The Difference Between Instinct and Intuition

by Federico Gasparotti

One of the major risks for people who are on the path of a renewed natural and spiritual awareness, is to use interchangeably the terms “instinct” and “intuition”. Indeed the greatest danger is to rely blindly on instinct, thinking that it’s the best tool to follow sheer nature. But the reality is not so obvious, and if the instinct was the best way to approach the world, children would not need parental teachings and could solve every problem (also of nourishment) autonomously. Many people who have embraced the natural spirituality believe that the mind (the ability of thinking) is an obstacle to the connection with the forces of nature, and therefore do not avail a training; they simply think ( ! ) that even the study and cultural deepening are tools that could pollute the purity of their natural soul. For this egoic idea they avoid all the defined rituals relying exclusively to the personal improvisation, without understanding that the codified rituals are means to get more in tune with local forces (the Genius loci). These thoughts and attitudes are the result of well-being in which we are lucky to live, because every aborigine knows that instinct is not only to be dominated, but also to be driven, and that we must learn from the elderly (and those who have already walked the path we are going to step on). What would happen to one of these improvised druids if, encountering a wild bear, should follow the instinct of running away? He would be torn apart. But if someone had previously explained what is best to do in that situation, he would have saved his life.

The paths are (and must be) personal, individual and tailored to the needs of the single, but taking the druidic path thinking that it consists in dressing up in white and go to hug trees is a limit unfortunately widespread. We needs a common ground, shared by all, something that ancient druids yearned for themselves: this common ground is the study of nature and its real and symbolic manifestations. Only with this basis we can expect to make a qualitative leap that will take us to lead the instinct through intuition. But what is intuition? Intuition is an attitude that is learned, trained and nourished. And intuition is nourished by two foods: theory (the study) and practice (the experience). Intuition is the ability to suspend the instinctive reactions and simultaneously inhibit the deception of the mind. Let me give you an example: do you drive your car instinctively? I think not: cars don’t exist in nature. But, then, how can I learn to drive? Learning the theoretical part (which helps us to move in the flow of traffic sharing with other drivers the same rules) and the practical part (learning to coordinate sight, hearing, and absolutely unnatural movements like pushing on a pedal to brake or accelerate and, above all, to understand that you are moving in space with a unnaturally gigantic size). Yet … after only a few weeks of driving these movements and these theoretical rules are not only assimilate, but internalized so deeply that they become automatic. If every time we change gear we should have to think how to coordinate all the movements probably we have accidents continuously. After we have internalized the experience of the guide the intuition springs, and this new way of “take rational decisions without thinking” is a state of mind in balance between the domain of the instinct and the domain of the mind. It’s the intuition which makes us put a feet on the brake before a pedestrian appears on the sidewalk, and this is simply the result of the interaction between the driver's past experiences and the unconscious calculation of the have not yet occurred possibilities.

For this we need to re-evaluate the theoretical study as the main way to feed even the experiential part of our being. A course like the one proposed by OBOD is a theoretical / experiential tool that has as its own aims to structure a body of shared knowledge, that allows all the people, who assimilate it, to speak the same language. That’s because thinking that “theoretical information can ruin our natural purity and our ability to connect with the divine” is a childish attitude. Indeed there is no spiritual path (anywhere in the history of the world) that does not include an apprenticeship, which serves to bend the ego strength (which always tries to make us believe that "just as we are" we are perfect). We confuse very often rote learning with knowledge, experience with wisdom, saying with doing, and this confusion leads many people to individual paths that have value in itself, but only to understand our own limitations, not longing for the divine. What is the divine? It is the Nomos (νόμος), the rule that unites everything and that no one has written, is the manifestation in the whole reality of the eternal symbols we call Gods, and only knowing the deep meaning of such symbols we can expect to enjoy fully our existence. The ancient druids spent their life studying, giving their contribution to the improvement of their society. A druid (also nowadays) must study, experience, share and pass on his knowledge; if an ancient druid could travel through time and reach the contemporary world, he’d enjoy in knowing the many scientific discoveries that have been made in recent centuries, and – for sure – he would explain us that “every sunset is unique and beautiful, but even more beautiful is to know the norms that govern the motion of the stars, because knowledge is the participation to the Nomos”. Because is beautiful to look at a sunset, but even more beautiful is to comprehend it. Intuitively and not with the fear that the instinct would lead us to feel while the light sinking behind the horizon.