The Problem of Intellect

I’ll start of with a supposition. I suppose that as these things are measured by normal society, it is fair to say that I am in possession of a good intellect. But these things were “measured” a while back, so it is better perhaps to say that I was {once} in possession of a good intellect, I may still have a good intellect but there is less surety about that now because I do not mix with intellectuals. I do not move in the same circles. My neighbours are farmers.

In my delving into the various literatures of Buddhism, Esotericism, New Age etc. I have found that intellect can both be an aid and a problem. In the post previously the author refers to many other works, which is seen as good practise in academic circles. I have written one review article and it was great fun, tucked away in the library for a month with paper and books {it was a long time ago}.

A lot of academic literature is discussing what other people have thought and written, there needs to be some kind of retrospective on the ideas and thought forms of mankind. It is as if one has to demonstrate that there is a line of precedent and provenance for whatever the current subject is. One needs to justify that it is a good use of time and money to write an article. And if one is getting money off the government one needs a “measurable” output.

I have tried wherever possible to source original texts and translations because I have found that other people’s interpretations “colour” my interaction with the material. There is a problem when one intellect encounters another, competition.

This morning I had a dream in which I was speaking with a man on an airplane about technology innovation. I said to him that there are two types of innovation, sequential development and a genuine leap. {I have an opinion on patents which is that the inventive steps in many of them are in fact just bleeding obvious.} In the dream the man doubted my understanding until I told of my ancient high technology background. {Many of the authors of the granted patents might hold a different view, namely that the inventive steps are highly original and inventive.}

So, in intellectual property too, one tends to define the “state of the art” and then claim divergence therefrom. This is a very intellect based, rational approach. Rational means comparative. I can do this though if I do this for too long, I get bored.

If one tries to apply this approach to the unadulterated Buddhist teachings, it does not work. To get stuck on Buddha said this, Buddha said that is to enter groundhog mind. So intellect in claiming it is master in the house of mind can be a log jam to development. I am making an assumption here, and this is a big one, that people can differentiate between true intellectual thinking and incessant circling internal dialogue.

Over the years I have met many bright sparks who prided themselves on their intellectual capabilities, some with more pride than actual capacity. Crosswords were a big thing in my family and people thought they were clever for completing them. I just used to think how come you don’t get bored solving the same derivative puzzle over and over. Is it your intellect competing with the fiend who set the puzzle?

This state of the art, the accepted line of thinking, the normal, the Copenhagen Interpretation, the status quo is held in the intellects of many as nearly sacrosanct. It provides an inertia to be overcome and divergence is not readily accepted. One must toe the party line or else. So crystallized intellect is a problem. A whole heap of proud and absolutely certain minds will not budge one picometre unless they have to.

Let me offer this as a rhetorical question; is intellect prone to conceit?

With a follow up question, is it possible to be objective when one suffers {enjoys} being conceited?

Although intellect can aid learning, it can also sabotage it.

Intellect is good for accumulation, comparison and assimilation, however, to conceptualize one needs imagination of which visualisation is a part. Often it is pictures which bring the “story” to life.

This constant need to refer back to what is “accepted” may be grounding but it is also inhibitory. It is the way people are accustomed to doing things. It shows that one is an intellectual.

Intellect is a double-edged sword, in my opinion.