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August 02, 2018 Thursday 04:17:42 PM IST


3rd Eye

Let me begin by stating what I find rather funny about parenting today. Almost every parent wants his or her child to be a mile ahead of the rest. If being unlike all the rest can be added to this, it would beideal. Yet, not many parents think beyond catching up with others in parenting. They imitate and compete among themselves; as though by imitating you become different and distinguished!

Now consider the universal phenomenon of the decline in the human stock. Every aspect of life, including avenues to knowledge and access to education, has improved. But human stature is dwindling. People achieve much,but the very volume of their achievement dwarfs them! They end up defeated by their victories and crushed under their achievements.

After spending a lifetime in education, the one thing I’d passionately advocate is nurturing children to be happy and creative, rather than smart and successful. I believe, this needs to be a priority. And there is a good reason why parents should address this: our system of education is not designed to deal with it. By and large, the intuitive faculties of children, with which every child begins its earthly journey, remain un-engaged and under-developed in education. So, what can we, as parents, do to make up for this lacuna?

When I look back on the path I have trodden from as early as I can recall, I realise two things as having been particularly significant and helpful. First, life was un-encumbered; it was not cluttered with things. That helped,which brings me to the second point. It helped mainly in allowing my mind to sprout wings. I had little on the surface of the earth; so, my mind began to wander in the skies. I remember impressions and questions flooding me. They did not make great sense then. I didn’t even know I was thinking or wondering. Now I know what was happening within me. My intuitive faculties owe a great deal to what I did not have when I was growing up. Blessed, said Jesus, are the poor!

If anyone were to ask me for the secret of my life I’d say without having to think for a moment: “It’s intuition”.

Today, I know that intelligence without intuition is pedestrian. To see for ourselves how intuition is a necessary complement to intelligence, it suffices to recall the instance of Archimedes. If Archimedes had lacked intuition, the water his body displaced from the bath tub would not have become the music of “Eureka!” Intelligence is not to be discounted; but nothing great has ever been achieved solely by intelligence.

Here is an insight, this time from the French philosopher Henri Bergson, to help us understand the role of intuition. Human intelligence can, Bergson argues, anatomise and understand, to some extent, static things. But it cannot understand anything in motion. And motion is an inalienable aspect of life. Life minus motion is de facto death. To understand anything in motion, it is necessary to dwell in it. Intelligence is grossly inadequate for this purpose. Intelligence stands apart, observes, analyses,and theorises. Separation is inherent in intelligence.

So, what is intuition? How can this invaluable faculty be accentuated through parenting?


Let us begin by stating the obvious. Heaping inanimate things and facilities all around children is inimical to the growth of intuition. A certain extent of material deprivation is conducive to intuitive vitality.

Vitality implies a flow. Life is a flow, not an inert state. That’s why laziness, which is the mental and moral counterpart of physical inertness, is inimical to human development. Over-dependence on material amenities aggravates laziness. The lazy cannot help being dependent. And to ‘depend’ is — as the etymology of the word indicates —to ‘hang from’. So, a dependent person is a parasite. Parasites cannot be authentic persons, much less geniuses. Genius is the capacity for taking infinite pains.

Let’s reckon the principle of motion for a while. Life is a flow. Flow has a function, as in the case of the flow of blood in our body. The function of flow is to connect: connect the part with the whole. Blood circulation is a flow circumscribed to the limits of one’s body. Intuition is comparable to blood circulation, but far less circumscribed. The flow of our intuition has only the compass of the cosmos for its limits.

The intuitive faculty connects us to the rest of the created order. And, its possibilities are incalculable. To understand its importance, let’s consider the following. We become conscious of ourselves with reference to the context in which we place ourselves. If we are in good company, we experience ourselves as worthwhile expressions of life. If in bad company, we feel ourselves as crude items of mortality. Lower tastes narrow the horizon of life. It is in such a state that people try to use and exploit each other. It denotes, Bergson would say, an obstruction in the vital flow of life like a limb of our body being cut off from blood circulation.

The function of intuition is to release this intellectual, imaginative block. It is to enable the flow of our vital life to be in consonance with the larger rhythm of life. At its higher levels, intuition enables a human being to be in harmony with the whole of creation. Rare and exciting insights are its by-products. Intelligence, in comparison, betokens a laboured state. Intuition transcends labour into work, annotated by creativity and joy!


What, then, can parents do to imbue their children with this unique and invaluable power?

We must do all we can to enable our children to be progressively aware of the wonderful and beautiful world to which they have come and, in particular, of the goodness of the God-given gift of life. It would help if children become increasingly aware of the vast web of life in which they are privileged to be. Most importantly, children need to be made aware of the flow of life.

Every flow, in some sense, is a circulation. That is to say, reciprocity is of its essence. But for this, humankind would not have developed the ethical sense. The core ethical principle, found in all cultures and religions, is “treat others as you would like to be treated.” In other words, respect the reciprocity inherent in the flow of life.

Now, therefore, a few tips for nurturing the intuitive faculty in children.  They are based on the premise that intuition involves a flow of individual consciousness into the larger flow of life continually sweeping the full canvas of the cosmos.

·        Children must be raised as responsive and responsible members of their homes, and not as non-paying guests or miniature idols. It is highly injurious to the healthy development of children to train them to be parasites. The proof that a child is growing up wholesomely is that he becomes increasingly aware of, and responsive to, the needs of those in the house.

·        Simultaneously, the child must be nurtured in the social sense. Society is an extended family; though, sadly, alienation indwells the social web today. A major reason for the impoverishment that urban culture brings into the formation of the human person is that it suppresses the social instinct.

·        Children need to relate to nature! Nature, not as a series of visuals, but as a living thing intricately interconnected. They should be enabled to experience a sense of oneness with nature. Nature is the sub-articulate (so to speak) counterpart to society, which is distinguished by communication. But it is only in a state of alienation from nature that we feel that nature does not communicate. The ability to be part of the on-going communication in nature is an important aspect developing intuition.

·        Nature, in its wider manifestation, involves the cosmos. The nature we experience is a proximate part of the cosmos, which is the fullness thereof. Growth, being itself a flow, cannot stay confined to the familiar and the extant limits of consciousness. A fully developed human being becomes a cosmic soul.

Hence the South American proverb which asks, “What is the best that parents can do for their children?” and then answers, “It is to give them roots and wings.”

Intuition is a flow that links roots with wings.

Dr. Valson Thampu

Former Principal of St. Stephen's College, New Delhi

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