Monday, October 27, 2008


by Scott Rabalais

Understanding the needs and desires of the human being is a complex issue. One psychologist who attempted to categorize and hierarchize human needs was Abraham Maslow. Though disputed by some, his "Hierarchy of Needs" provides a simple model that attempts to explain the various basic and profound needs of the human being.

Maslow's theory is based on the premise that higher needs cannot be attended to until lower needs are thoroughly satisfied. Maslow states that the most basic needs of humans are biological and physiological, that is, air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sleep, sex, etc. Showing needs as ascending steps up the model, the Maslow diagram includes safety, belongingness and love, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic and self-actualization needs. It makes sense that a person who has inadequate food and drink will likely not give a lot of attention to his cognitive or self-actualization needs until such basic needs are largely satisfied.

A revised model of the hierarchy of needs was offered in the 1990s. This model included a need beyond self-actualization called "Transcendence. " (See here [businessballs. com/maslowhierarchyofneeds8. pdf] for a view of the adapted eight-level "Hierarchy of Needs" diagram, based on Maslow's theory.) While self-actualization can be defined as a growth motivation or the desire to fulfill one's potential, transcendence adds a deeply interpersonal element to self-actualization. The transcendent one is interested in helping others to self-actualize. In other words, one who has made the complete journey is not completely fulfilled until he turns around and assists others on the journey.

Of course, the experience of transcendence is not the only level from which one can assist others. There are those who assist others with obtaining food and shelter, improving family relationships and achieving a high level of proficiency in various activities -- all equally important in the journey up the mountain of life. There are a virtual endless number of possibilities that exist in assisting others in their journey.

The experience of unity consciousness is a fulfillment of the human need for self-actualization. It is comparable to the mountain climber reaching the summit, achieving his destination and surmounting all of the elements of the journey. It is seeing from a higher vantage point than he has ever seen before. It is the expansion of his awareness and understanding to a state heretofore unknown. It is a realization of wholeness, completeness and oneness. It is the experience of unity.

So where does the self-actualized climber go from the top of the mountain? Standing alone at the top, he knows there are others who are climbing the mountain as well. He longs for others to experience the grand feeling of standing at the summit and wishes to stand at the mountaintop with others so the view can be shared. His desire is for others to know the grandeur of the summit and that the cost of the journey up the mountain is worth the benefits gained at the top. He recognizes that the next step in his journey is to be of assistance to those who long for the mountaintop experience. As he has been assisted along the way, now, he can help show the way.

It is an innate need of the climber to experience the summit. It is not an experience that can be assimilated from hearing the stories of others, no matter how eloquently they are told. There is no timeline, no schedule and no need to hurry. There exists only the need to take one step at a time, to savor that step and then to move on to the next step.

He who has reached the mountaintop is interested in assisting only those who desire the assistance. He does not impose himself on another, yet is accessible and available to all. His joy is in freely giving of his experience and himself. He is there to point the way, to assure the climber of the joy and value in the climb. But it is the climber who must climb.

There are many to assist in the climb -- at every step of the way. Though versatile, the transcendent one is most adept at working at the higher levels of the mountain, nearer the summit. It is he who has had recent experience in the final steps to the top, where both teachers and climbers are fewer. The climb near the top is fresh in his experience and he can lend encouragement to those who are taking those final steps in the fiercest of elements. He has ultimate respect for the climber and for those who are assisting in the climb, for his purpose in intertwined with the purposes of others.

The transcendent one still attends to his "levels" of needs, though his predominant interest is in the climb of others, which he now sees as the climb of himself, or, more accurately, as the climb of humanity. He is humanity, and as humanity goes, so he goes. He is an agent of the climb and in service to the climber. There is room at the top of the mountain for all of humanity, and to this vision he dedicates himself.