Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow understood that when man was at his best, man had "B-Values." These values included truth, goodness beauty, unity, transcendence, aliveness, uniqueness, perfection, justice, order and simplicity. Through these B-Values, it is my belief that Maslow introduced spirituality to psychology--although Maslow would be probably taken aback with the word "spirituality".

Maslow's famous "Hierarchy of Needs" was introduced in the late 1960's. These needs represented man functioning on different levels instead of the simple mechanics of behaviorism introduced by Watson in 1919. Thus man was no longer a knee-jerk mechanism responding only to stimuli and reinforcement. It also indicated that man could overcome the unconscious instinctual impulses implicit in the various schools of psychoanalysis.

The highest level of functioning was labeled by Maslow as "self-actualizing". Self-actualizing meant that people were "fully functional" and possessing a "healthy personality". It also meant the people on this level thought and acted purely on their own volition.

(Self actualizing implies free will. My theory about free will is that noise in the brain, is filtered, gated and selected until only the noise that represents a cool idea is presented to the conscious mind. Thus free will is not environmental, nor hard wired heredity, but comes from randomness.)

As shown in the white area in the diagram below, Maslow identified the following need levels:

  1. Self Actualization
  2. Ego Needs
  3. Social Needs
  4. Security Needs
  5. Body Needs

The diagram below shows this hierarchic theory in a pyramid format. Each white level is dependent on the previous level.



The yellow area, the spiritual level goes beyond Maslow original five needs. This our need for Spiritual transcendence. Some people do not have this need or have not found it, but this is the state I long for. It is a need to feel close to God and perform acts according to His will. What is unique about the Spiritual level, it is not dependent on the lower needs, for as we face death, we have a choice of fear (the body need level) or the Spiritual level.

--Getting back to Maslow--

The Body needs are biological and consists of the needs for air, food, water and a temperature range. These needs can be very strong because if deprived over time, the person will die.

The Security needs include those of safety. This level is more likely to be found in children as they have a greater need to feel safe.

The Ego needs focus on our need for self-respect, and respect from others.

The Self-Actualization is described by Maslow as an ongoing process involved in a cause outside their own skin. People on this level work at something very precious, call it a vocation or calling in the old priestly sense. These people are very fine, healthy, strong, sagacious (very smart) and creative. Maslow included saintly people on this level, but I would put them in the Spiritual need level.

Going beyond what Maslow said, we can list what type of information (i.e. books, training) each level desires::

  1. Body Needs -medical, emergency, rescue, coping
  2. Security Needs -safety planning, food supplies, shelter requirements, emergency supplies
  3. Social -social self help, finding love, how to escape bad feelings and alienation, how to achieve a sense of belonging
  4. Ego -ego self help, finding healthy pride, direction, empowerment in business
  5. Self Actualization -books that give direction and meaning, supplemented by unique books on hobbies, politics, science, psychology
  6. Spiritual -Holy books written by Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, the Bab, Baha'u'llah
    and other messengers of God.

Maslow believed that once a person is self actualized, he is in a position to follow their calling. A musician must make music, an artist must paint and a poet must write. If these needs are not me, the person feels on edge and lacking something. In the lower needs, one can find the cause of their restlessness, but as one goes up to self actualization, the restlessness can be hard to identify.

Maslow also believed that people should be able to move through the needs to the highest level provided they are given an education that promotes growth.

Some of the changes in the educational process that Maslow espoused:

People should ...


A. H. Maslow The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, Esalen Books, Viking Press
SBN 670-30853-6 hardbound, 670-00360-3 softbound

Abraham H. Maslow Toward a Psychology of Being, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1968
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 68-30757

On June 8, 1970, A.H. Maslow passed away due to a fatal heart attack.

Last Updated: September 14, 2002

Copyright 2001-2002 by George Norwood