I propose to ignore the institutional branch entirely ... and to confine myself as far as I can to personal religion pure and simple. Religion, therefore, as I now ask you arbitrarily to take it, shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.
zavk wrote:Right, the psychologisation of religious experience....
... James' attempts to read religious experience in terms of inner psychical processes would influence later psychological thinking. He wrote:I propose to ignore the institutional branch entirely ... and to confine myself as far as I can to personal religion pure and simple. Religion, therefore, as I now ask you arbitrarily to take it, shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.
Note here that James openly acknowledged the 'arbitrary' nature of his analysis. He was merely trying to find an effective way of describing subjective religious experience. Later figures, however, extrapolated from his interpretation a moral-political claim...
Another influential figure is, of course, Abraham Maslow. ...
According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, spirituality is at the top; it comes after individuals have attained a certain level of material security. But if we think about those societies that have produced many religious traditions and spiritualities--countries like India for example--it becomes clear that spirituality need not develop out of or come after material security. In fact, in countries like India, spirituality has developed in spite of poverty and suffering. In fact, we might even argue that the spiritualities in India developed in response to the lack of material security.
If we take such psychological readings of spirituality as a given--as THE way to interpret spirituality--it becomes easy to misperceive that spiritual development and material gain are intrinsically linked. It becomes easy to misperceive that spiritual and material gain are oriented towards the same 'finishing line', so to speak. But this clearly not the case if we consider the history of spirituality and also consider the case in societies that are not wealthy or materially advanced. The most pernicious effect of taking for granted the idea that spiritual development and material gain go hand-in-hand is that it becomes easy to overlook, if not encourage, the underlying tendency of craving. It becomes easy to misperceive self-centredness as spiritual development. As far as Buddhism goes, this is a surefire recipe for suffering.
Kim O'Hara wrote:As a baby-boomer with a long-standing interest in these areas, I came across Maslow years ago and pretty much took his 'hierarchy of needs' as commonsense. It's good to see it critically examined.
I do think you need to discriminate, though, between errors which are built into his world picture and errors which are simply not in conflict with it. I think the link between spirituality and material gain is one of the latter, not the former.
zavk wrote:Hi Kim
It's almost bed time for me so hopefully I've read your post correctly...
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.
zavk wrote:Hi Kim
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.
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.
Kim O'Hara wrote:Just quickly -- did Maslow say ' that spiritual development is best pursued after attaining a certain level of material security,' as you say, or, ' that spiritual development cannot be pursued before attaining a certain level of material security', as I have always understood?
... the ordering of needs in Maslow's hierarchy represents a value choice--Maslow's value choice. This choice was based on his mid-twentieth century US middle class values. First, Maslow's hierarchy reflects individualistic values, putting self-actualization and autonomy on top. Values prevalent in collective cultures, such as "harmony" or "family support", do not even appear in the hierarchy. Second, the cultural map of Figure 2 [in the article] suggests even if just the needs Maslow used in his hierarchy are considered--the needs will have to be ordered differently in different culture areas (p. 396).
zavk wrote:For me, I am interested in how these values and assumptions (deriving from the logic of individualism and US middle class culture) have, through the influence of Maslow's work, come to define contemporary understanding of spirituality (in which Buddhism is implicated). Will try to post examples tonight.
Freedom is found within. Your shackles are your own internal struggle—your angst and anguish, your worries about money, your frustrations, your greed, your self-limiting thoughts, and your fears keep you from being free. But if you're willing to take a chance, to go out on a limb and download this text onto your inner hard-drive[, you hold the key to liberation in your hand.
People treat you according to what you unconsciously project from within. If you're feeling oppressed by others, someone in particular, a group or the world in general, it is because you are oppressing yourself and projecting the resulting oppressive energy on them. As soon as you stop oppressing yourself, others will stop oppressing or stop appearing to oppress you. When you stop oppressing yourself, no matter how oppressive the situation you may currently find yourself in, you will no longer feel oppressed by it (quoted in Carrette and King, p. 106)
I am free to do whatever I choose. I have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
...do what you can do get what you want, while watching from within the inner dialogue that goes on incessantly about what, who, where and you want what you want and what it feels like once you've got it, while reminding yourself it is all theatre, and behind all the longing, for no matter what or whom, is the longing to be home, to be at peace with yourself (quoted in Carrette and King, p. 112).
enables you to fully participate in the frantic pace of the capitalist game while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it; that you are well aware of how worthless this spectacle is; and that what really matters to you is the peace of the inner Self to which you know you can always with-draw
Competitiveness is what fuels evolution, let alone a free market economy. And it would be misguided to see it as a Western disease. Having trained for 30-odd years in Chinese martial arts, I can tell you that no one is as competitive as the Orientals. The difference is that, under the influence of Taoism and Buddhism, learned to use their competitive energy with things that count. Hence it would be unlikely to find three Triad members seeing who can last longer in the sauna in Gerrard Street. They'd rather use the energy to see who can win most money at cards after they have showered off (quoted in Carrette and King, p. 113)
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