To compare and contrast Maslows' theory of Self-Actualization with LaVeys' theory of Modern Satanism.
One of the great struggles that one encounters in life is the struggle to achieve something more. The inner drive or force of will that separates an individual from the crowd. It is the realization that one is not happy in a simple content existence. It is the recognized inner struggle to progress and proceed forward towards being and accomplishing all that is possible for that individual to achieve. It is also taking this gained knowledge and understanding when is the best possible time to use it. Abraham Maslows' theory of self-actualization states that, "Self-actualization is a never ending process that moves in a dynamic sequence upward through a continuum. The higher the individual processes, the more "profound happiness, serenity, and richness of the inner life" he or she finds"(1). Anton LaVeys' book the Satanic Bible, explains his theories and philosophy of living and succeeding as an individual in todays' world. LaVey states that, "One of the magician's greatest weapons is knowing himself; his talents, abilities, physical attractions and detractions, etc., and when, where, and with whom to utilize them!"(2).
In discussing their individual theories, both Maslow and LaVey try to put their ideas and theories into simple terms that can easily be understood. It is this understanding of terms that focuses on a recognition of the individuals' path or steps that on must follow in order to become a more fully developed individual. Maslow presents a hierarchy of needs that he feels most everyone has the ability to follow. He explains his five basic steps in the path of self-actualization as a hierarchy of need. "The hierarchy of need implies that the lower needs have been adequately satisfied before higher needs emerge. The process is epigenetic in nature… in which one item builds upon another in space and time"(3). Maslow believes that once you start becoming self-actualized, you continue on to try to reach the B-Values. The B-Values include "the need to know (truth seeking) and aesthetic needs (beauty-seeking)"(4). LaVey did not believe that everyone could follow or understand his theories and philosophy, he believed that the masses of humanity were mostly sheep that were content to live in blissful ignorance of the possibility of achieving more. LaVey wrote, "we have made no grandiose promises of infallible enlightenment and emphasized that each must be his or her own redeemer. That the extent of one's superiority (if any) is governed by one's human potential. That "Satan" is a representational concept, accepted by each according to his or her needs"(5). He uses his nine satanic statements to outline and codify his theory. He delves more into these statements in his infernal diatribe. LaVey appears to agree with Maslow on some levels when he states, "The Satanist believes in complete gratification of his ego…Only if a person's own ego is sufficiently fulfilled, can he afford to be kind and complimentary to others, without robbing himself of his self-respect"(6).
An individual, trying to follow Maslows' five basic steps, may never complete them all before they die. Each step must be fully completed successfully before the next one can be tackled. If that step is not completely successful an individual may remain in that phase and never proceed. Maslows' first step encompasses the basic physiological needs. His second step, the need for safety. The third step, would be the need for love and a sense of belonging. His fourth step deals with self-esteem. His fifth step is the need for self-actualization. LaVeys' nine satanic statements do not have to be followed in any particular order. The individual rules are not part of a rigid program. When taken together the rules form the basis of LaVeys' Satanists uncommon common sense rules for successful living.
The process of self-actualization is not an overnight occurrence. It is a life long act of consistently striving to achieve something more. It is a commitment to ideas that are not pretty to some with a recognition that life is not fair. It is the recognition that one must work towards a future whereby on can use their talents, capabilities and knowledge to positively enhance their own life. Maslow sums up his feelings on self-actualization by stating, "So far as motivational status is concerned, healthy people have sufficiently gratified their basic needs for safety, belongingness, love, respect and self-esteem so that they are motivated primarily by trends to self-actualization. (defined as ongoing actualization of potentials, capacities and talents, as fulfillment of mission (or call, fate, destiny, or vocation), as a fuller knowledge of, and acceptance of, the persons' own intrinsic nature, as an unceasing trend towards unity, integration, or synergy within the person)"(7). LaVey disagrees with this idea because of his theory that the common man at a point becomes comfortable and does not want to question or strive for self-actualization. He would also disagree because in his theories there is no mission, "Life is the great indulgence-death, the great abstinence. Therefore, make the most of life--HERE AND NOW!"(8).
Transcendence is thought to mean going beyond the ordinary within your self. It is thought to be the goal of mans' search for inner fulfillment. LaVey offers no clear and easy path to transcendence. There is no right way or wrong way to go about finding your path to physical, spiritual, or emotional transcendence. LaVeys' approach to it is to live ones' life to the fullest. This transcendence is a continuous process that only evolves when one keeps striving towards growth and recognizes that the quest for knowledge, aesthetic truth and the force of will is a hard path to follow. It involves a deep commitment to oneself and a desire to reach a center or balance within yourself that can bring about inner peace and contentment in relation to how one leads their life and in relation to ones' interactions with the world around them. LaVey states that "Adherence to the sensible and humanistic new morality of Satanism can-and will-evolve society in which our children can grow up healthy and without the devastating moral encumbrances of our existing sick society"(10). Maslow expresses his theory by stating that, "Transcendence refers to the very highest and inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than as means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature and to the cosmos"(9). It would appear that while Maslow and LaVey have different approaches as to how an individual succeeds in living their life to the fullest in regards to self-actualization, they do agree on the final path or steps as to how one may achieve personal transcendence.
In comparing and contrasting these theories of self-actualization and transcendence, I found them to be closer on many issues than previously expected. While the philosophy and theories of Satanism is considered outside the "norm" and a fringe element, it does have many valid points and ideas contained within it. By comparing and contrasting it, with a recognized theory of human development, I had hoped to show its' value and uses in an individuals development. Thus possibly resulting in the minimizing of prejudices against the actual basic philosophy theory of Satanism.
(1) A Review of Personality Theories by Victor Drapela, pg.139.
(2) The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey, pg.128.
(3) A Review of Personality Theories by Victor Drapela, pg.139.
(4) Beneath the Mask by Christopher Monte, pg.659.
(5) The Devil's Notebook by Anton Lavey, pg.30.
(6) The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey, pg.94.
(7) Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham Maslow, pg.25.
(8) The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey, pg.33.
(9) The Farther Reaches of Human Nature by Abraham Maslow, pg.279.
(10) The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey, pg.74.
The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey 1969
The Devil's Notebook by Anton LaVey 1992
Satan Speaks! by Anton LaVey 1998
Beneath The Mask by Christopher Monte 1995
Towards a Psychology of Being by Abraham Maslow 1968
The Farther Reaches of Human Nature by Abraham Maslow 1971
A Review of Personality Theories by Victor Drapela