It is the fashion for a lot of artists to call themselves “intuitive painters,” which basically means they sally forth without a plan and wing it. I shared a quote about this last summer that you can read here.
It seems to me that many self professed “intuitive painters” just lack language to explain their approach. Many self-professed intuitive painters also lack both knowledge and experience, but wouldn’t admit it. They seem to find the label of intuition romantic, especially with all it’s cultural connotations making them appear either talented or free. For them, intuition is like an exotic mantle to feel dazzling in, or it is simply a fuzzy caveat to hide behind.
Practical and pragmatic types insist that there is nothing mystical, or spiritual about intuition, but it is just a result of lots of practice that has built neural pathways, and that those ah ha moments are just moments when the unconscious brain reveals information it has been processing all along, which we were unaware of. Therefore they say, if we get lots of experience, we can develop intuition. This is meant to be reassuring to those who don’t consider themselves fortunate enough to be blessed by being intuitive. They are told they just need to develop the database in their brains, and then neural connections will flash and link things together. They go on about neural plasticity, and remonstrate that when we practice a skill more often, the more natural and effortless those skills become. The more a particular pattern in the brain is fired up, the more we are able to utilize it, seemingly without thinking.
An example of this would be me teaching our daughter to drive with a stick shift. Where I have a lot of experience, so I don’t have to think about it, this is not yet true for her. These folks argue that once she has had more experience driving a stick shift car, she’ll become intuitive about it too. But I’d just call that more experience. I’d don’t think you can reduce intuition down to material brain waves.
To me, intuition is more of an instinct, a hunch, a “sixth sense,” a bit of clairvoyance, an inkling, a sneaking suspicion, a premonition, a gut feeling, a knowing without knowing why you know. The dictionary would agree with me, however culturally, the term has become more broad and insipid, and less meaningful or clear.
My mother used to say “a little birdie told me,” which was a her euphemism for “I have no idea why I know that but I do,” in some situation where she had zero experience. She was remarkably prescient. I can be the same way. My sisters and I (and our kids) all use the shortcut phrase, “Go with your gut.” That’s how we make decisions, and it never steers us wrong; we’ll just inherently know what we need to do. Internally the answer is clear. Obviously, it is not literally our gut any more than our brain that does this mysterious knowing.
I think all people have this native capacity. The Myers/Briggs personality test, however, divides people into two groups: those who they label as “sensors” and those they call “intuitive.” I test squarely in the intuitive camp, but sensors are those that only consider concrete evidence, based on the available information offered up by the five material senses. So those that are trying to explain away intuition as neural pathways are admirably trying to include everyone to a supposedly exclusive party. However, since we become what we use, if someone focuses only on the five material senses, those neural pathways are not going to make them intuitive.
This is where I’d like to present another term that I find more helpful than all this talk. It is called spiritual sense. It was coined over 125 years ago by Mary Baker Eddy, who said in her best selling book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 209) “Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God.” It isn’t the brain that is telling us what we didn’t know we knew. Eddy also says, “Spiritual sense, contradicting the material senses, involves intuition, hope, faith, understanding, fruition, reality.”(ibid p. 298) It is the divine Mind, not the brain who does this doing, and this goes beyond sensing, intuition, and experience.
Click here, and you can read an example of this in the second half of this past post, when I knew something I couldn’t possibly have known. This did not happen because I have an intuitive personality or because I had any experience. I had never been there before, and did not know it even existed.
We all, without exception, can be blessed by tuning into spiritual sense. Often while painting, I’ll ask a question of the canvas, and will receive an answer. What color should I use next? I instantly have the answer. I refute that this happens because I’ve gotten so much experience painting. I believe a higher power is at work, leading me, communicating with me, ever ready with a next step, a solution, or a remedy. This is probably what is happening for some of those self-professed “intuitive painters.” This higher Source is what we should practice conversing with, and frankly, this amazing conversation is a main reason I love to paint.
A dear spiritual mentor of mine used to point to a radio as an example. The radio waves are in the room all the time, but they don’t do anything for us unless we turn it on and tune in. Likewise, spiritual sense is always talking to us, but are we listening? We have to engage with it first, and turn it on through prayer, through conversation, through inquisitiveness, followed by listening. You’ll get the answer every time– just like the music comes on if you turn the radio on– and it’s not coming from brain, or intuition, or “gut,” or experience, but from Life, Truth, Love, God, the divine Mind itself.
Cultivating spiritual sense is thrilling, and I wish more people would experience this exciting connection, instead explaining it away materially, or hiding it behind the term of intuition.