Intellect, instinct and intuition
In this, the sixth part of our occult studies course, we examine the true nature and functions of intellect, instinct and intuition, which together make up the collective mental quality we call Intelligence.
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Let us begin by considering 'Intellect'. What is it? Where do we keep it? Where does it come from? Where does it go to in the end? We ourselves have not the slightest idea what it looks like. It might be triangular, square, oblong, or even round—like a hollow circle! There seem to be slight indications that people do possess intellect sometimes, but these occasions are so rare that we often wonder if intellect exists permanently, or only appears through spontaneous generation in special instances of dire need for heavenly guidance. We know of many scholarly books in which science goes into lengthy explanations about intellect but none of them tell us what it really is. Is intellect caused by thinking, or does thinking bring about a state of intellect? Science does not have the answer! Some people are very offended when it is suggested that animals think, forgetting that they themselves are animals, some only one step above sheep. Such will say that animals cannot think and only respond to stimuli. We don't know about you, but we have met plenty of people in the pub who respond pretty quickly when asked: "What's yours?" We suggest that the difference is one of degree, not of kind. Those of you who own pets will probably agree with us. Have we not all seen the cat weighing up the pros and cons of pouncing on the canary because it knows its mistress has strictly forbidden it to catch birds? If thinking and acting upon thoughts requires intelligence, then animals certainly have it.
But thinking alone does not make intelligence, or perhaps we should say there can be no thinking without generalisation. We need speech, or at any rate, words, and the vocabulary must include abstract terms. It is said by most psychologists that we think in pictures, not words. This may be true, but only partly so, for thought and language are closely connected as behavioural science teaches us. But is this not also true of thought and action without words? Or action without many words, like the conversations we may overhear on a Saturday night out: "Yeah?" says one reveler. "Yeah!" . . . smack! replies another. Is this an example of thought and action equalling intelligence? Many people are unaware that a large part of comparative psychology is derived from the study of animal behaviour because their actions resemble those of humans. This prompts us to ask if there is much difference between an animal hunting for food or a 'B list' celebrity digging for gold? Perhaps animals aren't so dumb after all!
Men and women are often called intelligent when they succeed in acquiring wealth and fame, and it has been argued that the pleasures we derive from art, poetry and music do not pay the bills. Mary Shelley was a gifted writer, but lived in grinding poverty after the death of her famous husband. Who derived more intelligent pleasure, Mary from her writing, or Paris Hilton from her luxurious lifestyle? Is the bliss of one a higher order than the other? We seem to be getting deeper into a maze of questions as we develop this theme. Let us try again.
For the biologist the amoeba is just as admirable as the whale. If the whale is called the higher animal of the two we mean that it is a more complex creature. For this reason you might assert that Mary Shelley's bliss was of a higher order than Paris Hilton's, but we should say that Mary had a higher order of intelligence. Please do not confuse this question with 'morality', we are trying to discover what is meant by 'intelligence.' Merriam Webster defines intelligence as: "the ability to learn or understand." We should say it is on account of a better memory. Wikipedia dodges the question entirely by stating that: "Numerous definitions . . . about intelligence have been proposed . . . with no consensus reached by scholars." Some of these 'scholars' say that: "intelligence is the ability of the organism to adapt itself adequately to new situations." But does that not come under the heading of "adaptability"? For these reasons we do not think that science will ever succeed in establishing definite laws that will cover every possible contingency. The amount of intelligence a person has comes from a source that has yet to be investigated by science. Intelligence is a hereditary possession but it is not transmitted through the parents—as a glance at our friends and relatives will quickly show! No, it is an attribute of the Higher Self or Spiritual Ego, made up from our accumulated experiences in previous incarnations and preserved by means of the Higher memory.
Although a child is seldom able to give full expression to its thoughts—except for those rare prodigies like Mozart who come into incarnation with great talents and a body capable of expressing these talents in an exceptional manner at a very early age—it has from birth, complete memory, complete intelligence and a complete moral sense, exactly as it had when it ended its previous incarnation. Only it has to spend many years undergoing a slow process of gradual unfoldment, adjusting all the while to new circumstances and conditions, before it can utilise these inherited qualities. According to the state of its previous evolution, so it will have more or less intelligence, which is the sum total of its previous experiences, to which it can add in its new life according to its willingness and capabilities.
So we have now answered the four questions we posed at the beginning of this article, namely: What is intelligence? It is the experience we gain during life on earth. Where do we keep it? It is added to the accumulated experience retained in the memory of our Higher Self which is a higher order of memory than that contained in our physical brains. Where does it come from? It comes from the facts we have learned in connection with the material contacts of the outside world—as opposed to the inner life of the Higher Self. Where does it go to in the end? It is added to the memories already contained in the Higher Self and makes them more complete after each incarnation.
Let us now consider our second theme—'Instinct'. We would begin by saying that both instinct and intelligence are mostly attributes of the physical part of man, animal or plant, and we might even add of crystals too. All crystalline forms flow together in certain definite ways. Each crystal moves in a different manner, but all obey certain established laws. This movement might be caused by attraction, magnetism, electricity, or natural selection, or by the laws of cohesion and adhesion. No matter what terms we use, the fact remains that all crystal forms seem to be governed by a kind of instinct—definitely material—that makes them behave as they do. The same can be said of plants which will instinctively turn to the light and, in the case of runner beans, actively seek out supports for their vines. The habits of molluscs are very similar in that they cling and grip, adhere and take root whenever they find a place congenial to their natures. We may observe the same behaviour in microorganisms which attach themselves to host cells in the human body. It is the same in insects too. Next time you are in your garden just watch the bees and ants going about their business, providing yet more evidence of the marvels of instinct.
Or visit the zoo and see how a handful of nuts divided between monkeys or children will cause both to go through exactly the same movements such as looking, approaching, elbowing, grasping, cracking, munching, swallowing, and holding out their hands for more! We know what goes on in a child's mind from our own experiences as children, and we know what goes on in a monkey's mind from observation. In both cases the instincts are the same. Man has many instincts in common with the lower animals, such as a child's or kitten's movements to ward off danger, and the parent's affection which preserves the offspring during the first defenceless period of its life. There is also the same distrust of strangers; in man a memory of the jungle where every stranger is a potential enemy.
We saw an example of this only the other day in a prosperous residential London suburb, where we heard a woman berating someone on her doorstep. When we drew near we beheld a smartly-dressed woman scolding a small inoffensive-looking man who had a large parcel standing at his feet. Occasionally he tried to mumble a few mild remonstrations, but the woman kept on shouting at him in a shrill voice, telling him he ought to be ashamed to knock at her door, that he had no business dragging her down from her study where she was busy "updating her CV", to offer her "cheap crap" for sale and that "parasitical scum like you should be locked up!" After she stormed inside and slammed her door we asked the poor guy what he was trying to sell. He showed us some pathetic packs of greetings cards and said it was the only way he knew of trying to make a living since he had lost his job.
This unprovoked attack by this female on a poor, broken individual shows us how near some human beings still are to the inhabitants of the jungle, notwithstanding the thin veneer of so-called 'culture' that such people pride themselves on. Such behaviour typifies fear and resentment of the stranger, who may have designs on her offspring, her food, or her cave—in this case a very expensive-looking Georgian town house! Fear, curiosity, suspicion, hunger, aggression and mating are all instincts of self-preservation, attributes of the physical part of man or animal we refer to as the 'lower self'—our earthly personality. The body and lower self want to live forever if they only could and will do the most desperate things to prolong their existence. It is only when the noble qualities of the Higher Self predominate that we find generosity, unselfishness, kindness and love. One of the most common instincts is that which prompts you to blame others for your own mistakes. If you do this with real determination it usually works, and it then gives you a wonderful feeling of comfort and righteousness. We mostly try this on the webmaster who looks after this site for us and sometimes it works!! Then there is the "business instinct", which is derived directly from the monkeys and cuckoos, who have truly mastered the art of acquiring property in unconventional ways!
Plotinus, the pupil of the great Ammonius Saccas, the chief founder of the Neoplatonic school of philosophy, taught that "human knowledge had three ascending steps: opinion, science and illumination. That the means, or instrument of opinion was sense, or sensory perception; of science, dialectics; of illumination, intuition, or divine instinct. To the last, reason is subordinate; it is absolute knowledge founded on the identification of the mind with the object known." Ammonius here differentiates between what he calls "natural" instinct, such as that which warns animals of danger, and "divine" Instinct with a capital 'I', which is a faculty of the Higher Self, and should more correctly be called Intuition. It has further been said that reason only develops at the expense and loss of natural instinct, which slowly rises on the soil of sophistry and finally shuts out man's spiritual perceptions of which intuition is the most important.
H. P. Blavatsky wrote: "instinct is the universal endowment of nature by the Spirit of the Deity itself; reason (or intellect) the slow development of our physical constitution; an evolution of our adult material brain." We think that she hit the nail on the head perfectly.
Now we have arrived and are slowly leading into the final subject of our present studies; namely, intuition. Instinct and Intuition are closely associated attributes of all living things. We should regard Intuition as the connecting link between the Higher Self and instinct, and instinct the connecting link between intuition and the living creature. This forms an ascending scale in which the living organism and its instincts are guided by intuition coming from the Higher Self, which can have all knowledge if it attunes with the Divine Mind of God. This Wisdom from above, percolating through its various mediums of communication to the objective, material, world, slowly transforms the organism until all material forms have been transcended and evolved into such a state of spiritual perfection that they will be released from earthly bondage. This applies to minerals, plants, animals and man. A continuous crescendo, bursting into the final sublime chord of the harmony of the Gods.
There is no human being born without some rudiment of intuition, and the Scots call it 'second sight'. In intuition God has provided us with a defence mechanism that will warn us every time we receive wrong teachings, provided we don't allow false 'teachers' to throw a spanner into our machinery of defence. Intuition is known under many names. It makes known the spiritual by means of thought, whilst the material is known by the perception of the physical senses. The German philosopher Karl von Hartmann called it magical knowledge, as did Schopenhauer. Others have called it the unerring guide of the seer. The great Initiates of the past all employed this faculty and taught it to their students. Iamblichus says: "There is a faculty of the mind which is superior to all which is born or begotten. Through it we are enabled to attain union with the superior intelligences, to being transported beyond the scenes of this world, and to partake of the higher life and peculiar powers of the heavenly ones."
Intuition allows us to perceive and understand real facts with absolute certainty, in ways in which mere instinct and unaided intellect never can. Instinct and intellect enable us to see the appearance of things, but Intuition enables us to perceive things as they really are, and not as they appear to our physical senses and cold reason. It is to intuition that we owe the Bible and many other sacred texts of all times, as well as many of the greatest discoveries of science. If we study the lives of the truly great scientists such as Newton, Kepler, Einstein and others, we see that they all received their great insights in a sudden, blinding flash of illumination. This is intuition and there can be no truly great science, art, literature or music without its guiding light.
Instinct, intellect and intuition are the three "Great I's" that animate the Temple we dwell in on earth and each has its role to play in the acquisition of knowledge and understanding on the path to the Light. But it is the work of the true occultist and mystic to go within and help themselves freely to all that is contained within their own Higher Selves in order that they may learn to control their Intellects, Instincts and Intuitions with WISDOM. In our seventh occult studies course article we shall examine the ASTRAL WORLD, in order to discover what it is and what it is not, so adding to our store of wisdom by the intelligent use of our intellect and intuition.
Published 12 March 2013 — © Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Updated 28 October 2019.