Maybe it’s because my Sun is in Libra (the scales) that I’m always seeking balance. When something’s off the beam to me I can feel it in my bones.
What’s set me off lately began when Ed and Deborah Shapiro posted Why Your Intellect Is an Obstacle in Yoga. Next came Carol Horton’s impassioned rebuttal, Why Your Intellect Is (or Can Be!) an Integral Part of Yoga. Here were two viewpoints that couldn’t have been more contradictory.
It felt like the pendulum swung really wide first one way and then the other. Then my intuitive Scorpio Moon kicked butt, impelling me to dig deeper. That got me to thinking about how the spiritual seeker’s journey has been called “the middle path.” And about how in yogic spiritual practice there are specific uses for the intellect, which I’ll get to in a moment.
First, let me say that the Shapiros and Carol Horton are among the truly conscious writers on EJ whom I admire. (Full disclosure: I posted a comment that the Shapiros’ line, “When we’re about to die it won’t help to remember what page of a text we were meant to be on,” was absolutely classic.) Carol Horton also scores a major point in writing that “when we bring the full power of our intellect to engaging with something like the [Yoga] Sutras, it can be a vital tool in igniting our hearts – and our spirits.”
But the issue with intellect stems more from our contemporary western culture’s inherent extremes. Not to mention the psychoanalytic matrix in which those extremes are encouraged to thrive. A kind of spiritual schizophrenia results.
There’s the tendency to hypermentalize everything including our self-judgments about our Yoga and meditation practice. Or else there’s the tendency toward complete ambivalence and apathy. Spiritual teachings, such as those in the Bhagavad Gita and philosophical texts can be used to analyze and debate yogic topics. Yet they can equally become pathways to our inner divinity—the spontaneous, joyful and wondrous being we long to know.