Abstract ideas are unpopular. I hesitate every time I post an article discussing an abstract idea. There is no one around me who is willing to listen and discuss abstract ideas with me. In the office I am surrounded by PhDs who went to the best schools of this country. Almost all of them received their degrees from the Ivy League universities. None of them can tolerate to hear abstractions of spiritual philosophy. Such is the state of the world today!
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I have friends who are spiritual practitioners but they are not interested in abstractions either. They are only interested in spiritual practice. They keep saying “Yoga is 10% theory, 90% practice.”
None of my family members are interested in my ideas either. Do I feel lonely? Not really. I feel very isolated but I don’t feel lonely. I keep writing about abstract ideas.
Sometimes I repeat myself but I do this on purpose. The blog format and the way the search engines work make it necessary to repeat for emphasis.
How do we develop our abstract thinking ability? My PhD friends in the office are highly educated people. They consider themselves abstract thinkers because they can think mathematically and they can think algorithmicaly. So if you ask them they would say: “study mathematics, learn computer programming.” This boils down to practices of symbolic thinking. Most scientists are abstract thinkers in the sense that they can construct an abstract model of the world in their minds or in their computers and draw logical conclusions and make predictions by using the symbolic structure of their mental models.
There are subtler forms of abstract thinking. For example, finding connections is very different from mathematical or algorithmic thinking. Finding connections is also very different from answering “how,” “why”, or “what” questions. The mental activity involved in finding connections is very different from the mental activity involved in constructing an abstract model of the world.
There are even subtler forms of abstract thinking. I differentiate intuitive thinking from other types of abstract thinking.
Intuitive thinking is not really thinking. It is more like a feeling. Intuitive thinking takes place in the Vigyanamaya Kosha of the human mind. The other types of abstract thinking mentioned above take place in the Atimanas Kosha and the Manomaya Kosha.
Intuitive experiences cover a wide range of feelings but it is possible to classify them into two groups. Some intuitive experiences can be classified as conceptual understanding. The other type involves ecstatic experiences.
I consider conceptual understanding an intuitive experience. Conceptual understanding is closer to insight but still different. Insight involves intellectual knowledge. Insight may develop after we construct an abstract model of the world in our minds. In conceptual understanding full intellectual knowledge is lacking but you feel the truth. Intuition is a feeling. Intuition is not intellectual knowledge. Intuition is the feeling of truth.
I would like to mention a particular type of intuitive experience that I call a ‘glimpse’ which belongs to the category of conceptual understanding. Glimpses happen in those brief moments of clarity when we have tranquility of mind. In those moments, the Cosmic Consciousness is partially reflected on the surface of our mental plate resulting in an understanding of a particular aspect of Reality.
Scientists and other intuitive thinkers have received these glimpses. A glimpse may lead to a scientific model. The intuitive flash may be communicated to other minds in the form of a scientific model. Translating a glimpse into a scientific model requires hard work. A glimpse is a gift from God. Intuition develops with spiritual practice but ultimately glimpses are gifts from God.
A glimpse is not a vision. A vision is a broader and more penetrating intuitive experience. The vision, however, no matter how illuminating, cannot compare to the direct experience of a spiritual touch. No matter how brief, a spiritual touch gives a person full knowledge with absolute conviction. Visions do not provide absolute conviction. One may experience a vision and ask, “Was it a dream? Was it an hallucination?” After the spiritual touch there are no doubts. In a spiritual touch experience you feel the burning touch of God in your heart while soaring in ecstasy. Spiritual touch experiences are very rare. God graces us with such experiences usually when we are in the midst of great suffering.