Thoughts on ‘mental fabrications’: intelligence, insight, “smarts”, and all that, with special emphasis on intelligence

Here’s a thought I had:

Recently, I was thinking about ‘intelligence’.  Because this term has been used too much, and in too many ways, I have begun to see it in a particular way.  In general, I see intelligence as having qualities such as:

  • Intelligence is a “seeing beyond things”.  It’s a way of seeing something that isn’t there.  In this way, it is almost magical and appears, at times, to be miraculous.  I tend to feel that it is more related to insight and intuition than “smarts” and being knowledgable, as is often done.  This, I feel, is one of the big differences between my interpretation and others.
  • Intelligence is a “creation of something out of nothing”.  This means that intelligence tends to build and make things.   This also gives intelligence a magical quality.  In some cases, it amounts to ‘pulling a rabbit out of a hat’.
  • Intelligence “causes a change”.   Unlike things like knowledge, intelligence tends to do something in one’s life.  In often leads to a growth of a person.  It also tends to make a person live better in life.
  • Intelligence is a “manifestation of a greater awareness”.   In other words, it isn’t just “because you took a class on it” or “read a book”.  It is primarily a result of greater awareness.
  • Intelligence “tends to lead to a greater world view”.  That is to say, it leads a person to a greater conception of life.  It also tends to create a more holistic way of looking at the world.
  • Intelligence is a “bringing together of ones self”.  What I mean by this, is that intelligence seems to make the self more whole and one.  Because of this, intelligence is often a means of growth and development.

So we see that intelligence is an ability a person has that makes one ‘function’ in the worldIn this way, intelligence is an ever dynamic and ever-changing phenomena.  This means that there is really no “end” to it but it goes and on in one’s life.

Intelligence is just a form of what I call ‘mental fabrications’.   These are ‘fabrications’ we create in our mind that help us to conceive of the world.  By this, I mean that ‘mental fabrications’ allows us to do things such as these:

  • Fabricate an image of the world.
  • It allows us to be able to use the world and the things in it.
  • It allows us to predict what will happen in the world, allowing us to plan for things.
  • It allows us to make the world meaningful.

These all contribute to create a condition of being able to live in the world, what can be described as a ‘livableness’.  As a result, one can see that ‘mental fabrications’ are critical for life and living.

There is something which I call the spectrum of ‘mental fabrications’.  These refer to the fact that there are many forms of ‘mental fabrications’, not just one form.  They as if blend together much like the colors in a rainbow.  If I were to try to describe some main attributes, or ‘colors’, of this spectrum, or rainbow, it would go something like this:

  • Intuition.  This is an innate ability to ‘sense’ or ‘understand’ things.  In general, intuition is not something ‘learned’ but seems to be an innate ability.  We all display it from time to time and it is a normal part of life.  Like any ability, though, some people can display it more strongly than others.
  • Insight.  This is the ability to see beyond what is immediately there.  In some ways, it’s a form of ‘foreseeing’ or an ability to see what will happen before it happens.  This allows us to design things, plan for things, and sense if something may have bad consequences.  In the same way, it can allow us to see if something is good before it is or even tell the meaning of things that happen.
  • Intelligence.  This is as I’ve described it in this article.
  • “Smarts”.   This the ability to put things together, almost like a jigsaw puzzle.  It allows us to take something and put in a useful design.  In this way, it is like a creation.
  • Knowledgeable.  This is knowing information or details about things.
  • Imitative.  This consists primarily in imitating things that other people have done in particular.  For example, in reading a book and ‘learning it’ we are primarily imitating what the author said in our minds.  Imitation is very much involved in the development and creation of the other ‘mental fabrication’ but, by itself, is very hampering.  Being too imitative restricts the other forms from developing.

The extremes of this range from ‘mystical’ (intuition) to ‘what is obvious’ (imitative).  As one can see, intelligence is “sort of in the middle”.  In this way, it is actually like a ‘blending of the extremes’ which is one of the reasons why it is so powerful, critical, and important.   Because of this,a person who is intelligent, in my opinion, is someone who ‘blends the two extremes’ and, accordingly, creates a holistic perception of things.  Intelligence makes them “stand in the middle” and, in so doing, they have the “best of both worlds”, that is, they have both extremes. 

Unfortunately, this society tends to take certain views that, in my opinion, tend to hinder the development of intelligence, at least as I am describing it here.  These includes things such as:

  • This society tends to consider someone intelligent who only has the three lower qualities.  This means the emphasis is on imitation, being knowledgeable, and in the ability to put things together.  This is only half the spectrum.
  • This society tends to be particularistic, only emphasizing certain things and abilities, and not in creating a holistic attitude and development.  We must ‘learn this’ and ‘learn that’.  Once we do that it is considered ‘enough’.  This particularistic attitude tends to only reflect social attitudes at the time, which determines what needs to be emphasized.  In other words, its a ‘seeking of social approval’.  Because of this, most of the seeking of any intelligence is, in actuality, nothing but a seeking of social approval.  In that way, its like an illusion . . . that is to say, not a true seeking of intelligence.
  • This society tends to use intelligence for money, social prestige, or some other menial or mundane thing.  For many people, intelligence is associated with these things.  This also gives intelligence an illusion . . . intelligence is only a means for something else.
  • This society also tends to look down upon the ‘mystical’ and insightful qualities which even further hampers intelligence by not allowing a more holistic viewpoint.  Avoiding these qualities tend to give intelligence a ‘mechanistic’ character.

Intelligence, because of its blending nature, is quite unique in the spectrum of ‘mental fabrication’.  All the other abilities entail a specific ability or quality.  Intelligence, on the other hand, requires more than just an ability or quality.  It requires additional traits such as:

  • The ability to put things together to create a holistic image.  This requires the ability to not only put things together, and make things make sense, but to ‘connect’ all the other ‘mental fabrications’ together.  In this way, intelligence becomes like a ‘head’ or ‘leader’ of the spectrum of ‘mental fabrications’.  In addition to this, intelligence requires the ability to make sense out of contradictory things.  My experience is that most people have a problem with ‘holistic interpretations’, of making a whole image out of many parts, especially when they are contradictory.
  • The development of other forms of ‘mental fabrications’.  Intelligence requires an ability to ‘expand’ into many other areas of the spectrum.  That is to say, many other qualities must be developed as well.  Typically, because of the wide range of qualities found in the spectrum, its only natural that most people will find that they have an ability in one area or another.  As a result, people will tend to focus on the area they are best at and tend to neglect the other areas.  This makes it so that most people tend to become specific and particular about the ‘mental fabrication’ they develop.  In order to fully develop intelligence, though, a person must go beyond this tendency, and develop many other traits in the spectrum.  This appears to be somewhat rare.

Many people are hampered in intelligence because they lack one or both qualities.  This quality I call ‘unachieved intelligence’.  One could say that the main hampering is a result of the ‘tendency to be specific’ that we all tend to do.  We all tend to focus or be specific about things like:

  • The abilities we develop.
  • The image or fabrications we create.

By doing this, we actually restrict ourselves and neglect or don’t develop other areas of the spectrum.  Overcoming the ‘tendency to be specific’, I feel, is far more difficult to do than one may think.  This is because it is very natural and normal thing to do.  Since intelligence requires the ability to go beyond this natural tendency, it shows some other interesting traits associated with it:

  • Intelligence requires a tendency to go beyond ones natural tendencies.  Because of this, intelligence has a quality of ‘going beyond ones self’.
  • This ‘going beyond ones self’, I think, takes far more courage than one may think.  This shows that intelligence is associated with courage. 
  • Because one must ‘go beyond ones self’ it often has a quality of ‘bordering on madness’ and, in some cases, ‘losing ones self’.  As a result, intelligence is associated with madness, eccentricity, ‘weirdness’, alienation, conflict, despair, and so on. 

Particularly as a result of the last trait, intelligence may actually end up harming a person.  I sometimes jokingly refer to this as the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’ as it tends to contradict or negate the purpose of intelligence.  This is one of the reasons why I have always felt that one must be careful with intelligence.  In other words, I tend to see that intelligence is something that must be ‘cultivated’, ‘grown’, and ‘looked after’, much like a garden.  This fact shows that there area actually ‘additional stages to intelligence’ that go beyond just ‘learning’ or ‘developing’.  In fact, one could say that intelligence grows in these stages:

  1. Having intelligence.  This refers to having the intelligence character trait.
  2. Discovering intelligence.  This refers to the discovering of the intelligence character trait, usually as a result of the normal course of living.
  3. Displaying intelligence.  This reflects a tendency to display or use intelligence in our lives.
  4. Developing intelligence.  This refers to an active development of the intelligence we have discovered.  Typically, this refers to a ‘learning’ or a ‘practicing’ of this ability.  Often, it is only a specific quality or ability as a result of the ‘tendency to be specific’.  For people who may go further it can become a source of problems as a result of the ‘going beyond themselves’ creating the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’.
  5. Cultivating intelligence.  This stage takes a person ‘beyond themselves’ and, therefore, bypasses the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’.  This requires a culture typically (see below).
  6. Integrated intelligence.  This is when cultivated intelligence is ‘blended’ with our personal intelligence.  In this way, it as if ‘goes full circle’.

It seems that people usually stop at developing intelligence, at least in this society.  They ‘learn’ and ‘practice’ and that’s it . . . and a few border on madness or become very weird and alienated in life.  One of the reasons for this is that cultivating intelligence requires a social element to exist.  This element tends to be absent in this society.  All the former stages tend to reflect personal tendencies and, as a result, are primarily personal in orientation.  Even when they are used for social ends, such as with an occupation, it is still rooted in ones personal qualities.  The only difference is that they are ‘harnessed’ for that function.  In actuality, cultivating intelligence tends to appear as a result of a culture.  In other words, the culture allows the ‘going beyond ones self’ tendency to continue.  It does this by permitting a person to ‘go beyond ones self by transferring to the culture’.  In this way, a person goes from their self, so to speak, to the culture.  This shows an interesting thing about the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’.  It shows that there is a point when a persons self has ‘ended’ . . . something more than the self is needed.  This is supplied by the culture.   The culture allows a ‘transferring’.  I speak of this effect as the ‘going beyond transfer’ One could also refer to this as an ‘extension of self’ as well.   When there is nothing to transfer or extend to, a person remains in their self causing the many problems associated with the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’In some respects, is like getting stuck in a hole unable to get out.   

This shows certain qualities about the self such as that the self is limited and that intelligence is not rooted in the self.   My experience is that most people think that things like intelligence are based in the self and sprout from it.  I generally think that they are really speaking of their ego and, therefore, are displaying an intellectual pride when they say this (that is, they are confusing their ego with their self).  Its my opinion that intelligence is actually rooted in one’s character, which can be described as an ‘overall manifestations of all of ones traits’.  In other words, it is ‘something one has’.  Many people display intelligence and don’t even know it nor integrate it into their self, which can be described as a sense of who one is.  Because of this, a person may not integrate the intelligence into their self showing that intelligence is not a part of the self.  Instead, intelligence is something that the self ‘acquires’ from ones character traits (assuming one has it).  We must keep in mind that each one of us has a number of character traits that we don’t know we have or that we have not integrated into our sense of self and who we are.  When this happens we tend to neglect this character trait.  This is often done with intelligence.

What this shows is that intelligence is ‘beyond the self’ and not inherently a part of it.  Because of this, when we only know intelligence in respect of the self then we only see a small aspect of it.  This can be described as the ‘intelligence-in-self aspect’ which is only a specific way of knowing of intelligence.

As a result, a way to develop intelligence is to bring on new aspects of intelligence which as if ‘open up’ other aspects of intelligence one normally would not see.  An important way to do this is with the use of culture.  In this way, the self is not used bringing up a whole other aspect of intelligence.  This can be described as ‘intelligence-in-culture aspect’.

Culture brings in new qualities involved with intelligence that the ‘intelligence-in-self aspect’ could not bring out.  Some of these include:

  • Authority.  There is a sense of a ‘greater power’ than ones self.
  • A greater perspective.  It makes one see that one is a small part of a bigger picture.
  • Direction.  Seeing ones self as part of a bigger picture tends to make a person feel that they have a place in that picture and a specific purpose . . . a direction.
  • Depth.  Seeing that there is life beyond ones self one see’s that there is ‘more’ than who one is creating a great sense of depth.
  • Support and belonging.  The culture creates a sense that one is safe and belong in one’s place in the world.
  • Seeing ones self as part of a group . . . a ‘group self’.  In some respects, one could call this ones ‘extended self’, of a self that is made up of a ‘self that is not ones self’.
  • Mysticism (if it is religious).  This often gives a greater dimension to intelligence and world perception.

Whats interesting is that many of these qualities do not describe intelligence at all but, rather, the development of ‘senses’.  The fact is that there is great importance in these ‘senses’.  This is because they ‘support’ intelligence’.  In fact, these supports are practically as important as intelligence itself, even though they display no qualities of intelligence at all. They as if buttress and keep intelligence in its place.  One could compare it to the structural steel work of a skyscraper.  It holds the building up but is not seen. I speak of this ‘senses’ as the ‘intelligence support senses’.  And so, what we see is that culture doesn’t necessarily increase intelligence but it supports it.  But, in supporting it, it allows it to grow and develop.  One of the interesting fact this reveals is that the self is limited in its ability to ‘support’ intelligence.  This is primarily because the self ‘uses’ intelligence like a tool.  Culture supports it.

One of the effects of the ‘support’ is that it often creates something like a ‘falling back’ or what seems like a ‘regression of intelligence’.  This is because, at this stage, we are no longer centered on our self but in the culture.  We as if ‘give our self up’ as a result.  This makes it so that we seem to lose hold of it all.  I sometimes speak of this as ‘regressive intelligence’.  When this happens the ‘power’ is ‘transferred’ from the self to the culture.  If one does not grow into the culture then one may stay in the ‘regressive intelligence’ state, which some people do.  But when one grows into the culture one moves out of the ‘regressive intelligence’ phase and continues on with a different intelligence for it has passed from the personal intelligence to cultural intelligence.  Because of this there is actually something like a ‘transition period’ for this to happen, the ‘personal to cultural transition’.  If one succeeds then one ‘goes beyond ones self’.

But, at this stage, though, there is a tendency to get ‘stuck’ just like with the ‘anti-intelligence tendency’.  Basically, we tend to become ‘handmaidens’ to the culture.  That will stop a person in their tracks as much as anything else.  What we do is tend to forget our own intelligence and adopt the culture as if it were a replacement.  This makes it so that we abandon our intelligence.  This is the ‘abandoning intelligence tendency’.  When this happens we as if become like ‘robots’ to the culture, repeating what it wants, viewing things the way it wants, etc.  In actuality, many people reach this point as a result of ‘formal education’ and going to the University oftentimes.

If one can go beyond the ‘abandoning intelligence tendency’ they tend to occasionally abandon the culture from time to time.  In some ways, they can appear to go against it.  In actuality, though, what they are doing is rediscovering their own personal intelligence.  As a result, they are reintegrating their own personal intelligence into themselves.  This is ‘integrated intelligence’.  In this way, we as if make a complete circle back to our personal intelligence.  In some cases, we may have to start to discover it all again.

In actuality, what happens is a continuous ‘circle of intelligence’:

personal intelligence-cultural intelligence-personal intelligence-cultural intelligence, etc.

This cycle goes on the rest of ones life (that is, if one develops ones intelligence).  We continually alternate between personal and cultural intelligence again and again in our life.

It seems, though, that most people get ‘hung up’ somewhere in the cycle.  That is to say, there are all sorts of places in the cycle that stops or hinders a person.  Some of these have been described above, such as the ‘anti-intelligence tendency, the ‘regressive intelligence’, and the ‘abandoning intelligence tendency’.   They can be described as the ‘intellectual hang ups’.  Because of this I tend to think that the big battles of intelligence is not in developing or learning intelligence but in overcoming the ‘intellectual hang ups’ that appear in the cycle.  This seems to get more prevalent as one gets older.  When one is younger one tends to be mostly developing and learning intelligence.   The ‘intellectual hang ups’ have not appeared yet.  As a result, overcoming the ‘intellectual hang ups’ is more of an adult thing.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Culture, cultural loneliness, etc., Education, learning, and over education, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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