What is spiritual intelligence?
That’s the question I asked myself when the publishers recently suggested I might like to write about Spiritual Intelligence in Seven Steps by Mark Vernon (Iff Books) because it was ‘on its way to being one of our best-selling non-fiction titles’ since publication in December 2022. Well, my interest was piqued.
Vernon, a psychotherapist and a former Anglican priest, explains that spiritual intelligence is a type of perception, a felt sense that our experience is connected to a wider vitality, ‘that what we grasp is only a fraction of what might be understood’. Indeed, we have a ‘spiritual commons’ which comes with the recognition that our lives continually draw on a bigger presence, an immanence.
Known by many names — soul, spirit, source, Brahman, Tao, God — spiritual intelligence is identified across age-old wisdom and religious traditions and, says Vernon, it can be summarised as ‘the awareness of awareness’, and thus of Being itself. It’s the foundation of human consciousness and who we are, of meaning, purpose and peace, yet knowledge of it has been largely lost in today’s secular, materialistic and mechanistic culture; as I wrote here, we are losing sight of the soul.
The eminent Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung said that people can get lost in mere consciousness and rationality, causing something like a dissociation between consciousness and the unconscious, an unnatural, even pathological condition, ‘a loss of soul such as has threatened man from the beginning of time’ (Answer to Job, 1954).
Although Mark Vernon’s title Spiritual Intelligence in Seven Steps could give potential readers a false impression by implying that it’s a simplistic ‘easy steps’ self-help manual, it’s actually a worthy treatise (in seven chapters after an introduction) on ‘reflective reorientation’ with the laudable aim of returning the mind to spiritual intelligence. Rising to the challenge of regaining it could be crucial to our survival as a species, Vernon believes.