Looking at Spirituality and Intelligence

lightbulb It is often said that all intelligence is problem solving skill. Our spiritual practices form one of the resources within ourselves which we may use to solve the problems of life. It is this spiritual resource (spiritual intelligence) – with its five aspects – which enables us to solve everyday problems with an abiding peace within.

What is Spirituality

I'd like to take a moment to help you with a distinction between religion and spirituality. Religion is an institution with organised beliefs. Spirituality, on other hand, is an experience.

Spirituality doesn't require you to believe anything. Rather, spirituality constantly invites you to notice your experience. Your personal experience becomes your authority rather than something someone else has told you.

Spiritual practice imparts an awareness within you to what will bring you peace, and what will not bring peace.

In this article we will have a look at several aspects of spiritual knowing - what we call spiritual intelligence, that is there within us. This spiritual intelligence has five aspects: there is mysticism; there is transcendence; there is sanctification - making your life holy; there is using spirituality as resource to solve problems and spiritual practice as a guide to ethical and virtuous behaviour.

Elements of Mysticism

Mysticism isn't limited to those who live in monasteries, or in ashrams, nor to those who live in caves in the desert. Everyone who pursues a spiritual life is a mystic of one kind or another. Whether it is the mother who gets up at 5AM, makes a cup of coffee, goes to her sacred space in the house and lights a candle, and sits still for a time before the rest of the family awake; whether it is the husband who dons a tracksuit and sneakers and chants his prayers while walking around the block in the early morning mist, mysticism is an ordinary, human experience.

Divinity is always divinity in ordinary; that is, the divine is known, worshipped and adored in ordinary life.

The experience of the divine is not something that comes when the sunlight bursts through the clouds in the skies; the experience of the divine is not a sudden great revelation on the top of a mountain; and the experience of the divine is not kneeling in a dark church with aching knees and blasts of wind whipping around your shoulders while you shiver. No, No!

Divinity is always divinity in ordinary everyday experiences. Nothing in this world decides when and where the divine may manifest and make its presence in your life.

Mystical experiences can also take the form of spiritual dreams, miracles and divine interventions in your life, or in the life of someone close to you. We may also encounter mystical experiences in our spiritual practice - meditation, chanting of mantras, saying prayers, or in sacred and spiritual reading.

Mystical experiences are individual and personal; they are not open to discussion, argument and debate. When people want to argue and debate your mystical experiences, then it can be likened to the blind leading the blind. Can another person who doubts your mystical experiences validate your experience for you? What, then, can someone who has never had your sacred experience do to validate or deny your experience?

The reply to blind people, who deny, decry and defame you, is to leave them to their own resources. You follow your path in life, and they may follow their own path. It is my experience that the Divine does not ask you to go out and prove anything to anyone. The mystical experience is personal to you and part of your journey, not the journey of anyone else.

Aspects of Transcendence

Another part of spiritual intelligence is transcendence. Transcendence means to move beyond your focus on yourself to a focus on the other, to a focus on life outside of you. You encounter the Divine Self that is resident in other peoples and in other things or the environment outside of you.

This is not any negative state, it is not any rejection. Rather, it is experiencing and acknowledging that the divine spiritual reality – and experience of that reality – exists outside you as well as inside you. You encounter the divine beyond the normal container of yourself.

And you can do that; you can have this experience of transcendence when you celebrate this world with joy and happiness. You do that when you look upon children and silently bless them; you do that when you bless and give thanks for the animals, the gardens, the trees, the very land itself.

You can have this experience of transcendence when you give selfless service to people in need; when you visit those living alone, when you visit the elderly living in nursing homes, when you visit those doing time in prisons. I have certainly had that experience of transcendence in a nearby prison. It was a most delightful, surprising moment in the prison.

You also experience transcendence when you are participating spiritual meetings, in prayer groups, in retreats and workshops, with other like-minded spiritual aspirants.

Another dimension of transcendence is encountered in interfaith activity, in multifaith events, in interreligious dialogue. These add vitality to the experience of transcendence.

It is the encounter and dialogue with people of different spiritual traditions and faiths, where the witness of faith by the other believers giving account of their spiritual practice, adds something to your own experience of faith, a new recognition of the divine in the other, in your own self.

For me, this is an experience which frequently brings awe, wonder, a sense of humility and smallness – if that could be a word you might understand in this context – when I recognise that same Divine I love and worship in the words and actions of another from a different faith community.

How does that change your experience or my experience? It opens up new aspects and new dimensions which are recognised within. Where others speak of their spiritual practice, there is a resonance and an enlarged sense of spiritual encounter within my own self.

Thoughts on Sanctification

Sanctification is the third element of spiritual intelligence To sanctify is to make holy. We make our lives holy with our own spiritual practices, with our meditation, our prayers, with our devotions.

We make all life holy whenever we pray for and send love and light to other people, to people in need of any kind of healing; when we send love and light to our environment, or to our Mother, the Earth.

Sanctification has an element of surrender to the divine source of your life that you have a devotion to. Surrender does not mean we give up our common sense, our reason, our independence to another person, or to a religious leader, or to a religion, uncritically.

Surrender is simply that you surrender to that to which you have a devotion to; your surrender means you include the divine other in every aspect of your life. It is not abandonment of your common sense, abandonment of your intellect or your reason. The purpose of surrender is to share intimacy with your divine source.

Spiritual Practice as Problem Solving Resource

The next element of spiritual intelligence is spirituality as a problem-solving resource. Where we have mystical experiences, transcendence and sanctification, these all become deposits to your inner spiritual bank, these are your spiritual credits, the deposits you make to your sacred bank of experiences within.

When you go to a bank, when you go to the automatic teller machine, the bank teller or the ATM makes reference to your credit and grants your withdrawal of funds against the balance of credit you have established in your bank account.

So also, in life you can make withdrawals on your spiritual bank in order to confront the problems of life, and to solve those problems. You have an inner spiritual bank made up of your spiritual deposits with which you turn to and take up to resolve all the problems life has presented to you.

You may remain calm, self-possessed, establish a spiritual resource inside yourself, and make withdrawal from your spiritual credit to respond to the challenges, the confrontations and all the extra-ordinary demands in life.

Your spiritual credits give you strength, energy, perseverance and endurance.

Your spiritual credit is how you deal with problems of the world and remain in that abiding peace that is within you.

Spirituality as Ethical and Virtuous Behaviour

The final aspect of spiritual intelligence that I have been telling you about is "Spirituality as ethical and virtuous behaviour".

Ethical and virtuous behaviour is living and acting, doing and interacting with other people - in accordance with your values – those principles and guides to behaviour that you deem important to you, which are in accord with your spirituality.

We are talking about spirituality here as "What works for you". Remember, we said earlier, that

Spirituality doesn't require you to believe anything. Rather, spirituality constantly invites you to notice your experience. Your personal experience becomes your authority rather than something someone else has told you.

Spirituality is acting with common sense and spiritual sense.

Your spirituality tells you what truth is, what love is, what peace is, what righteousness is, and what does not hurt other people, what we call non-violence.

When your actions are guided by these principles, then spirituality has become the guide that produces ethical and virtuous behaviour.

One great spiritual teacher of humankind once told the multitudes that “Morality does not merely mean the observance of certain rules in the work-a-day world. Morality means adherence to the straight and narrow path of spiritual effort. Morality is the blossoming of good conduct. Morality depends on the time, the place, the spirituality of the age.”


In this article, we have discussed that there are resources within us which may aid us to solving the problems of life and living with an abiding sense of peace within, that which religion tells us is "Peace the world cannot give".

We began with "All intelligence is a form of problem solving behaviour", and gave examples of different kinds of intelligence, like musical intelligence, kinaesthetic intelligence and interpersonal intelligence, to name a few.

We have examined dimensions of spirituality as a problem-solving skill. We have looked at several elements of spirituality - such as mystical experiences, transcendence, sanctification, spirituality as problem solving skill and spirituality as ethical and virtuous behaviour.

Spirituality, we have said, is looking to your experience and noticing what works for you and incorporating this into your life. Your own experience becomes your spiritual authority and not something someone else has told you.

We may begin where all paths begin with birth into a family, a community, a spiritual culture. We may live with spiritual sense and common sense, in a way that brings inner peace and contentment to our lives. We do this by building up the spiritual credit in our spiritual bank within us.

In this way, do we live and guide our lives towards our chosen goal with spiritual intelligence.

In a further article, we may look to where we might find some elements of spiritual intelligence in the houses and signs.



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