The modern conception of human being reduces man to his/her individuality: Human being is an individual being among other beings in the world. The major shortcoming of this conception is its lack of awareness of its own origin; it fails to see that a purely individual being cannot rise above itself and perceive itself as a part in a larger whole. The consciousness that perceives the part in view of the whole cannot itself be a mere part of this whole, for otherwise it would not be capable of apprehending anything beyond itself. This shortcoming of the modern conception of human being and Reality as a whole urges us to take a look at the traditional perspective on the constitution of human being.
From the traditional point of view, human being is understood to be like an iceberg only whose tip, its smallest part, lies in the manifest order which is the realm of individualities. The largest portion of the human person which constitutes the supra-individual core of his being lies in the unmanifest, supra-individual order. Thus, the traditional conception of man always considers his whole being which is always more than his individuality.
The traditional point of view conceives of man as the ternary of Spirit-Soul-Body which correspond, respectively, to his three principal faculties of Intelligence, Sentiment, and Will. While the body which is but an avatar operative in the field of willful action lies in the purely individual order, the Spirit which is the principle behind the avatar lies in the purely spiritual, supra-individual order; it is the spirit behind the letter, the invisible meaning behind the visible word. The soul associated with psyche and sentiment is the principal channel of communication between these two orders of Reality; it is the means or the thread by which the Spirit descends to the body so that the body ascends, i.e. returns, to the Spirit. By the very fact that Spirit belongs to the supra-individual order we can no more speak of my spirit or your spirit; rather, in our individual aspects we are all manifestations of one and the same Spirit, the Supreme Principle behind all manifestations.
It is natural that the Spirit and spiritual truths must belong to the invisible order. Spiritual truths are eternal and immutable forms immune to all change and decay while worldly facts are by their very nature contingent and relative and hence subject to change and decay. Invisibility, thus, is a necessary precondition for immutability. Note that visibility and seeing in the ordinary sense of visual perception, and any human perception for that matter, entail perspective and hence relativity and contingency. Therefore, no immutable and absolute truth can belong to this contingent order of Reality. It is a matter of logical necessity that nothing of a supra-individual order can be susceptible to mundane perception and profane knowledge.
However, as we mentioned above the human person whose whole being is more than his individuality is equipped with a faculty capable of transcending the individual order and apprehending the immutable truths of a supra-individual nature. This faculty is nothing but human Intelligence which originates not from the brain or the mind but from the Pure Intellect of the Divine Principle. Intelligence has nothing to do with human individuality and is not correlated or associated with any physical or mental aspect of the human person; instead, it is the direct and sacred link between the soul and the Spirit. Intelligence is that sacred thread emanating directly from the Spirit, a thread whose principal function is the provision of the means of ascent and hence return to the Spirit Itself. It is the perverted version of this intelligence, that is, its reflection in and distortion by individual subjectivities, that has made possible the emergence of modern science, a science that by its very nature is nothing but profane knowledge.
Intelligence in its pure form and supremely objective character is that which makes man capable of intellectual intuition the result of which can only be the Sacred Science or science par excellence, namely Metaphysics. Here by metaphysics we do not mean the vulgar interest, so fashionable today, in flying spirits and angelic beings and channeling media, and in general in any supernatural power or phenomenon; nor do we imply by metaphysics the modern western sense of the word as in speculative philosophies which are purely rationalistic and thus wholly lacking in intellectual depth.
Metaphysics in its etymological and original sense of the word, the only sense in which we are interested here, is nothing but the sacred science of the universal principles, a science whose method is intellectual intuition and inward realization and whose aim is the attainment of the Supreme Identity, namely Deliverance. It is Intelligence alone that is capable of metaphysical knowledge and hence of assisting the being in its return to the Principle Itself. Intelligence in this sense is nothing but the Intellectus Archetypus, the Divine Intellect, which constitutes the only infallible means of knowledge in man.
The grave mistake of the rationalists in their confusion of reason with Intellect originates precisely from their failure to recognize the supra-individual element in man and his Intelligence, a confusion that has led to reducing the Intellect to human reason which is only capable of discursive thought and profane knowledge of an individual and contingent nature. This confusion is due to their total lack of comprehension of the traditional distinction between the Intellectus Archetypus, the supra-human and purely intellectual faculty, and the Intellectus Ectypus, the merely human and purely rational faculty. It is no surprise that modern science and philosophy which lack an intellectual dimension are completely oblivious to the “metaphysical transparency of phenomena”, phenomena that by their very nature prove nothing and are worthless in and by themselves compared to the spiritual truths they symbolize and of which they are only outward manifestations. This lack of intellectual depth is characteristic of the modern West whose sciences are insanely obsessed with phenomena in themselves rather than with the Principle on and for which phenomena stand, the Principle which is graspable only in light of a refined and highly objective intellectual intuition and which doesn’t lend itself to the indirect and discursive modes of knowing of the rational faculty. In spite of this, man through his/her Intelligence which constitutes his/her intellectual/spiritual dimension is made capable of participating in the Divine Knowledge whose content are the absolute and the immutable truths of a supra-individual nature.
Intellectual intuition devoid of prejudice and not contaminated by individual subjectivity and sentimentality, a contamination so characteristic of modern science, is precisely the inner eye, the Eye of The Heart, that penetrates and perceives the mundanely invisible truths of the spiritual and supra-individual order of Reality. Since the physical order, which is the realm of shadows and reflected forms, is nothing but the descending reflection of a metaphysical order, which is the realm of immutable forms, then it is natural that every visible form of the manifest order must communicate to us an invisible, and hence immutable truth of the unmanifest order. More precisely, every visible form in the individual order has only a symbolic function and is but a channel into the invisible truths of a supra-individual order, and it is only in virtue of his/her objective Intelligence that man can penetrate the veils of ignorance and at last get a glimpse of The Face.
2 thoughts on “Man & Intelligence”
*nodding repeatedly* So nice to recognize ideas, which I often struggle to convey, come through in the words of another. “Like an iceberg” is such a good metaphor, Tomaj, thank you. I can readily and gratefully agree with your perspectives on Intelligence, Metaphysics and The Face.
Past the boundaries of our Rationality, (it seems to me that) our Irrationality, namely our poetry and art and music and so much more, can shine much light. Perhaps the light can be dazzling and often confusing, yet it can also hopeful and helpful.
Your last line mentions “only a symbolic function”. While acknowledging that words are slippery eels of meaning, my instinct is to not fully agree with this word symbolic, which can perhaps be taken to mean purely unreal and mental. However, now my instinct is to question my choice of the words ‘unreal’ and ‘mental’. Thus is the quicksand, eh? Symbolic is an accurate word, but also just a word. Not sure if I’ve made any point or simply muddied the pond. Anyway, thanks for another stimulating essay!
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Oh, thanks DV for your kind words. I am glad that my writing has something to offer, but also if it offers anything it is because people like yourself who see in it something worth of expressing.
By symbolic I meant as here symbol in a very general sense; symbol is the means of communication between different order of Reality, much like how through language we get to know aspects of reality that are immediately un-perceived, for example another person’s thoughts, or another places which we get to know them through language; again in science we see mathematics represents an order of reality that is not accessible to sense perception, like the quantum world that is only expressible in terms of mathematics. In general, symbol connects us to another’s world. That other world need not be unreal or mental but may be only inaccessible to our immediate perceptions.
Another point I need to add in order to avoid a misunderstanding in my post; when I speak of supra-rational I mean not irrational but pure intellectual since intellect goes higher than reason. Irrationality is simply something that is opposed to reason and thus it belongs to the same order of reality as reason itself, sensible world. Reason according to rationalists themselves is just an instrument; it doesn’t produce knowledge by itself but only works with the data we give to it. It makes inferences from those data and hence it is discursive and indirect. Intellect however needs no data because it sees things directly as in intuition. For example, pure mathematics is the product of intellectual intuition and not rational faculty because in pure mathematics we are dealing with sense data; the propositions of pure math are absolutely true whether or not there is an outside world and regardless of contingencies. These kinds of knowledge which as absolute lie in the sphere of intellect which is beyond rationality, and thus they are far from irrational but the only absolute truths accessible. Metaphysics too is pretty much like pure mathematics and the means of metaphysical knowledge is that intellect not reason because metaphysical truths are valid regardless of all contingencies of the sensible world.
I hope I could make the distinction a little clear; it is a distinction that always existed, from Plato to middle ages but somewhat ignored in the modern time.
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