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Wednesday, 31 August 2016


(first in a series of loosely-related pieces)

In his article 'The False Enlightenment', Tobias Lars (more of him in a further post) tells a story. I paraphrase but it goes something like this:

Father God was busy creating the Universe, but Mother God felt uneasy. "There's something off with what you are creating" she remarked. "What's the problem?" came Father's retort. "I don't know; can't put my finger on it. But it just doesn't feel right." "For Christ's sake, woman. Spit it out! I haven't got all day, you know." "I dunno, but there's something not right." Not given to patience, Father God went ahead at full speed anyway. Thus he created the universe we now live in, given over to psychopathic rulers, self-serving unnecessary warfare, dishonour, dishonesty, and wanton destruction of people, animals, plants, and the rest of the living environment.

It is only recently that I have succeeded in fully facing up to the degree that my life has been
guided by intuition. Important (for me) decisions, changes in life direction, have taken place on the basis of vague yet simultaneously precise feelings of what is right and proper, and what is mistaken. To translate these actions into the language of reason has happened further down the line; it has sometimes taken years.

In modern times, Lady Intuition does not make a problem-free guide. I am reminded especially of the period in my life some thirty years ago, when I was chairman of a Buddhist centre in London. I would sometimes be hailed to attend 'summit meetings' with chairmen of other Buddhist centres. Some of them were quick-minded, quick-witted types, the sort that would have been at home on 'Newsnight' with Jeremy Paxman in his prime. Not me. All manner of very important subjects would be up for discussion, dissection, and decision-making. While these thinking types were having a whale of a quickfire time, I would be sitting there like Mother God: "There's something not right here, but I don't know what. Can I have some time, please? A day? A week? A year or two?"

It's about one hundred years since Carl Jung came up with his theory of personality types, based upon what he called the four functions of the psyche. Each human has a 'dominant function'; these four could be arranged as a quaternity, as in a mandala. The four functions are sensation, intuition, thinking, and feeling.

One of the great things about this typology is that Jung presented all four functions as 'equal': there was no hierarchy implied or intended, they were simply different ways that the mind could experience and apprehend reality. Starting way back when, however, western mainstream culture has come to value some functions as 'superior' to others. Specifically, thinking, rational thinking, has come to be the hallmark of culture and civilisation, while the other functions have been relegated to the 'primitive'. It is 'thought' that distinguishes us from the lowly beasts; thought which elevates humankind to something different. This is our heritage from the Enlightenment and before, nowadays taking on the dark cloak of reductionist scientific materialism. It is the story of 'civilisation' that has been woven into official truth, the great Ascent of Man.

This is actually bullshit, a tale told to remove us from a good deal of our birthright, much of our magnificent energy. It is a one-sided apollonian lie, one that heralds the rational as bringer of light, while condemning those unruly 'pagan', natural energies to the dustbin of falsehood, error, demonology. As a device of oppression it has worked remarkably well.

In modern culture - and in a place like the Buddhist organisation I worked, where the presented paradigm was adopted without question - being guided by intuition as well as 'ideas' can be hard work, especially if you have turned up this time round as a male. It goes against the grain to release yourself into the embrace of Intuition without having everything sewn up nicely in a framework of rationality first. It feels dangerous, irresponsible even, and needs to be learnt, in my case at least. This is another effect of cultural conditioning, however, the notion that thought somehow makes things safer, more 'right'. Sure, intuition is sometimes spot on and sometimes wide of the mark; but relying overmuch on the thinking faculty (or relying overmuch on any one faculty, at the expense of all others) can have even more devastating effects. Most atrocities committed by humans upon other humans have come with a well-fashioned package of apparently rational thoughts and ideas to justify and back them up. Ideas that might not be watertight, but good enough to pull the wool over the eyes of the great majority.

Intuition has another quality which makes it a bit scary to many. It comes in sideways, or seemingly from nowhere - or from somewhere else. It appears unbidden, unexpected, sometimes unwelcome. In its mystery lies its value. It can be a channel into the 'other', the non-rational, into other dimensionality. In the Tarot, intuition comes in the form of the Moon. Creature of the night, bringing gifts of magic and mystery, shining a wan light, shifting and elusive as clouds dance across her face in the night sky, obscuring the silver planet. And it comes as the High Priestess, manifestation of dark beauty, enigmatic holder of secrets, lady of the mystical, deep connection to what is true but which cannot be properly formulated in words. This is the trick, to make the foundations of a tyrannical culture shiver: learn to live comfortably with what is known to be deeply true, but which cannot be readily expressed in words. Sacred channelers of intuition, we salute you.

"That which lives on reason lives against the spirit" wrote Paracelsus (1493 - 1541) provocatively.

Image: High Priestess, Thoth Tarot