Yes, I did read the second part of your post. But it was late and I wanted to give myself more time to ponder on it before responding. You wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:It really isn't so much 'the idea that spiritual development and material gain go hand-in-hand' as the idea that you need a certain amount of confidence in your food and shelter before you can spend much time on religion.
That thought, in turn, weakens (though it doesn't destroy) your contrast between India and the West: any society with reasonable stability and a tiny food surplus can devote that surplus to religion/spirituality, the arts and/or learning, which is exactly what we see from ancient Greece across to China and Japan.
Getting a bit speculative here (shoot me down if you like): if that surplus really is tiny, most people have very little time for religion or learning, and supporting a learned elite (which they then become dependent upon for knowledge and spiritual direction) may be the best use of scarce resources. Bingo! 'Religion' (in your definition), not individual spirituality.
As I see it, you are clarifying the logic behind Maslow's idea. What you have written does make sense, and it's more or less how I've understood the general principles of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. But what struck me about this explanation is the way that the notion of 'surplus'--which also posits profit/loss--is woven into his ideas as an axiom. This is not unique to Maslow, of course. This evaluative framework of profit-loss-surplus is something that most modern folks take as a given, as common sense.
Nevertheless the question remains: Why should this be so? Why should this framework of profit-loss-surplus be so readily taken as a given? Why does it seem so commensensical?
In a way, it is 'common sense' because it appears to reflect the conditions that we live in; profit-loss-surplus reflects the conditions of the modern world. Sure, I don't deny that. But is not too hard to see that the conditions of the modern world are recent developments. To this extent, this framework is also a recent development. If is commonsensical it is only so under modern conditions. This framework of profit-loss-surplus is enabled by the development of such conditions as industrialisation, the modern liberal state, and capitalism--and these conditions only developed in the past 200-300 years. So to this extent, while it may seem reasonable to us modern folks to think of religion/spirituality in ancient Greece, China, Japan, etc, in terms of 'surplus', I suspect that such an explanation would be quite strange to them.
This is what I was pointing to when I say that 'if [Maslow's ideas] seem commonsensical to us--they are not inherently so. This is not to say that his ideas are wrong as such, but simply that their truth status is enabled by certain conditions'.
This is not some abstract argument. It can be observed fairly easily if we consider how in pre-modern times it was commonsensical for people to accept the rule of the king as a given, as common sense, because it was supposedly 'Heaven's Will'. But with changing conditions--with the scientific revolution, the decline of the Church, with widespread literacy, etc--it became commonsensical to stress the rights of the individual. The 'truth status' of the king became implausible. Or we could also consider how not too long ago, it was commonsensical to see homosexuality as an abnormality--indeed, in pevious centuries homosexuals were locked away in asylums to be treated. But with changing conditions, this idea of 'homosexuality=abnormality' lost its 'truth status'.
Coming back to Maslow... Given how Maslow was writing in a post-WWII context, the framework of profit-loss-surplus worked its way into his ideas as a given. This framework is reinforced by 'the hierarchy of needs'. Whether he deliberately chose to reinforce this framework or not is besides the point. Maslow is situated within particular socio-cultural conditions, and the assumptions that exist under those conditions will influence his work, to some degree or another. And when his work is adopted by others who are situated within the same conditions, the framework of profit-loss-surplus is then further reinforced and continues to be taken as a given.
So I do not deny that Maslow's idea's makes sense. But what I'm trying to point out is that certain frameworks (of profit-loss-surplus, for instance) are carried forward in his ideas. This framework is not self-evident but historically conditioned. There are wider implications if we simply take this framework as a given, as a kind of transcendent principle, because it is not. One of the implication is that it becomes easy to associate spirituality with personal profit, as some people do even if Maslow did not intend for it to be so.
What I'm trying to draw attention to with these posts (and hopefully it becomes clearer when I post specific examples later) is how the framework of profit-loss-gain has in recent history been continuously taken for granted, and as a result, 'spirituality' in contemporary times has been pigeonholed into this framework. More precisely, I wish to ask, 'What are the implications when 'spirituality' is narrowly defined in such terms?'