Half-lives of Partial Truths
Therefore, those to whom God has imparted religion by intuition are very fortunate, and justly convinced. But to those who do not have it, we can give it only by reasoning, waiting for God to give them spiritual insight, without which faith is only human, and useless for salvation. [Blaise Pascal, Pensées, p. 80].
New paradigms for our understanding of reality continually flow from erudite scholars, (as well as pedestrian bloggers) telling us all about ourselves, our perception and our intuition. Where do all these lonely thoughts come from?
As in all infant sciences, the universal habit of the human mind – to take a partial or local truth, generalise it unduly and try to explain a whole field of nature in its narrow terms – runs riot here (in psychoanalysis). Moreover, the exaggeration of the importance of suppressed sexual complexes is a dangerous falsehood. [Sri Aurobindo, Bases of Yoga: Art of Living].
The common trait that we now assume in secular data is its impermanence, sometimes called progress. Even as hypotheses are being tested and theories advanced, new perspectives come into focus that promise to undermine and eventually displace contemporary “truths.”
Our modern academic attitude avoids spiritual involvement. Modern scholars don’t spend much time listening to inner voices expressing Divine direction. Most are convinced that such direction is not helpful. Therefore, they do not listen. They insist on conventional knowledge and rely on rational solutions.
… the whole of Western theology had been characterized by an inappropriate reliance upon reason alone, ever since the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Rationalism had achieved such spectacular results that empirical reason came to be regarded as the sole path to truth, and Western people started to talk about God as an objective, demonstrable fact like any other.[Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness].
How do we make intuition more acceptable to our rational intellect? What criteria do we use to screen corrupted intuition? Can spiritual self-examination alert us when intuition merely promises personal gratification?
Moral reasoning is part of our lifelong struggle to win friends and influence people. That’s why I say that “intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.” You’ll misunderstand moral reasoning if you think about it as something people do by themselves in order to figure out the truth. [Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, p. 59].
Often, our intuition may propose unpleasant, difficult tasks for which we readily find objections. Spiritual exercises train us to use Divine criteria to examine our inner voices.
The delight we take in God’s inspirations is an important step gained towards His Glory, and we begin at once to please Him thereby; for although such delectation is not the same thing as a full consent, it shows a strong tendency thereto; and if it is a good and profitable sign when we take pleasure in hearing God’s Word, which is, so to say, an external inspiration, still more is it good and acceptable in His Sight when we take delight in His interior inspirations. [St. Francis of Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Ch. XVIII].
Humility and selflessness are proven criteria for examining our intuition. With our self-interest moderated, we are less likely to misconstrue urges and impulses. By restraining worldly desires and controlling selfish appetites, our mind becomes disciplined enough to measure intuition dispassionately.
Good and evil are by and large immediately sensed, and they further reveal themselves to reflection and theoretical elaboration. This perception of good and evil is the fundamental intuition of the moral life… [Dallas Willard, Personal Religion, Public Reality?: Towards a Knowledge of Faith].
Renunciation and seclusion remove worldly influences that can muffle intuition and fuel illusions. When we exercise self-restraint, we become more mindfulness of others and more prudent.
The theater in which God has chosen to meet rational creatures quietly is the inward realm of conscience, moral reasoning, prayer, and study, especially study of the revealed Word. [Thomas C. Oden. Classic Christianity, p. 516
From Pious Heart to Humble Mind
Awareness of a Divine Reality offers a platform for charity, compassion and benevolence. When our attitude toward others and ourselves reflects these traits, our intellectual perspective changes.
Given impetus by spiritual exercises, intuition has an easy journey from the soul to the mind. No railings needed.
Love involves an intuition that can enable us to hear without sounds and to see the unseen. [Pope Francis, The Joy of Love: Amoris Laetitia].
Spiritual disciplines can silence the profane and acclimate our thoughts to the Divine. Through patience and restraint, we can restore confidence in our intuition and enhance its prominence.
A pious mind, disciplined and of humble temperament, can devoutly accept any difficult task or sacrifice proposed by intuition, and it is also prepared to enjoy any delightful gifts graciously offered by Providence.
On the earth are signs for those of assured Faith, As also in your own selves: Will ye not then see? [Quran 51:20-21].