So for today, I am sticking to more conventional ground (otherwise I may be accused of being a member of some cult). Today, we'll just learn how to touch God's face.
I say that this topic is entirely conventional, because it is entirely based on the work of a very well-known psychologist. He's so well-known that he appears in every standard textbook prescribed for undergrads taking Psychology 101. Many generations of NUS students would have studied him, for he is quite an important exam question.
Yes, we're talking about none other than Abraham Maslow.
Maslow's interest was in human motivations (what do people want? why do they want it?) and he is best-known for his hierarchy of needs (see above). Briefly, human needs are categorised into five levels. Only when you have satisfied your needs at one level, will you start being interested in satisfying your needs at the next level.
The lowest level of needs are physiological. They are your needs for air, food, water and so on. Once those needs are satisfied, you will become interested in fulfilling your next level of needs - for physical safety and security. After that, you will become interested in the 3rd level of needs, represented by your need for love and belonging (for example, friends and family).
The fourth level of need will be for self-esteem, confidence, achievement, and other people's respect. At this level, you may feel motivated to try to gain people's respect, by pursing conventional symbols of success and status (eg in Singapore, this could be the infamous 5 C's).
The first four levels are known as "deficit needs". In other words, they represent the lack of something. Once you have obtained enough of that thing, your need disapppears. For example, suppose you are very hungry. You then are motivated to get food. However, when you have eaten enough to feel full, you will not want food any more (not at least for a few hours).
The fifth level of need is quite different. This is the level of self-actualisation, which is not a "deficit need". Instead Maslow calls it a "being need" or "growth need". If your first four levels are satisfied and you come to your fifth level, you will seek to fulfill your "growth needs". How exactly a person will seek to do so, will vary from person to person - Maslow describes it as follows:
"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write., if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualisation ... It refers to man's desire for self-fulfilment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualised in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming".The thing about growth needs is that they will never be satisfied. You will always want more and more and more. You will always want to grow. It is the desire to fulfil your full potential. An extract from Wikipedia:
Self Actualization is the intrinsic growth of what is already in the organism, or more accurately, of what the organism is. Maslow writes the following of self-actualizing people:
They embrace the facts and realities of the world (including themselves) rather than denying or avoiding them.
They are spontaneous in their ideas and actions.
They are creative.
They are interested in solving problems; this often includes the problems of others. Solving these problems is often a key focus in their lives.
They feel a closeness to other people, and generally appreciate life.
They have a system of morality that is fully internalized and independent of external authority.
They have discernment and are able to view all things in an objective manner.
In short, self-actualization is reaching one's fullest potential.
Only a small proportion of the general population are believed to be at the 5th level. If you like, you could say that Maslow sees self-actualisers as representing the most-highly evolved, the most developed, members of the human race.
Maslow also thought that although just about everyone has the potential to get there, most simply will not. The reason is that most people are unaware of their potential, or have been conditioned by society to believe that they are "mediocre" or "average".
Another Maslow quotation, to make this clear:
"There seems no intrinsic reason why everyone shouldn't be (self-actualising). Apparently every baby has possibilities for self-actualisation, but most get it knocked out of them ...I think of the self-actualising man not as an ordinary man with something added, but rather as the ordinary man with nothing taken away."
I mentioned touching the face of God. Where does that come in?
Well, according to Maslow, self-actualising people can be further categorised into two groups. He calls them the peakers and the non-peakers. The peakers are the self-actualising people who have peak experiences.
What are peak experiences? Read for yourself - here and here. Essentially, they are quasi-spritual, or mystical, or religious experiences, far beyond the ordinary. (In most reported cases, these peak experiences do not last very long, not more than a few minutes). I call this "touching the face of God". Here's a brief extract from the account of one individual, Osho, who had a peak experience in 1953:
"And the last day the presence of a totally new energy, a new light and new delight, became so intense that it was almost unbearable -- as if I was exploding, as if I was going mad with blissfulness. The new generation in the West has the right word for it -- I was blissed out, stoned.
It was impossible to make any sense out of it, what was happening. It was a very non-sense world -- difficult to figure it out, difficult to manage in categories, difficult to use words, languages, explanations. All scriptures appeared dead and all the words that have been used for this experience looked very pale, anaemic. This was so alive. It was like a tidal wave of bliss.
The whole day was strange, stunning, and it was a shattering experience. The past was disappearing, as if it had never belonged to me, as if I had read about it somewhere, as if I had dreamed about it, as if it was somebody else's story I have heard and somebody told it to me. I was becoming loose from my past, I was being uprooted from my history, I was losing my autobiography. I was becoming a non-being, what Buddha calls anatta. Boundaries were disappearing, distinctions were disappearing.
Mind was disappearing; it was millions of miles away. It was difficult to catch hold of it, it was rushing farther and farther away, and there was no urge to keep it close. I was simply indifferent about it all. It was okay. There was no urge to remain continuous with the past."
Or in Maslow's words:
"The power of the peak experience could permanently affect one's attitude toward life. A single glimpse of heaven is enough to confirm its existence even if it is never experienced again."
Peak experiences aren't as rare as you might think. They also come in varying degrees of intensity. A belief in "God" isn't an essential pre-requisite for touching God's face, either.
If you go and think about it, Buddha's enlightenment under the bodhi tree would, in Maslow's terminology, be an unusually intense peak experience. Subsequently, it became a plateau experience (Maslow's term again) whereby the experience becomes permanent and continues indefinitely (in Buddha's case, for the rest of his human lifetime).
Maybe you too would like to touch the face of God, if only briefly. If so, well then, hurry up, climb through Maslow's hierarcy of needs, and go to Level 5. Don't waste time being mediocre. Go and become everything you were supposed to become.