RCR – Taking Stock


Pausing to take stock of a new situation, project or opportunity, to consider the pros and cons, weigh up the good and the bad, are important and common sensical strategies in our pragmatic culture.

Curiously, however, studies have shown greater success for those who act upon their intuition rather than taking a pause to take stock.

So, then, let us all give free rein to our intuition.

But, unfortunately, intuition is a much contested concept because lacking in a clarity of meaning.

To take a short detour, before continuing to explore this ‘intuition’ which gives us better access to positive outcomes in our lives than rational thinking, it needs to be remembered that no word has a clarity of meaning anywhere and at any time. For, I ask you, consider ‘facts’, those cold hard logical nuggets by which we wish to anchor our lives, are there any ‘facts’ which remain true independent of time and place?

Is a fact then exactly not that, that no fact can be known by anyone, anywhere at any time?

But to return to intuition. What is it? A feeling, a sensation, an idea or even a thought? None of these things? How to define that which has no solid boundaries?

Intuition is then a host of questions in search of an answer.

But if we cannot derive meaning from either the side of facts or the side of intuition, where do we stand in the world? How can we ever ‘do’ anything?

Curiously we find some sense of an answer given by Kant, not a philosopher I would normally turn to for advice. But in a thrust toward the living heart of this problem he says:

“Concepts without intuition are empty, and intuition without concepts is blind.”

I do not know the full history of Heidegger’s debt to Kant, but I’m sure the academic mill has filled this lacuna since I last looked at the infinitely expanding bibliography, but when he says:

“Philosophy as a rationalist creation, detached from life, is powerless; mysticism as an irrationalist experience is purposeless.”

Heidegger is working out of the same ground as Kant.

And, similarly, when Masao Abe, a member of the Kyoto School of philosophy says:

“An intellectual understanding without practice is certainly powerless, but practice without learning is apt to be blind.”

We might well conjecture the influence of both Kant and Heidegger.

But to return to ‘intuition’. It is first defined as the contrast to ‘concepts’, then it is transformed into ‘mysticism’ where it is opposed to ‘rationalism’, and finally it is used as ‘understanding’ in contrast to ‘practice’ in the context of Zen.

The finger points to neither one side or other of any dualistic equation. Truth does not inhere in one side or the other.

Does this then collapse both sides into an indistinguishable oneness, from which nothing for our lives can be learnt?

No. It is neither one side nor the other, nor neither nor both. It is the recognition that intuition is intuition, concepts are concepts and that neither is also not exactly the other.

It is a cycle of transformation where one comes into existence and stands alone as the meaning of all being, until it begins to fade, before the other then stands alone upon the field of being – as long as it is remembered that this cycling transformation is instantaneous in every moment, fully present within the fullness of eternity which is found there.

Now I do not know how useful this will be for anyone looking to incorporate intuition into their lives, so let me say instead that every moment expresses clearly what needs to be done and that if we fall to either one side or the other of the intuition/concept divide, then we will perpetuate the suffering of the world.

Which might also be said that unless we practice meditation then all our fine ideas about morality, right action, saving the world etc are condemned to failure and to support the suffering we wish to overcome.

But this also has to be further refined to saying that unless we take the practice of meditation from out of the zendo to the world we will not fulfil even the first of the vows of a bodhisattva.

Zen is reality. As reality it is not defined either as an intuition, philosophy or understanding, neither is it a concept, rationalism or practice. It is the totality of what is in every moment and our becoming that totality in order let our actions be the doing of the world itself.

But for a pragmatic culture, the recognition of how to incorporate intuition into our lives is of primary importance.

Meditation would be a good place to start.


About Jamie Nicol

Living in the forested hills of Catalonia, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Zen teacher, recovering philosopher, small-scale natural farmer. Writing just what comes.
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