Sunday, September 19, 2004


Chua Mui Hoong’s column in The Sunday Times today covered spiritual intelligence, or SQ for short. In explaining the concept, she refers to the book The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns by Robert Emmons, a psychologist from the University of California at Davis. In the book, Emmons says that there are five components of SQ:

  • First is a capacity for transcendence. People with high SQ perceive a transcendental reality: that is, they believe in a reality beyond the physical or material.

  • Second is an ability to sanctify everyday experience. People with high SQ can imbue daily activity with spiritual significance.

  • Third is the ability to experience heightened states of consciousness.

  • Fourth is the ability to use spiritual resources to solve problems.

  • Fifth is the capacity to engage in virtuous behaviour: They can show forgiveness, be kind and compassionate, and empathise with others.

  • After reading her article, my first thought was that SQ should stand for Stupidity Quotient.

    Okay, that is probably unfair. I actually know of a number of intelligent people who believe in various aspects of spirituality.

    My main grouse with the concept is that many aspects of spirituality are actually unprovable. To subscribe to spirituality usually requires a person to believe based on faith or emotion. If it leads to the positive spirituality as described above, that is good.

    Unfortunately, blind faith or emotion can also lead to irrational behaviour. It can lead people to superstition or bigotry, and render people susceptible to manipulation. In other words, it can lead to extremism and become the basis on which terrorist organisations induce their members to perform acts of terrorism.

    So spirituality may be able to shield people from the harsh realities of life, but it is also a small step away to the very forces that cause people to act destructively in response to those realities.


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