“Your flaw is to seek convenient explanations, explanations that fir you and your world…The explanation is not what you would call an explanation; nevertheless, it makes the world and its mysteries, if not clear, at least less awesome. That should be the essence of an explanation, but that is not what you seek. You’re after the reflection of your ideas.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Intellect Run Amok


I often have a critical view towards intellect. It seems to me that intellect has become a destructive presence in this day and age. So many modern day infrastructures that we may take for granted are intellectual monuments. Finance, Law, Medicine come to mind (ironically these were the supposedly “most cherished occupations” in the minds of parents of my generation) – all hugely elaborate and complex systems that are intellectual products of our times. Yet, in my mind, these three (and many others) are not only failing to support humanity at large but actually working against it – attacking it.

My stubborn insistence that all is good in the world … forces me to ask why this is so? Is there something that I am missing? If not, how am I misinterpreting my perception of the world? This time these questions came to my mind as I was beginning to collect notes for another post. And this time, I remembered to go back to Robert Pirsig where I feel I have found, once again, some comfort.

Robert Pirsig suggests that at the beginning of the 20th century, society (at least western society) went through a shift from social dominance to intellectual dominance. The test of what was good shifted from ‘Does it meet society’s approval?’ to ‘Does it meet the approval of our intellect?’.

“… November 11, 1918 … the end of World War I … President Woodrow Wilson belonged in both worlds, Victorian society and the new intellectual world of the 20th century: the only university professor ever to be elected president of the United States. Before Wilson’s time academicians has been peripheral within the Victorian power structure … intellectuals were not expected to run society itself. They were valued servants of society … Leadership was for practical, businesslike ‘men of affairs’.” read more

But apparently that revolution didn’t hold out very long. Intellect was premature:

“The intellectuals had preempted all the causes. Causes were to the 20th century intellectuals as manners had been to Victorians … They had everything figured out … ‘pursuit of happiness’ seemed to have become like the pursuit of some scientifically created mechanical rabbit that moves ahead at whatever speed it is being pursued. If you ever did catch it for a few moments it had a peculiar synthetic, technological taste that made the pursuit seem senseless.” read more

And ultimately the freedom it had achieved backfired on itself:

“… The Hippie revolution of the 60’s was a moral revolution against both society and intellectuality … children of well-to-do … people of the world who suddenly turned upon their parents & schools & society with a hatred no one could have believed existed …” read more

I believe that, as Robert Pirsig suggests, we are still deep in the clutches of a moral void. However, intellect has not stood still – it has shot forward in the hands of social institution such as academics and business. Intellect is sprinting to the future yet it never took the time to learn to walk. Intellect forgot to forge a healthy relationship with the society which it serves and upon which it stands. Try to imagine the USA  as a country without its constitution – it would have no purpose (to fight for, to fight against, to refine). Such is the state of intelect:

“The intellect’s evolutionary purpose has never been to discover an ultimate meaning of the universe. That is a relatively recent fad. It’s historical purpose has been to help a society find food,detect danger, and defeat enemies. It can do this well or poorly, depending on the concepts it invents for this purpose … Knowledge has grown away from this historic purpose and become an end in itself, just as society has grown away from it’s original purpose of preserving physical human beings … and this growing away … towards greater Quality is a moral growth. But those original purposes are still there. And when things get lost … it is useful to remember that point of departure.” read more

This explains to me why it seems (to me) that so many core social institutions we expect to support us in life seem to be working against us. This is why so much intellectual artifacts feel like, what I like to call, intellectual masturbations (it feels good thinking it but is ultimately useless or even destructive).

I suppose, in my spirit of embracing a goodness of the world, that there will be two artifacts to this untamed energy. The first is that sometime in the future it will bring us to social disaster (personally I feel we are really close if not already there). The second is that we will have at our disposal tremendous tools, born of rigorous intellectual efforts, to support us in crisis and to help us get through it and grow into a better future.

Final note: Though it felt extraneous to the central theme of this post I do feel it is worth noting that Robert Pirsig further suggest that the social moral values that surfaced in place of replaced the Victorian ones that were ousted by intellectuals were ultimately adopted from the next best and conveniently neighboring society: native Indians who it seems have since been trampled into dirt.


This entry was posted in Expanding, inside, Intellect Run Amok, Quality. You are welcome to read 9 comments and to add yours

9 Trackbacks

  • By A Veil - iamronen on February 21, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    […] and sent to prison on account of rape charges are not very good. We currently live in a world where socieites are not led by intellect or by intellectuals (and pretending otherwise is … […]

  • By Mocking Greatness - iamronen on October 2, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    […] I think that this time Grant, and almost everyone else who has chimed in on this mocking/acknowledging conversation is missing the point. It isn’t Nathan that is being mocked in…I think that this time Grant, and almost everyone else who has chimed in on this mocking/acknowledging conversation is missing the point. It isn’t Nathan that is being mocked in this commercial. It is greatness that is being mocked. This is no different then using the word “Yoga” to sell. In both cases it is immoral behavior – subverting moral high ground to business. The semi-intellectual debate around it and any potential it may have for inspiration or raising awareness of obesity is another example of intellect run-amok: […]

  • By Research Shows - iamronen on October 18, 2012 at 9:07 am

    […] then that is what it shows … with potentially devastating implications. This continues my intellect run amok […]

  • By We Are Not One - iamronen on October 20, 2012 at 9:32 am

    […] to see …. all in eloquently words made to sound smart … is yet another expression of intellect run amok. This entry was posted in Yoga, Yoga & Life You are welcome to add your comment […]

  • By Guns - iamronen on January 8, 2013 at 10:02 am

    […] intolerance and contempt for each other. Liberals hide behind a superficial and false sense of intellect. The conservatives hide behind antiquated beliefs. The result is a huge and volatile social gap. […]

  • By Cows with holes - iamronen on January 8, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    […] I don’t know what’s more sad, the way we treat these animals or the immense lies that we tell ourselves to mask and justify our stupidity, arrogance and horrible violence. Intellect run amok. […]

  • By Bitcoin: More Tech Masturbation? - iamronen on May 4, 2013 at 8:08 am

    […] In a similar way Bitcoin has a value vacuum. It’s an algorithm that squirts out data. The story being attached to it is an empty one … it is infested with malcontent rather then with an alternative vision. Another example of intellect run amok. […]

  • By Sacred Economics - iamronen on May 10, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    […] of in the future. It is a wonderful example of good application of intellect (as opposed to so many run-amok applications out […]

  • By A Chosen People!? - iamronen on July 29, 2013 at 7:38 am

    […] here in Romania I have felt for the most part welcome and embraced. I am again reminded that intellect can be destructive and that it must be tempered with a higher (spiritual?) power – one that I believe comes from […]

Leave a Reply