Intelligence Is Prior to Education

Once upon a time, our society used to believe that intelligence could be measured by taking specific tests. Eventually, we realized that someone’s measured IQ may not tell us everything about intelligence. So we developed EQ—emotional intelligence. Now, we realize there are innumerable expressions of intelligence—artistic, musical, logical, kinesthetic, visual, and so on.

The types of intelligence that are valued in one culture may not be the kind valued in another, because we apply intelligence in the context of our cultural values. Our idea of intelligence also changes over time even within the same culture. In the last few decades, for example, mastering large reams of data was a sign of intelligence. Today, data is ubiquitous and in the palm of everyone’s hand. Intelligence in this culture now means understanding context, seeing patterns, determining relevance, and communicating influentially.

In its most essential form, intelligence is recognition and discernment—of anything and everything. This ability is innate in everyone. Every person has the ability to recognize what is truer. The problem is we have been trained to shift our attention from our own intelligence to the ideas of others who may have forgotten themselves. In doing this, our own overflowing intelligence is dammed up, and only a small stream of it is then apportioned and applied to an accepted field of activity. Too often, this is what we call “education.”

In these moments, it’s important to remember that nobody has to become intelligent. Intelligence is your nature. The most important factor in expressing that intelligence is simply letting the misconceptions fall away. Your own awareness does the rest automatically. If you remove the grooves through which water is flowing, water will take its natural course. Similarly, if you remove the misconceptions through which intelligence is flowing, your awareness will take its natural course, opening new vistas to the world.

Keeping these vistas in view, we can hear others. We can understand their ideas. We can see what is relevant, what is missing, what needs context. And we can apply that understanding as we deem appropriate, without being limited by it. This is real education.

For a moment or two, let the rules go. Allow your undiluted intelligence to well up and flow over you. Allow the mind to re-organize itself, and see the world anew.

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of Michelangelo’s Medicine and the upcoming book Is This a Dream? He tweets @DrAnoopKumar.