Now You See It - Now You Don't
One afternoon I asked Physicist David Bohm, what is intelligence? To begin I suggested that intelligence is innate, not learned or accumulated, a spontaneous movement towards wholeness that permeated every cell of the body. David added, and all of nature. Since nature included everything intelligence be - everywhere. David went on to describe how intelligence is beyond description. Being the invisible ground of everything, anything we can describe is abstracted from this. The abstracted fragment cannot contain the whole. Each thought is a fragment. Thought cannot contain the whole. Thought is not intelligence. For thought to consider itself intelligence is a supreme act of misguided hubris. Hubris means extreme pride or arrogance. It often indicates a loss of contact with reality, an overestimation of one's competence or capabilities.
Long ago Howard Gardner proposed there are different forms of intelligence, linguistic, music, emotional, kinesthetic, etc. David Bohm was describing something deeper, something whole, before fragmentation. Joseph Chilton Pearce has devoted the last fifteen years to describing what he calls ‘the intelligence of the heart,’ which is not sweet sentiment but a universal movement towards coherence and wholeness, health and wellbeing in relationship. The universal intelligence of the heart can lead and inspire intellect and imagination to tremendous creative acts of wholeness. When intellect-imagination is cut off from this ground, it has only itself as a reference and quickly sinks into madness.
We are conditioned to think of intellect as the seat of intelligence, intellect being language and the clever manipulation of symbols and metaphors, 2x2=4 and E=MC2, the stuff PhD’s are made of. Deep ecologist David Orr pointed out years ago that most of the damage to the living environment has been caused by men and women with degrees. One might add the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, wars religious and economic. Education is very often a dangerous thing. Dr. Frankenstein and Monsanto are poster children for education not grounded in the universal intelligence of the heart.
Returning to David Bohm’s and my proposal that intelligence is innate, not learned or accumulated, a coherent movement towards wholeness found everywhere and in everything, clearly this definition excludes thought and intellect which is learned and conditioned. It is easy to see that the majority, if not everything the intellect does, is more or less conditioned, associative, memorized, very often reflexive and mechanical. Repeating over and over what others have said, even when rewarded with PhDs or punished with ‘F’ is not intelligent. It is conditioning. Most of what we call compulsory schooling is conditioned, behavior modification in the name of higher learning.
Rather than intelligence we might consider the defensive and survival utility of intellect with its imagination. Imagination allows us to draw upon the past and project into the future. Surely this gives tremendous advantage. It may be that intellect-imagination, at its root, is the most advanced defensive weapon imaginable. Imagination used in the service of defense bestows the ability to create mental images of things not present to the senses, a fort, cannon, a missile or an image of self, strong and proud, for example. Once this image is created by thought, thought very often reifies its creation. Reification means, among other things, treating an abstraction as if it were a real thing.
We do this all the time. In fact, most of our social identity implies this fallacy; I am a German, a Buddhist, a Christian, a PhD. Germany is an abstraction, an imagined boundary created by the brain and then falsely treated by that brain as something real, which is a delusion. Money is paper or bits of metal reified. A great deal of what we call thought and language, so closely related, one might say they are two sides of a single coin, imply reification and, keep in mind, reification is a fallacy, the mind playing falsely with itself, in often delusional ways.
We routinely suffer from self-imposed delusions and call it reality. We forget that the mental images that thought is are nothing more and nothing less than that – mental images. We lose sight of this. We treat the mental image we create as if it were the thing the image represents, often adding all sorts of hallucinations in the process; racism, nationalism, political, religious and professional pride, school and team spirit, patriotism are simple examples, and murder one and another, actually or psychologically because of our mental illness.
The same reification is applied to all the images we have about our self; tall, short, smart and stupid. All of these are abstractions, ideas, concepts, forms of comparisons, relative measurements. They are all mental images, reified. That is, falsely treated as real by the brain holding the image. If that brain was quick and perceptive enough to catch the trick it is playing on itself, it would not be offended, shamed, bloated with pride or embarrassed. All of these are obvious signs that the brain is too dull, too stupid or inattentive to see what it is doing. No, this never happens to you or me, but we can see it easily in others.
By implication I am saying that our normal state of consciousness is not sane, that it is most often grounded on and in delusion rather than intelligence. Here we might distinguish between two different types of delusions; mechanical and psychological. 2+2=4 or a spoon of coco in warm milk - are mechanical uses of abstractions. We don’t go to war over the Joy of Cooking. I am a Christian. Christians are superior because they have been chosen by God. The darker the skin of a person the less superior they are. My team, my nation, neighborhood, custom, language, the way we dress, the food we eat, etc., is better than yours, and having an image of self based on these delusions is what I refer to as a psychological delusion, and self-centered delusions are very dangerous indeed. They represent a pervasive form of insanity that have reaped centuries upon centuries of unimaginable suffering throughout the world and continue to do so every day wherever insane hordes of mad human beings stalk the earth, in my home and in yours.
When threatened the brain reacts by imagining defensive images. When feeling threatened becomes chronic these images are repeated so often that they appear to be ever-present, permanent. Being inattentive the conditioned brain slips easily into reification and falsely treats the defensive images as being real and therefore as an independent reality. Once set into motion this false phantom takes on a life of its own, huffing and puffing, strutting and demanding. The entire charade is sucking up so much attention and energy that there is none left to access and act upon true intelligence – that spontaneous and ever-present movement towards wholeness that permeates every cell of the body and all of nature.
One cannot see the trick the brain is playing on itself at the level of the trick, while the false phantom is center stage. Created in crisis the false phantom demands that complete attention is paid to it. In truth, the presence in consciousness of him or her or me represents a black hole of inattention, a form of self-induced blindness that shuts out the activity of true intelligence with compounding consequences. Check mate!