Integral Musings | Towards a Holistic Vision

An Integral Approach to management and human development based on the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with an emphasis on its application to various domains of knowledge and life.

Development Of Faculties For Professional Excellence: A Psychological Perspective—M.S. Srinivasan.

A true professional is someone who has the knowledge and competence to deliver results with efficiency and ethics.  Most of the modern approach to professional growth is focused on developing the external knowledge and skill.  But this outer knowledge and skill is the expression of some inner faculties or “intelligences.”  A deeper psychological approach to professional training and development will bestow a greater attention to this inner dimension.  The other major lacuna in modern professional education is inadequate attention to ethics and values.  Someone cannot be a true professional without truth, ethics and values governing her knowledge and skill.  Here again, as with knowledge and skill, there are inner faculties or intelligences behind outer ethical behaviour.  The series of article examines two questions: what is the inner make-up of a true professional and how to develop it.

Key Perspectives: Faculties of Excellence;  Value Intelligence; Conceptual Intelligence; Pragmatic Intelligence; Emotional Intelligence; Marshalling the Will; Taming the Vital Energy; Faculties of Imagination and Intuition

The Faculties of Excellence

A modern professional is a knowledge-worker who applies knowledge to solve a problem or deliver results.  If she wants to grow into a true, healthy and effective professional, she has to develop the following faculties:

  1. Value-intelligence
  2. Conceptual Intelligence
  3. Pragmatic Intelligence
  4. Emotional Intelligence
  5. The Faculties of Will
  6. The Vital Energy
  7. The Faculty of Imagination and Intuition

The Value Intelligence

Knowledge and skill can bring efficiency but excellence comes from ethics and values.  A true professional must govern his or her knowledge and skill by truth and ethics.  As we have indicated earlier, every form of outer competency in behaviour or action has corresponding inner faculties.  Behind outer ethical behaviour there are corresponding inner faculties.  There are deeper and higher layers of mind in us which has an intrinsic sensitivity to higher values like truth, beauty, goodness, harmony and unity, which we may call as Value Intelligence.

There are two disciplines for developing this higher intelligence.  The first one is to have some clarity on the meaning of these values by study and contemplation.  And more importantly, try to understand what they mean or what forms they have to take for a modern professional, and also to the specific profession she belongs.  For example, for a professional, the value of truth means honesty, transparency, integrity and fareness in her relationship or transactions with her customers, suppliers, government, subordinates and colleagues.  Similarly goodness means concern for the wellbeing of the customer and the society.  For instance, the Codes of Conduct of many engineering association emphasise strongly on the welfare of the public.  This understanding of higher values is something progressive; it grows by regular contemplation; study of scriptures or the thoughts and lives of those who have realized these values in their consciousness and life; and by daily practice, by living the values in our everyday life.  As we progress in this way, our understanding of these values becomes deeper and wider.

The other part of this path is the discipline for a deeper internalising of these values in our consciousness.  This is a two-fold, discipline, which we may call as Cultivation and Katharisis.  Cultivation means a conscious and deliberate cultivation of all that is in harmony with or favourable to the growth of these values in our thought feeling, action and behaviour.  Katharisis means conscious rejection of all that is contrary or hostile to these values in our consciousness and life.

Conceptual Intelligence

A professional is a knowledge-worker, and therefore, development of the faculties of knowledge is of paramount importance for professional growth.  At the summit of our cognitive equipment lies the conceptual intelligence; it is that part of our mind which is capable of abstract thinking and can generate pure ideas and concepts.  In the corporate world, advent of Management as an academic discipline is an important landmark in its psychological evolution, because it heralds the awakening of the conceptual mind in business.  The conceptual mind develops by following activities or discipline:

  • The scientific method of observation, classification, comparison, analysis and hypothesis.
  • Theoretical and philosophical enquiry, speculation or studies.
  • Asking how and why and tracing the root cause of things.
  • Discerning the underlying patterns behind the outer phenomena
  • Holistic thinking which tries to view each thing as part of a larger whole and in relation with other parts and the whole.

This brings us to the question how important or useful this conceptual mind for a knowledge worker in the corporate world who has to do mostly pragmatic work? The conceptual mind, when it is well developed, deepens and broadens the mental consciousness, and as a result, makes it more and more receptive to the large idea-forces of the universal mind.  This enhances the creative potentialities of the mind in general and also accelerates the mental evolution of the individual.  So, not only the academic and consultant, but also the line-manager, executive and professional has to make the attempt to develop his conceptual intelligence on the lines we have indicated earlier.  For example enquiries like “what is the purpose of business in fulfilling the evolutionary destiny of humanity and earth” or “what is the meaning and significance of higher values like truth, beauty and goodness for business and the various functions of business like finance, marketing or manufacturing” can be of great help in developing the conceptual mind.

The Pragmatic Intelligence

The other important faculty of knowledge is the pragmatic intelligence.  Problem solving, innovation, improvement, efficiency, productivity, adaptability are core competence of this part of human consciousness.  All these are very much part of the modern corporate culture.  The corporate consciousness of business lives predominantly in this part of human mind, aided and supported by conceptual inputs from the management academia and the consultant community.  So, the field executive or a line manager in the corporate world doesn’t require much of special training in developing her pragmatic intelligence.  He or she is more or less forced to develop her pragmatic mind, by the pressure of the modern corporate culture, more or less unconsciously.

However, a conscious systematic attempt to develop all these inclinations and competencies of the pragmatic intelligence to their utmost limits can accelerate its growth.  For example, a systematic and conscious effort towards time-management or pursuit of continuous improvement in work, trying to do the work better and better, asking every day “in what way I can improve the productivity and quality of my work” enhances the potentialities of the pragmatic intelligence.  The other discipline for developing the pragmatic intelligence is to think out the practical implications of theoretical and philosophical ideas for individual, corporate or professional effectiveness.  As we have indicated earlier, for a corporate professional or field executive, theoretical and philosophical studies and enquiries help in the development of her conceptual mind.  And when she comes across such ideas in the course of her study, if she can also contemplate the practical implication of these ideas for her own self-development or for enhancing her professional performance or for improving the quality of life of her community, it leads to a further enrichment of her pragmatic intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence

Much has been said and written about this brain child of the eminent psychologist, Daniel Goleman.  However, Goleman’s conception of emotional intelligence is only one way of looking at it.  There can be other ways of conceptualizing emotional intelligence.  In our perspective, we prefer a simpler definition.  We conceive emotional intelligence as the feeling that knows and feels what it knows.

Can feelings know? Is there such intelligence in our feelings?  There is because all our faculties are expressions of our consciousness and therefore have the capacity to know.  As Sri Aurobindo points out: “Our feelings too contain a power of knowledge and a power of effectuation which we do not recognise and do not properly develop.” (1) For example, when we love a person deeply and truly without attachment, we are able to understand the inner condition and the needs of that person with a feeling “in-sight”, which is an expression of emotional intelligence.  The other example of emotional intelligence is a well-known phenomenon in the world of spiritual seekers.  There are seekers who are simple, uneducated with very little mental development, but with a pure love and devotion to God or their Masters.  Such seekers have sometimes a much deeper insight and understanding of scriptures or the teachings of their Masters’ than erudite scholars who have written voluminous book on scriptures or teachings.

In this perspective, emotional intelligence is the faculty which gives us the ability for a sympathetic identification with the object of knowledge and joy in the act of knowledge.  Without this empathy and joy, knowledge-work becomes a dry, arid and joyless exercise, which is harmful for the inner development of the individual.  Interestingly, the great scientist and inventor of the concept of evolution, Charles Darwin made the following poignant personal remark:

“Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds . . . gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays.  I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also lost almost any taste for pictures or music. . . . My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of fact; but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. . . . The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.” (2)

The old, orthodox science viewed emotional involvement as an obstacle to scientific detachment.  But the new thought in science, especially among woman-scientist, finds no such contradiction between emotion and scientific attitude.  As Diane Boy Heger, field biologists and wolf-researcher, states:   “I’ve concluded that it is ok to have feelings about the animals you study, without risking damage to your scientific credibility—objectivity and passion about study of animals are not mutually exclusive.  I wouldn’t have devoted my life to studying wolves, if I didn’t love them.”   Diane quotes further the environmentalist Stephen Jay Gould, “we cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well-for we will not fight to save what we do not love.” (3)  We may modify the last sentence and say we cannot know truly an object of knowledge without loving it and emotional intelligence is the faculty in us, which can lead to this “knowing love.”

This brings us to the practical question how to develop the emotional intelligence.  The first step is to learn to observe carefully without identification and with the attitude of a witness, the inner movements of our consciousness, especially our emotional being.  The second step is to understand what are the types of thoughts and feelings which obscures, darkens or distorts our emotions and conversely which of them has a positive impact, bringing light and harmony.  When we make this experiment we will understand the practical validity of some of the moral and psychological disciplines of Indian yoga.  We will find negative feelings like anxiety, restlessness, fear, anger, obscures and darkens our emotions, and conversely, positive feelings like peace, benevolence, kindness, compassion clarifies and purifies our feeling and brings forward the intelligence inherent in our emotions.

Marshalling the Will

The will and the vital energy which animates our body and mind are the inner horse within us and the source of our dynamic faculties of action and execution.  The faculty of Will has a mental and vital element.  The mental or cognitive element is the act of choice and judgement.  The vital or dynamic element is the firmness, persistence, endurance and strength in upholding and enforcing the choice in action, result and realization.  What is called as “Faith” is the expression of the intelligence in will.  However, true faith is not the belief in the surface mind, but the intuition of the deeper and inner being and its will.  It is the intuition of an unmanifest potentiality of our inner being not yet manifested at the surface level.  All great men of action have this faith.  They persist in realizing a goal, which may appear impossible or totally contradictory to the present condition.  But they still persist, because the intelligence or faith in their Will knows that they have the potential to do it and can do it.  As Sri Aurobindo explains: “All men of action, discoverers, inventors, creators of knowledge proceed by faith and until the proof is made or the thing done, they go on in spite of disappointment, failure, disproof, denial because of something in them that tells them that this is the truth, the thing that must be followed and done.” (4)  This intuitive faith and intelligence in the will can be developed by rejecting pessimistic thinking, which darkens and weaken the will, and consciously cultivating a hopeful and optimistic attitude and a sunny self-confidence.

The capacity for implementation of ideas comes from the dynamic power of will and the energy of vitality, anima.  The power of will can be strengthened in the same way as building muscles.  We must begin with easy and simple resolutions and tasks, which are within our capacities and move on slowly and gradually to more and more difficult, complex and tough resolutions and tasks.  The initial easy masteries or victories build self-confidence, which strengthens the will.  The other faculty or power of our consciousness which is closely related to will is the power of concentration, which means the ability to focus all the energies of our consciousness on an idea or activity.  Concentration and will has a mutually reinforcing effect.  A persistent and untiring effort to focus our attention on a point develops the power of will, which in turn enhances concentration.

Taming the Vital Energy

The other part of our dynamic faculties is the vital force, which animates our body and mind.  This vital force, called as Prana in Indian thought and Anima in Jungian psychology, is the source of energy, enthusiasm, desire, emotional intensity, force and effectiveness in executive action.  It is the combined power of will and vital force, which converts an idea or knowledge into a force for material realization.  This force and intelligence of life in us grows by joyous participation in all the varied activities of the life around us building harmonious relationship and also confronting all the problems, difficulties, dualities and challenges of life with equanimity, courage, endurance, faith and hope.  Our personal force of life in us is only the individualized whirl of energy of the universal force and energy of life.  So the power and effectiveness of our vital force can be considerably multiplied by opening it to the universal vital energy of Nature.

There are many ways of doing it.  Exercises like pranayama are the more physical method.  There are also more psychological methods.  One of them was visualization, to imagine we are floating in a ocean of vital energy pulsing everywhere, and visualize it as entering into us and energizing us.  Certain inner psychological attitudes, when cultivated and established in the thinking, emotional and vital consciousness, can bring about an enduring inner opening to the universal vital energy.  Effort for progress, which means making a constant and continuous effort for progressive perfection in work, makes us receptive to universal forces, vital and mental.  Positive attitudes like generosity, wideness, self-giving, dedication to a self-transcending cause help us to attune our mental and vital consciousness to the universal energies of Nature.  We must note here, increase in vital force enhances the performance and productivity of not only the faculties of action but also the faculties of knowledge in the mind.  For, vital energy is the “anima” which animates body, mind, heart and will.  So as the flow of vital energy increases it can make a dull mind active and a bright mind more creative, energetic and productive.

The Faculties of Imagination and Intuition

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  Imagination and Intuition are the two creative faculties in us.  The essence of imagination is the ability to visualize ideas in concrete images or symbols.  Through imagination, abstract ideas can be made sensuous, emotive and concrete to the mind.  For example, consciousness can be visualized as inner light revealing things within us.  Imagination can lead to intuition of the unmanifest possibilities of the future.  Imaginative and intelligent understanding of history, comprehending the past events and present actualities in a holistic perspective, can intuitively extend itself towards the future potentialities.  An optimistic, hopeful and intuitive imagination of the future potentialities, when expressed in a creative and evocative language, acts as a call to these unmanifest future possibilities and bring them down or hastens their manifestation into the present.  As The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram explains, “Your imagination always goes ahead of your life. When you think of yourself, usually you imagine what you want to be, don’t you, and this goes ahead, then you follow, then it continues to go ahead and you follow.  Imagination opens for you the path of realisation”. (5) The faculty of imagination can be of great help in enhancing the potentialities of our dynamic intelligence and energies.   If we are able to visualize clearly the future benefits of a task or resolution, and impress this image on the emotive being, it harnesses the support of our emotions to the task, which in turn felicitates the exercise of will.

Intuition is the other creative faculty in us which is now very much recognised in the new management thinking.  As Thomas R. Horton, CEO of American Management Association states:

“Recent research suggests that when making decisions, those at the top call more heavily on right-brain thinking than do managers at lower level.  Sound intuition and instinct help form the successful CEO’s perception.  The inner ear hears what others may not.  An inside voice speaks.  Decisions are often said to come ‘from the heart’.” (5)

Intuition is the faculty by which we can arrive at a direct or holistic insight into a problem, solution, issue, situation or a person.  The development of intuition requires stilling the externalized surface mind and receiving the intuitive spark in a passive concentrated silence, with the mind turned inward towards the deeper self in us, which is the source of intuition.

References:

  1. Sri Aurobindo, Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, p. 494
  2. E.F. Schumacher, (1972) Small is Beautiful India Book Distributors, Bombay
  3. Diane Boyd-Heger (2005), Living with Wolves, Intimate Nature, p.96
  4. The Mother, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry Vol.7, p. 233
  5. Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry, p. 527
  6. Thomas R. Horton, What Works For Me, Random House Business Division, Newyork, p. 388-89.

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This entry was posted on May 16, 2012 by in Harnessing the Human Potential.