There is a type of spiritual intelligence which is required for spiritual evolution. It is a type of intelligence which, like all types of intelligence, operates quite of its own accord and is the result of a dissatisfaction with our current way of experiencing reality. It is this intelligence, when recognized and allowed to develop into a path, that invariably leads to an enlightenment of some degree.
“Neti, neti, meaning ‘Not this, not this,’ is the method of Vedic analysis of negation. It is a keynote of Vedic inquiry. With its aid the Jnani negates identification with all things of this world which is not the Atman, in this way he negates the Anatman.” -Wikipedia
This is why it is said that one cannot truly embark on the path until one is ready and, when one is ready, heaven and earth will move to reveal enlightenment. It is, in many cases, only suffering and dissatisfaction, a sort of “rock bottom,” which turns one towards the path or in many cases gives a glimpse of the world beyond narrow perception because at rock bottom, the person knows that his old ways of being and understanding simply will not work.
This is also why the process is both gradual and graded in as much as it is physical as well as mental and there are different levels of negation of the Anatman. When Thich Quang Duc, the Buddhist monk, self-imolated himself in stillness to protest the persecution of Buddhists in South Vietnam, we can see that his level of Neti Neti was, perhaps, more developed than ours. We can also see how his stabilization in the energy body was much more a phenomena of the physical body/mind than some metal exercise of negating. (Furthermore, it should be remembered that this act of Bodhichitta was for us – so that we might have the opportunity to know a fraction of the love for ourselves and the way that he knew.)
This is also why I tend to agree with Anadi that neo-advaitists are somewhat limited in their practice without hard periods of Zazen and qi generation/integration because you can, in fact, have an awakening of consciousness without its corresponding awakening and stabilization of the heart and base. Likewise, this is why Linji advises us to keep going, specifically “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Concepts we he have held dear should be one of the first things to be neti-ed, and these are the very reason for much of the senseless fighting and suffering we see in places like the Middle East today.
Neti-neti is a tool that can be used on and off the cushion relatively easily. It is a practice that we can use throughout the day to create a clear distinction and distance between the knower and the known, mentally, emotionally and physically, in all the circumstances of waking life. Supplemented with rigorous sits, we can deepen and stabilize this self knowledge in our hearts and bodies.
Finally, it’s important to note that this type of intelligence is found in degrees as well. It’s one thing to know that the current system or functioning is BS but then to grab onto some other, even if corrective, BS. It is quite another to go beyond all BS, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual, and reside in the natural state.