A Book Review of ‘Mensa’

Most people will readily admit that they enjoy reading a good book from time to time. Some people admit to collecting them in a library where they may reside. Books help us to keep track of the wide variety of things going on in our hectic, fast-paced lives. One book, reviewed here, is called ‘Mensa: The Society for the Highly Intelligent’, written by Victor Serebriakoff, who is a (past) Honorary President of International Mensa. It is primarily a history of Mensa up to the point of the book’s publication in 1985 and it includes an explanation of what we should know about people with a remarkably high intelligence score. In my estimation, this book is about Mensa (but from an obviously historical state of affairs) and it was well-written by an obviously reliable source of information required for writing on this subject. ‘Mensa’ reads like a history textbook, in my opinion of it, as it starts from the beginning of our humble association and takes us for a wild ride through the intellect to where it is going. The last chapter is actually a self IQ test which is intended for both our study and review. If you are ready to go, then follow along with the reading of this book (and this book review). You just might learn a thing or two!

One of the more important themes interwoven throughout most of this book is that of the ‘no collective view’ nature of Mensa. Here it is described for us:

“Members and groups within Mensa have views but Mensa itself has none. Nothing is to be done in the name of Mensa that could alienate or exclude people of any shade of opinion; no political action is to be taken by the society beyond the publication of the range of members’ views.” (Serebriakoff 1985, pg. 55)

Here it is again somewhat later in the book:

Mensa “is based on an objective criterion of selection, an assessment of the applicant’s ability to think effectively. Mensa aims to be a forum of the intelligent of every persuasion, so it is simply and permanently not possible for Mensa to have any controversial collective views or policies.” (Serebriakoff 1985, pg. 263)

It is my belief that this idea is so fundamental to what it means to belong to Mensa that it is almost as is a golden rule. We, as Mensans, do not see things eye-to-eye always and we can have very different and opposing points of view on certain issues.

“Mensa is the living proof that, contrary to the adage, great minds (or at any rate bright minds), think unlike.” (Serebriakoff 1985, pg. 28)

Still, also:

“An important function of intelligence, where an answer is not yet known or knowable, is to throw up options, to propose choices, to explore the ground and produce hypotheses, schemes and plans for test by experiment, by trial and error, by judgmental or by democratic choice.” (Serebriakoff 1985, pg. 29)

I, in addition, believe that having good, positive thoughts and making good, personal choices is a sure sign of a highly advanced intelligence – much like a good house has many different kinds of functional windows and doors.

What then exists in the name of Mensa? First, assessing IQ began when our scientists began to question error and chance in the process of making measurements and observations. What followed from this research was the science of statistics in general and probability theory in particular. The softening of many other sciences then began to take hold because making accurate measurements based upon good observations and applying new statistical techniques was now better than just making guesses at what happens. Soon this idea along with the mass production (even of our children in education) which came about with the Industrial Age brought scientific inquiry into why some students were more inclined to score better on tests than were other students. A few assumptions based upon hereditary and environmental influences followed – then the IQ concept came into expression.

Eventually these IQ tests had to be developed and publicized by Mensa to recruit new members. Combining this fact with the previously mentioned fact about the publishing of members’ views (although there still was ‘no collective view’ within Mensa), Mensa has a rich and fractured history and tradition of getting volunteers within Mensa to work as contributors, editors, and publishers on ‘official’ publications. Along these similar lines:

“Each new editor comes in with all the confident enthusiasm which arises from the combination of high intelligence and complete innocence of experience. Radical changes of style, size, format and content are the first step, then thinking about policy and searching for contributions.” (Serebriakoff 1985, pg. 67)

Another striking bit of information (from this book called ‘Mensa‘), which relates to the current state of affairs of what some know to be Mensa, is related to what was known as a ‘Think-In’. A think-in is a type of lecture + discussion which has evolved into what we now know as similar to the annual Colloquium, MAM’s Salon with a Twist, and other Mensa events. By way of illustrating this:

“A group which is ideally between twenty and forty assemble in a room with fairly comfortable seats and decent surroundings to hear a shortish talk by a speaker of distinction on some topic which should be speculative or controversial. The talk is followed by a long discussion with plenty of contributions from the floor and the chairman trying to see that everybody gets a word in and that no one dominates the floor.” (Serebriakoff 1985, pg. 63)

”There is always a lot of teasing and laughter in a climate which manages to be both hard-hitting and critical but essentially urbane and friendly.” (Serebriakoff 1985, pg. 63)

These types of information fragments are why I enjoyed reading this book ‘Mensa’ so much. True, ‘Mensa’ is really about a Mensa long ago, but it is not all that far away. When reading a history, think of walking through a forest with many twists and turns – because it’s a journey nevertheless.

Finally, years ago talk within Mensa was also about a ‘World Culture’. This was to be a global network for those of us who were both educated and informed. It would cover the world over at all levels: local, regional, national, and tribal cultures. It would transcend the divisions brought about by cultural, racial, national, and tribal structures. Just as the head (mind) was a subset of the human body, Mensa should exist as a subset within the ‘World Culture’. I am sure all of their intentions were good, yet bringing these lofty goals to human fruition was going to be somewhat more challenging than simply brainstorming at a board meeting. Also, most of us, including myself, probably have little or no recollection of this type of talk ever taking place, but it was addressed often throughout this book called ‘Mensa’.

What do I think about Mensa now after having read ‘Mensa’? Mensa is a fascinating organization in which to belong and ‘Mensa’ is a truly interesting book to read like I have done. It is textbook coverage of Mensa history (roughly 1945-1984) and also Man’s intellect. It is perhaps the best method that I know to recommend for getting anyone charged up if one feels lost in these subject areas. Read this book first; then branch out from there. It was well worth the price paid and just knowing what I now know about Mensa will pay big dividends to me in the future and to those with whom I will interact with later on. Do you believe, like I do now after writing this book review of ‘Mensa’, that society for the highly intelligent known as Mensa (with all of Mankind) is a living, world-wide ‘Think Link’? If so, then you are so right.

Flashback: MAM Wins Sapphire Award

Mid-America Mensa (MAM) received some well-deserved recognition during the recent 2018 American Mensa Annual Awards. In Class II, MAM was awarded a SAPPHIRE for a variety of its activities and accomplishments – earned by the local group as a whole. Basically, groups can earn points for “active participation in all that Mensa has to offer to positively impact the experience of the local group members”. The award was the culmination of points earned during the fiscal year just completed for April 2017 – March 2018. For more about this see: Jewel Awards Criteria, https://www.us.mensa.org/recognize/group-awards/local-group-jewels/jewel-awards-criteria/

Awards like this one from America Mensa are like a precious gemstone because they show a degree of bright, active participation and glowing vitality that are so greatly needed by a living, breathing social organization. Slowly but surely, MAM is building its own story of success upon the past as it goes forward into the future. Also, hosting the American Mensa Annual Gathering in 2020 will be a big generator of points, and so is the hosting of all our other local and regional activities and events. Communication among our members is another important key metric. Membership renewals count, too, as they show that we like each other well enough to stick around in MAM. Really, it was time well spent by our members that is what we have to show for winning this award for ourselves.

American Mensa Sapphire Award


Hunting for the Haunted

So, as to not cast any shadows on the whole concept and theory of occult studies, let me begin by introducing you to a psychic investigator and a former member of Mensa, Maurice Schwalm. Maurice Schwalm passed away on January 3, 2001 at the age of 72 years. Yet, he spent many years and much of his life as a member of the American Society of Psychical Research and the Mensa Education & Research Foundation (MERF). His Occult Studies Special Interest Group (SIG) was somehow connected with Mensa – but his bright fame was from the mark, or impression, he placed upon the public through radio, literature, and other news outlets. Something of a ghost was nearly always present in his work whether in pictures that he captured with his camera (with a “ghost hand” inside, he felt) or in the writings he left to us. Supernatural images could be found, from premonitions of the Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse to Polaroid shots of people dancing where there was no one physically present.

During the ‘70s and ‘80s, the spirits must have been more active. A series of Mr. Schwalm’s occult studies were published as articles in the Mension (the official newsletter of Mid-America Mensa). Around Halloween every year, local news reporters would consult with our resident expert, Mr. Schwalm. Also, the Johnson County Library has multiple copies of Maurice Schwalm’s collected papers in the vertical files at the Central Resource Branch. Just look for the folder marked ‘Haunted Places – KC Area’. Or, check out his book ‘Mo-Kan Ghosts: The Casebook of a Kansas City Psychic Investigator’. Whether it’s fact or fiction depends upon your own system of belief and your best perception of things.

In the meantime, have some fun this Halloween with whatever you are wanting to do. Oh, and by the way, Mid-America Mensa is hosting a Halloween party as it does almost every year at this time. Gather up your friends, grab a costume and a few props (and maybe a good, reliable recording device!), and search for yourself for that which has never been seen or heard before. Whether the supernatural is a paranormal haunting or something else entirely is going to be strictly a matter of your interpretation and opinion.


LibAnswers – https://answers.jocolibrary.org/faq/209478
Ghost Dance – https://www.thepitchkc.com/news/articles/20606408/ghost-dance
Haunted Kansas City – https://info.umkc.edu/unews/haunted-kansas-city-mysterious-tales-from-kansas-citys-past-and-present/

Voting Soon on MAM’s Proposed Bylaws Revisions

Mid-America Mensa (MAM) is asking for a hand with the approval of its most recently proposed Bylaws Revisions. MAM’s Bylaws were last revised (and approved) in 1998. Now, on September 7th, 2018, we have received approval from the American Mensa Committee (AMC) Bylaws Review Committee for the revised Bylaws – as approved by the MAM Board on August 9th, 2018. This approved set of Bylaws will bring our local bylaws into compliance with the AMC’s Minimum Standard Bylaws (MSB). https://www.us.mensa.org/lead/policydocuments/minimum-standard-bylaws/

Every member must now be given the opportunity to review and vote yea or nay. If approved, these recently proposed bylaws revisions will be taken as the Bylaws of Mid-America Mensa. If not approved, we are still bound to follow AMC’s Minimum Standard Bylaws. Hence, your ballot will soon be included in the next (November 2018) issue of the Mension. Details regarding the voting process will be included with the ballot. So, as a member of Mid-America Mensa, your vote counts in an important sense and way. Thus, now is a good time when you can help us shape the present and future of Mid-America Mensa.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to the Mension editors for some of the information included here, and especially to MAM’s Board and AMC’s Bylaws Review Committee for giving us this historic opportunity to exercise our participation and vote.

Climbing: A Challenging Mind & Body Sport

What is both mentally challenging and a physically demanding sport?

Many people mistakenly believe climbing is about upper body strength, as in how strong your grip is and how many pull-ups you can do. Actually, climbing relies primarily on your core; this is why climbers are known for having great-looking abs. Balance is much more relevant to successful climbing than grip strength or how many pull-ups you can do. Most types of holds aren’t really gripped at all, and for most climbing moves we push ourselves up rather than pull ourselves up. — Mark Lamendola

Recently, Mark Lamendola explained that there are two different types of climbing, both of which are done inside climbing gyms. No rock, it’s mainly plastic. One is bouldering (mostly slab bouldering) and the other is top-roping.

“We are trained, experienced climbers,” he continued; “we do have a path for new climbers to join us, but it’s not the case they can just show up and climb with us.” If you’re in the KC area and think you might like to start climbing, please contact either Ibex (Blue Springs) or Apex (Overland Park) to take their introductory course. After you’ve taken the introductory course, contact Mark ([email protected]) for one-on-one free lessons with someone in our group. If you’re not in the KC area, look for a climbing gym near you and check it out.

Q&A with a Smart Artist: Wes Benson

Q-1/ How did you become interested in art?

Wes/ I’ve been interested in art as long as I can remember. I recall, vividly, drawing when I was a child, and the magic of being able to render whatever I wanted. I always had a knack for drawing and was always known for it. My parents are both artists, so I grew up surrounded by art supplies. I’ve studied art my entire life, through high school, college, and grad school in NYC.

Q-2/ How did you get started in Mensa?

Wes/ I became interested in Mensa only after taking an IQ test. My score qualified, and I was aware of Mensa, so I applied, knowing it would be interesting.

Q-3/ What kind of artist would you say that you are?

Wes/ I’m an oil painter. My style could be called a mix between Impressionism and Pop art. My work is representational, rather than abstract, meaning I paint things as you see them in the world around you. My background is in illustration (drawing), rather than in painting. I intended to be a commercial illustrator, but found I had more ability as an oil painter.

Q-4/ In which direction is the business going?

Wes/ My business is going in the direction of fine art, works that sell through galleries and private commissions.

Q-5/ If you were at a party, the talk in your same corner of the room would be about what?

Wes/ If I was at a party I’d likely be talking about paleontology. It’s my primary love outside of art. I dig for fossils locally and occasionally travel to Montana where I dig for dinosaurs with my friends in the paleontology department from the University of Kansas.