Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Permeability and Ability

Originally posted on May 6, 2014

My thesis this morning is that extraordinary abilities are to some significant degree due to an innate permeability of the mind to what some call “psychic” and others call “inspiration.” It occurred to me that our model of mind may be limited, overly materialistic. The reigning paradigm is that the contents of the mind are a closed system: Only what has been taken in during one’s life experience can be counted. While there is such a word as “inspiration,” the actualities implied by this word are ignored.

But what if there are spiritual or transcendental parts of mind that are not directly divine, nor are they at all religious? What if it’s possible that what we call unusual degrees of ability, talent, in fact do indeed at least partially arise from dimensions or realms that we hardly agree exist? (I realize that I am edging over into metaphysics. Yes.)

While there is broad agreement on the existence of the spiritual or divine realm, “modern” thinkers pooh-pooh this idea. As for psychic experiences—bosh! They can always be explained away. But they can’t, I think. And the reality of “psychic” or deeply intuitive experiences confronts our metaphysical assumptions about “reality.”

Now what occurred to me is that many strong abilities, knacks, talents, are not only inexplicable in ordinary terms, but perhaps forms of mildly to significantly strong psychic abilities. Just as Einstein intuited that what we call mass might be equivalent to massive amounts of energy (E=mc2), so too talent may be partly psychic, A=Ψ x (some factor).

That is to say, ability, talent, knacks, represent a dynamic whereby certain kinds of contents such as insights about music, math, language, plant-wisdom, healing herbs, etc. may represent irruptions into ordinary consciousness of that which is more pre-conscious and transcendental. That would explain why on rare occasions such gifts are prodigious, and on not-so-rare occasions, they remain startling and inexplicable.

It occurred to me that we really don’t know what accounts for greater or lesser intelligence. Might it be that in this or that way, minds are more or less permeable to inspiration? Those who are clever in some way can’t account for why certain things come easy to them. They just do. It’s sometimes surprising. Others assume that everyone else has the same ability, and gradually they learn that they don’t.

I’m not just talking about psychic phenomena such as knowing where the keys are lost or that something terrible has happened to a relative. I’m hypothesizing—with a sharp awareness that I may be mistaken—that many abilities that reveal an inexplicable talent are in fact variations of slightly psychic experiences.

I note that psychic experience can be very subtle, mild, as well as discernable. It all may be cultivated, but like music, some may intrinsically be gifted more fully than others. Indeed, might it be that just as magnetism is pronounced in some materials, in a very subtle way the same force explains many—most—forms of why things stick together rather than break apart.

Permeability to the Transcendent

Well, many folks don’t think there is really a transcendent realm. But most folks didn’t believe the world was round! It may be time for paradigms to shift. (There’s also the chance that I’m deeply mistaken, but what the hey, I’ll just spin this out.)

So, might whatever we call “talent” be a variable degree of permeability to the transcendental source of intelligence? There are many types—why should there not be?—and permutations. Permeability is also a variable, the possibility that mind can be more or less permeable to inspiration. Intensity and quality of inspiration can edge easily off into what are called “hallucinations.” But they may also take other forms, such as impressions, ideas that “pop” into one’s mind, ease of learning, aptitudes for “making stuff up,” for art, music, dance, poetry, mechanics, language, athletics, etc.

We have begun to recognize that intelligence is multiform, not unitary. Most people do better in some ways and not good at all in other ways. A few folks are extraordinarily talented in a few ways and rather dense in other aspects of their lives—most strikingly geniuses and idiot savants. But many others are not so striking: The distribution of their gifts can be remarkable or perhaps more subtle.

What if the mystery of intelligence is a relative permeability to the inflow from the transcendental realm. To even consider this—it’s an outrageous suggestion to committed materialists—one must dare consider that what we call intelligence involves the maturation of the frontal lobes so that they can open to the transcendent sources of higher intelligence. One must dare hypothesize that such sources do in fact exist—and this idea seems far too superstitious to Western rationalists.

I tend to side with Western rationalism against rank superstition—this is the source of doubt regarding the totalistic presumptions of autocracy (aristocracy, the divine right of kings, etc.) and organized religion. These presumptions of the fixed entitlements of that which has established itself as authority—often, at the outset, through very violent means!—have been called into question, and many medieval beliefs associated however loosely with these institutions—such as witch hunts and torture and horrible execution—were thus tarnished. But what if there were a few germs of truth mixed in with all the dross? Dare we ask that question?

Today we can dare a lot of stuff that might turn out to be foolish. That’s one of the prerogatives of living in a somewhat less desperate era. Less of our brains are caught up with fight or flight, desperate struggles for survival. Civilization tends to advance when the brain relaxes and opens to inspiration, and it needs a certain level of overall security, an absence of fear, a freedom to explore—which means also that to make a mistake need not be fraught with consequences—i.e., there is room for play, for fooling around, for experimentation.

So circling around, I have been entertaining the possibility that many of us—perhaps all of us—have some potentials to be a little or a lot “psychic,” “intuitive,” open to inspiration. What if this is what intelligence is? Some folks “get” ideas far faster than others, far easier. We have no other convincing explanations of what native intelligence is. As I said, also, these types of intelligence can be quite varied. Some folks have a knack for animals, sensing their moods and needs. Some folks are gifted with plants, they have a “green thumb.” Those latter skills tend to be marginalized or at least for most people not rewarded in Western “logocentric” culture—i.e, a culture that rewards giftedness with abstract symbols, words (law, politics) or numbers (economics, gambling).

But the point to make here is that we open our minds to the possibility that minds can open, do open, differentially—some more to this, others more to that. It’s called “talent,” and treated as if it were not spooky, as differentiated from people who can see where you lost your keys or foretell the future or weird stuff like that. But I’m suggesting that “psychic” phenomena are a bit like electricity—the analogy is loose, but not inappropriate. Ben Franklin stands out as one who discovered that lightning was electricity, but knew nothing about the many breakthroughs that were yet to come about this primal force in our lives.

It took until only a few hundred years ago to get this idea, and the idea and technology accelerated culture in innumerable ways. I’m suggesting that everything that is to be known is not yet known, and fundamental stuff like the nature of inspiration is one of these unknowns. For electricity, once we knew it existed, we found its faint operations in everything, in how stuff stuck together, tightly or loosely. I’m suggesting that psyche interpenetrates with everything, too, in various ways. I don’t claim to be able to name or characterize all those ways, any more than Ben Franklin knew all the permutations of the nature of the electromagnetic ground of physics. It’s enough I think to simply say, “Hey, there’s psychic stuff going on!”

Indeed, like sex, it’s a little taboo, a little weird, a little crazy. We have this illusion—and this is really crazy—that there’s normality. It’s an artificial blending, an averaging out, normality is; what’s really going on is uncountable variables distributed according to a bell-shaped curve. But on closer inspection, individually, everyone has some stuff they’re unaccountably good at—and often also some things they’re not at all good at. Okay, but the next question is to interrogate gifted-ness. What’s that about?

There are many things that merit further interrogation. We know about competition, but it’s harder to explain love, or a more dilute form, we-ness, togetherness. People can feel mass togetherness as a very nourishing, good thing, even if they don’t particularly like a few of the folks in the mass, and even if they really dislike a few! The overall sense is “The more we are together, the happier we’ll be!” (to take a line from a children’s camp song).

Anyway, in summary, I am proposing that psychic permeability, inspiration, correlates in a rather subtle and complex way with differences in sub-types of intelligence. There is no requirement that smart people are smart in all ways—that’s just a lazy-minded assumption, an over-generalization. And people can’t explain how or why they’re innately clever in certain ways. “It just comes to me easily,” is the closest they can get.

In summary, that’s my thinking this morning. What do you make of it?

One Response to “Permeability and Ability”

  • Maximilian says:

    Hallo Adam,
    I think this question and your answer is very interesting.
    But what if different types of intelligence can be explained by a higher sensitivity of the brain for information regarding that subtype of intelligence?
    e.g. a person who is highly emotionally intelligent. His brain can sense other’s feelings easier with his mirror neurons and process that information with less costs than other people. Maybe his neurons are better connected, there are more synapses or more myelinized synapses.This higher sensitivity can be due to genetic influences, parental influence (observational learning) etc. But the why is not my primary concern, but the how.

    Why is there a need to propose a transcendental force?

    I do am fascinated by this argument in regard to creativity. Ideas transcend the neuro-centric argumentation in my opinion. Why can I more easily find arguments and ideas regarding psychological questions and less so in the political realm? Both are abstract or logocentric in a word, but this was the case even before I followed my interest in psychology more intensely and formed more associations. It just came easier to me than law or politics.

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