Our Three Main Intelligences
Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) is defined 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
that is more meaningful than any other." SQ essentially
integrates IQ (the traditional Intelligence Quotient) and
EQ (Emotional Intelligence). It is our ultimate intelligence.
IQ is associated with the serial
processing activity of the brain (rational thought). It is
associated with our neural tracts. Neural
tracts learn (are wired) according to a fixed program, the rules of
which are laid down in formal logic. The learning
involved is step-by-step. and rule bound. When we
teach children their times table by rote, we are encouraging them to
wire their brains for serial processing. It produces the kind of
thinking that is useful for solving rational problems or achieving
definite tasks. Much instinctual behaviour is also accounted for by
serial processing. An instinct can be thought of as a fixed program,
as in the imprinting instinct in ducks and other birds - where the
newly hatched bird identifies as its mother the first caring object
or person it meets, and remains stuck on that identification. Some
over rational human beings can get stuck in a programmed mode of
thinking in the same way, finding it difficult to bend rules or to
learn new ones.
EQ. Associative thinking underlies
most of our purely emotional intelligence (EQ) - the link between
one emotion and another, between emotions and bodily feelings,
emotions and the environment. It is also able to recognise patterns
like faces or smells, and to learn bodily skills like riding a
bicycle or driving a car. It is 'thinking' with the heart and the
body and so is thought of as our 'emotional intelligence' or the
'body's intelligence'. The structures within the brain with which we
do our associative thinking are known as neural networks.
Each of these networks contains bundles of up to 100,000
neurones, and each neurone in a bundle may be connected to as many
as 1,000 others. Unlike the precise wiring of neural tracts,
in neural networks each neurone acts upon or is acted upon
by, many others simultaneously.
Unlike serial neural tracts which are rule bound or
program-bound and thus unable to learn, neural networks have the
ability to rewire themselves in dialogue with experience. All
associative learning is done by trial and error. This
kind of learning is experience-based: the more times I perform a
skill successfully, the more inclined I will be to do it that way
next time. Associative learning is also tacit learning - I learn the
skill, but I can't articulate any rules by which I learned it and
usually can't even describe how I did so. Neural networks are not
connected with our language faculty, nor with our ability to
articulate concepts. They are simply imbedded in experience. We feel
our skills, we do our skills, but we don't think or talk
about them. We develop our skills because they give us a sense of
satisfaction or a feeling of reward, or because they help us avoid
Thus most emotions are developed by trial-and-error,
a slow associative build-up of response to certain stimuli. and they
are quite habit-bound. Once I have learned to feel anger at a given
stimulus, it is difficult for me to react differently next time.
Much of psychotherapy exists to help people break the habit of
long-standing but inappropriate emotional association.
Like other aspects of associative intelligence,
emotions are not immediately verbal. We often have trouble talking
about them, at least with any accuracy, and they are certainly not
always 'rational' in the sense of obeying rules or predictions. They
often respond to incomplete data in unpredictable ways.
Associative intelligence is able to deal with
ambiguous situations, but it is also 'approximate'. It is more
flexible but less accurate that serial thinking. The disadvantages
of this type of thinking are that it is slowly learned, inaccurate
and tends to be habit-bound or tradition bound. We can relearn a
skill or an emotional response, but it takes time and much effort.
And because associative thinking is tacit, we often have difficulty
sharing it with others. We can't just write out a formula and tell
someone else to get on with the job. All of us must learn a
skill in our own way, for ourselves. No two brains have the
same set of neural connections.
Similarly, no two people have the same emotional
life. I can recognise your emotion, I can empathise with it, but I
don't have it.
SQ. Spiritual intelligence (SQ) could also be
called the 'intelligence of meaning'. It is what makes us
essentially human: the ability to plan, to make sense of our
emotions, to control our impulses, to make choices, and endow our
world with meaning. The frontal lobes of the brain are where our
ideas are created; plans constructed; thoughts joined with their
associations to form new memories; and fleeting perceptions held in
mind until they are dispatched to long-term memory or oblivion.
This brain region is the home of consciousness -
the high lit land where the products of the brain's subterranean
assembly lines emerge for scrutiny. Self-awareness arises here,
and emotions are transformed in this place from physical survival
systems to subjective feelings. If we were to draw a 'you are
here' sign on our map of the mind, it is to the frontal lobes that
the arrow would point. In this our new view of the brain echoes an
ancient knowledge - for it is here, too, that mystics have
traditionally placed the Third Eye - the gateway to the highest
point of awareness. (Carter 1998, p. 180)
Whereas IQ is associated with serial processing
in the brain via hard-wired neural tracts; EQ emerges from
associative processing via the brain forming, by trial-and-error,
neural networks; SQ seems to emerge from neural
oscillations at 40Hz (cycles per second) that excite
the relevant (for the particular thought activity) parts of the
brain. This activity is co-ordinated/controlled by the frontal lobe.
SQ is developed primarily through reflection:
Consider thinking. Thinking is not just a generic
term for the collection of skills housed in the brain. It involves
many of them: recollection and imagining in particular. But
it includes something that is not part of any other function:
self-awareness. This aspect of thinking is captured in the word
often used to describe it: reflecting. (Carter 1998, p. 191)
Whereas IQ is rule based, EQ helps us act
appropriately within society's prescribed boundaries, SQ helps us
extend and change the boundaries, question our assumptions and
formulate new meaning. It is the intelligence of creativity. My own
research indicates that it is inextricably linked with creating
order (less entropy) in the brain from chaos (high entropy).
Bringing about new order in our brain is facilitated by engaging in
activities related to our least conscious part of the brain (our
creative mode) in a playful, non-dutiful fashion. "SQ is our
compass 'at the edge' " (Zohar & Marshall 2001, pp.
Life's most challenging existential problems lie
outside the expected and the familiar, outside the given rules,
beyond past experience, beyond what we know how to handle. In
chaos theory, 'the edge' is the border between order and chaos,
between comfortably what we are about and being totally lost. It
is the place where we can be our most creative. SQ, or deep,
intuitive sense of meaning and value, is our guide at the edge. SQ
is our conscience. (In Hebrew, the words for 'conscience',
'compass' and 'the hidden, inner truth of the soul' all have the
References & Further Reading
Birch, C. 1999, Biology and the Riddle of Life,
University of New South Wales press, Sydney
Carter, R. 1998, Maping the Mind, Weidenfeld
& Nicolson, London.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1998, Flow: The Psychology of
Happiness, Rider, London.
Freeman, W. 1999, How Brains Make Up Their Mind,
Lowen, W. & Miike, L. 1982, Dichotomies of
the Mind: A systems Science Model of the Mind and Personality,
John Wiley & Sons, New York.
O'Murchu, D. 1997, Quantum Theology: Spiritual
Implications of the New Physics, The Crossroad Publishing
Company, New York.
Zohar, D. & Marshall, I. 2001, SQ: Spiritual
Intelligence, The Ultimate Intelligence, Bloomsbury Publishing,