Principles of Spiritual Evolution (Part III)
Ignorance, fear, and superstition stem from reason being overridden by emotional and instinctual impulses. The historical consequences of human ignorance have given philosophers cause to invent a solution, most proposing objective reasoning and intellect as the antidote. In the past, the dichotomy was religion versus secularism, blind faith versus logic.
Today, religion and secularism are old news and the dichotomy has shifted into other areas. In the alternative knowledge field, for example, there presently exists a split between those who advise abandoning reason and submitting to feeling and sensation (certain fluffy New Age paradigms) and those who advise abandoning emotional subjectivity and striving for objective knowledge by thinking with a hammer.
But is intellectual reasoning enough? Although overcoming the subjectivity of emotions and instinct, the intellect comes with its own share of problems as outlined in this article. For the most part, the follies of emotionalism and primal impulses are matched by the shortcomings of intellectual reasoning. When one is held supreme and the other denied expression, severe imbalances result.
Reason without emotion is entropic and lifeless, while emotion without reason is animalistic. Specifically, New Age philosophy denies the intellect and gives too much free reign to the subjective whims of the emotional center, leading to gullibility and ignorance. Its opposite counterpart unwisely declares the intellect supreme.
In their proper places, reason and emotion exude their virtues. But when misappropriated they make for the worst of vices. This is evident from examining Marxism, communism, fascism, the Spanish Inquisition, allopathic medicine, and New Age disinformation philosophies, all of which owe their growth to the exploitation of some imbalance or underdevelopment among the physical and metaphysical faculties of their supporters.
We know about the proper and improper role of emotion – properly used it propels us into action and gives life to our thoughts. When outside its role, it blinds us to the truth and reduces us to reactive animals. But the use and misuse of intellect is more subtle and will therefore be the focus of our discussion.
The intellect can discern, measure, discriminate, compare, and contrast – and thus appears to be the ultimate faculty available to man. But its supremacy is false, for the intellect is still inferior to man’s higher spiritual faculties. What we commonly know as the emotions, intellect, and instinct are all part of man’s lower nature arising from his neurological, biological, and physiological systems.
Man is more than just machine. He is the ghost in the machine. The true human possesses soul, mind, and spirit in addition to his physical body. So besides the lower emotional, intellectual, and primal centers, he has the potential to access his higher emotional and higher intellectual faculties. They surpass the lower ones in function and verity because they are of a conscious rather than mechanical nature. They operate through direct knowing instead of linear logic.
In keeping with the narrow rigor of materialistic science, the leading intellectuals in recent history have denied the existence of soul, mind, and spirit. So the problem with most secular philosophies is that they revolve around man’s lower centers. Even if properly balanced, the lower centers are still incomplete and imperfect; any philosophy restricted to their use will likewise be flawed.
Communism touted the virtues of reason and rationalism, centralizing and calculating all aspects of the state, while fascism saw the limits of logic and instead emphasized the virtues of irrationalism and impulse. Both of these merely traded one lower center for another, which ultimately solved nothing. Both became abominations because they molded man into what they falsely assumed him to be, a mechanical unit void of the very spirit needed to sustain the system.
The lower intellect is like a clever computer. Given a set of inputs, it can calculate a set of outputs. But given false inputs, it will not realize that its outputs are also false until a cataclysmic rude awakening forces a reassessment of assumptions. It is a blind man probing the world with a stick. It is a ruler that measures distance but cannot tell direction. The intellect is therefore detached from sensing absolute reality.
The Floating Intellect — a mechanical behemoth
disconnected from the ground of objectivity.
Instead, the higher (spiritual) centers act like a compass, telling one via intuition, inspiration, and insight what is “north.” While the lower intellect perceives only symbolic relationships between ideas, the higher centers allow you to perceive the intrinsic meaning and validity of an idea. There is a difference between seeing a symbol on a map, and seeing that destination for yourself. Using the lower intellect is merely browsing the map. Only by turning inward and walking consciously to the core of an idea can you perceive its level of resonance with the truth.
When people communicate, they are sharing maps of ideas with each other. Ideally, each person should be responsible for using the map received to consciously locate within himself the destination represented. The sender never gives knowledge to the receiver, rather he points toward a place where the other can find it for himself. Knowledge cannot be taught, it can only be shown.
If one works only at the level of lower intellect, the map itself is taken as the territory because the shallow faculty of reasoning alone cannot tell the difference between symbol and reality. Words are mere reflections of ideas, and those who mistake the map for territory will never find the treasure.
This is why group consensus built upon intellectual agreement rarely guarantees objectivity. Being blind to the absolute value of an idea and taking everything to be relative and uncertain, the intellect finds group consensus as good a verifier as anything. So when a truth comes along to challenge an erroneous consensus, the intellect sees only one idea contradicting the judgment of multiple minds and naturally rejects it.
The greatest vice of intellect is hubris, its rationalizing away of higher truths and spiritual impulses as baseless and frivolous ideas. It truly is a blind man with a walking stick – unable to distinguish between a high curb and a cliff, and thus afraid to cross the street. The intellectual man is an agnostic rationalist, one who is unsure of everything and prone to rationalizing challenging truths as mere aberrations and fantasies, interpreting the three dimensional picture in terms of his two dimensional world view.
Seeing the faults of intellectual reasoning, many at this point make the mistake of rejecting rather than transcending it. They turn toward lower forms of human expression and fool themselves into thinking they have reached higher states. Relativism is why ever increasing levels of decadence are hailed as breakthroughs in modern art and philosophy. And not being able to tell up from down, the intellect can mistaken falling for rising, an error often fatally reinforced by group consensus. These illusions seem valid until one hits the ground.
In truth, the intellect should be put in its place rather than rejected. What is the proper function of the lower intellect? At best, it can determine what IS NOT, mainly by naturally discerning differences between two things and so proving among them the presence of a falsehood or incompleteness. But when intellect attempts to declare what IS, it cuts down the infinite range of possibilities to one ignorant conclusion and defends it. If instead it stays within its bounds and proves what IS NOT, it cuts out one possibility among many, leaving the truth among the remaining possibilities. Continuous whittling of possibilities allows the truth to eventually be cornered. Sherlock Holmes used this method, eliminating the impossible until what was left, no matter how improbable, must have been the truth.
When the lower intellect begins heeding the advice of spirit coming through the higher centers, then one becomes a gnostic intellectual rather than an agnostic rationalist. One then knows things intuitively but uses reason to check these impressions and give practical substance to them. With map and compass in hand, the intellect can step forth with confidence. The blind man begins to see, perhaps vaguely at first, but enough to know that a curb is just a curb.
Here, the lower intellect has been placed in service to the higher centers as a scribe and navigator. For each center to exhibit its virtues, lower must always be placed secondary to higher. Ideally, the higher centers communicate an intuitive impression to the intellect, which after analyzing, makes a decision that is empowered by emotion before being put into physical action. This process results in further impressions which in turn give rise to further actions. In this way, the will of Spirit becomes manifest in the physical world, but only by cascading from the higher centers down through the lower.
This is an aim of spiritual evolution at our level, to access the higher centers and give them command over the lower. It means following the impulses of your spiritual self rather than being slave to the whims and reactions of your lower self.
To progress, it is not enough to be objective and watchful of your mechanical and animalistic aspects – that merely refines the intellect and places it in command over the lower centers, but does nothing to access the higher spiritual centers. As you learn and apply what you learn, you must also strive to listen to your intuition and inner knowing, becoming proficient at using your intellect to dissect and transcribe these impressions. Give no free reign to the vices of your lower centers, but place them in balanced service to your noblest aspirations and spiritual impulses.