"A physical scientist does not introduce awareness (sensation or perception) into his theories, and having thus removed the mind from nature, he cannot expect to find it there." — Schrödinger 1958
Intelligence is very difficult to define, at least among academics in the west. Reductionism and materialism appear only to provide models of intelligence and consciousness that appeal to their authors and proponents and fail to come up with an elegant model of intelligence and consciousness that most could accept and understand. Does Nature herself have a point of view here and how would she define intelligence if she could?
As of this writing, I have sat with the Amazonian medicine known as Ayahuasca around 40-plus times. A few years ago a friend made the introduction. I always heard exotic stories of the Amazonian concoction said to be the most powerful and true hallucinogen on earth. I was intrigued by its reported efficacy in treating addiction, mental illness, anxiety, and physical ailments which included claims of healing from brain tumors and AIDS, in addition to reports of profound experiences communicating directly with nature. I was indeed eager to see what all the hoopla was about.
I found a local Ayahuasca group in Los Angeles. The first 20 or so of my journeys were with this wonderful, wide eyed, non traditional, trusting little peace posse with little to no experience with any true Amazonian practices or intensive training other than simply sitting with the medicine in a dark room and singing what you know and trust. I found the experience deeply bonding and extremely transforming as I noticed large amounts of stress and anxiety melting away from my life. It was indeed proving itself to be personally effective. Naturally I found myself coming to the ceremonies as often as I could for about a year and a half.
That wave came crashing down when the organizer of our group invited us to sit with a highly regarded, respected and traditionally trained Curandero from Peru, a true Maestro, who came to Los Angeles for a few ceremonies. This individual was known for supplying a true Amazonian Shipibo ayahuasca ceremony to the states and Europe, even traveling to Russia to give ceremonies.
Immediately after a few rounds of ceremony, our little local Ayahuasca tribe's sponsor declared he would quit holding ceremony until he received proper training, himself humbled by our Peruvian maestro's many icaros, plant dietas, and practice. Our tribe was in a position to either continue sitting with this new curandero and his sitters from Los Angeles whenever he came to town, or simply move on in our lives without continuing an Ayahuasca practice.
Naturally, I wanted to continue exploring a relationship with this medicina.
Before I took the medicine on the first evening of this new Maestro's ceremony, I found the interaction with many in his group a bit difficult compared to the very open and loving experience I was used to in medicinal ceremony in my little local Ayahuasca tribe. I was curious, yet also finding myself very suspicious. Who were these people? It hit me that I was about to go into a very deep place surrounded by a bunch of people with whom I had no bonding, trust, or camaraderie.
I drank the medicine the curandero supplied me, noticed its remarkably bitter and stringent taste distinct from the thick chocolaty Hawaiin grown ayahuasca I was used to.
I returned to my place and felt the medicine come on powerfully. At the very beginning of my journey the maestro began his hypnotic chanting, his singing "to the plant spirits to call them forth" into the ceremony room. For the first time, I could actually see "spirits" in the room, one of them lying down in front of me. As if to announce itself to me, the spirit of the plant said something to me directly, seemingly a non sequitur that bore no connection with any part of my journey nor any internal dialogue in my life that I was aware of. The medicine appeared in my head with a very strong pronouncement, and then became silent while I heard the maestro perform a very complex and extended list of icaros and rattling that appeared mathematical in its precision.
"Intelligence is Self Teaching" she said.
As simple as it reads to you is as elegant as she revealed it to me. Bamf! It was an internally present phrase quite clear and articulate. The medicine revealed and then vanished silently. The rest of my journey was incomprehensible, impossible to put into any language, yet this very simple phrase stood out clearly and succinctly.
Intelligence is Self Teaching. Hmmm…
Naturally, over a period of a few months of reflection, I approached this very analytically. Where did this idea come from? Did I stumble upon it before? Was it already there somewhere in the contents of my mind? Our western paradigm suggests that it "must" have come from contents of my brain somehow.
I was aware that any definition of intelligence is entirely suspect by biologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, brain researchers, and most importantly Western philosophers. Deconstructism showed that intelligence is spiraling down through a collapse of meaning by a factor of 1. Advancements in AI, Artificial Intelligence, heralded by such mavericks as Ray Kurzweil, believe intelligence can be built from the ground up, 1 step at a time.
Doing a google on definitions of intelligence one can quickly surmise the landscape. All seem to seek, conflict, or hope for one single proposition that can both hold up under extreme deconstruction as well as mathematical and logical analysis, something that is both intuitive yet programmable.
I attempted to see if anyone out there online ever mentioned the phrase so I googled it in quotes, Intelligence is Self Teaching. Not one single return, the phrase did not previously exist online. I was a bit surprised it held its uniqueness in Google search. According to Google, this is the first time this phrase has been recorded in the history of search of billions of webpages. By the time this article is published somewhere online, you will only see this entry in the listing, or various blogs or social networks picking it up as the first return and entry recorded via SEO by Google's "self teaching" algorithm. It is a completely original phrase that has no prior existence, so it is not likely I stumbled upon this phrase via any philosophical text or treatise, nor have I found anything close to it being defined previously along these lines. The phrase is logically simple and complete. x=y. If apart of any previous Western philosophical text or philosophical proposition, any academic paper, how could any rational philosopher fail to define it so succinctly?
It stayed for me, tossing around in my mind for months while I went on to continue with sitting with Maestro whenever he came to town. 17 or so more ceremonies have happened since, never a single peep, insight, or intuition came to me more about this phrase that was revealed to me by the medicine, or at least it didn't appear so at the time. My continued experience with his traditional approach was proving incredibly transformative and for the first time I "got it" about the traditions of Vegetalismo, the way of the plants in Shipibo traditions. It felt initiatory. I continued sitting with Maestro Curandero, I began to augment my journey with Amazonian tobacco juice, and learned to trust the Maestro whom now I consider "brother." I began to bond with the new tribe and go deeper into the ways of the medicine, and my life was showing the proof in the success of my journeys into traditional Amazonian Vegetalismo.
Finally, after 6 months of 2-4 ceremonies a month since she "popped" this proposition into my head, she gave me a dramatic conclusion to the narrative she began with that simple phrase. As if to prove to me that this proposition did not just stem from the contents of my mind, to prove to me the vast intelligence that is nature, the ayahuasca and tobacco showed me in my last three ceremonies that not only was this just a proposition thrown out there to me by none other than herself in all of her glory, but that it was a narrative she was spinning for me, a journey she has taken me on in the past 17 or so ceremonies, a full 6 months of my experiences in traditional vegetalismo practices.
On my last night with her since, She showed me that I contained inside myself a special intelligence that was tapped into at an early age, due to traumatic experiences that happened to me as a young child, and that I "self taught" myself to become more intelligent, to avoid dealing with a very disturbing and philosophically confusing childhood. She showed me the role my own auto-didactic approach to learning since I was a very young child, plowing into books about science and mysteries at the age of 8 years old, played upon my many ideas, creations, and projects that I've carried on until my early 40's. Since I had always felt deeply insecure about my own intelligence, it was a beautiful and profound personal revelation for me. For the first time in ceremony, I cried. As if to establish in my mind the credibility of traditional practice, she made me aware that this proposition came immediately after my first exposure to Amazonian ceremony where plant teaching spirits are called forth by a proper curandero, marking a clear distinction in ceremony from the more free-wheeling Cali style ceremony I knew and loved. What were once suspicions and trust issues regarding this new group turned into nothing more than my own fearful projections regarding the unknown and remnants of a confusing childhood. The very personal message was "keep walking down this path" and "there you will find me."
It wasn't just a simple and elegant phrase, it was a very deep and personal journey of knowing myself at a very deep and very cellular level. All the cells in my body are "intelligent." All of them communicate, all of them contribute, and all of them receive the collective intelligence back in return. Self Teaching selves and systems become synergetic with other Self Teaching selves and systems, and vast networks naturally form — to see that my own intelligence is "self teaching" way down to every single cell and operation in my body right up and deep into my intuitions and then coupled with my rational thinking process. The exchange of viewpoint from my intuitive side to my thinking side was internally auto-didactic dialogue. Such elegant internal discourse, both my solar and lunar intelligence, my own genetic and organic process became fused with my conscious thinking process and internal intuitive process, melting into one thing, the results of a collective output that is the result of my own "intelligence network." Me.
This inner revelation, which is way too personal to sumarize and share more than I already have here, was so brilliantly orchestrated since the very first icaro that came out of mi curandero hermano's mouth in my very first sitting with him, in finding conclusion and resolution 9 months later, personally to me itself a sign of a vast narrative containing multiple arcs crafted by an intelligence that was working with me the entire time, teaching me deeper into the mystery of learning to self teach and the role that has played in my personal life and healing.
The proposition appears to me to be completely self evident, empirical, logical, intuitive, even playful. I consider now since that Intelligence is primarily an auto didactic force of nature. The degree to which a 'thing' is intelligent is to the same degree that the 'thing' is 'self teaching'. We cannot fathom, holding intelligence in this light, the complex forms and systems it can take on that transcend our own 'personal' intelligence. Social networks now are showing the degree of high wisdom, humor that can erupt from our 'collective' intelligence which is simply another layer in our 'species' intelligence. Vast synergies can form where objective, honest points of view erupt in an environment online where 'all sides contribute, all sides receive the collective output of all contributing', such as wikis and discussion forums show. Our natural human network is exposed online, and wikis, Google, and the internet as a whole completely exploits our 'self teaching' ability and naturally our intelligence increases as a whole. Our collective and self intelligence is reverberating, inside of us and outside of us.
"Self teaching" is evolutionary progress on all levels of biological nature, from our cells, organs, and bacteria all the way up to our conscious organizing and creative processes. Life teaches itself to adapt, adjust, seek, organize. All of nature is "smart," as we can learn in Jeremy Narby's wonderful book Intelligence in Nature, which even presented studies which show how slime molds can perform logical operations. Intelligence in nature is now understood by me as "Intelligence is Nature" and therefore so elusive to define inside of the reductionist paradigm. Yet the proposition continues to hold its relevance deep into the world of social media, and most importantly Artificial Intelligence, or at least it does to my philosophical interpretations of the technology.
My mind continues to wonder, is this a perfect definition for intelligence supplied to me via Ayahuasca experience and nature herself? For any techno shamanic philosophical nerd out there — this is exciting stuff. So my first intuition is to "throw this out there" and see how it holds under honest scrutiny amongst my online and offline chums in the conflict of idea regarding intelligence and consciousness, both eastern and western, both mathematical and intuitive, which is part of the purpose of this article. I am eager to enter into rational, analytical, and intuitive discussion regarding this definition. I am hoping that any community that assists in refining it's revelation with me may hold the "holy grail" of intelligence itself, the ability to elegantly define it empirically and objectively, but most importantly intuitively and understandable by all, once and for all.
If not we will still become more intelligent in the process — either outcome seems to prove the utility of this very simple proposition, Intelligence is Self Teaching.
ETA: A number of discussions have popped up around the internet regarding this article, and it went viral on Reddit and Stumbleupon soon after this publication. Some higher integrations have happened in these discussions that may provide further insight into the phrase. One commenter from the James Randi Discussion forum provided me some insight by supplying "Intelligence is Self Teaching like the Ouroboros is Self Eating." Another heated round of discussions with Reductionists who propose an materialistic view of consciousness produced an integration that allowed me to augment the phrase with "Intelligence is Self Transcending."
ETA #2 Sat April 3rd AM: So far, this article and the complimentary discussions have produced inside of me some very interesting integrations that are neatly expressed in three axioms.
1.) Intelligence is Self Teaching.
2.) Intelligence is Self Referring.
3.) Intelligence is Self Transcending.
A trail of these integrations are found primarily in the discussion on the James Randi critical thinking and skeptical forum (basically a hard edged materialistic forum).
James Randi Educational Foundation – a skeptical forum.
K.I.R. Keep It Real Discussion Forum.
Artificial Intelligence Forum