How does the human intellect play a part in one’s spiritual path? What do you think of the following excerpt? Agree, disagree, have further thoughts on it? Please share.
“The intellect is one of the thorniest problems for a spiritual aspirant. One cannot do without it – indeed, it is essential – and yet one cannot allow it to remain totally dominant. The intellect must be fully developed before it is brought to a point of neutrality. Unless this is done, it will act as a block, and there will not be any ultimate spiritual success.”
~ 365 Tao (by Deng Ming-Dao) # 138
To me the passage displays a failure of understanding, and it is easy to see how it might seem to be that way.
It is clear to me that every human being is a very complex entity. We have many levels of systems within us.
Our conscious awareness seems to be an emergent property of those many layers of complex systems, and as such is both influenced by them, and in turn can influence them.
It seems that we can only ever consciously understand and deal in detail with a very tiny chunk of reality at one time, and yet we need to exist in the totality of the complexity that is a reality containing billions of galaxies, trillions of stars, billions of human beings, and quadrillions of other life forms. Each of us as human beings contains enough molecules so that if we had somehow managed to take a photograph of them all, and had been looking at that photograph at the limit of the human capacity to take in formation, and we had started when the universe began some 14 billion years ago, we would be about 1% of the way through the process (of looking at that one snapshot of all the atoms that is us). And yet at the native speed of atoms, we would need to take a movie at about a trillion frames per second, then slow it down to 25 frames per second, to let our puny consciousness be aware of the sorts of physical movement that is actually happening at the atomic level.
So we can understand general principles about ourselves, but can never hope to deal with the actual complexity. We have to keep our consciousness working at the high level stuff, and be willing to hand over control to the subconscious systems to deal with the complexity of the real.
This seems to be so at all levels of awareness and abstraction.
So there is definitely a sense in which one must both be willing to do the hard yards in training for mastery, and at the same time, be willing to give up the illusion of control, and accept that the best any of us can hope for is influence, and to do the best we can with the limited information and resources under our influence.
Again, this applies at all levels, from the internal development of awareness of the massive capacity and capabilities of our subconscious systems, to the even greater capacities of the reality within which we exist.
So there is this sort of dynamic tension between assertion of identity and creativity, and acceptance of being a close approximation to nothing at all in the greater scheme of things. Going too far in the direction of either of those polarities leads to serious pathologies, and there seems to be a vast and multidimensional spectrum of possibilities in between sufficient to accommodate infinite diversity and creativity.
One of the really interesting and odd things I have discovered in my journey comes from a subset computation theory, known as database theory, where it has been proven that if a processor is fully loaded, the fastest search is a fully random search. If one has spare, unused, processing capacity, one can use that to build indexes that will allow rapid searches when the occasional query arises, but it always takes more processor cycles to create and maintain the indexes than it does to do a fully random search on the dataset.
It seems that our brains are like that in several dimensions.
We need to learn to hand over our illusion of control, and to try out the intuitions that come back. They wont always be appropriate, but far more often than not, they will be the shortest way to our highest level goal. And at the same time it can be entirely appropriate to train and develop systems appropriate to those rare times when reality demands very rapid and accurate response to ensure survival. And there can be something of an art in making such distinctions.
So for me, my enquiries into the nature of reality, the nature of being human, the nature of choice, and the sorts of possibilities that seem to both call me, and be universally applicable, have taken me through this sort of grand tour of a lot of detailed disciplines, and back to a lot of ancient practical wisdom, but in a new set of contextual understandings, about the nature of being, the nature of systems and complexity and probability.
It seems that one only needs to rather loosely constrain randomness for quite amazing degrees of order to emerge at higher levels.
In that respect, it seems that the only constraint really necessary on sapient life are universal respect for individual sapient entities (human and non-human, biological and non-biological) and a respect for the freedom of such individual entities. So we do our individual best to modify our actions in reality to mitigate any reasonable risk that our actions pose to the life or liberty of others; and within those very broad constraints, anything goes.
And there are lots of consequential chains to those two, like caring for the environment that supports us all, and the possibilities available in physical reality (as a practical aspect of liberty). So it is both simple, and not – as seems to be the nature of reality.
And the spirit that moves me seems to have an awareness of all these things.