Existential intelligence: characteristics, examples and how to develop it

Existential intelligence is part of the multiple intelligences that human beings possess. Despite not being included in the original conceptualization of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences , for contemporary authors it constitutes one more intelligence in the group of intelligences that define the human being.

In the following Psychology-Online article, we are going to explain what existential intelligence is , we will talk about multiple intelligences and we will expose the fundamental characteristics of this type of intelligence, giving examples and offering activities that favor its development.

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  1. What is existential intelligence
  2. Characteristics of existential intelligence
  3. Examples of existential intelligence
  4. Activities to develop existential intelligence
  5. Intelligence types

What is existential intelligence

Existential intelligence is also called spiritual or transcendental intelligence and refers to the facet of the human being that leads him to delve into existential aspects such as who we are, what is the purpose of life, what happens after death, etc. It would encompass questions commonly dealt with from the field of Philosophy but which, in reality, are questions inherent to every human being.

In essence, man has the desire to answer these questions at different times during the course of his life. However, throughout the last century, our societies have promoted values ​​that are totally opposed to spirituality (consumerism, individualism, materialism, etc.), leaving existential intelligence relegated to oblivion. This lack of spiritual values ​​is leading to great personal and social existential crises that highlight the imperative need to socially promote this type of intelligence in order to regain a much deeper look at the human being and on life.

Characteristics of existential intelligence

The spiritual or existential intelligence is characterized by a high level of development of the rest of intelligences insofar as it supposes the deep knowledge and the final significance of the abilities involved in all of them. Some of its most outstanding features are:

  • Interest in worldly issues: origin of life and meaning of death, purpose of our existence, etc.
  • Disinterest in normalized social practices: leisure, consumption, etc.
  • Transcendence of the physical and experience of union of all the elements of the universe as a whole.
  • Ability to self– observation and observation of the environment from a deep perspective.
  • Defense of universal values: peace, love, wisdom, goodness, truth, harmony, brotherhood, etc.
  • Action in accordance with these values ​​and away from the values ​​that imply the deterioration of the human condition (egotism, envy, usurpation, aggressiveness, etc.).
  • Interest in spiritual knowledge and practices.
  • Permanent curiosity and constant need to grow existentially.
  • Longing to serve and help others, transcending self-centeredness.
  • Need for personal care (food, physical exercise, healthy habits, etc.) when considering the body as a receptacle for the soul.

Examples of existential intelligence

As examples of manifestations of existential intelligence we could speak of the following:

  • In the face of an attack on personal integrity, respond with sobriety, stopping the aggression in a firm and clear way but without violence.
  • Faced with a conflict, encourage the people involved to inquire into what happened, its causes and possible solutions from a constructive perspective.
  • Attraction for spiritual readings and practices.
  • When making decisions, the need to act in council with the rest of the people involved.
  • Solidarity, respectful, careful, peaceful actions, etc.

Activities to develop existential intelligence

Existential intelligence is present in each and every one of the people. As with the rest of intelligences, there are certain genetic and environmental predispositions that favor the greater development of some intelligences over others. However, each and every one of them can be stimulated using those activities that promote the specific development of the different intelligences.

In the specific case of existential intelligence, among the activities that would favor its development would be:

  • The contemplation or meditationto access the deep knowledge of things.
  • Body care, through healthy eating and exercise, considering it a temporary receptacle of the human soul.
  • Socratic dialogue, to inquire about established issues, accessing new possibilities and truths
  • Spiritual practices.
  • Promotion of solidarity and fraternal action, favoring the bonds of union that exist between all human beings
  • The admiration, practice and cultivation of artas a means of accessing other realities and truths, etc.

The promotion of existential intelligence is currently essential as a means to combat the lack of values ​​that prevails in our society and that has led to global spiritual poverty, the cause of most of the evils in our world.

Intelligence types

For many decades, the concept of intelligence was associated only with the term intelligence quotient (IQ) , so that the measure of IQ was understood to establish the level of intelligence of a person. Recently, different authors began to draw attention to the fact that human intelligence included many more aspects in addition to those included in the IQ and began to develop theories in this regard.

Among the best known is Howard Gadner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences according to which the intelligence of the human being manifests itself through eight different ways:

  1. Linguistics: ability to master language that includes speaking, listening, reading and writing.
  2. Musical: ability to interpret and create music through singing, playing instruments, creating melodies, etc.
  3. Logical-mathematical: ability to use the scientific method to formulate problems and verify hypotheses through inductive and deductive analytical treatment of data.
  4. Spatial: ability to create mental images from sensory stimuli.
  5. Corporal-kinesthetic: the ability to use the body to communicate with the environment and learn from it through strength, speed, balance and flexibility.
  6. Naturalist-pictorial: ability to apply the scientific method to the study and observation of nature.
  7. Interpersonal: ability to interpret and apply the intrinsic norms that regulate social interactions.
  8. Intrapersonal: capacity for self-observation aimed at understanding oneself and their relationship with their environment.

Recently, there are several authors who consider this theory incomplete by not containing existential or spiritual intelligence as one more type of intelligence within this classification that presents, like the rest, biological bases that support it. In reality, spiritual intelligence would be located at the highest level inasmuch as its practice involves transcending the rest of intelligences, placing us in a much deeper knowledge of being, life and the universe.


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