THE BLOG
03/17/2014 04:29 pm ET Updated May 16, 2014

Re-Thinking Intelligence

We love intelligence, we respect intelligence and we laud it. We also have a bevy of assumptions around this intangible, ineffable but very powerful force. Is it genetic, learned, earned, programmed in utero, generational? Exciting and yearned for all over the world as it is, it also keeps everyone guessing.

It may be, along with love, happiness and well-being, the most desired non-material asset to be had. These few may also, curiously, make material assets overall, pale in comparison to these, but that for another article.

We believe that our most intelligent get into the best schools, get the best jobs, run the best companies, and ascend to the highest positions in science, business, the arts or public service. We pray that our children will be more intelligent than we are.

Yet, all people, including intelligentsia, find themselves facing one or another kind of conflict professionally or at home, difficulties, struggles and hardships of one sort or another, be they personal, moral, economic, political, spiritual or ideological. If we're so intelligent, would we not be able to minimize or eliminate conflict and the more disagreeable parts of life altogether? At least, would we not be able to resolve issues which all too often escalate to violence or war so that these options would not even reach the table? After all, we are intelligent adults, aren't we?

Perhaps more important concerns our posing the question of exactly what is intelligence? And whether or not it comes in different styles and flavors--if so, what are they?

Surely it is time to re-think intelligence. What appears as intellectual intelligence seems not infrequently to have little to do with emotional intelligence. If someone knew how to calculate the square root of Pi but didn't know how to sense the grief a friend may be going through, we do have to ask ourselves again about the nature of intelligence.

Dr. Daniel Goleman, in his classic work on the subject Emotional Intelligence Why it can Matter More Than IQ, has been extremely helpful in helping us discern the distinctions between intellectual and emotional intelligence. Constructing complex mathematical theorems or even composing a beautiful symphony does not mean that a person has the ability to navigate the turbulent moods of a spouse. Nor does someone who is brilliant in working with people necessarily have a comparable, or any skill in writing academic abstracts.

Another important type of intelligence to consider distinguishing is kinesthetic intelligence. There are many who can dance or perform athletics but who cannot relate well to others, or are unable to articulate much of how they feel or think. But somatically they are gifted, with their hands in crafts, sculpture, or in whole body movement. The work going back in time to the work of Mabel Ellsworth Todd's The Thinking Body is an example of what we know as somatic intelligence.

Yet another form of intelligence has been described by Cindy Wigglesworth in her book SQ21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence about which I interviewed her on A Better World Radio. This is a more integrated form of intelligence, leading to a more balanced state of mind, heart, body and spirit together. This whole-natured type of intelligence yields the greatest versatility, adaptability and resilience when dealing with life's many challenges on all levels.

We see world leaders and captains of industry making choices which seem to offer nothing but a short-gap methods of placing band-aids on gaping wounds without lasting, positive benefits for their nation's people.

We see decisions being made by government and corporate leaders, typically considered "intelligent people" yet the choices are so self-serving that they couldn't be called anything but selfish, immature and thoughtless, and often literally endangering the future of our species and others on the planet.

The choices regarding our collective carbon footprint and continue to use fossil fuels in a world where other choices are amply available doesn't demonstrate any level of discernible intelligence at all.

There is nothing in the vocabulary of intelligence which suggests that self-serving interest at the expense of the survival itself of one's own species is intelligent. It appears more as a profound pathology, a personality disorder or an addiction process--addiction to power and dominance based on, ironically, impoverished self-worth, then compensated for in the external world.

If a teenager in a household of four were to, for instance, were to come home from football practice, then eat most all the food in the refrigerator leaving little for the other three family members, the parents would no doubt reprimand him for being "ridiculously selfish and thoughtless", thinking only of himself and only "for the moment" without a care for others or food for the family for the rest of the week.

Yet our political leadership and our captains of industry are making just such types of decisions virtually every day. Look at the coal industry for instance or fracking, where the potential for chemical oil spills, water contamination and increasing the carbon footprint is proven to be profoundly high. These choices may appear good for a very few of their larger investors but have awesomely deleterious consequences to the soil, water and air for what might be decades or more, harming even themselves.

What is intelligent about that? What kinds of intelligence are being utilized and which missing in these kinds of choices? In fact, on closer look, it appears as forms of sadism and masochism.

What kind of intelligence is being used when governments opt for war or for torture, even though it is severely harming others as well as in violation of often domestic and international law? Or does that no longer matter because law is only applied to some and not others? If this is judicial intelligence, we need to reform and upgrade this too.

What I'm suggesting is that what we call emotional intelligence, combined with intellectual and somatic, or what we could better call integrated spiritual intelligence, should really be the aim of our educational and social systems. This includes the building of intellectual skills right alongside with the building of character, integrity, deep listening leading to empathy, non-egoic being, all of which means that the 'higher mind' functions, including pre-frontal lobe development over further reptilian brain development occurs. Neuro-scientific breakthroughs now show us that certain kinds of behavior and attitude correspond with different neural regions.

We have different ways of stimulating those areas to increase the holistic form of overall spiritual intelligence. (e.g., http://psyphz.psych.wisc.edu/web/personnel/director.html, http://www.drjoedispenza.com, http://www.deepchange.com/index, http://higherbrainliving.com). Some of these involve meditation, Chi-Kung, communication practices such as Marshall Rosenberg's "non-violent communication', Therapeutic Theater and more.

I am suggesting that this kind of spiritual intelligence and brain development would lead us into a very different world than the one in which we are living and struggling now.

In some sense, we would have the "wisdom of the elders" from indigenous traditions across the planet combined with our making "modern choices" in a world agog with technology, people and limited resources. We could learn cooperation in place of competition, or to at least place competition as a subset of cooperation, something for fun but not exclusively for "keeps".

We could learn to think ahead so that we would consider consequences, as it is said by Native American elders:, "seven generations down", which certainly keeps us from being reactive and impulsive in our actions.

War, harming the environment, violence, human trafficking, social injustice, harming animals and other sentient life would be seen as unintelligent, irrational, nothing short of pathological, and as a squandering of precious resources on all levels. Better, healthier, choices, designed for the public good, would be made by people across the planet with this kind of brain development, consciousness and cultivation of spiritual intelligence.. I have conducted numerous interviews on A Better World Radio & TV on these subjects in archive.

By re-thinking our assumptions about intelligence, by expanding our understanding and definitions of intelligence, we may really be empowered to healthy, responsible choices to preserve our lives, our species, our eco-system, reduce harm, build sustainable practices into the fabric of society, practice kindness, humor, play and thereby become very intelligent.

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