Saturday, 25 June 2016

The Extraordinary Gift of the Mind:Part-5

Continued from Part-4

15.    Intuition

When there is insufficient information or knowledge, or confusing situations/uncertainty, the Mind sometimes comes up with solutions, scenarios or answers without conscious effort, thinking or logical analysis.  This is intuition or a hunch. It comes up mostly as a feeling, which shows that it is a result of some deep processing, usually inaccessible for the ordinary thought process. It also has a distinct flavour of unreliability, since it seems it is not well founded. How reliable is it? It ranges from very useful and meaningful to useless and nonsensical.

Intuition is a suspension of logic due to impatience.
- Rita Mae Brown

Should we take decisions based on intuitions and act on them? It depends on what other options are open. If there is an option where something can be done about the lacking knowledge or information, then it is better to seek that first. If there is no sufficient time to do it, then there is no option but to act on the intuition. If there is sufficient time and its still not possible to get the required knowledge, it is better to wait anyway and let the Mind come up with alternatives, or sometimes it can reveal the foundation on which the intuition was based. 

Because intuition is a result of uncertainty, anything that one can do about it is also uncertain. The only thing I’d not recommend is to become adamant about it. Some people decide that intuitions are nonsense and they never act on them, even in safer situations. On the other extreme, some people always follow their intuitions (or gut feeling, as they call it) no matter what. One cannot predetermine the action one can take, it is always dependent on the situation. Remaining flexible and keeping the doors open for intuition works better.

It may be possible to develop intuition by taking it more seriously on occasions. It might produce surprising results sometimes. More you rely on it, more ungrounded you become, so it is better to not surrender completely to intuitions. I usually take a middle path. Whenever there are no major risks involved (say, in deciding under uncertainty, which book to buy or which movie to watch), I let intuition work. But when there is a serious risk, such as buying a property or visiting an unknown place, I let the logical decision making override any intuitions. This works, in my experience, because then I do not lose the intuitive abilities completely, and I do not cause major harm by letting it loose.

There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.
 - Albert Einstein

When one does introspection, and asks questions to oneself, the answers usually come as hunches. They are subtle, it is useful to not to completely ignore them. But one should be careful not to let them turn into beliefs. Sometimes after more scrutiny, more time, the answers become clear, or you find some external evidences that support those intuitions. It may not happen often, but it is still useful.

16.    Imagination

The Mind has an extraordinary ability to create virtual sensory perceptions, or mental simulations. These are a faint copy of actual sensory perceptions and are usually derived from memory. The most common simulation is that of visual sense, and that is why we call it imagination, but other senses can be simulated more or less in similar way. So one can not only imagine still pictures/shapes, but also moving imagery, and sounds, tastes, smells and touch/texture. People with artistic abilities in the area of visual art have a well-developed visual simulation ability compared to non-artistic people. Musicians/singers have a heightened ability to “imagine” sounds, tones, timbre and musical relations between them. In my experience, it is difficult to simulate the senses of taste, smell and touch with high fidelity. Of course, some people may be gifted in this regard, and I’d imagine it is not impossible to do that.

The funny thing is, the Mind knows no difference between imagination and actuality as far as the processing is concerned. If the sensory input is coming from senses, or if it is coming from impressions, it makes no difference, and they are processed in exactly the same way. It may be difficult to abort the more automated actions that result from imagination, but it is possible to override actions suggested by it most of the time. Everyone has the experience of salivating when they imagine a lemon being cut and put on the tongue (well, almost everyone, I personally do not know anyone who is totally unaffected by it). Imagining visually in high detail and also recalling the tastes and sounds works best. So in effect, if you want to taste a lemon without a lemon, you can do it. The neutrality of the Mind in this regard is the reason why fear of the unknown causes a flight (say as soon as a terror is imagined) and sexual fantasies cause pleasure (the body reacts in exactly the same way in presence of a mate).

What distinguishes an imagination from actual? This is a very interesting ability, if you ask me, it is the most amusing ability of the Mind, because, in suitable conditions, there is absolutely no difference, Mind makes no distinction. In other situations, the Mind can see that the imagined contents are “faded”, less lively, flicker or are not compatible with the context, and so we know their simulated nature. This is also the most usual scenario. The imagination is taken literally, when the logical and cognitive abilities are less active, such as during sleep (dreams) or under the influence of drugs, or alcohol. The imagination is also taken literally under hypnosis, but lets not go there for now.

The imagined contents are also not strict regarding spatiality or temporality. This also gives clue to the Mind, informing it that its nothing but imagination. Sometimes the simulations are creative, unusual, such as artistic imaginations, and that is also a clue for the Mind. Imagination can be initiated at will, which also gives Mind a warning that forthcoming content is not from senses. What is the difference between an image that is recalled from the memory and the one that is imagined? The recall is constrained by experience that created the related memory, imagination is unconstrained. Otherwise there is no difference, vivid memory recalls are as good as imagined contents. This suggests that same structures are involved in sensory perception, memory recall and imagination.

Since the same structures are involved, it is possible to mix imagination with memory or vice versa (or sometimes with sensory inputs, such as when you see a rope as a snake in dim light). This is an interesting peculiarity of the Mind. So we arrive at illusions, delusions or hallucinations - all forms of imagination and its blends with sense/memory contents. How enchanting!

Dreams are just unsupervised imaginations in the sleep state. These are highly unorganized and incoherent for most of us, except for those who can dream lucidly.

I see imagination as a fractal clone of the immense ability of the Mind to create. The clone is a constrained process of structuring and creating happening inside a bigger and more complex process of creating and structuring. A process within a process. Now this is becoming confusing so we leave the metaphysical description here. The imaginative ability does provide us a faint glimpse of what Mind is capable of. It is also a subjective evidence of the Mind as the creator of knowledge.

Of what use is such ability? Minds gets to check the results of an action in simulated environment before it acts in physical world (that’s just another simulation, the physical world, but at a different level). This is the most important use. For example, if you stand on the edge of a cliff, a simulation of your fall runs without your conscious intervention, and this quickly informs the Mind what not to do, and it can trigger suitable action to prevent that fall. In more sophisticated application of imagination, an engineer may simulate if certain machine parts, say gears, will fit and work together. An artist can simulate (and can sometimes see) an entire painting before it is realized. A musician can compose a masterpiece without lifting his instruments. A Scientist can form a model without doing an experiment. One can easily imagine the consequences of a particular social behaviour without actually behaving in that way. The advantages are many and I’m not attempting to list them all.

Imagination empowers Mind, makes it more efficient (no energy needs to be wasted in doing an action, if you can know the outcome via mere imagination). Risks are reduced, more positive outcomes can be found, and so on. Some people are good at imagination, some are not. Some people can overdo it, e.g. imagine various horrors and worry about them or get lost in pleasurable fantasies. Some people totally lose control of it and their imagination becomes their perception, they end up in lunatic asylums.

Under proper conditions, it is possible to ignore the sensory input completely and remain active internally. This makes the imagination more vivid, so much so that the contents are indistinguishable from sensory inputs coming from the familiar physical world or the body. This is the famous mind awake body asleep state (MABA), and is used to explore the non-physical experiences [1]. Such experiences provide further evidence that there is essentially no difference between the physical world and imagined worlds, it is all just Experiencing. If you train yourself (can take years), the imagined worlds become as solid and persistent as the usual physical world. Here we are at the mostly blurred boundary of what is imagined and what is not. At this point, it makes no sense to call them imagined worlds, so we just call them Non-Physical Realms. When one spends too much time in non-physical worlds, the physical now appears as having qualities of an imagination, that is, it may appear as a faded, flickering, flimsy image - unreal. The Mind solidifies those experiences that are more frequent and more familiar – the ordinary ability of learning in action – the solidity of a particular world is a matter of habit. Now we know the reason why some advanced practitioners on the path of knowledge call the physical world as mere illusion (Maya, that which is not), perhaps they can see very clearly that there are no worlds, just mental activity, just Experiencing.

When we say everything is maya or illusion, maya does not mean it does not exist, maya simply means that you are not seeing it the way it is.
- Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
-    Albert Einstein

In my experience, I’ve had only some glimpses of such experiences but these were significant and substantial enough to make me wonder. Are these hyper-realistic experiences true/real? We have seen before on the discussion on truth, that this is not a meaningful question. The more meaningful question is – Are these of any use? Well, firstly these are fun. You get a freedom in non-physical that is impossible in physical, one can do anything while in that state. Licking a lemon in your mind’s eye is peanuts compared to what one can experience there. Your imagination is your limit. So enjoyment and entertainment are some uses. Anyhow, these experiences open a door to knowledge that is unconstrained, we are talking about extreme vastness of the Presence. Take what is useful and leave what is not, is the simple rule I follow [2]. There is no use worrying about how this all happens, it just happens, as I said, it is just Experiencing in the Presence, the physical world is nothing special. Sometimes the non-physical experiences are very powerful because they destroy all your strange beliefs in a single blow. This can be intense, so proceed with caution, if you plan to try such a thing.

"And meditation is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her--neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure,--when she takes leave of the body, and has as little as possible to do with it, when she has no bodily sense or desire, but is aspiring after true being”
"He attains to the knowledge of Forms in their purity who goes to each of them with the soul alone, not allowing when in the act of meditation the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the soul in her clearness penetrates into the very light of truth in each Form. . ."  
- Plato, Phaedo

How to explore the non-physical? The key is attention. As I said while discussing attention, this ability of paying attention is the single most important ability. One needs to exclusively attend to the non-sensory contents. The trick is to lure the Mind away from processing sensory contents and bodily sensations/emotions/thoughts etc, of which it is most addicted to. It is our habit to pay attention to the usual physical world, our actions in it, people in it and what not. One needs to break this habit and free one’s Mind in order to travel to the non-physical. 

“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
― Nikola Tesla

For a person addicted to the physical world, there are only two choices – go inwards or go outwards. Take former, while you practice. Attend to your mental space, forget what is outside. There is nothing outside or inside anyway, it is just what we attend to. This blog is not about techniques. There are tons of techniques, helpful instructions and good books out there. There are teachers who can teach you, there are workshops, trainings etc. It does look preposterous but is not impossible. Some people are really talented and they take it like a fish to the water. Others struggle, sometimes for decades. This is how wide the spectrum of Mind’s abilities is. As with other abilities, it is a matter of practice [3].

One can create a non-physical world, create other creatures/individuals in it, create exotic structures at his whim, and abide in it for a very long time, only rarely coming to the physical, to serve his body, which now needs minimal care, as he has mastered his body via various practices. Or one can choose a ready-made non-physical world out of the infinite one's already available. It can take a life time to master this. The only question is - why would one even do that? If it is your thing.... do it, there are no rules. But if you are on a fast lane towards your goal of freedom, you'd just taste the non-physical here and there, and proceed with an optimal life, not an exotic life. You want to get out of the trap of ignorance. All physical and non-physical attachments are nothing but ignorance. It doesn't make it a better ignorance if you coat it with gold.

So we see that the ability to imagine is a door that can take you to faraway places. Is it really necessary to go to such extreme? Can’t I progress without devoting time for flights of fancy? No, it is not necessary at all. This world, and the normal ordinary configuration of the Mind, is fully equipped to take you to the Self. The Self goes nowhere, and you need not go anywhere to be your Self. Actually, if you spend too much time exploring the phenomena (physical or not), you are simply distracting yourself away from the Self. The non-physical is as much a distraction as the physical, there is no difference between the physical and non-physical really, it’s a matter of convenience. The non-physical is as much outside you as the physical. The Self is here, now. 

The astral world is not the ultimate liberating experience; the soul attains complete ascension only through realization of its oneness with the Creator Himself. Nevertheless, soul progress begins with the effort to disengage from the delusion of material bondage into the higher awareness of one's finer astral existence. Learn to be more transcendent now; identify with the life of your astral self and its connection with the astral world.
-    Paramahansa Yogananda

That said, extraordinary experiences that are intense compared to everyday experiences of waking world are helpful in destroying one’s pet beliefs. If you find yourself in the grip of beliefs, I’d recommend that you explore for a while. Phenomenal realms are not your goal, the Self is, so return to the Self wherever you are. Shouldn’t matter much if you are someone with a body in a familiar physical environment, or are disembodied, dwelling in exotic locations, as long as you concentrate on your path.



[1] Also known as Out of body experiences or Astral Projections. This ability is a great gift and is not rare, surprisingly.

[2] I’m thankful to Thomas Campbell for this teaching.

[3] I’m thankful to Robert Bruce, Robert Peterson, Robert Monroe, William Buhlman, Thomas Campbell, Frank Kepple, Ishwar Puri and many more teachers for their teachings and techniques regarding OOBEs and for demystifying the ancient Indian and western concepts about the out of body experiences.


  1. Good post documenting all the useful information about OOBE. Some references (books, tutorials, weblinks) to practice this would be useful so that we can also take what is useful from it and leave what is not.

    1. You will find more info and essential technique here -

      This website has all the references etc -