Was Emotion at the Core of Spock’s Brilliance?

Via Benjamin Riggs
on Jun 25, 2011
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Emotional Intelligence: a Discussion.

“Supposedly Mr. Spock, the Vulcan mastermind, didn’t have emotions (except for occasional intrusions from his human side and a seven-year itch that drove him back to Vulcan to spawn).

But Spock’s emotionlessness really just amounted to his being in control, not losing his head, coolly voicing unpleasant truths, and so on. He must have been driven by some motives or goals. Something must have kept Spock from spending his days calculating pi to a quadrillion digits or memorizing the Manhattan telephone directory. Something must have impelled him to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new civilizations, and to boldly go where no man had gone before. Presumably it was intellectual curiosity, a drive to set and solve problems, and solidarity with allies—emotions all. And what would Spock have done when faced with a predator or an invading Klingon? Do a headstand? Prove the four-color map theorem? Presumably a part of his brain quickly mobilized his faculties to scope out how to flee and to take steps to avoid the vulnerable predicament in the future. That is, he had fear. Spock may not have been impulsive or demonstrative, but he must have had drives that impelled him to deploy his intellect in pursuit of certain goals rather than others.”

~from How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

Do these “drives” sit at the core of intelligence? Is emotion a primal form of intelligence? We tend to reduce intelligence down to the capacity to memorize data, organize this data in unique or interesting ways, and articulate it in a user-friendly, easy to follow manner. But are these rationale faculties obsolete without the guiding force of emotion? If so, where does emotion fit into your spiritual practice? Most often emotion is cast in the spiritual drama as a villain. We often speak of the negative emotions, and I agree that there is a need to address the perversion of emotion, but isn’t this perversion a product of the rationale faculties? Isn’t the perversion a poor interpretation of the emotional experience?

So, let’s get a discussion going.

  • Is emotion at the root of intelligence?
  • Or is emotion a medium?
  • Where does emotion fit into your spiritual practice?
  • How do you work with emotion in your daily life?
  • How do you transmute the intensity of the “negative emotions” and rediscover emotion in it’s original form? In other words, how do you put emotion back in the driver’s seat, allowing emotion to guide and direct our wits?
  • Do we have to discover that which guides and directs emotion? If so, what is that?

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About Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


2 Responses to “Was Emotion at the Core of Spock’s Brilliance?”

  1. Um, I really hate apostrophe errors.

  2. Elle Bieling says:

    OK, my first belief is that emotions are neither good nor bad – just information about our true selves, our true heart! If we do not acknowledge them by learning to listen to them and/or take a passive approach to them they will dominate our lives. We believe that they are being managed if we ignore them or do not acknowledge them, but if significant enough for our lives, these same emotions need an outlet.

    Emotions affect our bodies: Every emotion we have is expressed as a body sensation, a physical expression of what is really going on in our lives. If unattended to, dis-ease is created. So, I prefer bodywork of all types to listen to and understand my emotions manifested in my body. This is paramount, if you are to focus on a healthy life. It takes a spiritual spin to sort out this true self phenomenon. The spirituality is in reconnecting with yourself and your body! It is said that if you get to know yourself, you get to know God (Spirit)! So what better tool than our bodies to get to know God?

    Perhaps the creator of Spock understood this to an extent. Intelligence is certainly tied up in our emotions. Our emotions are tied up in our bodies. Therefore, perhaps it can be said that intelligence is tied up in our bodies!! Hmmm!! Too bad Spock emphasized the mind only – and only infrequently accessed his emotions, as his human 'frailty.'

    But alas, we are human to the core – a tangled mess of body, mind and soul – all mashed together in the quantum scheme of things! All areas must be addressed!

    Pronams to all,