Man Know Thyself
Those were the words ingrained by the ancient mystics into all new seekers on the path. Quite rightly too, for we all think we know ourselves. In reality most people live in almost total ignorance of who they really are and why they do what they do. The universe gives us all an inbuilt set of unconscious impulses that guide us in our actions and thoughts, as a species we are programmed to survive so the species can be propagated and spread like seeds in the wind. It is this systematic programming and indeed our ability to be programmed that must be understood if you are going to “Know Thyself”.
The four most basic drives colloquially known as the four F’s are Feed, Fight (Protect) Family (Herd Instinct) and to Propagate the species (Sex). If you look at the lives of people around you and even in your own families you can see the constant pattern. In the confines of modern society we work to earn money to buy food and acquire a home that’s the first two accounted for, we congregate in cities, towns and villages (the third) and then we settle down to produce lots of children just so they can grow up and do the same (fourth) the universe just loves repetition.
It is a monotonously repetitive programmed pattern which ensures the species continues and thrives. We may have evolved technologically and socially but the same patterns still drive us as they did our ancient ancestors. Society has changed but not the primal nature of man.
It is these primal drives that lock people into repetitive cycles in all aspects of their lives, if we are to do more than just evolve we must transcend these impulses and cycles and elevate our awareness. We can do this by a deeper understanding of our nature and our place within the universe.
Each of us is in effect motivated by needs. Our most basic needs as I have said are instinctive, having evolved over many thousands of years. To better understand these primal drives let us turn to Psychology for a moment. It was in 1943 that the eminent psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote an influential paper setting out five fundamental human needs and their hierarchical nature now referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the lower, which deals with the obvious needs for survival itself. It is only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied do we focus on the higher needs of influence and personal development. On the other hand, if the satisfaction of our lower order needs is swept away, we no longer focus on the maintenance of our higher order needs.
Maslow called the first four needs ‘D-need’ as they kick in when a deficit occurs. Self-actualization is the only need that we seek for solely positive reasons. Maslow also called them ‘instinctoid’ as they are genetically programmed into us and are essential for evolutionary survival.
Maslow also said that needs must be satisfied in the given order. Aims and drive will always shift to next higher order of needs. Levels 1 to 4 are deficiency motivators and level 5 is a growth motivator relatively rarely found. Most people being satisfied with the status quo attained from the primal (Instinctoid) drives.
Transcendence can only be achieved with an understanding of these primal drives and the ability to control their effect on our lives. This way we can break the cycles in our life that restrict us and hold us back.
As seen in the pyramid diagram the lower the needs are in the hierarchy, the more fundamental they are and the more a person will tend to abandon the higher needs in order to pay attention to adequately meet the lower needs.