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What is the intellect? It is the part of the psyche which processes data with the tool of logic.
The purpose of the intellect. (Many of the following points explain the intellect's value as a supplement to the intuition.)
- The intellect gathers data. This data is obtained from reading, empirical sensory input, conversations with analysis-oriented people, etc.
- The intellect creates data. From its base of information, it uses methods such as induction and deduction to generate new data.
- The intellect fills in some gaps in our data. Sometimes intuition gives exact instructions; in other cases, we detect only a vague feeling or a fragment of a message. In those instances, we might turn to the intellect to provide supplementary data; for example, if intuition presents only a general warning that we need to be more careful with our finances, we turn to our intellect to study matters such as specific investment options (but we can use our intuition to help us to decide which option is most likely to be fruitful).
- The intellect processes a particular type of data. This type of data is that which is reducible to non-ambiguous, measurable units. For example, the intellect is the appropriate mode when we are balancing our checkbook.
- The intellect provides data for intuition's processing of data. Sometimes intuition presents data spontaneously; we simply know a new bit of data. However, usually, intuition is built upon previously acquired data; first, we gather information via the intellect, and then intuition gives us insight into that information.
- The intellect verifies data. For example, if we receive a message which we believe is from our intuition (or any other source), and it tells us that the sun will not rise tomorrow, our logic rightly disagrees. For our "reality check," we can refer to experts, personal experience, rules of logic, statistics, history, books, etc.
- The intellect formats data for presentation to analysis-oriented people. Some people communicate primarily via facts; other people communicate primarily via feelings and emotions. We need to format the data into a logical presentation so that it can be understood and accepted by people who primarily value logic.
- The intellect conveys both analytical and, paradoxically, non-analytical data. Sometimes words -- which constitute one of the intellect's primary tools -- are an effective means by which to relay something which is not expressible in words themselves. For example, the lyrics of religious hymns might be more important for the transmission of feelings and emotions and imagery that they are for the transmission of the concepts that are expressed in them.
- Intellect contributes a dimension to our understanding of data. The mind does not know anything; it is like a computer which can present the word, "cat," on its monitor, but it does not know what a cat is. In contrast, soul possesses consciousness; it uses the mind as an instrument for examining archetypal aspects of itself as those aspects exist in the mental dimension; in that sense, mind is like a microscope which allows us to see but which itself does not see or know. Soul is the entity which knows, through experience; the intellect examines those experiences, to view them from its own mental perspective -- a perspective that adds a valuable dimension and depth to soul's viewpoint and understanding.
- The intellect provides data which constitutes the "thoughts" in our archetypal fields. Every human situation is based on an interaction between reciprocal archetypes; for example, we might name an "Aggressor" archetype in the spirit-substance of one soul interacting with a "Defender" archetype in the spirit-substance of the other soul. As we interact, we generate thoughts, imagery, energy tones (e.g., emotions and feelings), and actions. These elements leave a record in the "archetypal field" which surrounds each archetype. Then, in future encounters with that archetype, when we are devising a response to that archetype, we tend to automatically refer to those records to determine "how do I usually respond to this situation?" Thus, the thoughts which the intellect created during previous encounters help us to formulate a response in this situation.
The limitations of the intellect.
- The intellect operates only with consciously known data. This data is acquired from external sources (e.g., reading, research, empirical sensory input, etc.) and internal sources (e.g., the products of logical deductions and inductions). Intellect is useless in situations in which (1) facts are incomplete or wholly unavailable, (2) the subject matter cannot be crystallized into facts (e.g., human behavior, which can be reduced to statistics, and projected into probabilities -- but neither of those entities are "facts"). In contrast, intuition has access to all data regarding any given situation -- even the data of which we are not consciously aware.
- The intellect can process only a limited amount of data. We are restricted by various factors, including the capacity of our memory, and the time which is required for learning, and our "intelligence" (i.e., our capability for processing data). In contrast, intuition has perhaps an infinite capacity for data-processing; even in complex circumstances, it can acquire and consider all relevant data. When intuition is applied to mystical experience, the wholistic overview suggests that we are operating from a cumulative awareness of every bit of data in the universe.
- The intellect uses a decision-making process. It analyzes information, and then it considers the options, and the possible outcomes of each of those options. In contrast, intuition does not present alternatives; it gives one answer, and then our only decision is to comply with that message or not to comply.
- The intellect is slow. It relies on laborious fact-gathering (i.e., research and study), and the time-consuming process of logical analysis. In contrast, intuition can provide information instantaneously; however, when intuition is used in problem-solving, it generally provides its data only after we have acquired facts through the research and study.
- The intellect relies on generalizations and templates. Because the intellect does not have access to all data regarding each situation, it can only create generalizations about the situation, and then it formulates its understanding and response by viewing analogies between this situation and similar archetypal situations. However, each situation is unique; it contains elements which are unlike those of other situations, and we might discover that those singular elements render our analogies inaccurate. In contrast, intuition offers observations and suggestions that are based on an overview of all factors as they exist in each unique moment.
- The intellect does not have a reliable self-correcting mechanism. Despite the rules of logic, the intellect cannot adequately judge its own conclusions. This is because the analytical function of mind does not know anything; it merely processes data in the manner of a computer which knows only electrons, and it does not know the concepts which those electrons are expressing on our computer monitor. For example, after we have worked on an intellectual project, we might say, "I followed the instructions, but the answer doesn't feel right"; that feeling is our intuition. When pure logic arrives at a correct answer, we can credit its success to mere luck (except perhaps in rare situations which are purely analytical, such as simple mathematics, e.g., 2+2=4).
- The intellect is incapable of understanding some modes of being. Analysis cannot grasp notions such as love and beauty and morality, as though those matters are in a different language, a different format, a different dimension, which is unapproachable from the intellect. We might identify this dichotomy in models such as "right hemisphere and left hemisphere" or "heart and mind." In an attempt to make sense of these intangibles (e.g., beauty), the mind creates measurable standards and statistics, but those things are ultimately unrelated to the aesthetic qualities themselves.
- It is incapable of understanding ambiguous statements. If a statement can be interpreted logically in a number of ways, it is our intuition that tells us which interpretation is most likely to be true. For example, when we are told to "love your enemy," logic alone cannot prevent grave errors in judgment; logic might consider the religion's value on faith and brotherhood (and self-sacrificial martyrdom) and thus it could lead us to reduce our defenses (as we would do in the presence of a beloved friend), and even assist someone who is intent on harming us (just as we would assist a loved one with any task). In contrast, intuition (and the valid objections from ego) would reject those interpretations; instead, it would strive to define both "love" and "enemy" such that we create a safe and productive relationship with an adversary.
- The intellect works with dualities rather than wholes. It perceives "facts" as absolutes rather than part of a wholistic fabric (in which the facts' opposites tend to contain paradoxical elements of truth.) Whichever philosophical position we take, there is also some validity in the opposite position; for example, our preacher might tell us to be open to strangers, while the police tell us to be wary of strangers. Paradoxically, both perspectives are true: kindness is good, and so is self-protection. In contrast to the intellect, intuition fully recognizes the legitimacy of all elements in a situation, and it knows that they are all part of the synergistic dynamic.
- The intellect works within a closed system. Unless we make a deliberate effort to "learn" (i.e., to gather additional information), the intellect uses only its present base of data, which it processes in a habitual routine. In contrast, it is our intuition which gives us the feeling that "I need more information on this subject." Because the intellect deals with a closed system, it can imagine itself to be an expert or a scholar, whereas an intuitive person always has a fresh approach, even when considering familiar material. After the intuition discerns a need for more data, it can suggest a source for that data.
- The intellect can be so over-valued that we minimize the importance of intuition. Sometimes intuition's accurate message contradicts experts' opinions, conventional knowledge, statistics, and other forms of non-intuitive guidance. If we are uncertain of the legitimacy of intuition as a means of guidance, we might discard it altogether when its messages differ from those of respected authorities. (Contrarily, intuition, too, can be over-valued, such that we reject input from the intellect, particularly in its function of reality-checking.)
- The intellect allows for the existence of meaningless scholarship. Certainly, some fields of study require extensive knowledge, but the accumulation of facts has value only to the extent that the particular information is useful to our experience of life; we do not need to know, for example, "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin." Also, mere intellectual scholarship is often confused with wisdom (which is a blend of intellectual knowledge, personal experience, and an intuitive perception into the meaning and application of the data). And intellectual scholarship frequently generates vain pride, such that we are unwilling to accept valid ideas which contradict the theories upon which we have built our reputation; then we begin to rationalize our faulty beliefs, and we terminate our process of learning. In contrast, intuition imparts only the information which we need; it does not burden us with irrelevant details which would distract us from important matters. Many students of spirituality say that, as they progress, they "know" less than they did before; because their assumptions and models and plans have been shattered repeatedly, they are left with a humble uncertainty regarding the speculations of the intellect, and they rely instead on the always-fresh perspectives of the intuition.
- The intellect's concepts can be solidified into dogma. Regardless of who the teacher might be, the teachings are only viewpoints, opinions, theories, and personal interpretations -- and sometimes they are intended only for a specific person, group, culture, or time-period. Those teachings probably arose from one person's intuition -- but the ideas can become institutionalized as dogma such that we become unwilling or even afraid to seek our own intuition at risk of persecution, inquisition, and threats of eternal damnation. Some people worship the dogma itself and thus they "look at the moon, not at the finger which points to the moon."
- The intellect's words are a limited form of expression.
- Words have different meanings to different people. For example, one mother might believe that "love" means that she should discipline a child, while another parent believes that it means that she should the child run free.
- Words' meanings change. As a society evolves, its words acquire new meanings and connotations; for example, the word "sex" has different connotations today than it did during the sexually repressive Victorian era. Even for ourselves, words have different meanings depending upon our mood or our stage of life; for example, the concept of "freedom" is probably not the same to a 50-year-old person as it was during that person's adolescence.
- Words cannot express the inexpressible. Spirit, being the ground of all things, cannot be fully explained verbally because words imply opposites and contrasts and limited contexts. Thus, any "spiritual law" is an ironic contradiction of the very nature of spirit. "Religion" is generally a futile attempt to crystallize the shifting patterns of spirit into fixed principles.
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