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Integrating Karl Marx and Abraham Maslow

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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
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The most important lesson that Karl Marx taught us is his surplus theory of value, which essentially says that if workers create wealth for a company, then it is only right that they should share in the increased profits. Richard Wolff is probably the most prominent Marxist economist today. Do a YouTube search of his name and you will find entertaining and educational videos of his Marxist message. Richard Wolff argues that when technology doubles the profits, it would be possible to have workers work half of the time instead of laying off half of them. What still happens is that the extra profits go to CEOs and corporate shareholders, not the workers.

Having workers participate in the decision making, or workplace democracy, is another innovative idea that is often difficult to implement when we currently have only two political parties, both of which are financed by the wealthiest one percent, and they are inspired by a neo-conservative or neo-liberal foreign policy. The United States is an empire, bent on weakening Russia and China, implementing regime change for any other country that does not follow our business model agenda. But our leaders and political parties will never openly admit that they have such imperialistic intentions.

When most people think of psychologist Abraham Maslow, they think of Maslow's hierarchy of individual needs. His theory in psychology was first presented way back in 1943 in a paper called "A Theory of Human Motivation." In his famous representational pyramid, physiological and safety needs at the base of the pyramid are those needs that must be met before the higher needs for love and self-esteem are met. At the top of the pyramid is the need for self-actualization.

What a lot of people do not realize is that Abraham Maslow, before he died, criticized his own earlier definition of self-actualization: "The self only finds its actualization in giving itself to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality."

Today there is an increasing emphasis on positive psychology and meditation (whether it is mindfulness, mantra, or breath awareness). It should also be mentioned that Aldous Huxley and Huston Smith were early proponents of the perennial philosophy (or a transpersonal psychology), which found the common element in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christian mysticism.

Yesterday I received an email from Dr. Jeffery Martin at He uses a term called "persistent nonsymbolic experience," which is a psychological state of well being that is beyond conceptual thinking. Like others, such as Ken Wilbur, he provides meditation methods and spiritual disciplines that are devoid of the baggage of religious belief systems. In essence, he is reminding us that we are all trying to fill a hole. Most everyone all over the world is currently looking for something outside of themselves. We're all deeply embedded in the habitual stories that have developed in our minds, telling us about ourselves and the world. As we distance ourselves or become detached from these psychological mind tapes, we can achieve a higher, continual or persistent state of well being.

Huston Smith, author of the classic book The World's Religions, in his description of Hinduism, tells that after several lifetimes of seeking pleasure, wealth, or fame, we may grow tired of those pursuits and start on a spiritual path in which we seek liberation or enlightenment. Whether reincarnation is true or not, it certainly seems more tolerant than spending eternity in heaven or hell.

People are starting to wake up as they realize that capitalism is in its last stages, and it is collapsing. The traditional religions are no longer believed. Economic and political decision-making will always be necessary, but now it is urgent that it be a spiritual politics, in which the needs of everyone on the planet must be addressed. Personally I have advocated a radical egalitarianism, probably to the left of most communists, in which the highest wage earners in any country do not earn more than three times the lowest wage earners.

Martin Luther King confided to his staff in 1966, "There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism." Albert Einstein advocated socialism. Mohandas Gandhi was an advocate for socialism and communism. Gandhi did not believe that our essential nature was basically selfish. Swami Vivekinanda founded the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society. Vedanta is the philosophical teachings of the ancient Vedas. Swami Vivekinanda was in favor of socialism. The Dalai Lama considers himself half Marxist and half Buddhist.

All of the above individuals--Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Swami Vivekinanda, and the Dalai Lama--have also been strong advocates of nonviolence.

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February 11, 2023 I grew up in a church that said you had to speak in tongues to get saved and go to heaven. I often prayed fervently starting at the age of 5 for the experience in the prayer room at church, where people would cry and wail, (more...)

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