I feel fortunate to have had the privilege of receiving a very good education all the way from middle school to college. I loved learning about the sciences, reading great works of literature, discovering the value of understanding history and the many varied interpretations of it. Yet, throughout my education, I felt that something important was missing. I was surrounded by brilliant people, many of whom ended up in Ivy League colleges and other prestigious schools. Though society regarded these young people as the cream of the crop in their intelligence, I couldn’t shake the sense that somehow they weren’t intelligent enough to be aware of the importance of many societal issues, such as poverty, overpopulation, environment, and other emerging concerns. And what was even more ignored was the importance of finding out whether we ever could make contact with our own spiritual nature. Was it intelligent to never even ask about these things?
At this time, I was also meeting people who I felt were spiritual. Some were religious, but many were not. They seemed set apart from the mainstream as they had different values and understandings from the ‘intelligent’ people I knew. They were able to see what we were doing to the environment, the price we were paying for being so focused on making money that we were not able to see how this was affecting both the world around us and the quality of life for us personally. Some of these people were educated (though often disillusioned by the educational system) and some were not, but they did frequently disparage the ‘intellectual elite’ who they saw as often being unconscious and destructive. I and others like me often felt that we were living in two very separate worlds.
The Biggest Fear, the Biggest Assumption
It became necessary to find out why this gap existed, for without that there would never be any hope for bridging it. The first opening was when one of my ‘intelligent’ friends told me their view of people who meditate. They were afraid that if they meditated they would become stupid, blank, empty, etc., and that meditation would leave them unable to think. They believed that to have a silent mind simultaneously meant that they would no longer be smart or able to be successful in the world. I didn’t dismiss this. I began to inquire into the question since, at that time, I thought it might be valid. After all, until I had my own experience of ‘no-mind’, I would not know for myself if this was an irrational fear or something to avoid. My goal was to know about this without prejudice or bias.
The Underlying Cause of the Split
The journey led me to an examination of the history of our religious, philosophical, and spiritual underpinnings. In the last 400 years many people in the Western European world have made an intense effort to free themselves from the control of religious institutions and their dogmas. Many of our best minds have had to vehemently oppose any group that uses non-rational logics to legitimize their authority. This emphasis on rationalism and its opposition to anything that denied the importance of the individual was an important factor in this bid for freedom. From the time of Descartes and Bacon, the philosophy changed to regard the search for meaning and purpose as existing in the human self alone. Conscious intelligence therefore could not be of a supernatural nature but must reside within the human mind. This went beyond the rejection of religious authority to include any belief that a connection with something outside of one’s own self is possible. Any person who believed that one could communicate with nature, the Cosmos, God, etc. was merely projecting human meaning onto an inanimate, non-human world. It became the common view that such beliefs were at best naive and childish or even worse, in need of psychiatric assistance. One’s mind became everything and this meant that the world and life itself was devoid of meaning. The Mind became ‘Everything’ as Descartes’ famous quote tells us – “I think therefore I am.” Richard Tarnas and others have referred to this as the “disenchanting of the universe.” And although it was a necessary phase for human development, the time to go to the next level is upon us.
This philosophical history tells us clearly why the notion of an ‘empty mind’ would be regarded as anathema. It shows why modern definitions of intelligence are ones that are based solely on the contents of one’s own mind and the ability to use them. So, we have a seemingly endless debate between faith and rationalism, spirituality and materialism, and the sense that there is an inherent meaning in existence vs. the belief that the existence is essentially meaningless.
Can this Debate Ever End?
I assert that it cannot end until we find a much needed bridge between these two world views. And that bridge is what I’m calling “Wisdom-Intelligence-Love.” In order for it to be a bridge that can take us somewhere, we will have to personally and seriously inquire into it. We must assume as little as possible and eschew blind faith. But it is also necessary to recognize that rational thought alone may not help us. To believe in rational thought as the only way of knowing is itself a mere belief or bias.
What is going to help us is a personal experience of Wisdom-Intelligence-Love. The experience must be clear and direct. It will need to regard all theories, all viewpoints as separate from any direct experience, whether they may be the beliefs of the religious and spiritual or the automatically accepted logics of science. What this does is leave room for the possibility that there may be more ways of knowing than what our limited mind tells us. The healing of the split takes us to a new way of experiencing and being in the world.
In Part 3, we will suggest a new view of Intelligence and how it can be experienced.