Logic and the Non-Rational

by Michael Maciel

Logic is a tool, a very, very powerful tool. But if you make it your only tool, then it limits the scope of your understanding. It would be like a carpenter whose only tool is a hammer. You’d be great at nailing 2X4s together but terrible at cutting pieces to fit.

By restricting your understanding to logic, you’re depriving yourself of other powerful tools, such as imagination, parallel thinking, and symbolic representation.

Imagination: We have to be able to imagine the logically impossible. And not just imagine it, as in fantasy, but to hold it as a real possibility. Examples: anti-gravity, ESP (extrasensory perception), NDE (near-death experiences), and paranormal phenomena.

For instance, in order to delve into these logically impossible phenomena, we have to reject the logical assumption that consciousness is a product of the brain. But the only proof we have that consciousness is primary and the brain secondary is anecdotal. There are some convincing studies that have bordered on the empirical, but nothing conclusive so far.

Parallel thinking: This is the ability to spot similar patterns in unrelated fields of inquiry. It’s illogical, for instance, to compare ancient Hindu Philosophy to modern physics in any meaningful way. And yet, there are strong indications that parallels do exist (see physicist David Bohm’s book, Wholeness and the Implicate Order).

Symbolic representation: It’s impossible to overstate the importance of symbolism in the development of consciousness throughout the millennia. Out of alchemy came chemistry, out of astrology came astronomy, and out of mythology came psychology (see Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces).

Perhaps one of the most powerful analytical tools employed in psychology is dream interpretation—totally illogical but extremely accurate.

Example: A close friend of mine recently went through a tough breakup. She dreamed that she took some household items that she and her ex had shared out to the dumpster. When she got there, the three blue dumpsters in the alley were badly damaged, as though something heavy had been dropped on them.

Her analyst came up with this: you’re blue, you’re crushed, and you’ve been dumped. It was also the third time that this had happened.

The subconscious (or unconscious) is the mind’s supercomputer. Its primary vehicles are dreams, music, and art. It doesn’t use language. It uses images and symbols. Its logic is vastly more intricate than anything the conscious mind can comprehend, but to the conscious mind, the presentations of the subconscious are irrational and illogical, due to the fact, perhaps, that it uses the subcortical parts of the brain, its deepest and oldest regions. The neural connections in the cerebellum, for instance, far outnumber those in the cortex. These subcortical regions are much older, evolutionarily speaking, and are capable of utilizing memories that go all the way back to the dawn of life itself, passed down in an unbroken chain of genetic information..

To rely solely on the rational mind would be like trying to walk on one leg. It’s like day with no night, hot without cold, perception without reflection. The conscious mind deals in facts. The subconscious deals in meaning. The conscious mind sees layout. The subconscious mind sees patterns. The conscious mind sees the immediate—what is. The subconscious mind sees what has been and what is possible. The two work together. Either, without the other, is lame and blind. 

There are mental and spiritual exercises designed to develop both our rational and non-rational faculties. Soon, I will be launching my online course, Spiritual Exercises That Work. I will let you know when it goes live!

Michael Maciel

For more on this, read Carl Jung’s, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious. Also, Iain McGilchrist’s, The Master and His Emissary–the Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, the latest science on the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

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