THEOSOPHY, Vol. 10, No. 5, March, 1922
(Pages 152-155; Size: 14K)

STUDIES(1)

INSTINCT--INTUITION--REASON

[Part 3 of a 7-part series]

ALLIED to the physical half of man's nature is reason, which enables him to maintain his supremacy over the lower animals, and to subjugate nature to his uses. Allied to his spiritual part is his conscience which will serve as his unerring guide through the besetments of the senses; for conscience is that instantaneous perception between right and wrong, which can only be exercised by the spirit, which, being a portion of the Divine Wisdom and Purity, is absolutely pure and wise. Its promptings are independent of reason, and it can only manifest itself clearly when unhampered by the base attraction of our dual nature.

Instinct is the universal endowment of nature by the spirit of the Deity itself; reason, the slow development of our physical constitution, an evolution of our adult material brain. Instinct, as a divine spark, lurks in the unconscious nerve-center of the ascidian mollusk, and manifests itself at the first stage of action of its nervous system as what the physiologist terms the reflex action.

It exists in the lower classes of the acephalous animals as well as those that have distinct heads; it grows and develops according to the law of the double evolution, physically and spiritually; and entering upon its conscious stage of development and progress in the cephalous species already endowed with a sensorium and symmetrically-arranged ganglia, this reflex action, whether men of science term it automatic, as in the lowest species, or instinctive, as in the more complex organisms which act under the guidance of the sensorium and the stimulus originating in distinct sensation, is still one and the same thing.

The instinct of the animals, which act from the moment of their birth each in the confines prescribed to them by nature, and which know how, save in accident proceeding from a higher instinct than their own, to take care of themselves unerringly -- this instinct may, for the sake of exact definition, be termed automatic; but it must have either within the animal which possesses it or without, something's or someone's intelligence to guide it.

This belief, instead of clashing with the doctrine of evolution and gradual development held by eminent men of our day, on the contrary simplifies and completes it. It can readily dispense with special creation for each species; for, where the first place must be allowed to formless spirit, form and material substance are of a secondary importance.

Each perfected species in the physical evolution only affords more scope to the directing intelligence to act within the improved nervous system. ... Therefore whether this instinctive impulse was directly impressed upon the nervous system of the first insect, or each species has gradually had it developed in itself by instinctively mimicking the acts of its like, as the more perfected doctrine of Herbert Spencer has it, is immaterial to the present subject. The question concerns spiritual evolution only.

The latent mentality, which, in the lower kingdoms, is recognized as semi-consciousness, consciousness, and instinct, is largely subdued in man.

Reason, the outgrowth of the physical brain, develops at the expense of instinct -- the flickering reminiscence of a once divine omniscience -- spirit. Nothing is more demonstrable than the proposition that the perfection of matter is reached at the expense of instinct. The zoophyte attached to the submarine rock, opening its mouth to attract the food that floats by shows, proportionately with its physical structure, more instinct than the whale. The ant, with its wonderful architectural, social, and political abilities, is inexpressibly higher in the scale than the subtile royal tiger watching its prey.

Instinct, according to the ancients, proceeded from the divine, -- reason from the purely human. One (the instinct) is the product of the senses, a sagaciousness shared by the lower animals, even those which have no reason; -- the other is the product of the reflective faculties, denoting judiciousness and human intellectuality. Therefore an animal devoid of reasoning powers has in its inherent instinct an unerring faculty which is but that spark of the Divine which lurks in every particle of inorganic matter -- itself materialized Spirit.

The child lacks reason, it being as yet latent in him; and meanwhile he is inferior to the animal as to instinct proper. He will burn or drown himself before he learns that fire and water destroy and are dangerous for him; while the kitten will avoid both instinctively. The little instinct the child possesses fades away as reason, step by step, develops itself.

Reason, the badge of sovereignty of physical man over all other physical organisms, is often put to shame by the instinct of an animal.

As his brain is more perfect than that of any other creature, its emanations must naturally produce the highest results of mental action; but reason avails only for the consideration of material things; it is incapable of helping its possessor to a knowledge of spirit. In losing instinct man loses his intuitional powers, which are the crown and ultima of instinct.

Reason is the clumsy weapon of the scientists -- intuition the unerring guide of the seer. Instinct teaches plant and animal their seasons for the procreations of their species, and guides the dumb brute to find the appropriate remedy in the hour of sickness. Reason -- the pride of man -- fails to check the propensities of his matter, and brooks no restraint upon the unlimited gratification of his senses. Far from leading him to be his own physician, its subtile sophistries lead him too often to his own destruction. Reason being a faculty of our physical brain, one which is justly defined as that of deducting inferences from premises, and being wholly dependent on the evidence of other senses, cannot be a quality pertaining to our divine spirit. The latter knows, -- hence all reasoning which implies discussion and argument would be useless.

Like everything else which has its origin in the psychological mysteries, instinct has been too long neglected in the domain of science. "We see indicated the way to man to find relief for all his physical ailings," says Hippocrates. "It is the instinct of the earlier races, when cold reason had not as yet obscured man's inner vision. ... Its indication must never be disdained, for it is to instinct alone that we owe our first remedies." (See Cabinis: "Histoire de la Medecine.")

On one point our modern biologists are quite consistent: unable as yet to demonstrate the existence of a distinct individual soul in animals, they deny it in man. Reason has brought them to the brink of Tyndall's "impassable chasm" between mind and matter; instinct alone can teach them to bridge it. When in their despair of ever being able to fathom the mystery of life, they will have come to a dead stop, their instinct may reassert itself, and take them across the hitherto fathomless abyss.

Instantaneous and unerring cognition of an omniscient mind, instinct is in everything unlike the finite reason; and in the tentative progress of the latter the god-like nature of man is often utterly engulfed, whenever he shuts out from himself the divine light of intuition. The one crawls, the other flies; reason is the power of the man, intuition the prescience of the woman.

Every human being is born with the rudiment of the inner sense called intuition, which may be developed into what the Scotch know as "second sight." All the great philosophers who, like Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus employed this faculty, taught the doctrine. "There is a faculty of the human mind," writes Iamblichus, "which is superior to all which is born or begotten. Through it we are enabled to attain union with the superior intelligences, to become transported beyond the scenes of this world, and to partake the higher life and peculiar powers of the heavenly ones."

Plotinus, the pupil of the great Ammonius Saccus, the chief founder of the Neo-Platonic school, taught that human knowledge had three ascending steps: opinion, science, and illumination. He explained it by saying that "the means or instrument of opinion is sense, or perception; of science, dialects; of illumination, intuition (or divine instinct). To the last, reason is subordinate; it is absolute knowledge founded on the identification of the mind with the object known."

Were there no inner sight or intuition, the Jews would never have had their Bible, nor the Christians Jesus. What both Moses and Jesus gave to the world was the fruit of their intuition or illumination. What their subsequent elders and teachers allowed the world to understand was -- dogmatic misrepresentations, too often blasphemy.

The man who has conquered matter sufficiently to receive the direct light from his shining Augoeides feels truth intuitionally; he could not err in his judgment, notwithstanding all the sophisms suggested by cold reason, for he is ILLUMINATED. Hence prophecy, vaticination, and the so-called Divine inspiration are simply the effects of this illumination from above by our own immortal spirit.

To accept the Bible as a "revelation" and nail belief to a literal translation is worse than absurdity -- it is a blasphemy against the majesty of the "Unseen." If we had to judge of the Deity and the world of spirits by its human interpreters, now that philology proceeds with giant strides on the field of comparative religion, belief in God and the soul's immortality could not stand the attacks of reason for one century more.

That which supports the faith of man in God and a spiritual life to come is intuition; that divine outcome of the inner-self, which defies the mummeries of the Roman Catholic priest, and his ridiculous idols; the thousand and one ceremonies of the Brahman and his idols; and the Jeremiads of the Protestant preacher, and his desolate and arid creed, with no idols, but a boundless hell and damnation hooked on at the end.

Were it not for this intuition, undying though often wavering because so clogged with matter, human life would be a parody and humanity a fraud. This ineradicable feeling of the presence of some one outside and inside ourselves is one that no dogmatic contradictions, nor external form of worship can destroy, let scientists and clergy do what they may.

In his sketches on Neo-Platonism and Alchemy Professor Alexander Wilder remarks: "A century has passed since the compilers of the French Encyclopaedia infused scepticism into the blood of the civilized world, and made it disreputable to believe in the actual existence of anything that cannot be tested in crucibles or demonstrated by critical reasoning. Even now it requires candor as well as courage to venture to treat upon a subject which has been for many years discarded and contemned, because it has not been well or correctly understood. The person must be bold who accounts the Hermetic philosophy to be other than a pretence of science, and so believing, demands for its enunciation a patient hearing. Yet its professors were once the princes of learned investigation, and heroes among common men. Besides, nothing is to be despised which men have reverently believed; and disdain for the earnest conviction of others is itself the token of ignorance, and of an ungenerous mind."


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(1) NOTE--[This article] is compiled from Isis Unveiled, by Madame H. P. Blavatsky, Vol. I, pages 305, 306, 425, 426, 427, 428, 432, 434, 435 and 437.
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