Book Review - Spiritual Intelligence, the Behavioral Sciences, and the Humanities

Cultic Studies Review, 3, (2/3), 2003

Spiritual Intelligence, the Behavioral Sciences, and the Humanities

Frank MacHovec, Ph.D. The Edwin Mellen Press: Lewiston, Maine, Queenston, Ontario, & Lampeter, Wales. 2002, 291 pages.

Reviewed by Rabbi A. James Rudin

Frank MacHovec is a clinical psychologist who has taught at Rappahannock Community College and Christopher Newport University, both in Virginia. His main thesis is the belief that a “Spiritual Intelligence Quotient” (SIQ) is a constant in human history that frequently transcends organized religion.

The author illustrates this thesis with many examples from the realms of art, music, poetry, religion, and even politics. MacHovec’s book ranges far and wide, including references from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Abraham Maslow, B.F. Skinner, William Shakespeare, Eric Fromm, Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi and many other sources.  MacHovec devotes a large section of his book to Asian religions, but surprisingly scant attention is given to the Koran and Islamic teachings.

There are many charts that compare and contrast traditional organized religion with SIQ. There is a test for readers to determine one’s SIQ rating. MacHovec is not anti-religious, but the book’s constant refrain is his repeated declaration about a spiritual quality that exists outside of churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques.

This is certainly not news to any student of religion, but MacHovec goes to great, even excessive length to anchor SIQ in a scientific way that draws on sociology and psychology.

Few readers will question the author’s assertion that compassion, self-esteem, love of others, reconciliation, and self-exploration are commendable goals. Nor will most readers challenge MacHovec’s belief that one can gain spiritual satisfaction outside the confines of organized religion.

After extensive quotes from MacHovec’s many spiritual mentors and lengthy descriptions of various religious beliefs, the author concludes with his eight cardinal principles of SIQ: there is a higher power outside ourselves that is positive and good, there is goodness in everyone, it is better to love than to hate, it is better to do good and give than to receive, all life is sacred, all men and women are brothers and sisters, truth is sacred whatever its source, and life is a mission as much as it is a career.

Perhaps MacHovec did not intend it, but the themes of his book are, in fact, not that different from sermons frequently preached in traditional religions’ many houses of worship.