Thursday, September 24, 2009


Spiritual Intelligence: A New Way of Being, Brian Draper, Lion, 2009.

We know about rational intelligence (remember those IQ tests at school?). And emotional intelligence (you’ve read Daniel Goleman’s best-seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ). So if our cognitive and affective behaviors can be measured in terms of performance, someone had to come up with an equivalent for the dimension of the spirit. And this happened quite recently, apparently, when in the year 2000 Oxford academic, philosopher and spiritual writer Danah Zohar coined the phrase ‘spiritual intelligence’. ‘She suggested that it forms the central part of our intelligence, the part in which our values and beliefs are nurtured and in which we can work towards our full potential as created beings’ (p. 12).

Brian Draper, British freelance writer, seminar-leader, contributor to BBC Radio 4’s thought for the day etc. says spiritual intelligence is figuring out who we were created to be in the first place – the ‘unique you’. (Parker Palmer teaches similarly in the United States). It’s about listening to the child’s voice within us, and to the riches buried in our traditions – ‘riches that help us to make those soulful reconnections that many of us, deep down, yearn to make – with the world around us, with each other, with our selves, and with the higher power often called God’. It’s really all about common (or uncommon?) sense. Or a ‘spiritual’ person’s equivalent of ‘smelling the roses’.

The standard contemplative wisdom is here: listening to our breathing, eliminating invasive noise (eg. by trying a week without TV), and being still. One of Draper’s favorite questions is the Gen X writer Douglas Coupland’s: What do we do when the power fails? It’s not about conquests but connecting with our reality. As Marcel Proust wrote, ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes’. It’s about ‘seeing the world from up here’ as Robin Williams’ character Mr. Keating tells the boys when he climbs on to his desk in Dead Poets Society.

Spirituality is about the tension between contemplation (being) and action (doing). It’s about what you’re not (a consumer of this world) versus what you are (in communication with the world). Take some time to write your obituary. Our ego attaches itself to things around us, or the desired perceptions of others. So in this uncertain world, as Eckhart Tolle reminds us (Draper probably quotes Tolle more than any other wise person) ‘you can assume that virtually everyone you meet or know lives in a state of fear. .. Most become conscious of it only when it takes on one of its most acute forms’.

You get the idea… This is the book to read before Tolle’s The Power of Now. It connects us with ancient wisdom (though I reckon Draper could have used more biblical material: conservatives might accuse him – and they’d be wrong - of being ‘New Age-ish’). And he could have tapped more into the traditional wisdom of the church, which has been wrestling with all this for 2000 years under the rubric of ‘Spiritual Theology’ (he quotes Augustine, but I don’t think Meister Eckhart gets a mention, though, surprisingly for a Brit, American Franciscan Richard Rohr does, fairly frequently).

Near the end is a quote from D H Lawrence: ‘I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections./ And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly that I am ill, / I am ill because of wounds to the soul’. Yes!

Get it for your family-member or friend who’s not yet had their mid-life crisis and is still moving too fast across the face of the earth trying to prove their worth by out-performing others. (You know the best description of a mid-life crisis? It’s realizing you’ve reached the top of the ladder, but it’s leaning against the wrong wall). And read it slowly – digest a couple of pages a day for a couple of months. Write ‘ouch!’ occasionally in the margins (as I did), and it could even be life-changing.

Rowland Croucher

August 2009

Shalom/Salaam/Pax! Rowland Croucher

Justice for Dawn Rowan -


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