To have inner voices telling one something is regarded as a symptom of dysfunction.
There have been some notable exceptions, however. In the 1920’s there was a case where a woman went to her doctor complaining of voices in her head – voices and other noises, even including music. He referred her to what was then called a mental specialist, who asked her about the voices: “What sort of things are they saying?” She said, “Oh, all sorts of things. Sometimes bits of news, sometimes quite long bits of music.”
“No, no, no, I mean what are they saying to you, what are they telling you?” “They don’t say anything to me personally. Right now they say they’re just going to start up a concert, and they say that it’s Beethoven, Leonora No. 3.”
“Ah, dear lady, the No. 3, yes. One of Beethoven’s rare miscalculations. If only he had divided those two big chords among the strings, instead of that very awkward double stopping…”
She reached up and pulled his head down beside her own. To his amazement, he heard the opening bars of Leonora No. 3, double stopping and all.
It turned out that when broadcasting was just beginning the metal fillings in some peoples’ teeth could, incredibly, act as miniature crystal set receivers. Here the voices in the head were not dysfunctional, although they did create some bewilderment and distress.
In cases where there is no input from outside the inner voices and intuitions are always assumed to be worthless, if they affect behaviour they are dysfunctional. This ignores the very frequent statements by writers, scientists, and others that such intuitions may be super-functional.
Take an experience recorded by Bertrand Russell (no friend of the transcendental) who was trying to work out an elaborate sequence of lectures he was to give. He failed and became more and more confused. He tried to put it on one side and went for a long walk. As he entered the hall coming back, suddenly the whole programme appeared vividly in his mind’s eye. (He says in his essay ‘How I write’ that he several times had such an experience, and even began to rely on it.) He then says that he supposes that his previous attempts had planted the seeds, which had been incubated below the surface of consciousness, and then sprung up.
This is a surprising statement from a philosopher, completely missing the central point, which is that the seeds sprang up in a new order. It is as if one scattered seeds of red, white and blue flowers at random, and they sprang up in the form of a Union Jack. Where did the order come from? Not from mere incubation.
The great Poincare, “The glory of French mathematics”, had such experiences of fruitful discovery. Unlike Russell, he saw the point that it was not a question of the sub-conscious trying various possibilities at high speed. The solution was presented clearly and uniquely, and something must have chosen it to present. “This means that there is something in my sub-conscious which is more intelligent than I am, and I hate to think that“, he commented.
He salvaged his intellectual honour by postulating that beauty may be a key to truth, and the subconscious may be better at appreciating beauty. This supposition was also made by Dirac an Irish mathematician of the same stature as Poincare. He even went so far as to say that if beauty contradicts experiment it is the experimental results which must give way. He was strongly attacked for this view, but after all he is generally regarded as the only English theorist who can rank with Isaac Newton in the pantheon of physics and it is “by their fruits that ye shall know them.”