Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American 19th-Century philosopher, called intuition "the affirmations of the soul." We obey the inner voice of our intuition less than it’d probably like. But we often end up chiding ourselves for not doing so. Intuition is effervescent, fluctuating, and famously adept at contradicting itself. Identifying intuition can be convoluted, but we find it equally difficult to deny its existence. But what is intuition, really? Let's take a look.
Where does intuition come from?
Even atheist author Richard Dawkins alludes to "the natural magic of reality," and had Sandman artist Dave McKean illustrate his book of the same name. Contemporary wellness coaches trumpet the power of "gut instinct"—improve conditions for the billions of bacteria living in your tummy, and allegedly the strength of your intuition will increase too.
Knowing whether our guiding voice is speaking from our intuition or our neuroses is hard enough at the best of times. And when we’re literally dabbling with forces we don’t entirely understand, it can be especially confusing to tell between our sense of inner guidance and any misguided, impulsive thoughts. In his book Cosmic Trigger, Robert Anton Wilson dubbed this stage of spiritual growth the "Chapel Perilous," in which the would-be initiate is unsure if they are communicating with higher forces… or losing their marbles.
Magick.Me student Tyler put this common quandary forward during Office Hours, our regular community symposium. When does he know he’s in touch with his gut feelings? And how come his inner voice is so assured one minute, and disconcertingly quiet the next?
Clear communication with our intuition, responds Magick.Me founder Jason Louv, is one of the fundamental aims of magick. When we get out of our own way, we access a flow state, where we are both fulfilling our own destiny and contributing to the universe in a productive, harmonious manner.
What’s the difference between intuition and good judgement?
Intuition is different to feelings inclined towards a particular course of action. Intuition is stronger, and comes accompanied by a gnawing sense of the inevitable. It may not be helpful for grandpa to say, “well you’ll just know when it’s right,” but that is indeed how intuition works. It is pre-verbal, perhaps pre-incarnational, and felt, not thought… which is partly why it’s so elusive. It’s not always going to be there for us to refer to, and we can be notoriously good at ignoring it. But it can be honed, like our senses of deduction or logic. In his book Blink, business guru Malcolm Gladwell writes, "Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out."
What chakra or sphere is associated with intuition? What does intuition mean?
Spirituality associates intuition with the divine feminine. Binah, the Qabalistic sphere that Aleister Crowley was particularly compelled towards, resides at the head of the "female" pillar on the Tree of Life. Chokmah, the divine masculine over on top of the "male" pillar, also embodies pre-verbal instinct. But it is that of your incarnated will, rather than your intuition. While intuition, acceptance and collaboration dwell in Binah, Chokmah is associated with volition, decisiveness and individual action.
Both originate from the "feeling" mind, rather than the "thinking" one. The tools of magick – from meditation and asana, to divination and rituals, and even psychedelics – shepherd us towards flow state, taking us away from our linguistic brains, and towards our instinctive minds.
The "Third Eye" in the chakra system is considered the font of intuition in Vedic spirituality.
Is intuition always right? Can intuition be wrong?
Eastern spirituality is especially concerned with the concepts included in Binah, and that’s a significant reason why it appeals to many people in the burned-out, atomized, materialistic modern West.
But acceptance can be taken too far. Eastern religion is inclined to fall back on inaction. Even in The Art of War, Sun Tzu often recommends doing nothing. Volition, too, can be excessive, and history reminds us of this on a regular basis. But both intuition and volition stem from the true will, and both acceptance and action are key to self-realization.
Qabalah, embraced by the Golden Dawn during its own de facto reformation of the Western tradition, is about balance. The Tree of Life is a map to guide us in our search for it. We experience the Sephiroth, learn from them, deduce how they interrelate, and incorporate them within our conscious experience. None are final, and they must come together for us to truly understand ourselves.
Why is intuition so important?
How Binah and Chokmah may work together was illustrated by Plato in his Phaedrus. He describes philosopher Socrates’ allegory of the chariot. The charioteer represents reason, while one horse is our appetites, and the other our drive. The charioteer must use reason to harness both our appetites and our drive, and let neither take full control, lag behind, or become exhausted. The faster we ride, the harder this can be.
It’s our intuition that knows this going forward, and explains it in the most elegant and persuasive – though not always obvious – of ways. And it that sense, it is very real.