Intuition and the Gut

"Manipura is an entirely selfish center, where one says: “I have such and such an emotion. I hate and I love and I am angry”; where one is torn to bits, where one is oneself a flaming, explosive furnace."—C.G. Jung

A number of years ago I wrote what I think was my definitive piece on how I viewed intuition, at least as it is practiced in Tarotmania. I have not written on the topic here however, and was inspired to do so by Maureen Dowd's column today ("Cult of Deception") in the New York Times.

Dowd was writing about the recent controversy over Scott McClellan's new book ("What Happened"), and she was discussing the psychology of Bush's "go with your gut" approach, which is of course infamous for being so dependably wrong.

McClellan briefly, and rather respectfully, notes about his former boss's decision-making:

"He has always been an instinctive leader more than an intellectual leader. He is not one to delve deeply into all the possible policy options — including sitting around engaging in extended debate about them — before making a choice. Rather, he chooses based on his gut and his most deeply held convictions. Such was the case with Iraq."

Dowd writes in less respectful terms:

"It turns out that our president is a one-man refutation of Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller "Blink", about the value of trusting your gut. Every gut instinct he had was wildly off the mark and hideously damaging to all concerned. It seems that if you trust your gut without ever feeding your gut any facts or news or contrary opinions, if you keep your gut on a steady diet of grandiosity, ignorance, sycophants, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, those snap decisions can be ruinous."

I have not read Gladwell's book, but I note it is subtitled "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking", which seems to be precisely what so many people, including of course Bush, find a superior way of navigating their paths through life. It is one thing when some dimwitted Neopagan does it (she can only destroy herself and her immediate surroundings), and quite another when the Most Dangerous Person on the Planet does it.

The human world is rapidly, breaking many necks along the way, moving to a state where unthinking blinking is all that people will understand or value in terms of human intellection. Reflection, pondering, deep and slowly simmered thoughts, those are for weak-willed handwringers, not the bold and beautiful blinkers people honor and aspire to be like.

When did all this "go with your gut" nonsense get so thoroughly out of hand? It hasn't always been like this you know. Oh sure, there have always been ignorant simpletons who blundered through on their gut. They were, as now, most people, and going with your gut was understood to be the average person's main weapon in his limited mental arsenal.

And intuition? Well, as I discuss in my article, there is nothing necessarily wrong with that word or approach, so long as you understand what it really means, which should be as Dowd suggests a process of fast-sifting what you've acquired the old-fashioned way (or in Bush's case, what you haven't acquired). Artists and even scientists have employed intuition to great success. The thing is, they didn't go about huffing and puffing like professional wrestlers, blathering about the superiority of intuition or gut-going over and against its enemy in the other corner, reason.

No, that kind of plainly stupid and self-destructive nonsense really picked up steam in the 1990s, right about the same time the faith-based movement, which is fundamentally anti-scientific and anti-rational, was realizing the fruits of its political works, as the ghastly Evangelical-Republican theocracy was taking over across the USA.

Now, you might ask, what has that got to do with Neopagans and the late 20-century occult (lite) revival? Well, quite simply that the "revival", which was a considerable expansion of the market for occult products, Tarot being a prime example, in order to expand had to be made accessible and attractive to an entirely different class of people than the usual occult nerds who enjoy wasting their lives buried in mounds of obscure, incomprehensible, symbol books.

The occult-lite market emphasized "intuition", or rather the Bush-brand gut-going substituted for real intuition. It basically boiled down to "do what you feel like". Indeed, instead of straining yourself reading a book of dense occult symbolism, you could instead entertain yourself by reading a book (occult-lites still liked having their intuitions validated by some self-proclaimed authority) which told you there was no right and wrong and anything you felt about a Tarot card, for example, was far superior to whatever boring symbolic meaning might have been indecipherably buried in it by the stupid old (patriarchal-elitist-white-male) deck designer.

After all, who likes to feel bad about himself? And if you play in the occult at all, you know it's easy to feel bad, because so many people claim, usually without the least basis in fact, and often with a really snide attitude, to know so much more than you about the mysterious mysteries. So, if you elevate or emasculate all conjectures about the meaning of things to the same level of value, nobody has to feel bad. And everybody makes more money! And isn't that what enlightenment is really all about?

As I have pointed out in the past, I used to think this kind of dismal diminution of thinking (which is actually an evasion of it altogether), merely plagued the neo-occult world, and particularly Tarotmania. But this decade has demonstrated quite starkly, and cruelly, how occultism was simply on the bleeding edge of a national, and I suspect international, movement to overthrow the dour geometry of science and reason, to get back to something more natural, more soothing—more barbaric.

Any thinking person, that is an Old-Aeon thinker who hatefully employs reason and contemplation, cannot help but be drawn to the prophecy of Aleister Crowley, who was explaining the consequences of the advent of the New Aeon (of Horus and War and Gut-going):

"It is a thought far from comforting to the present generation, that 500 years of Dark Ages are likely to be upon us. But, if the analogy holds, that is the case. Fortunately, to-day we have brighter torches and more torch bearers."

Even if Crowley is only poetically prescient and not really prophetic (his prophecy does after all beg our belief in spirit entities writing lawbooks for Aeonic successions), it should not offend our sense of what is very possible, or even probable, to consider that we are in fact falling rapidly into a kind of brilliantly-illuminated Dark Age. People know more in more ways than they ever have with less understanding, and an antipathy to anything that could be called wisdom.

Perhaps this is a necessary outcome of our worship of the office of youth, whose administration is inherently unwise, given that it hasn't lived long enough to learn much of anything. Wisdom on the other hand is generally the flowering of a long (often difficult) life, whose vase is notably battered compared to the simple and flawless beauty of the empty child.

Synchronicity note: at this point I took a break and flipped on the television, only to have it blare at me in the most encouraging and urgent tones that if only I would purchase the makeup being peddled at that moment I would achieve "instantly flawless skin". Thank Hadit I have spent the last 40 years inside an abandoned missile silo, and can sport flawless—even glowing (in the dark)—skin.

The leaders of the world, acting more and more like empty, spiteful children, seem even more bent on the destruction of the planet than ever before; and the worst thing of it is that they seem less gifted intellectually than their predecessors while armed with far more fearsome and varied weapons of mass (self) destruction. The very brilliant souls who brought us such monstrosities as WWI and WWII (everyone's favorite death frolic), would laugh uncontrollably at the notion that someone like George Bush actually assumed power over the most terrible (as in terror inducing) nation in the history of the world. It would seem to them as if the gods were up to their usual tricks.

And it does seem Gaia herself has simply had enough of a species so dreadfully dumb that given the gift of the greatest thinking machine in the known Universe, they turn off all the thinking parts of it and instead turn up the emotional volume to "11", where no discouraging word can be heard.



one_monkey said…
Just like to say that Gladwell's "Blink" is a treatise on what you describe as "fast-sifting what you already know" as opposed to "making an ill-informed and ignorant snap judgement". He discusses cases where people with vast knowledge about a topic make quick decisions accurately and asks the question of how this can be. His examples include music producers who can tell what will sell after listening to 20 seconds worth of music and cops who know when a situation's going to turn bad before anyone else does.

It's not a great book, but it doesn't advocate making poorly informed snap judgements. It tells you to go away, get 10-15 years experience in something (oh, and be really good at it too) and then use your accumulated wisdom to make quick decisions about that topic once you are at the top of your field.

I know. Newsflash. < /sarcasm >