Danah Zohar's newest book, Spiritual Capital, pre-sents a vision of a capitalist society that transcends greed and materialism and offers a blueprint for free enterprise in a values-based business culture. In place of the current emphasis on shareholder value, Zohar talks about "stakeholder value" where stakeholders include the whole human race and the planet itself.

Pretty heady economic and sociologic stuff for someone trained as a physicist, but then, Danah (pronounced like "Donna") Zohar has never put much stock in the separation of specialties. Following studies at MIT and Harvard in physics, philosophy, religion and psychology, Danah extended the language of quantum physics into a new understanding of human consciousness, psychology and social organization with her immensely popular books, The Quantum Self, The Quantum Society, ReWiring the Corporate Brain: Using the New Science to Rethink How We Structure and Lead Organizations and SQ: Spiritual Intelligence. An international speaker and consultant of meritorious credentials, Ms. Zohar boasts a c.v. of clients and audiences that reads like a Who's Who of government and industry.

In our interview, I suggest that it is perhaps not entirely casual that Danah's last name means "a splendor of light": the Book of Zohar (or "Book of Splendor") is the main tract in the book of Kabala, the classic work of Jewish mysticism. When asked if she has ever been accused of being distinctly illuminating, she laughs and says, "I'm not going into that—if it's relevant, you can say that I am very interested in the Kabala and Jewish mysticism." Danah lives in England with her husband Ian Marshall, a Jungian-oriented psychiatrist and psychotherapist and co-author of Spiritual Capital — JDM

We have written in Networking Times about the work of Daniel Goleman. How did his book Emotional Intelligence influence your own book, Spiritual Intelligence?

Goleman's work was my touchstone. I'd been thinking for years about something called quantum thinking. In some of the books I was writing, such as The Quantum Self and Quantum Society, I had written about the kind of thinking you have to do to understand quantum physics. I was thinking of it as a kind of intelligence, but until I read Goleman's book I was still calling it simply "quantum thinking." When I read Emotional Intelligence I was very excited by it but also frustrated by it. The idea of "emotional intelligence" or EQ was wonderful, but there was still something missing.

I decided that EQ wasn't the whole story, that there was another kind of intelligence that Goleman was touching on but not quite developing—something which I realized might best be termed SQ: spiritual intelligence.

At the time that I was reading Goleman's book and talking about this new spiritual intelligence, there were some scientific breakthroughs occurring. I talk about these in the book. It was becoming quite clear from neurobiology that there was indeed a further intelligence, one that deals with meaning, values and purpose.

So it's almost a seamless evolution from EQ to SQ.

Yes. Dan's book came out in September of 1995. [It was featured as the cover story of Time magazine, Oct. 2, 1995—Ed.] My book was published in 2000, which means I was writing it in 98.

Speaking to a non-scientist, what is quantum thinking?

Quantum physics is a very different kind of physics from the mechanistic physics we all learned in high school. It began out of the effort to describe how things behave inside the atom. During this century it's been extended from the micro world of the atom to larger-scale objects, to the point where today it's the physics of much of our technology—the computer, superfluids and superconductors.

Quantum physics has very different categories of being and of how things transform into one another. You have to apply a very different kind of thinking to understand these behaviors. By "quantum thinking," I mean applying this kind of thinking to such realms as the nature of the self, of the organization or of society.

Up until now, the older physics that Isaac Newton invented in the 17th century has been used as a model by all our psychologists, social thinkers, economists, and historians. Marx, Darwin, Freud and Adam Smith all used Newtonian physics as their model for the self and society.

It's good to look to physics as your model—but when it comes to understanding human beings, we've been looking to the wrong type of physics!

In the world of business, there is usually a perceived dichotomy between self-interest and altruism. Is it simplistic to say, quantum thinking suggests that as a businessperson, I can embrace both qualities at once—that I can function both as a particle and as a wave, so to speak?

That's exactly right. In my book Rewiring the Corporate Brain, which is about applying quantum thinking to business, that's one of the points I make. Particles compete and conflict, they bump each other about. Waves intermesh and cooperate, they build up something new.

Quantum physics shows us that we can behave both as waves and as particles—we can be both individuals and members of groups. These are just different modes of human being.

In network marketing we have always said that the way to get ahead in this business is to help others get ahead.

This is one of the hallmarks of quantum thinking: it's a "both/and" thinking, not an "either/or" thinking.

In your book you speak about the two assumptions of "business as usual": 1) human beings are economic beings, and 2) they will always be driven by self-interest.

These are Adam Smith's assumptions. Smith describes himself as "a mere underlaborer to the incomparable Mr. Newton." He was very impressed with the way Newtonian physics showed us how the world operates, and he claimed this is also how people operate.

Newtonian particles have hard and fast boundaries. They are locked away in their own corners of space and time, they never get inside each other or change each other internally—unlike quantum things, which do intermesh and cooperate and build into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

How would a corporation look different behaving as a wave versus as a particle?

Spiritually intelligent organizations are cooperative and compassionate. They are self-aware, they know what they believe in and what they want to achieve. They have a high sense of holism or connectivity, an acute awareness of how they serve as part of the wider community. In fact, I've identified a core list of twelve qualities that forms much of the basis of the book. [See sidebar]

How does the idea of spiritual intelligence lead to "spiritual capital"?

Capital is wealth; spiritual capital is the wealth we build by using our spiritual intelligence, by acting through our highest meanings and purposes and values.

I wish Adam Smith could be here to converse with you.

Actually, he'd like my book. He was very gloomy about capitalism, and said it would one day lead to all sorts of social unrest and tear society to pieces. He just thought it was an iron law and couldn't be avoided.

It's difficult not to see the tenor of international politics today as yet another manifestation of this either/or dichotomy.

It's an us-against-them philosophy, rather than a "what can we do together?" philosophy. This core of atomism, where you split things up into separate atomistic bits which then look after themselves, has permeated Western thought ever since Democritus and the early Greeks. It's been behind the Western notion of competition: if you're going to have power, you've got to have power over somebody, rather than the notion of power within yourself.

This thinking is bound up with our very concept of truth, which says that something is either true or false. This Aristotelian way of framing reality tends to color everything as black or white.

When you apply this to the international and multicultural world of global politics, it becomes dangerously simplistic: We're the good guys and our way is the right way. Newtonian thinking dominates global politics: we have to look after ourselves, we're the best, God's on our side.

We could choose instead to see the world as a global community where if we all cooperated, there's more than enough wealth to go around—and then there wouldn't have to be these haves and have-nots on such a large scale. This is the kind of thinking I'm trying to help develop in the new book. I often speak about world political events; I've addressed the Davos World Economic Forum about this [a Swiss nonprofit non-governmental organization (NGO), www.weforum.org —Ed.].

Who was it who said, "We don't care about what's going on outside the window"?

That was a direct quote; an executive from a big power company said this to me. I was giving a seminar and said to a group of them, "Do you guys have any idea what's going on outside the window?" And one of them said, "No—and we don't care, either."

The atomistic or Newtonian view is that you're a totally isolated island, you're on your own. You do what you want to do; it doesn't have that much effect on other people and they don't have much effect on you. You're exactly like a billiard ball in a high school physics model: another billiards ball might knock you off course, so you always have to watch out for them and treat them as "other." But otherwise you have no interaction.

What kind of reception are you getting in the business world?

It's getting very good reception among business leaders in high places who I know have seen it. McKinsey & Company, the world's largest and most prestigious transformation management consultants—they've got offices in every city in the globe—have been very impressed by both Spiritual Capital and Spiritual Intelligence. They're running a global spiritual intelligence transformation program now, which I'm working on with them.

Do you think you'll have any direct exchange with American business corporations?

I speak to them whenever they invite me over. Actually, I find them a bit behind European business corporations in this kind of thinking.

American capitalism is the most extreme on the planet. In Europe we have something called "social democracy," where you're supposed to be concerned for the underdog as well. It's not as extreme as socialism, but there's a social element in our capitalistic thinking in Europe that you don't get in the States, where it's "may the best man win…if you're meant to survive you will. You're on your own, kid!"

It seems that in this American culture, philanthropy is highly valued but almost as a luxury, like dessert after a meal.

In the book I describe a conversation I had with a man named Mats Lederhausen, who at the time was chief executive of McDonald's for Sweden. Mats contacted me with what he described as "a spiritual problem." He was young, vibrant and financially successful—but not happy. He wanted to do something of real value with his life. His American colleagues told him that they fulfilled that sense by working for their Little League baseball teams on the weekends, helping out with the volunteer fire department, giving to charities—they were doing good works. He said, "Yes, yes, but that's not what I mean. I want to do something with my working life that means more and does something for the planet. I don't just want to do good deeds on the weekend."

Lots of businesses give a bit of money to charities or foundations—but in so doing, they don't change their own business practice or business philosophy one tiny bit. They simply have a little altruistic twinge now and then and act on it.

We need to take that kind of thinking and bring it right into the heart of the corporation, to make the whole corporation into something that acts from a higher sense of purpose or meaning.

I was struck by how you evoke Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" and point out that the "need for meaning," which is the apex of Maslow's pyramid, ought to be the base.

We should turn that pyramid upside-down and make the need for meaning our first priority. Obviously, we can't do this in a poor society; Maslow's pyramid clearly applies in Bangladesh: people are in constant danger of dying. But in healthy and developed societies such as our own, survival is largely taken for granted. We're not starving to death. In our cultures, the primary need is for meaning—and what we're getting ill from and dying from are diseases of meaninglessness.

In the immediate wake of 9/11, there seemed to be a shift in values, and the need for meaning in our lives and work. Has that created greater receptivity to your work?

I'll have to see. I was just on a book tour in the States, and people commented that this sense, which was very much alive a few years ago, seems to have dissipated and been replaced by a renewed sense of fear and an us-against-them, good-guys-versus-bad-guys sentiment. That spirit of unity, of getting your priorities right, was not capitalized on by the leaders of American society. It's a shame.

What do you tell me if I come to you and say, "I love your ideas, it all makes sense, but practically speaking, I've got to be responsible to my shareholders."

I say that in the end, you will actually do better by your shareholders by doing good. You'll make more money, your company will have a longer life span, and you won't be one of these companies that goes out in five years time because they're not sustainable. So it's not a question of, "Do I make a profit or do I do good?"

Sustainability is the best thing you can give your shareholders—and sustainability rests on these more spiritual qualities: meaning, values, higher purpose and so forth. In fact, in the book I talk about companies that have done much better by doing this kind of work.

In the last century we've seen so many movements in this direction—environmentalism, nonviolence, human rights.... Are we due for a sea change?

Yes, and my next book is about that. We are at the moment between two ages, an age of power and what might hopefully be an age of compassion. We are certainly between the exhaustion of the culture we've known the last 500 years and some new culture that is just beginning to incubate.

We who are alive today live at the edge of chaos. This is the point where order and information are created. Everything is unstable and a bit scary, but at the same time, when you live at the edge of chaos, your own actions have a lot more effect than they would in a stable system—so this is also a time when we can really make a difference.

And a "compassionate age" doesn't mean less productivity.

Not at all. You just put things in a wider context of deeper meaning and higher purpose. I'm not at all anti-capitalist. I believe capitalism is a superior form of doing business, because it unleashes all sorts of human energy. It's just that you want to have capitalism with a higher purpose and deeper meaning than this dog-eat-dog kind of capitalism that we have had.

What can I, the individual self-employed entrepreneur, do in this time of chaos to help usher us into that age?

There's a famous phrase of Gandhi's, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." That's what you do in quantum physics or spiritual intelligence: you are the change.

In Newtonian thinking, changes just happen because they are determined to happen by the iron laws of physics; human beings can't really do anything about it. In quantum physics, the observer and his consciousness are built into the physics. The questions I ask will help to determine the answers I get. The way I live actually builds the world in which I live.

Develop in yourself the twelve transformational qualities of spiritual intelligence. If we can develop the human form of these qualities, we will thrive at the edge of chaos.


Twelve Features of Spiritual Intelligence

1 SELF-AWARENESS. To know what I believe in and value and what deeply motivates me. Awareness of my deepest life's purposes.

2 SPONTANEITY. To live in and be responsive to the moment and all that it contains.

3 BEING VISION AND VALUE LED. Acting from principles and deep beliefs and living life accordingly.

4 HOLISM. A sense of the system or of connectivity. Ability to see larger patterns, relationships, connections. A strong sense of belonging.

5 COMPASSION. Quality of "feeling with" and deep empathy. Groundwork for universal sympathy.

6 CELEBRATION OF DIVERSITY. Valuing other people and unfamiliar situations for their differences, not despite them.

7 FIELD INDEPENDENCE. To be able to stand against the crowd and maintain my own convictions.

8 TENDENCY TO ASK FUNDAMENTAL "WHY?" QUESTIONS. Need to understand things, to get to the bottom of them. Basis for criticizing the given.

9 ABILITY TO REFRAME. Stand back from the problem or situation and look for the bigger picture, the wider context.

10 POSITIVE USE OF ADVERSITY. Ability to own and learn from mistakes, to see problems as opportunities. Resilience.

11 HUMILITY. Sense of being a player in the larger drama, sense of my true place in the world. Basis for self-criticism and critical judgment.

12 SENSE OF VOCATION. Being "called" to serve something larger than myself. Gratitude toward those who have helped me and a wish to give something back. Basis for the "servant-leader."

From Spiritual Capital, p 79