The validity of ‘feeling’ something to be true

The other day, I read someone call his “gut feeling” his “god feeling”. He was proposing that we should always trust our ‘gut feeling’ when it goes counter to our intellectually formed beliefs, because it comes from God where as our intelligence has human limitations. Feeling something to be true is a sure sign of its truth, where as intellectual belief is prone to be mistaken.

That feeling the truth of something entails that it must true seems to go very counter to evidence. Consider, for example, all the irrational fears that people can have. I know someone who is afraid to go outside; intellectually, I think she knows that it cannot harm her, but the feeling that the outside is dangerous is so strong that it usually overcomes her intellectual belief. I’ve also read about a rare condition in which a person strongly feels that he is dead (I can’t remember the name atm, and can’t find the book to look it up – I’ll edit when I find the book); certainly, this feeling is totally erroneous to the facts. Human beings have evolved to feel to be true that which tends to be useful to their survival, but given a brain disorder (i.e., some condition of the brain that departs from the norm of how evolution has tended to condition brains) and a person can feel all kinds of crazy things to be true.

I certainly agree with anyone who thinks that genuine understanding of an idea requires grasping it at an emotional level, rather than just thinking it in the abstract. However, given that evidence suggests that there is no essential connection between feeling something to be true and it actually being true, I also think that we should at least hold suspect those feelings that do not cohere with what rationally makes sense to us (of course, our reasoning ability is limited, so we should not automatically assume they are false either). Ultimately, I conclude that understanding requires both an intellectual conception of the intended object, as well as the internalization of this conception so that it’s felt in addition to being thought.

Some people have argued for the existence of God on the grounds that we are capable of having ‘special’ experiences where we strongly feel the presence of God. My question for those on this forum who think as such, is how is this feeling any different from the strong feeling that the outside is dangerous, or that one is dead? How do you know that it isn’t just a “trick” of the unconscious workings of the brain?

Iss

Hi Iss,

This word ‘feeling’ needs clarification. There are two types of feelings. The first is the type that we perceive through the 6 senses, the 6th sense being the mind. These are usually our emotional responses. For example, I see someone begging on the street and my emotional response percieved through the sense of sight is a ‘feeling’ of pity. When I hear a beautiful piece of music, I might be moved to a deep feeling of joy, sadness whatever is perceived through my sense of hearing. These are obvious examples. But what of the more complex kinds of feelings? My boyfreind neglects to call for whatever reason and in my mind I begin to have thoughts of doubts of his feelings for me. My emotional response is to become hurt. Right or wrong, these feelings stem from my mind and are based on my psychological conditioning. In truth he hasn’t called because his phone ran out of battery or he was held up in a meeting but before he has had an opportunity to communicate his reasons I have already been hurt by my own perceptions. My own limitations. We can also have positive ‘false’ emotional responses. The main idea is that our emotional life is part of our mental life.

Personally, I was molested when I was five years old and my five year old mind perceived that I shouldn’t tell anyone about it. As a coping mechanism my mind pushed the memory aside and I developed ‘survival’ techniques to protect myself from further pain, rightly so for a healthy 5 year old mind. I felt I should have been able to tell my father but I never did. I didn’t remember this until I was 27 when particular events brought the memory back. I had been responding to certain situations with all my boyfriends based on the mind of a 5 year old, which no longer served me as a grown woman. This doesn’t in anyway invalidate my ‘feelings’ but proves that my feelings are perceived through my mind and thus have nothing to do with reality.

Gut feelings or aptly put ‘god feelings’ on the other hand are different. They are a kind of intuition. They are not really emotional feelings - they are existential, whole in themselves and in harmony with the pulse of life. It is the knowing that right now I need to get in my car, against my rational mind, and drive to a certain place because there, without knowing intellectually, is something there and when I get there I meet someone who gives me the next clue to the direction of my life’s purpuse or I meet my future husband or meet the person who will inspire me to awaken spiritually. Am I making sense?

The key to knowing the difference between the two types of feelings is in how well we know ourselves. How well we know our mind and the paths along which it thinks. A combination of introspection, practical meditation (becoming aware of the mind’s activities) and self realisation is what helps us to recognise the ‘tricks’ of the mind. Mind is cunning, very cunning indeed.

A

Hi, hope you dont mind a few of my comments

If it is just a trick working on the unconscious? we still have no grounds, until we find out just how the unconscous works, to say that this intuition was not inspired by god.

It seems in your previous examples you refer to the “irrational fears” that people have which override their intellectual beliefs, perhaps to distinguish between these and “special feelings” is merely that these irrational fears are still stemmed from a basic and powerful mechanism, fear. The special experiences people say come from a divine source don’t have any direct goal, (eg. evoke a feeling of fear) and perhaps the human mind doesn’t know quite what to make of it, and has this powerful intimate experience witch they, because of their inaccurate diction, refer to as god.

The example of the woman who is scared to leave her house, there are many risks leaving the house, threat of being robbed, hit by a car, getting killed by a falling coconut., at least thex have a clear goal.

The man who strongly thinks he is dead, i cannot find a goal in this, he may be confused.

Just a few of my thoughts

peace

As I understand it, much of "gut feeling"is not really emotional but a quality of instinctive intellect. This impression is of a “knowing” something is right rather than a "feeling"of being right. The reaction is in the gut rather than the solar plexus or what we call “heart” which is emotional.

Often we allow our acquired fears and imagination to create an impression of reality that is completely distorted. Often these gut reactions see right through this self deception so they stand out for us as an oddity but I believe in reality the oddity is our self deception.

A person can only know once they’ve experienced both which is why so many ancient traditions stress the importance of the higher experiences such as satori and gnosis.

The intense experience of self deception is an aspect of ones personality while the true religious emotional experience touches the place of the soul. Self deception denies consciousness while the true religious experience cannot remain without it. This is why John spoke of testing the spirits as he did.

The "feelings"of the God connection are different than the “emotions” of escapism. Once experienced, the distinction is obvious.

I remember speaking with an exceptional woman who was a yogi. She told me of her great hurt as a child and girl where she began to take it out on God. She discovered yoga and decided to pursue it to attain a certain degree of power where she could tell off God. She thought she may be destroyed but it didn’t matter. she just wanted to get her two cents in as to his cruelty

One day in meditation she experienced divine love. It was like nothing ever experienced before. Instantly she knew that all the hurts she’d experienced had nothing to do with the higher at all. It was only her imagination that was connecting them and initiating such violent emotions within her. It changed her life completely. She’d experienced “feeling” which allowed her to recognize her negative emotion for what it was.