Garden of Eden

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In an attempt to gain a rational understanding of this exceptional and singular phenomenon, we should, I believe, start from a general characteristic in all conscious beings, an 'inborn knowledge', knowing something that is vital for biological existence 'by instinct'. Just as an animal knows without having to learn by trial and error, which kind of food, plants etc are necessary for its sustenance and which are poisonous, so man, particularly in the early stages of his development, has some natural or instinctive knowledge. Instinct has been described as the knowledge of the species within the individual. It is an orientation that deals only with typical situations, with recurring necessities in the life of an individual of a certain kind. It is a characteristic of the involuntary side of consciousness and requires little or no deliberation. In man, this faculty has become highly precarious and, except for a small number of situations, highly unreliable. Its function is often disturbed or replaced by some development of the intellect; it has atrophied to some extent through lack of use.

Corresponding to his higher status, mentally, man also possesses a faculty which, while it differs from it in several respects, is in a way related to instinct, especially as regards the strong, involuntary component of its achievements, the faculty of intuition. Bergson formulates the relation of the two faculties: "By intuition I mean instinct that has become disinterested, self-conscious, capable of reflecting upon its object and of extending indefinitely" (Evolution Creatrice II). Intuition can provide us with insights that are not concerned only with the bodily interests of a given individual. It has more far reaching aims and views and is capable of discovering connections, lines of causes, etc that it may not be possible to experience within the lifetime of an individual. It takes into account the continuous experience of a sequence of generations or a number of modifications experienced by an individual in a social context. Let us not forget that intuition functions in the entire field of natural phenomena and philosophical problems. Without appropriating Bergson's doctrine, which defines intuition as a mental faculty opposed to and supplementary to the intellect, a function with which to grasp inert matter and geometrical relations, we may yet agree with him in seeing in intuition a continuation of instinct. Like instinct, it is concerned above all with the phenomenon of life and living change. To the extent that the scope of intuition exceeds that of instinct, it loses the latter's unfailing certainty when reacting to its objective. Therefore, special criteria are required to ascertain the validity of its judgments. We cannot enter into that here, of course. Bergson reserves to the activity of intuition the entire area of theory and questions that are not amenable to science. We do not need to go along with that. I propose, rather, a subdivision within the functions and expressions of intuition into a lower and a higher kind. In other words, I mean to introduce a new category, a supreme use of intuition, and to distinguish this from its other applications. I shall base the need for making this distinction on the observation that, while intuition is, indeed, known to be involved in a vast sphere of possible results and activities, there is very little documentation for the function of intuition in its highest form.

As will be seen, the various epochs in the history of mankind differ in that they offer varying conditions, some more favourable than others, in which the three functions, instinct and the two intuitions, are active. We understand that the survival of a child requires it to rely on many operations that are outside of its will, that is, until it is older, when these are replaced. The early age of mankind, distinguished by the fact that it stands in greater need of psycho-biological abilities than later epochs, is likewise obliged to develop those abilities. Since these abilities lie outside the conscious mind, they are certain to 'hit their target', actually to achieve that for which they were produced. Instinct and both types of intuition must be judged from this angle. In particular, our customary view of intuition as an utterly unreliable, deceptive and far from unambiguous means of orientation in comparison with discursive thought, needs to be revised and to be seen in the context of the early life of mankind. Then, instinct and intuition simply 'spoke the truth' far more often than they will in the immensely more complicated and differentiated conditions of subsequent ages. Instinct then dies out and intuition becomes increasingly unable to deal with the vastly extended field of phenomena and action, unable to provide the single-minded direction that it was able to give at the beginning. Only one, a specific kind of intuition, rooted in that productive past, seems to have been able to retain its vitality, able to bridge the gulf of ages and to transmit its message to future ages. I shall try to make my meaning clearer by giving examples to illustrate the three functions.

My first example is the set of regulations on food and sex in Hebrew law. We are not concerned here with any immediately provable advantages or disadvantages, danger or the necessities of life for an individual, but with the task of shaping a specific type of person and values. The discriminating power of the intuitive faculty needed to operate in two directions; it had to penetrate the mysteries of biological life as determined by the interdependence of food, sexual behaviour, physical constitution and character in a human being; it also needed to operate in the direction of an intensification and a fixing of a type over the course of time. We have here a synthesis of natural development and human intention. To eat blood or pork will not make a person ill and will probably do no harm to the individual's physical well-being, but it will affect the type and character of his kind in the long run. W can and should, I believe, allow for greater intuitive discernment and insight in such contexts during the formative period of mankind than may be applicable in our era.

A similar case is that of the innocuous or harmful character of prescriptions concerning law ad morals for a group of people. There is certainly ample scope for intuition here. But as the ages of the human race succeeded one another, the possible variety of views and systems increased to such an extent that it became almost impossible to choose between them with anything like the certainty prevailing in the original situation, a time when thepeak in justifiable law and morality was attained in only a few spots on the inhabited globe.

We now come to what I have called a second, higher form of intuitive knowledge. With my attempt to determine this feature I have reached the real theme of this essay. The reason for the fascinating character of the problem seems to me to lie in the circumstance that the mode of intuition by which phenomena such as the creation of the world and man appear in the human mind is exceptional and unique in a way similar to the appearance of the phenomena themselves. The cognitive form is here of the same absorbing interest as its content. We may be dealing with a unique form of knowledge.