Intuition, Intellect, and The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Currently, I’m reading the biography, Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. It is a fascinating read so far (I’m only a third of the way into it). Anyhow…this post isn’t about Steve Jobs or the book. Instead, it is about something I read in the book and how it relates to my understanding of the gospel.

Steve Jobs, while he was in his early twenties, decided to go to India – on a spiritual quest. He was interested in Buddhism and Zen. He went to India, searching. Then, years later, he tells (Isaacson)

“Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. Thats’ had a big impact on my work.

   Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and it is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom.

   Coming back after seven months in Indian villages, I saw the craziness of the Western world as well as its capacity for rational thought. If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things—that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.” – Steve Jobs

I found this really interesting – especially when approaching it within the context of the gospel.

Intuition and intellect…

Try thinking about this quote and substitute the word intuition with The Spirit or Revelation.

This is when I love being a Mormon. I love thinking about the gospel. I love thinking about how we learn, and how Heavenly Father wants us to learn. I think about the knowledge that is available, and that we learn it through more than one avenue. We can be spiritually minded and rational. In fact, I think that it is irrational to think that Spirituality is out of the question. Intuition and intellect can be related, and when they are, we can see more clearly and make better decisions.

Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion.
If we substitute here The Spirit or Revelation for the word Intuition, then I have to agree with Steve Jobs’ assessment. Having the Spirit is a very powerful thing, and much more powerful than intellect.

When we open ourselves to the Spirit, then we open ourselves to knowledge beyond our own capability. We open ourselves to God’s knowledge. His Spirit will speak to our spirits, and we can be guided. This is much more powerful than relying on our own limited power.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

It is ridiculous to think that we could rely on ourselves – always. How could our own intellect even come close to the knowledge of the Lord? No matter how smart we are, we are still basically nothing. Having the Spirit to guide us is always more powerful than relying on our own intellect.

[Intellect and Rational thought] is in some ways just as valuable [as intuition] but in other ways is not.

Of course, I feel like I want to mention that intellect is not good for nothing. We can’t just throw our intellects and rational thoughts out the window. In fact, the opposite is true. We need to have strong active intellects. Often, our intellects give us more avenues to feel the promptings of the Spirit. Or, sometimes the solutions we seek will be based on our intellectual capacity. When we increase our intellect, we give God and His Spirit more to work with.

We need to use both our own intellect and the gift of the Holy Ghost. In fact, the Lord has taught us this principle when he taught the pattern to receiving revelation.

“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.” – Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9

It is as we use our intellect and rational thought to try to understand and solve our problems that the Lord sends His witness.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Savior admonishes us to gain more knowledge of this world:

“Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:78-80

As we increase our understanding of this world – all aspects of it, then we will increase our capacity to receive better instruction from the Lord. Our Spirits and intellects are divinely tied to one another. They compliment and magnify each other.

“I saw the craziness of the Western world as well as its capacity for rational thought.”
We do live in a world that is a bit crazy, and I struggle with this. I let so many things get in the way. I feel like a squirrel or a raccoon. There are so many shiny things – competing for my attention. Sometimes it is hard to sit down and tune them out.

And that’s what we have to do – in order to hear the Spirit. After all, the Spirit speaks so us in a still, small voice. Nephi teaches his brothers:

“…he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words;” – 1 Nephi 17:45

Usually, I think of being “past feeling” as being wicked. But there may be other things that get in the way – so that we can’t feel the promptings of the Spirit. Maybe it’s noise. Maybe it is choices we’re making. Maybe it is because we’re out of practice. Whatever it is, understanding the Spirit does take more than rational thought: it takes listening with our spiritual “ears.” It takes feeling.

When you do finally slow down, be still, and know God, then we hear His Spirit, then we find the convergence of intellect and intuition. We receive revelation. Our faith is bolstered, and we receive testimony.

Finally, I love this: It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.
So true. Being close to the Spirit requires discipline. It requires devotion to the Lord. We have to practice listening to the Spirit, or we will never recognize it when He does whisper to our souls.

An example is in 3 Nephi 11, when the Savior visits the people on the American Continent. They hear a voice coming from Heaven, two times, and both times, as the scriptures tell:

“…they heard the voice, and they understood it not.” – 3 Nephi 11: 3, 4

Finally, the third time the following occurs:

“5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard;…” – 3 Nephi 11:5-6

It isn’t until the people act in a disciplined manner – listening and looking – that they understand the voice of the Lord.

***
I am so grateful to have the gospel in my life. I’m grateful that I believe in the Living God, who loves me enough to listen to me and teach me personally through His spirit. I know that there is work I need to do – I need to learn how He speaks to me. I need to open my ears, eyes, and heart. I need to increase my intellect. And as I do, He will guide me.

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1 Comment

  1. Kasey

     /  January 8, 2012

    I find this very interesting, too. Driving back from OKC today we were talking about how amazing Eve must’ve been to figure everything out on her own, once she and Adam left the garden. She had no mother to teach her, no experience in earthly things. Absolutely nothing but faith and a righteous desire. She figured it out. She found food. She made clothing. She bore children. All with no prior knowledge, experience or help (besides Adam, who lacked the same things). She probably relied heavily on intuition, faith, prayer and personal revelation.

    Reply

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