Integral Spiritual Intelligence: 21 Skills in 4 quadrants

By Cindy Wigglesworth

Why do we need to understand Spiritual Intelligence?

The world’s religions generally advocate loving behaviors, yet religious beliefs have often divided our planet and caused war. We have been trapped in a world that tends to confuse the doctrine with the destination. What we need is a way to talk about the skills that religions are trying to help us attain. I have three goals in trying to more clearly define Spiritual Intelligence (SQ):

To create a language that enables us to discuss these concepts without being limited to the language of any one faith tradition. I hope to create an SQ language - with clear definitions (showing synonyms from many belief systems) -that helps to create understanding among the peoples of our planet.

To create a competency-based language that helps people assess where they are and where they want to go in their own spiritual development. Based on our beta pilot of 549 people it seems clear the CPI SQ assessment instrument does in fact accomplish this second goal.

That the faith-neutral language of competencies will make Spiritual Intelligence acceptable for discussion in the workplace…the place where most of us spend most of our time. This will hopefully lead to support for individual and group Spiritual Intelligence growth – creating more meaningful work, improved products and services, and ensuring responsible corporate behavior.

When I began to try to describe Spiritual Intelligence the questions I asked myself were these:

What do people who are generally considered "spiritually admirable" have in common?

What are the behaviors or skills that these people demonstrate?

Can we list and explain these skills in a way that is comprehensive and faith-neutral?

Can we describe each skill developmentally from "novice" to "expert"?

I begin many of my workshops by asking people – typically working in teams – to complete two simple tasks.

1. Write down the spiritual leaders/teachers you admire (can be alive, dead or fictional)

2. List the character traits that cause you to admire these people

I have done this now with thousands of people. What I find both reassuring and fascinating is that the lists look so similar from group to group. The list of spiritual leaders typically includes major religious figures from many traditions, global peace activists, local religious leaders, teachers, guidance counselors, family members and spiritual writers. A sampling of typical well-known names include: Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Martin Luther King, Lord Krishna, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and Deepak Chopra.

The traits that caused these people to be considered "spiritual leaders" typically includes descriptors such as: loving, compassionate, kind, forgiving, peaceful, courageous, honest, generous, persistent, faithful, honest, seeing the potential in other people, wise, and inspiring.

What the consistency of the responses tells me is that we already have a general perception of what makes someone "spiritually intelligent." What we do not yet have is a way of describing Spiritual Intelligence that is faith-neutral and specifically focused on the skills and abilities we are trying to attain when we seek spiritual growth. In my study of world religions, psychology and philosophy, I have found recurring themes. They demonstrate that spiritual growth occurs on the inner dimensions and the outer behaviors. The failure to reflect inner growth in the outer world demonstrates incompleteness. Fully non-dual realization, by whatever language it is described (Christ-consciousness, Buddha Nature, etc) seems to require manifesting behaviors of love and service. A high SQ person would therefore be functional IN the world while also not being solely OF the world.

To explain where my model of Spiritual Intelligence or "SQ" fits within Ken’s Integral framework there are few points of Integral Theory to recall.


There are a minimum of four states of consciousness to keep in mind as we talk about Spirituality: awake (awareness of gross physical reality), dreaming (aware of subtle reality but not gross), deep sleep (causal or formless awareness) and non-dual awareness – the Ever-present Witnessing consciousness. You can only be in one state of consciousness at a time. For example: you cannot be awake and dreaming simultaneously. The state of non-dual awareness is the state of peak spiritual experiences.


There are multiple lines of human development which include four to be addressed in this article: cognitive, moral, emotional (here I include what Ken calls the interpersonal and affective lines) and spiritual.


Stages of development unfold in waves. And not every line develops at the same speed. The simplest description is to use three stages: pre-rational; rational and trans-rational. We do not want to confuse the pre-rational with the trans-rational stages. Thus pre-rational spirituality (young children) is not the same as the trans-rational spirituality of experienced spiritual practitioners. All stages of development are spiritual in that they are capable of spiritual states. Stages are not equal in their ability to access, hold, and translate states into behaviors.


In the four-quadrant model the upper-left ("I" or interior consciousness) is often the focus of spiritual development models. A four-quadrant approach is necessary if we are to describe Spiritual Intelligence in an Integral manner.


Typologies like Myers Briggs are horizontal descriptors of innate personal preferences which stay with a person regardless of the state or stage that person is in. Typologies are not important for this discussion of the 21 skills of Spiritual Intelligence. They do merit discussion in terms of helping people to develop their skills – but that is not the focus for this article.


There are 3 basic ideas about what is "Divine":

What is "descended" or material is Divine. God is Nature or pantheism. This is the phase of early nature-based religions frequently associated with the "purple" stage in Spiral Dynamics.

What is "ascended" is Divine. The material world is "not-God" and the goal of spiritual work is to "get out of here!" These approaches are afterlife (heaven) or emptiness (nirvana) focused. This is most conventional religion or "blue" in Spiral Dynamics.

The Divine is above and below. In ascending we are released from our contracted ego-self and then, from compassion and wisdom, we feel compelled like a force of nature to re-engage with the "descended" world in a life of service. This is the approach of the CPI SQ model. Thus high SQ demands an orientation of service to others.

With this reminder of the basics of Integral Theory we can now move into getting clear operational definitions of 2 terms: Intelligence and Spirituality.

Defining Intelligence:

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines intelligence as “the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations.”

Our “Intelligence Quotient” or “IQ” is generally thought of as our analytical or mathematical intelligence and our linguistic intelligence (think of college entrance exams – verbal and math components).  Initially it was expected that IQ would be a strong predictor of success in careers.  In fact it has turned out to be a weak predictor of success.  IQ appears to be related to minimum standards to enter a given a profession.  Once you have chosen your career, what actually leads to success is far more complicated.

Howard Gardner opened the door to discussion of “multiple intelligences” with his book Frames of Mind in 1983.  He listed seven different types of intelligences in that book:

1.      Linguistic

2.      Logical-mathematical

3.      Musical

4.      Bodily-kinesthetic

5.      Spatial

6.      Interpersonal

7.      Intrapersonal

Gardner’s 6th and 7th intelligences would later be combined into the study of “emotional intelligence” by Daniel Goleman and others. 

In Intelligence Reframed, 1999, Gardner offers that one might add a “philosophical intelligence” which would combine spiritual, moral, emotional, transcendental, cosmic and religious intelligences. Gardner lists eight criteria for an “intelligence.”  One criterion is particularly relevant for this discussion is that “an intelligence should show a developmental history with a definable set of expert ‘end-state’ performances” (p.39).

One way of substantiating the developmental history is to show that an intelligence (or a skill related to it) has a high correlation between increasing competency and increasing age.  As will be explained, “SQ” can be shown to have a developmental history and definable “end-state” performances with a strong positive correlation to age. 

A Simplified View of “Multiple Intelligences”

While this model is over-simplified from a scientific standpoint, I find it very useful when introducing multiple intelligences in a short time.  This model describes only four intelligences (see Figure 1).  I show them as a pyramid to demonstrate the simplest sequence of development.  I always acknowledge that this is too simple   a model.  Yet it is a helpful visual aide.                      

The idea of this model is that as babies we first focus on controlling our bodies.  Then our linguistic and conceptual skills develop (“IQ”)…and are a key focus of our school work.  We do some early development of relationship skills, but for many of us “EQ” or emotional intelligence becomes a focus area only later when we realize we need to improve – usually based on feedback in romantic and work relationships.  Brain studies also show that we are not fully “wired” to do more complex “EQ” work until we are approximately 22 years of age.   “SQ” or spiritual intelligence typically becomes a significant focus of energy and effort later – as we begin to search for meaning and ask “is this all there is?” 

The arrows show that SQ and EQ development are related to each other.  We need some basics of EQ to even successfully start our spiritual growth.  Some degree of emotional self-awareness and empathy is an important foundation.  Then, as our spiritual growth unfolds, there would be a strengthening of EQ skills – which would further reinforce and assist the growth of SQ skills.   

Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman popularized the phrase “Emotional Intelligence” with the publication of his book by the same title in 1995.  In his book, Goleman cites research at Bell Labs that examined star performers, and tried to determine what distinguished them from more average performers.  It appeared that star performers had significantly stronger relationship skills and personal networks than average performers.  Harvard Business Review published the results of the Bell Labs study in 1993.   Business interest in the study of “Emotional Intelligence” or “EQ” began in earnest.

EQ is actually a large collection of skills.  Goleman and Richard Boyatzis[1] have recently grouped these skills into 4 quadrants as shown in Figure 2.  If you reverse the Other Awareness and Self Management quadrants then the model lines up with the Integral model.

There is a sequence to these skills.  The research done by Goleman and Boyatzis shows that Self-Awareness skills must be developed before the skills in the other three quadrants can develop.  This makes sense if you consider Emotional Self-Awareness.  If I don’t know when I am angry how can I have Emotional Self Control?  How can I have Empathy for your anger?  How can I handle conflict appropriately?  The last quadrant to develop is Relationship Skills – it is dependent upon at least a minimum number of skills being developed in the other three quadrants.

The abundant research on EQ has left no doubt that these skills are vital for personal and business success. 




·        Emotional self-awareness

·        Accurate self-assessment

·        Self-confidence



·        Empathy

·        Organizational Awareness

·        Service Orientation



·        Emotional Self-Control

·        Transparency  (honest/trustworthy)

·        Adaptability

·        Achievement Orientation

·        Initiative

·        Optimism



·        Developing Others

·        Inspirational Leadership

·        Influence

·        Change Catalyst

·        Conflict Management

·        Teamwork & Collaboration

Defining Spirituality:

Generally use of the word “Spirituality” is poorly defined.   In Integral Psychology Ken Wilber outlines five definitions people frequently use for the word “Spirituality” (pages 126-134).  They are:

  1. Spirituality involves the highest levels of any of the developmental lines

  2. Spirituality is the sum total of the highest levels of the developmental lines

  3. Spirituality is itself a separate developmental line

  4. Spirituality is an attitude (such as openness or love) that you have at whatever stage you are at

  5. Spirituality basically involves peak experiences

Beginning with definition number five - Ken has said, a “peak experience” gives us a “peek” into the non-dual realm.  It can leave “stretch marks on our minds” but it does not translate into character traits unless we have the overall stage development to hold that consciousness.  Peak experiences can increase our appetite for growth and perhaps accelerate it.  Yet people can be skillful at obtaining peak experiences and NOT be able to consistently translate those moments into what we might call spiritually admirable behaviors.  Non-dual moments cannot in and of themselves create loving, peaceful, ethical people.  So if the line of development called “spiritual” is deemed to be how skillful are you in achieving meditative and transcendent states (moments of non-dual awareness, moments outside of contracted ego self) – then some level of development of that “line” (I prefer to think of it as a list of skills) is a critical piece of becoming spiritually intelligent – but it is not sufficient. 

I define Spirituality as a modified combination of definitions 2 and 3.  Spirituality is a separate line AND it represents interdependency of multiple lines – specifically what I will call the emotional, cognitive and moral.  Furthermore, Spirituality must be developed and demonstrated in all four quadrants and in both ascending and descending form.

For simplification, my definition of Spirituality is distinct from Spiritual Intelligence.  I define Spirituality as “an innate human need to be in relationship with the sacred.”  I believe the need to transcend the limited self is just part of who we are as a species – it is “innate.”  Not everyone “wakes up” to this facet of human nature and acts on it.  But we tend to be miserably unhappy when we do not address this need.  We need an active process – a relationship – with whatever we call the Divine.

My embedded assumption, which is made explicit in the Spiritual Intelligence model, is that the goal is to be both ascending and descending in the experience of our Spirituality.  That is – to be in the world while also not being limited to this three dimensional dualistic experience.  What is “sacred” is what is above, below, beside and all around us.  Thus relationships with the sacred have a focus of service to the separated individuals we encounter (still in contracted consciousness – including ourselves) and to the planet and to the transcended whole.

The skills associated with successfully managing relationships among humans have been defined by Daniel Goleman as the skills (competencies) of “Emotional Intelligence.”  In exactly the same way as relationships with humans, a well-developed relationship with the sacred requires skills -  the skills of “Spiritual Intelligence.”  

I define Spiritual Intelligence as “The ability to behave with Wisdom and Compassion while maintaining inner and outer peace (equanimity) regardless of the circumstances.”  The word “behave” is important because it reflects the outer demonstration of inner development.  Wisdom and Compassion are capitalized to emphasize the connection with the Divine.  In the east, love is often defined as a bird with two wings:  wisdom and compassion.  Without either wing the “bird” cannot fly.  So SQ is the ability to behave with divinely inspired Love.  Peace is demonstrated both by the inner state (upper left quadrant) of the person and their outer behaviors and presence (right quadrants).  “Regardless of the circumstances” reflects what we most admire in our spiritual exemplars – they stayed true to their highest selves even in trying times.  In other words their stage development is advanced and stable.

So what are the 21 skills of Spiritual Intelligence? The 21 skills fall into 4 quadrants which parallel both Daniel Goleman’s and Ken Wilber’s work.  Here I display the quadrants in the sequence which parallel’s the Integral model.  Quadrant 1 is Individual Interior and focuses on awareness and complexity of inner thought (showing interdependency with the cognitive line).  Quadrant 2 is a combination of Collective Interior and Universal “interior” or “nonmaterial” reality.  Quadrant 3 is demonstrated individual behaviors relating to managing self (exterior).  Quadrant 4 is demonstrated effectiveness in group interactions.


1. Higher Self / Ego self Awareness

1.      Awareness of own worldview

2.      Awareness of Life Purpose (Mission)

3.      Awareness of Values Hierarchy

4.      Complexity of inner thought

5.      Awareness of Ego self/Higher Self



3. Higher Self/ Ego self Mastery

  1. Commitment to spiritual growth

  2. Keeping Spirit Self in charge

  3. Living your purpose and values

  4. Sustaining faith

  5. Seeking guidance from Spirit


2. Universal Awareness

6.      Awareness of interconnectedness of life

7.      Awareness of worldviews of others

8.      Breadth of time/space perception

9.      Awareness of limitations / power of human perception

10.  Awareness of spiritual principles

11.  Experience of transcendent oneness


4. Social Mastery/Spiritual Presence

  1. Wise and effective teacher of spiritual principles

  2. Wise and effective leader / change agent

  3. Makes Compassionate AND Wise decisions

  4. A calming, healing presence

  5. Being aligned with the ebb and flow of life



As with the Goleman/Boyatzis model of EQ skills, our hypothesis is that Quadrant 1 will be critical for the development of Quadrants 3 and 4.  However, it is possible that some people, especially those in eastern traditions, may first develop some of the skills of Quadrant 2 and then move into Quadrant 1 before moving on to Quadrants 3 and 4.  Thus Quadrants 1 and 2 are both needed but where you start is not critical.

Each of the 21 skills is scaled from “zero” (meaning no skill development is measurable yet) to five which is the highest level we measure.  Clients taking the Conscious Pursuits, Inc. SQ self- assessment receive a report for all 21 skills which gives both a numeric score and description of what that skill attainment looks like.  An optional “next step” is then provided for every skill – including for skills where the client scores a “five.”  This is based on the belief that we are never “finished.”

Here is an overview of the five levels of skill development for Quadrant 1, Skill 5:  Awareness of Ego self/Higher self.


Skill 5:  Awareness of Higher Self/ Ego self

Level 1 (novice)

Can communicate understanding of the nature of Ego self- including its origin and the purpose it serves in spiritual development. (Cognitive theoretical awareness)


Demonstrates ability to observe personal Ego in operation and comment on what seems to trigger Ego eruptions. (personal awareness of own Ego)


Demonstrates awareness of and ability to periodically "listen to" Spirit or Higher Self as a separate voice from Ego self  (personal awareness of voice of Higher Self)


Hears the voice of Spirit or Higher Self clearly and understands the "multiple voices" that Ego self can have.  Gives authority to voice of Higher Self in important decisions. (Ego voice less strident, Higher Self voice strengthening)

Highest Level 5

Spirit or Higher Self voice is clear and consistent.  Ego self is present and is a joyful advisor to Higher Self.  There is no longer a struggle between the two voices. Rather there is a sense of only “one voice” …the Higher Self (Authentic Self, Spirit) voice and the Ego in service to that.


Here is a sample of the feedback you would receive if you scored a “3” on this skill:

You are aware of the influences of your childhood on the development of your personality and beliefs.  You understand that there is a difference between the desires of your Ego and the desires of your Higher Self.  You can observe the Ego part of your nature and can usually recognize what has caused your Ego to get agitated.  You are aware of how your body feels when Ego is agitated.  This is great...your body can be your ally in alerting you to when your Ego is upset.  Next step:   Learn to have a conversation with yourself when your Ego is upset (or better yet in a quiet moment later on).  Ask your Ego self "What are you afraid of?"  "What are you angry about?"  "What would you like me to do about this situation?"  This dialogue helps you to create a little bit of distance through awareness so that you are OBSERVING your Ego self rather than just automatically acting based on its prompting.  Write down the answers you get from Ego.   Then ask yourself "What might be a more Wise and Compassionate response to this situation?" (or more simply, "What would Love do?")  Breathe deeply to calm your body and then ask the question again.  Listen for the inner wisdom that arises from Higher Self.  Notice the differences in how each part of us interprets a situation.  When you have reflected on these different interpretations, look closely at the Ego's interpretation.  Fear is the underlying feeling beyond anger.  Ask it "What are you afraid of?" and then "why are you afraid of that?"  When it answers, ask again, "and why are you afraid of that?"  and again "Why are you afraid of that?"  Keep going as long as you can until you get to the deepest fear you can reach.  Notice what beliefs and thoughts are behind the fear your Ego feels.  Write these beliefs and thoughts down.  Then write their antidotes - the truth as Higher Self sees it.

This model defines the “expert” level of skill attainment and 4 preceding levels for all 21 skills.

What the beta pilot of this instrument showed

In the 2003 to 2004 beta pilot of 549 people from around the world we found only one strong demographic predictor of performance and that was age.  A strong positive correlation between age and skill attainment was found for all 21 skills.  This does not mean that aging automatically brings skill development.  Anyone can choose not to grow.  It does show that it seems to take time – reflected in years of age – to increase skills levels on these 21 skills.  This means there is a high probability that the CPI SQ model depicts a legitimate “intelligence.”

The beta pilot showed that women seemed to score higher on 3 of the 21 skills.  Protestant Christians tended to score higher than Catholics and all others on 2 skills.  Caucasians scored better on 3 skills when compared to all other races.  Only one skill showed any significant variation based on region of the world.

Since the beta pilot we have revised the questions and the pop-up glossary to make everything easier to understand for people of all faith backgrounds and cultures.  We are hopeful that over time we will see even less difference in SQ results based on any demographic other than age.

Relationships between “Lines” of Development

You can see from looking at the simplified model of four intelligences (Figure 1) that EQ and SQ are believed to be mutually reinforcing.  However our assumption (not yet tested) is that an individual with no emotional self-awareness and/or no empathy skills will have a very difficult time beginning to develop SQ Skills in Quadrant 1 and Skill 7 in Quadrant 2.  

Exclusively “spiritual” skills would include Skills 2, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16 and most of Quadrant 4.  Skills linked to Moral Development would include Skills 3 and 14.  Skills linked to Cognitive development would include (depending on how finely you break down the lines) Skills 1, 4, 7, 8 and 9.  The SQ skills in Quadrant 4 are developed last and are dependent on those in the preceding 3 quadrants (our beta pilot results seem to substantiate this assumption).  Body awareness (Physical Intelligence or PQ) is connected to these lines as well since body awareness enhances self-awareness in EQ and SQ skills.  – which can enhance self-awareness in SQ and EQ), and moral development (one of the skills of EQ is “transparency” which means authenticity, trustworthiness and honesty).  SQ assumes a link with moral development since as SQ grows the sense of “self” expands to include other people and animals.  Pain inflicted on others becomes pain inflicted on the self.  A high attunement to others leads naturally to higher morality.  In this model of SQ is not possible to have low moral behavior and high overall SQ.


It is possible to create clear operational definitions of Spirituality and Spiritual Intelligence.  Furthermore we can define and assess the specific skills and the levels of skill development for the 21 skills of SQ.  This should lead to wonderful opportunities to use the SQ Assessment for research in several areas:

·        impact of SQ skills development on people’s sense of meaning, peace and happiness

·        impact of team SQ development on workplace productivity, employee loyalty, customer satisfaction

·        impact of the use of SQ language in bridging interfaith discussions 

In the end, we are alike in our suffering, our hopes and our joys.  We are all striving to reach the same goals:  peace and love.  Perhaps with a clear, concrete and faith-neutral language for SQ we can see our commonality and work together towards getting there.


For further information on the CPI SQ Assessment please go to the Conscious PursuitsÒ website at or email Cindy at

Cindy Graves Wigglesworth
President, Conscious Pursuits, Inc. "Bringing Spiritual Intelligence to Life"
Creator: the first faith-neutral skills-based Spiritual Intelligence Assessment Instrument
Co-Author: Grown-Up Children Who Won't Grow Up (with Dr. Larry Stockman) - as seen on Oprah.
Board Member: Association for Spirit at Work
Home/Office: 713-667-9824 Fax: 713-218-6069


[1] Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, with Hay-McBrer, 2002





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