Going Beyond Thinking Skills: Reviving an Understanding of Higher Human Faculties

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University of Durham, England, July 10
14 2005

Going Beyond Thinking Skills: Reviving an
Understanding of Higher Human Faculties

by Jeremy Henzel


This paper explores the vital need for a revival of an understanding
of the nature and extent of higher human cognitive faculties at a
time of profound educational crisis when the dominance of a narrow
utilitarian concept of schooling f
or the workplace is bound up with a
pervasive failure to awaken and nourish such higher faculties in
young people.

This failure will be examined in the wider paradigmatic context
of the dispiriting materialism or “reign of quantity” which can be
ded as one of the chief deformities of the contemporary world.
Associated with this deformity is the reduction, since the so
“Enlightenment”, of the original spiritual sense of

as a
“seeing” faculty centred in the Heart to its lower ratio
nal level as
a predominantly thinking, discursive and logical faculty situated in
the brain. It will be further argued that so pervasive has been the
impact of reductionist scientism in Western thought that the original
meaning of the word ‘intellect’ is n
o longer generally retrievable in
Western culture as a means of distinguishing the higher faculty from
the lower one.

Related to this need is the pressing need to revive the notion of

education itself, as opposed to the

tive approaches derived from target
driven “techno
which reduce human beings to conforming and performing cogs in the
industrial machine. Truly qualitative education (as opposed to
impoverished quantitative approaches masquerading as “quality
ssurance”) can only be based on a mature understanding of the full
range of human faculties

cognitive, affective and spiritual.

The paper will attempt to restore the authentic meaning of human
intellect (Greek
, Arabic
) with reference to ke
y concepts in
various spiritual traditions. Special attention will be given to
Islamic spirituality, with its rich and subtle description of the
hierarchy of human faculties. It will show how this vision of higher
intellectual faculties, encompassing abov
e all the capacity for
symbolic understanding and insight, transcends the fixation on
rational “thinking” so characteristic of conventional approaches to
cognition and cognitive education and offers to young people the
possibility of ways of seeing and per
ceiving which reflect their
deepest capacities as human beings.

I would like to say from the outset that it is not a
purely academic interest which has motivated this paper.
I have been involved in the practical education of young
people in one way or an
other for my whole working life,
as a teacher, a director of studies, a teacher trainer, a
university lecturer, a research supervisor, and now as
the director of an educational foundation, and it seems


to me that we are in the grip of a profound educationa

which requires a total re
assessment of the
nature, purpose and methodology of education.

Above all, this re
assessment requires the revival of an
understanding of higher human faculties, and in
particular the reclamation of the true nature of
Intellection. The historical reduction and degradation of
this faculty in Western culture has ensured that the
Intellect is now almost invariably associated not with a
quality of

or spiritual
, which
is essentially a percepti
ve, intuitive, contemplative
faculty of direct insight, innate and common to all human
beings, but with the processes of
thinking, conscious deliberation and logical reasoning
which have been so good at solving analytic and

problems and so successful in driving
forward what we are conditioned by our own ideology to
regard as “progress and development”.

Phrases like “driving forward”, or “ratcheting up”, so
common in management
speak and political spin these days,
tell us
a lot about what this inflation of the lower
intellect represents

now, more than ever, not just
“driving” and “motivating” us to goal
driven and
purposeful activity, but increasingly out of balance and
in dangerous “over
drive” as our workforce, oppresse
d by
impatient and urgent demands to produce and “deliver”
more and more in less and less time,

and overwhelmed by
unmanageably complex “systems”,

is driven to ever
levels of stress, exhaustion, and demoralisation.

Brian Thorne

reminds us that

it is the “blind slumber”
ingrained in the lives of modern Western men and women,
which is “fast becoming the collective neurosis of our
contemporary culture”.

It is ironic that the frenetic
hyperactivity of modern life is actually a form of
, which really means not laziness but

of the one thing that is needful.

That one thing that is needful can be defined in many
ways, and we shouldn’t switch off if the words some
people use are different from ours and come from
, perspectives, or traditions of which we are
ignorant or which make us feel uneasy. These days, in our
predominantly secular society, it tends to be the
language of religion which provokes such unease, or even
downright hostility. We need to discover and
the essential unity behind all those perspectives which
honour the innate capacities of the fully human being,


whether the words used to describe them and the methods
used to nurture them come from psychology, education, the
creative arts, lingu
istics, literature, history, cultural
studies, science, mythology, philosophy, spirituality or
religion. We need synthetic, interdisciplinary minds
which can discern the deep structure of shared concepts
and values behind divisive terminology.

In this wa
y we may conceive of the one thing that is
needful as the development of higher cognitive and
perceptive faculties, such as insight and symbolic
understanding; we may see it as an essentially relational
and affective mode of awareness increasingly at risk
in a
culture which gives such eminence to thinking,

increasingly to that abstract, quasi
autistic, autonomous
kind of thinking which, under the false banner of

engenders inhuman, monolithic systems; we
may conceive of it as the educati
on of the soul, or of
the heart, or the development of full human potential, or
the awareness of the sacred, or a relationship with the
divine; or we may choose to describe it as the attainment
of self
realisation, or the knowledge of a higher reality
or a

Supreme Being, or, indeed, the consciousness and
love of God, however we may name that ultimate Truth. We
should not be bound by words, affiliations and limiting
identities to such an extent that we only feel
comfortable with a set vocabulary which articu
lates a
single outlook or tradition.

But, forgetting that one thing, however we may describe
it, we go implacably about our business, striving,
competing, achieving, performing, multi
outwitting, texting, ‘phoning, e
mailing, upgrading,
g, ratcheting up standards, modelling best
practice, driving forward the agenda, pushing the
envelope, managing risks, managing time, planning short

and long
term goals, strategising, formulating
policies and putting them in place, chairing meeti
imposing sound commercial disciplines, meeting targets
and deadlines, building cohesive teams, brainstorming,
giving power
point presentations, rooting out dead wood,
appraising, inspecting, evaluating, assessing,
monitoring, testing, improving effici
ency, providing
quality assurance, specifying performance indicators,
checking tick
boxes, defining outcomes, imposing systems
of accountability, pressurising, oppressing, bullying,
tracking, networking, and of course, dare I say,
conferencing, and e
ven video
conferencing, and above all,

as Thorne says, “the list of frenetic
activities and judgmental processes is endless”.

Have we


forgotten that to “deliver”, in its original meaning, is
to “set free”,

not to enslave either ourselves or

Many years ago I studied for my Ph.D. research the
cognitive processes of my students at the University of
Technology in Papua New Guinea, who were trying to learn
scientific concepts in what was for them a third language
(English) from the stand
point of an indigenous culture
which only two generations before them had been described
by Australian explorers as “stone age”.

On that note, I wonder if you heard about the recent
archaeological research which suggests that Palaeolithic
Man (that is,

Stone Age Man, before the comparative
modernity of the Neolithic, or New Stone Age) only had to
work three hours a day in order to sustain himself and
his family. The rest of his time was spent in family and
social life, the arts, leisure, ritual and r
We have come a long way since the Old Stone Age! I am
reminded of President Eisenhower’s prediction in the
1950’s that within ten years Americans would only be
working four days a week because of labour
devices. Look at them now! And loo
k at us, too! So strong
is the conditioning wrought by the myth of progress, so
powerful these illusions, that we fail to see what is
before our very eyes.

Earlier this year, I picked up the Guardian

on my way to
speak at a conference on Higher Educatio
n in Developing
Countries in London and noticed an article about our
oppressive work culture. Next to the headline “Work is a
four letter word for those in their 30s”, there was a
striking photograph of a dejected young man sitting on a
flight of stone ste
ps, briefcase between his legs,
leaning forward onto tightly clasped hands, with the
caption: “Stressed, worried and overworked…the price of
climbing the career ladder is too high for
thirtysomethings”. The article, reporting the findings of
a study by the

Employers’ Forum on Age, also reports the
findings of Brian Thorne, derived from his psycho
therapeutic encounters, that workers in their thirties
“gradually tumble to the fact that work has become the
totality of their existence and so much of their ener
intellect and emotion goes into making their way up the
hierarchical ladder. They are exhausted and they realise
they are losing touch with their friends or missing out
on aspects of their children’s development that can never


I thought of a y
oung man I know, for the young man on the
steps looked a bit like him. Working in a pressurised job
in London in the field of ethical business practice,
about to be married, and pursuing a part
time M.A. to
enhance his promotion prospects, he fortunately h
as the
wisdom and integrity not to allow himself to be swallowed
up, but I know he battles constantly with the challenge
to balance his need for success with his need to be a
rounded human being and to hold on to core values.

I thought too of a young

woman, striving so hard to
complete her training as a teacher. A born teacher of
young children, with a two
year old daughter of her own,
longing to impart the joy

and delight of learning
through play, observation and discovery, I see her
shackled by the

wretched apparatus of policies, planning,
objectives, targets, strategies and “assessment
opportunities”, and every budding insight and spontaneous
inspiration blighted or straitjacketed by the demand
always to make explicit how they comply with these
stems” and how they conform to the lifeless
terminology in which they are framed.

I recall an
article in the Independent which reported the insanity
that children are to be assessed on their physical,
emotional, intellectual and social development betwee
the ages of three and six, a task which will necessitate
the completion of 3,510 tickboxes for a class of 30

My heart goes out to all young people today, labouring as
they do under the yoke of our impoverished view of human
faculties and hu
man potential. When will we begin to
understand what our children hunger for, and nourish
them? If anyone deserves an ASBO (Anti
Social Behaviour
Order) is has to be the ideologues, architects and
enforcers of government educational policy who repeatedly
state that the number
one priority of education in this
country is not the acquisition of liberating knowledge,
the nourishment of the imagination, the development of
character or the realisation of what it means to be fully
human, but the driving forward
of national economic
development goals so that we can all continue perpetually
to increase our material standards of

to the
detriment of our own happiness and quality of

I do not even touch on the destruction of the livelihoods
of the les
s “advanced” and the degradation of the
environment necessitated by our insatiable greed.

And the government’s answer? The introduction, so I have
just heard, of the inspiring subject of money management


into the
primary school


the basics o
savings, spending and running a budget. Our educational
vision and philosophy is now moulded not by those who
know how to educate (that is, from Latin
“draw out” our innate potential as human beings
) but by
people who know how to run an effi
cient economy. Their
overuse of the term “delivery” to describe the successful
realisation of their policies reflects well their natural
affinity with the world of shopping.

A columnist in
The Independent

newspaper, referring to
our education secretary
of the time as “Bruiser Clarke
the boffin
basher”, believes that “his dead
utilitarian code reduces education to churning out
limited, wealth
producing units.”

Indeed, if you want to
produce the modern equivalent of a regimented empire
serving army o
f ledger clerks and petty officials (that
is, an army of unquestioning and conforming cogs in the
economic machine) you don’t need creative people with

apart from those who misuse their
imaginative powers to manipulate consumers. Least of all

do you need emotionally intelligent people, or reflective
and self
aware people, or people of spiritual vision. You
don’t even need people who can think much beyond the kind
of functional “thinking skills” which reduce the miracle
of the human mind to mer
e rationalisation.

To use a
chilling phrase I recently heard uttered by a scientist
heralding the future development of the human race, what
you ideally need are people with a “digitally re
mastered consciousness.”

But to return to the theme of not se
eing what is before
our very eyes, an American philanthropist recently sent
me the details of some recent research in visual
perception which was aired on National Public Radio and
which suggests that “if you don’t see something often,
you often don’t see

The context of this was a
discussion about how to address the problem of ignorance
of other cultures, or worse, cultural prejudice, and how
to deal with it (and the wider issues raised by the
pernicious doctrine of the Clash of Civilisations)

cultural education

not a strong card in
the American educational system nor in their corporation
dominated media.

I replied by referring to my research in Papua New
Guinea, which found, on the other hand, that “if you see
something too often,
you may see nothing else”. A degree
of top
down or concept
driven processing is of course
essential if we are to process material rapidly. In the


field of visual perception, it is well known that in the
case of ambiguous images, the brain tended to
guate them on the basis of familiar or
stereotypical views derived from our knowledge of the

However, when semantic expectations or global schemata
become fixed scripts instead of merely provisional
hypotheses they can override new information whi
ch we
need to process more slowly and accurately from the
bottom up through syntactic and lexical analysis if we
are to update and refine the state of our existing

It is of course well known to cognitive
scientists that effective learning requ
ires an
oscillation or interplay between top
down and bottom
processes, or, in philosophical language, a process of
dialectic or critical engagement by which ideas are
cumulatively refined. This is, after all, one of the
founding principles of Western

And yet, our one
sided, reductionist view of the
Intellect has become so entrenched in our culture that it
has become very difficult to reclaim its authentic
meaning, purpose and scope. People have simply forgotten
what it is. “If you don
’t see something often, you often
don’t see it, but if you see something too often, you may
see nothing else”.

As I was writing this paper, it became very clear to me
that there is a pressing need to connect up the dots
between various approaches to cogn
ition which reflect
that disillusionment with the over
emphasis on the lower
level of the intellect in our culture and education

what Guy Claxton calls “d
mode”, or
“deliberation mode”

and defines as the sort of
intelligence concerned with “figu
ring matters out,
weighing up the pros and cons, constructing arguments and
solving problems…a way of knowing that relies on reason
and logic, on deliberate conscious thinking. We often
call this intelligence ‘intellect’.”

You are not
thinking;” said Nei
ls Bohr to Albert Einstein, “you are
merely being logical.”

Claxton himself points out that growing dissatisfaction
with the assumption that d
mode is the be
all and end
of human cognition is reflected in various alternative
approaches to the notion
of intelligence, such as Howard
Gardner’s ‘multiple intelligences’ and Daniel Goleman’s
‘emotional intelligence’. However, as he rightly says,
“to understand more broadly how the different facets of


intelligence fit together,
we have to find an approach
at does not presuppose the primacy of the intellect.


(my emphasis).

I would want to add to these alternative approaches the

work of scientists such as F. David Peat,

who have
synthesised anthropology, history, linguistics,
metaphysics, cosmology and e
ven quantum theory to
describe the way in which the worldviews and indigenous
teachings of traditional peoples differ profoundly from
the way of seeing the world embedded in us by linear
Western science. If there is any clearer example of a
fixed script wh
ich prevents learning, it is the
profoundly limiting assumption that other ‘non
scientific’ modes of enquiry are invalid, and that
indigenous science should not be called a science at all.
As Peat says, “this is the inevitable conclusion within a

whose values are dominated by the need for
progress, development, evolution, and the linear
unfolding of time”.

But most of all, I want to connect these vital
correctives and re
orientations with the much more
spacious view of human Intellect which is
shared by all
living spiritual traditions. I would like to give special
attention to the insights we can gain from Islamic
spirituality, with its rich and subtle description of the
hierarchy of human faculties, as a means of reviving this
enriched vision o
f human Intellect, which has such
profound educational implications at this time.

In this way, we don’t need, as Claxton suggests, “to find
an approach that does not presuppose the primacy of the
intellect”, but only need to redefine what the human
lect is, and give it back its capital ‘I’. This is a
work of reclamation, of revival of an original concept,
rather than the formulation of a novel concept. This
wisdom is already accessible to us, and we only need to
connect it up to the findings of moder
n research in
exactly the same way as Peat’s work has shown the
remarkable resemblance between the indigenous teachings
of native American peoples and the insights that are
emerging from modern science.

But before we excavate this unifying concept, let m
briefly summarise the characteristics of Claxton’s ‘d
mode’. I hesitate to connect ‘d
mode’ with the stated
aims of the IACEP, but they seem rather similar.


The IACEP website states that “perception, thinking,
learning and problem solving can be unders
tood and
ultimately improved by the development and application of
systematic, identifiable, and communicable processes of
logical thinking.”


~ is a way of knowing that relies on reason and logic, on
deliberate conscious thinking which works we
ll when the
problem it is facing can be easily conceptualised;

~ is much more interested in finding answers and
solutions than in examining the questions;

~ assumes that the way is sees the situation is the way
it is… and the idea that the fault may be
in the way the
situation is perceived or ‘framed’…does not come
naturally to d

~ sees conscious, articulate understanding as the
essential basis for action, and thought as the essential
solving tool;

~ seeks and prefers clarity, and neithe
r likes nor values

~ operates with a sense of urgency and impatience;

~ is purposeful and effortful rather than playful;

~ is precise;

~ relies on literal and explicit language ;

~ works with concepts and generalisations;

~ works well whe
n tackling problems which can be treated
as an assemblage of nameable parts and are therefore
accessible to the function of language in segmenting and

Claxton contrasts d
mode with slower, “unconscious”
processes such as “ruminating, mulling
things over; being
contemplative or meditative” and cites recent scientific
evidence which “shows convincingly that the more
patient, less deliberate modes of mind are particularly
suited to making sense of situations that are intricate,
shadowy or ill de

He believes that the
overemphasis in recent years on the evolution and
function of the conscious mind (as, for instance, in the
work of Dennett, Penrose, and Ornstein) has caused us to
continue to overvalue those modes of mind that are most
iated with consciousness and to ignore those that
are less conscious, or require a different image of mind.
“Much of this wave of research and speculation on
consciousness must be seen as symptomatic of our cultural
obsession with the conscious intellect a
nd not a
corrective to it.”


He continues: “Our culture has come to ignore or
undervalue [slow ways of knowing], to treat them as
marginal or merely recreational…The individuals and
societies of the West have rather lost touch with the
value of contempl
ation. Only active thinking is regarded
as productive”.

Again, “We find ourselves in a culture which has lost
sight (not least in the education system) of some
fundamental distinctions, like those between being wise,
being clever, having your ‘wits’ abo
ut you, and being
merely well informed. We have been inadvertently trapped
in a single mode of mind that is characterised by
gathering, intellect and impatience, one that
requires you to be explicit, articulate, purposeful and
to ‘show your wor
king’. We are thus committed (and
restricted) to those ways of knowing that can function in
such a high
speed mental climate: predominantly those
that use language

(or other symbol systems) as a medium
and deliberation as a method…. However, to tap into t
other modes of knowing which require patience, intuition
and relaxation, we must “dare to wait”, for such knowing
“emerges from, and is a response to, not

To rehabilitate the slow ways of knowing, the “crucial
step…is not the acquisition
of a new psychological
technology [Claxton lists brainstorming, visualisation,
mnemonics and I would also add accelerated learning, with
its revealing connotations of speed and urgency] but a
revised understanding of the human mind…Clever mental
… miss the point if they leave in place the
same questing, restless attitude of mind. In many courses
on ‘creative management’…instead of calling a meeting to
‘discuss’ the problem, you call one to ‘brainstorm’ it,
or to get people to draw it with crayons.

But the
pressure for results…is still there.”

F. David Peat calls the more leisurely process of
learning “coming

“Each person learns for
himself or herself through the processes of growing up in
contact with nature and society; by observi
ng, watching,
listening, and dreaming.”

This sounds very much like
Claxton’s “learning by osmosis”. Peat points out that
Polanyi’s notion of “tacit knowledge” also comes close to
this vision of coming

This knowledge,
according to Polanyi, is

not transmitted through books or
verbal instruction but is known through the whole of
one’s being through direct experience and

with the thing to be known.


Peat maintains that the natural tendency in Western
culture is to “warn, help, teach
, instruct and improve”
instead of allowing people to learn from their

Under the heading “A Story about Knowledge
and Knowing”

he relates a story told by Joe Couture, a
therapist and traditional healer, which explores the
implications of the
se two ways of knowing and the clash
between a Western education and his own Blackfoot
background. The story shows how traditional people teach
by telling stories which come out of their direct
experiences rather than from the simple imparting of
facts or

the application of abstract logical reasoning.
In this case a Native Elder, speaking about the
experience of his grandson at a local school, “had no
need to analyse the philosophy of the local school board
or discuss the relative value of different world
views. He
simply told a story… which brought into focus some of the
things that people were sensing and feeling about the
school’s effect on the community.”

The story the Elder told was about the time when he was a
boy and had to make a long trip along t
he Yukon River to
Dawson City. His old pickup truck had broken down and he
had faced a journey of over a hundred miles and under
adverse conditions. In the end he had made it through.
The old man said that his grandson could now read and
write, but he was
sure that if the boy were to make the
same journey alone he would never make it back.

This story reminds me of another one, related by the
Harvard educationalist Roland Barth in his book
By Heart

“On June 17, 1744, the commissioners from Mary
land and Virginia
negotiated a treaty with the Indians of the Six nations at
Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Indians were invited to send boys to
William and Mary College. The next day they declined the offer:

“We know that you highly esteem the type of learn
ing taught in
those colleges, and that the maintenance of our young men while
with you, would be very expensive to you. We are convinced that
you mean to do us Good by your Proposal; and we thank you
heartily. But you, who are wise must know that different

have different Conceptions of things and you will therefore not
take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of Education happen not
to be the same as yours. We have had some Experience in it.
Several of our young People were formerly brought up at th
Colleges of the Northern Provinces; they were instructed in all
of your Sciences; but when they came back to us, they were bad
runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods

not fit
for Hunters, Warriors, nor counsellors, they were totally goo
for nothing.

“We are, however, not the less oblig’d by your kind offer,
tho’ we decline accepting it; and to show our grateful Sense of
it, if the Gentlemen of Virginia will send us a Dozen of their


Sons, we will take Care of their Educations, instruct t
hem in all
we know, and make Men of them.”

Barth is relating this story to illustrate the tension
between what he calls the top
down teacher
Transmission of Information model of learning (or “Sit ‘n
Git”) and the Experiential model, and to the va
lue of
adventure education programs.

Now, we might easily dismiss the story as largely
irrelevant. After all, you might say, what need is there
in the modern world for the preservation of a culture so
dependent on the manly skills of running, living in t
woods, and fighting, even if we might agree that the
other skill so prized by the Indians of the Six Nations

that of counselling

is very much in demand.

And, to
return to the story told by the Blackfoot Elder, how
often is the need going to arise
for the skills which
require a boy to travel a hundred miles in rugged country
in adverse conditions in order to get home? These days,
children don’t even need to walk to school, so perilous
is such a journey considered to be by their parents.

However, c
ommenting on the story, Barth

reports research
which has shown that students who participate in
adventure programs show significant improvement in their
solving abilities, leadership skills, social
skills and independence. Furthermore, the gains o
f such
students continued to be realised

the experience in
contrast to educational programs where the learning gains
fade rapidly after the program ends.

There is a deeper dimension to contact with nature

which Barth doesn’t really address, p
artially seduced as
he is by the d
mode dimension of proven ”benefits”,
“gains” and “improvements” in “problem
solving”. If he
didn’t write as well as he did, he might tell us that
these are some of the useful gains that are, to use the
hideous term, “del
ivered” by adventure education

As Al

puts it, “tasting (Arabic
) is the
only way to certitude.” Al
Ghazali also points out that
tasting (or internalisation through experience) is the
only way to go beyond the “conventional learn
ing of the
age, treating as it did only the more superficial aspects
of man’s condition”. In his day, he was referring to
formal religious knowledge without spiritual experience
as the limiting “conventional learning of the age”, but
these days we might ju
st as well see such conventional
limitations in an educational system which increasingly


detaches young people from that experience of “tasting”
or direct experience.


another great Sufi, taught that “The Intellect of
intellect is your kernel; the
intellect is only the

Unfortunately, in our culture, it is the husk of the
intellect (with that small ‘i’) which has been promoted
beyond its station to masquerade as the pinnacle of human
cognitive development. Piaget is partly to blame,
g as he does the intuitive, practical

to the infantile level of “sensorimotor
intelligence” which is

dominant during the first two years
of life, to be superseded and transformed in due course
by more powerful, abstract, intellectual ways of


notably, the “formal operations” of hypothetico
deductive thinking and theory construction. Claxton
points out that there is an implicit assumption in
Piaget’s ‘stage theory’ of development that d
mode is the
highest from of intelligence, and h
is influence on
several generations of educators has ensured that
“schools, even primary schools and kindergartens, saw
their job as weaning children off their reliance on their
senses and their intuition, and encouraging them to
become deliberators and ex
plainers as fast as possible.”


It is surely the case that the development of the
rational mind has even undermined those capacities which
we all naturally possessed at earlier stages of
development, such as the capacity for awe and wonder in
the face of

mysteries which are inaccessible to the mind.

The original meaning of the word

in English
was ‘to stand in the midst of’

that is, to understand
by direct experience and engagement.

The word
is the only instance in modern
sh of the survival of the prefix

as meaning
‘between’ or ‘among’ (as in Old English
, ‘to
investigate, seek amongst’). In all other cases the
prefix means ‘below’ or ‘beneath’. Old English
meant literally ‘to stand in the midst


Modern German
(from Middle High German
is based on a different prefix (

which means ‘in
front, or on top of’, so
literally means ‘to
stand in front of, or on top of’. Ionic Greek

, ‘to understand’ also

means to ‘stand on top
of, stand over’.


Two types of understanding are implicated here:
understanding through direct experience and engagement
(‘standing amongst’

) and understanding
through observation (‘standing in front of, or on top of


). Significantly, it was these two forms of
learning which Francis Bacon regarded as the basis of his
learning by ‘induction’, that is, learning by experience
and observation, as opposed to the outmoded methods of
medieval scholasticism based
on abstract logic and
authority. The revival of experience and observation was
at the root of the scientific revolution in Europe.

However, in the history of the West, the notion of
‘experience’ was gradually reduced to that of mere
‘experimentation’. ‘S
tanding in front of, or on top of’
(i.e. objectivity, objectification) has taken precedence
over ‘standing in the midst of’ (subjectivity, direct
experience, tasting). In other words, Bacon’s notion of
‘experience’ was gradually reduced to that of mere
perimentation’, which explains the spectacular success
of the scientific method to the detriment of other forms
of inquiry and perception involving faculties of direct

To put “d
mode” or “formal operations” in their place,
the function of the low
er level of the intellect (Latin
, Greek
) in all spiritual traditions is to
acquire and extend knowledge not for its own sake but for
the purpose of verifying the innate Knowledge of higher
realities which exists in the innermost Heart of ever
human being and which is directly accessible to the
higher intellectual function (Latin
, Greek

The Arabic word for Intellect,

combines reason and the higher intellect in its sense of
understanding, or m
heart. In its highest
sense it is the “universal principle of all intelligence,
a principle which transcends the limiting conditions of
the mind”.

Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

refers to this higher
faculty of intellection as the Active Intellect,

means o
f approaching the Divine Intellect, of which it is
a reflection. It is through the Intellect, if purified,
that man can know the inner essence or principles (
of created things by means of direct apprehension or
spiritual perception. The Intellect is

the faculty which
dwells in the depth of the soul and constitutes the
innermost aspect of the Heart,

the organ of

It is this faculty, again, which confers


on us the capacity to penetrate to mythical, archetypal
and symbolic meanings. “We
know the truth, not only by
reason, but also by the heart”, said Blaise Pascal.

It is important to realise that the multi
conception of Intellect denoted by the word

not only
encompasses both reason and insight, or conceptualisation

language and direct spiritual perception, but
also includes a
moral dimension
. The conception of
‘excellence’ expressed in the Arabic word

is in
fact inseparable from goodness and virtue, whereas the
Western conception of ‘excellence’ is more

en than not limited to personal mastery, achievement
and success. The moral and cognitive dimensions are
therefore intertwined, and not separated.

In a
hierarchically ordered conception of human faculties,
cognitive psychology is part of moral philosophy,

is itself derived from, and subordinate to, spiritual

In a detailed study of the concept of
, appropriately
titled “
Between wisdom and reason: aspects of ‘aql (mind
cognition)”, Crow states that “the mystery of human
e or cognition is the subject of current
based studies in the field of ‘cognitive
psychology’” He points out that “investigators in
different fields are now questioning the definition of
intelligence accepted by many scientists (the single
itary entity or g factor, for general intelligence),
and are advancing concepts such as emotional
intelligence, social intelligence, or moral intelligence,
as well as ‘wisdom’… Noteworthy is the re
appearance of
the term ‘wisdom’, connoting a combination
of social and
moral intelligence, or in traditional terms: that blend
of knowledge and understanding within one’s being
manifested in personal integrity, conscience, and
effective behaviour.”

He concludes that one of the key components of the
concept of

‘intelligence’ expressed by the term

spiritual: teaching how to rectify one’s
integrity and to cause one’s human impulses, faculties
and latent powers to flourish, with the purified emotions
promoting the operation of a higher intellige

Peat explains that “knowledge, within a traditional
society, is not the stuff of books but the stuff of life.
Even in the English language that word
has its
origins in a verb or activity.

In medieval times it
served as a verb somewhat l
ike our modern
to acknowledge


and it meant to own the knowledge of something and
perceive something as true. In turn, the origins of the
verb lay in yet another process

the verb
to know

which is a term of extremely ancient Aryan origins that
had to do

with perception, recognition, and the ability
to distinguish.

From this Indo
European base,

we also of course derive the English words
and notion
, as well as
, although Shipley points
out that the authentic concept underlyi
s, “higher knowledge of spiritual things”. “I
know, therefore I can”, proclaims Shipley, presumably
parodying the less generative

(and hence essentially
sterile) Descartian axiom “I think, therefore I am”.

Thus, to the earliest

peoples of Europe and Asia


had more to do
with a
discriminating perception of the mind and the senses than
with the accumulation of facts.”

(my emphasis).

This discriminating perception is also something quite
different from abst
ract thinking and reasoning. The
origin of the English word
also goes back to

ancient Indo
European root, whose connotations were not
restricted to conceptual thought processes but
encompassed perception, reflection, imagination, knowing,

thankfulness, and goodwill

faculties of mind

In modern Western culture, however, the original meaning
of the word ‘Intellect

is no longer generally retrievable
as a means of distinguishing the higher faculty from the
lower one.

Albert Einste
in, one of the greatest
constructers of scientific theory, warned against the
valuation of the rational mind: “The intuitive mind
is a sacred gift; the rational mind is a faithful
servant. We have created a society that honours the
servant and has for
gotten the gift.” Thomas Moore also
writes of the way in which the over
valuation of the
rational intellect not only diminishes inidividual
potential but also de
souls our institutions : “Without
an animated, educated heart,” he writes, “the intellect
ars superior, and we give too much attention and
value to it. Our institutions and ideas then lack the
humanizing breath of the soul.”

It is therefore hardly surprising that there is
widespread suspicion of ‘intellectuals’ and growing
disillusionment wi
th scientism.

People sense the
inhumanity and arrogance of reason detached from the
heart. There can be no true intellectuality without human


values and spiritual intelligence. Every teacher should
follow T.S. Eliot’s wise dictum that “It is in fact a
rt of the function of education to help us escape

not from our own time, for we are bound by that

from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our
own time.” Scholars, researchers and teachers bound
themselves by such limitations are hardly
in a position
to help others escape from them.

The devastating loss of the authentic meaning of
Intelligence and the absurdly disproportionate emphasis
given to lower levels of rationality is largely
responsible for the debilitating instructional and
ooling regime we now see masquerading as education

an oppressive, sclerotic and soulless utilitarian regime
sustained by blinkered and robotic materialists,
technocrats, IT professionals, managerialists, control
freaks, testers, measurers and surveillanc
e agencies;
overwhelming and crippling teachers with unworkably
complex systems of recording and accountability;
negating creativity and imagination through the
cumulative imposition of one burdensome initiative after
another; confounding the exploration

of that potentially
expansive inner space through the tyranny of time
pressure devoted almost entirely to arid or trivial
objectives; demoralising and dispiriting

our young
people with an ever
increasing weight of factual content

and obsessive testing
, and totally failing to answer
their hunger for meaning, inspire their deeper human
aspirations or engage soul or spirit.

The rampant decline in the mental health of children and
adolescents, revealed by studies which have exposed the
growing incidence
of stress, depression, compulsive
disorders and even suicide, is now a national disgrace,
and they carry this malaise into their adult life, where
it is further compounded by an oppressive work culture.

And not content with the oppression of our own you
people by this reductionism which confuses genuine
qualitative education with mere efficiency and quantity
of output, it seems we also wish to export this malaise
to other countries in the name of progress and

I am not referring here to t
he imminent colonisation of
France and the destruction of the French social model by
more efficient and competitive Anglo
Saxon free
economics (although as an Englishman living and working
in France I hope that


the likely spread of this virus can a
t least be averted
for a while so that we can continue to enjoy what remains
of a civilised existence based on a knowledge of how to
live and how to relate to other people through a real
sense of community and a respect for relaxed leisure time
spent with
family and friends).

No, the malaise is spreading much further afield. At a
conference on Higher Education in Developing Countries in

at which I spoke about the need to revive an
authentic notion of qualitative education based on the
education o
f the higher faculties of mankind, it dismayed
me to see an almost total dominance of Western models of
called “quality assurance”, for such is the reach and
influence of this debilitating virus whose global
hegemony takes away any confidence which educ
ators in
other cultural settings might have in their own approach
to ensuring quality based on their own traditions.

None of these exported models had any concept of a higher
education based on the higher faculties of mankind

is a truly qualitati
ve education of the human being

even though they claimed to assure “quality” in Arab
universities, usually by reforming structures and
improving management styles. Neither did any of them have
any concept of how the reclamation of the finest elements
traditional Islamic civilisation might contribute to
quality. It was sad to see a once great civilisation
reduced to offering apologetic imitations of the worst of
Western education,
which is based not on any
understanding of higher human faculties, and in
not even on an intermediate concept of humane education.

The American social critic Neil Postman coined the word
‘technopoly’ to describe our dominant worldview (now, it
seems, increasingly homogenizing the world through
globalisation) based
on the belief that “the primary, if
not the only goal of human labour and thought is
efficiency; that technical calculation is in all respects
superior to human judgment; that in fact human judgment
cannot be trusted, because it is plagued by laxity,
uity, and unnecessary complexity; that subjectivity
is an obstacle to clear thinking; that what cannot be
measured either does not exist or is of no value; and
that the affairs of citizens are best guided and
conducted by ‘experts’”.

I would like to wra
p up this appeal for the revival of
Intelligence with another point about the use of
language. Unlike Arabic, for example, English is


relatively limited in its ability to express the kind of
concepts we need in order to understand the nature and
range of h
uman faculties and the hierarchical
relationship between them. This is because of the
semantic degradation of key concepts which has occurred
as words have passed into English from other languages
(especially those ancient languages which retained that
ennial wisdom) and also as English words themselves
have changed their meanings over time. The tri
root system in Arabic enables the connotations of words
to be recovered, but original meanings in English can
only often be recovered through a schol
arly process of
etymological research, often going back to Indo
roots. How many people, apart from medievalists, know the
original meaning of the word ‘cunning’, for example?

many people unfamiliar with the Classics can recover the
original m
eaning of

intellect’ or ‘idea’?

Related to this is the confusion in terminology which
arises from one word in English having to cover different
concepts or different nuances of the same concept.
“Intelligence” is a prime example. The words ‘conscious’
and ‘unconscious’ also pose awkward ambiguities. Claxton
makes the important point that “we need new metaphors and
images for the relationship between conscious and
unconscious which escape from the polarisation to which
both Descartes and Freud, from thei
r different sides,

“The confusion of the unconscious with the
pathologically repressed Freudian subconscious, “the sump
of the mind into which sink experiences, impulses and
ideas too awful or dangerous to allow into consciousness”
reflects t
he acceptance of the other extreme, “the basic
Cartesian premise that consciousness is intelligent

controlled”. This polarisation forces us to believe that
“consciousness is other than and opposed to,
unconsciousness”, which is “emotional, irration
al, wild
and alien.”

Because of these potential confusions, Claxton has to use
various expressions according

to context to convey what he calls the “dark,
inaccessible layers” of the contemplative “tortoise
mind”, and to avoid potential confusion with

the Freudian
subconscious: hence, we have ‘the unconscious’, ‘the
intelligent unconscious’, ‘the cognitive unconscious’ or
the ‘undermind’.

But the polarisation is hard to escape, and we are still
left with a limiting association between the ‘conscious

mind’ and the merely conscious reasoning of d


However, this is clearly not what is meant by the use of
the term ‘conscious’ and “consciousness” in the language
of spiritual traditions. To be ‘conscious’ of the Supreme

(however we may name i
t) is hardly something
accessible to the ‘hare brain’ of ‘conscious thinking’,
in Claxton’s terms. Paradoxically, it has more to do with
what Claxton calls the ‘intelligent unconscious’, with
its capacity for ‘tasting’, direct perception and

In this sense, there are aspects of
Claxton’s ‘unconscious’ which point to a level of

which is ‘higher’ than what he calls the
‘conscious’. Such problems with terminology can lead to
some quite intractable conundrums.

Some resolution is off
ered by the Arabic word

conscious mind’,


refers in the Qur’an to the
“awakening of the deeper layers of man’s consciousness”,
in contrast to
“the complex of primal and
instinctive urges and inordinate, unrestrained

seems to be contrasting something like
Claxton’s “intelligent unconscious” with something like
the Freudian subconscious. The key phrase is “the deeper
layers of man’s consciousness” which clearly refers to a
level of consciousness (whether “under” or “ove
beyond the “conscious thinking” of d

To envisage the ultimate and deepest level of
consciousness as the Centre is perhaps the best way for
us to escape from the awkward linearity of the metaphor
provided by the vertical dimension, but the exp
of that metaphor is beyond the scope of this paper.

Educational Implications

What are the educational implications of the revival of
the full range of human faculties? How can teachers use
such knowledge to educate our young people?

This is

a huge question, because the restitution of such
a vision in education depends to a very large extent on
the revival of the idea of

itself. Bertrand
Russell said that “teachers are more than any other class
the guardians of civilization”, but

what kind of
civilisation was Russell talking about? Without an
understanding of what a true civilisation is, and without
of that truth in our own lives, we may be
unwitting disseminators of that deformed and impoverished
notion of ‘civili
sation’ that I have been at pains to
expose in this essay.


Ananda Coomaraswamy, in his essay “What is civilisation?”
contrasts what he calls “true civilisation” derived from
an “inspired tradition” based on perennial wisdom with
its deformation in the m
odern industrialised West. “The
one considers man’s needs; the other considers his wants,
to which no limit can be set, and of which the number is
artificially multiplied by advertisement”. Our modern
‘civilisation’, based as it is on notions of social
ancement, ambition, competition, free enterprise,

growth, expanding consumer ‘choice,’

quantitative output for profit creates a perpetually
expanding world market for its surplus, produced by those
whom Dr. Albert Schweitzer called “ov
occupied men”. It
is, according to Coomaraswamy, “the incubus of world
trade that makes of industrial ‘civilisations’ a ‘curse
to humanity’ and from the industrial concept of progress
…that modern wars have arisen and will arise; it on the
same impoveri
shed soil that empires have grown, and by
the same greed that innumerable civilisations have been

Since educational policy is inextricably linked to this
impoverished view of ‘civilisation’ and the equally
impoverished and lopsided view of h
uman faculties that
such a ‘civilisation’ demands for its survival and
expansion, and since such policy now dictates to teachers
that the first priority of a ‘quality’ education is to
serve the economy,

a huge challenge confronts teachers
if they are to r
ise above this miserable aim, which
demeans both themselves and the children they teach, and
live up to Russell’s dictum that they are, above all
others, the “guardians of civilisation”.

To serve, first and foremost, the economy, and at the
same time to
follow the requirement to find
“opportunities” to weave “moral and spiritual
development” through the whole curriculum, can do little
more than superimpose empty platitudes upon it. Nothing
more enlightening can come out of an inverted system in
which the

superordinate position is usurped by what is
naturally subordinate to it. We might hope to weave a
gold thread here or there to illuminate the uniformly
grey and lifeless texture of the material we are given to
work with, to give our young people some gli
mpses of
their true potential and of the vast range of their human
faculties. We might hope to animate their souls for a
moment in the midst of all that urgent and purposeful
thinking, talking, instructing and telling.

We might
aspire to show them the way

to what it means to be a


better human being in a better world, and to give them
hope for the future.

There are always exceptional and inspiring teachers who
can do this, who can plant imperishable seeds in the
hearts and minds of their students. But th
revival of a qualitative education of the soul and the
rediscovery of an authentic intellectual life is an
enterprise which now works against the drift of our


for that is the parody that a civilisation
becomes when it is stripped of

true intellectuality,
moral valuation and spiritual substance. Worse, devoid of
any transcendent principles, such systems inevitably
crystallise further into
both conceptual and
political, which imprison and stifle the human spirit.

In the end,

like the regime depicted in Orwell’s
they actively deny and invert the truth. I heard only
this morning on BBC Radio 4

one of the most absurd
illustrations of the tyranny exerted by IT systems. A man
went into W.H.Smith, picked up a TV aerial from
a shelf,
and took it to the cash desk. The cashier, however,
refused to sell it to him because the computer said it
was out of stock. Apparently, members of our workforce
are now not only deficient in independent thinking, but
unable even to accept the exi
stence of an object placed
before their very eyes. Is this the outcome of our
educational system?

The task is indeed huge, but I don’t want to depress you.
We have to accept that we live in an increasingly secular

in which few people subscribe

o a view of human
faculties which places consciousness of a Supreme Reality
at the top of the tree, even if they might accept some
version of this knowledge phrased in a different kind of
language, often watered down to avoid any reference to
the Divine

nd avoiding any association with formal

such as wisdom, self
realisation, spiritual
perception, contemplative insight, analogical and
metaphorical thinking, mythic and symbolic understanding,
Claxton’s “intelligent unconscious”, Polanyi’s “taci
knowledge”, Peat’s “coming
knowing”, or the cognitive
faculty which is at home with paradox and ambiguity. We
can describe it in countless ways using the language of
many disciplines.

And the level of education which activates these
faculties, or at
least gives some credence to some
version of them, is obviously not something which need be
restricted to Religious Education (RE), even if it is


most interesting to note that, according to a recent
survey, the popularity of RE amongst secondary school
dents can be attributed partly to the fact that it is
one of the few school subjects which allows students to
develop the skills of philosophical enquiry and

Even if we cannot embrace an explicit concept of
spiritual education, we can still h
onour an
concept of humane education typical of the best liberal

arts programs, which
are in themselves a preparation for
the development of spiritual intelligence and integrate
order cognitive activity into a holistic context:
ent in the creative arts as a means to engage the
soul, kindle the imagination,

develop aesthetic
awareness and stimulate the connectivity of the brain;

courses which develop communication skills,


and dialectic;

courses which deve
understanding of the human condition,

a pluralistic and
compassionate outlook which values and respects diversity
and actively fosters inter
cultural dialogue;

which give opportunities for direct experiential
learning, especially in the beaut
y and majesty of natural

and, not least, courses which develop
character and transmit ethical values, whether applied to
personal conduct, relationships, citizenship, business
practice, or the care of the environment which is now
such a pressing

concern for all of us.

We need to be aware how the education system is
continuing to compound the process of dehumanisation by
devaluing not only the creative arts and the qualitative
dimensions of science and mathematics,

but also those
subjects whi
ch seek to understand the human condition in
all its diversity and complexity.

The marginalisation
of the humanities, of history,

archaeology, geography,
and modern languages, will only ensure that an ignorance
of the richness of human heritage and dive
rsity is
compounded by an incompetence in cross
communication, and this will remove our young people even
further from that rich educational experience which is a
prerequisite for truly human development.

All these arenas of education are intimat
ely connected
with higher
order cognitive development even if they may
not set out and systematise links to an explicit taxonomy
of “thinking skills”.

If we are to revive a concept of holistic education, even
at an intermediate level, which values perce


insight, contemplation, observation and experience, and
puts thinking in its place,

we need to put into
practice those research findings which tell us that
visual and kinaesthetic learners far outnumber auditory

If the learning of so ma
ny students is
enhanced by visual input

and by the immediate sensory
stimulation of hands
on experience and action, it makes
little sense for schools to rely on predominantly verbal
instruction. A system based on such studied resistance to
the well
ched ways in which people actually learn
can only be a system embedded in ideological fixity.

We must balance the seduction of hi
tech by providing
highly stimulating visual and tactile environments and by
using a range of multi
sensory teaching techniqu

But I also want to make a case for the revival of some

skills, particularly the revival of
memorisation of complex verbal material as a vital tool
in developing higher
order cognitive faculties.

We live
in an age where unsubstantiated opi
nions are increasingly
shouting down the meaningful thoughts of people who
actually know something and have something of substance
to say. People have electronic access to oceans of

which they rarely know how to turn even into useful


gh selection of what is relevant, let
alone turn into



by connecting it up
to a wider context. History A
Level has recently been
described by a History specialist as “history for the MTV

know a little but keep on repeating i

Memorisation makes complex material accessible to the
brain for subsequent processing and lifelong reflection
and therefore provides a potent database for establishing
patterns and enhancing connections in the brain, as well
as providing a store of k
nowledge on which new knowledge
can be built, and with which substance and credibility
can be given to arguments.

Our educational process needs to reclaim memorisation in
those areas where it enhances deep learning. I have seen
shy pupils and pupils wi
th learning difficulties
transformed by reciting poetry by heart or singing songs
learnt by heart in chorus in musical productions

activities which not only foster expressive skills but
also enhance the self
esteem and self
confidence which
comes from a
tangible achievement attained through effort
and practice. In fact, all children, from those with
learning difficulties to the bright and gifted, benefit
from learning songs and I believe research shows there is


a transferable benefit to better mathematic
s and language

Learning poetry, like learning music for performance, has
transferable benefits, because this kind of verbatim
memorisation is developing potent cognitive strategies
for using a variety of patterns and cues

not just word

but also prosodic, metrical and rhyming patterns,
as well as various poetic devices, such as alliteration
and assonance, which build memorable connections between
words, and which are a common feature of epic poetry and
sacred text.

Such skills were wel
l developed in
societies rich in oral tradition, and of course
encompassed not only skill in memorising but also the
expressive skills required for inspiring recitation.

e should not forget that
the genius of Shakespeare was
grounded in the memorisation

culture of Elizabethan
England. Without that store of memorised knowledge, we
simply cannot recognise the wealth of allusions contained
in great literature.

Imitation, too, was another
formative practice in that era. “One studies a great
piece of writin
g by one of the acknowledged giants of the
past, enters into a process of internalisation

alchemising through one’s own life and experience

then creates a poem of other work that is unique to the
writer yet has similarities to the original. This

practice enriches one’s ways of thinking, depends one’s
ability to allude to other forms, thickens the soup of
one’s mind.”

The best schools will use imitation of
great models in this way, and not only in literature, but
also in art and music. It is impo
rtant to realise that
this is not unthinking imitation, mere reproduction or
mechanical copying. It is using a model to catalyse a
creative process which draws on a variety of sources,
both external and internal.

As a counterbalance to the linearity and
explicitness of rational thought processes, we need to
encourage a mentality which can escape form the literal,
which is comfortable with analogical thinking, metaphor,
and symbolism, with fable, parable and allegory, with the
heightened la
nguage of poetry, with ellipsis, with
paradox and ambiguity, and with the constructive
confrontations and asynchronies which emerge from the
process of dialectic. Dialectical thinking, regarded by
Riegel as the highest stage of cognitive development,

is a

powerful means of transcending the limitations of


This advanced style of thought places the human being in
an inter
world, an isthmus or meeting
place (Arabic
, a point of intersection. It strives to unify
opposites, to attain
balance, to resolve conflict,
affirming and incorporating logical polarities rather
than seeking to avoid contradiction and paradox through
sided adherence to a single perspective or paradigm.
In these times of cultural and ideological confrontation,
it would be hard to think of a more pressing educational

Dialectical thinking (and the intellectual connectedness
which its promotes) should be one of the major planks of
a holistic education, together with deep reflection

(which enables le
arners to connect with their innermost

and thereby promote spiritual connectedness) and
conversation and dialogue (which enable individuals to
connect with others and the society in which they live).
All of them need to be given time and space.

hat distinguishes all these advanced processes and
activities is the common thread of establishing

, either between ideas,
between faculties and levels of being within oneself, or
between human souls. This is very far from the
isolationism, one
sidedness and solipsism (and their
pathological expression as a kind of cultural or societal
autism) which are the consequence of a type of mental
activity that can only dissect and atomise reality into
autonomous components


us from reality by
manipulating or inventing language which turns flesh
blood experiences into manageable abstractions. C.S.
Lewis, commenting on the use of the word
describes this process as the use of

rds to “disinfect”, and George
Orwell, referred to the same process as the use of
“euphemisms” to name things “
without calling up mental
pictures of them

(my emphasis). It will be readily
apparent how this reduction of concrete experience to

mirrors the reduction of

which is such an essential part of an
impoverished view of human faculties.

Within a hierarchical concept of human faculties, the key
principles of relationship and connectivity are never
ed from another central principle

that of
, which is semantically related to the concept

Advanced dialectic should not be confused
with that type of disorientated academic disputation
which is little more than clever intellectual g


True dialectic is concerned not with peripheral
intellectualisation couched in barely comprehensible
abstractions, which is little more than playing with long
words, but with a process of convergence on a central and
unifying point of Truth thro
ugh the application of
objective truth criteria. Authentic dialectic is always
to the Centre, the

of all things, the
dimensionless point beyond duality where the opposites

It goes without saying that the dialectical process is

one either of compromise or loose relativism, but one
of creative tension which ultimately transforms
contradictions into complementarities, releasing the
minded thinker from ingrained habits and conditioned
patterns of thought, established affiliati
ons, fear of
change and instability, and reluctance to approach any
new ideas which are threatening to a rigid sense of

Associated with this openness to change, uncertainty and
instability is the willingness always to seek new
evidence and the a
bility to resist premature closure and
fixed conclusions. Albert Einstein said: “As far as the
laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not
certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not
refer to reality.”

Let me appeal too for a revival of
play. Carl Jung said
that “the creation of something new is not accomplished
by the intellect, but by the play instinct acting from
inner necessity.” The creative mind plays with objects it
loves.” With all that planning, managing, telling and
not to mention marking, assessing, and the
systematising wherever possible of cross
links, IT opportunities, special needs provision and risk
assessment, what time do teachers have left for play? And
if they cannot play, how can they create a cu
lture of
play amongst their students?

Play relates to talk too, because playful talk is
creative activity in itself. Play can express itself
through talk in a variety of ways: in joke
riddling, parody, satire, repartee, dramatic enactment,
icry, having fun with language

in all kinds of ways
which have little or nothing to do with the kind of
functional, expository language skills so indispensable
for purposeful rational thinking.


Above all, we must cultivate the capacity for awe

der in the face of mysteries which are inaccessible to
the rational intellect

an innate, childlike capacity,
which, as I have already said, has been undermined by a
stage model of cognitive development (or ‘genetic
epistemology’, as Piaget called it) tha
t regards abstract
reasoning or ‘formal operations’ as the pinnacle of human
cognition. Direct observation of the night sky ought to
be on every science curriculum, not simply to satisfy
curiosity about the workings of the universe (as if the
universe can

be reduced to self
sufficient laws and
mechanisms or striking phenomena) but as a means to evoke
that sense of

mystery which Albert Einstein
regarded as the source not only of all true art, but also
the source of science

itself: “The most be
autiful thing
we can experience”, he said, is the mysterious. It is the
source of all true art and all science. He to whom this
emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder
and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are

As we
ll as the vastness of the night sky, that sense of
awe and wonder in the face of beauty and majesty can
equally well be cultivated in everyday encounters with
nature, in that sense of limitless multiplicity which
anyone who looks at nature with an open eye

can perceive
in every shifting scene; but whatever it is, it is a
point of reference with something infinite and
unfathomable, far beyond the practical dimension of human

This is not ‘observation’ in the sense of a trained eye,
whether of arti
st or scientist, noticing and recording
observable and measurable physical characteristics, such
as shape, dimension, texture, and other details, but a
deep supersensory faculty of “imagination”, one of the
“mirrors of the Intellect”.

If we fail to awak
en and nourish this innate ability to
“see” and “taste”, as well as all those other perceptive
and insightful ways of knowing which are germane to an
authentic vision of higher human faculties, we leave our
young people with a bitter legacy based on our ow
impoverished view of human potential: we leave them with
an impoverished view of themselves, other people, the
world and the universe, and one that gives them little
hope for the future beyond the increasingly frenetic
activity which they will need to su
stain in order to
ensure their success in the world and to serve an
ideology of perpetual material ‘growth’ and


‘development’. All educators would surely wish for them a
better future than one which is ultimately both immoral
and unsustainable.

Jeremy He

June 2005

Correspondence to


Dictionaries of Etymology

In explaining the etymology of English words, I have made
significant use of four sources:

Ayto, John,
Bloomsbury Dict
ionary of Word Origins
London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1990.

Barnhart, Robert K. (ed.),

Chambers Dictionary of
, edited by Edinburgh: Chambers, 1988.

Shipley, Joseph. T.,
The Origins of English Words: A
Discursive Dictionary of Indo
European Ro
. Baltimore:
The John Hopkins University Press, 1984.

Watkins, Calvert (ed.),

The American Heritage Dictionary
of Indo
European Roots

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

I refer to these sources as Ayto, Barnhart, Shipley, and
Watkins, respectively.

Translations of the Qur’an

I have made use of four translations of the Qur’an:

‘Ali, ‘Abdullah Yusuf,
The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an
Beltsville, Maryland: Amana Publications, 1989.

Arberry, Arthur J.,
The Koran Interpreted
. Oxford: Oxford
Press, 1982.

Asad, Muhammad,
The Message of the Qur’an

. Bath: The
Book Foundation, new edition, 2003.

Pickthall, Muhammad M.,
The Glorious Qur’an
. New York:
Muslim World League, 1977.


I refer to these versions as Yusuf ‘Ali, Arberry, Asad,
and Pic
kthall respectively.


I have explored the way in which modern education
systems demoralise and dispirit young people through
their dominant regime of utilitarian schooling and
managerialism in a series of recent papers: Henz
Thomas, J., ‘Passing Between the Clashing Rocks: The
Heroic Quest for a Common and Inclusive Identity’,
Journal of Pastoral Care in Education
, Spring, 2004;
‘Mythical Meaning, Religion and Soulful Education:
Reviving the Original Sense of Intellect
’, paper
presented at the
Reasons of the Heart

University of Edinburgh, September 2004; and ‘Quantity
Masquerading as Quality: Reviving an Authentic Notion of
Qualitative Education’, paper presented at a conference
Higher Education in Devel
oping Countries,
for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, Aga Khan
University, London, February 2005.


See Gleick, James.
. London: Abacus, 2000, for a
dissection of our “unceasing struggle to squeeze as much
as we can into the 1,440 minute
s of each day”.


On 21 June 2005, BBC radio 4 reported another
catastrophic failure of a government IT system

time, the one responsible for working out tax credits. A
few days later the same channel reported that one of the
many hard
up people wh
o had received an overpayment as a
result of this “computer failure” was having £200 per
month deducted form her bank account in ‘repayments’ (1
July 2005) even though the amount recovered should have
only been £3 per month. An offocial questioned on the
rogramme explained that it was “impossible to stop the


Professor Emeritus of Counselling Studies at the
University of East Anglia.


Thorne, Brian,
Infinitely Beloved: The Challenge of
Divine Intimacy
. Sarum Theological Lectures. London:
rtford, Longman and Todd, 2003, p.50. Chapter 3 of this
book, “The Surveillance Culture and Economic
Imperialism”, was delivered as the Keynote lecture at the

International Conference on
Education, Spirituality
and the Whole Child (Faith Feeling and

University of Surrey Roehampton, 26
28 June, 2003.



The Arabic word for forgetfulness,
, is related to
the word for Man
), pointing to the forgetful
tendency which is ingrained in human beings.


The bias towards thinking over f
eeling in Western
culture, especially in corporate and business
environments, is well
known by practitioners of the MBTI
Briggs Type Inventory) who are trained to make
corrections for it in scoring questionnaires.


Tarnas believes that the resolut
ion of the crisis is
already emerging in various movements which reflect an
epochal shift in the contemporary psyche, a fulfilment of
the longing for a reunion with the feminine, a
reconciliation between the two great polarities, a union
of opposites. This

can be seen in the “tremendous
emergence of the feminine in our culture...the widespread
opening up to feminine values by both men and women...in
the increasing sense of unity with the planet and all
forms of nature on it, in the increasing awareness of t
ecological and the growing reaction against political and
corporate policies supporting the domination and
exploitation of the environment, in the growing embrace
of the human community, in the accelerating collapse of
standing and ideological barr
iers separating the
world’s peoples, in the deepening recognition of the
value and necessity of partnership, pluralism, and the
interplay of many perspectives.”

I would add the important caveat that we are now at a
point of maximum intensification of
those negative
aspects of masculine consciousness, as they attempt to
forestall the impending paradigm shift described by
Tarnas. This rearguard action, a typical occurrence as
old paradigms redouble their efforts to prevent change,
includes the co

into the masculine camp of a new
legion of women who have embraced an unbalanced masculine
modus operandi

and have themselves abandoned the emerging
feminine values which Tarnas sees as the main hope for
the “epochal shift in the contemporary psyche”.
ilarly, alongside the “increasing awareness of the
ecological” is a potentially catastrophic acceleration in
the assault on bio
diversity and in climate change;
alongside the growing dissolution of “ideological
barriers separating the world’s peoples” we h
ave the
pernicious doctrine of the Clash of Civilisations which
threatens to engulf the world in catastrophic conflict;
alongside the “deepening recognition of the value and
necessity of partnership, pluralism, and the interplay of


many perspectives”, we h
ave the resurgence of dangerously
divisive forms of unilateralism, isolationism,
nationalism, patriotism, machismo, supremacist ideology,
and other forms of narrow identity politics. In all of
this we can see the common thread of an autonomous
which destroys
, and which has
reached the stage where it has assumed a pathological
character, a kind of societal and cultural autism. Never
has the need been greater for a concerted effort to
challenge those “corporate and political policies”

sustain the old paradigm.

I would also add that the much vaunted “objectivity”
of Western civilisation is in fact a pseudo
for it is based not in any truly objective principles,
which can be derived only from spiritual tradition, b
in the illusion of an objectivity derived from rational
thinking. It has been said that Western civilisation,
despite its pretensions, is the least objective of all
civilisations because it has not truly objective criteria
with which to critique itself.

Nancy Kline compares what she calls a ‘Thinking
Environment’ with ‘Male Conditioning’, as follows:

Thinking Environment

Male Conditioning


Take over and Talk

Ask Incisive Questions

Know everything

Establish equality

Assume superior



Be at ease






Supply accurate information


Humanize the place

Conquer the place

Create diversity

Deride difference