This chapter can perhaps be started by quoting J. Krishnamurti: “An insight comes as a sudden/spontaneous flash into the nature of reality and interprets the situation in a new light and elicits a new response that sheds light on the deeper aspect of that reality”.
Insights are generally understood as the most original, new thoughts that convey a meaning of “sudden break through.” They often come as a lightning flash into the nature of reality or as an instant opening into the reality or a sudden revelation of a new dimension of our mind with no active participation of the mind. Insight is therefore of intuitive nature. It is a moment of total presence which may give you a taste of enlightenment or an experience of spirit, but the vision you then get about the spirit cannot be sustained unless it is sustained also by a ‘rational philosophy and sound social institutions81/76. While insights have the potential to change our life in an instant, inspiration can change the course of our life in a positive direction. While insights seem to come from above, inspirations guide you from within. When you are inspired, inspirations stay with you at least for some time, make you feel blissful and creative, and lead you into a state attainment. The experience that you have when insights seize you defies explanation. It could be a moment of “Eureka”. It is a state you turn into but cannot get at it through learning. We can perhaps relate it to grace, but as we know it, it just happens. Inspirations are creative. They have their source in the creator, and lead to creation. Creator, creation and the process of creating are then fused together, but inspirations constitute the vehicle of this process. All the great writers, poets, musicians have produced their best works while they were highly inspired. Insights originate from the higher mind, and the original thoughts that come from that source are inspired thoughts. Here the inspired thoughts are not based on the knowledge of facts alone but rather on how we understand/gain insight, and on how we understand the process of gaining factual knowledge. The process involved in the first case is not only different but also more involved compared to that in the second case meaning that knowledge and insights do not mean the same thing. Inspired thoughts are laden with higher energy, and it is the quality of this energy that determines whether we are inspired or not or how much inspired we are. The quality of inspired thoughts depends on the quality of our inspired mind which is necessarily raised to its higher dimension because inspirations too have their source in the higher reality. Insights and inspirations are closely interlinked. In fact, inspirations expand the scope of insights. When you are inspired or when you are doing something under the glow of inspiration, you may feel creativity flowing into your work, and when you do it, inspiration may give you a blissful feeling of inner strength that comes from above. “Inspiration is an act of grace, a blessing,- Deepak Chopra.”26/126. Creativity and inspirations are synonymous. From this point of view, inspirations come in when thoughts subside. By its very nature, inspiration is transforming, and so it could be a very effective means both for psychological and spiritual transformation as both of them include elements of revelation and transformation. The power of inspired thoughts and the revelatory and transforming capacity of inspiration have together the immense potential to change the whole of our life, but they have little meaning unless put into practice. It all depends on the quality of your mind and heart; the subject who is the source and the controller of insights and inspirations. The seeds of “insights” and “inspirations” must fall on fertile soil.
We may agree that insight is an instant opening into the reality or a sudden leap to something higher etc., but knowledge of insight is one thing and understanding insight is a different thing. While insight is a sudden opening into the higher reality, inspiration has to be developed and investigated. It has its source in a higher reality, but it has no value unless its potential is utilized through inspiration. So it may not show the whole view of reality all at once, but one may then receive an intimation of what reality is, and so it is something that can be developed by personal efforts, for example, through special techniques of meditation. Insights also have intuitive character, and the insights of intuition may lead us to an experience or to a type revelation that seems to come from within. These experiences are unveiled or revealed by a lightning flash into the nature of reality rather than acquired. There is a hiatus between the two levels of experiences. This lightning flash, this direct insight transcends all philosophical arguments. Radhakrishnan even writes that religion is not a creed but an insight into reality; it is an integral insight or an intuitive knowledge. The power of insight grows with the quality of our experience. Insight could also be the insight of the soul when it emanates from the soul and is self-illuminating. If the inspiration is genuine, and you know it that way, it will lead you towards the truth, but it is the seership of the insight that enables you to see into the spheres of reality that is different from the physical universe, but as commonly understood this is not a continuous illumination. Therefore “a spiritual view is sustained not only by insight but by a rational philosophy and sound social institutions,”-Radhakrishnan. However, insights may help us to explore other faculties of cognition as insights also make use of imagination. In order to understand insight we may quote Radhakrishnan: The intuitive knowledge tells us that we are not hopelessly shut out from an insight into reality by the constitution of our mind…If the real is a genuine becoming, then the highest knowledge can only be an insight.... In extreme monism it is intuitional experience that reveals to us the fullness of reality; in concrete monism, it is insight where knowledge is penetrated by feeling and emotion -(all from his basic writings). Insight is a knowing faculty that deals with what is beyond intellectual seizure, but as commonly understood it is not a constant illumination.
Inspirations work best in conjunction with insights, imagination and creativity. Creative works associated with music, art, poetry, painting etc., have their roots in inspiration. It is the flow and the quality of inspiration that determines the level of creativity. Inspired moments are creative moments. Sometimes, inspiration is interpreted as “following your bliss within” i.e. inspiration is blissful expression of the inspired mind when you feel uplifted, buoyant and a rush of liberation. You can even experience the impact of positive inspirations on your body. You know how inspired thoughts impinge on your conscious and subconscious mind and enhance your well-being. If one is able to develop the transforming capacity of inspiration and the potential of insight to see the things through and through, one can change the whole of his life. But a note of caution is that the resulting experience is not to be confused with peak experience as described by the well known psychologist Abraham Maslow .The reason is that while peak experience has its roots in the unconscious and cannot be sustained for long, inspiration springs from our conscious effort and represents a luminous condition which can be developed and sustained consciously, and which may manifest itself dynamically in definite forms.
Intuition, insight and inspiration are all powerful mediums that can be used to add up to our knowledge of reality or to reveal the fullness of reality. Insights become more powerful and connote deeper meaning when they are penetrated by feelings and emotions when they emanate from the inner source i.e. when they are positive and uplifting. While insights are immediate and come in flashes, inspirations contain elements that are more revealing and mediated. While insight may make you see the truth as it is without telling why the truth is as it is, inspirations lead you there by revealing every step on the way home. Besides that inspirations constitute the basic background of human creativity and human understanding that has the potential to raise human beings from physical to spiritual level. While insights work as the light of knowledge, inspirations work as wisdom. It is inspiration that guides prophets, seers and sage. For us too inspirations play the greater role in changing the course of our life in the right direction. Inspiration is growing up. Genuine and uplifting inspirations come from the realm of spirit and uplift our life through proper use of art, culture and religion. The root of inspiration is the same in each case, but the form of expression may be different. What religion calls God, artists may call Beauty. Both of them are related to exalted forms of experience, but the ones related to religious and spiritual inspirations are of stronger relief. While a religious person tries to understand the reality through intense yearnings, an artist tries to do the same things through intense aspirations and inspirations. While the artists try to express the experience in terms of paintings, sculptures, poems etc., the inspired saint does it through more subtle mediums. For example, through psychological and spiritual transformation the sage undergoes a subtle change. “When intense concentration melts the personal “I” in the impersonal universal Overmind, benign Grace descends on the mystic or Yogi, and creative inspiration on the writer or sculptor”, -Brunton. Of course, insights and inspirations work in tandem, but while insights are pointers to the reality, inspirations are something we go though in our life, and grow through life. We do feel and live through inspirations. Inspirations help us to transcend the intellect, and to live into life, and find deeper levels of life. Philosophers, psychologists, psychiatrist, poets, musicians all take recourse to inspirations in their search for truth. We can perhaps think about inspirations as a medium for the Grace to descend on us. Inspirations constitute the driving force behind the effort of all artists, but one must realize that inspirations are only the intermediate stage of our spiritual journey. We have to get at reality through insights and inspirations.
As generally understood insight is a capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something. Alternatively, insights can be understood as exposed nodes of connection with higher reality that is beyond that someone or something. When we somehow become aware of insights, our mind then soars to previously unattainable heights of seeing, which may give us a glimpse of reality. The most important feature of insights is that it reveals the deeper layers of mind which may not be revealed otherwise. But insights themselves are not the reality itself. They work as sparks of light and shed light on what is beyond that someone or something, but by themselves insights are not constant light or constant illumination. Since insights are also intuitive, they are open to intuitive verification which does not fail us if we are properly attuned to intuition. Like intuition, insights are intermittent flashings of light that reveal the deeper levels of human life. The basic shortcoming associated with insights is that they are temporary and intuitive in nature although they too originate from what we call Reality. Ultimately, they bring their own verification when we arrive at Reality. “Peak experience” mentioned by Maslow is perhaps the Western equivalent of the experience which we have when we are buoyed by insights. Peak experience is described as “The merging of subject and object involving no loss of subjectivity but what seems its infinite extension….An experience of this sort gives the idea of transcendence, an empirical ground.”-Maslow. Thus peak experiences may introduce us to reality, although at some point of our life, we may come across them and feel elevated or energized. They are temporary and do not originate from the Reality. Besides, we don’t know how we come across them as our encounter with them is not the result of any deliberate attempt or a process.
In a way peak experiences mentioned above could also be interpreted as a special type of insights, but they are of psychological nature. Insights can be interpreted as pointers or sign posts on the way to Reality, but this is a limited way of interpreting insights. In fact, insights are far more revealing and can lead us directly to the Reality as elaborated by Swami Sarvapriyananda, Vedanta Society of Southern California. Life is a series of experiences, and each experience has two parts: an unchanging part and a changing part. The unchanging part is the unchanging awareness which is the background of our waking, dreaming and dreamless states of our existence. That unchanging pure awareness is you; you are not the experiences. It is in the background of this awareness that we have different experiences. But as it stands on its own, it is simply a philosophical statement or simply a pointer to the truth. Very serious religious/spiritual efforts will have to be made in order to bridge the gap between the pointer and the Reality.
When thoughts become established as insights, insights wield a power that is almost unlimited. We may then be raised to previously unattainable heights of insight that dawn upon us without any longing or straining from our side. It is what is usually termed as an inspired state of existence. Since insights and inspirations are closely interrelated and since we are in communion with the Spirit when we are inspired, we then live in the power of inspiration or in the Spirit when insights touch the shores of inspirations and raise us to previously unattainable heights of insight. In fact, it is the flame of inspiration that illuminates our spiritual journey. Yoga also deals with the scope and the power of insights and inspirations. From among many references one may refer, for example, to Feuerstein Georg and Miller Jeanine, (1971) for further details written mainly for Western readers.