The Art of Being
by Deborah Chandler, Ph.D.
Knowledge comes in different forms. Scientific and intuitive knowledge originate from different sources. Scientific knowledge depends upon empirical research. Intuitive knowledge comes from direct, individual experience.
Scientific knowledge relies upon the formal procedure of the scientific method. The basic steps of this method begin with observations that lead to describing a problem. Once the problem is determined, a hypothesis is developed. Testing follows which leads to conclusions about the hypothesis. While a scientist may be inspired by an intuition, the laboratory work relies upon information from our senses. The conclusion needs to be consistent with what our senses tell us even if from a microscope or telescope.
Intuition is a personal experience that does not rely upon information from the sense. Falling in love, artistic creation, rapture with nature, and religious transcendence are experiences that derive from a different source. Intuition takes us away from what we know into a sublime realm which fills us with light, joy, and even out-of-body.
The two domains of knowledge may overlap, but they do not validate each other. Scientific knowledge must be verifiable by nuts-and-bolts methods. Intuitive knowledge may be shared in poetry, song, and ritual. Intuitively, we can share anecdotes about our experiences, but there is no external verification. You cannot see or quantify my joy or rapture.
When we cross these two methods, confusion arises about what we know. This confusion is evident when we try to explain geological evolution by referencing stories from a religious text, such as the Christian bible.
What both realms of knowledge share is a spirit of exploration. Both inspire us to expand upon what is familiar. Whether in the laboratory, artist studio, or while meditating, we are seeking to increase our understanding. If we keep to what we know, we will find more of the same, we have not learned anything. It is only what we venture into the unknown that we find what is new.
Our brains are conditioned toward stability. We have a circuit in our brains, connecting different brains areas, that loops us into a consistent world experience. This is called the Default Mode Network (DMN). The goal of scientific and intuitive research is to escape this routinized pattern.
How do we free ourselves from what is so familiar? We dream, meditate, use psychotherapy, or tinker in the lab or workshop. All require being alert to being nudged into the new, to tolerating the discomfort of the unfamiliar. We are capable of vast experience that await us at the edges of the traditional. Each encounter with our senses or our intuitions has the capacity to takes us into new realms of experience.