Charles P Steinmetz was a German-American mathematician and electrical engineer of the late 19th century, whose work as a scientist significantly influenced the expansion of the electrical power industry in the United States. He was once asked by the founder of Babson College in Massachusetts about his opinion on the line of research that would see the greatest development over the next 100 years.

Steinmetz’s reply was most unusual. “The greatest discovery,” he said, “will be made along spiritual lines. Here is a force which history clearly teaches has been the greatest power in the development of men. Yet we have merely been playing with it and have never seriously studied it as we have the physical forces. Someday, people will learn that material things do not bring happiness and are of little use in the making men and women creative and powerful. Then the scientists of the world will turn their laboratories over to the study of god and prayer and the spiritual forces, which as of yet have hardly been scratched. When this day comes, the world will see more advancement in one generation than it has seen in the past four.”

That statement might perhaps appear the most baffling to the pragmatic human of the 21st century, who sees god at best as a delirious indulgence or at worst as a theory of chaos on the planet. Either way, we hardly expect science to be making any advances towards spiritual exploration. And yet, spiritual intelligence is right up there with mental and emotional intelligence as a measure of a person’s individuality and capabilities.

Spiritual intelligence actually lies at the heart of all human quests. Because no matter what goal you aspire to, or what ambitions you hold dear, ultimately what each human seeks is self-exploration, self-knowledge and self-actualisation. Mental and emotional intelligence, in fact, are extremely close knit with spiritual intelligence. The more the intellectual heft, the greater the desire to create meaning in life.

Right from the moment of our birth, our primary occupation is the exploration of self. The baby explores his hands and feet—the primary manifestations of self—which then extends to all other body organs. Next comes the exploration of abilities. The child attempts various tasks and tries to explore what things she can achieve, tries to test the abilities of the body she has discovered. From there, the child begins to explore the world, but the exploration rounds up and comes back to the self—right from adolescence into adulthood. From birth to death there is one incessant loop of self-exploration, of seeking the meaning of life through the purpose of the self. Spiritual intelligence lies at the core of that discovery, for it enables the individual to go deeper than the surface and scratch it for truths hidden underneath.

A vast majority of the most successful people on the planet are spiritual at some level; they are drawn to the search for meanings beyond the obvious. The spiritual need, in fact, coincides with the self-actualisation part of Abraham Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs — for self-actualisation to manifest, one needs must have a sense of the divine, a sense of one’s position in relation to the entire cosmos. Perhaps Steinmetz’s reply wasn’t so off the mark, then. Perhaps progress in intelligence would greatly expand the idea of the spiritual, and offer deep insights into the purpose of human existence.

To quote John Naisbitt “The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.”

Zehra Naqvi