What is Intelligence?
Our resident Hobbit historian explores the mystery of the three 'I's' and comes up with some unusual answers
WWe hear a lot about the three 'R's nowadays: Reading, (W)Riting and (A)Rithmetic, but very little about the three 'I's without which these skills are about as much use as a broken pencil. The three 'I's: Instinct, Intellect and Intuition, taken together make up what we call 'Intelligence'. Much more interesting than the three 'R's and we might even learn something that will help us to write better stories!
The first thing I'd like to chat about is Intellect. What is it? Where do we keep it? Where does it come from? Where does it go to in the end? Do we have any intellect at all? 'We do!' you'll probably answer, 'but she obviously doesn't, or she wouldn't ask such silly questions!'
OK, so let's consider the first question: What is it?
I believe there are now even special tests that will tell you how much intelligence you possess (if any). I don't know about you, but I remain sceptical that an ability to fit different coloured blocks into different sized holes proves anything worthwhile. Whatever these tests prove it is not intelligence!
According to one dictionary I consulted, intelligence is defined as 'a readiness of comprehension; as in the intelligence of a dog'. Among its definitions the OED lists 'quickness of understanding, sagacity (of a person or animal)'. Hmm. Do dogs think? Some people get very shirty when it is said that animals think, forgetting that they themselves are only one step above monkeys. These are the people who will tell you that animals don't and cannot think, but merely respond instinctively to stimuli. Well, I don't know about you, but I have met plenty of higher animals at parties who respond pretty instinctively when they are asked: "What's your poison?"
I think the difference between Instinct, Intellect and Intuition is
one of degree, not of kind. If thinking and acting upon thoughts
means intelligence, then animals certainly have it. We all know stories
of dogs running through the smoke of a burning home to warn their master.
And we've all seen a cat stalk a mouse, planning its attack with the
same meticulous thought as a general gives to his campaign strategy.
But does thinking alone make intelligence, or do we need speech, or
at any rate, language too? It is said nobody can think without putting
their thoughts into words. Silently talking to oneself; always a bad
sign! Others say that we think in pictures, not words. I'm not so sure
about this; it may be true, but only partially so. Naturally, thought
and language are closely connected, as psychologists tell us, but isn't
that also true of thoughts and actions without words? Or even action
without many words, like the conversations many Americans have:
I often wonder how much difference there is between an animal hunting for food and American waitresses seeking fame in Hollywood. Is a gold digger really that much more intelligent than a dumb animal? And who derives more intelligent pleasure, the dog gnawing his bone, or the waitress from her fame — assuming she acquires any? We seem to be getting deeper into a maze of questions as we go on. Let's try again!
For the biologist an amoeba is just as admirable as a whale. If the whale is called the higher animal of the two we only mean that he's a more complex creature. For this reason we could assert that our waitress' intelligence is of a higher order than the dog I mentioned. So what we're talking about is a difference in degree, not in kind. One of my college professors defined intelligence as a 'capacity for learning', but I should say that the student who is able to learn a given lesson better, or more quickly than his fellows, does so on account of their better memory, not their superior intelligence.
We all know that the great neural centre in us is the brain. But we also know that the size of the brain does not make its possessor more intelligent than someone with a smaller brain. Nor do the number of convolutions in the cerebrum matter. Some scientists say that intelligence is the ability of an organism to adjust itself adequately to new situations, but doesn't this rather come under the heading of 'adaptability'?
It's also been said that our endocrine glands are responsible for everything we do or cannot do. Other scientists maintain that genes play a similar role in determining what degree of intelligence we possess, if any! For these reasons I don't think it's likely that science alone will ever succeed in defining intelligence, much less where it comes from!
It seems to me that the amount of intelligence a person has comes from a source which science has yet to discover. It is plainly not transmitted through the parents as a glance at our friends and relatives will quickly show! Can people become more intelligent as they grow older? Well, yes, I think they can, provided they learn from their experiences and are able to retain the memory of what they've learned. If that's true, then might not intellect be a natural development of instinct and intuition a higher form of intellect? We all know that the greatest minds have made many of their discoveries intuitively; that is to say, without conscious thought. They may have worked out the details of their discoveries intellectually, but the original idea came to them in a sudden flash of inspiration. We all know what happened to Sir Isaac Newton when the apple fell on his head!
This may finally give us a clue as to what intelligence really is and where it comes from. Might it not be made up out of the accumulated experiences of our previous incarnations and preserved by means of our souls? Although it is seldom possible for a child to give full expression to its thoughts, except in the case of those rare prodigies who enter life with special gifts and a body capable of demonstrating these talents in an exceptional manner from a very early age, I believe that each one of us has complete memory, complete intelligence and complete conscience from birth — exactly as when we ended our previous incarnation.
Only we have to wait many years, adjusting ourselves to new conditions and new times before we can use these inherited qualities. According to the stage we reached during our previous evolution, as a younger or older soul, so we will have more or less intelligence; the sum total of all our previous experiences, to which we are free to add according to our willingness and capabilities.
So, have we answered our four questions, namely: What is intelligence? (accumulated experience through our previous incarnations); Where do we keep it? (It is retained in the soul's memories of its previous lives); Where does it come from? (It comes from the facts we learned in connection with the experiences we had in previous lives); Where does it go to in the end? (It is added to the memories already contained in the soul which become more complete with each new incarnation).
I leave you to use your intuition to think that over and hope you won't allow your intellect to insult your intelligence by instinctively rejecting it as arrant nonsense!