One of the things many people find difficult to understand is the difference between intellectual and intelligent people: many, it seems to me, wrap both together as one thing, as one form of person, and assume that an intellectual conversation, for example, is carried out by intelligent people in an appropriate atmosphere. But an intelligent person can be anyone who understands a certain principle, who can perform a difficult task which others cannot, who is capable of learning and doing, of constructive and interpretive thought. An intellectual, to my way of thinking, is predominantly someone who has taken a specific subject as their own, and talks or writes about it in a certain manner because of what they have learned, but cannot necessarily work through problems or reach their own logical conclusion based on a theory in that subject. Anyone one can have a conversation about quantum mechanics, for example, but not everyone can understand what they are talking about and work through the problems of individual sections of the quantum universe. So when I say I often find intellectual conversations boring, it is because they are exceptionally limited: the people involved are often hemmed in by their set piece of knowledge and cannot see outside of what they have learned, cannot advance beyond the dogma of their argument and comprehension into other related areas.

It is also possible for a smart person, using your word, to have an intelligent conversation or discussion, and even for those who we would not necessarily rate as well-educated or intelligent can use the knowledge they have, their own level of understanding of the world and its ways, to challenge anyone in a debate. All they need to be able to do is understand their own argument, be capable of defending it with factual evidence, and also open to other views which would increase their own level of knowledge, and either enhance or diminish their position. Just because someone does not have their High School Diploma, or is incarcerated for a crime everyone admits was pretty dumb, it doesn’t stop that person from being able to articulate themselves intelligently, and bring a good deal into a conversation which is both intelligent and, for other people, enlightening.

My claim that I find intellectual people are often boring is taken from experience, and the fact that many I have come across are so set within their small area of professed knowledge, they cannot break out, they cannot move on and advance their awareness into other areas. Once they are stuck in this rut, they have no chance of interesting someone who has already been through it, and has moved on to pastures new. I was member, for many years, of the British Mensa organisation, whose membership is determined by the level of their IQ. Trying to hold a conversation with some of these people, who were intelligent in a logical manner – that is, they possessed the means to pass the logic section of the Mensa entrance test and had learned enough to cover the remaining parts – was exceptionally frustrating because they were so limited. Many had become introvert and had to learn how to converse with other people on a social level, and trying to hold a conversation with someone who is concentrating on his or her reactions, the outward signs that they are listening to you, is exasperating.

What do I mean by boring? There are several traits which I would include in this term: repetition without any form of enhancement to the conversation; the manner of speaking; constantly being distracted when others are talking; body language which shows a lack of interest in anyone else, in the conversation as a whole. And then there are those who only have one theme, who cannot broaden their minds into a different area, who will simply go on and on about their chosen subject even when a normal person would be able to see it falling on deaf ears, or the irritation of those being confronted by the same subject or story yet again. Some could claim that it is difficult to find new things to talk about, that some subject matters are closed and will never advance any further, and I would disagree with both. There is so much in this world which is fascinating, which can be explored and enjoyed that no one, no matter how limited their conversational or intellectual skills may be, should find themselves limited for new subject areas, new material.

A good conversation has nothing to do with prim and proper, or with big words, or with trying to impress someone else with your knowledge and learning. A good conversation should spring naturally from the heart and mind combined, take all parties involved under its wing and be natural and free-flowing. A good conversation does not have one single person holding forth to everyone else, and also usually does not have one set subject which has to be followed without deviation throughout the entire time. To me a good conversation is something which begins by everyone getting to know one another – even good friends need this, since so much can change in a person’s life, or certain  things may be worrying, oppressing, enthralling and exciting them at any given time – and proceeds naturally from there with a wide variety of topics, with chat as much as formal conversation, with listening as much as speaking.

He knows no ablatives, conjunctives, substantives, or grammar; nor does his lackey, or a fishwife of the Petit Pont, and yet they will talk your ear off, if you like, and will perhaps stumble as little over the rules of their language as the best master of arts in France.

So Michel de Montaigne, and I subscribe to this view too: a good conversationalist doesn’t have to be the one who has the highest qualifications their country can give them, merely the ability to interest and hold attention with the richness of their ideas, of their language, however it may be expressed, and their presence. Horace wrote:

His taste is keen, although his verse is harsh.

In a good conversation we can see through the use of language, which might differ drastically from our own, to the ideas which lie beneath, like nuggets of gold, waiting to be discovered, and do our best to bring them out to the surface, for all to see and enjoy. In a boring conversation, or with a boring conversationalist – since a subject can still be fascinating despite the vexatious manner in which it is presented – we would not even consider digging, let alone seeking out the tools to begin with. It is much, to give a simple comparison, the same as with a book: if the opening page or paragraph does not excite your interest, you’re not going to read any further unless forced to do so.

Although it has been around d for a very long time, Psychometrics is one of those sciences which rears its head as something new every few years, either to acclaim or with a series of questions about racial profiling, and is widely used in many commercial and governmental areas as well as in academia and medicine. The British Mensa entrance test I mentioned above, used to determine whether someone is a potential member of the society or not, is a form of psychometric examination based on the Cattell scale of intelligence. Many companies use some form of psychometric test when assessing candidates for employment, or for advancement within their company chain. Its origins have much to do with Charles Darwin and his work The Origin of Species, which covered differences and similarities between species of animals and their ability to survive through adaptation, strength, intelligence. This was taken up by other people for studies in humans, although not in the same manner, as all believed that the survival of the human race is a given – and some who followed the studies opened by Darwin and Francis Galton still believed in creationist theory – but that the chances of success or failure in life, in society and business could be assessed in a similar fashion. Today it is predominantly used for standardised tests and suitability assessments as much as for intelligence and emotional quotas.

Psychometrics, in this usage, has nothing to do with being a psychic, which is a person who claims an ability to ‘see’: an ability to tell the future; to read minds; to discover that which is hidden without being present; to connect and communicate with spirits and souls consigned to the after-world or caught in limbo between this life and the afterlife – something which the Church now claims no longer exists, but which the Roman Catholics were strong believers in until one of the Popes said it had been dissolved.

I do believe that some people have psychic abilities, but not when it comes to ghosts, talking to or receiving communications from the dead and similar. I believe some people can sense when something is wrong, and are far more tuned to the reactions of people, animals and their surroundings than others. For me a psychic is someone capable of reading all the signs which we overlook, from weather, nervousness in a dog through to body language in humans, and interpreting what they see. There are many methods which can be employed to learn this form of psychic ability, but most of them rely on the person seeking education being open and receptive to what is happening around them in the first place, and simply build on this innate ability rather than creating it from scratch.

I am not sure how a person can sharpen their intuition, other than by concentrating on those things which they see around them, such as a person’s reactions to an event, or fear of something happening, coupled with a good and clear understanding of individual body language – every person is different, but there are many similarities – and a good memory for such signs, actions and reactions. You can probably find out more about this sort of work, assessing other people through their reactions, including those which they are not aware of themselves, by reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown, 2005). Sadly it doesn’t have a bibliography included, which would mean you could jump a few steps and go straight to the source for information he has incorporated, but it is a fascinating book nonetheless, and there are many references to detailed and academic works included.

If you wish to follow psychometry in the occult form then you are wandering off into the realms of physiology and the work of Joseph Buchanan, who believed that everything had a form of soul within it, and this soul holds all the details of its past so that the right person, a psychic, should be able to read an object and say where it has been, who has owned it, what it has seen – taking seen to be experienced as opposed to the physical act of observation. What he suggests is similar to what is contained in Gladwell’s book, but with the addition of a recognition of things which have happened before, and left their mark, such as the smell of perfume hanging in the air, an object that has been moved. He was closely bound with some of the best charlatans of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who would make claims of the ability to communicate with the dead, to call up the physical presence of ghosts, pass messages back and forth across the void. This form of science also propagates the idea that any object has its past imprinted within it, and this past can be called forth by a medium and revealed. Then there is the ability to call forth spirits who can make tables move, objects fly across the room, the air chill and who speak foreign tongues through their vessel, the medium themselves.

How can a person learn clairvoyance and this form of spiritualism? How can a person communicate with the dead, call up their powers, and reveal the hidden treasures left behind by a rich uncle? How can anyone manipulate the powers of the present to call forth spirits from the past, to move tables and hurl objects across an open, darkened room? Your guess is as good as mine, but I suspect one of the necessary skills for such a way of life would be the ability to convince anyone – but more those who have a strong desire to be convinced – of what is happening. In  other words, in my opinion, a person who is good at conning anyone else, making them believe they see something, will achieve something, have a special future planned for them which can only be revealed by one person for a few pieces of silver. Of course it is possible, but not through any calls on the hidden powers of the spirit world, more through skills learned which Gladwell’s book illuminate which are, thankfully, very much of this earth, and this level of acceptable reality.