That by means of language (the right words in the right order), he can get a grip on the nature of things, and find the balance point at which exactly the correct phrase can be inserted at the correct moment - and flip reality over to the way he wants it. (Like a judo expert throwing a much larger opponent.)
Stated thus, it is clear that we are talking about magic - and the archetypal intellectual was and is the magician, the sorcerer, the scientist of the super-natural.
...In itself a hazardous thing to be - highly vulnerable to corruption by Faustian pacts (e.g. 99.99 % of modern 'research' into whatever).
But there is the possibility of becoming instead a wizard. A wizard could be defined as a religious magician - one who subordinates magic to god.
Thus, the truly secular intellectual is almost certainly evil in effect (and often in intent); but the religious intellectual may do some good; not least in battling the enemy's sorcerers.