Intuition is as individual as people are unique. At the same time, however, it is a power in all of us, connecting us with the great network of life. Scientists, researchers, and spiritual teachers of our time regard it as a kind of universal intelligence, as something that is deeply connected with being human.
Intuition is an ever-present term. Every one of us has already heard of it or has certainly experienced it one way or another. Most of us will immediately think of situations in everyday life, which we ascribe to intuition. The sudden inspiration, the sparkling idea for a new project, an inner impulse that lets us take a different way to work and suddenly leads to a new encounter, the ringing telephone after we intensely thought of a person who exactly at this moment picks up the phone – this list could be continued forever…
However, what principle and mechanisms are active behind such events? It is difficult to define and to categorise it. Thus, it frequently leads to dismissing this phenomenon as something elusive or even mystical which cannot be explained anyway. However, is this really true? Do we have to be content with this – as it seems – inexplicability?
Scientists of different branches such as neurobiologists and brain researchers, physicists and health psychologists agree in this – intuition is also explicable empirically and scientifically. And this is without losing its magic of the uncertain and unknown because both belong together. Renowned physicists, Prof. Hans- Peter Dürr, long-standing director of the Max Planck Institute in Munich, and Prof. Anton Zeilinger, multiple time candidate for the Nobel Prize in Physics agree on this.
Both are convinced that intuition can be explained in the context of a quantum-physical world view – as a great spiritual coherence, a gigantic network filled with information to which we are all connected, which we are all part of. This network is alive, pulsating, and subject to constant transformation as life itself is. It is for this reason that the components of instability and uncertainty always remain characteristic features of intuition because they are signs of liveliness.
Accordingly, intuition is something that is simultaneously situated without and within and which represents a binding link between these two poles.
If one approaches the term of intuition etymologically, we find a confirmation for this assumption. Intuition has derived from the Latin word of “intuen“ which means as much as “looking into, looking at, recognizing“. Thus, the word already implies that it is concerned with a force which obviously seems to be set up in ourselves, and that we only have to look exactly at this – at best recognizing ourselves – in order to understand its nature.
However, how can we achieve this? We know different terms in our everyday language which reveal that intuition is located elsewhere than in our waking consciousness and our rational thinking processes. The most well known of them should be the much cited “gut instinct“ and the “inner voice“.
The fact that intuition is rather a feeling, an inner knowledge than a result of gained experiences or rational thinking processes is confirmed by Prof. Ernst Pöppel, brain researcher and director of the Institute for Medical Psychology at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich. The sudden inspirations that belong to the domain of intuition – he explains – are for the most part resulting from unconscious thinking processes, which after all make up about 95% of all our occurring thinking processes. And he confirms, “there are no decision-making processes that are just rational ones“. The source of this intuition can therefore be found in our own subconsciousness which is (as we know) so complex that it can hardly be accessed by means of limiting definitions and “either/or“ criteria.
„This always includes the risk of going out into an unknown world. Intuition is always a state of not-knowing.“ Thomas Gonschior
Hans-Peter Dürr confirms that intuition is no stable constant on which our mind will find support and reliability, and he explains why it is exactly this instability which accounts for our liveliness as such.
“Life is created through a dynamical balance of instabilities, by cooperation. Billions of cells interact within us; they stabilize and support each other, and only due to this are we able to live.“
Everything alive – is his opinion – has to bear a certain degree of uncertainty and has to relinquish control in order to be able to carry on reacting flexibly on the continuous changes of life.
Simply put, this means that we cannot wilfully evoke intuition, we cannot determine it and cannot control it at all. What we can do, however, is to perceive, to trust, and to get involved. After all, intuition is a much more considerable part of us than our mind, which much too often has our permission to dictate and to determine us. Furthermore, we know now that via our intuition we are connected with a gigantic network of knowledge which binds together everything alive. In addition, it is a known fact that everything alive thrives in the greatest possible sense to develop, to flourish, and to unfold. Why now this fear of the uncertain which seizes us time and again?
We cannot wilfully evoke intuition, we cannot evoke, determine and we cannot control it at all. What we can do, however, is to perceive, to trust, and to get involved.
It is a phenomenon of our civilisation, reckons cultural anthropologist Dr. Christina Kessler, who had taken many journeys to the Huichol Indians in Mexico during her studies where she spent considerable time living together with them. Access to intuition, to our deep inner wisdom and to the trust in it, only works if we can also experience us as part of the world which surrounds us. Meanwhile, many people in our culture experience themselves as rather isolated than connected with each other, and the feeling of nature has meanwhile frequently been lost altogether. We smile at primitive races who – not without reason – personalize animals, plants, and elements and include them into their direct communication as “Grandfather Fire“, “Father Sun“ and “Mother Earth“ These names are no empty phrases; they are rather the expression of a direct bond with the network of life to which one belongs. Embedded in this, intuition is a wholly natural, self-explanatory process.
Nobody would question it if there were not those nagging doubts and the many “buts“ and many “be careful“ warnings of our intellect. And in a society full of rules, prohibitions, and laws, this intellect is much more mighty and exuberant than in such cultures where the rules of life are mainly given by the natural processes.
“Cogito ergo sum“ is unsustainable for the present time.
Ever since since the Age of Enlightenment and the famous sentence of Descartes “Cogito ergo sum“ became the norm, this inner and knowing voice was actually downright re-trained in us and banned into the domain of the metaphysical. Of course, Descartes had been right with regard to the view of the world in those days. After all, the enlightenment was effective for the liberation from religious oppression, which declared the human to be slave of an over-powerful god. However, when we look at the world, it is not only megalomaniacal ignorance but also dangerous nonsense which automatically reveals itself if we still apply the yardstick to the idea that man is able to analyse everything in nature with his intellect, and breaks it down into individual components.
Well then, it is therefore more difficult for us in our highly civilized and mechanical world to trust these inner notions, pictures, and feelings and to follow them although – so obviously – so many arguments are opposed to spontaneous gut decisions. We even run into the danger of not even being able to recognize these impulses anymore in the noise and speed of our everyday life, and we are surprised in the end when we find ourselves exhausted and frustrated in permanently recurring processes. Without intuition, life becomes stagnation.
Head and gut – a reliable team
Meanwhile, we are lucky to find the courage for intuitive decisions also in the case of courageous scientists like Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer, psychologist at the Institute for Educational Research in Berlin. Together with other colleagues of his faculty, during the course of many years, he has examined how people make decisions. The results of his study have proved gut decision to be right: in most cases, fast and intuitive decisions lead to better results than lengthy and rational analyses. And Gigerenzer adds another fact which should be able to calm us down, “it is not a question of head or gut but always a question of head and gut“. For this, intuition is like a guidepost that leads us into the direction that is best for us, and the intellect examines afterwards so that we can, if necessary, carry out small alterations and improvements. The best thing about this is that wherever the way is leading us, all possibilities are included. Changes of direction are allowed at any time. If a path has reached its end, intuition has already known for a long time where the next path begins because this is in accordance with its nature.
If a path has reached its end, intuition has already known for a long time where the next path begins because this is in accordance with its nature.
Intuition as a creative way out
As we now have certainty that it is worthwhile to uncover one’s own intuition, we still have to ask ourselves the question which value this presents for the collective body in the future. Should we not finally regard intuition as the proper resource of creativity, empathy, and inventiveness and should we not more than anything else promote it and care for its unfolding at every stage of life? For many years now, Prof. Gerald Hüther‘s answer to this has been a clear ‘yes‘. He is a neurobiologist, brain researcher and president of the Sinn Foundation and is pioneering in facilitating the use of modern findings in brain research for the benefit of human development. He is actively engaged in the domains of education and training, and based on scientific findings, provides impulses on how learning can take place with enthusiasm instead of with the pressure to perform and with creativity instead of maximal efficiency and how children, enthusiastic, creative, and vibrant with liveliness can turn into grown-ups with the same qualities.
He emphasizes, “We have no deficit of knowledge but a deficit of implementation“, and he is convinced that our intuition assists us collectively to develop solutions for problems which had been created by an overemphasis of rational logic. What executives need more than anything else (and this addresses not only politicians or leaders of enterprises but also parents, teachers, and therapists) is the ability to inspire, encourage, and to enthuse others. Leadership necessitates empathy and real interest in the counterpart with all his potentials and abilities. What is required here is the proverbial spark which ignites.
“We have no deficit of knowledge but a deficit of implementation.” Prof. Gerald Hüther
Quite literally: luckily, no path takes one past intuition.
Tenzin Palmo, spiritual teacher in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, describes intuition as “a quiet knowledge beyond words“.
This is why this article is ending now with an encouragement to get involved with the unknown. Maybe you will allow yourself to be inspired by your own inner navigation system and start to become attentive when you get the idea to do something which your logic might at first register as being something totally crazy. Or you might even smile about the many “buts“ and “be careful“ signs in front of your inner eye because most of the time they will prove to be needless once you have dared to take a jump into the unknown. For this voyage of discovery I wish you a large portion of joy and enthusiasm!
“There is a level of being in us which knows.“ Tenzin Palmo