One often sees, in modern novels, characters who, through various devices of the author’s intention, are brought to confront the fact of their mortality. As the unavoidable conclusion to their adventure of experiences, it appears as a gloomy mirror, reflecting only that which they’d rather not see.
He may be a man of middle age, resusitating his youth with fast cars and young impressionable women; he may be that youth, running the gamut of sensual excitements, supplied as the accoutrements of his nation and class; she may be a housewife, safely anchored in the harbor of babies and bliss; she may be moving discreetly toward matronhood, glinting with baubles and beads; she may be the matriarch crippled with conceit; he may be the tycoon, corned by incontinence or impotence.
Through the death of a loved one, or the contraction of that epoch’s terminal disease, such wayfaring strangers are brought up short in front of our eyes, and made to face that which they have spent their lives circling around the fact of their demise. ‘Good and bad, two ways of moving about your death’, wrote Dylan Thomas to his son. And thus the heroes and heroines consume the circles of the unacknowledged ruin: extinction makes their existence meaningless. Or seems to.
And deprived as they are, in the modern novel, of the conventional religious comforts, they rapidly descend the ever darkening ladder, only occasionally redeemed by the promise of hereditary pleasures, that ungrateful army of generation rising, it is assumed, to forward push, however slightly and minutely, the frontiers of achievement.
These works, often imitated and rarely extended in the product of modern cinema, mark the terminus of the age of reason. The reason that was brought onstage to repel the ancient shadows of primitive superstitions and inculcate the habits of clear thinking ‘common sense’. Yet despite the infinite know how and graceful democratic debate developed under such an aegis, protagonists dwindle and dither in sweats of dejection and self doubt, brought on by the seemingly mindless cruelties and tragedies of our day. ‘Existentialist angst’ is the phrase perhaps most associated with this species of creative endeavour. Often blamed on Europe and its disastrous world wars, this epidemic has moved with viral ingenuity about the planet. In the most surprising places people despair of a life’s meaning imposed by reason.
Many intellectuals, still invigorated with the reductive visions of Marx and Freud, have accepted these gloomy proscriptions of existence, submerging their desperation in sardonic humour, and a searching through the ever deepening details of their specialties for that byway or backwater which will supply their career with sufficient novelties to successfully renegotiate the contract with their contemporaries.
Such leading lights of our culture will only scoff at the notion that there are qualities that may lead us from this despair of reason into a state dignified by sustenance rather than cancerous growth. Taking refuge, perhaps, in the charm of a Mozart, the rigour of a Bach, or the multilingual genius of a Joyce, they will continue to deny the value of anything but reason, pointing to its accomplishments in all fields of endeavour.
Nevertheless, reason is but a step in our continuing education, leading us out of the valley of our sweltering superstitions to the cooler, higher ground of dispassionate discourse. And due to the persuasive view provided by such a plateau onto the fields of our phobic attempts to placate the unknown forces that fed our insecurities, we stopped there for centuries, setting up camp in a convincing tent city of canvas covered certainties
Tidy patterns of thought, however superior to the inchoate surges of ignorant emotion, kept us secluded in the shady grove of objectified dualities. The right and the wrong, the progressive and the conservative, the winner and the loser, the woman and the man, the evil and the good, the favoured and the deprived, us and them.
The more refined emotional energy of intuition was kept in ever deeper shadowy recesses, for fear that it was a resurgence of the old superstitious fanaticism. Individuals had to develop it on the sly, for although the age of reason may have ended the exploits of the old inquisition, it heralded the onslaught of the newer, more civilized one: mockery and character assassination.
Like Gurdjieff’s ‘cunning man’ they had to make their way quietly through the battle lines of opposing viewpoints. Through various methods they had come to realize that polarities like right and wrong are always relative to viewpoint, and if viewpoint is understood as the mental energy it is, free to float and dwell where it pleases, all sides can be considered and used as a pathway to resolution. All the myriad ways.
For them, as us, the duality of life and death had become just as illusory as all the other dictates of reason. They had come to a stage in their ongoing education where life could be seen as an endless continuum of vibrating energies suffusing the universe, a sea of interacting forces that recognize no form as container or contained. Nowadays we find physics has submitted to the same notion: science has embraced the Tao, and in doing so has overcome its greatest fear, – that it would be subsumed in the process.
In making this leap, these cunning men dared to confront their own immortality. As individualities posturing through the years we can make this stretch in a variety of ways: those ways are variations on the development of intuition. Taking the emotional energy often squandered in fear-fueled superstition, we can add it to the clear cut divisiveness of reasonable people perfecting the infinite argument and perform the alchemical transmutation in the lab of the self.
The resulting intuition knows it is right, but unlike its unevolved cousins superstition and reason, it does not seek to shout from the rooftops, or stampede on raged impulse those who oppose it, for whereas the enthusiasm of superstition and reason are the results of a finite being fearing the unknown territory surrounding its apparent form, intuition is the consequence of a trusting heart vibrating in tune with its environment, the resonance enabling the being to blend into that bliss beyond boundaries.
Intuition leaves all the insistence to superstition and all the debating to reason, for it knows the homing of these skills lead only to more honing. The points may get sharper, but the polarities remain impervious to resolution. Sides proliferate and cultivate territories of self importance, which competing intellects take on at will. Meanwhile intuition looks on from the heights of immortality, for it has escaped the prison of stance and opinion and is permeating the continuum with convivial ease and grace. Over two hundred years ago, that charming Scot, David Hume, in his dissertation “On Immortality”, argued for ‘some new species of logic’ and ‘some new faculties of mind…to comprehend that logic’. That new species is intuition.