The intuitive mind is a sacred gift
The rational mind is a faithful servant
We honor the servant
And have forgotten the gift.
– A. Einstein
SCIENCE: During a 50 year career in Academic Medicine, I used the scientific method of inquiry to investigate the pathophysiology and treatment of disease. Science is the evidence based generation of knowledge. Using reproducible accurate measurements, scientists formulate hypothetical explanations of phenomena, and then we conduct experiments to falsify each hypothesis. Those explanations that could not be falsified are the truth. We go to this trouble to avoid the errors arising from people’s tendencies to observe what they expect. But the scientific method is slow and tedious, has little to say about subjective phenomena of great interest, and the requisite controls for each intervention can obscure the question under study 1,2.
BELIEF: A second method of inquiry is belief – a habit or state of mind which places trust in an idea or person without convincing evidence. Modern neuroscience ascribes to the brain a function to help the organism cope with it’s environment. When the brain notices disparate objects not seen together before, it makes up a myth-a belief to explain the phenomena 3. Because they cannot be measured and falsified, beliefs accumulate as plausible explanations for phenomena, especially when they might be verified by spiritual experience.
Andrew Newburg is a neuroscientist who tried to learn more about the underpinnings of spiritual experience4. He used SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) in seasoned meditators (and in persons praying in tongues or during yoga)5. He discovered a new neuropathway which was triggered by the spiritual experience but not by materialistic stimuli. Conceivably this new pathway is the basis of how we are wired for spiritual experience. Many look down on such beliefs as a method of inquiry because they are strongly personal, cannot be externally verified, are not subject to falsification, and can arise from preconceived ideas. Yet it is compatible with science to keep an open mind about explanations which have not been falsified.
STILL SMALL VOICE (SSV) and INTUITION: I propose that belief most resembles science when the SSV is heard to verify that belief. I learned a two stage prayer to help hear the still small voice of God (SSV). First, I write a letter to God expressing my concerns and questions. But it is the second stage that causes marvel, for God spoke back to me the answer to my concerns as a personal response providing answers to every question5. These responses were often specific, surprising, and scriptural. Later, I read several books by others conversing with the still SSV and how their conversations mirrored mine6,7. Bill Hybels, a Chicago based Pastor wrote about how the still SSV guided him through several roadblocks in his spiritual journey. He took a step further by inviting his congregation to write him about any experiences they had in hearing God’s voice. In one weekend, he received over 500 positive responses, indicating the extraordinary prevalence of hearing the SSV8.
Tonya Luhrmann, an anthropologist tried to learn how sensible people came to hear God’s voice9. She lived for two years each in two different spiritual communities, and developed a hypothesis about how the church taught it’s members to hear God’s voice. Whether it proves true or not, this hypothesis suggests the use methods of social science to learn more about the SSV. Although many are chagrined at the notion of people conversing with God, this book provides vivid description of this common experience.
When the SSV is heard, distinguishing it from intuition is difficult. Intuition is defined as quick and ready insight, or the power of attaining knowledge without evident thought or inference. Intuition is an awareness that comes wordlessly, while the insight provided by the SSV is often captured by recalling the words heard. Beliefs verified by intuition or the SSV constitute a spiritual source of knowledge which may be a method of inquiry as effective as the scientific method.
- Wood, LDH Introduction Principles of Critical Care Pp XXV-XXX. McGraw Hill 2015
- Popper, Karl The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Routeledge, 1992
- Newberg, A MR Waldman. How God Changes the Brain. Ballantine Books NY 2009
- Newberg, A. God and the Brain. The Physiology of Spiritual Experience. Sounds True 2007
- Linn, M. et al A Prayer Course for Healing Life’s Hurts Paulist Press, 1974
- Russel, B. God Calling Jove Books, 1975
- Walsh, ND Conversations with God. An Uncommon Dialogue Putnam Inc NY, 1995
- Hybels, Bill. The Power of A Whisper. Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond.Zondervan, MI. 2010.
- Lurhmann, Tanya. When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. Knopf, NY, 2012.
Lawrence D.H. Wood – Larry Wood is a father of modern critical care. He published 100’s of original scientific articles, many which lie at the foundations of 21st century evidence-based practice, and was the senior founder-editor of Principles of Critical Care, the definitive text of CCM. Larry also mentored a tribe of national figures in PCCM who began their careers at University of Chicago.