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Andrew Z. Cohen

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Authentic Intuition

Posted: 08/08/11 09:21 AM ET

In many spiritual circles, everybody likes to talk about intuition. "Follow your heart," "Listen to your inner guide," teachers tell us. But I always get a little nervous when I hear that kind of advice because it all depends on who you're talking to. To take a very extreme example, if you told a fundamentalist terrorist to follow his or her heart, we all know where that would lead.

When you tell anybody to follow his heart or to trust her intuition, you first have to know who you're talking to, how developed he is, and to what degree she has actually evolved beyond ego. When we embark on the path of "Evolutionary Enlightenment," we recognize that most of us are deeply identified with the individual and collective ego, and therefore our choices and actions are, more often than not, driven by unconscious fears and desires and culturally conditioned beliefs and values. As we begin to awaken to what I call the "Authentic Self," or evolutionary impulse, and begin to identify more with that than with the individual and collective ego, the motivating forces for our choices and actions begin to shift. The goal in "Evolutionary Enlightenment" is for the individual's center of gravity or locus of identification to significantly shift so that the influence of the "Authentic Self" becomes greater than that of the ego. But until this critical threshold is crossed, talking about intuition is a dangerous business.

An intuition is usually a deeply felt sense of something we should do, or a particular direction to go in, that is not merely cognitive but more of a conviction or feeling of rightness. The problem this creates is that too many of us don't know the difference between those experiences of insight and conviction that come from the ego and those experiences of insight and conviction that are a reflection of the "Authentic Self." So unless you are very clear about the distinction between ego and Authentic Self, you can assume that you are intuiting all kinds of things and ascribe to them tremendous significance, when actually they are just the voice of the individual and collective ego. Unless we get over our ego-driven narcissism, the whole notion of intuition can become very tangled up with our already over-exaggerated sense of self-importance and with all the excessive significance we tend to give to our feelings and our personal story. If we're not awake to this, we can easily end up deluding ourselves and misleading others with our so-called spiritual intuitions.

So intuition is a real thing, but I don't think we can blindly trust it. We want to always relate intuition to the evolution and development of the "Authentic Self" in order for it to be trustworthy and reliable. And most importantly, we need to educate ourselves about what the different dimensions of the self are, how the self works and what the mechanics of our own experience are in order to become so awake to the subjective dimension that we know what's happening, as it's happening. We want to get to the point where, when we have a strong feeling about something, we really know whether it's the ego at work or whether it is a deeper, more authentic part of our self. We want to get to the point where we are quite familiar with these different dimensions of the self so that we can make the right choices, consistently.

So for all the reasons I've just explained, in the teaching of "Evolutionary Enlightenment," I don't put too much emphasis on the significance of intuition, even though it is an inherent part of awakening beyond ego. When you begin to trust the "Authentic Self," which is the part of yourself that is always already awake and that miraculously knows before thought, you will discover a profoundly intuitive capacity that I call the mind of enlightenment. But in order to have access to that part of the self, it is imperative that you get very clear about how to make distinctions between the ego and the "Authentic Self." Once you can make these distinctions clearly, the intuitive dimension that is an inherent quality of the Authentic Self will spontaneously begin to emerge.

 

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