LIFE AS A WHOLE has been published as a book .
For ordering information, please click here.
Why are we moved to do what we do? For what purposes do we act? Certainly the answers to these questions are diverse and complex. I am going to outline seven major aspects or levels of motivation. These seven are related to the psychic chakras (Sanskrit for “wheels”) of Hindu occultism; also they have been loosely correlated with the seven major endocrine glands in the body, although their motivational meaning seems rather indirectly related to their physiological functions in some cases. The seven correlations with the part of the body, Sanskrit name, endocrine gland, and motivation are the following:
1) root chakra, Muladhara, adrenal, instinct for survival and security;
2) sexual chakra, Svadhishthana, gonads, desire for pleasure;
3) naval chakra, Manipura, pancreas, ambition for control and prestige;
4) heart chakra, Anahata, thymus, love and compassion;
5) throat chakra, Vishuddha, thyroid, growth and expression;
6) brow chakra, Ajna, pineal, understanding and insight;
7) crown chakra, Sahasrara, pituitary, oneness and transcendence.
Again, these divisions are artificial, as all of our actions and aims are combinations of these motives in varying degrees. A general distinction can be made between the bottom three, which are deficiency-motivated based on a felt lack of something, and the top four which are self-actualizing and positive. The quality of the energy pattern in and around these chakras can be seen in the aura by clairvoyants. The aura is a subtle electromagnetic force field that pervades and surrounds the physical body with its physical, emotional, and mental-spiritual aspects. The chakra centers expand and contract, open and close in order to give out and take in various energies. There are also other chakra centers such as the soles of the feet and behind the knees, which give a feeling for nature and enable one to draw energy from the Earth, and in the palms of the hands, which is especially good for giving out a healing energy. The energies of all the centers are continually gyrating and flowing.
The most basic motivation is to survive as an individual and as a species by reproduction. Those who do not survive to reproduce themselves do not pass on their genetic pattern. Thus evolution is the process whereby the genetic patterns that enable organisms to survive and reproduce are naturally selected while the others that do not adapt so that they can survive die off. As we shall see, in humans there are several other motivations besides instinct, but it cannot be denied that the instinct to keep our bodies alive is still very strong, as is the sexual instinct.
Physiological processes have a tremendous impact on our consciousness, especially when the organism is lacking a basic necessity such as air, water, food, temperature control, or is being threatened by disease or violence. These urges to keep the body alive and well will tend to take priority over any other motivation. Only when some other motivation is fanatically strong will it be able to override these basic urges.
Threats to survival can occur in various degrees; the greater the threat is perceived to be, the stronger will be the urge to respond. Through natural selection, organisms have evolved ways to perceive dangers and to fulfill the basic needs. With humans many new situations have been created by civilization that require training and education, such as ships, automobiles, trains, airplanes, chemicals, electricity, radiation, etc. We must listen to our instincts for warnings, but we also need to educate ourselves on how to handle these things and face the dangers they may pose.
One major method organisms have evolved for perceiving danger and for promoting the fulfilling of needs is the physiological experience of pain and pleasure. Pain is the body's warning system that something is wrong, and it serves as a deterrent against repeating that experience. Pleasure is experienced in the satisfaction of some needs such as eating good food, drinking of water or tasty liquids, resting the body, and sexual intercourse. With the exception of sex the extended deprivation of any of these or of breathing will cause increasing pain until the need is filled; this relief of the pain-producing need brings pleasure. Thus the basic motivation for survival is wrapped up with the experience of pleasure. Yet as we shall discuss in the next section, the pursuit of pleasure can go far beyond the basic needs for survival.
The same is true of the need for security, which is feeling safe that the basic survival needs are and will be met. Thus security is a psychological feeling based on our mental evaluation of our situation. Some millionaires living in a nation with the most powerful military forces of defense in history feel insecure because they are afraid of changes that might occur. Yet religious sadhus with no money or possessions other than the simple garment they wear, living in a poor country, may feel very secure because they trust that God through the Spirit in people will provide them with everything they need if their quest is sincere.
Everybody has to face constantly the issue of survival and take some steps to keep the organism functioning. How we perceive our security and the ways we go about providing the things we feel we need for ourselves is the motivation that is fundamental in life and the basis for all other motives. If we feel secure that we are handling our survival needs well, then we can devote our energies to higher levels of motivation in addition. The basically insecure person is constantly worrying and working to fulfill these perceived needs. This psychological need for security often becomes mixed up with other motives with the idea that if the other goals are achieved then the person will be more secure also.
Once the basic needs of life are met, most people turn to the pursuit of pleasure, fun, and enjoyment. These include finding comfortable places to relax and rest, tasty food and drink, entertainment, recreation, sports, arts, socializing, romance, and taking consciousness-altering substances such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs.
Pleasures can be physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. In a sexual relationship the intense pleasure of the sensual experience is so powerful that it makes anything else pale in comparison. The emotional feeling of being in love seems to transport consciousness to a wonderland of enchantment and dreams. The communication in a romantic relationship can be so intimate and understanding that two minds become one. The oneness of complete union can be ecstatic and transcendental. Words can only point at these marvelous experiences.
The problem with pleasure is that it does not last. Usually the more intense a pleasure is, the shorter is its duration. Intense pain is also usually brief. Physical pleasures are rapidly satiated. Emotional joys come and go; when pleasure fades, we may suffer the sorrow of craving. Mental and spiritual pleasures are so complex and subtle that most people either lose interest or feel perpetually dissatisfied. Because pleasure is difficult to sustain, it becomes inextricably bound up with desire. To seek pleasure is to desire, which is the mother of suffering because we want what we do not have. This wanting is a kind of hunger or longing or emptiness. Pleasure may come to us without our seeking it, but often it is not the pleasure people really want. Thus people spend their time striving for the things they want, which usually go far beyond what they need for mere survival.
A key to happiness here is detachment. If we become attached emotionally to our desire for particular results, we will be unhappy unless those specific results are achieved. Even when we get what we feel we want, the pleasure tends to wear off after awhile. However, we can enjoy our quest to our goal if we appreciate the experience of each moment, remain flexible to changes and adjustments, and do not torture ourselves with a psychological pain caused by our feeling a lack of what we desire. Pleasure, as well as everything else, is experienced in consciousness which is always now. This now of consciousness includes memory of the past and planning or imagining future possibilities. We can enjoy memory and imagination; but the problem with desire comes when we want those memories or fantasies to be physically real when they are not. The disparity between the desire and the reality causes us sorrow. Either we enjoy memory and imagination for what they are in consciousness, we enjoy what is real for us in the moment, or we suffer aching desire. We can try to enjoy the pursuit of our desire, or we can detach ourselves from it and turn our attention to something else. Desire is only one of the levels of motivation, and it can be transcended.
Dissatisfaction in the pursuit of pleasure often stimulates people to try to gain greater control over the circumstances of their lives. Personal security is also a factor in promoting the motive of ambition. Security and pleasure are the primary need and gratification concerns of the natural self. How we go about filling these needs and desires is decided by the conscious self. The natural self urges us, and then we consciously choose what to do. The conscious self must mediate between these lower demands and the higher motivations. The conscious self is responsible for taking into consideration ethical issues and does not let the natural self act out all it urges like an animal.
Thus control of oneself is exercised by the conscious self. The conscious self chooses goals, objectives, and strategies for achieving them. Then using all the faculties available, the person strives to manipulate the environment to achieve those ends. Ambition is very much concerned with the means to the ends. The goals may be from any level of motivation; the effort for control is focused on the success or failure of the methods that are employed. The goal of ambition is to be successful at attaining whatever the person chooses to accomplish.
How a person evaluates that success or failure makes up the person’s self-esteem, and the perceived evaluation of others determines the prestige. This is the level where the ego operates, both as the I itself (conscious self) and as the conditioned consciousness of the feelings about our self—self-concept and self-image, which are part of the natural self. Combined with insecurity, this can urge us to seek other people’s approval in order to feel all right about ourselves. Because self-concept is subjective, different individuals have varied standards. Self-esteem relates both to how high a standard we place for ourselves and to how well we feel we are meeting that standard. The comparison a person makes to others on these standards indicates whether a person feels superior or inferior.
Usually the person who feels superior will try to dominate others, or at least will not want to be dominated. The person who feels inferior will try to please or get help from others. Either approach can be manipulative and irresponsible. The principles of justice, balance, and responsibility can be very helpful here in realizing the original equality and dignity of each person, even though circumstances may be one-sided. Every person is responsible for controlling herself or himself, and any control allowed to others is either chosen or a violation of freedom.
Interactions of power and control can create much conflict. Aggression can be provoked by frustrated efforts to try to control a situation, if the person lacks respect for other people’s freedom. Rewards and punishments are used to attempt to control other people’s behavior by conditioning them to strive for some things and fear others. In manipulating people one may appeal to any level of motivation and use it as a means of control. In these relationships the manipulator can also be viewed as the one who is manipulated.
Ambition for control and prestige is considered a deficiency motivation because it is based on a perceived lack of something, whether it is security, pleasure, or esteem. Thus the effort to control our situation is very much interrelated with security and desire. These three basic levels of motivation generally cause us the most pain, sorrow, and trouble. Yet if they are not adequately fulfilled, it is very difficult to experience the higher, positive, self-actualizing motivations. When the lower three levels are well satisfied and balanced, then we have a solid foundation for rising above the basic needs of the rat race and can focus our attention on loving, expressing, understanding, and transcending.
The heart in many ways is the center of our body and our levels of consciousness. Here the life force pulses through our system. I consider love, which is the basis of this whole philosophy, to be not only the central motive in human life but also the most important and most divine. Love as a divine principle has been discussed in the first part. Here we focus on love as a motive, and in a later chapter we will discuss love as an emotion.
Actually all motivation has its origin in love, whether it be love of life (survival), love of pleasure, love of power, or loving to love, express, understand, or feel oneness. Here we look at unconditional love or love for its own sake rather than love of something else. Although everyone needs love and care to survive, wants love in order to feel good, and strives to be loved by exerting power, the motive of unconditional love and compassion is to give love to others or oneself. True loving is caring for another as we love ourselves. In giving love in this way we cannot help but experience love ourselves even if the recipient is not giving back. The heart overflows, and the spirit of love fills us with inner joy. The manipulating mind may think about what return may be received, but love itself is detached from those considerations. One key is that we can only love others as much as we love ourselves, for the love we have for ourselves is what we are able to give to others. Thus love begins with ourselves and then can expand outward. When we are able to take care of ourselves, then we become capable of caring for others also.
Compassion and empathy enable us to feel what is going on with others as though it were ourselves. When identifying with other people in this way we cannot help but love them because there is nothing more natural and spontaneous than self-love. The conscious self can transcend the personal ego and become conscious of others. When our personal problems are handled and balanced, we can expand our awareness through this love and compassion. Love respects the individuality and freedom of others, as we would want our own liberty respected. Thus in love we do not act for that person, robbing her or him of choices, but we love unconditionally. Thus we love them spiritually regardless of what they or we do; this is the spiritual essence of openness. In the practicality of caring, love finds a harmony between how they wish to be treated and how we wish to treat them. This love respects both their freedom and ours. Regardless of these personal choices, love remains the sustaining energy of good will and uplifting joy.
Love and compassion are the basis of friendship, gregariousness, and various human associations. Social organizations, formal and informal, enable us to share our love and care for each other as individuals and groups. Intermingling our consciousness allows us to love each other and give of ourselves. Love is a positive expression whereby our consciousness is able to liberate itself from our personal concerns and thus expand in awareness and joy.
The motive to grow psychologically by experiencing new things and expressing oneself is a natural tendency of life and is not based on deficiency but is a positive expression of Spirit. The spirit of adventure, play, art, style, etc. is spontaneous and unstoppable in human beings. To live is to grow and express ourselves. Expression is not experienced as a need or lack; because if one avenue of expression is blocked, we simply shift to another. Attachment to one particular mode of expression is a desire for that particular pleasure, but the urge to grow which moves us to express in some other way often can lift us out of such a depression.
We express ourselves with our whole body and consciousness, but especially important are the voice and the gestures of the arms and facial expressions. Expression describes who we are to other people. Smiles, handshakes, and hugs communicate our love and joy to others. Human beings are by far the most expressive creatures on earth, as we transform our environment to suit our purposes. We create music, art, architecture, drama, dance, crafts, sports, technology, etc. as expressions of who we are and how we want to live. As children and adults we play just for the fun of it without any other ulterior motive, although other motives can and do insinuate themselves into these activities.
Creativity is the essence of this level of motivation. We create our life experience by expressing ourselves. Even procreating and raising children, which is one of the most creative activities, is an extension of our self-expression and our genes. The arts and the activities of play, whether they be sports, hobbies, crafts, or arts, are usually motivated by self-expression. However, the passive watching and listening to others is not expression, which is active and positive, although such observation can give understanding and be a preparation for expression.
The spirit of adventure often moves us to go out and explore, travel, or try something new. Expression can be a great release for tension, anger, sadness, or overwhelming joy, especially through crying or laughing. These and less obvious expressions of relief can be very therapeutic and balancing. People in modern society have a tendency to take in more than they give out, causing greed, exploitation, and conflict, etc. Expression is a way of sharing ourselves and our abundance with others.
Expression is the extrovert or outgoing side of the personality while the next section on understanding describes the introvert side. Both are important, and a continual and balanced flow in and out is most self-actualizing.
Aristotle declared, “All people by nature desire to know.” He also held contemplation to be the most exalted human activity. The nature of the mind seeks to know and understand, and certainly humans are the most mental creatures on Earth. Although instinctive processes occur continuously in the subconscious or natural self, most of the larger and significant human actions are chosen by the conscious self based on the mind’s understanding of the situation. We have become creatures more of consciousness than of instinct. Thus understanding of our environment and insight into ourselves are of paramount importance.
We use our understanding to achieve our basic needs, desires, and ambitions as well as to know how best to care for others and express ourselves, but we also choose to learn, observe, think, and intuit the truth of things for its own sake. The human mind rarely rests except during sleep, when the subconscious mind is still working to resolve various patterns. Even consciously disciplining the mind by means of prayer, meditation, or spiritual exercise has the purpose of attaining spiritual insight. Thus the movement of the mind for understanding is virtually continuous. Like expression, this motive cannot be stopped but only directed from one subject to another.
The mind seeks to understand the outward environment of the world, the inner processes of our own consciousness, and the relationship between the two. As we shall discuss in later chapters, the conscious self uses various faculties to accomplish this purpose, such as sensory perception, memory, imagination, emotion, analytic and synthetic reasoning, and intuition. All of these processes occur within our consciousness and, with the exception of our sense organs being open, are relatively independent of our outward behavior.
Curiosity, examining, exploring, learning, investigating, studying, contemplating, questioning, and meditating are all quests to understand. We seek knowledge and insight, not just because of physical needs or desires or even worldly ambition, but because consciousness itself is the moving and expanding of awareness. The urge to grow in experience by expressing ourselves gives us the raw material, which the mind can use to obtain greater understanding of life. Naturally some people have a stronger urge to understand than others. Understanding tends to be cumulatively expanding: the more we understand, the more we wish to understand more. Thus education, both formal and informal, encourages and promotes the motive to understand, while inner spiritual endeavor stimulates the quest for insight.
Spiritual motivation goes beyond mental insight though. The crown chakra in the top of the head is a direct channel between the incarnate soul and Spirit. We generally connect best with other people through the heart chakra, but the top chakra enables us to pull down the illuminating energies of Spirit so that we can experience oneness with all things on all levels and also to lift our consciousness up into the higher realms of soul and Spirit in transcendental experience.
By attuning ourselves to Spirit, which is omnipresent and omniscient, we experience a spiritual flow that connects us to anything and everything by transcending divisions and separation. In the purity and protection of Spirit we can experience oneness with all things physical, astral, emotional, mental, intuitional, and spiritual. Through this experience the conscious self can transcend the separation of the ego because this oneness cannot be used for manipulation, desire, or security. To experience this transcendence one must let go of those motives. However, oneness does enhance and exalt our love, expression, and insight with greater spiritual awareness.
Soul transcendence, sometimes called soul travel, is the process of moving our consciousness into the soul. In the perfection and protection of the soul we can become aware of anything that can be known and can move our awareness to any level or experience that is best for all in accord with God’s will. To attain soul awareness we must transcend not only the distractions of the physical body and the emotions but also of the mind as well. Although most people are usually unconscious of it, the channel of transcendence is always present and available, simply because we are souls even when we are not consciously aware of it. This oneness of our beingness is difficult for people to experience because it is metaphysically prior to the created consciousness of the mind. It is not something we perceive, but is the being of the perceiver, actually the source of the perceiver and the perception.
We can focus our consciousness on becoming one with Spirit. Since Spirit is in everything, we can start this process by becoming one with anything. By letting go of the dualism of the mind a subtle spiritual flow seems to lifts us and carry us along. This is not achieved by the force of will power. We must be willing to go along with the experience though because we can block it with our will. Transcending means letting go of our conditioned consciousness and opening ourselves to a greater experience. The oneness that is experienced defies all mental concepts and descriptions in its ecstasy. Thus the ultimate human motivation is becoming one with God.
LIFE AS A WHOLE:
II. The Individual