Note to the reader: This is the third of three articles about intelligence, in the fullest sense ... about simply knowing!
In this article, we explore one of the intelligences in some detail, and suggest ways of improving it. As we noted in the first article, intuitive intelligence can be defines as “knowing without knowing how we know”.
Have you ever just known something without knowing how you knew? If so, that was your intuitive intelligence at work.
I suspect that we have this kind of experience more often than we realise. I also suspect that many of us do not value it as much as we should. Perhaps this is because science has no explanation for it. Perhaps it is because we live in times where we seem to need hard evidence for everything, even the blindingly obvious. The fact is that, although we probably all have extraordinary experiences from time to time, such as extraordinary intuitions, many of us put these experiences into a box marked “very interesting but not part of my normal life”, and then put the box to one side.
I hope to demonstrate two things to you. First, intuition is possible because everything is connected to everything else, and we are part of this connectedness; and second, there is much you can do to improve your intuitive knowing. When you do, it will be a significant addition to your overall intelligence. I would like to begin, however, by asking the question: what exactly do we mean by the word “knowing”?
“Knowing” is not easy to define, because it can mean several distinct things. It can mean “recognising”, as in “I know her.” It can mean “understanding”, as in “I know what this means.” And it can also mean “being certain”, as in “I just know he will come.” As well as having several meanings, knowing comes in several forms – received, deduced, and direct.
Received knowing: This is when we know something that someone else has discovered or worked out for us. A good example is Mount Everest. Although few of us have been there and only a tiny handful of us have actually measured the mountain, we know that it is there, and we also know that it is 8848 metres above sea level. In this case, our knowing consists in trusting other people who have been there and seen it with their own eyes, as well as those who have measured its height. Received knowing occupies a very large portion of our total knowledge. It is the stuff of textbooks, encyclopaedias and quiz shows. And it has its positive and its negative sides. On the upside, it is immensely useful. It tells us things we might never know otherwise. If we are selective in using its new repositories, such as Wikipedia and other parts of the Internet, it can greatly enrich our lives. However, on the downside, received knowing depends very much on trust. Normally, we are prepared to trust it, but at the same time we know that some of its providers – governments and corporations come to mind – can be economical with the truth, to put it kindly. Hence the need to be selective! Received knowing is possible only because other kinds of knowing have preceded it: deduced knowing and direct knowing.
Deduced knowing: This is what happens when we think about something and come to some conclusions. Typically, it happens in response to a question or a problem. Having questions or problems in front of us nearly always triggers a process of deduction or calculation, from which comes some knowing in the form of an answer or a solution.
Direct knowing: This kind of knowing is the subject of this article. Although the word “intuition” is sometimes used to indicate some kind of paranormal ability, there is nothing paranormal about it. Intuition is a perfectly natural part of our everyday experience. We often know something without knowing how we know. For example, we glance at a stranger and make a very rapid assessment of that person. Without knowing how we know, we know a lot about that person, just by looking at her for only a moment. This rapid appraisal can tell us whether we are attracted or repelled or neither. It can tell us whether this is a person whom we would like to get to know better. It can tell us whether we would trust this person. And sometimes it tells us whether the person is potentially harmful. A quick glance tells us more than we are consciously aware of, because this kind of knowing takes place well beyond the speed of our rational mind. But how does it happen? How can we know so much, without evidence or without working it out? I believe that we are able to do this because everything is intimately connected to everything else.
When I say everything, I really do mean everything. This total connectedness enables us to receive and transmit information in ways that are not yet understood by science. Here is an example of what I mean. Recently, for no apparent reason, a friend of mine suddenly appeared in my mind. He lives on the south coast of Spain, over 800 kilometres away. The experience was so strong that I decided to call him there and then. When I did, he told me that he had been thinking of me that very moment. Because this kind of thing had happened before, I was not too surprised. I am now more convinced than ever that this kind of inexplicable connection happens because we are connected to each other in more ways than we imagine. This needs a little explanation.
As Ervin Laszlo points out in his book, The Creative Cosmos, the universe is not a vacuum. It is the opposite, a plenum (meaning “full”), because there is no such thing as empty space. Every cubic millimetre of what we think of as empty space is in fact crammed with a huge number of “fields”, all interpenetrating each other. At any point in the universe, including any point on or in our own bodies, there are an incalculable number of gravitational and electromagnetic fields flowing through each other. These fields are the very stuff of which we believe matter, not vacuums, are made.
Admittedly, from our own limited human perspective, the universe appears to be largely empty. Even on the most star-studded night, there is more dark than light up there. Yet, were it possible for us to see things from the point of view of, say, an electron, our own human bodies, very solid as far as we are concerned, would appear to consist largely of empty space, in just the same way as the universe appears to us to be largely empty, such are the vast differences in perspective. From the universe’s point of view, it is we who are the equivalent of electrons, or even smaller! From its own point of view, however, the universe is a single, solid body, just as we are solid from our own point of view. From its own point of view, everything in it is connected to everything else. This surely includes us.
We find it easy to grasp the integrity, the unity, of relatively small things such as a frog or a watch. This is no doubt because we are able to see the whole of them at once. We even experience ourselves as single units in which all the parts are somehow connected to each other. The problem arises only when we try to adopt a perspective higher than our own, and try to see much larger entities – the whole human race, for instance – as single units. As it happens, we can probably stretch our minds far enough to be able to recognise the integrity of the human race as a whole, as a single unit. And, although it becomes increasingly difficult to do so, this process can be repeated up the scale, so to speak, when we try to see things from ever higher perspectives. When we do, the unity and integrity of larger and larger things becomes apparent. We come to recognise that each is, in its own terms, a single entity, a single solid body.
Now, if the universe is indeed a single, solid body, when seen from its own unimaginably large perspective, this suggests that all its parts are connected to each other, just as all the parts of our bodies are connected to each other. In some ways we already know this, although we have not followed up the implications. For example, we already know that all matter is connected to all other matter by means of gravity. It is true that the influence of gravity weakens with distance, as in Newton’s equation, but it nonetheless continues to extend indefinitely. This surely means that every fragment of matter in the universe, including those fragments of which our bodies are composed, is connected to every other fragment. When you think about this, it is astonishing.
But there is more. There is something in physics called “Mach’s Principle”. Although it is quite technical, it can be expressed colloquially as “all matter is generated by forces originating in all the other matter of the universe, including distant matter”. This implies that not only is all the matter of the universe wholly interconnected, it owes its very existence to this connectedness. To make this personal, you and I exist only because everything else exists. As Arthur Koestler pointed out in Janus: A Summing Up, the metaphysical implications of this are profound: “....for it follows from it not only that the universe as a whole influences local terrestrial events, but also that local events have an influence, however small, on the universe as a whole.” One of the many implications of this is that everything we feel, think, say and do has an influence, however small, on everything else in the universe. The converse is also true. Although the effects may be very small, we are influenced every second of the day by everything that happens in the universe. There is a very good conversation to be had about this.
The universe is connected in other ways too. For example, it is connected by light. Although the effect of light also weakens with distance, it too continues forever. We know that the light from distant stars and galaxies reaches us hundreds of millions of years after it has been emitted. This is why we say they are millions of light years away. If it can endure for that long, there is no a priori reason for supposing that it cannot endure forever. Now if this is true for light, a particular band on the electromagnetic spectrum, it must also be true for all the other forms of electromagnetic radiation that fill the universe. This suggests that the universe is interconnected, not just as a plenum of gravitational fields, but also as a plenum of electromagnetic fields. But the story does not end here. There is “non-locality”.
“Non-locality” is the term used in science to describe the relationship that is retained between two sub-atomic particles after they have interacted in some way. However distant they move from each other after their interaction, an instantaneous relationship is retained between them. Whenever something happens to one of the pair, the other is immediately affected, even if it is on the far side of the galaxy. The normal limitations of the speed of light do not appear to apply. This has been confirmed experimentally over decades. Instant connection happens, regardless of distance. I have long believed that non-locality is not restricted to the world of sub-atomic particles. My reasoning is as follows: although the strength of the gravitational force weakens with distance, it is nonetheless instantaneous. Unlike light, it does not take any time for gravity to travel any distance. Everything, however big or small, is instantly connected to everything else by gravity. This suggests that non-local connection (i.e., instantaneous connection, regardless of distance) operates at all levels from the sub-atomic to the supergalactic. I would like to say much more about this, but it is beyond the scope of this article.
I am convinced that non-locality applies not only to inanimate things, such as particles and galaxies, but also to us. When two of us interact in certain ways, an instantaneous relationship is retained between us, possibly forever. When something happens to one of us, or when we think or feel or do something, the other is immediately affected. This is not to suggest that we always notice these non-local effects on us. Far from it. The effects are far below our normal level of perception. But I do believe that total connectedness is a fact of our lives and that it explains our intuitive knowing, as well as what we like to think of as “coincidences”. We should therefore not be surprised to find evidence of total connectedness and non-locality in our lives. Telepathy, precognition, astrological correlation, and intuition, all without any scientific explanation, may turn out to be examples of non-locality because they are examples of instant connectedness without any apparent physical cause. And if total connectedness is a basic feature of the universe, then perhaps we should prepare ourselves for it becoming a basic feature of our lives too. We may one day be able to connect to others and the world, without the need for technology, regardless of how far away they are.
Let us now explore some ways to improve your intuitive intelligence.
Located just where the North of England begins, Sheffield is right next to some wonderful countryside. I lived there at a moment in my life when I was not sure what to do next. With time on my hands, I decided that the least I could do was to get fit. So I started to run on the nearby hills. It was difficult at first. On the uphill stretches I could just about manage to jog, with frequent stops to catch my breath. However, as the weeks passed, what had begun as an act of will eventually became a pleasure. I was able to run continuously on routes that took me over high plateaux, with splendid views. I cannot recall ever being so fit and healthy.
It was during that time that something strange happened. Once I had become fitter and no longer had to focus on making an effort, I noticed that I became unusually creative each time I ran uphill. My mind filled with thoughts and ideas that felt very significant. The experience was so powerful that I got into the habit of carrying paper and pen, so that I could note down the thoughts. I wanted to be able to capture these moments of significance. In fact, some of these thoughts have found their way into this article! However, something unexpected occurred. Ideas that had felt very important as I ran uphill lost their feeling of importance when I was going downhill. This happened every time, and I have no explanation for it. But I learned not to discard my notes, even though they seemed to mean much less when I got back home. Almost invariably, their sense of importance returned after a few days.
A typical intuitive experience includes the feeling that something unusual and significant is happening. You probably know what I mean. But, just as typical, that feeling quickly disappears, with the possible consequence that we forget about it, and do not act on it. Yet nothing is insignificant. Everything means something. This is why I think it important that you find a way to capture moments of significance, just as I did with pen and paper on the hills.
Unzipping the Files
Capturing significance was one of the things I learned to do in my hill-running days. The other was to learn how to “unzip the files”. More often than not, the fascinating new ideas came to me in a flood, all at once. It was too much to remember, too much to write down. Years later, when computers and email became part of our everyday lives, I realised that the flood of information I received when running uphill was the equivalent of receiving a zipped file. As you know, this is a way of sending a lot of information quickly. When we receive it, we then have to unzip it, so as to make sense of its contents. I assume that we all have this kind of experience from time to time, when we are suddenly filled with a lot of information, too much to process normally. I believe that this is typical of the intuitive experience. My first reaction was to try to write down all of it. But this proved ineffective because the thoughts were coming in faster than I could write. So I started to carry a small pocket recorder, on the basis that my voice could record faster than my hand. But that did not work either. There was still too much to record. In fact, the solution came as a surprise. I found that it was not necessary to record everything. I learned that it was sufficient to record only the “headlines”. Although I was at first concerned that, by doing this, I would lose some important ideas forever, I need not have worried. I discovered that the “headlines” were enough to trigger recall of all the detail, and that this happened even after an interval of a few days. These days, I am very confident about this. It does not matter how important any new thought or information feels, it is always enough just to record a summary.
Suspending the Rational
Nothing I am about to say should give you the impression that I think there is anything wrong with the rational mind. Although I think we are sometimes too intellectual for our own good, I consider the rational mind to be one of our most wonderful attributes. It enables us to do things that (apparently) only human beings can do – read and write; create all kinds of marvellous technology; and discover a vast amount of knowledge. There are times, however, when the rational mind gets in the way. It can interfere with other parts of our mind. For example, we have a sudden intuition about something. For a few moments, it feels completely true. And then we start thinking about it. We start analysing and editing. That is when doubt creeps in, and we may end up not acting on the intuition. We may end up with a judgement or decision very different from the one we would have made if we had followed our first hunch. How often have we said “I knew that was right. Why didn’t I just say it?”
Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that our first hunch is always right. But I have learned that it is right more often than not and therefore worth following. As I write this, I am staying with my son in the outskirts of Hamburg. My daily routine here is to walk or cycle six kilometres through a forest to my favourite café in the area. If you know Germany, you will know that it is famous for its cakes. Each time I go to the café, I am faced with rows of delights. I want to sample of all of them. My rational mind is simply unable to decide which one to choose. This is where my intuition comes into its own. Somehow, without knowing how I know, I know which is the cake of the day for me. My intuitive choice is invariably correct.
Perhaps you already do this. Perhaps you are already in the habit of trusting your first hunch and acting on it. If so, well and good. If not, if you analyse and edit too much, then could I suggest that you follow your first hunch whenever you get one, and just see what the results are. It may feel a little scary, as if you are stepping into the unknown and taking a risk. You may be surprised at how often it works or turns out to be true.
There Are No Coincidences
In 1952 the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote a short book entitled “Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle”. He made three important points. Coincidences are happening all the time, probably more than we realise. There is usually no rational explanation for them. And coincidences in our life are probably more significant than we might think. I agree with all three points. I believe that coincidences are happening all the time. It is just that we are not always aware of them. It is true that we do not have good explanations for coincidences, but I suspect that one day we will, as we grow in consciousness, and as we discover even more about the total connectedness of everything. As for Jung’s third point, what we make of the coincidences that happen to us is a very personal matter. Personally, I take them very seriously.
Some time ago I decided to treat all coincidences as messages to me. I assume they are trying to tell me something important. The trick, of course, is to learn how to interpret the message. This does not come easy, because coincidences often make no sense, at least not to the rational mind. However, I believe that our intuition can tell us what they mean. It gets much easier to interpret them once we accept that everything is trying to tell us something. I have found it helpful to treat coincidences as a special form of the clues that Sherlock Holmes was so adept and spotting and deciphering.
At this point I would like to digress a little and make a bold statement. I believe that Nature (or the Universe, if you prefer) always answers our questions and responds to our requests. However – and it is a big however! – Nature will respond to our questions and requests only in the precise terms of the question or request. The practical effect of this is that, when the question or request is unclear or half-hearted, the response will be correspondingly unclear or half-hearted. A good example of this is the question: will it rain tomorrow. The answer is always “yes” because the question is not what you think it is. I leave it to you to figure this out. The point I want to make in the context of this article is that, although we are largely unaware of it, we are constantly asking questions and making requests. It is part of the background hum of our life. And, although we may not know that we are doing this, Nature/the Universe knows! I suspect that this is why some “coincidences” happen. They are Nature’s way of responding to our background hum. They are Nature’s way of trying to tell us something. To express this as a general principle, everything is always telling us something, and sometimes that comes in the form of a coincidence. Holmes knew this well and used it to great advantage. What about you? Are you willing to believe it and make good use of it?
Chris Thomson was a lawyer and economist in Scotland until the mid-80s, when he was asked to chair the Natural Medicines Commission in the UK. He then trained as a psychotherapist in London, before joining the Scottish Council Foundation, a think-tank in Edinburgh, set up in anticipation of devolution. From there he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he advised multinational corporations on various moral issues.
As well as passable Spanish and French, Chris speaks Chinese.
He now lives in the Catalan Pyrenees, where is a keen mountaineer. The ski slopes are only 20 minutes away!
Chris published Full Spectrum Intelligence in 2014. He is now writing The Inner Cosmos, and Intelligent Simplicity
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TU Chris ... TU for this article: The Intelligence Process
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