Instinct and Intuition
From a Talk by Robert Crosbie
Theosophy, April, 1921
Instinct is a direct perception of what is right, within its own realm. Intuition is a direct cognition of the truth in all things. Reason is, as it were, the balance between instinct and intuition. Animals have right instinct in regard to what to eat, and in regard to what is dangerous to them, for their instinct is acquired experience; but they do not reason in their instincts—they feel them. We reason about both our instincts (for we have some) and our intuitions, and usually reason ourselves into a false position from a false basis of thinking. Reason is an instrument we are working with, but if we start with wrong premises we are bound to come to false conclusions, however faultless the reasoning. Working logically, we can come to right conclusions only with an eternal premise; in no other way shall we ever determine the right in our modes of looking at things.
In trying to understand instinct and intuition, therefore, we shall have to ascertain their true foundation. Certainly, there must be a deep meaning in, and a deep cause for, their existence. Looking upon the animal kingdom and seeing therein actions proceeding for the welfare of the different animal beings, we call those actions on their part instinct, without at all realizing that some thing produced that instinct. It could not arise of itself. It must have been a production, as all things in this or any universe are productions. The statement of the ancient Wisdom-Religion is that at the root of every being of every grade, of every form and of every kind, there is one reality—Spirit, and Spirit alone. From Spirit have come all productions; from Spirit all evolutions have been brought about. The Spirit is the same in all; the acquisition differs in accordance with the degree of progress of the individual or being; for evolutions proceed on individual lines. All beings are of the same nature, but because the thought, the ideal and the action differ, we find in a great universe like ours many kinds of intelligence evolved from the great Root of all evolution—the Spirit in each being.
All beings below man are evolutions each in its own degree. Even in the mineral kingdom there is form, whether that form be of a crystal or an atom; it is a spiritual something with a psychic nature, expressing itself according to its own acquired nature. Crystals have their own particular sympathies and antipathies, their own attractions and repulsions. Are these mechanical? Not in the least. They are inherent instinct—an unerring faculty which is but that spark of the divine lurking in every particle of in organic matter. If the mineral kingdom did not have a psychic intelligence, man could never use it. The same is true with the vegetable and animal kingdoms, which, each, adds something to the mere psychical intelligence of the mineral kingdom in a limited way. Then, coming to man, we find that he has the power of transcending his conditions, of standing apart from them and looking upon them as a self-conscious being, separate from them, and of an entirely different nature. That which is but a spark of divinity in the lower kingdoms grows to be a flame in the higher beings.
There are seven distinct stages through which all forms come, from nebular matter down to our present concrete formations. Conditioned existence is produced by various kinds of lives in every state of matter—by different acquired intelligences. But Man had a large part in the determination of the processes, of the degrees of descent to be undertaken, and it was according to his knowledge and processes instituted by him, that the state or conditions of the kingdoms below him were made. For Man was a self-conscious being when this earth began. Man stands midway between spirit and what we call matter; he is the turning point of evolution, and on him depends the future of this evolution. Man has both instinct and intuition. Every cell in our bodies is instinctively impelled by us. Whether we are conscious of it or not, that instinct causes them to evolve. The lives in our bodies have been trained life after life, until their action is automatic and reflex. The cells of the different organs have their own special impulsations. The cells subtract from food whatever is necessary for the composition of the blood, the bones, the various tissues, and the brain—which, too, is made of the food we eat and is changing all the time, like any other part of the body, being in constant dissociation. But the Real Man is not his body, nor his brain, and it is to the Real Man that intuition pertains.
Both instinct and intuition have been gained in no other way than through observation and experience. All the instinct of animals is a gain in that particular species along the lines of their own growth in intelligence and expression in bodies. So, man’s intuition carries with it all the knowledge existing in his real nature. Man has lived lives anterior to this one, not few but many—even on a planet which we inhabited before this earth began, or, rather, before we began with this earth. The many, many experiences gained through many, many lives are still with us. We have never lost them. They are still resident and potentially active in our innermost being—in that real nature of ours which each one of us reaches every twenty-four hours, when the body is asleep, when the dreaming state is passed. There lies intuition—the sum total of all our past experiences. Something comes through occasionally, giving us an inkling of what is the true nature. The voice of the conscience is the outlook of that true nature upon the action which is contemplated. Some people hearing that “voice of the silence” think God is speaking to them, or that some other outside being impresses them. But, in reality, it came from their own inner nature—was born from and drawn from the accumulation of all past wisdom; it was “the voice” of their own spiritual nature.
The channel through which the intuition may flow may be made clear by any and every one of us. In what way? By desiring to perpetuate the personality? Never, in this nor any other world. There must be a recognition of what, in reality, our personality is. It is not the body; it is the ideas held. Ideas make a body a fit vehicle for them; ideas control the action of the body. Our personalities are composed of our ideas, our likes and dislikes, our attractions and repulsions, of the little things that we demand for ourselves, that buttress up in us the notion that all this is for me. This is not the Real Man. The personality can not be retained; whatever the ideas held today, they are not the same as those we held in the past; yet in the past we acted, as now, according to the ideas then entertained. In the future we shall have still other ideas, and will act in accordance with them. It is our thinking which limits our action. It is, then, for us to see that we are real spiritual beings internally, and that it is only the outer—the personality—which needs clarifying. The clearing can come about only by acting for and as the One Self. Then we shall express our real natures clearly in this world of material things; then we shall know what some men only suspect—for intuition is a direct cognition of the truth.
The Message of Theosophy was given us that we may reach into that part of our nature which knows, which notes and knows. This is not an impossible task; for we are not poor miserable sinners, and others have accomplished it. They went this way and tested out for themselves, as is the only true way for every one. They found it to be absolute fact that all this inner knowledge, or intuition, is recoverable. They know that our ideas, our thoughts, our modes of thinking, our limited understandings of our natures make our hindrances; they know that neither the body, nor any environment whatever is detrimental, but that every environment is an opportunity—the greater the obstacles, the more hindrances of circumstance, the greater the opportunity. If we could but be wise enough, if we could open our eyes wide enough to see, we could learn something from the various instincts perceived in the kingdoms below us. All those beings are proceeding by instinct on that long, long journey which leads to that place where we now are. If we are wise, by intuition we also will proceed on that small old Path which leads far away—the Path that all the Predecessors of all time have trodden. All the Beings who have appeared in the world as our Elder Brothers—Divine Incarnations—in past civilizations have reached that stage toward which we are now consciously or unconsciously proceeding.
Our intuition is not so asleep as we think. It is shining in us all the time. If we will only remove the false conceptions which prevent us now from seeing, those of us who are operating on this side of the dark veil can draw that veil aside and let the light shine through.