Posted by: Donna Cunningham | June 15, 2010

Four Kinds of Smart–Which One Are You?

Note:  The following is an excerpt from my ebook, Astrological Analysis, available at Moon Maven Publications for $15It’s a collection of essays on a variety of astrological features compiled from my articles in The Mountain Astrologer and other journals.

©2010 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

During our lively exchanges about the Mercury test recently in the comment section, any number of readers have reported that they have a high Mercury score but can’t identify with the description of a Mercurial type.  Many of them have Mercury in the earth signs—Taurus, Virgo, or Capricorn—and tend not to regard themselves as particularly brainy. I think they’re wrong.  They just share the common but very narrow definition of brilliance.

 We tend to rank intelligence along the lines of air sign qualities—the ability to verbalize complex ideas, perhaps even to put them down on paper, and to communicate our thoughts coherently. That, however, is intellect, and over time, I have come to appreciate that each element has its own type of genius.

Common sense, for instance, is more of an earth sign quality, excelling in practical skills and grounded solutions and can help the possessor be more effective in the world than the brilliant people who build their castles in air.

An ­Earth-smart individual would have strong Earth accents in the horoscope because of important placements like the Sun, Moon, Ascendant or several planets.  An Air-smart person would have much emphasis in the air signs Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius, but not much going on in Earth.

I spent my first several years in astrology in total awe of peers born in the early 1940s who had the grand air trine with Uranus in Gemini, Neptune in Libra, and personal planets in Aquarius. They were just so brilliant, so creative, so innovative, so politically sophisticated, so iconoclastic, and so cerebral—and despite my master’s degree in social work I couldn’t understand half of what they said. I still can’t, but now I view that as a choice on my part rather than a failing.

After years of observing the denizens of this grand air trine from afar—oh, so reverently—I found that far too many of them did little with all their brilliant ideas and all that youthful potential.

Decades later, fascinating as they can be, many of those grand air trines are still spinning castles in the air and enjoying rambling philosophical discussions that lead nowhere in particular. Now, however, the exchanges may be via email or instant messaging.

On the whole, they’re happy that way, and when they reach that great Chat Room in the Sky and don’t have to contend with aging bodies or keeping a roof over their heads, well, then they’ll be in heaven.

Over time, I came to appreciate the difference between “air smart” and “earth smart.”  An air smart individual may have a million bright ideas in the course of a lifetime and yet lack the skill or the motivation to put many of them into practice.

An earth smart individual may have only one or two bright ideas in the course of a lifetime. In fact, the bright idea might not even have been their own but someone else’s.

Maybe some air smart genius tossed it out casually as a theory or a possibility, and the earth smart genius chewed it over and saw how to bring it to fruition. Yet, the earth smart may develop the practical applications of that idea thoroughly enough to earn a comfortable living.

There’s nothing wrong with air smart, you understand. Developing and sharing the abstract side of the intellect is a legitimate life purpose, and I hope that we all have the luxury of many lifetimes to spend that way.  It’s just a tad unfortunate that our materialistic society doesn’t often validate and sustain these pursuits in the manner to which we’d like to become accustomed.

As a collective, we do need both air and earth, in that the air type uplifts, inspires, and challenges us with a view of the greater scheme of things, while the earth type sustains us on a more material level.

Myself, I am intelligent enough but am neither impressively air smart nor—alas—earth smart to any useful extent, though I probably rank pretty high on water smart. A water smart person is deeply intuitive and keenly perceptive about emotions and about what lies beneath the surface, over time gaining wisdom that can be used to heal and teach others about these matters.

Are you wondering about fire smart individuals? Those are the people with a genius for enrolling others in their enthusiasms, becoming inspiring leaders who know how to make things happen.  Remember the Little Engine That Could?  Well, trains run on fire.

So, Readers, what kind of smart are you?  Let us know in the comment section. 

Note:  This has been an excerpt from my ebook, Astrological Analysis, available at Moon Maven Publications for $15It’s a collection of essays on a variety of astrological features compiled from my articles in The Mountain Astrologer and other journals.

More Excerpts from Donna’s Books:

More Posts about Mercury and the 3rd House on this Blog:  

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Responses

  1. I think that, as a society, we tend to measure intelligence as the sum total of grades on a report card, which is utterly ridiculous. I’ve always recognized and appreciated intelligence in all forms, and I’ve seen plenty of so-called “geniuses” with such precious little common sense that the lack thereof almost overshadows their considerable mental gifts. To me, all that mental acumen is almost worthless if it constantly remains out in the ethers and is never channeled to a productive end. I think the worst part of it, though, is when one prides themselves so much on their intelligence and “genius” that they look down on others whom they deem “less intelligent”. While I realize that some of this can be reflexive for those who may have been picked on a lot growing up because of their intelligence, I have a hard time swallowing pompousness in any form.

    I have a very good friend and particular who is quite “book-smart” and well-educated, yet has great difficulty with some of the most mundane of things – things that would be considered “no-brainers” to most people.

    I also have a very earth-smart husband (Merc in Cap) who seems to knock his own intelligence just because he “wasn’t a great student” in his own words. If a kid struggles a little bit in school and others label them as having difficulty in an area they really seem to see themselves as “less intelligent”, which is upsetting. I find this especially true for children who need a little extra help in things like reading, writing, or spelling. It’s important to be careful about unintentionally stigmatizing children.

    My earth-smart husband has a wealth of information in that head of his about subjects that aren’t the kind of things taught in typical public schools. And what’s better is that he actually does something with that knowledge! He knows so much about plumbing and construction I’m almost convinced he could single-handedly build a house from start to finish. He has a vast reservoir of mechanical knowledge and is so damn handy it’s almost sickening. There isn’t much of anything that you could hand him that he couldn’t figure out how to fix. I have always seen him as my intellectual equal. We each just know different TYPES of things, which is great because we constantly learn from one another.

    Kudos to you, Donna, for helping to raise awareness of intelligence in all forms. And to all you earth-smart peeps out there know that you bring your own special skills and gifts to the table and don’t sell yourselves short!

  2. I do know “air smart” people. I have a pair of Libra uncles who are identical twins, and they have very sharp minds. They both love politics and are loquacious. One of them was also quite skilled in art when he was younger!

    I was the one who went to college, but these guys had the facilities to take it far! For whatever reason, they did not apply themselves. They treat their politics and news as an engaging hobby, but I feel like they really could had better lives if they applied themselves. Guess I have to respect free will in all its expressions!!

  3. Thanks Donna, for bringing up this subject. I’ve always said there are different kinds of smarts and room in the world for all of us, so long as we learn how to put our talents to use where they can be of the greatest benefit. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed a tendency among some (not all) academics – who I fondly refer to as the “Big Brains” – to be dismissive of those of us with a more dynamic, common sense approach. Thank God for the Big Brains of the world; we definitely need them. But we need the other kinds of smarts as well.

    I have lots of air and water in my chart, but have always considered my greatest intellectual strengths to be my “common sense” combined with an ability to see beyond the surface and solve problems at their root. I love abstract theories and philosophy only when those principals can be applied in the real world; otherwise they seem like useless intellectual exercises. Having said all that, I do love Mensa puzzles, and am a master at solving the most difficult Sudokus (usually – lol!). I do those to keep my mind sharp. I have a Virgo rising, with my one earth planet, Pluto, in Virgo as well. My Mercury/Neptune/Jupiter conjunction is in Scorpio in the 2nd/3rd.

    I’m also very sensitive to people’s emotional needs and underlying fears and/or motives.

    I spent many years working in a very academic environment, and the various theories and abstractions used to drive me crazy; as incredibly bright as many of these individuals were, their problem solving abilities were sorely lacking. Maybe it’s because most of my air is in my 2nd house (Libra Sun/Venus/North Node) that I want to see practical action taken. I also have my Aquarius Moon in the 5th, and my Gemini Mars in the 9th, almost 10th.

    I once had a very educated professional (who ran a therapeutic nursing facility) tell me he couldn’t accept my donation of blankets (it was winter and the patients were cold), because they all had to be ordered from the same vendor and be the same color. Aaaargghhhh! Talk about missing the point. Along the same lines, my eye for detail is often considered nit-picky, yet I’ve frequently been the one to discover dangerous mistakes which could have resulted in serious physical harm had I not noticed.

    I’d say I’m mostly water-smart, followed by an earthy air combo and maybe a tiny dash of fire thrown in – I can be very enthusiastic in my pursuits.

    Alethea, I wrote my comment before I read yours. It reads like I copied from you – lol!

    • Well, LB – “Birds of a feather…” or should I instead be saying “Great minds think alike” ;-)

      I have almost zippo for Earth in my own chart, but my exhalted and very active Saturn keeps me very grounded and common-sense focused. I also consider myself a very balanced individual with regard to my “smarts” and believe that there is room for and validity to ALL types of intellegence :-)

      • HAHA! I typo’d “intelligence”! Maybe I’m not so smart after all :-P

      • You’re plenty smart, Alethea. :) In spite of my claims of being detail-oriented, I still make plenty of errors. So long as they don’t fall into the category of harmful habits, I figure they’re God’s way of reminding me I’m only human.

  4. Yep. So glad for all my Virgo, as it keeps my grand trine very practical oriented for the most part, and I love to work with the earth, the dirt, gardening, and building. I am always a bit slow to say our society values this, or that, as we are many peoples living in this big country. The dominant society values the air smart by far though. But I have spent the last two years working with farmers in New Mexico, mostly first nations peoples. It has helped me redefine ‘literacy.’ Many I have met and worked with are earth-literate. They know how to build with the materials available to them, what plant works medicinally in what way, what time of year to plant, which plants work for which dyes. It’s useful, applicable literacy of what is around them. Academia defines literacy in a way that often excluses earth-literate peoples, and stigmatizes them for it. We are sold a bill of goods that the only way to get ahead is through formal education. But I wonder, as things unravel economically, who will fair better. Those that are dependent on that economic system through their degrees, or those that know how to grow and hunt their own food? I read a book a few years back called ‘The Alphabet Versus the Goddess’ written by a brain surgeon, who studied brain function, and he talks about the parts of the brain we use when we read, versus the part of the brain we use when we listen (oral traditions) and how the alphabet completely reprincipled life on earth. It’s fascinating. I do know about the castles in the air, the chat room in the sky. (hee-hee). When that part of me gets activated, I try to balance it with earth energy, so things can manifest. Vigorous exercise and gardening (hands in dirt) or just straight up hard physical work, helps me work off the excess energy. I’m thankful for my Saturn in Gemini also, another grounding point for my air trine. But I also think there is a lot of value put on ‘results’ in Western societies (very yang), that has always felt like a lot of pressure to me from the outside. I think strong air people see the value in discussion alone, to hone their own thinking, to refine it. My favorite people in the world, are working class intellectuals. Strongly Mercurial types often need to work with their hands, and bodies, to balance it out, I think. We are often encouraged to expound on our mental capacities for an occupation, which might be appropriate sometimes, but I love meeting the carpenter with a huge philosophical library, who can hold a conversation about world politics, while he installs kitchen cabinets. It makes me smile in recognition. Working with our hands is a tether point to the earth, and gives us something to do, while we work it out in our heads. I love to move dirt, myself. The repetition of a shovel is the best meditation and allows me to work it out, and THEN I’m able to sit down and commit it to paper. And it helps my water emotional Plutonic self also, anything physically strenuous.

  5. Althea, LB, Kristy & Gracebound, I totally relate to all of y’alls responses.

    Adding to what Althea said I think society also measures intelligence based on gender and a bunch of other stupid things as well. That is a rant all on it’s own. There not only room as LB says for all but it’s required. Favoring one type of intelligence over the another is why I think we are in the terrible shape we are in economically, socially etc.

    I feel like I’m a balance of all four elements. That’s where I got the name for my YouTube channel and blog not to mention one of my favorite music groups of all time, Earth, Wind & Fire.

  6. Hit the submit button before I was ready as I was meaning to say an interesting balance of all four smarts.

    Listening to “That The Way of the World” as I type.

    • Hey Msfullroller – I’ve checked out some of your decorating tips and found them to be helpful in very practical ways. And seeing your hair tips reminded me of the fact that I also taught myself how to cut hair. During the years I did my own, I received the most compliments; now I trim my husband’s from time to time. I guess both of those talents would be considered earthy forms of intelligence, albeit ones with a strong Venus influence. And I used to love Earth, Wind and Fire. :)

      • True!

        It’s my understanding that Venus influences money as well and I’m very practical when it comes to money. I’m debt-free including my mortgage and did it at the age of 40. NNode in Taurus. Venus in air squaring the NN, in aspect to Saturn & Mercury in water, along with Uranus/Pluto in earth and Sun & Mars in Fire, I think has given me the “intelligence” to understand what was happening in the collective, make the plan, execute the plan and stick with it thru to completion.

  7. I think there are all kinds of smarts, yes, and all have value. My street smarts certainly didn’t come from academia, but from a lot of solo travel outside the country. I wanted to add, (to play the devil’s advocate), that I also see an anti-intellectualism trend in the U.S. that is of concern to me as well. While I don’t think all problems are solved via the intellect, and I see how aspects of academia and theory can perpetuate mental maturbation (sorry, I’m Plutonian also!) I also don’t want to see us knee jerk, and demonize critical analysis. I meet new agers all the time who are incredibly ‘anti-mind’ to the point where they can’t look at anything critically anymore, including the guru who is ripping them off, the group mind they have signed onto, etc. I just think it has it’s place, it’s value, amidst multiple facilities for problem solving and understanding. I think synthesis of all of them is the best, when it is possible. I don’t feel I ever use just one kind of smarts, to the exclusion of others, nor do I think most people do. But I do see how we have certain proclivities. I think the dominant culture allows women to be more emotionally literate (in general) while contstricting men, so many men are challenged in that area because of it. But all you have to be is an outspoken and articulate woman to see the reverse in gendered allowances.

    • You bring up some very valid points, Gracie. My point wasn’t so much to speak out about intellectualism, rather it was to say that rounding it out with a bit of earthy common sense does us all a bit of good. While I respect the academic achievements of those who may be more learned than myself in a traditional sense, I have also seen those who focus their “smarts” solely in the airy realm and who see little value in developing other kinds of intelligence, let alone recognizing that there ARE other kinds! There are all kinds of people and all kinds of intelligence. I have met those with PhD’s who look down upon those with a “lesser” level of education or different smarts with an air of superiority that I find incredibly distasteful.

      A classic example of this would be my best friend’s father. The man is a chemist with a PhD – a brilliant mind indeed – yet when we once had a conversation many years ago about a friend of mine who had considerable financial smarts and was making a lot of money in the stock market he was astounded that my friend wasn’t a college graduate at all and was the owner of a local auto-body shop. He couldn’t believe that someone could be blue-collar and be financially successful. It’s this kind of elitist attitude that doesn’t sit well with me.

      You bring up another good point about being “anti-mind”. This can happen to people and I see it in a lot of new-agers who are all too happy to surrender their critical thinking faculties. In truth, I think it should be about creating a balance, which we can’t do if we’re completely ignorant about how many different types of intelligence there are.

      I agree with you about women, men, and emotional intelligence. This is such a huge ball of wax I can’t even begin to comment on it here – it would take up WAY too much room! If a woman cries about something, all the sudden she’s “hysterical” (a term I despise). If a woman is angry, it “must be because she’s PMS-ing” , not that she has a legitimate reason to be upset and agitated. WTF?!

      • “If a woman is angry, it “must be because she’s PMS-ing” , not that she has a legitimate reason to be upset and agitated. WTF?!”

        Yep, and when she has earth, air and fire intelligence to back it up, she’s called a b****.

  8. I have TONS of air and even if I like it a lot, I know what you mean about being hard for air types to ‘materialize’ bright ideas.
    I have not one, but two big trines in early and late air signs, involving the moon/pluto, venus and mars, and then mercury in late aquarius cunjunct jupiter 0 in pisces trining saturn and uranus. Total 7 planets in air. Languages and degrees are important for me and learning is a constant source of pleasure and satisfaction. Aesthetic is strong too (my background is in diffrerent areas of art and design) and manual skills.
    But then again, I must consciously summon all my will power to get ideas and plans into action, and to continue working on them enough to materialize the visions. Especially because I don’t have any planets in earth signs! my virgo Asc and the fire and earth houses fully inhabited do seem to help, as it does saturn conjunct the MC, but is something I have to work hard on to (a bit more these days with neptune right on top of my mercury, I’m letting the inspiration rule, but the rest…is easy to imagine)
    I agree with the incredible value of all different kinds of intelligence and the comments in earlier posts. Obviously that’s the base for interdisciplinary work, and is something that should be applied (not only considered) in more depth in early education: bringing out creative ways for kids to learn and express themselves, and to find their own -may I say- ‘mercurial energy’ without the excessive labeling of certain practical traits as the only useful skills to develop. Balance, as some already said.
    I recently found few videos of Sir Ken Robinson speeches. He’s being writing about the importance of creativity, the diversity and greatness of the human mind and how its necessary to change the education models. Not a new subject, but I found his wok so inspiring and moving that I’ll dare to post a link here, is worth checking it out: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

    p.s I get a kick out of people with mercury in scorpio and virgo! big fan of them

    • Hi, Sabrina, thanks for sharing your story–great details about how Mercury and a strong emphasis on air work out. Donna

      • thanks so much Donna, sorry the post was so long! I got excited hearing about the generation with air trines!

  9. I have really enjoyed reading the comments on this blog and the last one dealing with Mercury. Synchronistic, as I just finished hosting a houseful of Geminis on and off for one week! Talk about mouths moving! Ah the wit, the sarcasm, the repartee. And I, one of the only Earth signs amongst them all!
    I see myself as the one that can clean, serve, listen, heal, and cook for them. In other words, the servant. I have learned to deal with them all as they are, but at times it can get lonely.
    As well, I have a very strong Mercurial chart, all in earth signs.
    Bottom line. Thank you for pointing out that we all share different geniuses. In my case it would be working with my hands. Always has been, always will be. Whether through my painting, cleaning, healing, cooking, or listening to those fast-talking, witty Geminis!
    I just wish, they would “GET” me. Not sure if they do. But that’s ok, in the end I am sure karma has its lessons cut out for me (and them) Can’t wait for your Virgo blog to come out Donna, as most of the planets in my chart are in Virgo.

    • A touching story, Adela. But you AREN’T the servant, you’re a valuable player, and what you do for the group should be valued more.

      Your quiet modesty reminds me, believe it or not, of a story from the Bible. It’s the one about how Jesus used to go visit this family on his travels to teach, and afterward a group would gather in their home. They had two daughters, Mary and Martha.

      One would sit at his feet and listen and the other, like you, would be in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning up after the group. The one that would listen was berating the cooking and cleaning one for disrespecting the master and missing the opportunity to learn from him. And Jesus said that she gained as much merit in God’s sight from being the server as the listeners did. (At least that’s how I recall the story.)

      (Where did THAT come from, Donna? Umm, I used to go to Sunday school when I was a Kid?)

      • Very close! Luke 10:38-42.

        Martha was the worker toiling away serving. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus learning. Martha complained to Jesus that Mary should be up and helping her serve. Jesus scolded Martha saying that Mary had chosen “the good portion, which shall not be taken from her”.

        The objective of the story seems to be that she who chooses the contemplative life over the active life has chosen the better way.

        Now compare that to Paul in 2Thess 3:10, “For even when we were with you we gave you this command: If anyone will not work, let him not eat.”

        Does this mean contemplative women and working men are the ideal? But do we disregard the gender issues? Then what does it mean?

        Oh no, not a thing hard to understand about Christianity! LOL

    • I’m sure they love you and need you more than you know! I’m not gemini but quite airy and I adore my family and friends with lots of earth, would be lost without them!

  10. i am a water smart! mercury and sun in cancer. i am highly intuitive. i love this part in me. most of my insights are about relationships (pluto, mars & saturn in libra) i love to talk about love!

    • Thanks, Ann, a good example of water smart. Donna

  11. Definitely earth smart, yes. Loads of Virgo, but also quite watersmart. I consider myself mathematically challenged, and thank God for accountants and calculators.
    Not sure this is specifically earthy, but I was convinced I was stupid all those years of school, even through University – until I realised I was just bored because I did a lot of things that just didn’t interest me, and decided to follow my talent instead of my brain.
    And about cooking? Better to have someone earth smart who cares about food, then someone who doesn’t like to cook …

    • I, too, am among the culinarily challenged, and that’s okay by me. I have finally trained my friends not to give me recipes unless I specifically ask for them. Donna

  12. Thanks for all your responses. Actually, I came to a final conclusion, I want to be listened too as well. In order to do so, I will no longer “host” those who do not respect me for who I am. Period. :)

  13. Alright moving here from my first post, with mercury score of 50, i think i am an “Air Smart” than “Earth Smart”
    4 in Gemini (AIR)
    Sun, Mercury, Chiron in 7th
    Mars in 8th

    Only 1 in Capricorn (Earth)
    Jupiter in 3rd
    (descendant in taurus)

    BUT
    with Scorpio as Ascendant,
    Moon in Scorpio (12th),
    Pluto in Scorpio (12th),
    Moon-Pluto Conj…,
    someone was quoting me to have a lot of “water” esp. intuitive water
    is that so?
    Here is my chart for your/readers reference

    Regards

    • Yes. You have a lot of water and Plutonian- ness and Mercury. Like me. The water smart folks.

  14. I have Air as my 1st strongest element and Earth as my 2nd. All my planets are aspecting Uranus except a couple in Capricorn. My Uranus is in Aquarius and my Mercury is in Capricorn. I don’t have much water or fire but the firey planets (points etc. discluded) I do have are Saturn trine Pluto, which is considered very very cool from what I’ve heard (and probably makes me even more stubborn since here it says they’re the biggest factors in making someone fixed.) Am I Air Smart and Earth Smart? I think I am… But if I had to pick one or the other I’d say I’m more Air Smart.

  15. I have not read through the comments, yet. But, how about water smart? :) Scored 82 with Mercury, but I am a 67 Sun Scorpio, 34 Pluto. My stellium in Scorpio sits in the 3rd house. Weeee! Your words are reminding me that I should get back to writing my book about the sacredness of sex, a lesson I am learning the hard way.

  16. I scored a 28…..

    An air smart individual may have a million bright ideas in the course of a lifetime and yet lack the skill or the motivation to put many of them into practice.

    Boy, you nailed it. I am also a Cancer. You should see me plan a dinner party. ..

  17. My strongest element is earth, followed by water and fire.


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