Is spirituality the highest aspiration of our human existence? Well, if you’ve ever taken even a basic psychology course you remember Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. You know, first we need our basic survival needs met, such as food and shelter, then we can think about things like friendship, love, etc… Well, most textbooks I’ve seen portrayed the peak of the hierarchy as “self-actualization.” Actually, though, Maslow’s ideas evolved throughout his life:

“Near the end of his life Maslow revealed that there was a level on the hierarchy that was above self-actualization: self-transcendence[7]. “[Transcenders] may be said to be much more often aware of the realm of Being (B-realm and B-cognition), to be living at the level of Being… to have unitive consciousness and “plateau experience” (serene and contemplative B-cognitions rather than climactic ones) … and to have or to have had peak experience (mystic, sacral, ecstatic) with illuminations or insights. Analysis of reality or cognitions which changed their view of the world and of themselves, perhaps occasionally, perhaps as a usual thing.”[

As part of my graduate work I’ve researched and written on the concept of spiritual intelligence (SQ). What is it? Below is a quick summary of my research.

Meaning and Vision

The greatest gift a teacher can give a student is the ability to create meaning and vision in her life, yet many obstacles obscure our ability to empower students in this way. The greatest of these is a misunderstanding of how we create meaning.

Spiritual Intelligence

In their book Spiritual Intelligence, The Ultimate Intelligence Zohar and Marshall (2000) propose a higher, unifying form of intelligence that enables us to create meaning, vision, and value in our lives. They call this intelligence spiritual intelligence (SQ). SQ has a neurological basis but manifests in human behaviors, attitudes, and qualities.

What is Intelligence?

There are three kinds of intelligence. IQ is the traditional view of intelligence, but only encompasses linear, rule-bound neural tracts. It gives us the ability to perform logical tasks. Emotional intelligence (EQ) gives us the ability to think associatively, and is based on interconnected neural networks that can adapt to our environments, but still can’t provide meaning outside their connections.

A third, higher intelligence is based on oscillations that occur in the brain. Oscillations of 40 Hz in particular occur throughout the brain and neurologically unify the tracts and networks in the brain. In other words, this third intelligence gives us the ability to create meaning, yet it doesn’t reside in any specific part of the brain. In this sense it is transcendent. It is this third transcendent process that Zohar and Marshall link to the qualities of SQ in human beings.

The Qualities of SQ

Wigglesworth (2002) summarizes Zohar and Marshall’s description into nine qualities of a spiritually intelligent person:

  1. She is self-aware.
  2. She is led by vision and values.
  3. She has the capacity to face and use adversity.
  4. She sees the world holistically.
  5. She thrives in and celebrates diversity.
  6. She possesses courage.
  7. She has a tendency to ask “why?”
  8. She has the ability to reframe things/experience into a larger context of meaning.
  9. She possesses a spontaneity that allows her to be responsive to the world.

Sort posts by Spirituality for more ideas on increasing your SQ.


“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 9 August 2009 <;.

Zohar, D. & Marshall, I. (2000). Spiritual Intelligence: The ultimate intelligence. New York: Bloomsbury.

One response »

  1. 3D Eye says:

    Excellent post. I’m a great admirer of Maslow, but didn’t know that he’d formed a concept of ‘self-transcendence’ and placed it above self-actualisation. Fascinating.

    As for Zohar and Marshall, there’s a few thoughts on their work here –


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