Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Layer 24 Chopping Wood, Carrying Water, and the Ox-Herding Pictures

Here are more quotations from Zohar and Marshall’s ‘Spiritual Intelligence’.

"The mystics of every great tradition have spoken of something within the self. It is the pure light that shines or burns within us. Spoken of in such terms, the centre sounds awe-inspiring, attractive and holy - but perhaps too abstract for many of us to grasp. Yet each of us lives it and experiences it when we live our daily lives in a spiritually intelligent way.
It is the feeling of holiness in everyday objects and events, the sense of the sacred in an act of loving, the almost unbearable ecstasy we feel when understanding something deeply for the first time, the sense of elation when we bring something new into the world, the sense of deep satisfaction when we see justice done, the deep sense of peace when we know that that which we serve also serves ‘God’.
All six of the spiritual paths lead to the centre, to an experience that could be called ‘enlightenment’. But when lived in the most spiritually intelligent way possible all paths also lead from the centre, back to the world. The Buddha returned to the world so that all might become enlightened.
An ordinary person high in SQ does not just seek the bliss of knowing the centre, but responds to it spontaneously and then takes responsibility for bringing back to share with the world the light he has seen, the energy he has gained, the integrity he has experienced. He becomes an enlightened parent, an enlightened teacher, an enlightened cook, an enlightened lover, and so on.
None of us is really complete, really whole, really enlightened, until we have found a creative way to live, to love deeply and without selfishness, to serve our fellows, to be ‘servant leaders’.
The high SQ or enlightenment that we achieve has about it the incredible grace of the everyday. In Zen Buddhism there is a saying, ‘Before I was enlightened, I hewed wood and drew water. After enlightenment, I hewed wood and drew water.’ This is not saying that enlightenment does not bring progress and transformation, but rather that real transformation is to bring us back to the place from which we started, only now to live it fully alive and aware.
In A Manual of Zen Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki reproduces some fifteenth-century versions of ten original twelfth-century Chinese drawings, with accompanying texts, that illustrate the Zen understanding of enlightenment. They use the allegory of a man herding an ox.
All paths lead to and from the centre. Following them is a quest, but at a certain point realising them is an act of surrender. Even the craving to become enlightened eventually disappears."


I strongly recommend reading Zohar and Marshall’s book.

It’s interesting that they include in it the entire sequence of the Ox-Herding pictures.

The Ox-Herding pictures are brilliant. To me they represent the process of discovering a thing called Zen, wanting to seek its goal of enlightenment, and after much study and practice starting to understand the central idea of Zen, and how to live a Zen life, which is indeed possible for anyone who is prepared to spend some time studying and reflecting on Zen thought. I first came across the pictures several years ago, and  appreciated what a superb metaphor they are. My understanding of the story is as follows.

* A young man decides to seek enlightenment, or his true self, as represented by the Ox.
* At first he sees only the footprints of the ox, or impressions and signs of what the ox (Zen enlightenment, his authentic self) might be like and where it may be found.
* Finally he sees the ox itself, and has a clear sight of the form of the body, the way it moves, etc. But it is still away in the distance.
* After some time he manages to approach the ox, and tries to hold on to it and tame it, to make it his own. However he realises that the ox is too powerful, and will only go with him if it chooses to.
* After training himself, and becoming familiar with the ways of the ox, he is ready to approach it in the right spirit of gentleness, friendship and respect.
* The ox allows him to ride on his back, and takes him back to his village.
* The ox then disappears, and the young man wonders whether the ox is after all an illusion. His life, and the whole of life, suddenly seems empty.
* He then realises that the whole of existence is an illusion, and that it is pointless to want to ‘possess’ the ox, or even stay with it, to be obsessive and possessive of the ox.
* He now sees himself as the fool on the hill, as someone who has foolishly considered that one may possess wisdom, or wealth, or power, or enlightenment. Everything depends on living each day as well as possible, and recognising the joy and bliss of everyday reality. He understands that real enlightenment consists of living life humbly, simply, unconcerned with possessions, status, salvation, etc.
* He now comes down from his hill, goes back into society, and lives amongst the people, trusting that his behaviour and attitude will bring support, encouragement and inspiration to those he meets, happy to serve others and happy to live an ordinary life, fully aware of how precious it is. To be back where he started, but now living life fully alive and aware.


This is what D.T. Suzuki says in a book called Living By Zen, in a chapter called Approaches To Satori:
“The study of Zen requires great intellectual integrity and strength of character. The persistent pursuit of one task is no easy business, especially when this involves the disregarding of worldly affairs. But unless it is sustained by great spiritual aspirations, the study of Zen will be impossible.

“The separation of ourselves from the all-embracing, all submerging “ocean” [of life] is the function of the intelligence, for it is because of this that we crave for the water of life. Here lies the great spiritual tragedy of man; the water of life is desired, and this water surrounds him, soaks him, enters into every fibre and every cell of his tissues, is indeed himself, and yet he does not realise it and seeks it outside of himself, even beyond the “great ocean”. [The quest for heaven and an ‘afterlife’.]

“The intelligence is a great mischief-worker, and yet without it we shall never be able to wake up the greater one. It separates us from the ocean in which we live; if not for this separation we should be found forever slumbering under the waves, unseeing and ignorant. The only trouble is, as Gensha says, that we look for “the great ocean” in words, concepts, and their various combinations, and the result is that we know nothing and understand nothing.”


All of this argues for the need to use to use all of our intelligences in combination, and only by doing so can we find Zen and live a life of enlightenment. Only by using all of our senses, plus our powers of intuition and empathy, plus our instincts and our passion, as well as our intellects, can we become fully ourselves, become self-actualised, become at one with ourselves and others, and with the cosmos.

Learning to do this is the challenge facing each and every one of us, and facing our society. So far, very few of us seem to understand this. Why indeed should we - when our schools, our media, and our so-called leaders are themselves generally ignorant of these truths? Or if they do recognise these truths then they pay them very little attention, preferring instead to attend to mainly material goals and the things that seem to be important in achieving those material goals.

It’s as though the human race has never moved on from scrabbling for survival, spending every day seeking food and shelter, concerned only with material security and well-being. And yet even so-called primitive humans, through their immediate connection with nature and its majesty, and having time to appreciate it in all its awe and wonder, probably possessed higher degrees of spiritual intelligence and enlightenment and happiness than we do.


Interestingly, Suzuki uses the word “actualisation” in Living By Zen. Given that he wrote it back in the nineteen forties, I wonder whether Maslow acquired the word and the concept from Suzuki and Zen?

This is what Suzuki wrote in the chapter on satori, on pages 54 and 55:

“Zen is not interested so much in conceptualisation as in “existential thinking”, so-called. Satori is said to take place when consciousness realises a state of “one thought”, which is ichinen in Japanese, and is the shortest possible unit of time.

“When time is reduced to a point with no durability, it is ‘absolute present’ or ‘eternal now’. From the point of view of existential thinking, this ‘absolute present’ is no abstraction; it is, on the contrary, alive with creative vitality. Satori is the experience of this fact

“The ‘eternal now’ is the absolute point of time where there is no past left behind, no future waiting ahead. Satori stands at this point, where potentialities are about to actualise themselves. Satori does not come out of death [i.e. it's not in ‘heaven’]; it is at the very moment of actualisation. It is in fact the moment itself, which means that it is life as it lives itself. "

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Layer 23 Zen and the Art of Everything

The thing I’m most preoccupied with is explaining Zen to myself - with making it clear and intelligible - and being able to pass on that understanding to others. I want my own children to understand it, and therefore I’d like everyone to benefit from that understanding. I think I’ve had some intuitive awareness of Zen for some time, and have benefitted from that awareness, but I want to be able to describe it within a clear and logical framework of understanding.

I believe that Zen is the ultimate expression of enlightenment, and that enlightenment is desirable and necessary for everyone individually and for all of us collectively.

Zen is being able to live life spontaneously and creatively and passionately, with freedom from doubt, and freedom from anxiety about the future. This can happen when we are on track towards greater awareness and greater enlightenment. We put ourselves on that track when we are habitually using and developing all of our intelligences and living fully in three dimensions.

We live in three dimensions when we’re not flattened or constrained by life and living on a single plane of existence. When only two out of the three intelligences (IQ, EQ, SQ) are properly developed and functioning then we will have access to only one of the three Planes of Being, as I’m proposing we call them - the Plane of Knowing, the Plane of Feeling, and the Plane of Imagination.

Mathematically this is interesting - when one axis is missing then only one plane of functioning is accessible. But when there are three axes then this immediately opens up the accessibility of two more planes. In other words, there are dire consequences in not offering our children the possibility of growth in three dimensions.

Zen is a daily diet of something for the head, something for the heart, and something for the hands, for the entire body. Intellect, emotions and spirit. Zen is about balance. Zen is making time in every day - for thinking, for meditating, for reading and studying, for communicating, for laughing, for loving, for sleeping and dreaming, for imagining, for being creative, for socialising, for using our bodies and being active, for using our senses, for experiencing joie de vivre - sheer joy in living.

Zen is about seeing this life as being a cup or a glass that is at least half full, and not focusing on the half empty and giving it too much attention. If we have all of the above elements, or even some of them, in our daily lives, then we must surely have the feeling of life as being at least half full. And we should be giving thanks for that. Zen is about joyful living, and not taking life for granted.

Joie de vivre is about enthusiasm and passion for living, and it’s also about being still and experiencing satori, which is a state of deep relaxation, joyfulness, contentment and bliss. Life is always perfect in the sense that when all of our basic needs have been met then we approach the state of self-actualisation, and we accept that life’s challenges are to be welcomed. They are merely challenges and not threats. So why worry?

Of course we must deal with things that actually threaten us, but if we have a high degree of security and comfort then other sorts of challenge are opportunities to develop our IQ, EQ and SQ, and must be seen as positives rather than negatives. We don’t grow intellectually, emotionally, inter-personally, intra-personally, spiritually, physically, creatively and psychologically unless we engage with challenges, and also challenge ourselves. So why complain about life being full of challenges? Do we not welcome growth?


I’ve been re-reading some of Zohar & Marshall’s book “Spiritual Intelligence - The Ultimate Intelligence” with a bit of a critical eye. It now seems to me that they don’t have what I feel inclined to call a Zen sensibility, and have more of a mystical and perhaps a Hindu type of perspective. Buddhism grew out of Hinduism. Zen grew out of Buddhism.

I see Zen as being logical and clearly explicable in terms of how our minds, bodies and spirits demonstrably operate, and not at all mystical, and nothing to do with gods or a God, though life may ultimately be a mystery.

Danah Zohar & Ian Marshall, whom I admire enormously for their work on spiritual intelligence, seem to see spiritual intelligence as some sort of deep inner heart of a flower which you find when all of its sepals and petals have been peeled away. Whereas I see it as one of three equally important intelligences that are essential to proper human functioning, and not at the top of a hierarchy or at the centre or the very heart of something. To me, IQ, EQ and SQ are simply three axes, all interlocking and all at right-angles, as it were, to one another.

I see Zen, not spiritual intelligence, as a word and a concept that’s capable of being described as the ultimate intelligence, in that I see it as a circle, or a halo, or a sphere of energy surrounding the sphere of the other 3 intelligences. The degree of Zen we possess and the size of its circle or halo, or whatever, depends on the length and strength of our three axes of intelligence - the extent to which we have developed them, engaged with them and habitually used them as we live and learn. Zen is only a perfect circle or sphere if we possess, develop, enlarge and use all of our intelligences, all three axes.

Zen is above all about just Being. Not being anything special, or different, or wonderful. Just being all that we potentially can be and ought to be. Just being what nature intended, and living life in harmony with our own natures and nature all around us. Surely just Being is a big enough challenge? To be enlightened is to become our true natural selves. And that’s not easy.


An interesting and perplexing aspect of their work in “Spiritual Intelligence” is Zohar & Marshall’s highlighting of the importance of the imagination, and then failing to really follow through on why and how it’s important. I really wanted to hear something about the practicalities of developing and using imagination to enable us to function better, both individually and collectively.

For instance, they say, on page 154, “In modern psychological terms we might best associate the centre of the self with the source of human imagination, with that deep place within the self from which we dream, or conceive the impossible or the not-yet-existent. In Zen Buddhism the centre is deeper still, a place beyond all imagining . . .

“The centre is a source within ourselves that is replete and inexhaustible and is itself the heart of some wider, perhaps sacred or divine reality. It is at once that which nourishes us and that through which we nourish our own creativity.”

To me, the centre of the self is simply the place where IQ, EQ and SQ intersect at right angles. All three intelligences are potentially engaged in any act of creativity. I don’t see this as being deep or mystical. It’s just logical and sensible, if you accept that there indeed are these three linked and intersecting continuums of intelligence, that is.

Creativity normally requires thought, intuition, passion, instinct, the use of the senses, and empathy. It also derives from Knowing, Feeling and Imagination.

The Plane of Imagination, as I see it, is very distinct from the Planes of Knowing and Feeling, which are to do with WHAT IS, rather than WHAT MIGHT BE. Imagination primarily concerns a combination of our intuition, our senses, our passion, and our empathy with others, and with our surroundings.

Zohar & Marshall quote from John Guarre’s Six Degrees of Separation:

“One of the great tragedies of our time is the death of the imagination. Because what else is paralysis?
I believe that the imagination is the passport we create to take us into the real world. [It] . . . is what is most uniquely us.
To face ourselves. That’s the hard thing. The imagination [is] God’s gift to make the act of self-examination bearable. [It] teaches us our limits and how to grow beyond our limits . . . the imagination is the place we are all trying to get to . . .”

Now to me this is pretty much gobbledegook. I can see that paralysis might be the product of a failure to look beyond what already exists and see what might be in the future. It’s pretty hopeless feeling and knowing that there’s a lot wrong with oneself and with the world if you can’t even begin to imagine something better. Even when people explain it to you.

But imagination is not so much a place we’re trying to reach as an aspect of our intelligences that needs to be strong and active alongside our ability to know and our ability to feel. It’s also a vital component of creativity.

Zohar & Marshall go on to conclude, “Our deepest salvation may lie in serving our own deep imagination”.

But what does this mean? Yes - imagination is an absolutely key aspect of human development and human intelligence. But the word ‘salvation’ is in itself highly problematic as far as I’m concerned, and is the product of the type of religious sensibility that lives in fear of hellfire and damnation, or fear of condemnation to the wheel or cycle of whatever.

Why not just say, as a humanist would - not working from a deficit model - that imagination (alongside of, and working with, knowing and feeling) is one of the three keys to self-actualisation, to becoming the very best we can become?

As an educationalist first and foremost I would then have to say, what the hell are we doing in our schools when we pay little or no attention to nurturing and developing children’s imagination, when we fill up all available time with Facts and with Knowing, and when we do everything that’s guaranteed to strangle, stifle and suppress Imagination?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Layer 22 Emotional Intelligence

This computer’s spell check has just made me realise that the words ‘meditating’ and ‘editing’ have great similarities in both structure and meaning. In states of meditation we allow our unconscious and our conscious awarenesses to connect, communicate, and transform. The work of the editor is to review a whole body of thought or expression, to spot errors and inconsistencies, to highlight misconceptions and flaws, to delete whatever is inappropriate and false, to recognise the need for greater clarity and perspicacity, to come up with ideas for more accurate and more truthful modes of representation and understanding. To be a meditator is to be an editor.

To be a philosopher is to be a meditator and an editor. I take philosophy to be concerned with ways of understanding the world and self. Everyone engages with philosophy at some time, at some level.

I spent the weekend experiencing alternating states of enlightenment and confusion, which, you might rightly say, is the normal human condition. The difference with this weekend was that the ‘enlightenment’ felt quite extreme, and the confusion was extremely perplexing.

Driving south on Saturday I found myself slipping in and out of meditating on IQ and SQ.

In my philosophy the axis of IQ runs from intellectual to instinctual.
Intellectual intelligence can be characterised as “reflective/contemplative”.

Instinctual intelligence can be described as “reactive”. Much of it is pre-programmed into the primitive core of the brain, well away from the frontal lobes where conscious thought is processed. We breathe, we eat, we cry, we laugh, we move instinctually. Through early experiences, when the brain is still forming, we learn to react without conscious thought to various stimuli. Hence flight and fight and freeze reactions. The physical act of sex is clearly instinctual. Though making love involves all of our intelligences.

The axis of SQ (spiritual intelligence) runs from physical to metaphysical (spiritual).
Physical intelligence can be called “sensory”. The senses don’t provide us with ‘facts’, but they do supply us with crucial and clear impressions of our surroundings.

Metaphysical intelligence is essentially “intuitive”. It has nothing to do with facts, or logic, or sensory impressions. Most ‘creative’ ‘thinking’ derives from intuition - sudden revelations or ideas that come into our consciousness seemingly from nowhere. Intuitive thoughts may be triggered by existing ideas and sensory impressions, but they don’t rely on them.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time thinking about where intuition fits into the larger scheme of things - where it stems from, and which intelligence it works through. Metaphysical intelligence works through direct KNOWING. It doesn’t need facts or logic or sensory input to make sense of the world. It just KNOWS. Intuition is simply KNOWING.

Prior to the development of ‘scientific’ ways of understanding the world, prior to the ‘Enlightenment’, our KNOWING was essentially through direct experience (use of the senses - physical intelligence) and through intuition. Ever since the Enlightenment these earlier forms of discovery and knowing have been downgraded and seen as somehow belonging to the realm of the ‘feminine’, and therefore inferior or even invalid.

The worship of the intellect and all that can be quantified and categorised has continued apace. Ours is the scientific age. We believe we’re living in the Age of Enlightenment, and yet it seems to me the worship of science and IQ is in itself extremely ignorant, especially when it tries to downgrade and belittle the other types of intelligence. Though to be fair, the more enlightened scientists recognise the value of imagination and intuition.

Driving south I was also meditating on the third axis of intelligence, which connects emotional intelligence with social intelligence, what been referred to as EQ. Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, inspired me in so many ways, and I’ve thought for some time that I understand what emotional intelligence is, and how it operates.

Suddenly I found myself realising that I’ve been missing something. Something very important to do with emotions. Specifically: what they are, how they operate and how they can be a positive form of intelligence. That’s a very big something to be missing for someone who feels he knows something about emotional intelligence.

Social intelligence is less problematic. Goleman didn’t make this entirely clear, I felt, but I now believe that social intelligence works through empathy. It is in fact empathetic. Without the quality of empathy we cannot relate positively and creatively to others.

Goleman has recently published a book called Social Intelligence, which I’m part way though reading. He clearly thought that social intelligence needed a whole book to itself in order to do justice to it. Empathy seems to me fairly easy to understand, as a concept, though much harder to accomplish in practice, for some people at least.

But emotions? If they are in some senses the antithesis of logic, reason and intuition, and the opposite of empathy, how on earth can they really be seen as an ‘intelligence’? What positive life-force do they possess? What was their evolutionary benefit or necessity? What word encapsulates their positive functioning, if any?

I felt challenged and frustrated by these questions, and spent much of the weekend trying to grapple with them and figure out some answers.

I ask the question about which word encapsulates the positive functioning of emotions, and I say ‘if any’ because I recently finished reading Goleman’s book ‘Destructive Emotions - And How We Can Overcome Them - A Dialogue with the Dalai Lama’. The whole tenor of the book is that emotions are extremely problematic, and as with his ‘Emotional Intelligence’, the need is for us to develop the habit of engaging the intellect, the frontal cortex, and using it to put a brake on the workings of destructive emotions, the key emotions being hatred, greed and jealousy.

Since the outcomes of the unrestrained expression of these emotions are usually so dire, in terms of violence, exploitation, abuse, etc, it’s obvious why we need to apply those brakes. So we need to stop, and think, and remind ourselves of those probable consequences of passionate actions if they are unrestrained, whenever we feel ourselves in the grip of powerful, destructive emotions.

I reckon the emotions are what Freud described as the Id - the dark energy within each of us. Freud (I nearly wrote Fraud) also saw the emotions as something problematic, troubling and potentially destructive, and therefore in need of control by what he called the Superego - the surrounding culture’s commandments and strictures, and its threat of punishment for behaviour that was is any way licentious, anarchic, unorthodox, libidinous, chaotic, nihilistic, etc.

But surely emotions can also be positive? Is love an emotion? Love is impossible to define, but it’s surely possible to experience love - for example a love of life, or for some people a love of God - without emotional engagement. Love can be entirely spiritual, and therefore the emotional realm cannot lay claim to love as belonging to it exclusively. Maybe we can have an intellectual love of mathematics and philosophy. We can love nature, and love art and other works of creation without emotional engagement.

However, it seems fair to say that love is more powerful when the emotions are engaged. So I think what the emotions are really about, their unique factor, their exclusive mode of operation, is PASSION. Here we have a powerful and evocative word and a concept which is also neutral, in that we can be passionate in both a positive as well as a negative way.

We know about crimes of passion. But we also know about loving passionately in a positive way. We can live life passionately. Passion is a driving force, a fire within us. We can use it positively or negatively. Passion provides the energy for our bodies, our minds, our spirits, our relationships, and our ambitions. Passion fuels our creativity. It’s the fuel for the engine, the oven, the furnace, and the boiler. It’s the heat in the sun that makes life possible and worthwhile. It’s the rays that nurture the crops in the fields, the trees in the forests and the life in the seas.

But passion can also cause wars and other sorts of destruction. Passion is potentially very dangerous - like fire, like nuclear power, like ultra-violet rays. It can be toxic and radioactive, carcinogenic and all-consuming. When it’s truly out of control then it can neutralise and eliminate intellect and spirit, and destroy us physically.

It does what it does, and we need to work hard at ensuring its energy is properly harnessed and directed, and consumed in moderation. We cannot binge on it and seek to use it as a stimulant, an opiate, a hallucinogenic or an anti-depressant.

Perhaps for these reasons we need to stop seeing hatred, anger and jealousy as emanating from or residing within the realms of the emotions. Maybe we should see these afflictions as being as much to do with negative ‘thoughts’ and negative ‘feelings’ as merely negative ‘emotions’. Maybe they’re much more complex than mere emotions.

Why not consider the emotional realm as being just a field of energy that has both its light and its dark aspects - containing the potential for both light and dark ‘passion’? Maybe we don’t do this because we find it so difficult to think of emotion (or passion) in the abstract, without attaching it to some other concept. But difficulty shouldn’t prevent us from making the effort and the attempt.

These past few weeks I’ve been enjoying listening to and reading about the various theories, philosophies and ideas circulating in the ether and in the airwaves and in cyberspace concerning our confusion about the nature of reality, consciousness and human perception. Last week’s ‘In Our Time’ on Radio 4 on Materialism was a good example. We’re still arguing about whether the philosophy of materialism makes sense!

Clearly we still have a long way to go in our shared understanding of consciousness, perception and the workings of our brains, our spirits and our souls. We are still trying to figure out whether spirits and souls really exist, let alone whether they’re located in our brains, or elsewhere.

It’s obvious that many scientists are of the view that even if there seems to be a spirit and a soul and they’re situated in and operate within our brain (which seems to be indicated by real-time brain scanners) then they’re really just a physiological and a material phenomenon and therefore they don’t really exist because they’re just a part of the material that’s our brain, and the way it operates, insofar as they believe that the physical brain, the intellect and the spirit are part of our corporeal reality and are therefore synonymous with 'body'. Therefore there is only the material, only the body, and spirit and soul don't actually exist. It’s all nonsense really.

We have this difficulty because of the dominance of science, logic and the intellect in Western philosophy and usually feel the need to investigate phenomena primarily from the basis of ‘scientific’ and data-based research and exploration. Intuitive and metaphysical thinking seems to have little or no validity, and is therefore dismissed as “New Age” or hippy nonsense.

But for now I’m happy to stick with my new thought - that emotions are the energy that causes passion, and what we’ve traditionally called emotions are in fact the by-product of some dark form of the energy we may call passion, and also consist of feelings and ideas that have become negatively warped and twisted.

Therefore anger is just anger, and has components of negative ideas, negative emotions (passion), and negative feelings.

Similarly jealousy is just jealousy. Hatred is just hatred. Resentment is just resentment. Perhaps these can be considered ego-states. They're not emotions as such, or at least they're not emotions pure and simple. Certainly they're the opposite of whatever connects us with others.

Love, on the other hand, is just love, and usually has components of passion, knowledge, input from the senses and feelings.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Layer 21 Spiritual Intelligence

Most people seem either completely baffled by, or have real problems understanding, the idea of spiritual intelligence. To be self-actualised (see Layer 20) is to be spiritually intelligent. And learning to be spiritually intelligent may not be easy to achieve, but it’s fairly clear what we need to do.

The foremost task of parents and of schools should be to teach pupils how to learn and how to become independent learners – how to ask questions, and how to seek answers. Intelligent schools and homes see learning as something that’s as natural and as desirable as breathing and eating, and something that’s crucial to every individual’s growth and well-being. They try to help all members of their community towards a love of learning, and recognise the truth in the saying, “More than wealth or power, education is the key to human dignity”.

They recognise that individuals learn in different ways, and must ultimately find their own answers, beliefs and truths which will enable them to fulfil themselves as individuals and as members of communities and societies. Lifelong self-directed seeking after knowledge, truth and meaning leads to greater enlightenment, peace and productive living for us all.

So what? you may say. But many schools and homes do exactly the opposite – they expect their children, their students, to be passive and not active learners - they tell them what to think and what to remember. They operate a “transmission” model of teaching and learning, and they teach in a didactic manner, which is traditional in many societies. (Although Socrates, in Ancient Greece, believed that learning should be based on dialogue and not didacticism.) In the 19th Century, at the beginning of the State education system in Britain, Charles Dickens, a truly great writer in the English language, wrote a wonderful book called Hard Times, which is in part a satire on an education system that he believed strangled and stunted children. The book begins with the words, “Facts. Give these children nothing but facts.”

Whose facts? Which facts? In post-modern societies we recognise how problematic it is to believe that there are so-called key facts that should be ‘understood’ and assimilated by everyone. Such beliefs are especially problematic in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-faith societies populated by diverse peoples of different traditions, different beliefs, and different values. What is recognised as factual and true in one section of such a society is nothing of the kind to many other people.

Consider the current struggle in the United States between “creationists” and others – those who consider the words written in the Christian Bible to be literally true, and those who do not. There we see prosecutions of individuals whose only crime or misdemeanour has been to reiterate the tenets of ‘Darwinism’ – the belief that human beings have their origins in and are descended from the family of the apes, and not through creation by a Divine Being. Imagine this situation in reverse – with fundamentalist Christians being persecuted and prosecuted, victimised and demonised by the Darwinists.

Herein lies the key problem for our societies and our schools – how to promote pluralism, tolerance, and respect for others of different backgrounds, beliefs and values.

We must consider the extent to which our schools are truly inclusive places:
Open to pupils of all abilities and backgrounds
Free from the need to promote particular beliefs
Able to help all pupils consider for themselves, and to make decisions about, different sets of values and beliefs
Able to help all pupils become “spiritually intelligent”, to learn proper respect for themselves, and respect for others who adopt different beliefs and values.

So how well does your child’s school perform according to these criteria? Is there a respect for children, and a determination to treat them with kindness, with the same courtesy and consideration we would show to adults?

In such a learning community the quality and quantity of interactions and communications between adults and children alike can of themselves promote many positive things, and in particular emotional intelligence, social intelligence and spiritual intelligence – the keys to successful living and learning. Of course we value high academic achievement and the development of the intellect, but we should not consider these forms of learning and intelligence to be superior or of greater priority – indeed it is difficult to see how children’s academic and intellectual potential can be optimised without the underpinning of a balanced development of all their intelligences, all their potentials, through meeting all of their needs – spiritual, social, emotional, physical, instinctual and intellectual.

In such a community there is the potential for harmony and non-aggression, for cooperation rather then competition, and collaboration rather than isolation and suspicion. In other words there is an atmosphere of peace and trust, of sharing and giving, where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Where all of this comes to fruition, in certain high-performing schools, to the average visitor it seems like stepping on to another planet, entering a place where lives are lived according to different rules, different values, different expectations. It seems almost impossible to understand – how children who can be seen acting with aggression and violence and hatred in other contexts – in the streets and estates and parks – can be seen exercising self-discipline, cooperation and respect for others in an inclusive, spiritually intelligent community called a school.

The curriculum for spiritual intelligence consists for the most part of the ‘informal’ learning that goes on from the moment a child enters the school – whether as a 4 year old or as an older child – they discover that “this is the way we do things here, this is how we interact, how we solve problems, how we relate to one another”.

It also consists in what the Japanese call “zest for living” – developing an appreciation of how good it feels to live, learn and work in a community where there is the appreciation and love of other people, where there is an appreciation of beautiful and stimulating surroundings, of freedom from aggression and injustice and fear, appreciation of being accepted and respected for who one is and what one believes, whatever that might be, whatever one’s current level of ability or learning. Such places develop high levels of enthusiasm, and feelings of joy and well-being, as well as greater commitment to learning, and confidence that one can be successful.

Certain key concepts for developing spiritual intelligence can be found in schemes of work with a sharp focus on human values. These are values that are subscribed to by humanists and by people of no particular religion, as well as by members of the many different faith communities throughout the world – values that give meaning to life and help to direct our most positive beliefs and actions. They are values that help to make our families, our communities and our societies better places to live in for all of us. Without such values we descend into strife, conflict, selfishness and aggression.

The following list is a summary of the key words and concepts we need to understand as part of our curriculum for human values and spiritual intelligence.

If your child scores highly in understanding these key ideas, and in living life according to these human values, then he or she is indeed high in emotional, social and spiritual intelligence, which means that your child’s school is almost certainly doing a good job, and that you, as the child’s parent, are doing a superb job too. Well done!





Good behaviour
Healthy living

appreciation of others
brotherhood / sisterhood
concern for all life
unwillingness to hurt
global awareness
good manners
social justice
service to others
respect for people and property
universal love

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Layer 20 Fully Evolved Humans

A Positive View of Human Potential

If we’re successful in helping children to develop personal, social, emotional and spiritual intelligences, where does it all lead? What do fully evolved human beings look like?

The humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow studied people whom he regarded as exceptional human beings, and described the characteristics of ‘self-actualised’ people. The actualisation process means the development or discovery of the true self and the development of existing or latent potential.

  • They tend not to be overly religious in the orthodox sense of the word, but have a belief in a meaningful universe and a life which could be called spiritual. Their ideas of right and wrong are based on their own experience rather than blind acceptance of social conventions. Nevertheless, the characteristics of self-actualised HBs are very similar to the ideals and values taught by the great religions - “the transcendence of self, the fusion of the true, the good and the beautiful, contribution to others, wisdom, honesty and naturalness, the transcendence of selfish, greedy and personal motivations . . . the decrease of hostility, cruelty and destructiveness; the increase of friendliness, kindness, etc”
  • Fully developed individuals have a kind of humility - the ability to listen carefully to others, to admit that they don’t know everything, and an understanding that other people can teach them something.
  • The self-actualised perception is less distorted by desires, anxieties, fears, hopes and false optimism or pessimism.
  • Self-actualizing people are dedicated to some work, task, duty or vocation which they consider to be important.
  • Creativity is a universal characteristic of a self-actualised person. Creativeness is almost synonymous with health, self-actualization, and full humanness. Characteristics associated with this creativity are flexibility, spontaneity, courage, willingness to make mistakes, openness and humility. This creativity is similar to the creativity of children before they have learned to fear the ridicule of others, while they are able to see things clearly and freshly.
  • Self-actualizing people are less inhibited, and therefore more expressive, natural and simple. They are self confident and have self respect. They lack the fear of making mistakes and their flexibility allows them to be able to change as situations change; they are able to break habits, to face indecision and changes without undue stress.
  • A characteristic of the self-actualized person is the low degree of self conflict. The more they become unified as an individual the more they see the possibility for more unity in the world.
  • These people find happiness in helping others. They enjoy their work, and they enjoy play; their work becomes play.
  • They have respect for themselves based on the knowledge that they are competent and adequate. They rely fully on their own capacities. They are the most individualistic members of society and at the same time the most social, friendly and loving. They are governed far more by inner directives - their own nature - and natural needs than by those of their society or their environment. They are less needful of praise, honours, prestige or rewards.
  • Self-actualizers have ‘psychological freedom’. They do not need or value unwarranted fame, celebrity or notoriety. They have a feeling of power in the sense that they have a feeling of self-control. They have control of themselves and their destinies; they are not afraid of themselves, ashamed of themselves, or discouraged by their mistakes. It is not that they are perfect; they make mistakes too, but they take them in their stride.
  • They are able to make their own decisions - even in the face of contrary popular opinion. They resist their surrounding culture when it does not accord with their own point of view. They can become extremely independent and unconventional when they feel their basic principles are involved.
  • For these individuals self-discipline is relatively easy because what they desire to do agrees with what they believe is right. They are responsible because they believe responsibility is rewarding.
  • Whereas average humans are motivated by making good their perceived and actual deficiencies in their lives (coping behaviour) - seeking to fulfil basic needs for safety, love, respect and self-esteem - self-actualised individuals are focused mainly on their need to develop their higher potentialities, capacities and intelligences.
  • Maslow believed that the term motivation did not really apply to the most mature individuals. They are spontaneous, they are doing what is natural; they are merely expressing themselves.
  • They have a deep feeling of kinship with the whole human race. They are capable of friendship with people regardless of race, creed, class, education or political beliefs. “This acceptance of others cuts across political, economic and national boundaries.”
  • On the other hand, their circle of friends is usually quite small, involving others who are similar in outlook and ability. They can be very tolerant of others’ shortcomings, and yet they are very intolerant about dishonesty, lying, cheating, cruelty, and hypocrisy. Healthy individuals tend to seek people with similar character traits, such as honesty, sincerity, kindliness and courage. They are less attracted by superficial characteristics and more attracted by someone’s emotional, intellectual and spiritual qualities.
  • Healthy individuals are not without problems - they too suffer moments of guilt, anxiety, sadness and self-doubt. Neither are they universally calm and free of temper outbursts. However, they generally exhibit joie de vivre, enthusiasm for life, and a good sense of humour. They enjoy laughter, and enjoy bringing smiles to the faces of others.
  • Their relationships are never exploitative. Because they have great respect for themselves they are able to be more respectful to others. “The love that is found in healthy people,” said Maslow, “is much better described in terms of spontaneous admiration and the kind of receptive and understanding awe and enjoyment that we experience when struck by a fine painting.” These people need less love from others and are able to remain alone for long periods, but at the same time they are able to give love - they are more loving people.
  • They are attractive and attracted to others, and find it easy to enjoy friendship and intimate relationships without fear. At the same time they are not afraid to be constructively critical of others, to be exponents of ‘tough love’ even, because they consider it to be unloving to let someone go on making the same mistake again and again just because other people don’t have enough courage or caring to tell them.
  • Healthy individuals enjoy life more: not that they don’t have pain, sorrow, and troubles, just that they get more out of life. They appreciate it more; they have more interests; they are more aware of beauty in the world.
  • They have less fear and anxiety, and more confidence and relaxation. They are far less bothered by feelings of boredom, despair, shame, or lack of purpose. “They spontaneously tend to do right, because that is what they want to do, what they need to do, what they enjoy, what they approve of doing, and what they will continue to enjoy.” This network of positive intercorrelation falls apart into separateness and conflict if someone becomes psychologically sick.
  • Putting it another way, “Self-actualising people enjoy life in general and in practically all its aspects, while most other people enjoy only stray moments of triumph, of achievement, or of peak experience.” They never tire of life. They have the capacity to appreciate the sunrise or sunset or relationships or nature again and again.
  • The healthy individual shows far less fear than the average adult. Lesser individuals are less influenced by truth, logic, justice, reality and beauty. Healthy individuals do not often feel threatened by the world around them, as they have great confidence in their ability to handle whatever confronts them. They are also unthreatened by the unknown and the mysterious. This is in sharp contrast to the neurotic person’s fear of the unfamiliar and the mysterious. Maslow quotes Albert Einstein as being typical of this fearless attitude: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all art and science.” Not only are mature self-actualising individuals less afraid of the external environment, they are also less afraid of themselves. They accept themselves and their natures philosophically, and give them far less consideration than neurotic people.
  • People who are more mature and highly (self) developed have the ability to be objective, issue-centred or problem-centred, which involves a certain amount of personal detachment from the problem. Such an attitude, however, can be interpreted as coldness, aloofness, snobbishness, even hostility.
  • They have an unusual ability to concentrate, which can cut them off from more mundane matters and lead to so-called absent-mindedness. Since they have fewer ‘problems’ of their own, they tend to be working to solve the problems of society; they have a mission in life. They are more concerned with ends rather than means.
  • “They have for human beings in general a deep feeling of identification, sympathy and affection, in spite of the occasional anger, impatience and disgust . . . they have a genuine desire to help the human race.”
  • According to Frank Goble, summarising Maslow’s work in his book The Third Force, the very best of humanity are sufficiently philosophical to be patient, and accept slow orderly change. They are apt to be both theoretical and practical.
  • They want to see virtue rewarded and cruelty, exploitation and evil penalised. They take pleasure in rewarding, praising and recognising the talents of others.
  • They have plenty of self-respect, they do not need love from everyone, and they are willing to make enemies if necessary.
  • They also enjoy calm, peace, quiet and relaxation.
  • They like to be efficient and effective, and dislike inefficiency. They manage to love the world as it is, while seeing its defects and working to improve them.
  • Their excellent perception of reality enables them to see both the good and bad in each situation, and they enjoy solving problems and bringing order out of chaos.
  • They are seldom mean or petty or inconsiderate of others, and are able to ignore their faults.
  • They enjoy their work and strive to be more efficient, better, neater, simpler and faster.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Layer 19 The World Public Broadcasting Corporation

I noticed this week that Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, which is about the physical degradation of the planet and the destruction of unique environments, is about to have a TV showing, on Sky Premier Movies. Seems strange that it hasn’t already been shown on public broadcasting TV around the world, given his passion for saving the planet. Maybe Al Gore is to making films what ‘ethical’ manufacturers are to manufacturing - they like the idea of doing good and being environmentally friendly, but profits come first. And here’s me thinking he wasn’t short of a few quid.

If the World Public Broadcasting Corporation were to make a film about Planet Earth in the 21st Century, for transmission to the rest of the universe, it might go like this:

Establishing shots:

Various faces of children around the world, both happy and sad; soldiers, armoured vehicles and aircraft unleashing incredible firepower against civilians and one another. Scenes of awesome beauty - sunrises and sunsets, mountains, gardens, forests and lakes. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre with their plumes of smoke, collapsing into rubble, and as they do so covering New York with vast clouds of dust and airborn debris. Families enjoying home life in various ways - laughing, playing, eating meals, sitting and walking in gardens and other places of great beauty, driving cars, watching TV. Traffic jams, factories, churches, temples and mosques. Various works of art, including paintings by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Klimpt, Turner and Monet; sculptures by Hepworth, Moore, Picasso, Michelangelo and Rodin. Clips from quiz shows, soap operas, video games and films such as Apocalypse Now, The Terminator, Alien and Predator. People embracing, holding hands, kissing, smiling, making love, looking at one another adoringly. People shouting, arguing, punching, fainting, collapsing. Ambulances, police cars and fire engines speeding to emergencies. Streets full of demonstrators and protestors, libraries full of people silently reading, rooms full of computers where silent faces stare at screens. Bands performing, children playing trumpets, singers singing, drummers drumming, various instrumentalists reeling and rocking. Six different people wearing blindfolds, each touching a different part of an elephant, trying to describe it from his or her particular point of contact. Hurricanes blowing, floods rising, glaciers melting, the sun shining on beaches full of people sunbathing or lying in the shade under palm trees. Scenes of joy on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, various festivals, a child’s birthday party. A nuclear explosion.

Voice over:

Good evening people of the universe. Planet Earth is a wonderful, beautiful, frightening, ugly, inspiring, uplifting, depressing and amusing place, depending on where you’re standing, what you’re looking at, who you’re listening to, and whether you have food to eat, money to spend, a proper home, security, friendship, peace and love in your life.

This programme’s aim is to show a balanced portrait of a unique planet, in all its glory and its misery, showing it how it is, and not trying to say whether any of it is good or bad, right or wrong. Is it wrong for big fish to eat little fish? For birds of prey to kill small mammals? We are not setting out to judge or even to comment. Feel free to comment on it as you wish. Our intergalactic email address will be given at the end of the film for you to send us your comments. Or your judgements. You can be the judge.

People of the Earth are ready to be judged on the state of our planet. We have made it as it is. We found it in a state of virginal innocence, and we have embraced it, worshipped it, treasured it, abused it, defiled it, injured it and tried to make it better again.

As human beings we have many strengths and many weaknesses. We have issues. We have problems. We are sometimes argumentative, selfish, aggressive, abusive and disrespectful. At our best we can be thoughtful, generous, creative, appreciative, loving, peaceful, sympathetic, and awesome in our ability to unlock the mysteries of the universe through science, mathematics, technology and the use of computers and other machines which are the products of our intellects and our capacity for cooperation, collaboration, innovation and ingenuity. We have the capacity for brilliance and for stupidity, and you will see the results of these wherever you look. It is inevitable that our behaviour will be both sublime and disgusting, since there are many people on this planet, in various states of ignorance, desperation, confusion and unhappiness, and also sublime, talented, gifted and awesomely enlightened.

We have educated people who are nevertheless hopelessly confused and ignorant, and we have unschooled people who are unbelievably wise and enlightened. We have clever fools and we have naïve savants and sages. It takes all sorts to make a planet. It takes a whole village to educate a child, and it takes a planet to educate the human race.

Our task at the World Public Broadcasting Corporation is to educate, inform, entertain and enlighten. We have many eyes and many voices. We have a multitude of viewpoints, explanations and opinions. During the course of this film you will hear them all. We will not only show you Planet Earth as it is, we will show it to you from many different perspectives, and we will invite you to reach your own conclusions and make your own judgements. Some say there is no one truth. But there is one truth that matters, and that is YOURS. See things our way - see things your way.

Having seen the truth what will you do about it? Are you able to help us? Planet Earth needs all the help it can get. We are in danger of destroying so much that is beautiful and meaningful on this planet. We are in danger of wiping ourselves out with nuclear weapons. If you’d like to help us in our quest to be a happy, peaceful, grateful, appreciative, positive and harmonious planet, please get in touch. Without help we may all perish. Without your help we may have to educate and enlighten ourselves, and we’re not very good at those things in spite of centuries of our best efforts. So please. Please, help. Get in touch. Come on down.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Salvation Studies. Module 1.

Appealing to space beings for help is like looking to God for solutions to our problems on Earth. It’s not going to happen. Even if there were space beings or a God or gods in a position to enlighten us, support us, or offer us help, how on Earth would they go about it? Who would they go to see or speak to?

George Bush claims that God speaks to him. Many of us doubt it. Tony Blair thought he had a direct line to his Maker. Look what happened to him. Was Iraq a “failure of Intelligence” or a failure of intelligence? Or was God just having a laugh? Or was it arrogance and hubris on the part of men who thought they were hearing the voice of God, and maybe even thought they were somewhat godlike themselves, which is fair enough when they are treated that way by so many followers, believers and worshippers.

No. We have to do this thing ourselves. Our fate and our fortune is in our own hands. No space beings or gods or saviours or upper-class sons of millionaires or of the manse are going to do it for us. We, the People, have to do it for ourselves. We have the need, and what is more we have the capacity to enlighten ourselves, and to help one another become enlightened, and then to work together collectively on our own salvation, our own better, brighter, more brilliant future as individuals and as a planet.

And if we don’t do this thing for ourselves, as a species, then we don’t deserve any help, any salvation. To hell on a handcart, or to a much better place on vehicles of our own design and manufacture? The choice is ours. The journey is long. The way ahead is rocky and obscure. But we need to get together and get started. All aboard!

The point is that the answers are within. Each and every one of us has to look within and try to fathom out what we’re doing and where we should be going. Though we could start by paying attention to what some of our best thinkers and scientists and sages have said through the ages. To begin with we need a framework of values and ethics.

Maybe start with the Buddha - maybe the most ancient source of counsel and wisdom. Starting with his more modern translators and interpreters?

Then there are more recent scholars and researchers, people of sublime wit, integrity and vision - people who had the capacity to really observe the world truthfully and objectively.

Abraham Maslow was a brilliant researcher who had the insight that in order to better human beings we should start by developing our awareness of what the very best of our species actually look like, how they behave and what they accomplish. Not famous people - just so-called ordinary people who somehow stand out from the crowd.

The next blog, Layer 20, will be a summary of what Maslow noticed about human potential, about high functioning human beings, and what he described as “self-actualised” individuals.

In the news today.

The Orwell Prize for best political writing. Won by a Palestinian human rights activist, Raja Shehadeh, for his book Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape. He describes the destruction of the beauty of the land, and the loss of the enjoyment of the land. Also the confinement of Palestinians to towns and villages. They are unable even to use the roads, which are now only for Israeli settlers.

Please read the first chapter of the book here:

The Value of Investing in Emotional, Social and Spiritual Intelligence.

Still more concern for anti-social behaviour, violence and crime. How to deal with difficult children? After Columbine, the US state of Colorado focused on prevention of mental and emotional sickness, not trying to ‘fix’ them at 16.

School based classes were developed, and anger management for children as young as 4 years of age. They are taught to understand their bodies and their emotions. There were no parental objections to ‘wishy-washy touchy-feely’ stuff ‘detracting’ from academic focus and attainment.

There has also been systematic family support for children growing up in violent homes. Outreach programmes were funded.

Through these various programmes and changes to the school curriculum they have saved millions of dollars in special education costs, plus reduced costs of healthcare and policing. They reckon 3 dollars have been saved for every dollar invested in early intervention.


A brilliant anecdote on a Radio 4 programme (The Reunion) about Thompson Comics. A particular issue had one of the characters in the Dandy making his own fireworks. Someone from a government department wrote a letter to the comic warning them that it was illegal for individuals to make fireworks in this country. In the next issue the Dandy's editor printed a trailer for the following week, which just said, “Next week Desperate Dan will show you how to make an atomic bomb.”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Layer 18 The Nature of Reality. Redefining the Goal.

Chapter 3 of Ancient Wisdom, Modern World is concerned with ‘dependent origination’ and ‘the nature of reality’. Broadly speaking I take these ideas to mean that we are not, in reality, independent individuals, and that all life, all phenomena, and every human being, are interlinked and interdependent. Within this context, all of our actions have consequences not only for ourselves but for others, and we are nothing ourselves without other people.

With this in mind, then time has no real meaning - there is only a NOW when past actions inform the present and when what we do at any given moment has consequences for the future - both for ourselves and for others; both positive and negative.

These ideas were touched on in Layer 1 of this blog.

In Chapter 3 the Dalai Lama says, “If the self had intrinsic identity, it would be possible to speak in terms of self-interest in isolation from that of others’. But because this is not so, because self and others can only really be understood in terms of relationship, we see that self-interest and others’ interests are closely interrelated.

Indeed, within this picture of dependently originated reality, we see that there is no self-interest completely unrelated to others’ interests. Due to the fundamental interconnectedness which lies at the heart of reality, your interest is also my interest. From this it becomes clear that ‘my’ interest and ‘your’ interest are intimately connected. In a deep sense they converge.”

“Particular causes lead to particular effects, and certain actions lead to suffering while others lead to happiness. Thus it is in everybody’s interests to do what leads to happiness and avoid that which leads to suffering. And because our interests are inextricably linked, we are compelled to accept ethics as the indispensible interface between my desire to be happy and yours.”

Chapter 4 - Redefining the Goal - deals with the nature of happiness - short term and long term.

Money and material things can only bring short-term happiness. Having a lot of money and a lot of material things can even create a state of constant anxiety about their possible loss, for example. There can be no hope of gratifying the senses permanently.

The principal characteristic of genuine happiness is inner peace. Flourishing mentally and emotionally makes a significant contribution to inner peace. So does the satisfaction of love, and in order to attain it we need friends and family who can return our affection.

Our basic attitude to life is a major factor in attaining inner peace. Life consists of both light and dark elements. We can see a glass, and indeed our life, as half full or half empty. A tendency to see it as at least half full is needed in order to attain inner peace.

The other major source of inner peace, and therefore genuine long-term happiness, are the actions we undertake day to day. There are actions which contribute positively to the inner peace of ourselves and others, and actions whose impact are negative - certainly in the long run - to both ourselves and others.

Positive actions can be either ‘ethical’ or ‘spiritual’.

“An ethical act is one where we refrain from causing harm to others’ experience or expectation of happiness. Spiritual acts we can describe in terms of qualities such as love, compassion, patience, forgiveness, humility, tolerance and so on which presume some level of concern for others’ well-being. We find that the (spiritual) actions we undertake which are motivated not by narrow self-interest but out of our concern for others actually benefit ourselves. And not only that, but they make our lives meaningful.”

“Because our every action has a universal dimension, a potential impact on others’ happiness, ethics are necessary as a means to ensure we do not harm others.”

“Genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, humility and so on. It is these which provide happiness both for ourselves and others.”


Back in the mists of time I first became interested in human well-being as a subject in itself (what some people are now calling ‘happiness studies’) when considering the ideas of the humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow who maintained that people who achieve something like their full potential (in terms of being the best human being they can be) are ‘self-actualised’.

In recent times I’ve come to see such people as being ‘3 dimensional’ - fully developed in terms of spiritual intelligence (SQ), emotional intelligence (EQ), and intellect (IQ). These three dimensions also encompass physical intelligence, instinctual intelligence, social intelligence and metaphysical intelligence. Self-actualised individuals have all of these in abundance.

These ideas concerning three dimensionality and three continuums of intelligence have already been described in Layer 2.

Self-actualised people have travelled a long way along the path towards enlightenment, and they experience satori as a day to day reality. These ideas concerning enlightenment have been described in other recent blogs, recent Layers.

In Layer 20 I’ll summarise Maslow’s work and set out a description in terms of day to day behaviour and attitudes what it actually means to be self-actualised. We can then consider which types of behaviour and which attitudes correspond with which intelligences. We will then be able to judge the proportions of SQ, EQ and IQ that are engaged in the day to day lives of self-actualised individuals. We can then take a view on the relative importance of each of the three dimensions to individual and collective well-being, happiness and enlightenment.


Materialism [In Our Time. Radio 4 (9.00am.)]

Melvyn Bragg, A.C. Grayling, and others.

Listening to this reminds me I need to get back to reading (and blogging about) Grayling’s 2003 book, What Is Good? The Search For The Best Way To Live, which can happen after I’ve finished Richard Layard’s Happiness - Lessons from a New Science. (2005)

Notes on the broadcast:

Materialists maintain that the only thing that exists is Matter.

The universe is fundamentally material in nature.

Epicurus said that materialism also applied to human nature. But whereas Aristotle believed in permanent substances, Epicurus didn’t.

He believed that humans should follow Pleasure - meaning tranquillity, serenity.

Lucretius believed the world consists of atoms - the basic stuff out of which everything is created.

Religion is mostly about fear and it oppresses people. If people realised they’re just atoms they wouldn’t worry about gods.

Aristotle saw nature as an interlocking system.

Purposes and intelligent design? Final causes? Opposite view to atomists and materialists.

Mind/soul/spirit = good? Matter = bad?
Christian doctrine was an espousal of this dualist view.

4th C Arian persecution. The Arians thought that ‘God is just a man’. They were wiped out for this view.

16th C Descartes. It’s possible to think about the material realm through science - to investigate this realm without impugning religion.

Galileo said that science is to do with quantifiable phenomena. Analysis of the world is a long way from common sense approaches. Science should be based on mathematics? Not an obvious idea.

Descartes and Gasendi - understanding the world through the senses. “There are only surfaces - not soul.” Injecting Epicurus into scientific debate.

The church’s doctrines had been dominant for centuries.

Hobbes espoused radical atomism. The only thing that exists are bodies.

Experiences produce thoughts and ideas in our brains. Consciousness is the ability to be aware of what’s happening.

There are no spiritual or immaterial realities. Hence the need to be atheist.

18th C saw the beginnings of the organised study of psychology and the phenomena of mind. We are still researching how consciousness arises. Our experience of the world is conditioned by our physiology and our psychology.

Issues of free will. Everything we do caused by anticedal states of affairs. Endless cause and effect. There is no freedom, fundamentally. Though we need our freedom to follow our desires.

The mind (memory) is a book that endlessly writes on itself. A Palimpsest. Layers. [See Layer 1]

We conceive ourselves as free moral beings. Whereas science proposes causal explanations.

Consciousness unifies disparate activities within the brain to create a unified sense of self.

The idea that there is a thing called soul or spirit that has ‘its’ own feelings, memories, desires, etc will fall away as we find proper explanations as to how the brain itself, of itself, gives rise to ‘mental’ phenomena.

No time on the programme to discuss Hegel, Marx and Quantum Physics!

If you missed the programme catch it on the BBC website - Listen Again.

Also Start The Week on R4 this week - another ‘must listen to’.


A recent award for best individual contribution to radio went to Melvyn Bragg. And so say all of us In Our Time devotees.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Layer 17 No Magic, No Mystery. The Dalai Lama

Shakespeare’s birthday. St George’s Day. To be or not to be. Killing a dragon?

This blog consists of more quotations from the Dalai Lama. Sub-headings are my own.

Chapter Two. A Spiritual Revolution.

This is not about religions.

In calling for a spiritual revolution am I advocating a religious solution to our problems? No.

I have realised that there are other faiths and other cultures that are no less capable than mine of enabling people to lead constructive and satisfying lives. What is more I have come to the conclusion that whether or not a person is a religious believer does not matter much. Far more important is that they be a good human being.

The influence of religion on people’s lives is generally marginal, especially in the developed world. No single religion satisfies all humanity. We may also conclude that we humans can live quite well without recourse to religious faith.

As a human being I have a responsibility towards the whole human family, which indeed we all have. Since the majority do not practice religion I am concerned to try to find a way to serve all humanity without appealing to religious faith.

Religions are all directed towards helping human beings achieve lasting happiness. And each of them is, in my opinion, capable of facilitating this. Under such circumstances a variety of religions (each of which promotes the same basic values) is both desirable and useful.

My concern in this book is to try to reach beyond the formal boundaries of my faith. I want to show that there are some universal ethical principles which could help everyone achieve the happiness we all aspire to.

Religion versus spirituality.

I believe there is an important distinction to be made between religion and spirituality.

Religion I take to be concerned with faith in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition or another, an aspect of which is acceptance of some form of metaphysical or supernatural reality, including perhaps the idea of some form of heaven or nirvana. Connected with this are religious teachings or dogma, rituals, prayer and so on.

Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit - such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony - which bring happiness to both self and others.

While ritual and prayer, along with the questions of nirvana and salvation, are directly connected with religious faith, these inner qualities need not be, however. There is no reason why an individual should not develop them, even to a high degree, without recourse to any religious or metaphysical belief system. This is why I sometimes say that religion is perhaps something we can do without. What we cannot do without are these basic spiritual qualities.

Concern for other’s well-being.

There is much confusion, as often among religious believers as among non-believers, concerning what spiritual practice actually consists in. The unifying characteristics of the qualities I have described as ‘spiritual’, may be said to be some level of concern for others’ well-being. In Tibetan we speak of shen-pen kyi-sem, meaning ‘the thought to be of help to others’. And when we think about them, we see that each of the qualities noted is defined by an implicit concern for the well-being of others.

Moreover, the one who is compassionate, loving, patient, tolerant, forgiving, and so on to some extent recognises the potential impact of their actions on others and orders their conduct accordingly. Thus spiritual practice involves acting out of concern for others’ well-being.

It also entails transforming ourselves so that we become more readily disposed to do so. To speak of spiritual practice in any terms other than these is meaningless.

My call for a spiritual revolution is therefore not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow otherworldly, still less to something magical or mysterious. Rather, it is a call for a radical reorientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self. It is a call for a turn toward the wider community of human beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognises others’ interests alongside our own.

Some may object that a revolution of spirit is hardly adequate to solve the variety and magnitude of problems we face in the modern world. However, given that each problem could certainly be solved by people being more loving and compassionate toward one another - however improbable this may seem - they can also be characterised as spiritual problems susceptible to a spiritual solution.

This is not to say that all we need do is cultivate spiritual values and these problems will automatically disappear. On the contrary, each of them needs a specific solution. But we find that when this spiritual dimension is neglected, we have no hope of achieving a lasting solution.

Bad news is a fact of life. Events can be divided into two broad categories: those which have principally natural causes - earthquakes, droughts, floods and the like - and those which are of human origin. Wars, crime, violence of every sort, corruption, poverty, deception, fraud, social, political and economic injustice are each the consequence of negative human behaviour.

And who is responsible for such behaviour? We are. There is not a single class or sector of society that does not contribute to our daily diet of unhappy news. Fortunately, unlike natural disasters, about which we can do little or nothing, these human problems can be overcome because they are all essentially ethical problems.

Where ethical restraint is lacking, there can be no hope of overcoming problems like those of rising crime. What then is the relationship between spirituality and ethical practice? Since love, compassion, etc, by definition presume some level of concern for others’ well-being, they also presume ethical restraint. We cannot be loving and compassionate unless at the same time we curb our own harmful impulses and desires.

Religious belief is no guarantee of moral integrity. Looking at the history of our species, we see that among the major troublemakers - those who visited violence, brutality and destruction on their fellow human beings - there have been many who professed religious faith, often loudly. Religion can help us establish basic ethical principles. Yet we can still talk about ethics and morality without having recourse to religion.

We must be able to show that violence towards others is wrong. And yet we must find some way of doing so which avoids the extremes of crude absolutism on the one hand, and of trivial relativism on the other. Ordinary common sense should tell us that establishing binding ethical principles is possible when we take as our starting point the observation that we all desire happiness and wish to avoid suffering. We have no means of discriminating between right and wrong if we do not take into account others’ feelings, others’ suffering.

One of the things which determines whether an act is ethical or not is its effect on others’ experience or expectation of happiness. An act which harms or does violence to this is potentially an unethical act.

Emotions and motivation.

When an individual’s overall state of heart and mind is wholesome, it follows that our actions themselves will be (ethically) wholesome.

The individual’s overall state of heart and mind (or motivation) in the moment of action is the key to determining its ethical content, and this point is easily understood when we consider how our actions are affected when we are gripped with powerful negative thoughts and emotions such as hatred and anger. In that moment our mind and heart are in turmoil.

Not only does this cause us to lose our sense (!) of proportion and perspective, but we also lose sight of the likely impact of our actions on others. Indeed, we can become so distracted that we ignore the question of others, and of their right to happiness, altogether. Our actions under such circumstances - that is to say our deeds, words, thoughts, omissions and desires - will almost certainly be injurious to others’ happiness. And this in spite of what our long-term intentions towards others may be or whether our actions are consciously intended or not. The less calm we are, the more likely we are to react negatively with harsh words, and the more certain we are to say or do things which later we regret bitterly, especially if we feel deeply for that person.

When the driving force for our actions is wholesome, our actions will tend automatically to contribute to others’ well-being. They will thus automatically be ethical. Further, the more this is our habitual state, the less likely we are to react badly when provoked. And even when we do lose our temper, any outburst will be free of any sense of malice or hatred. The aim of spiritual and, therefore, ethical practice is thus to transform and perfect the individual’s kun long [spirit, disposition, motivation]. This is how we become better human beings. [Spiritual intelligence]

I trust that I have made it clear that a spiritual revolution entails an ethical revolution.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Layer 16 Ancient Wisdom, Modern World, The Dalai Lama.

To finish off this series of blogs on Buddhism and spiritual intelligence, this is what Christmas Humphries had to say on:

The Effects of Satori.

Satori is seeing into one’s own nature, and seeing that Nature is not one’s own. The vision (or the experience of satori) may come quite suddenly or slowly arise. It is in no way to be confused with a psychic trance or the phantasy of the schizophrenic. Nor is it concerned with morality or any man-made code. It is a foretaste of the Absolute Moment, of Cosmic Consciousness, of the condition in which I and my Father are one.

The effects of Zen (and Zen means Satori) are proportionate to the degree of Satori attained. Sometimes the happy man would burst into a song or an improvised poem; sometimes he merely laughed, and it is to be noted that no other religion or philosophy has used, as Zen deliberately uses, laughter as a means to a spiritual end. Roars of laughter, cleansing, healthy, ferocious laughter, are part of the Zen monk’s daily life and of those who practice Zen.

Others who have tried to describe the reward of their years of tremendous effort speak of a sense of certainty, of serenity, of clarity, and of unity with nature and the universe around.

Hui-neng described the serenity:

Imperturbable and serene the ideal man practices no virtue;
Self-possessed and dispassionate he commits no sin;
Calm and silent he gives up seeing and hearing;
Even and upright his mind abides nowhere.

With clarity of mind, whence emotion and passion have ebbed away, comes an inner certainty of purpose and the right way to achieve it. And the certainty is quite impersonal.

But the mind, though aloof from the senses’ attraction, is never in the clouds of an ideal world. There is a vital sense of here and this and now. The student achieves a sense of the Absolute Moment, and knows that all things are equally important, equally real and unreal, equally part of himself. The flower in the crannied wall is indeed the universe, and nothing exists beyond this life that is not contained within it.

These new possessions of the mind, however, are not of immediate growth; they develop anew with each experience. For a while occasional vision may have no effect on character, for the momentum of old habits of thought and thought-reaction is immensely strong.

Yet slowly a new sense of values supersedes the old; truly a new man is born, and the sustained and tremendous effort to reach the new stage on the path of development was found to be worthwhile.

The Self has taken over, and the appetites of a pack of ill-trained animals which yelp and growl and bite at each other, have at least been recognised as such. If they do slip off the lead sometimes, it is at least with the master’s knowledge, if not with his consent. And that is a long stage on the way to Enlightenment.

* * * * * * *

The Dalai Lama

It’s interesting how, after decades of hearing nothing but positive things said about the Dalai Lama, insofar as one heard anything at all, the news media now regularly report on China’s condemnation of this unique figure, and it’s interesting the way in which China does it without actually referring to him in person, preferring to say “The Dalai Clique” does this or that or the other. They deliberately make it sound as though he’s the leader of some sort of minor would-be revolutionary gang, agitating for the liberation of his homeland, Tibet, from what he sees as the clutches of the communist imperialists.

All the Dalai Lama can then do is insist that he accepts the fact of Tibet being part of China, but protests about the oppression of native Tibetans and the suppression of their Buddhist faith. He wants to see more autonomy and more religious freedom for Tibet, whilst it remains politically within China’s control.


Here’s what he says in Ancient Wisdom, Modern World - Ethics for the New Millenium.

We all desire to be happy and avoid suffering, and are sustained in this quest by hope.

People in the wealthier countries seem to be more prone to mental and emotional suffering. There is a disturbing prevalence among these people of anxiety, discontent, frustration, uncertainty and depression. They also suffer a growing confusion as to what constitutes morality and what its foundations are.

People feel uneasy and dissatisfied with their lives. They experience feelings of isolation, and often depression. Psychological and emotional suffering is often found amongst great material wealth throughout the west.

On the one hand their wealth allows them to have increasing levels of autonomy and private ownership of expensive homes and goods, and on the other hand they have little interdependence and tend not to see that their personal happiness has any connection with the happiness and wellbeing of others.

In effect they create societies in which people find it harder and harder to show one another basic affection. [And neither do they feel a need to do so.] In place of a sense of community and belonging we find a high degree of loneliness and alienation.

The contemporary rhetoric of growth and economic development greatly reinforces people’s tendency toward competitiveness and envy. No wonder so many people are afflicted by stress-related disease. Such disproportionate emphasis on external progress and material wealth is bound to result in unhappiness, anxiety and lack of contentment.

Scientific knowledge alone cannot provide the happiness that springs from inner development, the happiness that is not reliant on external factors. Indeed, though our very detailed and specific knowledge of external phenomena is an immense achievement, far from bringing us happiness it can actually be dangerous. It can cause us to lose touch with the wider reality of human experience and, in particular, to overlook our dependence on others.

Consciousness belongs to that category of phenomena without form, substance or colour. [It is metaphysical] It is not susceptible to investigation by external means.

The challenge we face is to find some means of enjoying the same degree of harmony and tranquillity of traditional communities while benefitting fully from the material developments of the world as we find it at the dawn of a new millennium.

There is an abundance of severely negative trends within modern society. There is no reason to doubt the escalation in murder, violence and rape cases year by year. We hear constantly of abusive and exploitative relationships both in the home and within the wider community, of growing numbers of young people addicted to drugs and alcohol.

None of these problems are by nature inevitable. They are all ethical problems. They each reflect our understanding of what is right and wrong, of what is positive and what is negative, of what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. But beyond this is something more fundamental: a neglect of what I call our inner dimension.

It’s obvious that our needs transcend the material and merely sensual. The prevalence of anxiety, stress, confusion, uncertainty and depression among those whose basic needs have been met is a clear indication of this.

Our problems, both those we experience externally such as wars crime and violence, and those we experience internally - our emotional and psychological sufferings - cannot be solved until we address this underlying neglect.

That is why the great movements of the last hundred years and more - democracy, liberalism, socialism [toryism, neo-conservatism] - have all failed to deliver the universal benefits they were supposed to provide, despite many wonderful ideas.

A revolution is called for, certainly. But not a political, an economic, or even a technical revolution. We have had enough experience of these during the last century to know that a purely external approach will not suffice. What I propose is a spiritual revolution.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Layer 15 Enlightenment

What is the goal of Zen? The answer is Satori, the Zen term for Enlightenment. Satori IS Zen.

Christmas Humphries says, “Since Satori lies beyond the intellect, which alone can define and describe, one cannot define Satori”. Think of awe and wonder - how do you describe such ‘feelings’? Awesome? Wonderful? Not quite adequate, is it?

Humphries goes on to say, “Silence alone can describe it, the silence of the mystic, of the saint, of the artist in the presence of great beauty; of the lover and the poet when the fetters of time and space have for a moment fallen away”.

However, whilst I’d agree with Humphries that words are inadequate to describe satori, I would argue that there’s a crucial problem of language, which affects understanding, in saying that Satori lies beyond the intellect.

I think it’s important to describe the experience of satori as being on a different plane or continuum of intelligence - call it SQ or spiritual intelligence - which might be seen as being at right-angles to, or complementary to, the intellectual plane, or IQ.

This metaphysical (or spiritual) awareness, which I think it’s important to see as a separate kind of intelligence, connects directly to the transcendental and the divine, to a kind of collective super-consciousness, through the faculty of intuition, which needs no words or concepts in order to perceive truth and reality.

Intuition, which has characteristically been neglected in ‘western’ ‘intellectual’ discourse, or seen as somehow ‘female’ and therefore inferior to intellect, is the key mode of operation for metaphysical or spiritual intelligence. It’s what we rather clumsily tend to characterise as a “sixth sense”, though it’s not a sense, and it’s not an instinct either. It’s definitely not a product of the intellect. And it has nothing to do with tests, exams and academia.

It’s not an emotion, and it’s nothing to do with empathy, which are both types intelligence on the third plane of understanding or awareness, sometimes referred to as emotional/social intelligence, or EQ.

Humphries goes on to say that satori “is not out of the body or out of the world; on the contrary, the world and all in it is seen and enjoyed more fully than before. At first it is reached in flashes which come and go. Later it comes in profound meditation, or when the mind, by this device or that, is raised to its highest plane.”

Again, I think there’s an important language issue here, which is more than just semantics, and which tends to hinder a clear understanding of satori and spiritual intelligence. I would argue that it’s not the mind that’s being raised to a higher plane - it’s the whole of our consciousness, or our awareness. And it’s our spiritual intelligence, which is informed by intuition, that’s the motive force which raises our consciousness through the experience of satori.

We talk about ‘flashes of intuition’, and these tend to enter the mind when it is still, when conscious thought is switched off - sometimes though meditation, sometimes through exhaustion, sometimes through just being in a place of great beauty, sometimes in the presence of great art or great music. Intuition, in its very nature, is very difficult to think about, difficult to describe or apprehend.

It just somehow happens when it happens - or, in modern society, it happens much too infrequently. Intuition occurs whenever it’s necessary and appropriate, providing it has an opportunity to break through into our conscious awareness.

What Humphries doesn’t mention is that satori can sometimes occur through the use of certain drugs - so-called mind-expanding drugs such as cannabis, LSD, ecstasy and ‘magic mushrooms’ - at least in the initial stages of their use. Unfortunately such drugs also tend to impair our functioning in various ways, and I believe it’s true to say that the only ‘high’ worth having, at least in the long term, is a natural high.

Which brings me to my next point, which is that Humphries only alludes to the fact that the tantric path, through sex and orgasm, can also enable us to experience a ‘high’ - the satori of “the lover and the poet when the fetters of time and space have for a moment fallen away . . .”

The tantric path can often take us to a peak of satori - can instantly transport us to the mountain top where suddenly we have a view and a perspective of life and the meaning of life that was previously beyond our vision. It’s surely beyond dispute that our bodies of themselves can give us (through sheer physical bliss and release) an instant experience of metaphysical bliss, or satori. To lie in the arms of a lover and experience a sense of blissful togetherness after making love is satori indeed.

It’s also important to understand that through the tantric route it’s not just sensual pleasure, as great as that may be, which transports us so readily to those higher levels of consciousness or awareness. It’s the feeling of wholeness and completeness that sometimes comes after making love, after orgasm.

It’s release, it’s fulfilment, it’s having arrived at a place that perhaps we didn’t even know existed - a place beyond worldly cares, beyond desire, beyond need, beyond anything other than just BEING. Such a wordless state of satori is in my view even greater and more blissful than KNOWING. This is the true essence of Zen, and of satori, and enlightenment, which are one and the same.

I’m putting great emphasis on the tantric route here because it’s something that many of us may be familiar with, even if we’ve never had any other blissful satori experiences in other ways - through meditation, contemplation of nature, etc.

However, it’s important to say that sex and sexual pleasure is by no means guaranteed to take us to satori - even sex with someone we love - and certainly not orgasm through masturbation, even though that provides pleasure and a certain amount of release from physical and emotional frustration.

Satori is about far more than pleasure. It’s THE peak experience. It’s the ultimate feeling that’s beyond sensual, intellectual, and emotional pleasures, though it can be approached through any of those routes - through the pleasures of the mind, the senses, the emotions.

It is simply sheer spiritual bliss, which has nothing to do with god or divinity, other than the pure divine spirit that lies within us all. It’s the recognition of and experience of that spirit. The development of (and continuous connection with) that spirit, and the spirit of the universe, is what I understand by spiritual intelligence, by enlightenment, and by Zen.

* . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . * . . . . . *

The consequences of the growth of spiritual development in individuals and in society as a whole (though some say we’re now going backwards in our increasingly materialistic world) is a very big subject, to be explored in future chapters of this blog.

The big issue of how we might achieve higher levels of satori, Zen, or spiritual intelligence through attempts to consciously provide for it and develop it in young and old alike, must also be taken on in other chapters.

The important thing to recognise is that our ‘western’ societies and religions hardly even register this as a concern or an issue, and certainly don’t, on the whole, address themselves to raising awareness of it, let alone pursue the urgent need to raise levels of spiritual intelligence in order to deal with the urgent problems of our materialistic and increasingly violent societies, with their ever-increasing levels of mental, emotional and spiritual sickness. What we see instead are politicians and pundits pontificating on how to deal with the effects of such sickness, rather than how to deal with the root causes.

Perhaps the times are beginning to change. Perhaps books like Richard Layard’s Happiness and Sue Palmer’s Toxic Childhood are making us more aware of the need to change the ways in which we live in the modern world.

Perhaps the Dalai Lama’s call for a spiritual revolution, which he makes in his book Ancient Wisdom, Modern World, will sooner or later strike a chord that will resonate throughout the world. Some would say perhaps pigs may fly.

In the meantime those of us who see the need and see the glass as half full must join together and keep on working for this change, this revolution, which tried to get off the ground in various places throughout the western world back in the Sixties, but didn’t have a powerful enough engine.

Perhaps the credit crunch and the partial collapse of the banking system and indeed the shaking foundations of capitalism will be responsible for a sudden shift in consciousness, a sudden demand for change, a sudden urge to unite and fight for a more enlightened world.

Then again, not. Perhaps we must just continue to go forward slowly, individually and collectively - with linked arms, comrades and colleagues determined to do the work on ourselves which we first and foremost need to do, assisting others along the way as best we can.