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Intellect and Intuition

BY MICHAEL REISIG –

Intellect is one of the most coveted elements of the human psyche, yet for all our struggles to define it, and pigeonhole this fundamental necessity of mankind, it is still challenged by intuition, faith, and politically correct protocol. It is the Achilles’ heel of mankind, the new god of the intelligentsia, who have come to rely on intellect more than wisdom or character. I’m reminded of the quote by Albert Einstein: “We should take care not to make the intellect our god – it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality…”

It’s an odd contrast between intellect and intuition – intellect has a tendency to boldly establish conclusions using existing data, while intuition establishes conclusions on a multidimensional level, and usually in the absence of data. Intellect loves to argue its position with formulas, algorithms, and equations. Intuition simply knows what it knows. You can’t taste it, see it, or smell it, but intuition is far more often inclined to save your life in military combat, and/or on the late night streets of Detroit. Simply put, we should never try to explain the world totally by intellect. While it may provide a path, intellect should always be confronted by character and sensibility, and tempered by faith.

Never let intellect get in the way of imagination. While cerebration has a tendency to create borders and define perimeters, imagination gives us wings. Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite science fiction writers (and a man who never let intellect get in the way of imagination), offers one of the greatest quotes on this phenomena: “If we listened exclusively to our intellect, we’d have missed out on love affairs, and friendships, and never taken chances in business. In life you have to jump off cliffs and build your wings on the way down.”

Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that intellect is a bad thing. Without it, we might well still be riding horses and living in thatched huts – without email, amazon.com, and cell phones. (Aaahhh! God forbid… ) But intellect tends to make us arrogant and cavalier. Intuition is more like a gift and we hold it in high regard without haughtiness. It’s more of a blessing.

Intellect likes to admire itself in the mirror, and we need to be reminded that it is not necessarily wisdom. Albert Einstein said: “Information is not knowledge,” and we sometimes confuse information with intellect. You can teach a parrot to repeat an equation. It doesn’t mean he understands it. The only source of true knowledge is intuitive experience.

I would never strive to direct people away from intellect, because it is undoubtedly the mortar between the bricks of progress. But I would remind them that without a powerful intuition and a loving heart, knowledge alone is still cerebral poverty.

One comment

  1. Excellent essay!

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