EVERFIT book review - The Enlightened Society by John L. Hill
Book Reviews, March 09, 2020
John Lawrence Hill is an author and law professor who is very concerned about international human rights. This book is a manifest on how human kind can save ourselves while in turn saving the planet. He has since written other books that have a similar theme - The Case for Vegetarianism : Philosophy for a Small Planet (1996), and The Political Centrist (2009).
- Humankind has greater psychological potential - the optimum level of psycho-spiritual functioning has yet to be achieved by most.
- The realisation of this innate potential is possible
- Selfhood is achieved by the unification of separate parts of our personality.
These pillars laid the ground work for humanistic psychology. The greatest humanistic thinker of all is Abraham H. Maslow. Maslow claimed as part of his Hierarchy of needs that self-actualisation is an "instinctual need in humans to make the most of their abilities, to strive to be the best they can" or "the desire to become more and more of what one is, to become everything one is capable of becoming." Abraham H. Maslow not only looked at the hierarchical structure of needs, but also at how to reach true potential through his studies of some truly extraordinary humans. Maslow believed that less than 1% of the population obtains “self-actualisation”. He studied several subjects (living and dead) to work out the habits and characteristics of these “actualised” individuals. From his studies of Lincoln, Jefferson, Walt Whitman, Einstein, Henry Thoreau, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others he documented the following list of traits.
- Realistically orientated and accept themselves, others, and the world as they are.
- Problem-centred rather than self-centred.
- Have an air of emotional detachment and a need for privacy
- Autonomous and independent
- Appreciative of people and the world in a fresh, rather than stereotyped way.
- Most have had profound mystical or spiritual experience, though not necessarily religious in nature.
- They identify with mankind and their relationships with a few people are profound, deeply emotional, and not superficial – for them ALL people are equal.
- Do not confuse means with ends, and have a sense of humour that is philosophical, detached, but not hostile.
- They are creative and engage in creative pursuits.
- Resist conformity to culture and transcend rather than merely cope with the environment.
Maslow then wrote about what was required to bring about “actualisation” (or enlightenment) once the lower needs are meet. These needs are arranged in a hierarchy from the most basic to the more complex. The first two base levels are called deficiency needs (involve need for something that is lacking - physiological eg air, water, shelter, warmth, Security eg safety, employment, health, stability) and the top three are growth needs (belonging and love, Esteem, and self actualisation). The growth needs are never satisfied and can't be worked on until the lower needs are taken care of in most cases. This is a struggle for most of humanity due to our massive rifts in resources, opportunity, and hope.
- To experience everything fully and unself-consciously.
- To make GROWTH choices rather than DEFENCE or fear-based choices.
- To follow the “inner voice” not some socially imposed or internalised standard.
- Take responsibility for your own actions
- To know what you prefer and be honest about it.
- To be the best you can be at something
- To appreciate your peak experiences.
- To discover who you are, and what you would like to be
Hill presents a very simple developmental hierarchy with only three levels that many of us can associate with (Hill used the term "man" - I will use person). Having person, Doing person, and Being person. It is a spectrum with movement along as someone grows, matures, and evolves towards a person that starts to think and act more along "we" then just "I". From a total consumer and taker to a person that strives to give back and be of value. It's interesting to me that Western culture is a real blend of the haver and doer, and the traditional Eastern teachings are more of a morph between the doer and being.
The Haver (at the lower end of human develoment) is someone who readily identifes with stuff or the tangible. The relationship between the Having personality and the external world is ownership. They find meaning in the material things they own - car, house, label clothing, even friends they "possess". Their self worth is reflected in the things that they own. This rigid identification makes them the most "psychologically unstable" of the three types. The having type can never find peace, joy, or confidence staying in this level as the very act of ownership drains the object of the sought-after quality. It is this irony that makes the pursuit of "stuff" an unending one. Havers make the best patriots "My country, right or wrong!" Havers will use religion as a social, political, and economic tool for furthering their own ends. Hill discusses the true goal of religion is comprehensive self development. One gradually coming to understand oneself better. To realise hidden motivation in routine behaviour and habits, while communicating effectively, and co-operating with others.
"The more one possesses, the more one is possessed." Nietzsche
The Being personality is the least populous of the three stages and is the apex. These people are characterised by a marked absence of dependence on external conditions and circumstances. They have learned to find joy in external things and experience without psychological dependence on them. These people have found an inner source of grace and stability with awareness of a greater sense of self knowledge. Real personal integration can only occur when lifestyle habits are aligned with the subjects talents, desires, and capacities. It is important to note that there is no one state of universal "enlightenment" or one path towards achieving "self realisation". We need to encourage everyone to find their own path and all help each other along and up. Hill also talks about the difficulty of love, openness, compassion, and humility in a world in which many of our leaders and culture put a premium on aggressiveness and hostility. As William James wrote - "It must be confessed that as far as the world goes, anyone who makes a saint out of himself does so at his own peril." A Being person isn't as concerned about a "why" as existence itself is the highest reward. They find the locus and basis for the good and meaningful within so no need to go searching in external things or experiences.
"It is wisdom to know others. It is enlightenment to know one's self." Lao Tzu
I found this book utterly refreshing. I love when I read something that resonates, backing up my thoughts on how progression should be measured. Our society has been told to change so we can literally save our planet. Most of us live in our busy little bubble consumed by growing to do lists. We are losing authentic connection with each other and our natural world to the detriment of our wellness, and the planets ability to sustain life. Moving from a consuming "haver" to a human "being" by championing compassion and love for all is not a "woo hoo" hippy thing. It's THE thing that we have to find within us then pursue with passion.