Do you know when to trust your gut? Have you ever felt mysteriously moved to know the truth of things?
All of us constantly process and make meaning of the world around us. We use science to try and explore our physical and social reality, and many of us use religion to try and explore our spiritual reality. While religion, or any set of beliefs about the human soul, creates an outline that allows us to understand the less tangible parts of our existence, our ability to comprehend the world around us in a more profound way depends on our inner qualities—like our intuition.
Our intuition gives us the capacity to pick up on the energy of things, to feel what our gut tells us, and to trust our spiritual eyes.
Abdu’l-Baha spoke about the importance of intuition:
There are two kinds of understanding; objective and subjective. To illustrate: thou seest this glass, or this water and thou dost comprehend in an objective manner their constituent parts. On the other hand, thou canst not see love, intellect, hate, anger, sorrow, but thou dost recognize them in a subjective way through their signs and manifestations. The first is material, the second is spiritual. The first is outward, the second is intuitive. I hope that thou mayst make great advancement in the second kind of understanding. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 179.
As a kid I’d often say things, or dream them, before they happened. I grew up calling that faculty intuition, or psychic ability. The difference in the definitions of these two words is still a bit murky in my head. It is possible that the two things are one and the same, and that those of us who possess unusually strong psychic ability are just deeply, deeply intuitive.
While this form of intuition certainly exists, the Baha’i writings also suggest that intuition differentiates all human beings from animals:
True distinction among mankind is through divine bestowals and receiving the intuitions of the Holy Spirit. If man does not become the recipient of the heavenly bestowals and spiritual bounties, he remains in the plane and kingdom of the animal. For the distinction between the animal and man is that man is endowed with the potentiality of divinity in his nature, whereas the animal is entirely bereft of that gift and attainment. Therefore, if a man is bereft of the intuitive breathings of the Holy Spirit, deprived of divine bestowals, out of touch with the heavenly world and negligent of the eternal truths, though in image and likeness he is human, in reality he is an animal … – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 316-317.
Based on this definition, we all have intuitive powers. To strengthen our ability for intuition, we have to do things that keep us in touch with the heavenly world. We cannot consistently cave in to our animalistic tendencies towards greed, tribalism, and selfishness. Instead, we have to try to be present and recognize our interconnectedness.
When we think of intuition as our personal interpretation of what the Holy Spirit gifts us, it becomes clear that while we should certainly trust our instincts, our interpretation can also be faulty—which means taking care to also root our decisions in reasonable, rational and scientific thinking.
While reliance on scientific findings and our carefully collected experiences help us better understand our universe, the days of belittling intuition’s role in this truth-seeking process are coming to an end. The trend of needing “hard proof” for every decision we make, trying to remove the “bias” of intuitive feelings and emotional realities which is not so coincidentally tied to the current sexist reality of our world.
The Baha’i teachings suggest an emergence of more “feminine ideals” as our society grows out of sexist cultural patterns:
Taken in general, women today have a stronger sense of religion than men. The woman’s intuition is more correct; she is more receptive and her intelligence is quicker. …
But in the sight of God sex makes no difference. He or she is greatest who is nearest to God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, pp. 104-105.
We are all made up of both masculinity and femininity, no matter our gender identity. So it is important to note that both men and women have the capability to strengthen their spiritual understanding of things. We all have the ability to grow closer to God and divinity. Through music, art, good deeds, prayer, meditation, reflection, and service to others we can strengthen the ability of our inner ears and eyes to read reality in a more equitable way.