A SPIRITUAL HEIRACHY OF NEEDS
Abraham Harold Maslow (1908-1970) was an American psychologist best known for his work on the hierarchy of needs, that is the basic needs to sustain life must be met before the higher needs of intellect can be achieved.
Maslow depicted this as a pyramid showing them in ascending order starting at the base: 1. Physiological 2. Safety. 3. Love/Belonging 4. Esteem 5. Self Actualization. Put in simplistic terms what Maslow was saying is that before you can do anything beyond the mundane you have to provide for your basic requirements of life i.e. food and shelter in a safe environment. We in the developed Western world are today in a position whereby, in relative terms, our physiological needs are to all intents and purposes guaranteed. That is we will not starve on the streets, nor will we roam the land homeless and hungry. We all have, as a general rule, the basics to sustain our lives. As for safety, again in relative terms, we are reasonably secure and do not have to do battle on a daily basis to survive. That brings us up Maslow’s pyramid to love and belonging.
As Spiritualists we understand that the essence of what we are is the spirit incarnate in a physical body. We are not the material body that has form as a human being we are eternal souls. Our current incarnation is but an ephemeral entity, a brief existence that we inhabit to extend our understanding into the infinite power that we know as God. What we do whilst we are ‘alive’ incarnated in our present form accrues to our spiritual essence that is who we really are. Thus our spirits, that is you and I, progress over time through the many mansions of eternity to ultimate perfection. It is my belief that this world that we call Planet Earth is an extremely elaborate mirage, an illusion if you will, created to enable us to spiritually evolve. As stated above in this Western world, in which most of us reading this live, there are today social support systems that virtually guarantee our two basic needs, as listed by Maslow. This situation has evolved over time, from the early stone age through the tribal hunter-gatherers to agricultural communities and eventually the massive cities created by the Industrial Revolution. No more do we have the likes of Oliver Twist asking for more, today we have the relative deprivation of no 50” flat screen TV with an ‘X’ Box. Even inmates of HM Prisons have computer games in their cells, compared to the bread, water and rats that were the lot of Victorian prisoners.
Love and belonging, level three on Maslow’s pyramid of needs, is perhaps something so intangible that it can not be measured. Let me elaborate on this a little. For example what I may conceive of as ‘love’ may not be the same as how another perceives this. For me ‘love’ is the feeling I get when I hold my young grandson, when I stroke my dear wife Mary’s hair first thing in the morning, when I shake hands with friends I have known for many years, or when I hear the sound of a lark ascending into a pale blue English sky. As for belonging I know where I was born, where I live, who my family are, my country, my land my home and I belong. I feel secure within that knowledge. But this may not be so for all, some will feel love in different ways, perhaps through desire and the realisation of physical contact. Some may identify belonging as being the possession of material goods. To each his own and so Love and Belonging are essentially needs peculiar to the individual. It must be so with esteem which is fourth on Maslow’s pyramid of needs.
Esteem is the concept of being thought of with respect and admiration. However in today’s crazy celebrity status conscious world being held in public esteem is perhaps no indication of worth. For example you dear reader may or may not be familiar with the term ‘Diamond Geezer’ which is most usually used to describe a villain such as ‘Mad’ Frankie Frazer. Many people, mistakenly in my opinion, hold murdering convicted killers such as mad Frank in high esteem. Or pseudo singing groups such as ‘The Monkees’ who never actually played on any of their records, they were held in high esteem by their ‘fans’. The truth is, I feel, that we each of us know what we are, being a fake and fooling the general public to attain fame and fortune is a lie. So any esteem we gain from that is utterly worthless. What Maslow’s fourth need of esteem really means must be self esteem. As a man said, to your own self be true and it follows as night follows day you can then be false to no one.
Self Actualization is the highest of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and means that we achieve our full potential. The great man himself said this: ‘If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life’. I have outlined above the stairway that has to be climbed in life and to be honest we are truly fortunate today as we have a step up from the start. Yet so many of us are unhappy in our lives, now why is that? In my personal experience the sticking point is at Maslow’s level two SAFETY. What many perceive of as safety is anything but, it is fear of failure. Taking a chance in life, in your life, means setting out to do something that will take you from where you are now to where you visualize yourself as being. The problem is that in so doing you risk losing the position you are currently in. So it is the fear of failure that is holding one back. However, look at it this way, if you were content being where you now are you would not be dreaming about being somewhere else, would you? Maslow said: ‘One’s only failure is failing to live up to one’s own possibilities’.
Let me give you an example from my own turbulent life. Thirty years ago I suffered an accident that damaged my leg and resulted in gangrene. I had been a runner with many marathon races completed and a best time close to three hours. I once ran through the twenty mile marker in one hour fifty nine minutes. Waking up in a hospital bed as an amputee was something of a shock, believe me. But the worst part was being told I would never walk or work again as there were many complications including blood poisoning etc. I have to say that the medical team did a great job but I was discharged in a wheelchair and the social worker appointed to help assured me that my working life was over. They would ensure I was on all benefits available. I was, they advised me, perfectly safe. Now being safe and being alive are not, in my opinion, one and the same thing. I refused to claim disability payments and as I owned a large Victorian mansion style house I let out the spare rooms to students. My wife was worried, she did not complain though she trusted me. I next found myself a University course to get a teaching certificate in Special Needs Education and went there in my wheelchair. The thing was I did not see myself as a cripple I saw myself as a man that had things to do in life and nothing was going to stop me. Passing the course got me a good job with Lancashire County Council and within 18 months of being amputated I was in work earning a living.
The job with Lancs CC was very safe and I was looking after my family, again a viable human being nice and safe with a neat new bungalow. From there to staging shows at major theatres such as The London Palladium and The Liverpool Empire and having books published all over the world such as my best selling Psychic Pets was an experience. It was far from being a safe option to undertake such risky ventures and to be truthful none of them made me a great deal of money. On the way I met and worked with many interesting and incredible characters that have enriched my life. Let me tell you it hasn’t been safe, at times I was sailing very close to the wind. But as one of my showbiz associates Hollywood star Steve Rowland says ‘if you are not living on the edge then you are taking up too much room’. As for esteem, well I have no doubt that I have done my best and made a real effort against the odds. Regarding my self actualization, it ain’t over till it’s over, there’s time yet. Now what about you?
You can read about my tough life as a jailer in my book ‘Psychic Screw’ available on Amazon as a paperback or E Book on Kindle.