Clarity and Brilliance

The “clarity” of a diamond refers to the absence of defects, of imperfections that would otherwise obscure its transparency to light. At higher degrees of clarity a diamond will take on a “brilliance” where the magnification of light through its various facets has the effect of shining or generating a radiance from its own interior depths. Clarity is how deep into the diamond we can see, while its brilliance refers to the intensity of light it emits.

In this post I will use the attributes of clarity and brilliance in speaking of human consciousness. In other posts I have explored the distinct threads of intelligence, which are now recognized as our rational intelligence (RQ, previously IQ), our emotional intelligence (EQ, central to Social Emotional Learning or SEL), our visceral intelligence (VQ, mostly unconscious and responsible for regulating our body’s internal state and general health), and our spiritual intelligence (SQ, grounding us in Being and seeking unity with all beings).

All together, they comprise our Quadratic Intelligence, a dynamic braid of distinct threads (RQ, EQ, VQ and SQ) working together and constituting the holistic system of human consciousness.

When I first conceptualized this idea of our quadratic intelligence, I didn’t directly correlate them with the classical faculties of consciousness as developed in the Western (Greco-European) tradition: the mind (aka Intellect and Reason), the heart, and the will. It seemed obvious to me that the mind and rational intelligence are equivalent, as are the heart and emotional intelligence. The thread or strand of visceral intelligence was something of an outlier, and the will didn’t really seem to have a correlate in the quadratic system.

Only recently have I come to realize that our visceral intelligence and the classical faculty of the will make an equivalency of their own. The breakthrough happened as I was meditating on the rather obvious fact that everything going on inside my body – at the genetic, molecular, cellular, glandular, organ and organ system levels – are various kinds of action; and not just mechanical events, but actions that demonstrate inner aims, goal orientation, and intentionality.

For the longest time, Western science resisted – often dogmatically – the idea of purpose in nature and natural events.

This was likely because the Western imperial religion of Christianity had identified purpose with a transcendent deity whose will and plan determine the destiny of all things. (Instead, science eventually came to its own form of determinism, in the blind mechanics of matter. No external will or higher purpose was needed.)

This also can explain why the will has been relegated to the background in modern theories of psychology and psychotherapy. It gets a nod in the term “behavioral,” as in cognitive behavioral therapy, but is still considered an accessory to cognition and the faculty of the mind.

Today many scientists, especially biological scientists, are reconsidering the idea of purpose in nature, specifically in living processes. We don’t have to posit the existence of some extrinsic “director” to speak meaningfully of the adrenal gland’s action, for example, as “having the aim” of causing an excitatory response in the organs and muscles of the body “so that” it can manage a particularly stressful situation.

Now that science has shown definitively that intelligence is not above and outside of nature, but has instead evolved with nature and informs it from within, the association of intelligence with intentionality and purpose is opening new pathways of research.

At any rate, my realization that physiological events are not blindly mechanical but actions with purpose helped me draw the equation between the faculty of the will and the visceral intelligence of our body. What begins at unconscious levels (genes, cells, glands, organs and organ systems) gradually becomes conscious, then deliberate, and finally creative: the “will to live” (Schopenhauer), the “will to power” (Nietzsche), the “will to believe” (James) and the “will to meaning” (Frankl).

Whether conscious or unconscious, egoic or purely organic, all such actions should be associated with the will.

This equation represented an integral insight for me, bringing together in a single coherent model of human consciousness the functions and faculties of mind (rational intelligence, RQ), heart (emotional intelligence, EQ), and will (visceral intelligence, VQ), as well as our spiritual intelligence (SQ) in its introverted and extraverted, esoteric and ecstatic, peaceful and joyful, contemplative and transpersonal, grounded and communal modes, known widely across the cultures as soul and spirit.

Circling back to where we began, we can now place soul and spirit on the vertical axis of my “diamond” model of human consciousness. Soul is associated with the inner depths, essence, and grounding mystery of consciousness itself; while spirit is associated with its outer expression, radiance, and transpersonal outreach. Soul is within me; spirit is among us, in the sense that it moves through us to one another and unites us together in the higher wholeness of community (“together as one”).

We should properly speak of “my soul” but “our spirit” – or even better, the Spirit of unity, the Spirit of wholeness, or following another derivation of the root-word for whole, the Holy Spirit, where the uppercase ‘S’ indicates a move beyond the individual to the communal (transpersonal and holistic) level.

At the beginning of this post I spoke of “clarity” as the transparency that allows us to see into a diamond’s interior, and of “brilliance” as the magnified effect of light radiating from its center to our eyes. To complete the transfer of this analogy to human consciousness, all we need is to identify the diamond’s facets with our three faculties of mind, heart, and will.

Clarity, then, is the relative degree in which each facet is transparent to the depth, essence, or soul, of consciousness. And brilliance is the corresponding degree of radiance, or spirit, by which consciousness shines through its three faculties and engages with the larger Reality beyond ourselves.

This is all very interesting until we observe the extent to which our faculties can so quickly get clouded with their characteristic imperfections: the mind caught in its convictions, the heart bound by its attachments, and the will trapped by its ambitions. (The prefix ambi- refers to the conflicting drives of craving and fear, of wanting something so desperately but paralyzed by the prospect of not getting it, or of losing it if we should manage to track it down).

That’s when things get really interesting …

Published by tractsofrevolution

Thanks for stopping by! My formal training and experience are in the fields of philosophy (B.A.), spirituality (M.Div.), and counseling (M.Ed.), but my passionate interest is in what Abraham Maslow called "the farther reaches of our human nature." Tracts of Revolution is an ongoing conversation about this adventure we are all on -- together: becoming more fully human, more fully alive. I'd love for you to join in!

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