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Spiritual Intelligence: Mind, Body and Soul Relationship

2.6 Spiritual Intelligence

2.6.1 Spiritual Intelligence: Mind, Body and Soul Relationship

Humans are naturally spiritual beings; we are spiritual beings experiencing human body and not human body experiencing spiritual things. Steiner (1912) in his lecture series in Helsinki titled “Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature”

stated that inner life is an attribute of being human which enable the human to experience spiritual fulfilment (Steiner, 1981). This statement shows that human being does not only encompassed the body, but also spirit or soul as well.


Before discussing the concept of spiritual intelligence from the Western perspective, it is essential to understand the relationship between mind, body and soul as it will answer the question about oneself, ‘Who am I’? Human beings encompass three important elements which are mind, body and soul. These three elements are interrelated.

Analogically, this relationship can be explained as a man driving a car. The engine is the mind, the car is the body and the man is the soul. To drive the car we need the engine and the car needs to be driven by a man. Without any one of it, the car would not be able to move on the road. Thus, without the utilisation of mind, body and soul collectively, human being is unable to reach his or her full potential.

Socrates was the first Western philosopher to focus on issues related to the human self, finding answers to questions: ‘Who one is?’, ‘Who one should be?’ and ‘Who one will become?’. According to Socrates in addition to our physical bodies, each person possesses an immortal soul that will survive beyond the death of the body (Chaffee, 2011, p. 89).

This is supported by his student, Plato who said the soul and body are two separate substances. The dualism concept is discussed by Plato in Phaedo. A man is identical with his soul. The man is essentially his soul, but not his body. The soul to the body is as a driver to a car. The driver drives the car, but the driver is a being that is distinct from the car and can exist when not in the car. Plato argued that soul cannot be destroyed. “All unseen things are unchanging, they do not have parts (simple)” (Lacewing, 2009). Since the soul has no parts and is unchanging, it cannot be destroyed as how a body is perished.

Plato further explained the concept of the soul in which he divided the soul or self into three interrelated parts (Chaffee, 2011, p. 93):


1. Reason - Our divine essence that enables us to think intensely, make prudent choices and achieve a true understanding of eternal truths.

2. Physical appetite – our basic biological needs such as hunger, thirst and sexual desire.

3. Spirit or passion – our basic emotions such as love, empathy and anger.

The three parts might function in the same direction, for instance, a person who loves (passion) his or her family will provide the best shelter and food (physical) for the family in order for the family to have a safe and healthy life (reason). The three parts might as well face with conflict, torn between these three parts in which Plato believes that it is the responsibility of the reason to resolve the conflict and create a harmonious relationship between the three (Chaffee, 2011).

The same concept should be applied to mind, body and soul. These three elements are interrelated. For example, our body (body) needs to be healthy in order for us to do our daily activities. To have a healthy body we need knowledge on how to be healthy, that can be acquired through reading and rationalising the importance of having a good health (mind). At the same time, our soul (soul) needs to be fit as well, so there is a need for soul purification which can be achieved by getting ourselves closer to our Creator. When our soul is fit, we are able to control whatever is happening to us, for instance, we are able to deal with a stressful life, our mind will be able to comprehend with whatever that we see, touch, hear and so on which will give a positive impact to our health.

As for Aristotle, the soul is to the body as form is to matter; a human being is a composite of form and matter. Aristotle in his de Anima II, said that there are three types of substance (Cohen, 2008):


a. Matter

b. Form

c. The compound of matter and form

He believed that human is basically composed of matter and form. The soul is to the body like the power of hearing to the ears that hear. Hence, for Aristotle, the soul cannot exist independently of the body. Aristotle in Hasan Langgulung (1986) said that the soul is the function of the body. He further explained emotions such as anger, happiness and love are not from the soul alone but from the body as well. When the soul’s emotion happened, it will bring changes to the body. For instance the emotion of anger happened when the body experiences a situation of anger. If a person is getting angry without the body experiencing anger then the individual is faced with mental illness.

Both Plato and Aristotle, who have differing views about body and soul relationship, discussed about human intelligence in detail. Plato compared human intelligence to blocks and wax, as how human beings are different in the size, hardness, moistness, and purity of their knowledge. In this analogy, intellectual deficits were described as the result of overly hard, overly soft, muddy, or impure blocks of wax (Cianciolo & Sternberg, 2004). According to Plato, true knowledge or intelligence is the ability to grasp the world of ‘forms’ (ideas) with one's mind, albeit his evidence for the existence of ‘forms’ is intuitive only. The elucidation of this idea was written in Plato's Allegory of the Cave, from his best-known piece of work, The Republic (Waterfield, 2008).

Intelligence from Aristotle’s perspective is a state of grasping the truth, concerning reason, involved with action about what is good or bad for a human being. In his book Nicomachean Ethics, Book 6 (NE6) (Irbe, 2000), Aristotle looked into the connection


between reasoning, desire and choice. Both the contemplative and practical intellects are being used by human beings to distinguish what is naturally good or bad so that human beings will be longing for the right. According to Aristotle in NE6 (Irbe, 2000):

Since moral virtue is a state of character concerned with choice, and choice is deliberate desire, therefore both the reasoning must be true and the desire right, if the choice is to be good; and the desire must pursue the same things that the reasoning asserts. Now this kind of intellect and of truth is practical; of the intellect which is contemplative, not practical nor productive, the good and the bad state are truth and falsity respectively (for this is the work of everything intellectual), but the function of practical intellect is to arrive at the truth that corresponds to right desire.

The accomplishment of truth is the task of both intellectual parts of the soul; so, their respective qualities are the states that will enable them to attain the truth. The soul seeks the truth using the contemplative and applied intellectual parts. For Plato, the intellectual is not just from one’s mind, but from the power of intuition (soul) as well.

Aristotle also believed soul could reach the truth through intellect. These two thoughts proved that there is a strong relationship between the spiritual (soul) and intelligence (intellect and knowledge). This basic knowledge of soul and intellectual from Ancient Greek’s philosophers will ease our understanding of spiritual intelligence discussed by some western scholars and experts.

Human beings tend to ask some fundamental questions as to how they are created, who created them, where are they heading in their life, how long they will be in this world and so on. These questions and others which are related to the human self are being answered through an intelligence known as spiritual intelligence. It is the influence that we gain by acting from a deep sense of meaning, our deepest values, and sense of higher purpose through a life devoted to service (Zohar, 2010). There are few widely accepted definitions of spiritual intelligence, two of them being:

A set of mental capacities which contribute to the awareness, integration, and adaptive application of the nonmaterial and transcendent aspects of one’s existence,


leading to such outcomes as deep existential reflection, enhancement of meaning, recognition of a transcendent self, mastery of spiritual states (King & Decicco,