Reason offers only one mode of learning, understanding, and meeting challenges. Greater intelligence arises to the extent we integrate other modes including (but not limited to) intuition, imagination, emotion, stories, aesthetics, movement, spatial sensing, habit, and the intelligences of nature and of transcendence. So engage them all to enhance individual and collective well-being.
Related: 4 Big Empathy, 15 Critical Thinking, 60 Systems Thinking, 62 Universal Intelligence, 67 Wholesome Life Learning, 69 Wise Use of Uncertainty, 70 Working Through Feelings
Going Deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
Most people think of intelligent people simply as smart. These people can think logically, or may be good at math and language. But not everybody is intelligent in all those ways. They form a cluster of linear kinds of an intelligence which are favored in our culture, and people think of that as being the only way to be smart.
But there’s many different theories that talk about multiple intelligences or multi-modal intelligence. I prefer “multi-modal intelligence”, because I see these ideally as different modes of one whole thing which we can develop much more of. Other people prefer to call it multiple intelligences. Howard Gardner was a famous theoretician of that, and popularized the idea. Others call it learning style or cognitive style.
The idea is, we actually do use all of these without necessarily calling them intelligence. Developing them all is ideal. One person will be better at reason, somebody else will be better at emotion, and somebody else will have more spatial capacities. Part of this is about developing all of these in ourselves, but part of it is recognizing that we all have strengths and weaknesses and that we should keep this in mind when we get together in groups, teams, or in the larger society. We should think of how to integrate all of these in whatever is going on. We should see that what I’m weak in, you may be strong in, and think about how we might work together even though we may have very different ways of learning and responding to things. We can weave those together into a coherent whole, because that will make us even more effective. So this is an aspect of collective intelligence as well as of individual intelligence.
I should go over some of these different capacities a little bit. Intuition is like a holistic encounter – sort of feeling, seeing, sensing into the whole of something, and sometimes this happens in dreams, sometimes it is a gut response. Some of the most important scientific developments have been intuitive. David Bohm was a quantum physicist. He used to feel inside himself the relationships that he would then translate to mathematical equations to describe certain quantum phenomena. And the famous double helix spiral of the DNA came to the guy who discovered it, James Watson, in a dream about a spiral staircase. Also people often working on something in a linear logic way at times feel sort of stuck, developing more tensions and information as they go along, and then somehow there is a flash of insight which brings it all together or goes beyond what they saw before, so that’s another phenomenon of intuition.
Imagination is related to that, but it’s like visions, being able to put things together in our minds with images. The word image is closely related to imagination, sensing relationships and translating them into images.
Emotional intelligence has to do with how well we sense, we know, and we own and use our emotions as they unfold. And how well we can sense into the emotions of other people and relate to them in various ways that are useful. It also covers how well we can control our emotions when it’s inappropriate to express them, but be able to express them when it is the right time and place. There is a whole world of dealing well with our emotions and having empathy as a subset of emotional intelligence.
Empathy is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, to see the world through their eyes. As a form of intelligence, empathy is about bringing that empathic stance into the situations we’re part of. We know the diverse people involved in the situation, we understand their different perspectives, and we bring our empathic understanding into the the effort to deal with the situation. Our empathic capacity helps other people feel heard and makes us and our group more able to take into account (rather than just ignore or dismiss) the perspectives and energies that various people bring to the table, enhancing our wisdom-generating capacity.
Then we have narrative intelligence. Some people are really good at telling stories, making sense of stories. I remember reading a psychological book with my then wife. She read all the case studies and I read all the theory. I thought “why read the stories, since the theory is what is most important?” But the only way she could make sense of it was through reading the stories, since the theory seemed so abstract. These are two different intelligences at work: I was using analytic intelligence and she was using narrative intelligence.