P.O. BOX 1586







Ms. Sharon Buzzard -- Supervisor of Gifted Education, East Liverpool Ohio Schools and Past President of the Ohio Association for Gifted Children

Dr. James Delisle -- Professor and Co-Director of SENG, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Dr. Jerry Flack --Univ. Of Colorado-Colorado Springs

Dr. Howard Gardner -- Professor, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Ms. Diane D. Grybek -- Supervisor of Secondary Gifted Programs (Retired), Hillsborough County Schools, Tampa, Florida

Ms. Dorothy Knopper -- Publisher, Open Space Communications, Boulder, Colorado

Mr. James LoGiudice -- Director, Program and Staff Development, Bucks County, Pennsylvania Intermediate Unit No. 22 and Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education

Dr. Mary Meeker -- President of SOI Systems, Vida, Oregon

Dr. Adrienne O'Neill - Johnson & Wales University, Providence, Rhode Island

Dr. Stephen Schroeder-Davis -- Coordinator of Gifted Programs, Elk River, Minnesota Schools and Past President of the Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented

Dr. Bruce Shore -- Professor and Director, Giftedness Centre, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Ms. Joan Smutny -- Professor and Director, Center for Gifted, National-Louis University, Evanston, Illinois

Dr. Virgil S. Ward -- Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia

Ms. Susan Winebrenner -- Consultant, Brooklyn, Michigan

Dr. Ellen Winner - Professor, Boston College

I am happy to welcome Dr. Ellen Winner, Professor of Psychology at Boston College, to our Advisory Panel. Her book, Gifted Children: Myths and Realities (Basic Books, 1996), includes a strong argument for using limited educational resources to serve highly gifted children. Winner has also presented this argument in a concise essay entitled, "The Miseducation of Our Gifted Children," which was published by Education Week (October 16, 1996). It can be located on Education Week's World Wide Web Home Page (htpp://

Some of our panel members' summer activities are as follows: Sharon Buzzard has received a Korea Foundation Fellowship to study ways of enhancing understanding of Korean society and culture through the study of the arts and humanities. She will begin working on this project in Seoul during July-August 1997. Dorothy Knopper's company, Open Space Communications, Inc., will hold a conference on The Gifted Child in the Regular Classroom August 8-9, 1997 in Boulder, Colorado. The conference is chaired by Joan Smutny, and Susan Winebrenner will be a keynoter. Jim Delisle has organized an excellent meeting of Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) in Minneapolis August 1-3, 1997, and Stephen Schroeder-Davis will speak at this meeting. Best of success to all of our panel members and readers during what appears to be a summer of exciting opportunities for study and increased understanding of gifted children.

Howard Gardner’s article continues in this issue with his discussion of the case for Spiritual and Existential Intelligences. In the Spring 1997 issue, Gardner presented a set of eight rigorous criteria for delineating a specific type of intelligence. Then, he explained a promising candidate -- Naturalist Intelligence. Charles Darwin, Edward O. Wilson and Stephen Jay Gould are exemplars of this type of intelligence. Now, the article continues with his examination of two other important areas of human endeavor, worthy of analysis as being unique intelligences. As usual, the author's ideas are provocative and merit intensive study by professors and educators in the gifted field, particularly as they relate to gifted children's developmental and educational experiences. GEPQ enthusiastically welcomes responses to this article in the form of letters or essays.

James Carroll has written an informative essay for parents on the social and emotional needs of gifted children. As a Professor of School Psychology at Central Michigan University , he has been counseling gifted children and their parents and teachers during the last twenty-five years. His engaging and down-to-earth manner is evident in this essay and in his recently published book, Helping Gifted Children at Home and School ( GEP, 1997). In the humanities area, Michael Walters discusses the work and life of Jules Verne.

                                                                                                            Maurice Fisher, Ph.D., Publisher



* © 1996, Howard Gardner, Harvard Project Zero.




III. The Varieties of Spiritual Life

The realm of the naturalist seems straightforward. In contrast, even a hesitant entry into the world of spirituality reveals a far more complex picture, one that proves by no means easy to disentangle, in the manner of an accomplished naturalist--or spiritualist!

I must begin by acknowledging that any discussion of the spirit--whether cast as a spiritual life, a spiritual capacity, a spiritual feeling, a gift for religion, mysticism, the transcendent--is controversial within the sciences, if not throughout the academic world. Language, music, space, naturalism, even understanding of other people--all seem relatively unproblematic in contrast. Many people--including me--do not recognize the spirit as we recognize the mind and the body; and many people--including me--do not grant the same ontological status to the transcendent or the spiritual as we do, say, to the mathematical or the musical.

Even those who cannot themselves identify with the spiritual realm or domain recognize its importance to most human beings--indeed, some would quip, it is too important. Presidents (and their wives!) consult astrologers rather than historians or clinicians; religions save thousands of lives though they may also contribute to the deaths of many individuals; books about the spirit or the soul crowd out those about memory or perception on the psychology shelves of bookstore chains. Regrettably, lack of personal belief on the part of the research community all too often results in failure to take a phenomenon seriously. We thus face an unfortunate situation where the vast majority of scholars in the cognitive and biological sciences turn away from questions of a spiritual nature, hence consigning this realm chiefly to the true believers and to the quacks (see Burkert 1995).

Indeed, a decision on a priori grounds to eliminate spiritual intelligence from consideration is no more justifiable than a decision to admit it by fiat or on faith. And there are no easy grounds for a decision. After all, once one includes the understanding of the personal realm within a study of intelligence, such human proclivities as the spiritual must legitimately be considered. Moreover, not all of the intelligences deal with sheer matter in Dr. Johnson's "kick a boulder" sense; if the abstract realm of mathematics constitutes a reasonable area of intelligence (and few would challenge that judgment), why not the abstract realm of the spiritual?

Let us assume, then, that it is reasonable at least to inquire about a possible spiritual intelligence, or a set of spirit-related intelligences. What are some of the capacities and traits that are evoked when one enters the realm of the spiritual? As an initial parsing of this area, I propose three distinct senses of spiritual. I go on to propose that much confusion obtains when these varieties are confounded with one another; and that, in terms of the present definition and criteria, only one of them can lay claim to being an intelligence.

Spiritual as concern with cosmic or existential issues: The first variety of spirituality reflects a desire to know about those experiences and those cosmic entities that are not readily apprehended in a material sense but that nonetheless appear, for whatever reason, to be important to human beings. If we as humans can relate to the world of nature, we can as well relate to the world that is supernatural--to the cosmos that extends beyond what we can perceive directly, to the mystery of our own existence, and to those life-and-death experiences that transcend what we encounter on a routine basis. And, indeed, mythology, religion, and art have perennially reflected efforts on the parts of humans to understand the ultimate questions, mysteries, and meanings of life: Who are we? Where do we come from? What does the future hold for us? Why do we exist? What is the meaning of life, of love, of tragic losses, of death? What is the nature of our relation to the wider world, and to figures that lie beyond our comprehension, like our gods or our God? (cf. Buber, 1970).

While human beings may well puzzle about these questions on their own, or in informal dialogue with their neighbors, many organized systems that deal with these issues have also been constructed over the centuries. And so, in any culture, an individual may elect to adopt an already-existing code or set of beliefs about these issues of ultimate concern. It is useful to distinguish between the adoption of a traditional version of spiritual knowledge and the creation of a personal blend of spiritual knowledge.

Stated in this manner, the content of spiritual knowledge may seem relatively straightforward. In practice, however, the content of the achieved knowledge may prove far more controversial. It is by no means unproblematic to state what content is in fact being mastered by the putatively spiritual knower--its realm, its truth value, its limitations. Indeed, in reading accounts of the spiritual realm, I am tempted to conclude that it refers, Kabbalah-like, to everything--mind, body, self, nature, the supernatural--and sometimes, even to nothing! Contrast this conceptual sprawl with the domain of science or math, which seem relatively delimited and uncontroversial in contrast.

Spiritual as achievement of a state of being

In considering any intelligence, it is pertinent to distinguish between the two classical senses of knowing: knowing how and knowing that. For other intelligences, this distinction proves uncontroversial because the "content" of the intelligence is evident (e.g., musical patterns, spatial arrays) and it is equally clear that individuals differ in their skills or "know-how" in dealing with the domain.

When it comes to the realm of the spiritual, however, the two forms of knowing must be more carefully distinguished from one another. Our first sense of spiritual attempts to delineate those realms of experience, those domains of existence, which individuals seek to understand. In addition, however, many communities also recognize the existence of skills at achieving certain psychological states, undergoing certain phenomenal experiences that merit the descriptor "spiritual." Within such communities, there is reasonable consensus on possession of know-how; some individuals are simply more skilled than others at meditating, achieving trance states, envisioning the transcendent, being or getting in touch with psychic or spiritual or noetic phenomena. Indeed, there may well be specific physiological and brain states that are correlated predictably with the achievement of such alterations of consciousness. Such cultural roles as the mystic, the yoga, the meditator, denote individuals whose ability to achieve these states--and, perhaps, to enable others to achieve these states--is noteworthy (Goleman 1988).

With respect to this second variety of spirituality, one may reinvoke a distinction introduced above. It is possible to achieve a state of spirituality by following a traditional route--for example, by executing a set of exercises suggested by a specific priest or mystic or guru. But it is also possible to achieve such an elaborated state through a more personalized form of control of consciousness, or through stimulation by specific substances (e.g., hallucinogenic drugs) or sensory experiences (e.g., listening to music, hiking up mountains).

A prudent observer might well concede that it is plausible to think of "a talent in achieving certain mental states" as lying within the realm of scientific analysis. Following this line of argument, one might construe the "gymnastic" aspect of controlling mental states as a sub-species of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

Where the believer or spokesperson for Spirituality raises eyebrows is in the frequent move to the claim that spiritual concerns lead to an encounter with a Deeper Truth. It is not merely the case--as some would argue, the uncontroversial case--that individuals need to locate themselves with respect to the cosmos and to the infinitesimal; nor even that some states of consciousness are universally desirable. Rather, enthusiasts argue that there is a specific content--a Spiritual Truth--to which only some, or only those who have followed a certain path, can have access. And this slippery slope leads, all too often, to a belief that the world can be divided between those who qualify on some spiritual--or religious, or metaphysical--ground, and those who do not. Moreover, while one can measure the attainment of altered states of consciousness, there is no objective measure for the attainment of a the State of Spiritual Truth. We have here left the realm of intelligence and moved to the spheres of dogma or doxa (Bloom, 1995).

Viewed from one perspective, these two forms of knowing--interest in a certain set of contents, mastering the craft of altering one’s consciousness--can be seen as uses of mind, whether one considers such uses to be profound or frivolous, inspired or misguided. But to many, such cognitivization of the spiritual proves problematic in itself. For such interested observers, the essence of spirit is seen as primarily phenomenological--the attainment of a certain state of being, what has been called a "feeling of surrender"--and not as a domain that involves any kind of cognitive problem-solving or product-making (Mishlove, 1994). Relatedly, spiritual concerns can be thought of as primarily emotional or affective in character--a feeling of a certain tone or intensity--and hence, again, ruled as beyond the confines of a cognitive investigation.

Spiritual as effect upon others Yet a third variety of the spiritual is often remarked upon. Certain individuals--Mother Theresa, Pope John XXIII, Pablo Casals, are three oft-noted examples--are often considered spiritual because of the effects that they apparently exert on other individuals (Storr 1996). By their activities and, perhaps even more, by their sheer being, these individuals affect those with whom they come into contact. Knowing about Mother Theresa's life, being blessed by Pope John, listening to Casals playing the Bach Suites, causes numerous individuals to feel differently--more whole, more in touch with themselves, their God, the cosmos. And though I prefer to cite benign instances of this phenomenon, it must be conceded that Adolf Hitler had this effect on many of his compatriots.

All three senses of the spiritual can be aroused. In some cases, these spiritually effective figures will drive individuals toward the exploration of cosmic issues. In some cases, the spiritually effective figure will cause individuals to achieve an altered state of consciousness. Finally, in a few cases, there will be a contagion, whereby the individual affected by a spiritual individual will himself or herself, by a kind of reflected spirituality, affect yet other individuals. Indeed, many religions have spread by just such an iterative charismatic process.

The great religious leaders, like Buddha, Christ, Saint Joan, or Confucius, are often seen as having attained a level of consciousness, a connectedness to the rest of the world, a de-emphasis of self, that represents an exemplary spiritual existence. Clearly, it is the prospect of attaining such a state that motivates millions of individuals, reflecting the spectrum of cultures, to strive to achieve a state of spirituality or to heighten the spiritual aspects of their own person.

No doubt certain individuals, such as those just named and others of less renown, exude a feeling of spirituality--a conviction that they are in touch with the cosmos, and a concomitant capacity to make those in their surrounds feel that they themselves have been touched, made to feel more whole, more themselves, in enhanced relation to the transcendent. Whatever the mechanism--and the term charisma captures much of it (Gerth & Mills, 1958)--this "contact with the spiritual" constitutes an important ingredient in conveying to individuals the goal of their quest and, perhaps equally important, how one might embark upon the right pathway. But whatever intellectual powers may be reflected in the achievements of a Buddha or a Christ, it seems clear to most observers that "problem-solving" or "product making" is not a felicitous description. Achievement of a certain "state of being" constitutes a more convincing description.

My brief survey confirms that the "words and the examples of the spirit" can cover a multitude of human capacities, inclinations, and achievements-- at least some of which fall well outside the project of defining additional human intelligences. To begin with, my definition of intelligence has deliberately been cast in amoral terms: no intelligence is in itself moral or immoral and any intelligence can be mobilized to pro-social or anti-social uses. Thus, it is not valid to delineate any particular form of spirituality as appropriate or inappropriate, on the basis of adherence to some kind of a moral code. Just as personal intelligence cannot be aligned with or limited to a particular political or social system, the attainment of a specific set of beliefs or a specific role within an organized religion cannot be deemed a demonstration of a particular intelligence.

By the same token, the achievement of particular phenomenal states should not qualify an individual as realizing, or failing to realize, a particular intelligence. A person may exhibit high musical or mathematical intelligence despite the absence of any reported cognitive or affective state; similarly, the claim that one "thinks mathematically" or "feels musical" has no meaning, unless the individual can exhibit certain capacities to solve problems or to fashion products.

Finally, while the capacity to affect others may prove an effective means of inculcating an intelligence, it does not, strictly speaking, constitute an embodiment of an intelligence. I might be able to stimulate the development of interpersonal understanding in others, simply by behaving in unpredictable or anti-social ways, without myself possessing or exhibiting interpersonal intelligence. Contrarily, I might possess outstanding mathematical intelligence without the concomitant facility to aid anyone else in the mathematical sphere. My definition of intelligence is unduly stretched if it is expected to encompass an individual's effect (or lack of effect) on others.

As I reflect on the possibility of a spiritual intelligence, I am struck by the problematic nature of the "content" of spiritual intelligence; its possibly defining affective and phenomenological aspects; its often privileged but unsubstantiated claims with respect to truth value; and the fact that it may partially need to be identified by virtue of its effect on other persons.

In an attempt to deal with this important sphere of life, I find it more comfortable to talk about a potential to engage in thinking about cosmic issues, that might be motivated by pain, by powerful personal or aesthetic experiences, and/or by life in a community that highlights that form of thinking and experience. I would be less than candid if I did not concede that I am also somewhat alarmed by the prospect of being assimilated to the many "crazies" and "frauds" who invoke spirituality as if it were a given, or a known truth, rather than a tremendously complex phenomenon which demands careful analysis.

Still, too aggressively applied, such a critical exercise risks the premature elimination of a set of human capabilities that might benefit from consideration in terms of the theory of human intelligence. It seems more responsible to carve out that area of spirituality which seem closest "in spirit" to the other intelligences and then, in the sympathetic manner applied to naturalist intelligence, ascertain how this candidate intelligence fares. In doing so, I think it best to lay aside the term "spiritual", with its manifest connotations, and to speak instead of an intelligence that explores the nature of existence, in its multifarious guises. Under this new dispensation, an explicit concern with spiritual or religious matters would be one variety--often the most important variety-- of an existential intelligence in operation.

IV. Existential Intelligence and the Eight Criteria

In what follows, I focus my remarks on existential intelligence--a concern with “ultimate” issues. I do so because this strand of the spiritual seems the most unambiguously cognitive in nature and because it avoids those features which, according to my definition, are not germane to any consideration of intelligence. If this form qualifies, then one may legitimately speak about existential intelligence; and if it does not, then further consideration of the realm of spirituality seems counter indicated.

Returning to the earlier discussion, let me begin by proposing a core ability for a candidate existential intelligence. The core ability is the capacity to locate oneself with respect to the furthest reaches of the cosmos--the infinite no less than the infinitesimal--and the related capacity to locate oneself with respect to the most existential features of the human condition--the significance of life, the meaning of death, the ultimate fate of the physical and the psychological worlds, such profound experiences as love of another human being or total immersion in a work of art. Note that there is no condition here of attaining an ultimate truth, any more than the deployer of musical intelligence must produce or prefer certain kinds of music. Rather, there exists a species-potential--or capacity--to engage in transcendental concerns that can be aroused and deployed under certain circumstances.

It should be evident that this capacity has been valued in every known human culture. Cultures devise religious, mystical, or metaphysical systems for dealing with these issues; and in modern times or in secular settings, aesthetic, philosophical, and scientific works and systems also speak to this ensemble of human needs. Many of the most important and most enduring sets of symbol systems (such as those featured in the Catholic liturgy) represent crystallizations of key ideas and experiences that have evolved within these institutions.

Moreover, in each of these culturally-devised systems, one can identify clear steps or stages of sophistication. One can be a novice in a religious system, in philosophy, or in the expressive arts; and one can advance to achieve journeyman or expert status. (In his Journal the future Pope John XXIII chronicled years of painstaking training of his spiritual/existential facets--cf. Gardner, 1995, Chapter 9). The greater the premium placed by a society on a particular vehicle of existential exploration and expression, the more highly delineated are the steps en route to excellence. And there should be widespread consensus in most cases about the level of sophistication that is displayed by a learner, an apprentice, a committed student. Such assessments may go well beyond the cognitive, to include aspects of social, moral, or emotional existence; but that eclecticism can be equally true when one ponders the evolution of a musician, a poet, or even a scientist.

A particularly intriguing set of questions surround the identification, in the first years of life, of the future Dalai Lama (and of other lamas). If one does not believe in reincarnation, one must choose between the hypothesis that this individual is unusually gifted in the spiritual/existential sphere while a young child, or that his early identification (on whatever dimension) leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy (cf. Coles 1990). According to a recent journalistic account, a candidate lama proves his mettle by choosing correctly those articles that belonged to the recently deceased lama; success comes about because the lama can draw on memories of his earlier incarnation (New York Times, 1995). A more secular hypothesis is that the future lama may stand out because of his capacity to discern certain patterns in the environment--a vestige of natural, rather than supernatural intelligence. A better marker for later existential excellence might be an early-emerging concern for cosmic issues, of the sort reported both in future religious leaders like Gandhi, and in several future physicists (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996)

When one moves to the more biologically-tinged facets of existential knowledge, it proves less straightforward to lay out and evaluate the evidence. While hints of ritualistic and symbolic experiences emerge in higher primates, and in the precursors of modern man (like the Neanderthal who marks a grave with flowers), explicit existential concerns probably gain ascendancy in the Stone Age. Only at this point in evolution do human beings within a culture possess a brain capable of considering the cosmological issues central to existential intelligence. Indeed, one could go so far as to suggest that one of the major cognizing activities in early man was a grappling with these existential issues, and that much of early art work, dance, myth and drama dealt implicitly or explicitly with cosmic themes and concerns (Burkert 1995).

Only with the advent of formal religions, and with the birth of systematic philosophy, did there come to exist direct linguistic-propositional accounts of the existential realm. (Myths and drama are better thought of as implicit investigations of the existential). Like language, existential capacity is a distinctive trait of man, a domain that separates us from other species. We may link its emergence to a conscious sense of finite space and irreversible time, two promising loci for stimulating imaginative explorations of transcendental spheres; or perhaps consciousness in its fuller senses presuppose a concern with existential issues (Havelock 1963; Jaynes 1974).

To my knowledge, there is little if any evidence about the physiological concomitants of knowledge about cosmic issues. The most suggestive evidence may come from individuals with temporal-lobe epilepsy, who exhibit a predictable set of symptoms, including hyper religiosity. Such individuals attach the greatest importance to the most minute objects and experiences, often using them as points of departure for the elaboration of extended introspective diary entries or flights of spiritual fancy (Bear, et al., 1985; Geschwind, 1977; La Plante, 1993). It is widely believed that certain artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Fyodor Dostoevsky, suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy; these creators were able to channel their symptoms and pain into effective works of art. Of course, such a disease state is not necessary for creative work, though it may incline such work toward more spiritual concerns. The contemporary Polish-American author Milosz (1995) describes a poet as "the one who flies above the earth and looks at it from above but at the same time sees it in every detail."

I should note, parenthetically, the growing body of evidence relevant to the phenomenal aspects of spiritual/religious concerns. Relevant evidence emerges from both naturally-occurring and artificially-induced sources. When an individual undergoes tremendous pain--be it physical, psychic, or both--the individual feels estranged from his or her habitual world. There is acute pressure to go beyond the usual categories of experience, to focus one's attention anew (perhaps beyond bodily pain altogether), to re-evaluate one's relation to the external and the psychic worlds (James, 1902; Jung, 1958). Thoughts about existential issues may well have evolved as responses to necessarily-occurring pain, perhaps as a way of reducing pain or better equipping individuals to cope with it. It is thus at least imaginable that ultimate concerns have some adaptive significance (Wilson, 1978).

Not surprisingly, individuals have learned how to recreate these transcendent phenomenal experiences, even in the absence of the stimulus of pain. Various drugs, ranging from the relatively benign to the unambiguously pernicious, can be ingested. Religious states may also recreate these experiences, and those mystics and gurus who can control their psychic states are able, voluntarily, to enter the realm of the transcendent. The attainment of heightened attention, as in flow states, is also within at least partial control of the experiencer (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Clearly, certain brain centers and neural transmitters are mobilized in these states, whether they are induced by the ingestion of substances or by a control of the will (Ornstein, 1973).

The final line of evidence, gleaned from psychological investigations, presents a mixed picture. Some inventories of personality include dimensions of religiosity or spirituality, and these instruments yield consistency in individuals' scores; indeed, even identical twins reared apart show a strong link in degree of religiosity, thereby suggesting a possible heritable component in this capacity (Bouchard, 1990). Yet it remains unclear just what is being probed by such instruments and whether self-report is a reliable index of existential intelligence. So far as I know, there have been no attempts to relate psychometric intelligence to the capacity or inclination to activate existential intelligence, though the popularity of the movie Forrest Gump suggests a conviction in the folk mind that these two capacities are remote from, if not antithetical to, one another.

Perhaps surprisingly, existential intelligence scores reasonably well on the eight criteria; a "stripped down version" of spiritual intelligence eliminates some of the more problematic aspects that might otherwise have invalidated the quest. Empirical psychological evidence is sparse so far but certainly does not invalidate the construct. It may seem, then, that I have backed myself into an analytic corner. If narrowly defined, that variety of spiritual intelligence here termed "existential" may well be admissible; more broadly defined, spiritual intelligence does not permit such a judgment.

V. A Personal Perspective on Spiritual Intelligence

Let me address this conundrum from another, more personal level. Earlier, I indicated that I feel no personal involvement in the realm of spirituality. I do not have a religious identity (though I have a cultural identity) as a Jewish person. And I am as much frightened as I am intrigued by individuals who see themselves (or who are seen by others) as spiritual individuals. I fear the strangeness of the beliefs to which they may subscribe; and I fear the effects, James Jones- or David Koresh-style, that they may exert on others (Cohn, 1961; Storr, 1996).

Yet in one sphere of my life, I undergo some of the experiences that individuals claim to have when they are engaged in spiritual matters. That is the realm of music--particularly the experiences of listening to and performing certain kinds of music. At such times, I lose track of the usual mundane concerns, alter my perceptions of space and time, and, at least occasionally, feel in touch with issues of cosmic import. In my own case, these issues are not readily defined in terms of natural objects (mountains, seas) nor in terms of specific cosmological issues (meaning of life or death)--kinds of associations often mentioned by music lovers and by certain composers, such as Beethoven and Mahler (Rothstein, 1995). But at the very least, I feel that I am encountering the formal aspects of these realms of existence, and that I am enriched, ennobled, and humbled by the encounter (Langer, 1942). I have similar, though less acute reactions, when I come into contact with works of visual art and architecture, with evocative drama, and with certain very powerful writers. And, switching realms, I undergo some of these experiences when in contact with persons whom I love, particularly at times of marked happiness or sadness.

Whether I speak here of spiritual or existential intelligences entails a semantic judgment. I could say that my musical or linguistic or artistic intelligences have been stimulated, and that one consequence of this stimulation is a heightened sensitivity to issues of the cosmos--just as I might be stimulated to hurt someone or to devote my savings to a charitable cause. I could say that I am having a strong emotional reaction to a work. In such cases, I would not invoke the term "spiritual" or "existential intelligence." But I could with equal justification decide that I am exercising my spiritual or existential intelligence, just as I would if I were working with a guru, but that in my case, this form of intelligence is stimulated by intense engagements with art objects or with people whom I love. Those, in other words, are the triggering events--the "affecting" objects and experiences in the world that activate an existential intelligence. Such a point of view is powerfully conveyed in a passage from Marcel Proust:

"It is inconceivable that a piece of sculpture or a piece of music which gives us an emotion that we feel to be more exalted more pure, more true, does not correspond to some definite spiritual reality, or life would be meaningless" (1981,III,p. 380-l).

VI. Conclusion: A Final Stock-Taking

In this essay, I have considered whether there are intelligences beyond the original seven posited in Frames of Mind. By recognizing the "naturalist's intelligence," I have answered this question in the affirmative. In the process, I have opened a Pandora's box. The number seven is no longer sacred; if there are eight intelligences, there can clearly be more.

Taking on a more vexed issue, I have considered the question of a ninth, “spiritual” or “existential intelligence.” I recognized many of the problematic aspects of even considering the spiritual as eligible for inclusion in the intellect; many would object, perhaps rightly, that the spiritual is divorced from the cognitive and that to collapse these two realms involves a "category error." My analysis has suggested that it makes sense to disaggregate at least three senses of the spiritual: A concern with certain cosmic contents; the achievement of certain states of consciousness; and the exerting of profound effects on other individuals. Through the exercise of invoking my eight criteria, I have discovered--somewhat to my surprise--that a stripped-down version of spirituality (an “existential” version, if you will) qualifies reasonably well as an intelligence.

Despite the attractiveness of a ninth intelligence, I do not intend at present to add "existential intelligence" to the list. I find the phenomenon perplexing enough, and the distance from the other intelligences great enough, to dictate prudence. At most, I am willing, Fellini-style, to joke about “8 ½ intelligences.” Putting it in the vernacular, I ask readers to "stay tuned for further developments."

I close on a homiletic note. While I am responsible for developing the idea of multiple intelligences, I cannot claim exclusive ownership of the concept. As in the case of the original list of intelligences, readers are welcome to examine my criteria and to reach their own conclusions about whether or not natural, spiritual, or existential intelligences "truly" qualify. What I must stress is the importance of honoring the set of criteria. If decisions about intelligences are to be taken seriously, they must depend upon a fairminded examination of the available data--an undertaking that was begun in Frames of Mind and one that I have once again pursued here.

Acknowledgments: Educating me about the dimensions of spirituality has not been an easy task. For helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper, I thank Thomas Armstrong, Eric Blumenson, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Antonio Damasio, Bill Damon, Reuven Feuerstein, Daniel Goleman, Tom Hoerr, Mindy Kornhaber, Paul Kaufman, Jonathan Levy, Tanya Luhrmann, Bob Ornstein, Courtney Ross, Mark Turner, Julie Viens, Edward O. Wilson, and Ellen Winner. I owe special thanks to Jeff Kane, who not only commissioned this paper but who helped me to think through several major issues; I suspect that, over time, I will move closer to the position that he holds.


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So much the same

We might imagine Joyce

Or Behan

Listening in their streets


While crafting portraits

Of their souls.

Their poetry

Is what sadness

They perceive

In winning for the moment The things they still fight for-

The children's war

And lost and empty stares

Across a wire

With foreign soldiers. . .

While moving in defeat

So very long

They conjure up the magic

And the pride

Inside the silent miracle

Of those who just

Hold on - Disarming fate

Along the way

With sardonic wit

And irony:

Bewildered as they

Are the first to say

Why Pipe and Drum

Must fight

Like tribal enemies

When passing by on other days

They look and sound

So much like cousins.

From Learning Social Studies and History Through Poetry: Middle and High School Levels (1997) by Ken Siegelman Published by: Gifted Education Press, Manassas, Virginia.





Cynthia Changaris, a storyteller from Louisville, Kentucky tells us about life with her gifted son Michael:

"Michael was born on a cold full-moon valentine night, with all the hours of labor and pain and work going on and on and on. But that was the last time Michael was reluctant to make an appearance or be first. He was irrepressible from the start, and set out to learn in a fast and furious way.

"When he was two weeks old he decided that, by God, he would turn over and by stiffening his wiry little legs and arching his back while screaming and grunting, he WHOOP flipped over and surprised himself. He was propelled toward forward development from there on, crying and carrying on until he could do the things he set for himself; sit up when 4 months old, pull up at six, walk, climb and so forth all done as soon as possible. It was as though he were on a developmental marathon and, by damned, he would finish first and best if will and grit had its way.

"When he was 7 months and decided to choke on an apple, I took the piece he was choking on out of his mouth and placed the apple up on top of the fridge. Two hours later when I least suspected it, there he was, pushing a chair across the floor to get that apple. He never forgot his goals.

"My most vivid memory of Michael, besides his wild naked romps following bath time, are of him standing at the fence blocking the steep, narrow old-timey stairs to the second floor, reaching out and screaming because he wanted to climb. He spent many hours standing there screaming and fussing, and would not be dissuaded.

"As he grew, his spirit and will remained irrepressible and looking back on it, I should have rested more and taken quite a few more vitamins for preparation in the raising of this unique son. As a matter of fact, an insanity insurance policy would have been helpful. I never knew what would happen next!"


Gifted children differ from their non-gifted peers in many ways, physically, intellectually and emotionally. The difference is often one of magnitude. By this I mean that gifted children may experience the world much more profoundly than their non-gifted peers. Ideas and images flood them with wonder, excitement or sorrow. They are often passionate in their interests and they may lack tolerance for those who either do not share their bliss or who experience the world less excitedly. Another factor, related to social and emotional adjustment has to do with phase. Many gifted children may be deeply moved by issues that arouse older, non-gifted individuals but fail to reach, at an emotional level, their peers. Gifted children may share, for example, the adult concern over global warming, depletion of the rain forests or the plight of political prisoners. If however, the most pressing issues for their same age peers are cartoons or comic books, it is readily apparent that the interests of the gifted child may set him, or her, off from the pack, and even worse, may result in labeling and negative stereotypes. For 7 or 8 year olds being called "brain" or "Einstein" is a punitive taunt, and not an acknowledgment of their special uniqueness. Being out of phase can lead to being an outsider in general.


With children, and with adults as well, there is a risk of becoming shallow and unappreciative of areas that are not perceived as being as important as the area of intense interest. This may produce a lack of intellectual balance and it may impact school work. It is possible to picture the child with the fixation on dinosaurs drifting further and further away from classmates who are steadily plodding through the regular curriculum. While the child may know a great deal about his or her chosen area, some of the so called basics may have been missed.

Parents and teachers should welcome the child's thirst for knowledge but at the same time they should try to help the children to avoid premature closure. While the goal of graduate study may be to know "more and more about less and less" (the Ph.D.'s lament) an elementary or secondary education should feature what one gifted consultant once called "idea tasting.” To this end, other ideas or subjects might be linked to the all consuming passion for dinosaurs. Linkage might include geography ("Where are they found and how did they get there?"), civics ("After a dinosaur was slain how did the tribe divide up the meat?"), social studies (What kinds of social units did the dinosaurs have, and what could people today learn from that?") or mathematics ("How many stegosaurus would be needed to outweigh a brontosaurus and two tyrannosaurus Rex). As you can see the opportunity for connections is practically endless. Similar interconnected patterns of study could be worked out for the junior high student immersed in outer space or the teen who would spend 18 hours a day with music or dance if we permitted.


In a way, this is the opposite of the previous problem. Because of their enormous curiosity, gifted children are interested in many things. The problem here is they may get quickly bored and never truly get beneath the surface of a concept or idea. While it might be great to be an "idea sampler," all children must learn that true mastery of knowledge comes only from hard work.

Besides having a wide slate of interests we should encourage our children to learn how to do some things very, very well. We should encourage mastery of an art, a discipline or a talent. It is by encouraging our children to excel in one, two or a handful of things that we will truly encourage his or her ultimate gifts. We do not want our children to stop exploring, but at the same time we do not want to rob them of the pleasure of truly mastering something that they are very good at.

The idea that gifted children have significant multiple talents seems, in large part, to be a myth. For every multi-talented renaissance man like Leonardo Da Vinci there are thousands of people who seem to manifest a narrow range of extreme gifts. That is not to say that they are inferior in other areas, they simply do not excel in all things. How many multi-talented people can you name?


I am not sure if it is the most important characteristic but I know that persistence is one of the most important. It was Edison who said that invention was only one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Gifted children must learn that it's persistence (which often entails boredom and drudgery) that is a crucial part of the process of discovery or creativity.

A few years ago, I asked a famous author to describe his writing process. He said that he often found the process boring and tedious but that he would force himself to stick with it each day until he had completely filled two sheets of legal size paper. After that, he said if he still hated it he would quit for the day. Surprisingly, he found that by forcing himself he was often able to work through the boredom and achieve a sense of creative satisfaction. Persistence, then, is an important virtue. Someone once said that “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”; we, as parents want to encourage our children to keep walking!

Gifted children have potential and raw talent but they must learn that patience and hard work are also needed for mastery. When mastery of a task or subject is achieved it does a world of good for a child's self-esteem. Feelings of competence produce an attitude of positive self-worth.


Some gifted children strive for perfection, and this too can cause problems. Perfection is impossible and all who aspire to it are doomed to failure. Failure often comes hard to gifted children. I have seen gifted children refuse to try something new for fear that they might fail at the task. This is a sad, but all too common state of affairs.

The parent can help the perfectionistic child by showing a willingness to tackle new challenges and an undaunted spirit in the face of adversity or failure. Remember Edison?

We might also discuss our failures with our children so that they can see how we have learned from and profited by, our failure experiences. We are not telling our child by these actions that failure is acceptable or desired, rather we are showing them that even in adversity valuable learning can occur.


It is possible that the gifted child feels the pain of others to a greater degree than less gifted peers. It is also possible that the gifted child may make an honest, objective appraisal of the present world situation and be sobered by the prospects of global decay and destruction.

As parents we want to encourage our children to be realists but not pessimists. While political unrest is rampant and while environmental crises loom, it is important to remember that these "problems" can be considered to be "challenges" or "opportunities" for your gifted child. It is the gifted child, presently in elementary school, who holds the key to solving the crisis of global warming, the depletion of the ozone layer, the destruction of the rain forests and the specter of AIDS.

We can help our gifted child to moderate pessimism by modeling optimistic behaviors ourselves. We can help our children to develop their sense of humor so that they can take themselves lightly even if they are surrounded by problems that are begging to be taken seriously. My research indicates that people who use a humorous coping style in the face of conflict are physically healthier than those who are overly serious (similar data have been reported for emotional health by other researchers).


Like many of the things that have been presented as possible problems, the major issue here is one of magnitude. I think that it is important that we encourage our gifted children to be as precise and as accurate in their behavior as possible, while being at the same time tolerant of others who lack, or do not display, this ability.

I do not think that the gifted child should use his or her abilities to put down another (even if they feel justified because of the "put downs" they have received from others). I believe that people can disagree without being disagreeable; this is some-thing that you can teach your gifted child. In an era when senseless violence, both in our streets and in our schools seems to be escalating, teaching our children tolerance and diplomacy may be one of the greatest gifts that we can give them.

Children model what they see at home. The home is still a more significant place of learning than either the school or the peer culture. If gifted children see tolerance and kindness they will respond in a similar manner.


In terms of sensitivity to people, it is possible that the gifted child may be more prone to experiencing the pain of rejection than their less gifted peers. Studies conducted in England found more alienation and social withdrawal in the groups of gifted children who were not having their educational needs met.

A few years ago, I was the Director of a Summer Institute of gifted high school students and I got to see first hand some of the sensitivity that these kids have. Here are some of the comments that they made:

"I think if school was more like the institute, a lot of people would love to go to school."

"The sense of completeness and normality I found at the institute gave me hope through the last two years of high school that academic achievement would lead me to be with positive people once again."

"The Summer Institute helped me very much, and I feel it is the best thing I've done in high school. Though it was hard adjusting to my home town again, it was well worth it. I learned the most important things in life; respect for others' thoughts and opinions, respect for my own thoughts and opinions, and a love of new opinions to challenge my own. The Summer Institute gave me so much. I wish there could be a program for every student in Michigan to participate in, the world would be a much better place for it."

"The Summer Institute was an incredible experience. I value everything I learned and took home from the institute. Many people, including family and close friends, said I came back a different person. I enjoyed the academic portion and most of it has become a helpful reference in my life. The most important part of the institute however, happened outside the classroom. All the people I met and interacted daily with made the institute a special part of my life. I hope every institute offers its participants the quality and opportunities I was offered."

"Please continue these programs! They are essential to students in underprivileged high schools such as the one I came from. Underprivileged students need to realize that education is more than the boring, monotonous tedium of the usually low expectation programs they may endure during the school year. The summer institutes offer the opportunity for them to discover the excitement and personal quality of true education. Thanks so much for giving me the chance!"

However, not all the comments were positive:

"...The institute left me feeling even more constrained and repressed by the rigidity of school...than I had before going."

These comments suggest to me that a lot of these children are hurting. That indeed they feel different from, and experience life differently from, their non-gifted peers.


It should be clear that the school cannot meet all the needs of students, whether they are gifted or not. In order to get the best for your child, you must be actively involved in your child's education. This means that you must take over some teaching responsibilities.

Learning can be fun for both the child and the parent. You can be an educational facilitator and your child can become an independent learner, ready and able to take more and more responsibility for choosing and directing their own learning. The following are activities that parents can present to their children at various ages and stages to teach the basics, enhance creativity and provide enrichment.


Parents are the primary socializing agents who provide the environmental opportunities for gifted children. This certainly is the case in the early stages of development, before the socializing agents of extended family, peers, school, and organizations come into prominence. It may not be well known, but parents who provide a loving, sharing relationship with their children most often remain dominant socializers well into their children's adolescent and early adult stages. Here are nine areas of potential parental involvement:

●handling questions

●developing physical and social skills

●teaching decision making

●encouraging activities

●being a model

●facing giftedness

●enhancing family relationships

●requiring sharing, caring values

●allowing for, and being supportive of, failure

Continued in the Fall 1997 issue





“Without Verne there is a strong possibility that we would never had romanced ourselves to the moon.” Ray Bradbury. "Jules Verne guides me.” Admiral Richard Byrd on the eve of a polar expedition.

The sensibility qualities and productivity of gifted individuals serve as living legacies long after their own work has been completed. Jules Verne (1828-1925), the French science fiction writer, is an example of giftedness continuing into our present age as a gift to humanity. His writing created a new genre that has become a major ingredient of modern culture. This is a literature that combines fact and fiction, the scientific and the imaginative, journalism, and lyrical descriptions of locales. His heirs include H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton. Explorers of the 20th century used Verne as a progenitor of scientific adventures. These included the polar explorer, Admiral Richard Byrd, the oceanographer Charles William Beebe, and the American Astronaut Frank Borman. Verne depicted locales in such wonderful prose that he inspired individuals worldwide to travel and discover the beauty of exotic areas for their own enlightenment and sheer delight. He also created a writing style that inspired the adventure travelogue.

Verne was an excellent example of the sensibility of giftedness during his early years. Although he did not do very well in school, he was constantly expressing his imagination through making sketches of the latest inventions and technological developments of his day. Throughout his youth, he carried about and filled many notebooks with sketches and notes. He was a voracious reader whose childhood favorites were Sir Walter Scott, Edgar Allan Poe and James Fenimore Cooper. Scott gave him a sense of the lure of place, while Poe’s influence was his famous story concerning a balloon flight across the Atlantic Ocean (“The Balloon Hoax,” 1856). Cooper was such a great influence that when Verne traveled to the United States, he made a special trip to Cooperstown in upstate New York.

The sea had a special effect on Verne’s sensibility. He could devote hours to watching the surging ocean on the Atlantic coast of France, and he spent much time on boats throughout his life. His trip to the United States in 1867 was on the Great Eastern, the most advanced ocean liner in the 19th century. He also traveled during the height of his literary career on his own ship, Saint-Michel III, where he worked on many of his novels in the captain’s cabin.

The 19th century was a time of exploration as new scientific discoveries stirred people’s imaginations and courage — for example, Lewis and Clark in the United States, the British Arctic explorers, and numerous Europeans who launched expeditions into Africa searching for the source of the Nile River. New forms of transportation such as the steamship and the railroad also increased the desire for discovery and travel.

As a community of poets, writers, dramatists, artists, composers, scientists and inventors, and a world center of creative ideas and inventions, Paris was a society that enthusiastically supported and sponsored giftedness during the middle of the 19th century. When Verne first came to Paris from Nantes as a young man, he was encouraged by the literary lions, Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo. This was an environment that appreciated the sensibility of giftedness.

Jules Verne’s legacy is very much alive today. Not only is he one of the most translated writers in the world, but his books are constantly being made into movies and television dramas. For example, the ABC Televison Network presented a two-part miniseries on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) during May 1997. A recent biography, Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography (1996, published by St. Martin’s Press, New York), has been written by the world renowned historian on French culture -- Herbert R. Lottman. Albert Camus and Colette are among the other French literary figures he has written about. In Lottman’s book, we discover the life and culture of the sensibility that is giftedness. Moreover, we are given an appreciation of a highly gifted individual, Jules Verne.

“Genius is the ability to see things invisible, to manipulate things intangible, to paint things that have no features.” Joseph Joubert, Pensees, 1842.