Wise Words – Intuition: The Mystery That Reason Cannot Grasp

Jonas Salk – “Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.”

Henri Poincare – “It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we discover.

Stephen Hawking – “There is no prescribed route to follow to arrive at a new idea. You have to make the intuitive leap.”

Albert Einstein – “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.”


These titans of science all echo the same sentiment that intuition is the driving force behind scientific discovery, not the rational thinking mind. Intuition is the creative spark that arrives before logic and without reason.

Wait a minute. Is science a creative art? I thought science worked with rigorous methods and objective facts to remove speculation and human bias. Intuition sounds more like the spooky feelings of superstition.

These towering giants say no.

Hypothesis, experimentation, evidence gathering and rational analysis were obviously crucial to these scientists. But they put intuition, that creative spark with no rational basis, in the driver’s seat, relegating the intellect to act as servant to the spark.

In this way, intuition and intellect form a partnership, with intuition as the senior partner. These partners operate in different realms using mutually exclusive modes of knowing. These modes are complimentary but not always comprehensible to each other. The intellect uses logic and analysis. Intuition is nonlinear, spatial, holistic, imaginal; it taps a stream running through the universe, a fountain that flows beyond the grasp of reason.

You have felt this yourself. The vibrant energy of intuition is more than mental; it is felt as a “gut” feeling, a whole-body sensation. Intuition is real, useful, and can be trusted as an important source of information.

Some insist that there has to be a rational explanation for everything, including intuition. For example, it’s possible to argue that intuitive leaps might result from the brain’s subconscious capacity to process information. The mind is constantly receiving sensory input and scanning our memories for patterns. When it sees a connection, an impression springs forth from the subconscious into our consciousness awareness, seemingly from nowhere, while actually arising through a plausible chain of internal steps.

The problem with this approach is that it upends the partnership, and demotes the senior partner at that! It pulls the greater realm into the lesser, subjecting a nonlinear experience to the limited modes of the intellect. It dismisses the vital half of life, the “feeling for the order lying behind the appearance,” as Einstein says.

Both realms, mystery and reason, are necessary to our human experience. Our material well-being has increased immensely over the last 300 years. Reason and logic have played a large part in the progress of science, and they deserve our gratitude.

But our spiritual well-being needs to connect to mystery as well. What is this spark we call intuition? Where do these images, ideas, sensations and leaps beyond logic come from? What is this stream running through the universe, weaving and connecting me to all things? Reducing intuition to the realm of reason denies our connection to mystery, a grave mistake when we realize that intuition can reveal a deeper evidence of the nature of the world.

Perhaps Max Planck, another giant, said it best in describing why each of these modes needs to be appreciated within its own realm.

Science does not mean an idle resting upon a body of certain knowledge; it means unresting endeavor and continually progressing development toward an end which the poetic intuition may apprehend, but which the intellect can never fully grasp.

Photo by Adrien Converse on Unsplash

2 Replies to “Wise Words – Intuition: The Mystery That Reason Cannot Grasp”

  1. Intuition ia my way of connecting to the Divine…When you acknowledge scientists , who have had a profound effect on our world, using intuition it brings confirmation to my experience.

    Thank you!

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