A&O – NEEDS – Self-Actualization




As a biologist I associate NEEDS with resources necessary for an organism to survive and thrive. [whenever the ability to meet these needs are challenged, the organism experiences stress]   Strictly speaking, then, self-actualization maps on success in reproduction (fitness), and typical metrics are (1) the number of one’s genes transmitted to the next generation by means of one’s own progeny (“direct fitness,” most efficient) or (2) others with whom you share more-or-less genes (“indirect fitness,” kin). (“direct” and “indirect” fitness are termed “inclusive” fitenss)  In this view, one need not have children of their own to be successful if they enhance the prospects for success in more-or-less related kin.   

The Meaning of Life?  Many of us seem to be searching for “The Meaning of Life,” but I think we need perspective: to get started, read: “Life is Pretty Meaningful” by  Heintzelman and King (2014), in American Psychologist (link)

Unsupported image type.Considering one’s life to be meaningful is associated with a multitude of very good things,” from higher quality of life, superior self-reported health, and decreased mortality, cognitive decline and incidence of psychological disorders. … Unsupported image type.Yet, as clearly important as the experience of meaning in life is to human existence, it remains, in some ways, a construct and experience shrouded in mystery.  ….   “To … define what we mean by meaning in life, diverse definitions … share at least three common themes: … a sense of purpose, possessing significance, and making sense to the person living it: comprehensible, regular, Unsupported image type.and possessing predictability, or reliable connections. (Heintzelman SJKing LA (2014)  Life is pretty meaningful.   Am Psychol. 2014 Sep;69(6):561-74. doi: 10.1037/a0035049. Epub 2014 Feb 3.)


















SELF-ACTUALIZATION and BEYOND  “There is within us — in even the blithest, most light hearted among us — a fundamental dis-ease. It acts like an unquenchable fire that renders the vast majority of us incapable in this life of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies in the marrow of our bones and the deep regions of our souls. All great literature, poetry, art, philosophy, psychology, and religion tries to name and analyze this longing. We are seldom in direct touch with it, and indeed the modern world seems set on preventing us from getting in touch with it by covering it with an unending phantasmagoria of entertainments, obsessions, addictions, and distractions of every sort. But the longing is there, built into us like a jack-in-the-box that presses for release. Two great paintings suggest this longing in their titles:  Gauguin’s Who Are We? Where Did We Come From? Where Are We Going? and de Chirico’s Nostalgia for the Infinite, but I must work with words. Whether we realize it or not, simply to be human is to long for release from mundane existence, with its confining walls of finitude and mortality.

 Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief

(New York, N.Y.: Harper Collins, 2001), p.28 (Parabola Newsletter Feb 3, 2012


























































SELF-ACTUALIZATION requires thinking beyond the SELF:

“The most meaningful activity in which a human being can be engaged is one that is directly related to human evolution. This is true because human beings now play an active and critical role not only in the process of their own evolution but in the survival and evolution of all living beings. Awareness of this places upon human beings a responsibility for their participation in and contribution to the process of evolution. If humankind would accept and acknowledge this responsibility and become creatively engaged in the process of metabiological evolution consciously, as well as unconsciously, a new reality would emerge, and a new age would be born.”  –Jonas Salk, Anatomy of Reality







There may be myriad ports, but all leading to the sea of beauty, Plato’s term for the most intense of self-actualizing experiences.[iv]

  • For Socrates, the goal of philosophy was to “Know thyself[v]
  • For Lao Tzu, the goal of knowing the self is enlightenment. [vi]
  • For Goldstein and Maslow, the goal of self-actualization.[vii]
  • For Carl Rogers it is the infant differentiating itself from the field in which it is born and subsequently “maintaining and enhancing [its]… self-concept through reflection, reinterpretation of experience.” [viii]
  • For Hans Ur von Balthasar “What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.” 

The sense of completeness may be related to the transcendent experience.

from Know Thyself