Thomson, C ‘Full Spectrum Intelligence: A Practical Course on Behaving Wisely and Well’ – Wise Action

Full Spectrum Intelligence: A Practical Course on Behaving Wisely and Well

By Chris Thomson Changemaker Books, 2014, 194 pp., £8.99, p/b – ISBN 978-1-78279-693-0 Reviewed by David Lorimer

Full Spectrum IntelligenceWhen Chris was working in Edinburgh as a lawyer, he was in the Court of Session in Edinburgh one day when Lord Stott was speaking, an occasion that made a great impression on him. He used simple language, spoke slowly and clearly, saying only what was necessary and no more. Chris comments that he has since tried to emulate him by keeping his own language clear, simple and relevant. This clarity and simplicity is one of the great strengths of this directly written book, drawing both on his own experience and his wide knowledge of many different disciplines. There is no elaborate footnote analysis or bibliography, although some books are referred to in the text. The first part describes the nature of intelligence and its importance, the second is a practical guide on improving various aspects of intelligence, while the third explores the relationship between intelligence, knowing and belief, as well as including two chapters on intelligence in action.

Indeed, Chris defines intelligence in terms of behaviour rather than any measured capacity and asks at the beginning of the book if there is in fact intelligent life on the planet, judging from our actions. He quotes an intergalactic visitor using various criteria of development who concludes that human beings regard themselves as more intelligent than they really are and seem to value technological capacity higher than human capacity – adding that there are some higher-order intelligences possibly worth contacting and that most of them live in the oceans… He sees us as a problem-causing species that can nevertheless develop as knowers, in consciousness and in the intelligence. Throughout the book there are questions asked of the reader. By full spectrum intelligence, Chris means mental, emotional, intuitive, social, spiritual and physical intelligence. After describing some interesting personal experiences he explains the intelligence process in terms of awareness, understanding and response. He summarises this in a useful chart with key questions relating to each of the intelligences (Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences are a slightly different framework.)

In the second part of the book, Chris not only describes his understanding of these various intelligences, but also provides to some useful exercises to develop them. Under physical intelligence you can count how many sounds you can hear at any given moment or walk along a block noticing as much as you can and imagining that someone is waiting to test you at the end. It is certainly true that we are much less aware and observant than we might be. Martial arts practitioners develop a sense of the body absent in non-practitioners. On emotional intelligence, Chris gives guidance on becoming quiet inside, some of which involves slowing down (I will come back to this further on). Mental intelligence is characterised by clarity, openness, strength and creativity while also looking at deeper causes and deeper solutions. Chris gives the example of treating problems only on a symptomatic level, showing how inefficient this approach in fact is. He sees intuitive intelligence as based on interconnectedness and recommends that we treat coincidences as messages. He gives an interesting example of social intelligence in a Bohmian dialogue process where assumptions have to be suspended and one has a chance to become quieter inside (I may have been there). Spiritual intelligence involves the development of our inner senses and he gives a good explanation of the universe as holarchy – we can tune into various levels. This kind of experience also refines our understanding of the relationship between spirit and matter.

A chapter on other senses such as identity, health, survival, quality and nature of right and wrong leads into an excellent one on ‘less is better.’ Our whole culture is based on the notion of more as better, which for Chris means that we do too much, want too much, say too much, rush too much and try to control too much. He argues that many of our major systemic problems are due to this mindset, suggesting that it is better to do less and live more, have less and enjoy more, say less, rush less and make less effort, applying the law of reverse or optimum effort. He elaborates helpfully on all these points, commenting on the way that many meetings are unnecessary and reports and emails too long and poorly written. As many readers will know, the slow movement is an antidote to the stress of modern busyness. Some of these same points apply to the intelligent organisation, the focus of the next chapter, where Chris recommends a shift to ‘sense, adapt and respond’ from ‘predict, command and control.’

He then moves on to science, consciousness and energy, suggesting that human knowledge is the recognition of order, and progress the wise use of that recognition. This leads him to question the status of chance and randomness as inherent qualities of the world – he sees them rather as features of ignorance and qualities of the relationship between us and the world. Chance is often used as a way of explaining away events that some people feel are subjectively relevant. The final chapter on spiritual wealth questions many of the assumptions of modernity based on its materialistic worldview. I think he is right to assert that this leads to a loss of deeper meaning and wisdom – this corresponds to his earlier observation that, while GDP has continued to rise, the broader index of the Genuine Progress Indicator has been level since 1975. He questions the assumptions of what he calls economism and sketches some key features of a new economics, a new education, a new healthcare, a new science and a new politics (maybe the subject of his next book?). His afterword paints a more hopeful picture on the basis that we can develop our intelligences along the lines he suggests and provides a cautionary note from another civilisation with an imbalance in the opposite direction. I agree with Phil Hanlon when he writes in the foreword that Chris’s book is a good antidote to the dis-eases of modernity with its practical, instructive and down to earth approach.

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