Intuition is the faculty we use to know the inner existence or to know ourselves from the inside out. It is there before we experience it. It is knowing or perceiving the result without conscious reasoning. It is the direct perception of the subjective mind without taking recourse to conscious reasoning, thinking, questioning and inferences. Intuition is, therefore, beyond our intellectual comprehension, but it can be recognized. Intuition is perhaps an awakening that transcends the intellect but not yet the awareness. It helps us to see the truth through flashes of insights, but since flashes of insights could well be discontinuous, flow of inspiration from the higher source is necessary which is quite possible for sincere seekers. Intuition enters into us through the stillness of the mind when thought cannot go beyond the subject-object relation, and simply gives in. What is left is the sensing of the inner voice of the Absolute or the sensing it by the subject without any role of the senses. That is why intuition is sometimes called, the “sixth sense”. Schopenhauer is perhaps right when he says: intuition is a perceptual faculty but has no conceptual background. Intuition is neither intellect nor feeling but deeper than both. “Intuition is equally the source of philosophy and of religious insight” -Radhakrishnan. Intuition is not yet truth as it does not possess its own light and needs to be illuminated from a source higher than itself. It cannot rationalize itself, but it can project itself beyond reason. Further, while the rational part of the world around us can be understood by the intellect, its mysterious part can be grasped only by intuition.
Intuition is an inner experience. We can feel the power of intuition as a tangible presence, light, direct inspiration or a force. Feeling is a better guide than intellect, and so is a higher source of knowledge, and may transcend the rational mind as is the case with some artists, mystics and religious devotees. Feeling is an attribute of our inner experience; it may open itself in the form of “feeling realization” the “yes feeling”. This feeling realization could also be interpreted as “the feeling of inner authority and the feeling of value” which could well be the voice of That out of which feeling itself arises. A Sufi sage said: “reason is indispensable for science, medicine and mathematics, but a reality that transcended the senses could only be approached by more intuitive modes of thought”- Karen Armstrong.
While intellect is better able to classify and organize the phenomena, it is unable to explain their subtler or intuitional aspects. As said by Radhakrishnan: while the rationality of the intellect is transparent to the intellect, its mysteriousness can be grasped only by intuition. Intuitive faculty does this better, but its process of explaining the things is intuitive and not clearly obvious. It is gradual and imperfect and not quite secure at the beginning. The difficulty is that the rational mind keeps on invading the realm of intuition making it difficult for intuition to secure a firm foothold. Though intuition has the support of will and feeling, it cannot gain maturity without some kind of intellectual effort. It cannot completely dispense with reason because it will have to justify itself as it moves ahead. But as we move ahead, reason and intuition become supportive of each other because reason realizes its limitations more clearly, intuition becomes aware of its greater vistas. But once we become aware of this intuitive faculty, it may hold us by its intuitive power and those occasional or intermittent flashes and insights become strong enough for us to strive for their revelations irrespective of initial failures.
Intuition is not opposed to intellect but it cannot be communicated except imperfectly, at least, in the beginning when intuition cannot verify its claims. Intuition is also called divya-drishti or divine sight because spiritual inspiration, insight and revelation from the inner world come first through intuition and not through intellect. It thus proves our mind’s relation to the Soul which is all-intelligence.
Intuition can be likened with light, but it is not as yet a constant stream of light. When one is in intuitive communication with the Self, one may get an intuitive answer, to a difficult question posed by reason. The answer is often in a form of an illuminating light of knowledge. It brings reason to light and reason becomes radiant. A careful analysis of evolution of our mind or our cognitive faculty indicates that we are constantly expanding the horizon of reason itself, albeit imperceptively. We have been able to sharpen the mental tools of analysis such as imagination, comparison, induction, deduction etc., basically by virtue of our improved synthetic ability. Questions that could not be answered previously from the view point of accepted values and understanding can now be answered because we now posses better understating of ourselves. Reason itself is now becoming more intuitive. Both reason and intuition are of evolutionary character. When reason is superseded by intuition we have to set out from a higher starting point in compliance with our higher means of understanding and knowledge. We then become able to lift the center of thought and consciousness to levels way above that of the rational mind.
Intuition is first the communicative channel between us and the Self, but once we become able to communicate with the Self, it also becomes a communicative process. It is in this stage that we really start to acknowledge the grace from the Self and to positively utilize the potential of intuition, and transform ourselves as we then make full use of our mind, heart and intuitive faculty and strive to receive the grace also by our own efforts from below. The life then becomes full of energy and more radiant and more balanced, not only psychically but also physically because of the soothing and calming effects the light of intuition has on our system. The resulting mental peace is a verifiable fact.
Another aspect of intuition is that it is creative, uplifting, and so is positive. In fact, creation moves towards the divine. While reason may, at times, be dull, uninteresting and may drain out our energy, intuition makes our life vibrant and full of energy. It may work as an uplifting force. Any connection with reality works as a positive energy. The best truths are those that are intuited by oneself – Karen Armstrong. This aspect alone bears so great an importance that we can easily trust it as our reliable guide for our spiritual journey. It is a guide that descends from the soul. But, since it is not, as yet, one of our native powers, we have to rediscover it by persistent efforts. We then become positively predisposed, psychologically prepared and inclined to make all necessary efforts as one creative flash of the light of intuition may be enough for us to see it clearly even in dark nights, but see it we must.
Intuition is not a complete divorce from the intellect. If we can speak about outward knowledge, intuitive knowledge and inner knowledge, then intuitive knowledge is what connects the two and, thereby, signifies the continuity of our outer and inner experiences. It is to this continuity that reason finally gives in and accepts the superiority of intuition. The intellect easily grasps what is rational, but it cannot understand what is mysterious to it. That falls within the domain of intuition. Further as noted by Radhakrishnan76: “While reason takes off from the mental plane, intuition swoops down from the Self. We cannot, therefore, express intuition through the logicality of reason”. Intuition is thus a link between the rational mind and the spirit, but we also have to accept the fact that intellect and intuition are also complementary. In fact, intellect together with intuition acts as a mediator between our mental and the spiritual existences; between the higher and the lower selves of man. Intuition arises from within out of one’s awareness to the innermost Soul and expresses itself first in the form of “feeling realization” which becomes more and more intense and inward directed as we free ourselves from sense perceptions, and become more and more firmly based on the Soul,- the absolute certainty. “Absolute certainty brings its own evidence or personal experience which is immeasurably better than logical proof. As Radhakrishnan said: The evidence of truth lies in man’s experience of it when it enters into him.”
Besides intuition, insights, inspirations and haunches are other indirect experiences that can be related to the Soul, but the role of intuition in our spiritual journey is more obvious and effective compared to other mental attributes. For example, a hunch does tell about something higher, but does not quite orient us towards it. Of the various mental attributes mentioned above, the combination of intuition and insight is the most productive one. While intuition tells what we are looking for, insight provides us with the strength and direction required for the spiritual journey. Heraclitus once said “only one thing is wise to recognize the insight which directs everything through everything”. The inward journey starts when we consciously turn our mind to the Self, - the silent observer within us. Initially, this inward turning is mental or intellectual activity and is the first response of our personality to the question who am I? It is often later, when we find that the intellect is unable to provide a satisfactory answer to this question that we yield or are forced to yield to intuitive feeling as it supersedes thinking and establishes the direct contact with the Self. We then make a transition from making a reactive response to reality to being aware of and understanding the reality. The awareness of intuition is a direct experience, and no recourse to thinking is required; it is a state which is free from the prejudice of the intellect. Since intuition is not an empirical experience, and since it does not come by through thinking, intellect continues to hesitate to accept intuition because for the intellect intuition is still imaginary and cannot be reduced to the empirical experiences. The direct contact of intuition with the Self may be understood as a silent voice/call from above or a divine revelation or a subconscious response to one’s conscious efforts one makes through intense listening-in. This is the call through which the rational can grow into the spiritual.
Since the Self or Soul is a non-physical entity, this call or voice is also from a non-physical entity, and so cannot be grasped or explained in terms of five sensory perceptions. Intuition itself is a non-physical entity and it too is not reachable by sensory perceptions. It can only be experienced through what is usually termed as intuitive process through which we establish the link of intuition with a non-physical reality. And this means coming to the terms with the existence of non-physical reality such as mind, intellect, Self or Soul. Becoming consciously aware of the intuitive feelings rather than unconsciously acting them out is the first positive step. Acting consciously means that we do not discard the role of intellect or other non-physical entities. It also means that we can actually be involved in them and are not mere outside spectators. We can call it living into reality, not simply growing into reality. This is the characteristic feature of intuition, but this is also the difficulty associated with understanding intuition. This later concept may be difficult to comprehend, but it is of the utmost importance. Experiences of the intellect are the experiences of knowledge and knowledge is power; we are held responsible for how we use that power. Even though the intellect may not be able to guide us beyond a certain level, it still constitutes one of the important elements of our spiritual journey. For example, a certain decision making process may be intuitive, but we use all the data from our mind, our heart and from our intuition, although the final intuitive decision is made relying on the guidance from the Self, where this guidance depends on the power of our intuitive faculty. Each of these sources is a part of our own system of energy- our outer existence known by our personality, the Higher Self, and the Self or the Soul. It simply means that intuition and intellect must complement each other.
The guidance or assistance that becomes available to us on our spiritual journey depends on how receptive our intuition is. The more refined our intuition becomes the better are its abilities to receive more refined or subtler guidance from the Self. Accordingly, there is an understanding of higher and higher levels of perceptions that expand our awareness that can receive higher and higher levels of assistance. We ourselves then become involved is the intuitive process and we may be able to manifest the transformations we undergo or our being undergoes. The aspects of our transformed being may manifest physically as a poet, writer or a teacher, but behind a writer or a poet there are nonphysical aspects such as compassion, love, sacrifice, altruism, intuition etc., that take part in the writing.
The experience associated with intuitive feelings cannot be explained purely from intellectual point of view, but the experience is there and the interesting thing is that it does not need conscious reasoning for its verification. In fact, if one knows that the intuitive feeling is not a haunch, and has its roots in the Self, then external verification is not a problem nor is it really required. The intuitive faculty thus becomes receptive, perhaps vaguely in the beginning, to the assistance it can receive from above. But in time, it not only becomes receptive but also becomes aware of this assistance. Generally, intuition invokes in us uplifting thoughts and moods that are related more to the psychological content of our mind, particularly its deeper layers, which indicate at a Truth that is higher than indicated by belief which has hitherto held us. It is, as it were, the mind first breaks out of a hard intellectual shell created by itself around itself. The difficulty is that the intellectual pride may present a strong barrier between the seeker and the Self, but this barrier melts away in front of intuition, because it is intuition that establishes the first link with the Self and opens up itself to receive assistance from the Soul. But unless intuition stands the test, there is an element of faith in intuition. Meditation is the single most important medium through which we can stand this test.