Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Intuitive Mining

My Great-grandfather was a miner. My Great-grandfather was a GOOD miner, he was so good that he is recorded in history as a “a mining magnate.” (This is true: I found it on the Web!) He was a founder of the infamous mining town of Bodie, California. He was the owner of the rich, veined “Jump up Joe” mine. He was in attendance when the “Golden Stake” was driven in at Promontory Summit, the "Wedding of the Rails" that linked the Union Pacific to the Central Pacific rail lines. He was also a Colonel in the U.S. Army, a banker, a two-term Utah State Senator, a member of the Utah State Capitol Commission, who designed and built the Utah State Capitol Building, an advisor to statesmen, senators and a U.S. President, a renowned and magnanimous Philanthroper.

At the beginning, however, my Great-grandfather was a good miner. He knew how and where to find precious metals. More than once, he discovered long, thick, veins of gold; heavy deposits of silver. He was very bright and was trained engineer, he knew scientifically where minerals were likely to be found. However, so did plenty of other people who never found them. What he had that made the difference when it came to finding silver and gold, was: something else. They sometimes called it the “Golden Touch”, this ability to put your hands on cold, dark stone and know if there were precious minerals under the surface. What was it really? In a word: intuition.

Intuition is a loaded word, with a myriad of meanings at many different levels. Noun: instinctive knowing (without the use of rational processes.) The last part of this definition is misleading. I believe that rational process is part of intuition. How do you suspend your rational process? You don’t. When you intuit something, rational process is part of it, it just isn’t all of it. “Instinctive knowing.” What does that mean?

Instinctive. Adjective: unthinking; prompted by (or as if by) instinct. Again, the part about unthinking is misleading. Doing something instinctively doesn’t mean that you suspend the thought process. It is more that something extra is added to the thought process, and that, by definition, is instinct.

Instinct. Noun: inborn pattern of behavior often responsive to specific stimuli. This is where it gets interesting. At some point, man decided that as a superior being, above and overlord of the animals, he must be as unlike those animals as possible. Particularly in the last age, man has perceived himself as scientifically intelligent and rational and come to the conclusion that, as such, he no longer has use for his ‘instincts’ the way the ‘lower animals’ do. Rationality and intellect came to be regarded as the opposite of instinctual and intuitive. When this happened, when instinctual reactions and behavior came to be regarded as negative, man - the great adaptor - learned to turn these intuitive reactions off and they began to cease to function.

“Mankind” of course means “humankind,” though in truth, women escaped a bit from the great shut down of the intuitive processes. “Woman’s intuition” was perhaps something too strong to be that easily dismissed or terminated, tied as it is to the maternal instinct; a profound and powerful instinct, meant to protect the species. Even though “woman’s intuition” was suspect and regarded as unreliable, it continued to exist and women were somewhat exempt from the self imposed shut down of the instinctual system.

So, when my Great-grandfather was able to somehow know where a deposit of ore was located, it was termed a “Golden Touch,” and regarded as something beyond the ken of mere mortals - when in reality it was merely the ability to intuit.

Intuitive mining: a mining method well worth considering. When the metaphor is unraveled and we look at what we are mining here, it is precisely the method I use myself. My mining for words has always been instinctive, reflexive, spontaneous, intuitive. This does not mean at all that it has nothing to do with intellect or cogitation, for the concepts are not mutually exclusive. To let intuition flow, one does not begin by shutting down the thought process. Cerebration and intellectual thought work hand in hand with intuition, one builds upon the other.

It does mean that one has to learn NOT to shut down the intuitive process, however. For me, this means that if I try to mine using a method based solely on intellect or knowledge, what I find are bare, blank walls without the glint of a vein of gold or the sparkle of silver dustings. If I try to find precious gems in words already written, or someone else’s thought, I find nothing but carbon. I can only mine by opening to something that is supposed to be lost, by accessing a part of myself that I can’t explain, I can only feel. It isn’t strange, however, or unusual or singular. It is perfectly natural and completely organic; a questing that makes me glad, a flowing that makes me whole.

©Edwina Peterson Cross


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