Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Schwaller de Lubicz, and Steve Jobs, on Intuition

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In a fascinating passage exploring the importance of intuition in his book Sacred Science, published in 1961, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz argues that there are three main ways in which cultures can interact with the world around them -- or, in his more interesting and precise way of phrasing it, three ways of "intelligent contact of humanity with natural phenomena" (13).

These three ways, he says, are the "cerebral," the "emotional," and the "intuitive, by which I mean the consciously instinctive."  The author goes on to discuss this concept at greater length:
The three aspects necessarily interplay, but the predominance of one of these contacts determines the different characters: the mental-intellectual, the religio-mystical, or else the "wisdom" character.  The character is reflected in the mentality of a people, and particularly in the mentality of the leaders of that people.  

Which mentality is preferable?  Today, one would readily opt for the results from mental-intellectual contact as did the Greeks and, before them, the decadent Babylonians.  All things considered, the result, the end susceptible of attainment, acts as a determining factor.  These mentalities make for the only true separation between peoples and civilizations. [. . .]  The intuitive is much more rarely encountered than the emotive or the intellectual, but such were the Sumerians (as far as we can determine) and to the highest degree the Pharaonic caste of ancient Egypt, as their works and writings testify.

There is no more perfect divorce from the mentality of natural wisdom which prevailed in ancient Egypt than the one imposed in recent times by Western mentality.  The latter is purely cerebral.  They are two epochs, two humanities that cannot understand one another as long as they persist in judging each other by their respective frames of mind.  This "distance" has not always been so precisely marked, however, and it is only the recent outcome of the Western orientation that shows a strict opposition between the two mentalities.  13-14.
Schwaller's assertions here are extremely interesting on several levels, and provide plenty of food for thought.  What is also an extremely interesting exercise is to juxtapose these observations published in 1961 with the observations of Steve Jobs, reflecting on his formative sojourn in India at the age of nineteen, in 1974.  In the biography Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, there is an extended quotation of Jobs reflecting many years later on the impact and lasting influence of that time in India:
Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India.  The people in the Indian countryside don't use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world.  Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.  That's had a big impact on my work.

Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of Western civilization.  In the villages of India, they never learned it.  They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not.  That's the power of intuition and experiential wisdom.  

Coming back after seven months in Indian villages, I saw the craziness of the Western world as well as its capacity for rational thought.  If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is.  If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there's room to hear more subtle things -- that's when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more.  Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment.  You see so much more than you could see before.  It's a discipline; you have to practice it.  48-49.
The parallels to the discussion by Schwaller de Lubicz are quite strong, and worthy of reflection.