Updated: Feb 29, 2020
written October 19, 2015, for Introduction to Transpersonal Studies at Atlantic University
Intuition, I believe, is a natural condition of being human. It can be described as a "hunch," a "gut feeling," and "a process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning." (Cholle, 2011) But what exactly is intuition, and how is it experienced? This paper will describe some of the different types of intuition, how I have personally experienced it, and how science may help us to understand how intuition works.
Paul Bernstein (2005) in his article Intuition: What Science Says (So Far) About How and Why Intuition Works, defines three types of intuitive abilities: telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and presentiment. Telepathy is defined as intuitive information gained directly from another person, while clairvoyance, also referred to as remote viewing, is information gained about another place or object. Information gained about the future was divided into two types of intuitive knowing: precognition, having a clear thought or image about the future; and presentiment, having a clear feeling about the future.
The idea that everyone has intuitive, or psychic, abilities highly interested me during the early phase of my spiritual journey. Since I had never experienced anything that I could consider as "psychic," I decided to put this idea to the test and began to focus on developing any latent intuitive skill or abilities I might have. From this, I was able to experience some of the types of intuition defined by Bernstein (2005).
As part of my intuitive experimentation, I had the opportunity to practice many different exercises. A few of the exercises I used to practice telepathy included sending and receiving information such as numbers, colors, and feelings to another person. While I seemed to be a good sender of information, my ability to receive telepathically information about numbers and colors proved to be more of a guessing game. However, receiving feelings came naturally. In one exercise, my partner was asked to send a feeling from any memory in his life. He did not share with me his memory or feeling before or during the exercise. What I picked up was a feeling of pure happiness, even to the point where I began to smile, and I heard the word "delighted." After sharing my impressions with my partner, he told me his memory was of when he first met his wife - he was happy.
Again, working in a group setting, I was able to experience clairvoyance and remote viewing. In one exercise, one of the group members was asked to come up with an image - any image she wished to make up - and without telling us, hold that image clearly in her mind. The rest of the group was to "tune in" to try and pick up on the image. It is interesting to note what other group members intuited. One person saw a wishbone, someone else saw a white car, another a yellow crayon, and yet another saw a wild elephant stomping in the forest. I at first saw a large black boulder and then the sun. After the group members shared their intuitive impressions, we learned that the image was of a male deer standing majestically among the trees in the forest, its antlers prominently defined, and the sun shining down on it. This exercise was particularly interesting for me because while no one intuited the exact image as a whole, we all got parts of it or something that related to the image or the sender. For example, the wishbone related to the antlers, the yellow crayon related to the color of the sun, and the wild elephant related to the theme of the image itself. The seemingly unrelated white car actually related to the sender. Her girlfriend owned a white car that they named Buck - coincidentally, the same name for a male deer with antlers.
In a remote viewing exercise, my partner gave me a folded piece of paper on which she had written her address. Without looking at what she had written, I took the folded paper in my hands and "tuned in." The goal was to get an impression of what her home looked like. While not everything I "saw" was valid, like burgundy carpeted stairs, I did receive some accurate insights like a dark living room, a couch with a dark grey cat sitting on it, and the impression of it being cold in the house. My partner confirmed that the living room stayed dark because she kept all the drapery closed during the day which made it very dark. She had actually owned two couches but had thrown away the one her dog had mercilessly destroyed. The remaining couch became the property of her black cat. Lastly, her upstairs stayed cold due to some technical glitch in her cooling system.
The examples highlighted are interesting to me because they seem to suggest that the various intuitive senses do not operate in isolation as measured in the experiments discussed by Bernstein (2005). Instead, they operate in cooperation with one another - just like the ordinary five senses - in order to provide information to the recipient. In my telepathy example above, not only did I feel the happiness my partner was sending, I also heard the word "delighted." So not only was this an example of telepathy; this was also an example of clairaudience and clairsentience, although in this case, clairsentience does not to relate to Bernstein's (2005) definition of presentiment.
So, if anyone can develop intuitive abilities, how can experiences like those above be explained? Perhaps science is well on its way to opening our understanding of how intuition works. Theories are now being proposed and some are detailed in Bernstein's (2005) article - all of which seem exceedingly complex for the mind unaccustomed to physics. However, the idea of a hologram's storage capacity and how the particle waves it absorbs and emits as a possible explanation for how information is transferred in remote viewing interested me.
"Marcer points out that any wave field (be it acoustic, electromagnetic, quantum mechanical, or other) that impinges upon a physical object, has parts of its amplitude and phase altered because of that impact . This occurs not only because a portion of the wave gets reflected back from the surface of the object, but also because portions of the wave get absorbed by the object. Thirdly, as a result of that absorption, the object may be energized to emit a wave back outward, at least part of which may travel towards the source of the first wave. All three of these facts result in a communication of information returning to the source of the initial wave which conveys directly, through the spectral Fourier transform of holography, attributes of the objet that was impinged, including its shape, color, temperature, substance, etc." (Bernstein, 2005, p.11)
Although we were trying to remote view an image someone created in their mind instead of an actual physical location, this description of how information might be transmitted may explain how group members intuited parts of the image of the majestic deer in the forest. It might also explain how I intuited a description of my partner's home.
However, I most connected with a quote from a champion poker player explaining how he managed such an astonishing winning streak in Elizabeth Mayer's Extraordinary Knowing. "I know - but I know that I don't know at the same time." (Mayer, 2007, p.40). While my insights may not be on the level of the champion poker player, I can still relate to his statement. Although I don't know through logic or reason, I do know intuitively, and that counts too.
In my quest to continue developing my intuitive skills, I am learning that intuitive knowing does not always feel like anything special or mystical. My volunteer work at the local psychic festival recently drove this point home. I noticed that when I would allow myself to read the tarot cards without analyzing them, the words I spoke somehow related to what the client was going through presently. The same was true even when doing general readings where no specific question was asked by the client. It intrigued me how effortless this was compared to those times when I would try to analyze the cards. Coming from a mindset where "extraordinary knowing" should feel extraordinary, my take-away from this experience is aptly summed up in the title of Mayer's (2007) chapter four: "Knowing that does not feel like knowing." (Mayer, 2007, p.39). In fact, professional intuitive John Huddleston's description to Mayer (2007) of his state of mind when doing readings is a perfect reminder of how to better allow intuitive impressions to come through.
"It's relaxed focus, that's the best way to describe it. There's calm, clarity, and a receptive quality. There's also a physical component, and by that I mean I'm physically centered and grounded within myself, not drifty and discorporate. I'm in communion with the client, the barriers are down, and they are very easy to see, but I don't merge with them in order to read them. This is not an out-of-body experience. In fact, my state of mind is surprisingly down to earth and ordinary." (Mayer, 2007, p.52).
The study of intuition and how it works is endlessly fascinating and is only in its beginning stages of exploration in the mainstream arena. As more people share their "unexplainable" intuitive experiences and as science continues to take a sincere and explorative interest in understanding the mechanics of intuition, we will one day have a deeper working knowledge of the intuitive experience.
Cholle, F. (August 31, 2011) What is Intuition and How Do We Use It? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intuitive-compass/201108/what-is-intuition-and-how-dow-we-use-it
Bernstein, P. (2005) Intuition: What Science Says (So Far) About How and Why Intuition Works. [Published in the book, Endophysics, Time, Quantum and the Subject, ed. by Rosolino Buccheri et al., World Scientific Publishing, Singapore, copyright 2005]
Mayer, E. (2007) Extraordinary Knowing, New York, Bantam Dell