There is a qualitative leap from the nature of substance to the nature of being and consciousness. If I want to study the nature of being or consciousness, I have to make a corresponding and necessary leap to another form of observation. This is precisely the leap that natural science is having such a hard time making. Geneticists are satisfied that they have pinpointed the evolutionary mechanisms and chemical processes that determine how organisms maintain their integrity, both individually and over the span of generations. They equate physical integrity with ‘being’. When it comes to how organisms relate to one another, they ascribe eons of trial and error and the winnowing effect of success and failure, to explain the means. When it come to consciousness, they treat it as another one of the biological processes generated by the interaction of organisms; as something the organism does to maintain its integrity.
For me, a kind of absurdity arises when I try to study consciousness without reference to my personal experience of consciousness. With all other tenets of physical, chemical and biological science, we rely upon our direct experience to understand what we are studying. What realm of experience do I have that would equally illuminate my study of consciousness?
I am struck with the realization that I cannot know what lies in the consciousness of another organism by direct observation. But still, I am not entirely in the dark. I am only effective in my communication with other people because I rely upon my intuition as a tool to understand their consciousness. Likewise, I surmise the presence of a kindred awareness in animals because I see them responding to many of the same things I would respond to. With practice, I can learn to ‘know’ a familiar horse. With more practice, I can become a “Horse Whisperer”.
In the same light, I only know my own ‘being’ intuitively. The nature of ‘being’ in an organism can also only be studied by direct experience, i.e. by the application of intuition. Observation by means of intuition is a qualitative leap beyond observation by means of our physical senses. In fact, it takes the opposite vantage point from observation of the physical world. We are used to looking at things that exist outside our skin; the ‘other’, in its manifold forms. Intuition looks inward to a place that starts in the sense of ‘self’; that which gives us being. Intuition eventually makes it possible to come to know the being inside others.
Not only are the corporeal senses and the intuition suited to exploring two different aspects of reality, they are vastly different in their states of perfection. The physical senses are fine tuned to an exquisite level, so that they perform from shortly after birth, with a high level of reliability. My intuition, on the other hand, gave me vague images at first, and only gradually reached objective reliability with life’s experiences. “The weather is changing”, has now become; “It’s going to rain lightly tomorrow morning.”
These two kinds of sense also approach reality from vastly different perspectives. Physical sense organs bring me the details first, and it is up to my mind to figure out what I am sensing. The first promptings of an intuition, vague though they may be, feel completely familiar and right to me from the start. The details of what I experience intuitively, however, only come into focus as this sense develops. Repeatedly, we have all had the experience that our first intuitive impression was the most trustworthy. The ‘facts’ later bear this out.
When I appreciate the nature of intuition, I take heed of its promptings. One of the most common and widespread intuitive experiences is: “I recognize you! We share something in common!” As a child, I assumed that about the whole world; that all beings were related, and I was just one of them. We were more than brothers of the same father, than sisters of the same mother. I knew it from the start; that, not only are we all cut from the same physical cloth, but from the same spiritual cloth. It was an easy step to assume that the details of life would bear me out. And they have!
Now, I leap…
In my deepest experience of “I am”, I am vaguely aware, but completely sure, of a larger “I AM” toward which I strive with every fiber of my being.