How beautiful, this view from the top! Can you see it? It’s wonderful! Oh you don’t see it… You’re not there yet. Me neither, but I can imagine it must be amazing.
The final level and the capstone of the pyramid of needs, is the need for Self-transcendence. The origins of the word ‘transcendence’ are the Latin prefix ‘trans’ which means ‘beyond’ and the Latin verb ‘scandare’ which means ‘to climb’.
So, we climb beyond… wait a minute, beyond what? I guess that’s a very good question.
One step beyond
For Maslow, yes here he is again, for me and I hope also for you, human beings are not just biological creatures. We have our intellect, and while I’m sure animals have a certain level of intellect too, let’s say, we as human beings have more of it. And more is usually better.
We also have consciousness about ourselves and about the world we live in. I’m sure animals also are aware of themselves and the world surrounding them, but as human beings, we have a much higher level of consciousness. And more is usually better.
But we, as human beings, we have something that animals don’t have: It’s our conscience, our morality and our principles of what is right and what is wrong.
Another thing that animals don’t have is that as we human beings evolve, that we want to give personal meaning to our lives. We want to live a life with purpose. We want to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. And you know it: Bigger is usually better!
What is there beyond?
Beyond the ordinary human level of consciousness is also the need to experience oneness with the greater whole, the higher truth, whatever that may be. Beyond is the desire to move beyond physical needs and reality, to achieve a spiritual or religious state of being.
These spiritual needs are a bit different from the other needs in the pyramid; From any level of the pyramid you can feel the need for spirituality or religion. When these needs are fulfilled, it leads to feelings of integrity and unity with all being.
Beyond is a higher goal than ourselves. Beyond is selflessness and altruism. Beyond our ordinary ego, there is the desire to serve and help others to find self-fulfillment, achieve self-actualisation and to realise their full potential.
But you need to have reached self-actualisation yourself before you can help others to achieve it too. It’s a bit like in an airplane: you need to put on your own oxygen mask first in order to be able to help others. Oh boy, is this a call back to Earth? I suppose it is!