Intuition is a form of knowledge gained without the operation of reasoning or the presence of objective proof. There are different levels of intuitive knowledge. The reliability of the information thus gained depends on the source of this knowledge and the ability to perceive it correctly by our conscious mind. In Theosophical literature there is emphasis on the "spiritual intuition," which is a cognition that comes from the sixth Principle, buddhi.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word "intuition" as follows:
1: immediate apprehension or cognition without reasoning or inferring.
2: knowledge or conviction gained by intuition.
3: the power or faculty of gaining direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.
The word intuition has being used in different ways by Western thinkers. For example, for Immanuel Kant, intuition is the basic sensory information we get through our sense-organs, equivalent to what we understand as perception. For Carl Jung, intuition is an "irrational function", a "perception via the unconscious" that brings forth ideas, images, possibilities, ways out of a blocked situation, by a process that is mostly unconscious.
The word is also used for the gut feeling one may have based on one's experience, or for feelings and thoughts that may be perceived by psychic means.
Cosmic ideation focused in . . . buddhi resting on the experience of manas as its basis—[manifests] as a stream of spiritual intuition.
The union of buddhi and manas was called by Blavatsky "spiritual ego." At this level of consciousness, there is a phenomenon of direct perception of Truth, beyond rational thinking:
The Spiritual ego reflects no varying states of consciousness; is independent of all sensation (experience); it does not think—it KNOWS, by an intuitive process only faintly conceivable by the average man.
The infinite cannot be known to our reason, which can only distinguish and define; but we can always conceive the abstract idea thereof, thanks to that faculty higher than our reason—intuition, or the spiritual instinct of which I have spoken.
References in letters from the Mahatmas
It is a characteristic of the Intuition that it acts from the future, and not from the past or the present; it is excellently described by the phrase used for it by Lawrence of Arabia: "the unperceived foreknown"...Very noteworthy is the emphasis which the Master K. H. has laid on Intuition, as a very necessary requisite in one's character, if one is to unravel the mysteries of the Path of Occultism.
"the continual performance of duty under the guidance of a well-developed Intuition.""From their ignorant and malevolent intolerance you appeal to us, because your intuition tells you that they will not accord you justice."
Somewhat earlier, in writing to Colonel Olcott, the Master said:
And the whole problem was stated earlier by the Master in the following:
"It was never the intention of the Occultists really to conceal what they had been writing from the earnest determined students, but rather to lock up their information for safety sake, in a secure safe-box, the key to which is – intuition."
Intuition vs. impulse
Charles Webster Leadbeater wrote:
Even before we have any definite consciousness on the intuitional plane we often receive reflections from it. Intuitions occasionally come through into our daily life, and although most of those impressions from the higher self which are genuine come rather from the causal world than from the buddhic, still now and then we receive a flash of the real knowledge of the spirit which cannot express itself on any level lower than the buddhic plane. These priceless flashes bring us a knowledge which we feel to be absolutely certain, though in many cases we cannot give any intellectual reason for it.
We are right in feeling confident about it, if the thing is a real intuition. The difficulty for most of us at the earlier stages is that we cannot always distinguish between intuition and impulse. Dr. Besant has given one or two rules for that distinction. She says:
Both the astral impulses and the intuitions from above enter the etheric part of the physical brain from the astral plane, but the intuition would come originally either from the causal or from the buddhic body, as the case may be. Since both descend from above it is often difficult to distinguish between them. We shall be able to distinguish infallibly at a later stage, because then we shall have our consciousness opened above the astral level and will know certainly whether these promptings arise in the astral body or come from a higher plane. At present most people have not that advantage, and consequently they have to exercise their best judgment.
- If you have time to wait and see, let the matter remain for a while – sleep on it, as people sometimes say. If it be merely an impulse, the probability is that it will die away; if it is a real intuition it will remain as strong as ever. Then, again, the intuition is always connected with something unselfish. If there is any touch of selfishness shown in some impulse coming from a higher plane you may be sure that it is only an astral impulse and not a true buddhic intuition.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 329, fn.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. VIII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1990), 96.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XI (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 258.
- C. Jinarājadāsa, The "K. H." Letters to C. W. Leadbeater (Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 56-57.
- Letter 20 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 1881-1888.
- Letter 50 in Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, 1881-1888.
- Mahatma Letter 110 in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett.
- Mahatma Letter 49 in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett.
- Charles Webster Leadbeater, Talks on the Path of Occultism Volume 3, (Adyar, Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, ???), ??.