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:: 34 Consciousness

No Limits
34 Consciousness 9/20/2007 11:59:40 AM

No Limits

Teaching Intelligence and Consciousness

There is something compelling about highly conscious, intelligent people - the way they look, the way they speak, and even the way they move. They are economical in their use of words and their use of energy. They seem to be able to get things done without really trying. We have a sense that everything they do and say adds something positive to the world. It is reassuring, yet sometimes uncomfortable, to have them around because they understand us at least as much as we understand ourselves. And, somehow, they seem to have gone beyond adulthood into a higher-level childhood. They have been able to combine lightness and spontaneity with wisdom and maturity.

It may be stating the obvious, but it is worth stating that highly conscious, intelligent people look like this on the outside only because of the way they are on the inside. If we were able to look inside them, we would see that they are acutely sensitive to the world around them. They notice a lot and miss very little. They are masters of their feelings. This enables them to tune into, and empathise with, the feelings of others. They have clear, open minds, and this means that they can communicate simply and effectively and see, at a deeper level, what causes things to happen and what is likely to happen in the future. They have learned how to "know" directly, without the need for conventional evidence or rational explanations. And they can even do this at a distance, without the need for communications technology. Some of them have developed extraordinary powers, such as the power to heal at a distance. And there are a few highly conscious people who are aware of aspects of the world and the human being that are largely unknown by the modern world.

I count myself lucky. Not only do I have the most interesting job I can think of, I also possess a source of immediate entertainment. I simply tell people what my job is. It never fails to produce an interesting, often amusing, response. My job? I teach intelligence and consciousness. I know this is unusual, and I know it invariably needs some explanation.

The short explanation, which produces responses ranging from disinterest through incredulity to unbridled enthusiasm, is that I show people how to work on themselves so that they become more aware (the consciousness bit) and so that they are willing and able to act wisely and effectively on that awareness (the intelligence bit).

I understand the incredulity. I would probably not believe it myself if I did not do it nearly every day. And I understand the enthusiasm. After all, the idea of becoming more conscious and more intelligent can be very appealing to some people. But it is the disinterest that really gets me thinking. Why would some people be so disinterested in what for others is brimming full of interest? I have come up with a number of reasons.

First, I think it is widely assumed that the human race is the most intelligent species on the planet, and that we are already highly conscious. This assumption has made us complacent and arrogant and it has seriously compromised the urgent need to for us become more conscious and more intelligent. It may be true that we have the potential to be the most intelligent species, but few would argue that there is an uncomfortably large gap between that potential and the daily reality. In reality, we have become the most dangerous and destructive species on the planet and the cause of most, if not all, of the world's problems. A visitor to this planet from another part of the universe would probably conclude that there are many intelligent species here - tigers, whales, wolves, bees, and many others - but that the human race is not one of them. It is all very well to have the ability to speak and make things, and the capacity to reason. But this is not the same as intelligence. Intelligence is what intelligence does. And we are not doing well.

Second, many people, if asked, would probably assume that consciousness and intelligence are givens, in much the same way as IQ is assumed to remain at more or less fixed throughout one's life. The reality is that consciousness and intelligence are anything but givens. They grow when they are stimulated and they grow when we work on them. The more we stimulate and work on them, the more conscious and intelligent we become. There seems to be no theoretical upper limit. Practical limits, yes, such as time and commitment, but more we work on ourselves, the more conscious and intelligent we become. This has very far-reaching implications. In an ideal world all of us would be working on ourselves, and that would make all the difference. As Goethe said: "Let everyone sweep in front of their door and the whole world will be clean."

Third, there was a time when education was very much about the growth of consciousness and intelligence, because that is what the word "education" implies. In its original sense, education is all about bringing out the best and uniqueness in each one of us, even if that means we end up questioning prevailing beliefs, values and behaviours. It is about helping us to realise our potential, including our potential to be highly conscious and intelligent. However, although we continue to use the word "education" to describe what happens in schools, colleges and universities, there is not much true education around these days. To a large extent, it has been replaced by its opposite, schooling - which is the process of shaping people to believe and follow prevailing beliefs, values and behaviours. Although there is a lot of talk, by politicians and others, about the importance of education, one is left wondering whether they are talking about a preparation for life or a preparation for work. If "education" is mainly a preparation for work, then we have a serious problem because it means that our schools and universities are producing people with skills and knowledge for working in the global economy, but they are not producing people with wisdom and consciousness for living well in the world. There are, of course, some notable exceptions, but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. The fact is that true education enhances and enables consciousness and intelligence. Schooling seems to restrict them. Insofar as schooling is the prevalent mode of "education" in the modern world, consciousness and intelligence are being restricted on a massive scale. That is a global tragedy. There is an urgent need to bring back true education.

Fourth, mass marketing and the relentless drive for economic growth create powerful pressures on people to conform to prevailing fashions and to overconsume and overwork. This seriously impedes the growth of consciousness and intelligence. The cynic in us could be forgiven for believing that those in political and economic power are keen to prevent the emergence of a highly conscious, highly intelligent population. Although we often hear the complaint that the world has become too individualistic, the opposite may be the case. The true individual is a rarity today. In his prophetic novel Nineteen Eighty Four, George Orwell described a future where the population had become so weak-minded that they had very few had thoughts of their own. All their thoughts and opinions were shaped by skilful manipulators of the media. Although we have not reached the dystopia depicted by Orwell, we may not be all that far from it.

These are just some of the reasons why the idea of working on our consciousness and intelligence is not at the heart of everything the modern world is about. You will no doubt be able to think of others. If I were to try to summarise the overall effect of the world's failure to pay attention to consciousness and intelligence, I would say that our lives have become far too focused on the physical and the material. This has had very serious consequences. As Martin Luther King put it: "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power - we have guide missiles and misguided men." Too many of us live very narrow lives compared to the lives that we could live. You may be familiar with Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs". It is a triangle, with basic material needs at the bottom and our need to fulfil our human potential and become "self-actualised" at the top. I have projected the triangle downwards, so it looks like this:

The upper triangle, which is Maslow's Hierarchy, shows how we act in our lives - our outer behaviour. The lower triangle, which I have added, shows what it going on inside us. These are the deeper, inner causes of our behaviour, some of which are so deep that we are normally unaware of them. In other words, I am saying that we act not just out of needs (Maslow), but also out of other deeper, inner causes. This is very relevant to our discussion because, when we work on our intelligence and consciousness, we become much more aware of what is going on inside us. We become aware of values, goals, beliefs and assumptions that we might otherwise have taken for granted and failed to question. And, as we go even deeper, we become aware of the "metaparadigm", the very deep, unspoken set of beliefs that invisibly guides all our thoughts, words and actions, and behind virtually everything the modern world is about. When we work regularly on ourselves, we begin to inhabit larger areas of each of the two triangles. We move further up Maslow's Hierarchy and we move further down the lower triangle. That takes our focus away from materialism, and it allows us to evolve as human beings and to realise more of our potential to be highly conscious and intelligent.

It hope it is obvious that what I am advocating is a departure from the widely accepted idea that change for the better comes only when we make people more conscious about something in particular, and that the problems of the world will be solved only when we raise people's awareness about each of them, one by one. For example, it is assumed that we will be able to address the problem of climate change only when large numbers of people become fully conscious of the facts of climate change and of the implications of this for their behaviour and lifestyles, and then act on this consciousness. The prevailing belief is that when we raise people's awareness about the facts, the issues and the implications of any particular problem, then, hopefully, they will change. I am not arguing against single-issue campaigns as such. They are obviously much better than doing nothing and some of them have been quite successful. But I am arguing that, when we take the world's problems as a whole, single-issue campaigns will not be enough in themselves. They alone are unlikely to bring fundamental change. Although a minority of people do make significant changes to their behaviour once they become aware of the details and implications of a particular issue, most people simply carry on as before. Our behaviour is killing the planet, but we carry on exactly as before, driving and flying and consuming as if our lives depended on it. I think this happens because something big is missing from the picture - namely the development of intelligence and consciousness for their own sake. Becoming more consciousness and intelligent for its own sake is precisely what I am advocating and it is why I run my courses. So, what exactly do I mean by this? First of all, consciousness.

Part of my work is helping people improve the quality and range of their consciousness. The exercises and insights in the courses have been chosen with this in mind. The higher the quality and the greater the range, the more conscious we are. As the quality improves and the range increases, not only do we notice and understand things that we did not notice or understand before, we notice and understand at a depth we never experienced before. And, as the quality improves and range increases, we know ourselves better, we know others better, and we know the world better. We understand, at a deeper level, why things happen and why things are the way they are. We see how everything connects with everything else in ways that we had never imagined. We see more clearly than ever how our own thoughts, words and actions affect others and the world. And we see that, if we want the world to be a better place, there is much that we, as individuals, can do about this, by changing our own thoughts, words and behaviour. The more conscious we become, the more likely it is that our beliefs, values and behaviour will enhance people, nature and planet, rather than diminish them.

The other part of my work is helping people become more intelligent - helping them to put their consciousness into action by acting wisely and effectively. As I have already said, intelligence is as intelligence does. There is absolutely no point in being "intelligent" if you do not act intelligently. It is interesting to note that, as a rule, people find it relatively easy to become more conscious, but very difficult to become more intelligent. Becoming more conscious is essentially about being more aware, and experiencing and knowing more, whereas being more intelligent implies changing virtually everything you think, believe, say and do. That is a very tall order for all of us, yet nothing less than a tall order will enable us to preserve this planet and become the highly conscious, highly intelligent beings we are capable of becoming.

The courses I run make no claim to be definitive or comprehensive. Their purpose is to give people a map, some signposts, some suggested routes, and some hints and insights on how to make the most of their journeys in what may be quite unfamiliar territory. And I am aware that you do not have to do a course to become more conscious or intelligent. Most of us become more conscious and, to a lesser extent, more intelligent throughout our lives for a variety of reasons - we have a crisis or we are inspired by someone or something or we come across a life-changing insight or we are lucky enough to have a good teacher. And there is nothing new about working on one's consciousness or intelligence. The self-help/personal development movement is full of books and workshops that help people to develop certain aspects of their consciousness or intelligence - for example, how to become "highly effective" or "more intuitive" or "a better parent" or "a good listener" or "an inspiring leader". And there are many spiritual and religious traditions in which the growth of consciousness is regarded as central. Tibetan Buddhism and Sufism immediately spring to mind. That said, my own experience is that, when you work explicitly on the whole range of your consciousness and intelligence, you can accelerate the process and, in addition, develop very useful forms of consciousness that you might not otherwise develop in the normal course of your life.

It will not be easy. You will have to be disciplined and set aside time regularly, and you will have to be patient. If you have ever learned to ski, or learned another skill, you may have noticed that you did not improve smoothly and continuously. If you were like me, you improved in sudden "jumps" and sometimes actually got worse. It is exactly the same with consciousness work and intelligence work. On some days you feel you are soaring ahead. On other days you wonder whether it is worth it because nothing seems to be changing. And then one magic morning everything flows. It's suddenly easy and great fun for no apparent reason. And if you feel as I did, you will feel that a new world has opened up for you, and that your new-found skills enable you to go to places you have never been before.

A word of caution - just when you feel like getting away, metaphorically, from the commercial ski stations to explore remote peaks and valleys, the basics that you learned slowly and sometimes painfully at the beginning of your training now become more important than ever. An exploration of your consciousness and intelligence clearly does not bring dangers such as severe weather, difficult terrain and physical exhaustion, but the analogy is striking. When exploring new and unfamiliar places in your consciousness, it is crucially important that you are prepared for, and constantly aware of, the possibility of emotional exhaustion, mental disorientation, panic (in the face of something very unfamiliar, for example) and, not least, being overconfident about your skills and experience.

Although the courses are full of examples, insights and exercises, they can take you only so far. Ultimately, you are your own explorer and it is you who will decide how important consciousness and intelligence are for you and how much work you want to put into it. I am a mountaineer. I am constantly struck by the similarities between a progress in mountaineering and a progress in consciousness and intelligence (see Table below). Both involve effort, persistence and risks. But the rewards in each case are beyond words.

Progress in Mountaineering Consciousness and Intelligence
Walking the easy hills Basic experience - pleasure, curiosity and decision to take conscious work further
Basic navigation and safety Learning basic rules
Walking the bigger hills Recognising the scale and possibilities of what you have embarked on
Walking in winter First experience of real exposure to the very new and different. You will go further only if serious
Simple rock climbing Technique, security, and economic use of your energy
Simple winter climbing Importance of developing mental, emotional and physical health while training your consciousness and intelligence
Leading others Acute awareness of who you are and who others are. You now have enough knowledge and experience to teach a few things
Harder rock climbing Greater self-knowledge. You are preparing yourself for higher reaches of consciousness
Technical snow and ice climbing High level of all-round health and awareness. You are becoming familiar with sophisticated techniques
Alpine climbing Integrating all the skills and experience learned so far. Ascending to higher viewpoints.
Cultivating a sense of perspective, a guard against hubris.
World's biggest mountains Experiencing totally unfamiliar worlds. You need all your skills and wisdom because you could be at serious risk if you do not know what you are doing

I believe that lack of consciousness and intelligence is at the root of most, if not many, of our problems, be they personal, organisational, national or global. If this really is the deeper cause, then becoming more conscious and more intelligent must surely be the deeper solution. That has to start somewhere. It will have small beginnings. It will take time to become well known. But when it does, I think it will be unstoppable. I am convinced there will come a time, perhaps not too far in the future, when working on our consciousness and intelligence will be a normal part of our lives, and of our education, and that this will be reflected in our lifestyle, our culture, in everything we say and do. You might think this unlikely, but, ultimately, we will have nowhere else to go. All other "solutions" will be found wanting.



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