When we generally consider the idea of intuition, we look at some ‘gut feeling’ we may have, or some quick certainty we have about a certain situation and call that ‘intuition’. If we examine the common notions of intuition carefully, we find that in some cases they are embedded responses to situations, such as a feeling of unease on a dark street in an urban center that causes someone to feel like ‘something will happen’; or else, they involve a quick sorting of possibilities by the mind based on a certain amount of memory and experience, or, in the end, may represent a logical process that quickly reaches a conclusion. None of this represents a ‘next stage’ of evolutionary development or any gradation of consciousness beyond the mental level.

In Sri Aurobindo’s view, intuition represents a unique stage of development that no longer relies on the embedded vital reactions or mental-logical processes, no matter how quickly they occur, but instead are a shift of standpoint or an inspiration that arises from a larger, more powerful vision and sense of oneness that overpowers the mental processes and shows things from a new standpoint.

Both Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein described their own experience of intuition or inspiration that gave them entirely new insights into the nature of reality, and opened the door to entire new directions of understanding and development.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The thought of the intuitive mind proceeds wholly by four powers that shape the form of the truth, an intuition that suggests its idea, an intuition that discriminates, an inspiration that brings in its word and something of its greater substance and a revelation that shapes to the sight its very face and body of reality. These things are not the same as certain movements of the ordinary mental intelligence that look analogous and are easily mistaken for the true intuition in our first inexperience. The suggestive intuition is not the same thing as the intellectual insight of a quick intelligence or the intuitive discrimination as the rapid judgment of the reasoning intellect; the intuitive inspiration is not the same as the inspired action of the imaginative intelligence, nor the intuitive revelation as the strong light of a purely mental close seizing and experience.”

“It would perhaps be accurate to say that these latter activities are mental representations of the higher movements, attempts of the ordinary mind to do the same things or the best possible imitations the intellect can offer of the functionings of the higher nature. The true intuitions differ from these effective but insufficient counterfeits in their substance of light, their operation, their method of knowledge. The intellectual rapidities are dependent on awakenings of the basic mental ignorance to mental figures and representations of truth that may be quite valid in their own field and for their own purpose but are not necessarily and by their very nature reliable. They are dependent for their emergence on the suggestions given by mental and sense data or on the accumulation of past mental knowledge. They search for the truth as a thing outside, an object to be found and looked at and stored as an acquisition and, when found, scrutinise its surfaces, suggestions or aspects. This scrutiny can never give a quite complete and adequate truth idea. However positive they may seem at the time, they may at any moment have to be passed over, rejected and found inconsistent with fresh knowledge.”

“The intuitive knowledge on the contrary, however limited it may be in its field or application, is within that scope sure with an immediate, a durable and especially a self-existent certitude.”
“To have the true intuition one must get rid of the mind’s self-will, and the vital’s also, their preferences, fancies, fantasies, strong insistences and eliminate the mental and vital ego’s pressure which sets the consciousness to work in the service of its own claims and desires. Otherwise these things will come in with force and claim to be intuitions, inspirations and the rest of it. Or if any intuitions come, they can be twisted and spoiled by the mixture of these forces of the Ignorance.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 2, Planes and Parts of the Being, pp. 74-76

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.