What Is Spiritual Intelligence?

An Intelligent Approach to Spirituality

Spiritual intelligence is, first of all, an intelligent approach to spirituality.

It doesn’t contradict the need for faith, belief, prayer, and devoted spiritual practice. It is a conscious approach to these things and to all of life. Real spiritual intelligence supports and enlivens self-awareness and spiritual values.

Spiritual Intelligence is useful for people who follow any religion or spiritual path. And it is relevant for people who have rejected any organized religion or spiritual path. 

Spiritual intelligence is an aware, conscious approach to the most pivotal factors in a human life—how we open to love, inspiration, and our own life purpose. How we relate to realities we can’t see with our eyes but which we know are real.

Spiritual intelligence is rising to a higher level of consciousness related to what we value most. And it is gaining a greater awareness of what is really happening in our world seen from a perspective that is not embedded in human culture as it is.

It is about the essential things in life—compassion for others, how we innovate and create, and how we come to a place of peace within ourselves.

Spiritual intelligence is also about how we apply our spiritual awareness to the everyday issues we face each moment of our day. It helps us develop the knowledge and wisdom to be creative in our life—to face challenges of all kinds and make positive use of adversity. To deepen our sense of vocation, and develop a deep satisfaction and joy in living the life we are called to live.

Is there a more critical issue than spiritual intelligence in a human life? Without it, a person might figure out how to deal with the dimensions of life that are supposed to bring success—wealth, professional notoriety, and social acceptance. But then, flounder when it comes to the inner, more personal side of their experience—the relationship they have with the person closest to them, their own emotional experience, and their values. And ultimately, being at peace with themselves.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

In his landmark book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, a Harvard University developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, advanced the idea that intelligence did not just apply to what is tested on an IQ test. He argued that intelligence is multi-faceted, relating to a broad spectrum of skills—the movement of the physical body, music, interpersonal skills, and more.

Gardner also suggested the idea that there might be an existential intelligence, which he described as “the cognitive capacity to raise and ponder ‘big questions’—queries about love, about evil, about life and death—indeed, about the nature and quality of existence.”

In an article he published in July 2022, Gardner acknowledged that he had received an uptick of inquiries about existential intelligence, asking whether he would include it as one of the multiple intelligences he identified. And he spoke of how COVID-19 and the threats to American democracy had caused him to ponder the truth behind existential intelligence. Nonetheless, he chose not to endorse spiritual intelligence officially as an intelligence.

Navigating the Inner and Outer Dimensions of Human Experience

Life’s Outer Dimensions

Modern science gives a view of physical phenomena and gives us the knowledge to solve problems on a scientific basis. It helps us compile data, and develop an analysis of data. It teaches us to create theories, draw conclusions, and to use those conclusions for problem-solving.

The scientific process is powerful when it comes to gaining the knowledge necessary for technological problem-solving and for understanding the outer dimensions of the world in which we live. But it doesn’t help much when it comes to the inner dimensions of our being—what makes us happy and at peace, or what supports us in our relationship with another person. And it doesn’t increase the sense that we are connected to a source of love and wisdom that is larger than the personal.

Life’s Inner Dimension

Religion and spirituality seek to address the inner dimension of life. But often, they don’t assist the individual in developing the insight, wisdom, and understanding necessary to navigate their life as it really is. No matter how much faith it might instill, and no matter how fervently a person might believe in the tenets of their religion, they are still left to figure out how to live their spiritual values and apply them. They still have to gain the ability to apply the knowledge they have of the inner dimension of their life to the life they lead every day.

A person with high spiritual intelligence makes this connection.

The Mental and Emotional Elements of Spiritual Intelligence

When you think of intelligence, do you first think of something mental? The knowledge you learn in school or out of a book? One of the great gifts of the theory of multiple intelligences is that it opens our awareness to facets of intelligence that aren’t only mental. Interpersonal intelligence takes more than just our mind. In fact, some of the highest intellects can make a mess of their human relationships.

Can you become masterful in dealing with human psychology—your own or someone else’s—just with your mind? Of course, you can’t. The heart is involved too.

What Daniel Goleman Discovered

In 1995, psychologist and author, Daniel Goleman, surprised the world with his bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence. Goleman defined emotional intelligence as the array of skills and characteristics that drive the performance of a leader. Others have defined emotional intelligence as the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions.

Freeing the term emotional intelligence from definitions that limit its meaning to business success, what does it really mean? When you put it in the context of the whole of a person’s life, isn’t it mastery over the emotional facet of human experience related to everything in life—health, relationships, stress, happiness, fulfillment, and so much more?

To gain spiritual intelligence, a person must also gain a wisdom of the heart—emotional intelligence. The reality is that you can’t deeply understand yourself or other people without it. And it is impossible to open up to inner spiritual powers without emotional intelligence.

Education for Spiritual Intelligence

This is what spiritual intelligence is. But where do you go to find out about this stuff?

You can go to a university to find out more about human psychology. You can go to a seminary to learn more about religion. Or to an ashram to learn about yoga and meditation. But where do you go to really learn spiritual intelligence?

If you are asking yourself that question, join the club. For me, this is a lifetime journey.

I found a lot of dead ends along the way. Maybe you have too. There is a lot of information floating around in our culture that doesn’t really help. Or is even misguided. But even those dead ends can be educational.

As with all of life’s most important journeys, the most significant discoveries for me have been personal. They have come from my personal curiosity and exploration, and from experimentation in the living of life.

But I can’t deny that I’ve had some incredible teachers along the way. I learned the practice of Attunement from Dr. Bill Bahan and Martin Cecil. I learned emotional process work from the founder of Shadow Work Seminars, Cliff Barry. And I’ve intensively studied the writing of Lloyd Arthur Meeker, the founder of Sunrise Ranch.

I’ve learned from the people I’ve met in my life—from the second-grade students I taught in California many years ago, from my family, and friends. From people who were mentors for me in business. And I’ve spent most of my adult life living in intentional spiritual communities, and that is an education in and of itself.

My Book on Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence

David outside

My lifelong study, and my life experience, brought me to the point that I wanted to share what I had learned. So I began to write a book. After 50 pages, I put it down. It lacked a way to communicate the intuitive awareness which I knew was so important to convey.

Two years later, I started again. But this time I remembered, I’m a poet! So I wrote poetry to go along with the prose I was writing to touch deeper chords of spiritual understanding.

I found a wonderful artist to illustrate what I wrote about, and I added stories of the learnings I’ve had on my life path.

So here’s my offer to you—my book. The title is Becoming a Sun: Emotional and Spiritual Intelligence for a Happy, Fulfilling Life. It is available here for $15.95 from Amazon in America, and available from Amazon in the U.K., Australia, and Canada.

I can honestly tell you that people who gave it a good read have found it life-changing. Here is what one person said after reading it:

I consider this book life-changing. It’s not a “one read and I’m done.” It is way more than that. And I am so glad that I have his book to go back to and read again. It’s been amazing, as it has only drawn me deeper into my authentic self.

I keep Becoming a Sun very close by…close my eyes…open to a page…and answers come.

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