The Mind and Intellect - COTRUGLI
Your Mind Does Matter
Banking in Ancient Greece
Your Mind Does Matter
Banking in Ancient Greece

The Mind and Intellect

Last week we explored the value of making your mind your best friend and not allowing your friend to spend time in “past regret” or “future worry”. Everything we do and achieve in our life will begin on the canvas of our mind. But while we use our “mental resource” to create today and tomorrow it would be almost useless without our intellect. “Intellect” is the resource within our consciousness, within our “self”.

The Power of the Intellect

While the mind is what we use to generate thoughts in the form of images, ideas, concepts goals, etc., our intellect is necessary to discern the quality of those thoughts and decide which one to act upon. If the mind was a “screen” upon which many possibilities are created, then the intellect would be an “eye” that looks at the screen with the ability to evaluate the appropriateness of these possibilities and the consequences of acting upon each one. The intellect is often referred to as our “third eye”.

It is the intellect that distinguishes human beings from the other animal kingdoms in terms of intelligence. Our intellectual capacity, which has nothing to do with academic achievement, gives us the ability to discern quality, reflect on possible choices, anticipate consequences, and make decisions. As two-legged, upright, “artist philosophers”, we human beings have the capacity to create and refine complex theories, design and build complex structures, generate and connect complex concepts, and discuss and fine-tune complex ideas. But perhaps our greatest intellectual skill is to make the complex simple, to bring expansion back to the essence. None of which is something the birds and bees, the cows, or the trees can be spotted doing too often! 

Recognizing Hibernation Mode

The intellect is a vital resource within our consciousness that has been neglected, and in many instances almost ignored. If it is not used it becomes weak, trophies, and can eventually shut down. This is what happens when we either blindly believe what we are told or allow others to make our decisions for us.

The sign that the intellect is in “hibernation mode” is when we act habitually, especially when the habit is unhealthy i.e. an action that goes against the maintenance of our physical or mental well-being. It means the intellect has not consciously created and evaluated the thought, and that thought has gone straight to action. This of course is how all habits are born. The smoker may have begun their “smoking career” by using their intellect to assess and evaluate the thought/desire to smoke, and based on evidence that others enjoy it and live, the self decides to give it a try and then acts on that decision. It’s not long however before the intellect is bypassed in the journey from thought to action, and the habit of smoking is programmed into consciousness. When the intellect is ignored repeatedly it goes to sleep and autopilot “kicks in”. As in an aircraft when the autopilot is on, the pilot can sleep. Apparently, they shouldn’t of course, but they can, and some do. When the intellect is asleep the self finds it hard to see clearly and discern accurately what is true and what is false, what would be the healthy thing to do, and what would be unhealthy. Habit means our intellect, the pilot within our consciousness, has gone for a snooze and only a loud noise or a sudden collision will jerk it back awake. That’s why sometimes it takes a crisis in our life or in certain relationships to jerk us awake and reactivate our sleepy intellect.

Unfortunately, the intellect is not well exercised, developed, or strengthened by our formal education, which focuses mainly on “memorizing” information and not discerning the quality or the significance of the information. 

Navigating Two Modes of the Intellect

There are essentially two modes in which we can use our intellect. The “rational” mode and the “intuitive” mode. Imagine a transparent sphere. It represents your consciousness. The inner surface of the sphere represents your mind, a screen that is all around you the “self-aware self”. Inside, at the center of the sphere is a ball of light, this represents your spiritual heart, the core of your being. Connecting the ball of light (your heart) and the surface of the sphere (your mind) is a line along which there is a movable eye, this represents your intellect. You, the “self-aware self’ can move the “eye” of your intellect along the line sometimes using the mind in a rational process of “thinking things through” on the screen.  Or you, the “self-aware self” can bring your inner eye down to the other end of the line, to the heart of your being, the core of your consciousness, from where intuition i.e. intuitive feelings can arise and be perceived/felt.  You, the “self-aware self” can move easily between the two, using the intellect in either mode – the “rational mode”, which tends to require much thought generation (possibility thinking) or the “intuitive mode” which tends to require a quiet mind so there can be a clear awareness of what is perceived/felt at a deeper more subtle level.

For the practical decisions in life, usually connected with external events and circumstances, the self will come to the surface to use the intellect in a “rational” way, creating many thoughts on the screen of the mind, making practical decisions, and then acting on those decisions. In any process of “thought creation”, there need to be moments of “discernment”, which means using the eye of the intellect to assess the quality and appropriateness of each thought/idea, prior to deciding and acting. For example, let’s say the classroom has to be prepared for a visiting speaker. How many chairs are required? What are the different ways the chairs can be laid out? What is the best layout to suit this speaker’s style? How many people are needed at the door and where should they stand and what should they do? These are all practical issues and the self uses the intellect to create and “think through” all the possibilities on the screen of the mind in a rational and practical way. 

Mind – Intellect – Heart Relationship

The mind is also the interface between the outer world of “doing” and the inner world of “being”. Just as a flag is susceptible to the wind and rain, the mind is susceptible to the ideas, suggestions, and input of others regarding chair numbers, layout, etc. If the self keeps the mind open it will receive these ideas and then use the intellect to explore and assess the quality of those ideas/inputs against its own creation. It will use the screen of the mind to “see” and choose and therefore decide on which thought the idea to act.

But for the deeper issues in life, where wisdom is required, the self will bring the eye of the intellect back down the line to the center of self, to the heart.  With the mind now quiet, the intellect holds whatever the issue is, challenge, or problem up to the light of the heart, which is also the light of the innate wisdom of the self. Often the response of the heart comes later, simply as a feeling, a subtle signal from the core of our being. The self then uses the intellect to translate the feeling into a decision for which there is often no logical reason or rationale. It just “feels” like the right thing to do. 

For example, let’s say the self is “feeling” some anger arising within the self in the context of a certain relationship and doesn’t know why. So the self uses the intellect to bring the images and emotions down into the heart of the self to contemplate in quiet reflection for a few moments. In time, the heart reflects back the images and feelings plus the cause of the emotional discomfort. The self sees and realizes that it is trying to control the other having forgotten that it cannot control others. The self sees through the eye of the intellect, that it is still holding on to the false belief that the others “should do” what they are told. And if the self has “refined” the intellect sufficiently, it may also see that it is making the mistake of making its happiness dependent on others’ behaviors.

In many ways, the purpose of meditation is simply to raise one’s awareness of the relationship between our mind, intellect, and heart.  And as we do, we realize these faculties of our consciousness are the primary tools that we use to create and craft our life. It becomes clear that if we don’t awaken their full potential, if we do not take up our “inner position” as the master craftsman, it is likely we will allow someone else to dictate how our life unfolds, and because our intellect is sleepy, there is a good chance we won’t even realize (real eye) it.

Question:  What are your three key habits that indicate your intellect often goes to sleep

Reflection:  What is the difference between a thought and a feeling?

Action:  Take a few minutes at the start of every day this week, find a quiet corner, and identify the main decisions you will have to make today. Take each possible decision, place it on the screen of your mind, look at it gently and lovingly with the eye of your intellect, and see if you can “get a feeling” for the right thing to do.

Written by our professor Mike George.