The Mind, Heart and Will as Aspects of Emotional, Moral and Spiritual Intelligence

The mind, heart and will each need to be trained and their capacity gradually increased. These capacities can be referred to as intelligences, a term that is being used to describe more than cognitive knowledge and skill. As such, mind, heart and will are associated with the cognitive, emotional and moral intelligences. As cognitive intelligence is better understood and accepted, we will very briefly look at emotional, moral, and spiritual intelligences to see how they might be used to help us develop human resources and potential.

Mayer and Salovey define emotional intelligence as “the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions to promote personal growth” (1997). Goleman’s definition, “a feeling and its distinctive thoughts, psychological and biological states, and range of propensities to act” (1995, p. 289), includes four main competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (1998). Emotional development and intelligence “has been tied to cognitive functioning (Isen, 2008; Lazarus, 1999), conative development (Buckley, & Saarni, 2009; Saarni, 1997), social development (Goleman, 2006), moral development (Hoffman, 2000), spiritual development (Guela, 2004), and self-views (Hamacheck, 2000)” (Huitt, 2010). “Emotional intelligence concerns the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought” (Mayer, Roberts & Barsade, 2008, p. 511).

Moral intelligence, “the mental capacity to determine how universal human principles should be applied to our personal values, goals, and actions” (Lennick & Kiel, 2005, p. 7), is a combination of integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion. Integrity includes four competencies: 1) acting consistently with principles, values, and beliefs, 2) telling the truth, 3) standing up for what is right, and 4) keeping promises. Responsibility’s three competencies are 1) taking personal responsibility, 2) admitting mistakes and failures, and 3) embracing responsibility for serving others. Forgiveness involves 1) letting go of one’s own mistakes and 2) letting go of others’ mistakes. Compassion is defined as actively caring about others. These are also similar to Borba’s (2001) conscience and fairness, self-control and respect, empathy and kindness and tolerance; the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development Panel on Moral Education (1988) definition of a moral person; Damon’s (1988) description of morality and other conception of moral intelligence.

Spiritual intelligence addresses meaning, motivation, vision and value (Emmons, 2000; Zohar, 2000; Zohar & Marshall, 2001). It is “the application of spiritual abilities and resources to practical contexts” (Nasel, 2004, p. 4, cited in cited in King & DeCicco, 2009, p. 69) involving existential questioning and the awareness of divine presence. Covey states that “Spiritual intelligence is the central and most fundamental of all the intelligences, because it becomes the source of guidance for the other[s] (2004, p.53). Zohar & Marshall identify twelve qualities or principles of spiritual intelligence: self-awareness, spontaneity, being vision and value led, holism, compassion, celebration of diversity, field independence, humility, tendency to ask why, ability to reframe, positive use of adversity and sense of vocation.

Emmon’s original core spiritual abilities and capacities are for transcendent awareness, heightened spiritual states of consciousness, sanctifying daily experiences, spiritual problem-solving and virtuous behavior (2000). King and DeCiccio define spiritual intelligence “as 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, and mastery of spiritual states” (p. 69). They propose a four-factor model with the components of critical existential thinking, personal meaning production, transcendental awareness and conscious state expansion.

Further, positive psychologists identify the core virtues of wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance and spirituality and transcendence (Seligman, 2002), along with the qualities of positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment (Seligman, 2011) as related positively to authentic happiness and flourishing. These can also be seen as correlates of the various intelligences and the faculties of mind, heart and will.


About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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