes the inherited powers of human imagination from time immemorial - universal and primordial, which express themselves in myths and legends. This is collective and common to everyone.
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato held that material objects are merely imperfect, transient copies of transcendental, eternal patterns - the forms. These forms, unlike material structures, are universal, absolute, omnipresent and perfect. The material structures are relative, changeable, individuated, localized and defective.
Every form and every structure is a manifestation of the Absolute. And so is the mind. When a person transcends, he comes to know the Self, which is the basis of all creation. Thus do Yogis and mystics turn within themselves and come out knowing how the universe works - they simply perceived their own nature, which is, so to speak, nature's nature.
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the most authoritative of the ancient yogic texts, spells out how knowledge of the outer world can be obtained by turning within. He describes what is called the intimacy of intuitive experience, that sense of entering into the object of knowledge and knowing its essence. Immanuel Kant called it knowledge of thing-in-itself.
8. Getting Ready for Intuition
Intuition cannot be ordered, commanded, implored or contrived. We simply have to be ready for it. Make intuition feel that visits are welcomed at any time - it can become a perfect guest, showing up on all the right occasions, dressed properly and bearing felicitous gifts. The intuitive mind cannot be fooled with mumbo-jumbo. Ferret out negative programming and beliefs, including low self-esteem, excessive security needs, fear of change, and desire for control. Someone who feels he can manage unpredictable, changeable, or ambiguous situations is giving intuition a vote of confidence. Create those conditions intentionally to stimulate intuition resulting in personal growth, attitudinal adjustment, reprogramming of the intuitive mind, and the instilling of courage and confidence.
Relax some of the analytic procedures in favor of a degree of informality. Even when the role of intuition is acknowledged, the preparation stage is depicted as strictly rational and well ordered. Unfortunately when followed too rigidly, formal methods can lead to a kind of mental rigidity that can stifle intuition, particularly in its creative function.
It is important to look for, encourage, and expect intuitive input at any stage in the process of solving problems or making decisions. Goals and problems form a feedback loop: the things we want program the mind to look for ways to get them; that leads to the identification of problems, which in turn create objectives for the intuitive mind to work on.
The more precise we are about what we want, the better equipped is intuition to move us directly to the target. Write down clear descriptions of goals and objectives balancing commitment and openness, neither too narrow nor yet overly specific.
We often place blinders on intuition by oversimplifying problems because we are intolerant of complexity. Problems and solutions are seldom in the obvious places, and creative ideas come to the intuitive person who can face up to the insecurity of looking beyond the obvious.
We can bring other senses and thought patterns into play by expressing problems, tasks, and goals in several different media, like drawing, music, physically as a charade, a dance, a mime, sculpting, creating a symbol, or even creating brainstormed notations on a piece of paper.
Successful decision makers rely not so much on hard data as on reading expressions, gestures and voice tones, preferring face-to-face meetings over just written reports.
9. Turning Off to Tune In
Many a time, we pursue a problem or a goal, worry it to the extreme, haunt ourselves with the possibility of failure, and sicken ourselves without having the gratification of a successful end. All too often, a simple break form the problem or goal would have been sufficient to intuitively know the solution or outcome. The expression "sleep on it" is truly effective. Some of the most famous people of all time knew when to walk away from a task and return later to find the appropriate solution.
Dreams are sometimes a doorway to the intuitive manifestation of a prophecy, a solution, a result. Yet dreams are riddled with symbolism, and only a good dream psychologist together with the subject dreamer can fittingly translate the dream into reality.
Meditation is a way to incubate, a technique for expanding consciousness. The psychologist Francis Vaughan claims that the regular practice of meditation is the single most powerful means of increasing intuition. Meditation helps as a form of relaxation, but the real value is in nurturing the state of consciousness called illumination. It quietens the mind, activating deeper levels of the mind, producing a restful alertness extremely conducive to the intuitive state. Meditation should be natural and effortless. Be wary of techniques that require intense mental manipulation or strenuous control.
Forceful attempts to quiet the mind are a contradiction. Trying is an active condition, trying to force ideas out of the mind, trying to achieve blankness. Physical means can be used to create a coherent calmness by shifting attention from mental noise to the physical procedure. Yoga is one effective way of using physical procedures to quieten the mind.
Breathing exercises also have a calming and enlivening effect on the nervous system. Muscular tension, when reduced, can bring quiet calmness. It is also a good way to induce sleep.
Inner visualization is another very effective technique to generate insight into feelings and personality traits, bringing about desired changes in attitude, perception, behavior and even physiology. Imagery should be used judicially realizing the difference between intuition and fantasy, fear or desire.
Like a royal personage, intuition is often preceded by a herald, only in this case the announcement is discreet, perhaps hardly a whisper. Learning to recognize and respond to the intimation of intuition is important. If you are attentive, you will sense the herald early.
10. Forgo It, or Go for It?
Intuition does not always work out, as some of us have found out. There are times when you might feel absolutely sure of an intuition, only to discover that you have been deceived, and other times when the intuition is not so convincing and you turn your back on it, only to regret it later. When the situation arises that you are not sure about the intuition, ask the following questions:
- Is the intuition something you don't want to know?
- Are you afraid of censure?
- Are you yielding blindly to authority?
- Are you being self-critical?
- Are you afraid of the new?
- Are you being too demanding?
- Are you selling yourself short?
- Are you afraid of the risk?
- Is it a lack of faith?
The best way to prevent an error is to raise your level of consciousness so that your mind makes fewer mistakes; just as strengthening the body is the best safeguard against disease. Understanding your strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, habits, vulnerabilities, and minor neuroses is the best way to keep psychological nuisances from contaminating intuition.
Whenever possible, submit an intuition to all the analytic and quantitative tests at your disposal. When it comes to certification and evaluation, the rational-empirical methods of scientism are at their best.
Another common error is to confuse correlation with causation; when two things happen concurrently we tend to assume one caused the other. You may take the cold tone in someone's voice as proof of your intuition that he disagrees with you, when in fact he approves of what you say but is fuming inside because your remarks remind him of an argument he had with his wife.
We also tend to selectively seek out information that confirms our beliefs and ignore, forget, or rationalize evidence to the contrary. In analyzing our intuitions, we are often peering into the future darkly.
Keeping a journal sometimes helps to become more aware of signals that indicate when your intuitive voice is leading you in the right direction.
11. Making the World Safe for Intuition
If ever an age cried out for intuitive wisdom, it is ours. The coming decades will be more complex and unpredictable than ever, and the information we will have to process will be not only vast but volatile. Split-second decisions have to be made with limited information and mistakes are not only more probable but potentially more catastrophic. Computers will help immeasurably, but human intuition has to guide their use and fill in the pieces that logical machines cannot supply. In both the public and private spheres, we need innovative thinkers unfettered by ‘psychosclerosis' leaders with nimble minds tuned to high ideals and cosmic intelligence. We need quality intuition. Each one of us is a cell in the collective brain. We are discovering our symbiotic relationship with nature and with one another, and coming to accept the ancient truth that we reap what we sow, our Karma.
Perhaps our biggest task is to build up a comprehensive body of knowledge about intuition. We also need a tremendous research effort to find out how neurological mechanisms differ during intuition and other mental functions such as analysis, everyday reasoning, and formal logic.
Efforts must be made to identify people with intuition of exceptional quality. When we understand the highest expressions of human knowledge, we will better understand how we know anything.
If we succeed, intuition will make the world a safer place for us.
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