How True Intuition Works


You have a “gut” feeling about something…but it turns out to be wrong! OR: it turns out to be right on the money! How can you tell the difference?

Well, it’s not exactly a science…but in this post, I want to examine exactly how real intuition works. How active intuition feels and functions, and how to tell the difference between it and other so-called “hunches” driven by fear or wishful thinking.

In my experience, intuitions that turn out to be true have certain characteristics:

They Are “Felt,” Almost As A Bodily Sensation
Key idea here, almost as a bodily sensation. Intuitive flashes don’t so much manifest for me in my brain…rather, I usually feel them in my chest or literally as a “gut” feeling in my stomach. But I don’t feel this sensation as a heavy “physical” thing, like I got punched in the arm or pinched. More like, it’s a very light but firm “touch.”

How can a touch be both light and firm? Here is where the concept of a “subtle body” is crucial. In her book On Becoming An Alchemist: A Guide For The Modern Magician, Catherine MacCoun defines a subtle body (a.k.a. etheric body or human energy field) as follows:

The subtle body isn’t matter—it isn’t a thing—but neither is it pure spirit. It surrounds and interpenetrates the physical body, and you can more or less tell where it leaves off, even though the edges are fuzzy. The size of it corresponds roughly to the amount of personal space you need to feel comfortable around other people.

It’s the subtle body that picks up and relays to your consciousness the intuitive flash or moment. It isn’t a concrete “logic” thought in your brain, like something you processed through thinking. It just “appears.”

They Are Usually Calm
Keep in mind—these are just my experiences; yours may differ. But for me, the intuitions and hunches that turn out to be correct are the ones that are calm…almost “emotionless.” Even if the thing I am having the intuition about is frightening or naturally incorporates some other strong emotion. So if I am entering some sort of dangerous situation, I do not receive a “panicked” intuitive voice warning me. Rather, it’s calm and straightforward; even if it is telling me that I need to be more alarmed and aware.

Same for something like a feeling of “love” for somebody new…it’s not this crazy obsessive sudden feeling like “THIS IS THE ONE!” It’s not covered with hearts and cupids and a ecstatic feeling. Instead, it’s like: “this one.” That’s it.

And to have this discernment between a true intuitive feeling and something born out of physical impulse, neuroses and fears, and etc. is super-important.

For example, I have a fear of flying in an airplane that I’m trying to work through. When I have this fear, it sometimes “feels” like some sort of intuition. But it’s not. It’s a panicked thought born out of a hangup. My intuition doesn’t “talk” in that way.

Intuition: Examples From My Own Life
But once when I was a teenager I had a sudden intuition upon waking up not to go to school that day. I took the day off. There was a shooting in the schoolyard that morning, as the students waited to be let into the building. That intuition didn’t sound “panicky.” In fact, I didn’t even react panicked to the intuition. There was just this…extreme calm and certainty about the entire affair.

And then there is the intuition I had about MacCoun’s own book. It had been in my book piles for a long time, unread…I had found a galley of it in an exchange center. It had even made it to my “discard” bag for a while, before I pulled it and some others out if it.

But a week ago, for some reason I felt that light-firm touch in my chest, and “heard” that calm and straightforward “voice” of the intuition. It didn’t even have words, it was wordless. And what it “said” was: “look at that book. pick that book up and read it.”

At the time, I was studying Hermetic philosophy. I had no idea what On Becoming An Alchemist was really about, and had originally (wrongly) thought it might have been some fluffy New Age self-help book.

But not only did On Becoming An Alchemist contain genuine alchemical/hermetic insights and history which gelled completely with my other studies—even in the first chapter, it addressed specific issues and questions that I had been concerned with at that exact time period. It “answered” my questions. It was the right book to read at the right time.

And after many years unread on my shelf, Intuition finally drew my attention to it when I needed it most. That’s how intuition works.