In the fifth Chapter of my book, Becoming a Sun: Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence for a Happy and Fulfilling Life, I write about an enlightened way to experience our spirituality. Having watched people walk away from their own spiritual nature—and only because all their ideas about spirituality were so ignorant—I know this is a vital topic for anyone.
When it comes to spiritual or religious thought, there is so much risk of disturbing a sensitive area for a person. That’s why they say that you should never talk religion or politics at the dinner table.
It is understandable that it should be so. Our understanding of God is a highly-leveraged area of our life. It is a fulcrum that can move a mountain of human experience. So we should consider carefully any changes we make to the way we relate spiritually.
It is also true that spiritual intelligence is rooted in a spiritual experience—what we know at a perceptual level which we cannot always explain intellectually. This is delicate territory that a person may want to shield from cold analytic analysis, or from the fiercely held beliefs of others.
Without a deep and strong spiritual connection through the heart, the intellect has the ability to rip to shreds the cords of light that bind a person to the universal whole. I’ve seen that happen in young people in their educational process. So-called higher learning can unleash the voracious mind that not only consumes knowledge but sometimes devours the budding spiritual experience of the student.
And yet, surely there must be a creative way to engage our mind in deepening our spirituality. My experience tells me that it is possible to create a forum for open thought in this area in a way that respects the sacredness of this phase of our life experience.
Howard Gardner, who first advanced the theory of multiple intelligences, says this about existential intelligence, which begins to address the way we conceive of and think about the spiritual issues in our life.
[Existential intelligence] has been valued in every known human culture. Cultures devise religious, mystical, or metaphysical systems for dealing with existential issues; and in modern times or in secular settings, aesthetic, philosophical, and scientific works and systems also speak to this ensemble of human needs.
Admittedly, he addresses spiritual matters as if they are purely a human creation based on human needs. He seems to confirm the old adage, God made man in his own image, and man returned the favor.
Spiritual intelligence begins to be accessible for a person when they realize that there are ranges of their life experience which defy mental definition; when they understand that they are not fabricating a reality in their own image, they are perceiving something that created us. It is bigger than us as human beings. It was here before us and it will be here after us. We are not creating it. It created us.
The most obvious example of how our thinking about spirituality works is relative to human thought about God. Our minds fail us when it comes to defining what is infinite, omnipresent and eternal. When we are radically amazed that there is a great power of creation that is within us, giving us life, inspiring our thoughts and stirring our heart, we are then in position to think about how we relate to this reality that we cannot define. Or how we think about it, knowing that our thought does not alter or define what we are thinking about in any way. Our thought is only changing how we are relating to a reality that is not of our own invention.
So think of God as an old man with a beard, much as Michelangelo depicted him on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Applying enlightened thought to the matter, it seems highly unlikely that the source of life within you is really shaped that way. Is there really an old man with a beard inside you or me, or up in the clouds? Probably not. But is it possible that a person might feel more closely connected with the source of life when they picture it that way? Possibly. Perhaps Michelangelo did. Perhaps there are people who have seen this fresco painting who experience their relationship to God more closely seeing this image. The alternative is that perhaps there are religious ideas evoked by the image that have actually made people experience themselves as less connected spiritually.
The important question to ask is, What way of thinking about the origin of life within us connects us most powerfully? What way of thinking about that reality opens us to it and creates a channel for that inner reality to come through our human experience?
And then, having thought about the origin of life that way, let’s not forget that the way we are thinking about it is just that. Our thoughts about spiritual reality don’t change it one iota. They only change how we are relating to it.
If you are interested in accessing your own spiritual intelligence more deeply, I encourage you to get a copy of my book when it is published in the autumn. I just received the formatting of it back from the publisher, so the time is drawing close.
Or sign up for the workshop by the same name: Becoming a Sun: Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence for a Happy, Fulfilling Life. I am holding it from July 12 to 16 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. You will access your own spiritual intelligence in a profoundly new way.