Meditation on Spiritual Concepts
Spinoza tells us that there are three stages in knowledge or cognition. The first stage is empirical knowledge; it is knowledge from experience through the senses. We know that fire burns, but we do not know why. It burns because of the chemical combination of carbon and oxygen. We know that the sun rises in the morning, and sets in the evening, because our eyes tell us so. But we do not know why, unless we have studied astronomy and know that the earth revolves on its axis. Nevertheless, our sense-knowledge tells us that the sun that sets to-night will rise to-morrow. All such empirical knowledge is sufficient for most things of everyday life.
There is a second and higher stage of knowledge. This begins when the mind examines, analyses and judges. When facts are carefully gathered, when observation is impersonal, and the facts are seen not isolated one from another, but grouped in categories, then the mind can deduce the laws which connect the facts; the mind places them in a certain orderliness in a world-process. This is the scientific method of acquiring knowledge.
There is a third stage. When all the material has been collected, and its parts have been linked together by the mind by laws, the mind can then rise to the next stage. As the mind contemplates the facts which have been brought into a framework of unity, there dawns on the mind the new faculty of intuition. Consciousness then understands the true and inner nature of all that is present before the mind. For there is a hidden drift in life which the mind cannot follow, but which the intuition sees.
The New Humanity of Intuition, Chapter I, p. 23