Successful Intelligence- A Triad for Druidry and Sustainability

A triad of trees under the moon
A triad of trees under the moon

Psychologist Robert Steinberg describes three kinds of intelligences that we need in order to solve the many problems of the world.  These three intelligences are:


  • Creative intelligence: intelligence required to develop solutions to problems and formulate new ideas
  • Analytical intelligence: intelligence required to solve problems and to assess the quality of ideas (this is traditionally privileged in
  • Practical intelligence: intelligence that is needed to actually implement ideas effectively in a variety of settings

By being able to balance these three intelligences, Steinberg argues we can have “successful intelligence.”


In druidry, we sometimes use “triads” as a way of teaching. This stems from a much more ancient practice within Celtic society, where even the laws themselves were written in a triad form.  I’d like to propose a triad that incorporates these three kinds of intelligences, and the need to balance them.  The triad is:  Three intelligences one needs to be successful: the ability to dream new ideas, the ability to assess those ideas, and the ability to effectively implement them.


Like any good triad, these three intelligences have implications for both druidry and sustainability.  When we think about these intelligences in terms of druidry, they do line up to some extent with the three “grades” of druidry (to use OBOD’s terms) and the three exploration areas of study of druidry (to use AODA’s terms). Creative intelligence is obviously the realm of the bards, as it is the realm of idea formulation, thinking through ideas, brainstorming etc.  Analytical intelligence seems to belong to the ovates, in that seclusion and study can lead us to developing greater insights; there’s also the importance of assessing and weighing the validity of an idea (which can delve into the arts of divination).  Practical intelligence, or making change in the world, seems to be in the realm of the druid. (Although I could see arguments suggesting that analytical intelligence line up with druid studies, and practical intelligence line up with ovate studies; regardless, the “triad” in thinking is still there).


I think these ideas also really apply to discussions of sustainability.  We need creative intelligence to have vision–to create solutions, to think beyond the ordinary, to think beyond the traditional boundaries that our culture places upon us.  Vision is a critical component of change, and one written about as necessary in books like The Limits of Growth.  But visioning alone never cane come to fruition without the next two kinds of intelligence.  We need to assess and understand the quality of the solutions that we dream up–are they pipe dreams? Or are they realistic? What resources would it take to make them happen?  Do they solve the problem they are meant to solve? Finally, we need practical action and dedication to effectively implement ideas.


I would like to propose that we use these intelligences as a triad to understand ways of seeing the world from both a druidic and sustainable perspective.  I’d also like to suggest that we use these as a heuristic, that is, a useful and thought provoking tool, for developing a more sustainable relationship with the living world.

Dana O'Driscoll

Dana O’Driscoll has been an animist druid for almost 20 years, and currently serves as Grand Archdruid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America. She is a druid-grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and is the OBOD’s 2018 Mount Haemus Scholar. She is the author of Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Spiritual Practice (REDFeather, 2021), the Sacred Actions Journal (REDFeather, 2022), and Land Healing: Physical, Metaphysical, and Ritual Approaches for Healing the Earth (REDFeather, 2024). She is also the author/illustrator of the Tarot of Trees, Plant Spirit Oracle, and Treelore Oracle. Dana is an herbalist, certified permaculture designer, and permaculture teacher who teaches about reconnection, regeneration, and land healing through herbalism, wild food foraging, and sustainable living. Dana lives at a 5-acre homestead in rural western Pennsylvania with her partner and a host of feathered and furred friends. She writes at the Druids Garden blog and is on Instagram as @druidsgardenart. She also regularly writes for Plant Healer Quarterly and Spirituality and Health magazine.

Recommended Articles


  1. Great post! I’d like to see this triad incorporated into the OBOD course.

  2. That is rather brilliant. I’m an atheist myself, and a druid-aspirant, and I see in some forms of rationalism a priviliging of the ‘analytical’ intelligence at the expense of the other two. I think Druidry is a great way of combining the three different modes of thought. I’ll definitlely remember that triad for whenI have my moments of self-doubt!

    1. Treeshrew, I’ve met a few other atheists who follow the druid path, so I know that there are certainly atheist druids out there! In the OBOD Forums, there is a whole forum dedicated to the subject, called “The Skeptical Druid.” Some great conversations there :).

      A lot of what Steinberg writes about is how education systems privilege analytical intelligence at the expense of the other two. As an educator, I certainly see this–students are great at analysis, but not so great at creating ideas or implementing them.

      Anyways, thanks for posting! 🙂

Leave a Reply