Navigating a turbulent future.
Intuition and pragmatic spirituality
I ask that you accept this opening statement: Intuition is a natural human capacity.
I could justify it with both scientific evidence and extensive personal experience, but this is not the time or place[i]. If you are not inclined to accept it, then reading this article is at best an exercise in curiosity.
My interest here is to look at the implications and to suggest with some strength of intention that intuition is a critical need, perhaps a key to sanity but at the very least an important part of our toolkit for life. Why so?
We all know that these are turbulent and unpredictable times and most of us have some awareness that our linear thinking and our extrapolations of data plots provide inadequate navigational support. We know that the old normal has broken, and while we are emotionally inclined to hope that there will be a “new normal” there is an strong undercurrent of fear that this is not about to show up. Author Nicholas Taleb is reported to have expressed some irritation that people ask him for a list of the next five “Black Swans”[ii]. Such requests are an expression of our reluctance to engage with reality or move beyond our beliefs that we can control it.
It may be helpful at this point to say what I mean by intuition, since there are several layers of depth to the notion.
- Intuition is an underlying pattern-recognition capacity that we have all used in constructing our expectations of the world and our responses to it
- Intuition is something we can describe as “gut-feel”, a kind of visceral unconscious knowing about what is happening and how to respond
- Intuition is a biological capacity that enables us to sense what is beyond our regular senses, to sense the presence of a predator, or to detect when there is a dangerously positioned car beyond a blind bend
- Intuition is the capability to have direct connection to other parts of nature, to plants and animals or to develop shamanistic forms of perception
- Intuition is the ability to know something explicitly that we have no conventional data for, to be psychic. This is the territory of the film “Men who stare at goats” (remote viewing experiments), of assistance to police investigations by specialized “psychics,” and of medical intuitives.
I mean all of these descriptions and others in-between. If some of them seem implausible to you please open to the possibility that this is a fault in your education that can be rectified. All of them are part of our natural human capacities and all are capable of development. This means you too, whether you believe it or not. I was once a sceptic too.
I have been exploring this field for over 35 years now, ever since my first, dramatic, unexpected psychic experience. For most of that time I have viewed intuition as a neglected skill and as something that many people would find helpful, just as I have. It has been an optional extra. Now I am saying something more than that.
Those who have some familiarity with Spiral Dynamics language can locate the descriptions above in the Beige and Purple stages of human existence. They are capacities which are pre-verbal, biological and non-analytical. But if you know a little of SD you will also be aware that in the stages described as “second tier” we revisit first tier and we do so as our adaptive response to shifts in life conditions. Even if you don’t have that SD frame the reality I am describing is nevertheless the same. The world is changing and we are struggling to cope, so we need all the help we can get. We humans need to leverage what we have largely been rejecting and to make it useful. Where we might more easily accept the more conventional forms of intuition we would benefit from expanding our boundaries of belief to include the others.
Since we cannot predict or figure out the complex interactions, since the only thing we know about Black Swan events is that sometime they will arrive, we need to learn to sense the undercurrents and flows. More than that, we need to know what the universe knows but we can’t see. To even suggest such a thing, to make it concrete by writing it, is a challenge to our culture and our trained way of thinking. It is hugely probable that you too were educated in linear thinking and “evidence-based” knowledge. There are conventions about what is provable and real. There is a scientific viewpoint that propagates the myth that what you cannot measure is not real.
As humans we are accustomed to other ways of thinking and feeling. You don’t expect to measure whether or not you love (or hate) your partner or your parents; you expect to know. When you respond to a piece of music, a painting or a poem, when your humanity is touched, you don’t ask yourself if the sensations are real. It is possible however, that you think that this is something different, somehow less real because you cannot justify it objectively. What if that isn’t true?
By the same token, billions of people have some notion of spiritual reality; humans believe in or at least are attracted by “the force”[iii], they pray, they have epiphanies and experiences of one-ness and transcendence. Yet we have also been taught to treat such things with suspicion and to regard them as only a psychological reality or a philosophical abstraction, not as if they are just as real as the chair you are sitting on or the building you are in. It is past time for us to take our authority and see this non-ordinary reality as having equal validity with the material and tangible one. More than that, it is past time for us to treat it pragmatically, as a realm with its own tools and applications, relevant skillsets that we can learn and grounded practices that will assist us in dealing with the conditions that the world presents us with and that we face as we make our choices of what to do in our lives.
This is a fresh kind of intelligence – non-intellectual, beyond EQ and part of our SQ, our Spiritual Intelligence. It is a step out of control and into the realm of our connectivity. Our universe is shaped by information and it has an intelligence of its own. The ways that energy forms into matter are shaped by fields of information, the knowledge that the universe has of itself. That information is what we think of as the laws of Physics. The way that organic matter behaves is likewise governed by patterns of information, all that the universe has learned about how to operate as a living system. The laws of Biology are inherent to life, not merely observed. The added, special behaviours that are distinctly human have their own patterns their own components of the information field. Everything that exists is stored as part of that information field and we are able to access it. The information is in us and around us and it flows through us in unceasing interaction.
Since everything is connected and the field has not boundaries or compartments, it is not subject to our usual concepts of time and space. The world of information and energy is different. From our usual frame of reference it is filled with paradox, so when we operate in the intuitive realm we learn to be comfortable with features that don’t “make sense” in the ways we are used to and this is the strength because it is what makes it possible to get better guidance. We have to work with the challenge of our old assumptions, which would cause us to believe that the ordinary reality is more reliable and to think that we must be wrong when the non-ordinary reality does not match our preconceptions.
This is the learning journey that is on offer to us and it is the source of more responsive ways to navigate life, greater flexibility and openness of possibility than we may have been used to. Being connected to the flow of all existence, it is a spiritual endeavour, but perhaps not in our usual way of perceiving that word because it is less mysterious, more accessible and more empowered, practical and grounded in our everyday existence as individual explorers. It is pragmatic spirituality and it gives us the opportunity to shape our lives, our organisations and our societal choices in ways that are better aligned with the trajectory of life itself, have more flow and are more attuned to our own individual inner truth and shared purpose. How does it get any better than that?
April 28th 2021
Jon Freeman is a mentor and a coach, Spiral Dynamics trainer, Organisational Development specialist and author. He has been teaching intuition skills since 1985.
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[i] I have covered this exhaustively in my book “The Science of Possibility”. https://www.amazon.com/Science-Possibility-Patterns-Connected-Consciousness-ebook/dp/B00LEDIP9U
[iii] Reference to the “Star Wars” film series and the realm in which Jedi skills are operating
Image by Beate Bachmann, Pixabay