Introduction to the Problem, and Its Solution:
intellect and intuition need not be in balance for everyone all the time
In an email to Jana Richman, author of several books and a desert-loving intuitive intellectual [what an accomplishment!] with a thought-provoking website [click here to go there], I said this:
I admire, maybe am a bit jealous of, your apparent ability to have a harmonious relationship, an apparently comfortable balance, between your intellect and your intuition.
Jana wrote back, crediting her husband for this ability:
an awfully nice thing to say. I have to credit Steve, a person I
describe as a “redneck hippie intellectual,” for teaching me that
those two things are complimentary rather than contradictory.
That started me thinking along lines I have thought along many times before. But this time with some new insights from readings in the works of several mystics I have read before. [See the second set of links, below, for past items about Marguerite Porete and Jan van Ruisbroec/Ruisbroeck/Ruusbroec.]
Interesting how time changes the meaning you get from reading the same set of words, isn't it? Re-reading a complex work after you have changed some, or changed a lot, makes different meanings stand out this time then stood out before.
One of those different meanings is this balance between intellect and intuition.
I genuinely admire–and am jealous of—those who have harnessed these two engines of interior knowledge, like two horses on a wagon. With a single bridle, they seem to drive them on to ever more expansive vistas.
I, in the past and until just a few days ago (judging by the above email excahnge) lamented the fact that I was not among them. If I consult my intellect, my intuitive side goes numb. If I consult my intuition, my intellect goes 'sigh.'
I recognize there to be a balanced ideal, but I am now satisfied I will never achieve or experience that balance. And that is OK, now.
In my remaining years in this life [intuition speaking], in this only life [intellect speaking], I will live with this interior division in myself because it allows me to live in two worlds at the same time, divide them from each other, and move back and forth between them.
It means I can function as a working scientist within its own limits, without seeking to imagine an understanding of things clearly beyond the sciences' observational or experimental grasp. That is how my work must be done. The work I do for pay.
It also means I will at times see all religions as man-made constructs for the control of self and others, and feel free to criticize them accordingly.
It also means that in my intuitive life I can experience the hope of an afterlife existence, I can experience the nearness and reality of a loving presence that is clearly not physically present, and I can write fiction with a tinge of the occult in it.
I can even believe I have several times sensed, even if not 'really' seen, a Divine Presence in another being, sometimes in a place.
It also means I will at times see almost all religions as constructs within which some can step beyond their normal self-centered human boundaries and become genuinely inspired and inspiring teachers and healers and helpers.
So, what led me to this very recent (August of 2012) point of seeking a 'live-and-let-live' arrangement between my intuition and my intellect?
Reading rather deeply in the mystical works of Marguerite Porete and Jan van Ruisbroec. This time I was focusing on the ultimate experience of God they described, and came to see, for the first time, that to get to that state they needed to kill the intellect. It had to be dead, gone, to allow them intry into that state of being.
Of course Marguerite Porete was burned alive in part because she made no bones about the Catholic Church being an embodiment of Intellect in her writings, an embodiment that needs to be as good as dead to the soul seeking union with God. But more than that, she said that for you and I to go where she went, spiritually, your personal intellect had to be dead.
To me this notion is a mirror image of the notion that this biological life is greatly inferior to the true life of the spirit, and sacrificing (in) this life brings great rewards in the next. The two concepts are at least related.
But did they really kill their intellects? Both wrote brilliantly, both taught. Jan maintained his clerical position and functioned as the founder and master of a successful and busy abbey. Marguerite moved from place to place teaching and evading her powerful critics who would eventually kill her. All of that management and moving and teaching activity requires a lively intellect.
Your intellect is not you, but it is your tool allowing you to know the world and be effective in it. Your intuition is also not you, it is another tool for obtaining knowledge, or just 'knowing' typically. But when Jan or Marguerite wanted to reach that state of unity with the Divine about which they wrote, they needed to kill, but I now sense temporarily, their intellect.
That trip to oneness with God was possible only when their being was under the control of their intuitive faculties. Balance between intellect and intuition is not what they taught.
So it is perfectly fine if I can be intuitive at some points in time, and write about feelings of revelation and universal Love and Unity. In those moments I am largely, but temporarily, shutting down my intellect.
When I am at work and planning or carrying out some technical activity or even anything as mundane as traveling or just conducting business, I am mostly in my intellectual sphere.
Balance may be achieved, but unkowingly, when dealing with family and close friends on a personal level. It is as part of any personal interactions that Jesus' admonition to be 'wise as serpents yet harmless as doves' comes into play.
It is never 100% one way or the other with me, but the control does shift considerably.
I used to think this was not good, that I needed to bring these two sides of my self together all the time. But studying the lives of these two bona-fide mystics now leads me to think I am not unlike them. And that is not bad.
So now I have only one place where my own intellect and intuition have come to an agreement. Not an all-out peaceful coexistence, just an agreement on a single point. An important point. It defines how I live regardless of which side is predominant in defining me at the moment.
No matter which side predominates, I am still the same person and will act accordingly.
Intuition agrees that if this is the only life, if there is total dissolution at death, then it behooves me to live what is left of this life as a poem being written for an audience of one: my (temporary) self. In other words, believing in totally ceasing to exist at death is a true test of who you really are.
And intellect agrees with intuition on this point. If intuition's usually blurred vision of a continuance of some form of personal life is likely, then it behooves us to be true to our highest inner ideals in this life to set us up for the next.
So, whichever way it really is, the outcome is the same: be the best you can be each day of this life.
End of discussion between these two interior forces. Their only point of agreement.
So, unless you really want to join me in my delving into this lenghty reading exercise your reading stops here. If you want to delve with me, follow the links below. They are salient pieces I have pulled together from Porete and van Ruisbroec. (Many of the older books are now considered 'public domain,' according the the libries I downloaded them from, hence my feeling free to copy larger than usual pieces out of them.)
LINKS to readings accompanying this page:
1. One person's answer to the tension between intuition and intellect (YOU ARE HERE NOW)
2. What did Marguerite teach and why did it cost her her life?
3. Teachings from Hadewijch and Hildegard
4. What is this Dark Night of the Soul about?
5. Excerpts from Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls
6. Excerpts from Jan van Ruisbroec's The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage and The Sparkling Stone
7. Excerpts from Jan van Ruisbroec's The Kingdom of the Lovers of God
8. Excerpts from Jan van Ruisbroec's Love’s Gradatory
LINKS to selected previous discussions of Marguerite and Jan, separetely, together, and also photo pages:
Journey in 2003 pages:
1. After travel review
2. Where Marguerite lived
3. Marguerite and her teachings
4. Who chose whom?
Life in 2005, page 1 of three pages on Ruisbroeck
LifePicks in 2006 pages:
1. Comparisons of Four Teaching from Marguerite and Jan
2. An Early Morning in Paris with links to Marguerite and Jan photo pages
Return to Thoughts Home Page
Return to 2012 Yearbook Home Page
Return to ThoughtandPlaces.Org Home Page