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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Understanding Thought and Insight

I have myself grappled with this understanding for a very long time. When J. Krishnamurthy’s words started speaking to me, is when I truly sat with it with some degree of intensity. After three years of grappling with it, I know that I am still scratching the surface. From my own experience and my reading Joseph Chilton Pearce (Joe), I just gathered enough vocabulary to explain the source, nature and the mechanics of ‘thought’ and ‘insight’ in myriad ways. All the quotes in this post are Joe’s. Of course, this is my understanding and interpretation. I am open for different and new perspectives on this.

Thought & Insight

Thought is a product of the brain, which is a tool of the mind. It is the result of a rational process undertaken by the mind that assembles facts and figures to construct logic, build a machine or invent an efficient process. When we are intensely searching for answers to something with all our being, there are sometimes sudden flashes of information that explode in our heads and profoundly impact and reshape our thinking and lives. We see these flashes from our insides, and hence its name ‘Insight’. It is what we call the ‘aha! Moment’.

The impact of Thought is shallow and reversible. The impact of Insight is deep and irreversible.

Thought is repeatable. Insight is not repeatable, since human effort is inadequate to understand it.

Thought is the effort of the ego. It can be manufactured at will. Insight is the flow of universal consciousness, the grace of God. It cannot be manufactured. It is revealed to us in our most off-guard moments. “For instance, Kekul6, the famous chemist, "saw" a ring of snakes with their tails in their mouths, directly in front of him, for a historic instant. Translated into the language of his profession, that configuration gave us the benzene ring, basis of all modern chemistry (for good or ill). Insight flashes into us always in some moment out of mind, never when we are busy thinking about the subject involved. The great mathematician, William Hamilton, received his insight into the Quaternion Theory while crossing the bridge into Dublin one morning. The solution arrived in that instant when thought of quaternions was the furthest thing from his mind.”

Thought is born from the mind. Insight is born from the heart.

Thought could happen over a period of time. Insight about even very complex things happens in the flash of a moment. “Einstein spoke of his insights arriving like flashes of lightning which, though they lit up the landscape of his mind for only an instant, forever after changed its shape.”

Thought happens in our chatter-brains all the time. Insights are rare.

Thought makes us feel ordinary. Insight makes us feel extraordinary. It makes us feel a sense of power and awesomeness surge forth from within. It churns us!

Thought can be energy-draining and weakening. Insights are energising. “Insight seems enormously powerful when it arrives. At times it breaks right through our thinking and ordinary perceptions. This power gives insight its numinous, mystical edge of awesomeness and conviction to its recipients. This power emboldens us to act on the revelation in spite of its novelty or improbable nature, and gives us the strength to carry it into the common domain against odds.”

Thought is born out of the masculine / male principle of each being. Insight is born out of the feminine / female principle of each being.   

Thought is a product of ‘thinking’. Insight is a product of ‘intuition’.

Thought is a product of the ‘intellect’. Intellect is objective. It's exterior. It's outwardly driven. Intellect is logical, linear and analytical. It takes things apart and loves to put them together in new ways. Insight is a product of ‘intelligence’. Intelligence is the ability of life to avoid that which is harmful and move towards that, which is beneficial to its own continuity. Intelligence is that which enables the flow and continuity of life. “Intelligence is connected with the deepest intuitive roots of life, the matrix of our being. It's the dark, mysterious interior of life. And intelligence is essentially feminine in its nature. It's subjective. It’s interior.”

Thought can be manufactured by stimulating the intellect. Insight can be invited by awakening the intelligence.

A thought comes as a fragment. An insight is revealed as a whole.

What is the condition for the revelation of ‘insights’? How can we prepare for its arrival?  
“Our ordinary thinking can (must) prepare for insight, respond to it, but can't manufacture it. A weak thought can't produce a stronger one, but it can attract it. Nothing that we can do will insure the arrival of insight, yet insight comes to us only when we are passionately involved in the subject matter concerned, and have thoroughly prepared for its coming. Kekul6, for instance, had passionately sought for the secret of the benzene ring. Hamilton had spent fifteen years searching for the mathematical key to the quaternions before his bridge-revelation. Einstein, as a young man, had set out with a passion to find some unity of time, space, and matter. Insight is the grace given, the stuff of genius, but a grace had at the price of passion, unbending intent, will, hard work, and tenacity. First, to entice insight into our lives, we must be caught up in some passionate quest. (No dilettantes here.) A certain intensity of purpose must be generated which finally swamps our switchboard, absorbs all our attention, rules out our lesser goals and passions. Then we must work for that mechanical excellence which alone can serve as the vehicle of our genius. We must gather the materials related to, and develop the abilities needed by, our quest. If an artist, we must perfect the mechanics of our art; as a scientist we must thoroughly search the area of our interest; as philosophers we must gather all possible pertinent knowledge; as spiritual seekers we must immerse ourselves completely in our chosen path. The half-hearted endeavour will leave us with only our weak thought and vain imaginings.

Our passionate pursuit, which may take months or years, must feed a massive amount of material into the hopper of our mind/brain. The materials must then at some point "take over," take on a life of their own, dictate their own ends, overrule even the person gathering them. We must feel subservient to our own pursuit, used by it, incidental to it. This ushers in the gestation period," when the mass of accumulated data and/or ability achieves its critical size and power. Then, within that mysterious realm of insight, the revelation will form. Maybe In order to unfold as revelation in the brain, insight must get thought out of the way, at least for the brief instant needed. So the insight arrives in some moment of suspended thought, or simply pushes thought briefly aside.”

Indian language captures this whole process in one word. Tapas. If you generate enough heat and spiritual restlessness through the process of rigorous enquiry, a relentless seeking with all of your being, insight might reveal itself. 

"To be open to new possibilities we must suspend the belief that we “know” the “right” response beforehand. To suspend doesn’t mean abandon. We must be willing to set aside our fixed beliefs and formulas and truly observe. Our initial reflex may be correct or it may be completely inappropriate. We can never know unless we suspend and truly observe. And that opens the possibility for new insight." (Michael Mendizza, Magical Parent Magical Child)

Plain Thought & Insightful Thought / Intellectual Thought & Intelligent Thought

Insight arrives at the suspension of thought. But insight also uses thought to be translated into a language that the mind can understand and put to use. They are both true at the same time. This makes me wonder if ‘thought’ itself is not a useless thing. Unconscious thinking, a product of the ‘monkey mind’ as they call it, is what is unhelpful. What we then need to do is not ‘stop or resist’ thought, but let it be wedded to, guided by insight. What we need more of is ‘insightful thinking’, which again is not a product of human effort. Our only effort is fearless enquiry into the nature of reality, understanding the futility of the arrogant mind, the limitation of thinking. 

When it is said to stop thought in the language of meditation, what I understand is meant is for us to observe the brain at work churning out thoughts. When we observe this phenomenon in ourselves, there is a chance we might transcend it. When we transcend it, we consciously enter the realm of intelligence or the genius, where we might be graced with insights.

Enquire fearlessly as if it does not matter if the new insight would make all the years we have spent in our lifetime seem like an absolute waste of time; all our identities crumble into pieces. The rest is not, and cannot be, our personal effort at all.

Stay tuned for the sequel Letting the feminine lead the way


Unknown said...

i may not agree fully with you but basically when you have a balanced mind ( if your nadis are pure) , and have a deep sleep, the answer for your pegging question comes from the consiousness . This might happen if the body, mind is receptive enough to accept the grace of god/ consciousness within.

Sangeetha Sriram said...

This is what I have tried to communicate in my post too. I am unclear where the disagreement is.