Spiritual Intelligence – The Ultimate Intelligence
by Danah Zohar & Ian Marshall
reviewed by Ian Bullock
Spiritual Intelligence, first published in 2000, is another milestone publication about how the mind works. It is an unusual book, deceptively easy to read, considering its content, and may owe its relatively undeserved obscurity to inadequate promotion.
Spiritual intelligence is described as “the intelligence with which we address and solve problems of meaning and value, the intelligence with which we can place our actions and our lives in a wider, richer, meaning-giving context, the intelligence with which we can assess that one course of action or one life-path is more meaningful than another.”
The authors contend that in the early part of the twentieth century IQ, or rational intelligence was the big issue. More recently, emotional intelligence (EQ) has been identified as a requirement for the effective use of IQ. Now there exists much scientific data that points to the presence of a spiritual intelligence (SQ), the ultimate intelligence that serves as a necessary foundation for the effective functioning of both IQ and EQ.
There are five parts to this book:
What is SQ? introduces the concept as an expansion of psychology as a science, and posits the need for a new psychological model of the human self and of human personality. In doing just that, the authors draw on mystical and mythological structures found within human spiritual thought, both ancient and modern, carefully pointing out that SQ is not necessarily about being religious, but rather it is an internal and innate ability of the human brain and psyche. How SQ is used is described; what indicates when it is highly developed, and how to improve its level.
The Scientific Evidence for SQ deals with the anatomy and functioning of the brain. It summarizes present knowledge of the subject, including the studies in neural oscillations that point to a third kind of thinking of which the brain is capable – unitive thinking. A fulsome chapter is devoted to the significance of the brain’s 40 Hz neural oscillations; what different brain wave patterns mean, and the more profound question of where does consciousness come from. The chapter dealing with the ‘God spot’ in the brain, identified by neurobiologists Persinger and Ramachandran, and the varieties of spiritual experiences emanating therefrom, lead the authors to make some intriguing connections with human behaviors.
A New Model of the Self utilizes the lotus symbol “as the ultimate symbol of the spiritually intelligent self…the obvious way to combine the great Eastern and Western traditions of the self with the latest insights from science.” Each layer of petals depicts one of the three basic human intelligences: the outer petals representing six ego types; the middle layer representing the associative conscious and unconscious components, and at the center the Deep Self which is the main focus of this book.
Using SQ describes how we become, or as a Western society have become, spiritually stunted, and the symptoms of that condition. It gives guidance about the recovery of SQ and using it to be able to live with uncertainty yet find inner poise. “Uncertainty can inspire us because it creates conditions in which we must make a choice. It gives us our freedom and sets the conditions for our responsibility.” Our SQ serves as an inner compass.
Can We Improve Our SQ? uses the Lotus of the Self symbol to lay out six spiritual paths that any one of us might follow in living a life with greater heart – and you might be on more than one path at any one time. It lays out seven steps one can take to greater Spiritual Intelligence; ways to assess one’s own SQ, and concludes with a helpful chapter on how to be, become, or remain spiritually intelligent in what is for the most part a spiritually dumb culture.
The authors: Danah Zohar studied physics and philosophy at MIT before doing her graduate work at Harvard in psychology and theology. She now teaches at Oxford. Dr. Ian Marshall did his degree in psychology and philosophy at Oxford before taking his medical degree at the University of London. He is a practising psychiatrist and psychotherapist. Between them they have authored several other works, including the much acclaimed The Quantum Self.