Reason and Intuition

 

“It has certainly been true in the past that what we call intelligence and scientific discovery has conveyed a survival advantage…provided the universe has evolved in a regular way, we might expect the reasoning abilities that natural selection has given us would be valid also in our search…and so would not lead us to the wrong conclusions.

– Stephen Hawking quoted in “A Brief History of Time.”

 

“Intuition is the indubitable conception of a clear and attentive mind which proceeds solely from the light of reason…By ‘intuition’ I do not mean the fluctuating testimony of the senses or the deceptive judgement of the imagination as it botches things together, but the conception of a clear and attentive mind, which is so easy and so distinct that there can be no room for doubt about what we are understanding…another mode of knowing in addition to intuition (is) deduction, by which we mean the inference of something as following necessarily from some other propositions which are known with certainty…because immediate self-evidence is not required for deduction, as it is for intuition…but the first principles themselves are known only through intuition, and the remote conclusions only through deduction.

– Rene Descartes from “Rules for the Direction of the Mind,” written circa 1628, first Latin edition published in 1701.

“Language is entwined with human life…it reflects the way we grasp reality…It is…a window into human nature…Human intelligence, with its capacity to think an unlimited number of abstract thoughts, evolved out of primate circuitry for coping with the physical and social world, augmented by a capacity to extend these circuits to new domains by metaphorical abstraction…some metaphors can express truths about the world…So even if language and thought use metaphors, that doesn’t imply that knowledge and truth are obsolete. It may imply that metaphors can objectively and truthfully capture aspects of reality.”

– Steven Pinker, from his book, “The Stuff of Thought.”

 

There is something in the air, out in the world, something inside of me, that is pervasive. It’s always there, relentlessly seeking me. It feels like an embrace, and yet it does not always bring me peace. Sometimes, I cannot easily face it. In my life, I have known there is the possibility of pain–the other side of joy–and also of fear, as there has always been. Early in my life, I did not understand–did not see why I had to feel certain things. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why can’t everything just be okay? When you’re young, there’s no way to process or fully understand thoughts like that. There is a keener sense of the unknown; a resistance to potent emotions, inexplicable or mysterious energies, anything that suggests aspects of our reality which may be beyond our normal understanding.

 

Logically, of course, science and reason can provide us with a methodical and considered approach when it comes to investigating the unknown, and can often point to reasonable scientific principles which are clearly at work in certain situations; we can observe them, we experience them and assume because we know WHY these things happen, that we understand them. In my experience, truly apprehending the nature of things requires something more. Naturally, we see what we see, we hear what we hear; we consider information we bring in from the objective world; we interpret what comes through our senses and process the information utilizing the various talents of specific brain regions. We come to conclusions which often can be affirmed by comparing them to our experiences and memories, and by testing them through our subsequent actions, and we may even make choices regarding potential future actions.

 

As we observe what happens out there, we say, “So that’s why the planets are all traveling in loops around the sun,” or “no wonder it seems that light suddenly appears since it travels so reliably and predictably at the same speed.” All of these aspects of our reality that we can observe and affirm, tell us why things work the way they do, because the laws of physics require them to conform in this way. When all of our observations confirm the laws, we feel confident in establishing those principles as true. I haven’t always been convinced by what I see or hear or observe, not because I supposed that my senses weren’t working properly, but rather because those aspects did not conform precisely with my personal recollections of previous experiences. It’s possible for us to be mistaken about what our senses tell us, as in the case of optical illusions, and we can occasionally be easily misled by the clever application of deliberate or manipulative deception, but it can be much more difficult to persuade us of any suggested explanation of events which does not match up with the way we intuitively feel as we process that input.

 

Experience has taught me to trust the way I feel, especially when it comes to connections to other individuals, places, and ideas which resonate so strongly within me in particular circumstances, but our modern chaotic world doesn’t always encourage us to trust our intuition or to have the confidence always to listen to our genuine “gut” feelings. Throughout my life, there have been innumerable examples of instances where my inner urgings and startling responses to unexpected provocations have been right on the mark. There have been times when it seemed to me that I was virtually “standing on a precipice,” dangerously close to and looking over an edge, either about to fall, or maybe even getting ready to “take a leap of faith.” Conventional wisdom might suggest that if you’re near some sort of a virtual edge and you fall, it’s not necessarily your fault, and yet, at the same time, somehow you got yourself out on that ledge. That same wisdom might suggest that if you find yourself on that proverbial ledge and you decide to jump, for whatever reason, that is a choice for which you alone are responsible.

 

 

We can’t always control what happens TO us, and sometimes we may even feel compelled to make choices that we don’t necessarily agree with completely, and why we feel that way is not always crystal clear. All sorts of influences and pressures from even trusted sources can weigh on us as we contemplate our next steps, distorting or mitigating our normal process of reasoning or, if we are fortunate, clarifying it. Our reasoning can be faulty and we can occasionally even refuse to consider outside influences which are meant to be helpful, but ultimately we must choose, one way or another.

The struggle between reason and intuition has become something of an epic battle these days, and considered and informed opinions may seem less prevalent in our modern social interactions, and so giving attention to sorting it all out is even more important now.

 

 

Perception and Transcendence

Layered Perceptions: Mixed Media Digital Manipulation output on vellum and watercolor papers, pastel embellished, layered onto copper and wood. copyright 2008-2012. Adele Kurtz. All rights reserved http://adele-k.com/Home_Page.php

Reviewing my personal journals recently, I once again encountered the writings of Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and author, whose arrival in my literary life sparked a renewal of urgency in my personal writing, and was an essential component of the unraveling of a numbing mental depression years ago that nearly caused me to abandon any hope of making progress in discerning the cause of the devastating turmoil in my life at that time. His willingness to acknowledge the existence of a transcendent aspect to human life–a human connection to the infinite–and to a spiritual core at the heart of human life, all resonate through my subsequent writings concerning the existence of a transcendent aspect to life, to consciousness, and to the physical universe in which all of this transpires.

“Man has been robbed of his transcendence by the shortsightedness of the super intellectuals. Man’s task is…to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious. The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

“We do not know how far the process of coming to consciousness can extend, or where it will lead. It is a new element in the story of creation, and there are no parallels we can look to…(and)cannot know what potentialities are inherent in it.”
– from Jung’s autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections.”

With the possible exception of philosophers and poets, the inclusion of these concepts in a comprehensive understanding of consciousness continues to be problematical. The suggestion that non-physical energies or forces or components could have a vital role in explaining our subjective experience of the world, especially in consideration of the profoundly important developments in neuroscience, genetics, and cognitive studies, often seems less appealing since empirically establishing such connections is currently beyond our established cognitive talents. Whether or not we may eventually discover empirical proofs, or perhaps expand our capacities in a way that could allow empirical confirmation of some sort, is still an open question. It is my contention, however, that the only way for such discoveries or capacities to be realized, is to vigorously engage the possibility.

Santorini, Greece – Copyright 2010 Andy Ilachinski http://www.sudden-stillness.com/about.htm

Consciousness is a word we use to describe a transcendent awareness–a manifestation of a non-physical source. We struggle to describe it and to justify our descriptive terms because we are, of necessity, utilizing our temporal talents to address elements which do not originate completely in the temporal realm. Perception is the key!

In a recent TED lecture, scientist Brian Greene attempted to describe string theory as something which may rely on dimensions that are currently outside of our perceptual abilities. Even in the highly controversial forefront of theoretical physics, where scientists like Greene pursue the concept of vibrating strings as the foundation to all matter, we seem far more willing to tolerate the idea of unobservable phenomena, inaccessible dimensions, and multiple universes, than we are to even entertain the existence of a fundamentally transcendent aspect to our experience of the the world. In spite of the affirmation of the theoretical possibility of multiple layers to nearly every aspect of temporal existence, the suggestion that our conscious experiential awareness could be reliant upon non-physical layers of existence is disparaged as metaphysical.

Consider the perception of light. Light exists before we actually “see” it. We infer this as we recognize that the speed of light requires time to reach us from great distances. It is only when we perceive the light that we can confidently affirm its existence.

Light also exists in spite of the inability of particular individuals to perceive it, although those individuals cannot subjectively affirm it.

Our perceptual awareness of all existence requires both a perceptual ability and a functional perceptual apparatus. However, every aspect of existence is not perceived by us directly, as Brian Greene suggests, but the existence is there before we are born and continues after we perish. It is my contention that consciousness is the intersection of the transcendent source with the temporal universe. The source itself exists in a state or a dimension that is beyond our current perceptual capability, and only by remaining open to the possibility and placing ourselves directly on the path of transcendence can we even hope to begin to discern its true nature.

Astonishing leaps of scientific accomplishment utilizing current neuroscientific technologies can reveal the most subtle activities of brain function, can point to areas of malfunction, and aide in diagnosis through penetrating scans of the inner layers of the very organ responsible for the existence of the technologies in the first place. At the heart of the dilemma in bringing these two disparate ends together is not so much the inexplicable resistance to the unconventional ideas that Jung referred to in his autobiography, as it is the essential quality of maintaining a degree of certainty from considering both sides that is only truly possible to experience subjectively.

Christian Wertenbaker, author of “The Eye of the Beholder: Paradoxes of the Visible Universe,” calls for the inclusion of both science and consideration of “ancient spiritual truths,” in attaining “a more encompassing view” of our universe–an “understanding that is both rational…and beyond rationality, ineffable, indescribable, and non-visualizable.” He points out that while our physical senses and brains are marvels to be sure, well-suited to our needs as humans in the physical universe, that like visible light–which is only a small portion of the entire spectrum of light–our brains only provide “a limited view of reality.”