Monday, November 10, 2008

A Non-Churchy Sense...

Without the transcendent and the transpersonal we get sick, violent, and nihilistic, or hopeless and apathetic. We need something “bigger than we are” to be awed by and commit ourselves to in a new naturalistic, empirical, non-churchy sense. Perhaps as Thoreau and Whitman, William James and John Dewey did.

Abraham Maslow, the 20th century psychologist, conceptualized a hierarchy of human needs. He is considered the father of humanistic psychology. Maslow saw human beings’ needs arranged like a ladder. The most basic needs at the bottom were physical; air, water, food, sleep. Then came security and stability, followed by social needs for belonging, love and affection. At the top were self-actualizing needs; the need to fulfill oneself, and to become all that one is capable of becoming. Maslow felt that unfulfilled needs lower on the ladder would inhibit the person from climbing to the next step. Humanistic psychology teaches that people possess the inner resources for growth and healing and each individual is capable of climbing this ladder once obstacles are removed.

When we are feeling moments of love, understanding, happiness or rapture we have a sense of wholeness and we experience forms of truth, justice, harmony and goodness in those moments. We are motivated to maintain those emotions and we continue to self-actualize them in one way or another. We want more of the same and try to force happiness and wellness to manifest in some way. We yearn to express our desire to be more than what we think we are. Something extraordinary is lurking within us and we try to use our ego to manifest this otherness. But the ego is focused on outside issues so we disappointment our self and don't know why.

The ancient philosopher Plotinus explained it this way:

We must close our eyes and invoke a new manner of seeing… a wakefulness that is the birthright of all of us, though few put it to use.

This new manner of seeing is really not new; it just has been forgotten as we climbed the ladder of needs that Maslow wrote about. Our external needs are a top priority and the fundamental aspects of our consciousness sits behind this house of illusions until a tornado hits the house, and it collapses around us. Once our reality is revealed for what it is, we begin to use another mode of knowing to rebuild the outside of our spiritual house.

What Maslow meant when he used words like transcendent and transpersonal is the other portion of our consciousness that waits for us to remember it. It’s the next step on this ladder of transformation. It’s us redefining the self and how we perceive our role in our humanity. In a sense we live in a cloud. The cloud is a distorted manifestation of our own thoughts. We are a prisoners of our own minds. We live in one room, believe it’s the entire building. We stay in that room and look out and see nothing, but the sameness we created.

Maslow realized that this sameness makes us sick, violent and hopeless. Our world is a pot filled with poison and we are waiting to die from the recipe we use to create it. Other ingredients are available to change the mixture, but our beliefs prohibit us from using them.

Maslow’s ladder is reaching new heights as we step into this new reality. We are discovering that the self has a non-churchy sense of oneness. We really do belong to each other as we climb our self-made ladder.