Of all the trip-wires in spiritual endeavor, I think of the intellect and belief are two of the most abrasive, confounding and painful. I suppose my upbringing has something to do with it ... I grew up smart and smart people are often true believers.
I thought of this the other day when a woman rabbi called up here to find out about doing some zazen. Jews have a traditional reverence for the intellect. Not that they're alone, just that the tradition is there. And there was a part of me that felt sad for this woman. How painful to be nourished and applauded and convinced ... only to find out that something is missing and that what is missing represents a suppurating wound in the heart.
But you can't tell anyone this stuff ... the stuff that will cauterize the wound. They have to recognize it themselves and then heal themselves. Swami Vivekananda said, "The mind [he meant intellect] is a good servant and a poor master." When the intellect hears such words, it sets out, bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, to 'understand.' Understand intellectually that the intellect cannot heal wounds ... how sad is that? Vivekananda was trying to tell people what cannot be told in any way that will do the job that needs to be done.
The intellect is a tool. No one is a tool. But anyone might put a tool to good use, when necessary. No one is a belief. But anyone might find a springboard for action in belief ... when necessary.
I don't know. It just made me sad, somehow. Intellect and belief -- mirage after mirage on some vast, unwatered desert.