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Holistic Intelligence

By Dr Bruce Copley


For many years human intelligence has been the focus of considerable debate and attention. Until recently however virtually all this attention was directed towards the description and measurement of intellectual or rational intelligence. This mind or cognitive capacity was widely used particularly by education authorities and referred to as the IQ or intelligence quotient. It was not only used to assess learning potential, but also as justification for mandatory sterilisation and even as a status symbol (MENSA). Closer scrutiny revealed many limitations of the IQ and scientists began to explore the possibility of other types of intelligence. Gardner (1985) identified 7 types of intelligence, namely linguistic, musical, logical, spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Sternberg (1988) proposed a triarchic theory identifying 3 components of intelligence.

More recently Daniel Goleman (1995) bringing together research from neuroscientists and psychologists has provided evidence of another type of intelligence he has called emotional intelligence or EQ. He not only believes that this is a very important type of intelligence but that it is an essential requirement for the effective use of the IQ. According to Goleman EQ includes self-awareness and impulse control, persistence, zeal and motivation, empathy and social deftness. These are the qualities he claims that mark people whose relationships flourish, who excel in business and who are successful and well adjusted members of society.

Now Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall (2000) are suggesting that the ultimate intelligence is spiritual intelligence or SQ. They describe this as the intelligence with which we address and solve problems of meaning and value. Through SQ we are able to place our actions and lives into a wider, richer and more meaningful context. They believe that SQ is the necessary foundation for the effective functioning of both IQ and EQ.

In keeping with the conventional atomistic and mechanistic scientific approach it is not surprising that human intelligence researchers have and continue to focus on the parts. With great skill, dedication and passion scientists in most disciplines analyse, specialise, separate and compartmentalise. While this scientific paradigm has obviously produced many useful technologies it has simultaneously created a very dangerous big picture “blind spot”. Fortunately systems or holistic thinking has begun to emerge and there is a growing realisation and recognition that in reality everything is connected and that separation is simply a product of human thought and behaviour. Quantum physics for example has eloquently demonstrated that there can be no separation and that everything (visible and invisible) is a pattern of energy (vibration) within a larger pattern, like a wave within the ocean.