What is spiritual intuition?

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Let’s say you have been praying about an important decision in your life and an answer comes that you feel certain is the right one. Or perhaps you are going about your daily business and an urgent thought tells you, “Move away from that spot right now!” Or you have a feeling that the person you are talking with may not be telling you the truth, even though he or she has a reputation for integrity. How do you know—in these instances, or in any circumstance—if the thoughts that are coming to you are spiritual intuitions from God, or maybe just human will, anxiety, or emotion?

The answers may not be as black and white as we would like them to be. But our ability to know whether our intuitions are truly spiritual—that is, coming from God—grows as we grow in our understanding of the true nature of God, and in our willingness to let God mold our thoughts and actions anew in accord with His will.

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I find myself thinking about the biblical account of Abraham’s struggle to understand and obey God (see Genesis 22:1–13). In Abraham’s time people worshiped many gods, and “the sacrifice of the firstborn was a common practice … and was regarded as the most pleasing service which men could offer to their deities” (The One Volume Bible Commentary, edited by J.R. Dummelow, p. 29). Abraham, however, had begun to understand that there is actually only one God, and that this God alone requires our faith and obedience. But would this one almighty God require Abraham to do something so hideous as to sacrifice his firstborn son, Isaac?

Because he was so eager to prove his devotion to God, Abraham was willing to make this unspeakable sacrifice, if indeed it was God’s will; and he even thought he heard God tell him to do so. Accordingly, he made all the necessary preparations. Nevertheless, we have indications in the account that intuitions of God’s wholly benevolent nature were beginning to emerge in Abraham’s thought, assuring him of his son’s safety.

As Abraham and Isaac approached the place where the sacrifice would be made, Abraham indicated Isaac’s safe return from the sacrifice when he said to the young men accompanying them, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” Also, when Isaac asked him, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” And when he “took the knife to slay his son,” these words came to his thought: “Lay not thine hand upon the lad … I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” Then Abraham saw “a ram caught in a thicket,” and he substituted it for the sacrifice.

Spiritual intuition—a natural, God-given sense of what is right and good—exists within each of us. But human misconceptions of God tend to befog it. In Abraham’s case, his spiritual intuition was cutting through the foggy religious views and practices of his time and leading him to a higher degree of spiritual understanding and practice. What a blessing this was for Isaac, and for mankind’s progress in overcoming thoughts and practices that are totally unnatural to God and His loved creation, man.

The human tendency to judge things according to the five physical senses tends to suppress our natural intuition of what is right and good because they can reveal nothing to us of the things of Spirit—such as justice, mercy, love, purity, and so on. Yet, we are aware of these qualities, and that they should be expressed in human experience. This awareness is spiritual sense, which we all have, and enables us to discern the true nature of the one God and His spiritual creation.

It’s interesting to me that in defining spiritual sense in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy gives spiritual intuition primary billing. She says, “Spiritual sense, contradicting the material senses, involves intuition, hope, faith, understanding, fruition, reality” (p. 298). What this says to me is that spiritual intuition is the building block upon which we go forward with hope, grow in faith, gain spiritual understanding, experience the fruition of regeneration and healing, and ascend into the reality of eternal Life.

Spiritual intuition is the building block upon which we go forward.

Christ Jesus, for example, appealed to people’s natural spiritual intuitiveness to lead them to a more accurate understanding of God and their nature as God’s children. People felt the reality of spiritual qualities through the love Jesus expressed, and the compassion he showed in meeting human needs—healing the sick and forgiving sinners. This gave them hope and drew them to follow him and listen to his lessons. His parables, which he presented in the familiar framework of their everyday lives, increased their faith by showing them that following a spiritual path was practical and doable.

Jesus’ own spiritual intuition enabled him to perceive the character of others in order to bring out the best in them—all they were spiritually capable of. For instance, his intuitive sense of man’s inherent goodness led a crooked tax collector to see the error of his ways and correct them (see Luke 19:2–10). It also caused accusatory and harshly judgmental scribes and Pharisees to turn away from stoning an adulterous woman to examine their own thoughts (see John 8:3–11). And even though Jesus was fully aware that his disciple, Peter, was a far from perfect human being, he recognized Peter’s intuition of Jesus as the Messiah as proof that the power of God was the rock-solid foundation of Peter’s faith—a power upon which to build a church that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against” (Matthew 16:18).

Those who follow Jesus’ teachings, praying regularly for God’s direction in their lives, and strive for the development of spiritual qualities in their character, just naturally find their spiritual intuition emerging through the fog of materiality. And I’ve found that the daily study and practice of Christian Science strengthens that outcome by providing a clearer understanding of God through Bible-based synonyms—Life, Truth, Love, Spirit, Mind, Soul, and Principle (see Science and Health, p. 587)—and of man as God’s spiritual reflection. This understanding enables a person to more readily recognize what she or he intuitively knows is true and good—and to trust it to prevail over whatever the material senses or invasive human misconceptions are claiming. 

Spiritual intuition is really God working in us. We need to nurture it within ourselves through prayer, study, understanding, and practice—through a willingness to have God purify our desires and motives. This develops our ability to discern the difference between a genuine spiritual intuition from God and some manifestation of human will. Spiritual intuitions may occasionally come in the form of specific words telling us what to do, but this is not because God knows our human circumstances. He does, however, know our hearts; and if our hearts are true to God, we will intuitively know whether the “answer” we hear is God’s direction or simply what we want to hear. A heart that is humbly receptive to God’s direction is always willing to be directed anew.

Most of the time, spiritual intuition operates in the spiritually receptive heart as a guiding conviction of God’s goodness, of one’s ability to know what’s true, and of God’s ability to fit His children to do whatever it is their duty to do. A lesson in this was driven home to me early on in my study of Christian Science when I first joined a branch church of Christ, Scientist. There was such a humble willingness among the church members to serve in whatever capacity they were elected or appointed. If they didn’t feel qualified, they trusted that God would equip them for the task. In this way, individual members grew and developed both in spiritual discernment and achievement—and the church was well served. That lesson has served me well in my personal life, in my healing practice, in my writing, and in every capacity of service a branch church and The Mother Church have called me to.

We all have spiritual intuition. Cherish a humble willingness to let God mold and develop your thoughts and actions in accord with what you know intuitively is right and good, and you’ll find yourself discerning quite naturally what is God’s direction in your life, and what is not. 

The divine details
October 22, 2012

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