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Spiritual Intelligence - A Psychological Fraud

Spiritual Intelligence - A Psychological Fraud

The psychology has always been in a continuous pursuit of finding the best tool to predict the qualities of an individual and its suitability in the given surroundings.

The revolutionary concept of Intelligence Quotient was given and utilized. Thereafter Goleman in 1995 brought into the new concept of the Emotional Quotient in his book of the same name and predicted the suitability of an individual in his environment. The IQ theory was based on the qualities of the left brain of a human being. It emphasized the importance of those qualities which were related to the mathematical computation, logic and other technical formulations.

On the other hand the Emotional Quotient theory i.e. the theory of Emotional Intelligence made both of the hemispheres of brain its basis. It formulated that it is not the only left brain qualities of computation and calculation which predict the quotient of success of an individual in his surroundings but the right brain qualities of taste, aesthetics, compassion and empathy which also determine the probability of success of an individual. Goleman said that rather it is the harmony and consonance of both types of abilities of human brain that contribute towards the quotient of predictability of the success of an individual.


Then came Danah Zohar with a new idea of Spiritual Intelligence. When Tony Buzan coined this term for the first time it was used as a pseudoscientific and 'popular psychological' term. But in the present context as a new frontier the theory of Spiritual Intelligence goes a step ahead. It hypothesizes that the predictability quotient of success of an individual is not something limited to the brain area of an individual. Rather it goes beyond that area. The success of an individual depends on his Spiritual Intelligence. Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall proposed this Spiritual Intelligence as the "Ultimate Intelligence". They (more precisely She) identified 9 characteristics of the existence at the level of Spiritual Intelligence. These qualities once coined by Danah were grasped by others very soon.

Spiritual Intelligence, according to Zohar, is:

1.    Self-Awareness ... you know who you really are and you know that you are connected with the whole universe.

2.    Vision & Values Led - or Idealism. Children naturally want to serve, and so do we. Vision and values led is definitive of our humanity.

3.    The Capacity to Face and USE Adversity...owning our mistakes and adversity and using pain and tragedy to learn

4.    To be Holistic: seeing the connections between things. Being open to and interested in EVERYTHING.

5.    Diversity...thriving in and celebrating diversity. I look at you and see what is different in you and I say "Thank God for that!"

6.    Field Independence (Courage)...a term from psychology that means the courage not to adapt, to be independent.

7.    The Tendency to Ask WHY? Questions are infinite. In Quantum Physics questions CREATE reality.

8.    The Ability to Re-Frame...put things into a larger context of meaning.

9.    Spontaneity. This is NOT acting on a whim...it comes from the same Latin roots as RESPONSE and RESPONSIBILITY.

Spiritual intelligence is related to cognitive, emotional, or moral development; it is not identical to any of them. Because different kinds of intelligence develop at different rates, a person may be highly developed in one of these areas but not in others. When left unresolved, emotional or ethical issues certainly inhibit spiritual development. Spiritual intelligence would enable us to see things as they are, free from unconscious distortions. In contrast to wishful thinking or grasping for certainty, exercising spiritual intelligence implies facing existential realities such as freedom, suffering, and death and grappling with the perennial quest for meaning.

Frances Vaughan has emphasized the marks of spiritual intelligence

•    Presence

1.    Self Awareness

2.    Awareness of others

3.    Awareness of relationships

4.    Authenticity

•    Emotional Transformation

1. Compassion replacing judgment.

2. Forgiveness replacing anger.

3. Expanding circle of empathetic identification

•    Motivation

1. Inner Peace - from fear to love

2. Cultivation of wisdom - from ignorance to understanding.

3. Liberation: from Bondage to Liberation

According to Cherian P Tekkevellid 2001, eight signs of high spiritual quotient

    Flexibility

    Self Awareness

    An ability to face and use sufferings

    The ability to be inspired by a vision

    An ability to see connections between diverse things ( Thinking Holistically)

    A desire & Capacity to cause as little harm as possibilities

    A Tendency to probe and ask fundamental questions.

    An ability to work against conventions

Others also joined the fray. Cindy Wigglesworth correlated it with the leadership qualities of an individual; Barbara Taylor gave seven principles (Creativity, Communication, Respect, Vision, Partnership, Energy and Flexibility) of success at the work place and named them as belonging to the Spiritual Intelligence Rabbi Yaacov J. Kravitz, Ed.D. extended this list to 12 characteristics. However Howard Garner, while submitting his abstract cited a case against the Spiritual Intelligence (International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2000, Vol. 10, No. 1, Pages 27-34).

During all this development, one thing was mostly overlooked - The Indian Laboratory. A land which has seen the longest tradition of the theories of the Spirituality and the experiments pursuant thereto was never discussed by the westerners except by Don Salmon who appreciated Sh. Aurobindo and the Indian Spirituality in some details. This appears to be a shortfall in their attempt while administering the newly developed concept of Spiritual Intelligence at a global level.

Before examining this theory of Spiritual Intelligence, as proposed by Danah Zohar let us remember what Layman Yun P'ang (740-808) said:

"My daily activities are not unusual
I am just naturally in harmony with them,
Grasping nothing, discarding nothing,
And everyplace there's no hindrance, no conflict ..."

Zohar says that the SQ is:


The implication of consciousness is different in the Indian Society. In the Indian context the entire "spiritual" building is founded on the dualism of the body and the consciousness. By very implication the consciousness or more precisely the Chetna is different in kind from the body. Chetna is not organic in constitution. Hence it is essentially different in kind (and not higher in degree) from the ordinary state of organic existence.

Therefore when Zohar calls the Spirituality as the mere "Self Awareness" it appears to the Indian intellect that something essential is being left out.

According to Sri Aurobindo, the reason our knowledge is limited in this way is because our consciousness is concentrated on the surface - "the depths of self, the secrets of our total nature are shut away from us behind a wall created by our externalizing consciousness. In contrast to this, Indian psychology develops a capacity for entering into these depths, awakening what Sri Aurobindo calls "knowledge by direct contact". According to Sri Aurobindo, the yogi whose inner eye has opened does not see the stone or tree or person as a separate thing, but as "the entire universe in one of its frontal appearances".

The essence of Vedanta philosophy is that all human beings have soul (Atman).And although physically all beings appear to have a separate organic existence; their souls are actually not separate. They are merged into one and the absolute soul (Brahman).


Values are a preferred set of propositions, best suited in the given parameters of the given facts and circumstances.

The value of Raaksha Vivaah (one of the eight approved types of marriages in ancient India) was once accepted to compensate the raped girl but today, after 2000 years, this value has been discarded for a new value of providing punishment to the violator.

Values are always dependent on observer's reference frame, its scale and origin. Different observers would find different weight of same value in different circumstances. Marrying one's sister's daughter is highly offending in north India while it is socially approved practice in some parts of south India. Marrying the daughter of father's sister may be offending in Hindus but it is approved in Muslims. Different societies at different times of history usually change their values. Values are always derivatives of the space and time.

The state of spirituality is where one transcends all limitations and boundaries. It is a transcendent state of existence.

Zohar says that a person with Spiritual Intelligence is always led by a vision and values. Probably she does not understand what she says. If the one who is equipped by Danah's Spiritual Intelligence has a vision and values which are essentially an out come of contemporary social order or an antithesis to that, then this Spiritual Intelligence appears to limited in the space and time frame work. On the other hand if he is "spiritual" he is bound to transcend the bondage of space and time. The meaning of Danah's hypothesis that 'a person with Spiritual Intelligence is vision and values led' appears to be confusing. It appears that she is saying that who is well knitted in a space-time derivative, has really transcended the same. Probably she is also not clear what she is saying.

Talking of space-time transcending spirituality and 'space-time derived' value system together appears to be offending to a contradiction free value system itself.


A circumstance is an adversity to you if it depletes your energy level in the duration of its subsistence. You also spend your calories while playing, but it rejuvenates you ultimately. But being trapped in a circumstance of dislike you struggle to come out of it. At last, you feel exhausted. But which circumstances are adverse to you depends on your evaluation of the circumstances. The same and very circumstances may be evaluated as adverse and converse by different evaluators. It depends on the choices of the evaluators. Choices of evaluators are in turn, settled by the space and time. Again it is a space-time derivative as contrasted to the space-time transcending spirituality

Secondly, once an individual starts existing at the level of Spiritual Existence, the adversity, suitability or privilege etc. loses meaning for him. These are merely words for him selected from the man made languages and these words, in contrast to the existence, beyond the bounds of the world, have little importance for him. There is nothing adversity for the one who has surrendered himself to that almighty. It is a transition of variables affecting his physical body. He is not touched at the internal level. He is calm and serene there.

This is a common problem with Danah's theory that it creates contradictions which it was supposed to eliminate.


Being holistic means having an all encompassing approach. This sounds to be a good requisite of Danah's theory. But to be holistic or individualistic again creates a problem for this theory. Choosing an option of being either holistic or individualistic shows that existence of the same problem which kept bothering from Kierkegaard to Heidegger and Jean Paul Sartre etc. i.e. the availability of multiple options and then the pain of choice and thereafter having an abhorrence for all the options except the chosen one.

What appears to be idea of this theory is that the individual concerned should have a concern of all others around him, should estimate all contingencies likely to come in the way of a work, should take into consideration all the possibilities of outcome so on and so forth. This appears to be a good concoction of mathematics, civics, geography, physics and psychology. Only one thing the Spiritual Intelligence is not there.

The idea of being holistic as a value thrust from outside does not reverberate in the fullest of the consonance of the life at the level of Spiritual Existence. Spirituality is more likely to be inwardly directed.


In fact the divergence is the principle of Science. Go inside one substance, there is plentitude of molecules; go inside a molecule there is a plentitude of atoms; go inside of an atom there is a plentitude of fundamental particles; go inside of a fundamental particle there is a plentitude of quarks. Go to any level of existence, there is a diversion of further sublevels. Science has gone to that level of expertise that the expert of a particular fundamental particle say muon, may be quite inefficient to deal with the expertise of an another fundamental particles say neutrino. This is diversity of science and it is bound to happen there because it is so intrinsically interwoven there in the methodology of the sciences itself. When Zohar talks of diversity in psychology also, it appears more of like a nostalgic scream.

In Brihadkarñyopnishad (01/4/90) Mahrishi Yajnavalkaya talks of Ayam Brahmasmi i.e. I am the Brahm. In Chhandogyopnishad it was said (06/8/7) (Tat tvam asi) i.e. you are that (i.e. the Brahm). The Rishi in the same Chhandogyopnishad, even prior to that had also declared (03/14/1) (Sarvam Khalvidam Braham) i.e. this whole Globe is the Brahm.

If I am the Brahm and you are also that (i.e. Brahm) and this whole universe is Brahm then where is the scope of Zohar's diversity.


The individual at the level of Spiritual Existence, is not field independent rather he is field transcendent.

Field dependent or Field independent are two possibilities when the observer has in his view the subject in conjunction with the Field. In this field theory, the reference frame is always preoccupied with the specifications of the field and the subject.

But for a life at the level of Spiritual Existence, the field is transcended. When I propose Field - Transcendence it is altogether different from the Transcendental Categories of Human Understanding as explained by Emmanuel Kant. It was Kant's Fallacy wherein he deduced "a priori" propositions in the name of transcendentalism.

Here I mean a state of existence where if the subject is put to a test, it would be totally meaningless to have, within the reference frame, a Field-Kit. The Field terminology would be redundant to that subject, if he may be so called by stretching the meaning of the term.


She appears to be falling prey, repeatedly to the limitations of the science, in general and of physics, in particular.

"It is the goal of sciences to answer questions about physical reality (what can be measured and observed). Science cannot address all possible questions. Science does not (contrary to popular belief) claim to know absolute reality. It is a discipline based on measurement and observation, aiming to develop the best possible model or theory nature.

Science does not provide value judgments, although many scientists contribute to moral theories by highlighting probable consequences of certain actions. Many people use scientific evidence to claim justification for their own moral ideas, by "proving" the desirability of their preferred actions."

"Why" is a question quite new to the sciences (and physics also). Science generally asks "How", "Where", "What Proportion" etc. Thereafter these questions are solved with observations and generalizations etc. The "Why" domain is reserved for the Social Sciences in general, and for the Philosophy and the Psychology in particular, as it corresponds to the principle of causality.

It is not generally asked why a mother loves her child. It is also not asked why a lover sacrifices his life for his beloved. Questions related to emotions, sentiments and empathy are not generally asked with "why". Danah's theory appears to be a self contradicting theory.


The meaning of a term is its relation to the rest of the world. As per a Chinese saying when you define a donkey you have to specify its relation to all other things in the world which are not donkey.

Giving a thing a meaning is to draw a site map around that thing showing its connections to all other things. It is equivalent to give this thing a Field in which it is put. It is done so because without a field it would not be analyzed.

On one hand this theory says that an individual with Spiritual Intelligence will be independent of the frame of reference but now Danah requires not only a frame of definitions but an ability of the person to reframe the questions. Probably the theory in itself is not clear as to what is to be hypothesized.


Zohar says that the individual at the level of Spiritual Existence is spontaneous, which through the Latin Root of the word attaches a sort of responsibility and Response to the actions of the subject. She says it is not conditioned by fear, it is appropriately "responsive" to the world.

Response is an action of a subject that is followed by a stimulus. Stimulus is a "Cognition Inducing" action from the circumstances. Whenever a stimulus is given to a subject and the subject perceives that stimulus through its senses, it is expected to throw a reaction to that stimulus. This reaction is called response. This is somewhat similar to well known law of "Action-Reaction" in physics. It is very surprising as to why Zohar has forgotten the association of the "Response" to the "Stimulus". Being "Responsive" is a condition regularly succeeded by the availability of "Stimuli".

From this analysis it appears that the theory of Spiritual Intelligence has created new shackles of bondages which it ought to have reduced or eliminated altogether. It is not what it claims to be. Danah's theory claims to provide a good leadership at home and workplaces. A similar claim was made by Goleman's theory of Emotional Intelligence. Danah has added some morality, some ethics, some 'low level' spirituality and has given it a new name. Infact when Goleman talks of Emotional Quotient / Intelligence he also talks of positive emotions of individuals to be used and allowed to be used for maximum output as success. What Danah has added to Goleman is only a morality. With this small addition of a pinch of 'sweet salt' Danah's theory has not become ipso facto, different in kind. If she claims that she is a better Goleman than nobody will object to it. Really she is a better and improved Goleman. However, when she says that she is a 'New Generation' Goleman than the objections are made and her theory is not in a position to reply to even a single objection.

Spiritually Intelligent people usually ask- is it a fraud being perpetuated in the name of Spiritual Intelligence?

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