Spiritual Intelligence

by Cindy Wigglesworth

Multiple intelligences: it’s not all about IQ

Key point

Intelligence is innate potential that is brought into form through practice. If you are born with musical potential, but never practise, you will not be able to manifest that potential. Similarly, we have potential to be spiritually and emotionally intelligent, but we must practise these skills to get good at them.

A person’s intelligence quotient or IQ generally refers to their reasoning capacity, analytical skills and linguistic intelligence (think of the verbal and maths components of college entrance exams).

A certain level of IQ is a minimum standard for success at work. Your IQ and credentials may get you the job, however, but what leads to successful performance is far more complicated than IQ alone. Research suggests that two very different kinds of intelligence – emotional intelligence and spiritual intelligence – are also essential to successful performance, not just for leadership roles, but for a wide range of jobs.

In 1983, Howard Gardner opened the door to discussion of multiple intelligences with his book Frames of Mind, in which he listed seven different types of intelligence:

  1. Linguistic
  2. Logical-mathematical
  3. Musical
  4. Bodily-kinaesthetic
  5. Spatial
  6. Interpersonal (This is the ability to interact with others, understand them, and interpret their behaviour)
  7. Intrapersonal (This allows us to tap into our own being - who we are, what feelings we have, and why we are this way.)

A simple model of multiple intelligences

The figure simplifies Gardner’s model into four intelligences that develop hierarchically: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. Each ‘intelligence’ builds on (transcends and includes) the one that comes before it.

  • As babies, we first focus on gaining control of our bodies, so our physical intelligence develops.
  • As we grow during the school years, linguistic and conceptual skills (IQ) are a key focus for development.
  • In childhood, we also begin to develop some early social and relationship skills, but for many of us emotional intelligence (EQ) more fully comes online in adulthood, when we realise (usually as a result of challenges at work or in romantic relationships) that we need to improve our interactions with others.

  • Spiritual intelligence (SQ) typically becomes a focus later in life, as we begin to search for meaning and ask questions such as, ‘Is this all there is?’

Gardner’s 6th and 7th intelligences would later be combined into the study of emotional intelligence. In his book Intelligence Reframed, 1999, Gardner suggests that one might add a ‘philosophical intelligence’, which would combine spiritual, moral, emotional, transcendental, cosmic and religious intelligences.

How does SQ relate to EQ?

We need to have basic competence in EQ before we can successfully begin spiritual growth. That is, some degree of emotional self-awareness (understanding our own emotions) and empathy (caring about other people’s emotions) – two of the most important EQ skills – are an important foundation for the development of spiritual intelligence.

The two intelligences are mutually reinforcing: as spiritual intelligence matures, EQ also deepens, and this further reinforces the growth of SQ skills.