muralescatedrquibd04Formation is a progressive transformation of consciousness which integrates all aspects of a person’s life and conform him to the life Christ. Today there is greater recognition of the role of spirituality in promoting health and wholeness. The term spiritual intelligence is employed often to refer to the level of spiritual consciousness that integrates the various realms of human life.

Among the various dimensions of intelligence such as cognitive (IQ) and emotional (EQ), spiritual intelligence (SQ) is considered to play a significant role in effective and integrated human functioning. A distinction is made between spirituality and religious practice, because one can belong to a religious community and make public profession of religious ideals, but the the lived life may exhibit a lower level of development. Higher levels of human development leads one to greater transcendence spiritual integration.

Helping professionals have begun to recognize the role played by one’s spirituality in the well-being of the person. For example Frances Vaughan (2002), a psychotherapist writes, “Working as a psychotherapist, my impression is that spiritual intelligence opens the heart, illuminates the mind, and inspires the soul, connecting the individual human psyche to the underlying ground of being. Spiritual intelligence can be developed with practice and can help a person distinguish reality from illusion. It may be expressed in and culture as love, wisdom, and service”. A fundamental area of competencies which we need to facilitate in the life of the formees is that of their spiritual intelligence. The long years of missionary formation through the stages of pre-novitiate, novitiate and post novitiate needs to attend to the spiritual competencies in our formees so as to accomplish the much needed integrity of life.

Spiritual intelligence as an integrating factor that underlies higher levels of human consciousness is best embodied in the sages and saints. Of course, we need to take into account the action of grace and the primacy of God in the spiritual journey of a person. Here we make a survey important studies done on spiritual intelligence.

What is spiritual intelligence ?

It is interesting to note that Howard Gardner who pioneered research on multiple intelligence did not include spiritual intelligence in his list of intelligences because of the difficulty to find adequate scientific criteria to measure it. But soon many studies were undertaken to investigate this fundamental aspect of human life scientifically and develop ways to improve spiritual competencies.

   1. Intelligence of the deep self

It is Dohar and Marshall (1997) who coined the term spiritual intelligence and developed the concept empirically. They defined it as the “intelligence with which we access our deepest meanings, purposes, and highest motivations” (2000). “It is the intelligence that makes us whole, that gives us our integrity. It is the soul’s intelligence, the intelligence of the deep self. It is the intelligence with which we ask fundamental questions and with which we reframe our answers.” (Dohar 2007)

Zohar and Marshall have identified 12 qualities of SQ:

  1. Self-awareness: Knowing what I believe in and value, and what deeply motivates me
  2. Spontaneity: Living in and being responsive to the moment
  3. Being vision- and value-led: Acting from principles and deep beliefs, and living accordingly
  4. Holism: Seeing larger patterns, relationships, and connections; having a sense of belonging
  5. Compassion: Having the quality of “feeling-with” and deep empathy
  6. Celebration of diversity: Valuing other people for their differences, not despite them
  7. Field independence: Standing against the crowd and having one’s own convictions
  8. Humility: Having the sense of being a player in a larger drama, of one’s true place in the world
  9. Tendency to ask fundamental “Why?” questions: Needing to understand things and get to the bottom of them
  10. Ability to reframe: Standing back from a situation or problem and seeing the bigger picture; seeing problems in a wider context
  11. Positive use of adversity: Learning and growing from mistakes, setbacks, and suffering
  12. Sense of vocation: Feeling called upon to serve, to give something back

 2. Adaptive use of spiritual information in everyday life

Robert Emmons (2000) describes spiritual intelligence as “the adaptive use of spiritual information to facilitate everyday problem solving and goal attainment.”

Robert originally proposed the following five components of spiritual intelligence and later removed the last one as it is more of a behavior than an ability.

  1. The capacity to transcend the physical and material.
  2. The ability to experience heightened states of consciousness.
  3. The ability to sanctify everyday experience.
  4. The ability to utilize spiritual resources to solve problems.
  5. The capacity to be virtuous.

3. Ability to Acti With wisdom and compassion

Cindy Wigglesworth defines spiritual intelligence as “the ability to act with wisdom and Compassion while maintaining inner and outer peace (equanimity), regardless of the circumstances.”

Cindy proposed 21 qualities in four quadrants that comprise the competencies of awareness and mastery in the realms of the subjective and the objective.

Higher Self/ego self Awareness

  1. Aware of own world view
  2. Aware of life purpose
  3. Aware of values hierarchy
  4. Complexity of thought
  5. Aware of ego and higherself

Universal awareness

  1. Aware interconnectedness
  2. Aware of other world views
  3. Breadth of time perception
  4. Aware of perception limits
  5. Aware of Spiritual laws
  6. Experience of oneness

Higher Self/ego self Mastery

  1. Commitment to Spirit, Growth
  2. Keeping spirit in charge
  3. Living purpose and values
  4. Sustaining faith
  5. Seeking guidance

Spiritual presence(social Mastery)

  1. Wise teacher of spirit
  2. Wise change agent
  3. Compassionate/wise decisions
  4. Calming healing presence
  5. Align ebb and flow of life

4. Mental capacities for transcendence

David B. King (2007) who has undertaken a research on spiritual intelligence in Trent University (Canada) defines spiritual intelligence as a set of adaptive mental capacities based on non-material and transcendent aspects of reality, specifically those that: “…contribute to the awareness, integration, and adaptive application of the nonmaterial and transcendent aspects of one’s existence, leading to such outcomes as deep existential reflection, enhancement of meaning, recognition of a transcendent self, and mastery of spiritual states.”

David proposes four core abilities or capacities of spiritual intelligence:

  1. Critical Existential Thinking: The capacity to critically contemplate the nature of existence, reality, the universe, space, time, and other existential/metaphysical issues; also the capacity to contemplate non-existential issues in relation to one’s existence (i.e., from an existential perspective).
  2. Personal Meaning Production: The ability to derive personal meaning and purpose from all physical and mental experiences, including the capacity to create and master a life purpose.
  3. Transcendental Awareness: The capacity to identify transcendent dimensions/patterns of the self (i.e., a transpersonal or transcendent self), of others, and of the physical world (e.g., non-materialism) during normal states of consciousness, accompanied by the capacity to identify their relationship to one’s self and to the physical.
  4. Conscious State Expansion: The ability to enter and exit higher states of consciousness (e.g. pure consciousness, cosmic consciousness, unity, oneness) and other statestrance at one’s own discretion (as in deep contemplation, meditation, prayer, etc.).

5. Capacity to identify with Higher self

William Frank Diedrichdefined as choosing between the ego and Spirit (Higher Self)”. This definition is based upon the root words: spiritus, meaning breath. Spirit is the breath of life. Intelligentia, meaning “to choose between”. There are three major aspects of spiritual intelligence. This capacity involves

  1. Identifying with one’s Higher Self or Spirit rather than with the ego. That is, you are not your body, your problems, your past, your finances, your job, your gender, or your ethnicity. These are each roles you play. You are a spiritual being having a human experience.
  2. Understanding Universal Law—Cause and Effect. Spiritual Intelligence means that you take% responsibility for your life, your situation, and for yourself. You recognize that you are the creator of your life and that your thinking, your beliefs, and your assumptions create your world. This means no blaming!
  3. Non-attachment. As a spiritual being you are unattached to outcomes, forms, or experiences. Your well-being comes from within you, by way of your spiritual identity.

6. Higher integrating dimension of intelligence

Richard Griffiths (2011) defines SQ as a higher dimension of intelligence that provides access to advanced capabilities. SQ replaces the ego with the soul, both as the seat of identity, and as the governor of IQ and EQ. His research clarifies how SQ regulates IQ and EQ:“SQ regulates IQ and EQ by replacing the feeling of separation with an awareness of the connection between everything. Instead of feeling isolated and separate, SQ feels the unity that binds everything together. Consequently SQ exercises IQ and EQ from an integral perspective beyond ego. When SQ is not active, IQ and EQ are used to fulfil the desires of the ego. But when SQ is active, IQ and EQ are used to express the qualities of the soul, in the form of wisdom, compassion, integrity, love, creativity, and peace.” 


The concept of spiritual intelligence is relatively new in the field of personality theory and research. Perhaps it is one of those meeting points of the disciplines of spirituality and psychology and a closer collaboration of these disciplines may help formation programs to bridge the gap between proclaimed ideals and concrete behavioural changes in the formandi.


Zohar, Danah “SQ: Connecting with Our Spiritual Intelligence” London: Bloomsbury (paperback 2000)

Zohar, Danah “SQ: Spiritual Intelligence, the Ultimate Intelligence”, 2000

King, David B. The Spiritual Intelligence Project: Extracting Cognitive Ability from the Psychospiritual Realm

David B. King & Teresa L. DeCicco (2009) The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, Volume 28, pp. 68-85

Emmons, R.A. (2000). Is spirituality an intelligence? The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. 10:27-34.

Wigglesworth, Cindy, “Why Spiritual Intelligence is Essential to Mature Leadership”, Integral Leadership Review Volume VI, No. 3, August 2006

Wikipedia, Spiritual intelligence

Amram, Yosi, & Dryer, Christopher (2008, August). The Development and Preliminary Validation of the Integrated Spiritual Intelligence Scale (ISIS).Paper accepted to be presented at the 116th Annual Conference of the American Psychological Association, Boston, MA.

Bowman, David. (2000, February). Spiritual intelligence: An interview with Danah Zohar and Dr. Ian Marshall, authors of “SQ: Connecting With Our Spiritual Intelligence.” Health and Body.

Nasel, Dagmar D. (2004). Spiritual orientation in relation to spiritual intelligence: A consideration of traditional Christianity and New Age individualistic spirituality. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, University of South Australia. 
NOTE: Click the View/Open link at the bottom right to read the entire thesis.

Other Critical Articles & Papers
(available to order in paper or electronic format – search for journal or contact author)

Adams, Kate, & Hyde, Brendan. (2008). Children’s grief dreams and the theory of spiritual intelligence. Dreaming, 18, 58-67.

Emmons, Robert A. (2000). Is spirituality an intelligence? Motivation, cognition, and the psychology of ultimate concern. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 3-26.

Emmons, Robert A. (2000). Spirituality and intelligence: Problems and prospects. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 57-64.

Gardner, Howard (2000). A case against spiritual intelligence. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 27-34.

Halama, Peter, & Strizenec, Michal. (2004). Spiritual, existential or both? Theoretical considerations on the nature of higher intelligences. Studia Psychologica, 43, 239-253.

Kwilecki, Susan. (2000). Spiritual intelligence as a theory of individual religion: A case application. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 35-46.

Mayer, John D. (2000). Spiritual intelligence or spiritual consciousness? The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 47-56.

Noble, Kathleen D. (2000). Spiritual intelligence: A new frame of mind. Spirituality and Giftedness, 9, 1-29.

Paloutzian, Raymond F. (Ed.). (2000). Spiritual Intelligence: A Special Issue of the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10(1).

Strizenec, Michal. (2005). Shall we assess the spiritual intelligence? Ceskoslovenská Psychologie, 49, 367-373.

Vaughan, Frances. (2002). What is spiritual intelligence? Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 42, 16-33.


Khalil, Khavari. (2000). Spiritual Intelligence: A Practical Guide to Personal Happiness. White Mountain Publications.

Noble, Kathleen D. (2001). Riding the windhorse: Spiritual intelligence and the growth of the self. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Rossiter, Altazar. (2006). Developing Spiritual Intelligence: The Power of You. O Books.

Wolman, Richard N. (2001). Thinking with your soul: Spiritual intelligence and why it matters. New York: Harmony Books.

Zohar, Danah, & Marshall, Ian. (2000). SQ: Connecting with our spiritual intelligence. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.