I was recently sent this poem by Mevlana Jal-al-ud-Din Muhammad Rumi, the Persian Sufi mystic, poet and founder of the Mevlevi Order, the Whirling Dervishes. Thanks to Dr Angela McKenzie, who works with Reverse Therapy in Melbourne, for finding it for us. The translation is by Coleman Barks.
Two Kinds of Intelligence
There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired, as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts from books and from what the teacher says, collecting information from the traditional sciences as well as from the new sciences.
With such intelligence you rise in the world. You get ranked ahead or behind others in regard to your competence in retaining information. You stroll with this intelligence in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more marks on your preserving tablets.
There is another kind of tablet, one already completed and preserved inside you. A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness in the center of the chest. This other intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid, and it doesn’t move from outside to inside through the conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out.
This poem gets to the core of how we see the difference between cleverness and intelligence in Reverse Therapy. Cleverness is intellectual knowledge, which we acquire first in school and add to as we store information about the way things work in whatever we end up specializing in doing. Rumi says that personal intellect (Headmind) can take someone to the doctor but it can’t get him well. To get well, to be truly alive, to know God we must rely on another kind of intelligence. Rumi gives this a number of names – Love, Intelligence, the Angel, Wisdom, the Fountainhead – and he sees it working through the Heart, the Body, the Soul and personal Mind. It is fascinating to learn that Rumi was the founder of the Whirling Dervishes – a Sufi order which relies on music and dance in order to prepare for union with the divine. The intense, ecstatic, complicated dance rituals almost entirely drown out Headmind and leave the Dervish open to the Angel. Rumi spent most of his life combating the dry, academic, nit-picking approach to philosophy that was around in his day in the 13th century Ottoman empire. He was famous for his simple, direct, personal, grounded approach to enlightenment. And that is why his poetry is becoming increasingly popular in the West now.
You can read some more quotes from Rumi on this link here.
Reverse Therapy is part of a movement, bringing together neurology, the psychology of emotion, information science and therapy, in which are revising the very idea of what it means to be intelligent. We are showing that intelligence doesn’t show up very much in the head – but much more so in the body.
In a way we are only redressing a wrong turn that was taken with Descartes and other seventeenth century writers who argued that only Headmind, or ‘Reason’, can think. Intelligence, for most philosophers and scientists, means thinking logically, scientifically and rationally. A disembodied mind that deduces the cause of something and predicts what will happen next – and can decide on the right or wrong way to do something. Even funnier than this, some writers think that only Reason can decide between good and evil, right and wrong. Try asking a computer if it is better to risk your own life for the sake of a child!
Our new take on intelligence is something like this: An intelligent response occurs when a) one piece of information is translated into something else b) the information is evaluated c) a response is emitted d) the results are evaluated e) information about the result is stored f) learning takes place.
A single-cell organism like an amoeba can do a), b) and c) when it changes the direction it swims in according to the amount of protein that is available to it. But it can’t do d), e) and f) because it doesn’t have a body (more than one cell) or a brain. But a dolphin, for example, can do all of these. Plus – like most human beings it can also do g) communicate what it has learnt to other people.
The evaluation bit takes place because mammals are capable of having emotions, unlike computers. It is Bodymind that does the evaluation – deciding whether something is important/not-important, good/bad or right/wrong. And this is why, in many respects, Bodymind is more intelligent than Headmind.
Bodymind translates what it senses into energy, into emotion, into passion and into alarm signals of various kinds. Here are some examples of the way in which Bodymind ‘thinks’.
• The body can ‘read’ other people and simulate an emotion that person is having so that you or I can empathize with them. In that way a mother can quickly tell what mood her child is in. This is also the basis for the human quality of compassion for others, even animals. Our intuitions about other people work in a similar way. Using sensory information, the brain picks up signals from the other person’s body language and – using a process that works in less than a tenth of a second – pattern-matches those signals against information stored from past experiences. That is why we can have a gut feeling that someone is not trustworthy within two minutes of meeting her without knowing why. The body is using coded signals to alert us to a potential problem.
• In collaboration with the thinking centers the brain can decide what is important or not important. If something is important to us we might get an adrenalin rush. If it is not we will feel nothing at all. Research into people with damage to the frontal areas of the brain (which decode emotion) show that they are unable to make decisions because they don’t have a good or bad feeling that tells them the right decision to make. Knowing what is important also helps Bodymind conserve energy. We can go without sleep if we are trying to achieve something really important. Conversely, if there is little for us to do, Bodymind can send us to sleep early. Or it could turn on the emotion of boredom to signal that it’s time to do something more interesting.
• The body can strengthen a relationship by creating emotions connected to love. Sometimes this is automatic, as when a a child is born. Sometimes it comes with time as we learn more about the other person. The emotions of love are, as almost all of us know, powerful and sometimes overwhelming.
• The brain uses sleep time to organize memories from the day just gone. It stores what is important and deletes the rest. It also creates dreaming states in order to work through the emotions that come with different experiences. This is one reason why insomniacs have poor concentration – they are overloaded with undigested experiences.
• Bodymind grounds us to life. It does this firstly through our moods. At any given moment the body is monitoring where we are, who we are with and what we are doing, and providing us with a running commentary on our relationship with the environment. Moods aren’t emotions but they are feeling states which work closely with our thoughts. The most well-known mood is the depressed state, which goes with discouragement and sadness. But others include exhilaration, calm, determination, discontent and the feeling of being ‘under pressure’. Most often, moods are hardly noticeable and form a kind of background hum which is constantly shifting as we go through the flow of the day.
• Another way the body grounds us to life is through the sense of awe: we are connected to nature, to the divine, and to life itself by the unspeakable sense that we are serving a purpose higher than ourselves. In that way Bodymind intelligently motivates us to make the best we can of our abilities and to serve others.
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