Instinct / Intuition / Intelligence
I’ve mentioned before how I became involved in sci-fi fandom in the late 1960s.
By the early 1970s I was reading and occasionally contributing to a number of fanzines including the legendary Dick Geis’ The Alien Critic.
Recently, thanks to Jim Harris (a.k.a. the Sci-Fi Bookworm), I’ve been able to find many of Geis’ classic back issues available for free download on the Internet Archive.
I’m taking no small delight in re-reading those issues and rediscovering some of the really insightful and perceptive writing Geis both contributed and encouraged from others.
In May of 1974 Geis published Alexei & Cory Panshin’s excellent essay “Reading Heinlein Subjectively: An Analysis”, an absolute must-read for anyone interested in science fiction in general and / or Robert A. Heinlein in particular.
Divided in three parts, the Panshins used the first and third parts to examine Heinlein’s early work in contrast to his later books, in particular to see if Heinlein was indeed the “rational fiction” writer he claimed to be or if there was inconsistency to his worldview.
I’ll let you read their conclusion on your own; what I’m here for is the middle part of the essay, a long and well thought out piece on how people grow and think, and the philosophical implications of same.
I’m posting some excerpts here because it really is thought provoking, and it not only sets the groundwork for their analysis of Heinlein’s political philosophy, but shines some pretty bright lights on what’s going on around us today.
. . .
“We are possessing three means of knowledge about the universe and ourselves within the universe.
“These means are instinct, intuition, and intelligence.
“Intelligence is the ability to learn new details about the universe. In simpler animals, intelligence is altogether missing. In more complex animals, intelligence is a highly limited quality. It is, of course, our more highly developed intelligence that seems to distinguish humanity from other animals.
“However, not only human intelligence, but the very capacity for intelligence is not developed at birth. The new-born human infant must rely for his knowledge on instinct and intuition.
“In contrast to intelligence, these older and more established means--the legacy of man’s long evolutionary history--are fully developed at birth, as they are in lesser animals.
“Instinct is a form of knowledge that is built-in to living beings. The goal of instinct is self-preservation--the maintenance of the integrity of the individual being against the corrosive and homogenizing effects of entropy.
“To instinct, the individual--the Self--is primary. To instinct, the Other--the rest of the universe--is secondary to the Self.
“Instinct is selfish and divisive. It promotes the good of the individual, or, at most wide-ranging, the species, at the cost of all else that exists.
“But instinct is necessary to the survival of individuals and species…
“Intuition, the other and more basic form of in-born knowledge, offsets the selfishness and special interest of instinct.
“To instinct, the individual is primary, and the universe secondary. By contrast, intuition is knowledge that informs us that the universe as a whole is primary, and that individual beings within the universe are secondary.
“Intuition yields a sense of the underlying unity and harmony of the universe.”
. . .
“Intuition informs us that divisiveness is not al there is to existence. It tells us that Self and Other are in the same fundamental sense One.
“The condition that embraces an apparently discrete Self and Other, and links them as One, human beings call ‘love’.
“The human infant, of course, knows nothing of abstract theorization. He has no memories, no developed sensory perceptions, none of the complex symbolic vocabulary that adult human beings traffic in. He has no objectivity. Necessarily, he must take everything that happens to him personally.
“The thought of the infant is immediate and subjective. All that exists is sentience, like himself. Sentience interacts with him in dramatic personal terms -- as it were, story…
“The infant, of course, is the Self. At the outset, the rest of the universe is the Other--a single sentient being like the Self.
“Everything that occurs to the infant is taken to be motivated. That is, the Other is taken to have its own self-preserving motivations that cause it to act either benignly or hostilely to the Self.
“However, beyond any specific behavior of the Other, the infant has the intuitive conviction that Self and Other are linked by love…
“A human baby can only lie in utter helplessness. It cannot cling. It cannot run. It cannot even hold its head up to take its mother’s nipple. The most it can do is cry in hope and fear.
“Like other animals, the human infant has instincts which urge it to preserve and protect itself. They make constant suggestion to the infant.
“But the infant is helpless to act on those instincts. When these instincts are not responded to, they signal louder. And louder. This is a process of feedback.
“The signals of instinct become so overwhelming that the fainter and less immediate underlying signals of intuition are blotted out.
“When contact with intuition is lost, so is the awareness of loving and being loved.
“At times when instinct overwhelms intuition, the infant is confronted by a crueler, lonelier subjective environment. The infant personifies this loveless environment as another character in its mental playlet. This character is the Demonic.
“The infant Self assumes that the Demonic has willed the disappearance of the Other--that which can be loved. The Demonic is taken to be an unnatural monster of pure evilness which has intruded itself from outside the universe of Oneness perceived through intuition.
“The Demonic is the outside--that which is excluded from the bond of love that united Self and Other. In its pain, the Demonic has sought to destroy the love of Self and Other and isolate the infant Self in its own condition of permanent lovelessness.
“The one recourse available to the infant is to repress its awareness, to block out the now-unendurable signals of instinct. In story terms, this is taken as the casting-down of the Demonic into the Pit.
“But the infant does not merely block out the Demonic. The infant is not able to repress selectively. It cannot merely block out the over-amplified signals that it takes to be evil, hostiles, intrusive, and loveless, it also blocks the more moderate stimuli it takes as proceeding from the good, protective and loving Other.
“The infant Self must conclude that the Demonic has been brought under control--but only after the Demonic had successfully driven away the Other. The infant must at all cost continue to repress the Demonic lest it break free from the Pit and destroy the Self as well.
“At this point, both intuition and instinct are crippled as means of knowledge. The infant comes to rely on his own developing intelligence.”
. . .
”We bargain and game-play our way through the universe of multiplicity.
“There are, of course, problems inherent in game-playing. There are situations where we don’t know the rules, or where different sets of rules conflict.
“However, the universe of multiplicity is distinctly less trying than the previous universe of instinct and intuition.”
. . .
“…we may fear the Demonic as a still-present menace lurking just beyond perception to snatch us up if we lose our grip on the factual universe--that is, if we try to evade the rules.
“This fear is the source of irrational behavior which alters and interferes with logical rational self-interest.
“As children, if our family relationships suggest it, we may perceive our mother as the Other, and our father as the Demonic who tore us away from the nurturing breast.
“We may be warned by our parents that if we are not ‘good’ the Bogey-man will get us. We may bully or be bullied--that is, we may interact, with irrational aggressiveness of irrational timidity, with what we take to be symbols of the Demonic.
“The Nazi perception of the Jews as the Demonic--the cause of the Fall that was Germany’s defeat in World War I--most certainly caused them to act against their rational self-interest.”
. . .
“We try to decide for ourselves in the course of endless bull sessions and in private rumination what is real and what is not.
“We have two major problems to settle.
“One is the problem of society. Are the rules and games of society mere accident or are they necessary? Are they creations of the human mind, subject to doubt and change, or are they real and absolute?
“The other is the problem of evil. Is evil a fact of existence or is it a mere seeming?
“Both of these problems are the inheritance of our instincts. It is instinct that informs us of the Demonic. And it is instinct that first sets us to bargaining and game-playing to maximize ourself-interest.
“The question for the adolescent is whether or not there is a basis in the world of multiplicity--a factual basis--for our conviction that evil and society have essential existence.
“The adolescent may decide to believe in one or both or neither.
“Those who decide that both evil and society are real are conservatives.
“Those who believe in society, but not evil, are liberals.
“Those who believe in evil, but not society, we may call nihilists.
“And those who believe in neither evil nor society we may call anarchists.
“These last two terms in particular are not perfect, but have a certain historical association with the subjective positions we are describing.”
. . .
“The first quantum leap we are called upon to make is the leap from childhood to adulthood.
“From the child’s point of view, this jump looks impossible. And in fact it is--for a child.
“To complete the jump successfully, the child must reject his former limited self, stake his life on a new identity, and remake himself on a larger scale.”
-- Alexi & Cory Panshin
“Reading Heinlein Subjectively: An Analysis”
The Alien Critic #9, May 1974
© Alexi & Cory Panshin