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Journeying, Storytelling & Spiritual Intelligence
by Michael Berman

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Other researchers in “neurotheology” (using brain imaging techniques to study spiritual contemplatives) have also observed that prayer and meditation can bring about a shift in brain activity associated with such unitive experiences as “the presence of God” and “oneness with the universe” (see Newberg, d’Aquili, & Rause, 2001, pp. 115-116).

The brain’s unitive experience emanates from synchronous 40 Hz neural oscillations that travel across the whole brain. According to Zohar, the 40 Hz oscillations are the neural basis of SQ, a third intelligence that places our actions and experience in a larger context of meaning and value, thus rendering them more effective. Everything possesses a degree of proto-consciousness but only certain special structures, like brains, have what is needed to generate full-blown consciousness. In this case, we conscious human beings have our roots at the origin of the universe itself. Our spiritual intelligence grounds us in the wider cosmos, and life has purpose and meaning within the larger context of cosmic evolutionary processes.

The indications of a highly developed SQ listed by Zohar include flexibility, self-awareness, a capacity to face and transcend pain, the ability to be inspired by vision and values, a tendency to see the connections between diverse things, the ability to ask the right questions and to seek “fundamental” answers, and a facility for working against convention. And what becomes apparent when considering this list is how all the indications are qualities that shamans are traditionally believed to possess.

Peggy Ann Wright (1995), working at Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studied the link between heightened temporal lobe activity and shamanistic experiences, and found that rhythmic drumming of the sort used in a vast range of spiritual rituals excites the temporal lobes and associated areas of the limbic system. As we have already shown, rhythmic drumming is only one of many ways of accessing conducive states for trancework. Guided visualisation can also be used to excite the temporal lobes and the process can be used in the classroom. In a similar way, every time you introduce a tale starting “once upon a time”, you are inviting your audience to transcend their linear concepts of time and space and so enter a light state of trance. Consequently, both guided imagery and story telling can be used in class to facilitate the development of SQ.

The material that follows can form the basis of a lesson that makes use of both story telling and visualisation and is designed to develop SQ. I have used it with adult students of English as a Foreign Language and it deals with the subject of equality:

Some people are so full of self-importance that they set themselves above the rest of us and we are equally to blame because we are prepared to bow down to them and to worship them as if they were Gods. That’s what this Native American tale is all about. The Native Americans believe humour is sacred and it is through the use of humour as a teaching tool that this story gets its message across.

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