More thoughts on intelligence, including the importance of the ‘penetrative quality’

I was thinking about so-called intelligence again.  Here’s some of the thoughts I had:

First of all, intelligence, as I use it here, means an ability to “navigate” through things.  In other words, a person who “lacks intelligence” tends to walk as if blind in the world, unable to “weave” through various things and events in life.  It creates things such as:

  • They cannot make sense of things.
  • They tend to disregard or ignore things, often being aware of things.
  • They can’t take advantage of situations and make things benefit them.
  • They often find themselves in situations that do not favor them.

One can see that intelligence, in some form, is a necessary element in life.  In general, its this ability to “navigate” that allows us to put ourselves in the best position in life.  It allows us to make sense of things, put ourselves in the best situation, and avoid bad situations In some respects, that is the “act of living” meaning that intelligence is required to “live”.  Because of this, a person cannot live life being totally unintelligent which means that everyone has some form of it.

More than anything else, there are different types of intelligence . . . there is no ONE version.  Not only that, any specific form of intelligence is not necessarily better than another.  In many cases, though, situations tend to favor a specific type of intelligence.  In this way, what determines a specific form of “intelligence” is not intelligence, itself, but the condition that favors a specific form of intelligence . . . its the condition that makes that form of intelligence relevant and have worth.  In that way, the conditions are actually more influential than intelligence itself.  In a sense, intelligence is nothing but a “reaction” to conditions.  For example, some ways of lifestyle require emphasis on a specific form of intelligence (such as “book intelligence” is very favorable in the modern world).  People who have that particular intelligence, of course, will appear ‘intelligent’ and may fair better overall in that lifestyle.  One of the effects of this is that it tends to downplay and trivialize other forms of intelligence which are often not esteemed at all, if they are noticed at all.  This makes it so that we are not aware of the other forms of intelligence that exists.  This shows how intelligence is a manifestation of conditions.


I seem to think that this ability to “navigate” through things (intelligence) requires these qualities:

  1. Ability.  This refers to being able to do some function or activity.  In order to have ability one must first have the means (a male, for example, has no means to giving birth to children which means, of course, that he cannot do it).   A person must also have the inclination.  That is to say, a person must want or need to do the ability.  In addition, a person must have the skill to do it.  In other words, they must have a knack at doing it.  Its not uncommon that some people have a particularly strong knack or skill than other people at doing some things.  Because of this, that ability will tend to be more developed.  This is common in why some people develop specific forms of intelligence . . . they develop that particular form of intelligence as a result of a skill they happen to have.
  2. Conception.  Conception is a fabrication of an image of the world.  It is, in a sense, the creation of a “map” of the world that one uses.  Over the years I tend to view that any conception, that allows one to ‘navigate’ through things, entails 3 qualities or forms of conceptions:  memory-based, creative, and intuitive (see “Thoughts on three forms of conception“).  Through these 3 conceptions a ‘vision’ or image of the world is created.  Having a wrong or misguided conception makes it difficult for a person to ‘navigate’ through the world and may even hinder or even halt an intelligence from developing.  For some forms of intelligence, the creation of a good conception is critical.  The creation of a “proper conception” also figures prominently in so-called ‘education’.
  3. Penetrative quality.  This refers to people being able to ‘see into’ things.  As a result, this ability creates a quality of being able to forsee things and be ‘in-tune’ with things around them.  In general, this is not ‘learned’ but seems more an innate ability.  Some people, though, may never discover that they have it.  This quality, it seems to me, is seldom acknowledged in this society.

The different qualities of intelligence, described above, seem to be a result of a number of things:

  • How the qualities above are emphasized and developed.  In some people, one quality may be greatly emphasized and another quality may not be developed at all.  This can give a multitude of forms of intelligence.
  • The ‘creative mixing’ of the qualities above.  There seems to be an almost “artist” quality in how the different qualities are mixed, emphasized, and used.  This can entail great creative ability.  The conditions of life often require an alternation of these different qualities, of going from one to the other, and knowing when to emphasize one or the other, and such.  In some sense, it can be compared to a symphony.  The creative ability required to do this can sometimes be very great.  This shows that intelligence can require a creative ability and ‘artistic’ skill.  A person who lacks this creative ability, or is not good at it, may not develop some forms of intelligence.
  • How they are applied in life.  As I said above, intelligence is a reaction to conditions.  As a result of this, how one applies intelligence, being a reaction to conditions, has great impact on its form.  This is particularly so as the application of intelligence, to the conditions which cause it, is what gives intelligence its value and worth.  Intelligence, without application, is really a “non-intelligence” as it has no value and worth.  Because of this, the successful application of intelligence is critical for it to be “intelligence”. 


Society has great influence on the forms of intelligence that is emphasized.  In this society, for example, the predominant mixture (at least that I see) is almost exclusively a conception-based intelligence (primarily because of the emphasis on education and going to school and learning a “model”, or conception, and applying it).  The bulk of this conception-based intelligence is often primarily the application of memory (such as using principles of engineering to build an engine).    Because of the predominance of memory, I often speak of a society that emphasizes this point of view as a ‘memory-based society’, as its the primary quality.  As a result of this emphasis on memory, it tends to be more developed in people.  Because of this, this society is becoming very memory-based.  Talking to kids, nowadays, is not unlike talking to a tape recorder that’s being played back.  Since memory is primarily a form of imitation (repeating, or imitating, facts in your mind, for example) it has made this society very imitative.   Because of this, I also call it the ‘imitative society’.  Imitation, though, creates problems, which are becoming more prevalent, which I first described in my article “Interpreting the ‘blind spot’: death, the self, the problem of imitation, and other things associated with it“).

One of the problems of societies emphasis on specific forms of intelligence is that it tends to cause an overemphasis on that form of intelligence.  But, the overemphasis on one form of intelligence in society, in my opinion, tends to make people more ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’, overall.  This is particularly so when there are organized systems to “teach” it (such as public schools).  This causes a great overemphasis and overdevelopment.  But, because this is viewed as doing the ‘social ideal’ this overdevelopment and overemphasis tends to not be acknowledged or noticed.  In that way, something like an illusion is created, what may be called the ‘illusion of overemphasized intelligence’:  a tendency to think that a particular form of intelligence is the “ultimate” even though people may be horribly “stupid” in other ways.  This shows how society influences intelligence in people in ways such as:

  • What form of intelligence is developed.
  • How specific forms can be overvalued and overemphasized.
  • How other forms of intelligence can be undermined by overemphasis and overvaluation of specific forms (even to the point of  preventing them from developing).
  • How it creates illusions about intelligence, particularly if it reflects a ‘social ideal’.

In “individualistic America”, for example, there is a tendency to credit intelligence almost exclusively to the person, the individual, as a “great achievement”.  This, of course, only reflects America’s individualistic standpoint and ‘social ideal’.  In this way, the so-called “individual achievement” is really nothing but a reflection of society.  It tends to overemphasize and overvalue intelligence as a reflection of this “individual achievement”.


I have always felt that the “height of intelligence” is thepenetrative quality’.  I’ve found that the ‘penetrative quality’ is very critical and, in many ways, more important than the other qualities in regard to ‘navigating’ through things.  In this way, the penetrative quality is the ‘knife’s edge’ that cuts through things.  All the other qualities as if follow behind.

The ‘penetrative quality’ is quite unique.  By itself, it is just “there”, it “happens”.  In other words, a person is either born with the ‘penetrative quality’ or not, though there is a small range that can be learned.  This more or less means that the ‘penetrative quality is a manifestation of character. 

The ‘penetrative quality’ seems to primarily be an act, something a person does.  In other words, its not really an ability or skill nor does it reflect a conception.  Because of this, situations and conditions are often required for the ‘penetrative quality’ to be developed in a person who has it.  If the situation and conditions do not appear then it does not become developed.  In this way, many people with the ‘penetrative quality’ never know they have it, that is, unless the correct situation or condition appears.  They must also be able to apply it.  Many people, I think, have not found out the way to do it.  They’ve been unable to find a way to give it a “voice”, so to speak.  As a result, it does not appear.

In addition, it seems to me that the ‘penetrative quality’ is very reflective of ones ‘inner state’.  As a result of this, it hits deeper into ones self than does the other qualities on intelligence.  In this way, it makes intelligence ‘personal’ and significant for the person.  Its not uncommon that it will have such an impact that it will affect a persons whole life.  Because it reflects ones ‘inner state’ it often ebbs and flows with ones ‘inner state’.  Because of this, a person may have high moments and low moments of the ‘penetrative ability’.  Many “techniques of learning”, I’ve found, are often attempts at trying to regain these high moments or, even, to try to force it to happen.

I am under the opinion that one cannot really control the penetrative quality:  a person either has it or not,  In addition, it comes and goes as it wills.  It can be taught, to some extent, but if a person doesn’t have it then it will not come out regardless of what they do.  When they do have it, its appearance varies with the situation and even with their mood (that is, ‘inner state’).  Because of this a person can’t just “develop it” and “use it” like learning how to ride a bike.  Its varied quality makes it unpredictable and, as a result, something that is hard to “develop” and “use” in an organized way.

Much of the ‘penetrative quality’ is rooted in experience.  This is because, as I said above, intelligence is a reaction to things.  For experience to truly be influential a person must be open to what happens, remember what happens, and have the ability to utilize and apply it.  A person may have the experience but, without these qualities, the ‘penetrative quality’ has a hard time appearing or manifesting itself.

It seems that there are two forms of the penetrative ability:

  1. Active – a ‘reacting’ to things.  This means a sense of seeing into conditions of things and being able to react to it.  In other words, its doing things based in ones ability to see into it.  This is the ‘penetrative ability’ as an act of doing something.  Because of this, it appears as one does things and, as a result, tends to entail no thought.
  2. Passive – a ‘being open’ to a specific conditions.  This refers to a sense of being aware of conditions as they happen.  In some respects it can be compared to a ‘hyper-awareness’ making them more aware of what’s going on.  This is the ‘penetrative ability’ as an observation and does not entail doing anything.  This makes it more reflective often entailing thoughts and ideas.

Both contribute to create the ‘penetrative quality’.  People, generally, become more adept at one or the other.  In fact, I would say that a person tends to lean to one side or the other predominately.

Many people will “imitate” the ‘penetrative quality’ that other people display even to the point that they may appear to have it (see statements on imitation above).  I’ve found that knowing facts and technique (that is, learning things) can give the illusion of ‘penetrative quality’.  But, since it originates in imitation, I speak of it as the ‘pseudo-penetrative quality’.  Its seen a lot with “educated” people who have spent a lot of time learning what other people have done (which is primarily imitating).  In some respects, they are “taking the credit for what other people did”, replicating and repeating the path and direction set by others.  This gives the illusion of the ‘penetrative quality’.  Because of this, and with the prevalence of learning nowadays, we must be careful of this when looking at the ‘penetrative quality’, that what appears to be the ‘penetrative quality’ actually isn’t.

My observation is that some people have a very high ‘penetrative quality’.  This, to me, is what actually gives people a very “intelligent” quality.  Interestingly, I’ve found that many of these people do not take a memory-based in orientation.  This often means that they are not necessarily educated (which means that they can repeat all the stuff they’ve learned, heard, read, and did) or have gone through any “organized learning process”.  In fact, most are not “educated” much at all.  This, to me, has always been revealing and tends to show a tendency that “too much education” tends to dampen the ‘penetrative quality’ and may even prevent its appearance.  This shows that things like this may actually hinder the ‘penetrative quality’:

  • Imitation.
  • Knowing too much.
  • Being too well-versed in technique.

These, it seems to me, actually tends to suffocate the ‘penetrative quality’.  This shows that the ‘penetrative quality’ is very much related to a spontaneity of experience and reaction.  The more “controlled” these are the less likely the ‘penetrative quality’ will appear.  Because of this, the ‘penetrative quality’ tends to not be that prevalent in this era of “controlling everything”.  This need for a spontaneity of experience and reaction is another testament of how it is a reflection of ones ‘inner state’ and, accordingly, very personal, originating from deep within a person.  Because of this, the conditions must be right to allow for this deep element to come out naturally.  This is not achieved by controlling everything or having too much “stuff” (such as knowledge) in the way.

One of the effects of the ‘penetrative quality’ is that it ‘implants’ a person in their situation.  This makes people very much “in” their world and in the conditions and with a knowing of what’s going on.  It does this in ways such as:

  • It increases awareness.
  • It increases an ability to see things that aren’t obvious.
  • It makes a person ‘with it’ and very much ‘in tune’ to their world, so to speak.
  • It creates an ability to foresee things.
  • It creates an ability to react to things.

In effect, the ‘penetrative quality’ creates a quality of ‘being in’ the world or ones situation.  A person seems “implanted” in it.  But, because there are so many things in life, there is a tendency to be ‘focused’ on specific qualities which also tends to cause a tendency to neglect everything else.  That is, people are usually only penetrative or ‘in tune’ to specific qualities.  What these are is determined by their particular strength of ‘penetrative quality’.  Some of what these specific qualities may be include:

  • A specific activity a person does, which may be a skill of some sort.
  • An awareness of the current situation and conditions.
  • An insight into various objects and things (such as an engine or building).
  • An insight into various internal things (such as emotion, thoughts, etc.)
  • A specific form of awareness (such as a spirituality).

Because of these differences, one can see that there are many forms of the ‘penetrative quality’ and how it appears.  In other words, the ‘penetrative quality’ doesn’t appear in just one form.

The ‘penetrative quality’ often gives a ‘charisma’ to a person, sometimes practically defining a person.  Sometimes, it makes them seem more than they are.  Examples include:

  • Leadership.  Because the ‘penetrative quality’ places a person “in” the world, and makes them “in tune”, it often is a desirable trait in a leader.  In fact, I tend to feel that its this quality that often gives a leader a “charisma” that appeals to people.  Of course, just because a person has this quality doesn’t mean they have the leadership qualities to apply it.  I’ve found that the “in tune” sense, that comes with the ‘penetrative quality’, often tends to be appealing but, as I said above, a person must be able to apply it for it to be useful.  As a result, just having the “in tune” sense doesn’t necessarily mean they can use it and will good leaders.
  • Intelligent.  It can make a person seem to have an ‘uncanny understanding’ of things.  The ‘penetrative quality’ makes some people see things others can’t making them appear intelligent.
  • “Magical understanding”.  Its not uncommon that the appearance of the ‘penetrative quality’ often gives a person a sense of being ‘deep-minded’ which, at times, can be almost magical.  In fact, it can almost appear god-like making a person appear “inspired by god”.

The ‘penetrative quality’ has an effect on the other two qualities (ability and conceptions).  It makes them more influential and powerful, giving them a greater quality than they already have.  It also gives them a greater place and use.  In this way, the ‘penetrative quality’ as if brings together the other two qualities and unites them into one.  This shows how important it is, that ability and conception is not enough.  In fact, ability or conception without the ‘penetrative quality’ tends to create a ‘robot-like’ quality.   This quality is a hallmark trait of todays mentality and teaching showing that the ‘penetrative quality’ is absent in modern mentality.

Its seems, to me, that the ‘penetrative quality’ is generally discovered when people find they have a ‘knack’ at doing certain things.  The term ‘knack’, though, may not be the right word as it only means an ability.  It seems that people with the ‘penetrative quality’ will go beyond ability, beyond the ‘knack’, the ability.  This is because it makes them ‘look beyond’ and see more, or do more, than is normally done.  As a result, they contribute something that isn’t there.  Because of this, the ‘penetrative quality’ tends to create a tendency to create, or to be unique, original, or novel.  In fact, because of its association with ones ‘inner state’ this tendency to creation or uniqueness often reveals a persons ‘inner state’.  In this way, the ‘penetrative quality’ can be a means for expression.  This makes it associated with things like art, poetry, music, and such.   In fact, I tend to feel that the ‘penetrative quality’ is best manifested in an artistic-like way and that an artistic-like attitude best promotes the ‘penetrative quality’ in a person.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Education and learning, Imitation and the problems it creates, Psychology and psychoanalysis and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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