Book Review: Future Sense

Future sense: Five Explorations of Whole Intelligence for a World That’s Waking Up is a book where Malcolm Parlett wrote what was inside of him to write. He throws “light on … the usual thinking of society and the assumptions people live by” (p.1). The book is “a stimulant to thinking differently” (p.8). Parlett’s aim is “to aid refection, not to present a condensed argument” (p.55). He seeks “to promote ways to strengthen and support the emergence of more whole intelligence” (p.55).

Guiding Principles
The Five Explorations of the title is “a result of 20 years of investigating these five ‘dimensions of whole intelligence’” (p.9). Malcolm Parlett identifies ”the conditions in which ‘intelligent actions’ are most likely to develop and flourish” (pp.12–13). “Several guiding principles are central to the book” (p.15):

  • Human beings never exist … in isolation …
  • We are all of the same … species and members of … Humanity …
  • People want to discover … or develop … their ‘Whole Intelligence’ …

Whole Intelligence
Malcolm Parlett thinks that we need “a broader conception … of intelligence – something nearer to integrated human competence, overall maturity, and demonstrable good sense” (p.16). Whole intelligence is ”an … inclusive general concept, which attempts to gather together a number of valued human qualities and varieties of capability, … skills, and attitudes …” (p.19). Throughout the book, “whole intelligence” is abbreviated as “whi” (p.19). “Whi exists as a potentiality and is something we can nurture in ourselves and encourage in others” (p.26).

Five Explorations
Malcom Parlett explains how the Five Explorations “arrived rather unexpectedly” in his “working life” (p.28). At first, he saw them as “freestanding and independent of each other” (p.28). Later, he realized that “the boundaries between them were fluid, almost arbitrary” (p.28). Whi cannot be sensibly divided. The Explorations provide “different perspectives on the whole” (p.28). They “appear distinct from one another at first, but later they do not” (p.28). Parlett regards the Explorations as properties which “apply to all human systems and relations” (p.29).

Fundamental Values
Fundamental values are “key to unlocking future possibilities” (p.54). The Explorations and their defining values are (pp.51–53):

  1. Responding to the Situation: … ACCOMPLISHMENT” – Responding to the actual situation.
  2. Interrelating: … FRIENDSHIP” – Relating together well, sharing information and handling differences effectively.
  3. Embodying: … LIFE” – Being in touch with ourselves at a feeling level.
  4. Self-Recognising: … WISDOM” – Learning, or recognizing ourselves, individually and as a group.
  5. Experimenting: … PLAY” – Taking new steps, or experimenting with something fresh or different.

1. Responding to the Situation (ACCOMPLISHMENT) (pp.55–89)
Responding to the situation “embraces all the others” (p.55). The aim is to “move to greater ACCOMPLISHMENT” (p.55). Key elements are “how people and groups organise to make things happen, deal with emergencies, experience their power, take responsibility, exercise leadership, and set new trends in motion” (p.56). Here is more on responding to the situation.

2. Interrelating (FRIENDSHIP) (pp.90–132)
Interrelating is “an extension to the first” (p.90). FRIENDSHIP is “the attracting value” here (p.90). There is “much to discover about how human beings engage with each other constructively rather than destructively” (p.91). Here is more on interrelating.

3. Embodying (LIFE) (pp.133–173)
Embodying “emerges as a key dimension of whole intelligence” (p.133). It helps us “forge a more inclusive connection between ourselves and the rest of life” (p.134). LIFE is “the core ‘value’ underlying this dimension” (p.134). For some embodying is “the most difficult … to comprehend” (p.134).

4. Self-Recognising (WISDOM) (pp.174–214)
Self-recognising is “an essential activity” (p.174). Learning and growing “into greater whole intelligence depend on this dimension” (p.174). The value here is “WISDOM” (p.175). “Perhaps never has it been more imperative that human beings listen and learn from each other’s insights” (p.175).

5. Experimenting (PLAY) (pp.215–254)
Experimenting “represents a means of learning and extending the known, of upturning assumptions, and of making deliberate changes” (p.216). It’s the pleasures and value of “PLAY” that underlie this Exploration. “Experimenting … is a universal feature of everyday existence” (p.217). It is “evident in all domains of life” (p.218).

Generative Ideas
The Five Explorations and their underlying values reveal ”the diverse qualities of whole intelligence” (p.255). They are “intended to be generative ideas – inviting reader’s further inquiries and ways of applying them” (p.256). Any of the five dimensions “can become catalysts in the emergence of the others” (p.260). “A powerful extra comes about when all five dimensions of whole intelligence are … evident at the same time” (p.260). “In all such moments … something emerges that is powerful and vibrant” (p.261). “In each case, … an expanded point of view comes into existence” (p.263).

Waking Up
The book’s title also refers to a World That’s Waking Up. “The currents flowing through the Explorations already run strong elsewhere” (p.273). Malcom Parlett writes that “what seems likely to catalyse significant change is unprecedented public participation and pressure on powerful elites from below” (p.275). He emphasizes that each person ”is a ‘live node’ in the overall network of interlinked human beings” (p.279). “Just as we are affected by others, so also do we affect them” (p.279). We can “be influential in changing the general thinking” (p.281). By acting in “more embodied, responsive, relational, conscious, and experimental ways, we … support others to do so too” (p.283). “Offering what we have discovered, value, and know about, is … another way we can contribute to the … awakening of the world” (p.284).

This book is about being fully alive and fully awake, exercising whole intelligence in our lives – individually and together. I am very glad that Malcolm Parlett did write and publish the book despite his “deep fears of revealing publicly” his “personal ideas and … beliefs” (p.286). The book is full of Malcolm Parlett’s deep humanity and profound experience. He both warms my heart and enlivens my thinking. I love the book!


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