Brian Eno, “Scenious” and the True Intelligence of 5Q

In the new book, 5Q:Reactivating the Original Intelligence and Capacity of the Body of Christ, there’s a fantastic excerpt in which Alan interacts with legendary musician and producer, Brian Eno, as he continues to answer the question, “What is 5Q?” and develop new ways of thinking about the Body of Christ through the five fold lens. 

Chapter Four exclusive excerpt:

“I love how the outstanding British artist Brian Eno came up with the very fertile term “scenious” to describe the phenomenon of collective creativity as opposed to individual genius. Here’s what he said at the Luminous Festival in Sydney in 2009:

“I was an art student and, like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on sort of appeared out of nowhere and produced an artistic revolution. But as I looked at art more and more, I discovered that that wasn’t really a true picture. What really happened was that there were sometimes very fertile scenes involving lots and lots of people—some of them artists, some of them collectors, some of them curators, thinkers, theorists—all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work….

“So I thought that originally those few individuals who’d survived in history— in the sort of “Great Man” theory of history—were called “geniuses”. But what I thought was interesting was the fact that they all came out of a scene that was very fertile and very intelligent. So I came up with this word “scenius”—and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. And I think that’s actually a more useful way to think about cultureLet’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while; let’s [rather] think about the whole ecology of ideas that give rise to good new thoughts and good new work.

[bctt tweet=’Forget about individual genius and think about the whole ecology of ideas that gives rise to movements.’]

To summarize, here’s how Eno himself defines it: “Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius…Scenius is like genius, only embedded in a scene rather than in a gene”. Almost identical to the metaphor of a quotient, scenius is useful shorthand to help us see the matrix out of which culture and values develop within a whole group or society. APEST archetypes, already existing in and throughout culture, are in fact ideas and patterns seeded into the heart of all culture itself.

Once we have the five APEST categories clear in our own thinking, it is not hard to identify APEST being expressed in and through the many archetypes, heroes, capacities, intelligences, abilities, and even whole domains of human activity. 

These are not just functions and capacities inside the church; in many ways they prefigure the church’s particularly nuanced application of the fivefold in the NT and in subsequent history.

The idea of the pre-existence of the archetypes is further strengthened when we look at the use of language then and now. All the terms used by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 were drawn from extra-biblical sources. So for instance “apostle” was a secular term drawn from Greco Roman society; there were “prophets” in all religions; the term “evangelist” likewise has its roots in broader culture; as do the terms “shepherd” and “teacher.” The Bible-writers just drew from the well of language and ideas in broader culture and gave them a particular theological shape, but they did not fundamentally alter their basic meanings.

[bctt tweet=”APEST archetypes are ideas and patterns seeded into the heart of culture itself. #5Q”]

Recognizing different modes and intelligences and capacities inside and outside the church radically opens up the game and brings significant insight to believers and non-believers alike and across all the domains. For instance, there are individuals and organizations that express the apostolic archetype in pioneering and founding new movements, excelling in organizational design, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Similarly, there has always been some form of prophetic organizations and heroes that manifest the prophetic archetype from time to time—Mahatma Gandhi and the suffragettes are case in point. 

There are those actors and agencies in history that catalyze decision, communicate and inspire, and mobilize groups into action—a clear manifestation of the evangelist archetype. Reflecting the shepherd archetype, history is similarly punctuated with people and organizations committed to creating community, guarding and protecting society, and overcoming conflict. And then of course there are the forces of learning, understanding, pedagogy, and educating that are inspired by the teacher archetypes.

Think of both organizations and/or individuals who embody these. It’s not at all hard to recognize once you have the “eyes”—the necessary perceptual categories—by which to “see” it. (Remember the importance of the interpretive lens in helping us categorize, and therefore understand, what we are seeing.) If we don’t have the mental model, categories, and the language associated with 5Q, we are blinded to it when we encounter it in real life.

[bctt tweet=’Once you have the “eyes,” you can see #5Q in literary, historical, organizational and cultural categories.’]

In this diagram, we can readily observe that the fivefold APEST are not just functions and callings within a church but existent in so many ways throughout society.

In fact once a person or a group has an articulated mental model encompassing the APEST typology, they will be able to recognize that they are archetypally laced throughout all aspects of society.

The patterns were there all along, it is we who were linguistically blinded, and we could not recognize what we were always looking at.

Join us in the 5Q conversation! Read the new book (which you can still grab with the pre-order discount here) and leave a comment below sharing where you identify the 5Q across social categories. We look forward to learning from you!