Intellectualism and Intelligence

An intellectual, in the popular sense of the term, is one who prides himself on possessing much knowledge, one who delights in knowing facts just for the sake of knowing facts. An intelligent person is one who makes proper use of whatever amount of knowledge he has.

The intellectual uses knowledge in an attempt to ornament himself, while the intelligent person uses it to equip himself. The intellectual lets his knowledge run away with his common sense, whereas the intelligent person makes his knowledge subservient to his common sense. The intellectual acts unnaturally, permitting his intellect (the faculty by which he knows) to dwell in territories where his will (the faculty by which he loves) cannot accompany it. Thus much of what he knows he does not love. The intelligent person pursues knowledge only in realms where he can exercise both his intellect and his will. Whatever he knows he takes to his heart and makes part of himself. The intellectual frequently espouses absurd opinions, which he could never put into practice without contradicting himself. He falls into error because he has no love, for it is to a loving heart that truth makes itself known. The intelligent person, on the other hand, is rarely given over to false theories, which are at variance with reality. He is likely to arrive at certitude because he desires to rejoice in the truth. The intellectual, who claims to pursue knowledge without loving it, may become so hardened of heart that he will refuse truth when it is presented to him. The intelligent person, in whom knowledge and love go hand in hand, may fall so deeply in love with truth that he will give his life to its cause.

The intellectual is typified by the Pharisee, who permitted himself to be enslaved by the knowledge that he possessed but did not love. So completely did his heart abdicate in favor of his proud mind that when truth came to him as a Person he would not accept Him. In wickedly refusing to submit his mind to Jesus Christ, the Pharisee became the most unintelligent of all men, depriving himself of the knowledge of all truth. The intelligent person is exemplified by the child. Those who were childlike in spirit were set free by the truth which Our Lord taught them and which they so lovingly received. In believing that Jesus Christ was God, and in accepting His authority, they performed the supreme act of intelligence, submitting their finite minds to the Divine Mind, in loving adoration. Jesus loved the qualities of a child. He loved his innocence and simplicity and humility and trust, his certitudes and alertness and enthusiasm. He made an example of the child to His disciples, saying, “Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not enter into it” (Luke 18.17). He despised the Pharisees and rebuked them, calling them “hyprocrites,” “whited sepulchres,” “blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matt. 23.24). He did not excuse their blindness, but condemned them, saying, “You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell?” (Matt. 23.33).

Although Our Lord severely censured these false intellectuals, He did not cast opprobrium on learning itself. What He did require was that intellectualism build on intelligence and serve as its handmaid.

Source: From the Housetops, Volume III, No.2, December, 1948

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