I recently had a discussion with priests involved with the Charismatic renewal. In our conversation, I proposed a theory I have about speaking in tongues, and they seemed to agree with my argument. My thesis is relatively simple. Throughout the history of Christian spirituality, there has been an understanding of the limitations of discursive reasoning. Often our discursive reasoning prevents us from listening to the promptings of the Spirit because we become trapped in our limited ways of thinking. Speaking in tongues, at least as I understand it, is a practice whereby believers are opened to the Spirit by allowing their prayer to move from the head to the heart.
In this way, speaking in tongues helps awaken the intuitive mind. In my thinking, I tend to distinguish between the intuitive and the analytic mind. I would argue that both are necessarily, and that the two form a complementary balance. The intuitive mind is more direct, and instead of analysis and careful consideration, it relies more gut feelings and inspiration. In contrast, the analytic mind relies more are careful analysis, using procedure, logic, and developed argumentation to move from point to point. Without analysis and critique, intuition becomes overly flexible and inconsistent.
Often in our prayer lives, we have to learn to balance between the two. Intuitions and inspirations must be measured against the rule of faith and carefully discerned within the context of the Church. However, a person who fails to allow for such intuitions and inspirations soon becomes a prisoner of their reasoning. Instead of the spontaneity and rest of the Spirit, for such people religion can become a cold formula of rules and obligations. Movements such as the Charismatic renewal are often in response to such a sanitized spiritual environment.