Quick Hit: Wake Up, Grow Up — Spiritual Intelligence vs. Spiritual Experience


We now have very compelling, cross‑cultural evidence that human beings actually have two quite different but equally important types of spiritual engagement or types of spiritual awareness. Now it’s not at all obvious at first, but the failure to grasp both of these ends up being literally catastrophic, affecting everything from education to politics to global warming to world terrorism, as we’ll see. But one of these is often called spiritual intelligence, and this spiritual intelligence is one of perhaps a dozen multiple intelligences that all human beings have. Others include ones such as cognitive intelligence, emotional intelligence, moral intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, aesthetic intelligence, and, yes, spiritual intelligence. Spiritual intelligence is just that: our intelligent or intellectual approach to Spirit or an ultimate Reality — — how we think about that Reality, the concepts and symbols we use to represent it, the ideas we form about it, our general worldview when it comes to religious or spiritual realities. When it comes to Spirit, it’s our “talk”. The other type of engagement is not spiritual intelligence, but direct spiritual experience. Our spiritual intelligence might tell us that, as one example, we are each intimately interwoven and interconnected with every thing and event in the entire Kosmos, that we are one with the All. And, to support this, we might bring in various spiritual texts, but also various other knowledge branches, such as modern physics, quantum mechanics, systems theory and complexity theory, evolutionary ideas, and so on. These are all ideas held in the mind as we conceive or think about Spirit. But the other type of engagement is not spiritual intelligence, but direct spiritual experience. This is not our “talk”, but our “walk”. It is not any content of Awareness, but Awareness itself. Where spiritual intelligence might tell us that we are one with the All, with spiritual experience, we directly and fully experience that oneness with the All. We don’t think it, we ARE it — — so‑called Kosmic consciousness, or ultimate nondual unity consciousness, or the Great Perfection, or Christ consciousness, or Yeshe, or Ein Sof, and so on. These are two very different paths. A person can have an incredibly elaborate theory or map or idea or intellectual understanding of the interwoven universe, bringing in all sorts of leading-edge science discoveries from modern physics to ecology, but still experience themselves as a skin‑encapsulated ego, existing on this side of one’s face and looking at a set‑apart, separate world out there. They may think that subject and object are one, unified, interwoven, or nondual system, but they still experience themselves as an isolated subject in here looking at a world of separate objects out there. In these cases, spiritual intelligence is high, spiritual experience is quite low. On the other hand, a person can have a direct satori or awakening experience, or Enlightenment-awareness, or nondual realization, and yet really don’t have any extensive ideas of why or how or what that experience is. Their spiritual experience is profound, but their spiritual intelligence is pretty mediocre, and often the ideas they use to explain what they experienced are embarrassingly archaic, out-of-date, or even childish and superstitious. These two engagements are so different that spiritual intelligence is referred to as belonging to the overall path of Growing Up, because, like all multiple intelligences, spiritual intelligence goes through a series of stages of development, or Growing Up, becoming more and more complex, more whole, more unifying, more sophisticated, and more mature. I’ll go over the actual stages of this development in just a moment. But that’s the path of Growing Up, while direct spiritual experience or awareness is known as the path of Waking Up: a series of direct and immediate experiences that don’t necessarily undergo growth, although they can, but that essentially are simply direct and immediate experiences that present themselves in their fullness from the very start. And although there are various forms of this, they often involve a direct experience of the union of an individual’s self with all of existence and its divine Ground. So we have both Waking Up and Growing Up, spiritual intelligence and spiritual experience, our spiritual “talk” and our spiritual “walk”.

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