Spiritualizing the Intellect:

              A Field-Tested Baha’i Approach to Humanities Education


                                             by Ian Kluge 

Presented to Association of Baha’i Studies,

Toronto, Ontario, Canada,

August 29 to September 3, 2002





 Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”

                                                Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, CVI, 213





At a time when materialist values are on the rise and clever calculation is easily confused with thoughtfulness, it is essential that education spiritualize the intellect by educating a populace that is conscious of how values, philosophical choices, attitudes and spiritual beliefs are embodied in action as well as in great individual and collective cultural works. The age needs spiritualized intellects with greater awareness of and receptivity to the transcendent aspects and elements of human life than it needs intellects filled merely with facts and figures that do little or nothing to train thoughtful people. Education in the humanities, (history, social and cultural studies, literature) must, therefore, go beyond factual content and even beyond appreciation to improved understanding of underlying philosophical and spiritual premises. In this way the intellect become a positive agent in human evolution by expanding the range of our sympathy, empathy and understanding.


               In order to achieve this goal is necessary, especially for the Humanities curriculum, to cultivate what Abdu’l-Baha calls “spiritual susceptibilities” (PUP, 341), which, applied to the intellect, I take to mean a keen awareness and appreciation of the personal and collective importance of practical and spiritual values, choices, sympathy and empathy and the role of love and co-operation. By contrast, our history and social studies classes are built around political history, the history of power struggles, battles, treaties, legal decisions and such, all of which silently convey the message that what really matters in history and in life, are individual and collective power and rights and how to get them. In other words, our history and social studies classes tend to present a one-dimensional vision of human life. Though to a lesser degree, a similar problem pervades our literature classes: much more than is necessary we tend to focus on the technical aspects of literature to the corresponding neglect of precisely the human aspects of literature that make the subject important and worthwhile. Please do not mistake me for an advocate of ‘dumbing down’; rather I advocate a proper balance between the technical skills needed to read intelligently and an understanding of literature and history’s deeper spiritual aspects. If anything, I think we need to demand more from our students, especially in the latter area.


               However, there is no point in demanding more from people if we do not give them the tools to deliver the goods. Mere flogging, be it physical, emotional or intellectual has never been successful in inculcating “spiritual susceptibilities”! Rather, we must provide students the intellectual tools, that is, the concepts, viewpoints and questions by which to develop their “spiritual susceptibilities” in order to spiritualize their intellects. Once these have been provided and students have made the ‘paradigm shift’ away from an  obsessive – and to them often remote and/or irrelevant – pre-occupation with power-issues and the technicalities of literature, intellectual spiritualization and the development of “spiritual susceptibilities” will almost always continue to develop itself long after the classes are over. I make this statement on the basis of informal follow-up that I have conducted over the years with a wide-variety of students who have entered a wide variety of fields. This long-term effect occurs because, as we shall see, the ‘Needs Approach’ and the ‘Great Questions’ are directly and obviously relevant to all individuals and cultures. Indeed, they are inescapable and all I have really done is format and package into manageable pieces something that already existed by nature. 

For teachers, the strength of the ‘Needs Approach’ is that it does not require a new curriculum which would make it unpractical but rather that it is a way of approaching any Humanities curriculum; it is a way of presentation and studying the information that must be presented. It is, in effect, merely a new set of tools to do an old and necessary job. However, the results are dramatically different: students become more open-minded, tolerant, aware of and sensitive to issues related to choices, values and spirituality.


               The ‘Needs Approach’ is based on but not limited to Abraham Maslow’s concept of a “hierarchy of needs” (Motivation and Personality; Towards a Psychology of Being) and Viktor Frankl’s observation that in some way or another all human beings seek meaning in the various aspects of their lives (Man’s Search for Meaning). Maslow’s theory – which is really a explanatory vision of human behavior – is based on three principles: (1) All human actions, whether individual or collective, are motivated by the fulfillment of particular needs, that is, D-needs and/or B-needs; (2) These needs, and especially the D-needs, are arranged in a “hierarchy of needs” that must be fulfilled for a human being to achieve genuine well-being; (3) D-needs and B-needs are universal for all human beings at all times and all places though how they are fulfilled varies with time and circumstances. In other words, our D and B needs make all humankind beings the same and the way in which we fulfill them makes us all different! Here, is a practical and easily understood scientific basis for Baha’u’llah’s teaching of the essential “oneness of humanity” (PUP, 36) as well as “beauty and harmony in diversity” (Paris Talks, 51). This vision allows us to see how even our differences are rooted in underlying similarities.


               Frankl’s logotherapy is based on the premise that all human beings seek meaning in their lives, and that the failure to find a satisfactory meaning leads to various kinds and degrees of psycho-pathology. In other words, according to Frankl, human beings have a need for meaning, that is a need for attaining some kind of understanding of what they do and why. To some degree or another, this need makes itself felt in virtually all human activities with the possible exceptions of those at the bottom of Maslow’s list of physiological needs.    


                As a pedagogical method, the ‘Needs Approach’ view history, social studies, literature and even drama as the same subject: the study of human behaviors based on both factual and imaginary materials. In drama I employed this approach by teaching students to ‘act from the character’s need’. This required students to understand their character as a complex of D and B needs in many ways not fundamentally different than themselves; once this personal link was established, students found it much easier to enact the character because they had learned to feel and think like him/her. A similar scenario unfolded in history, social studies and literature: students found it easier to understand, empathize and sympathize with real and imaginary personages and, thereby learned to experience how we are “all the leaves of one tree and the drops of one ocean” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah, 27). For example, rather than seeing Buddhism as an exotic religion with some rather counter-intuitive teachings, they were able to appreciate it as a set of answers to questions they themselves were asking. In short, the ‘Needs Approach’ helped students make personal connections with the material and to see their connection to the responses. More importantly, it also provided students with the tools to reflect on their own needs and how they were or were not meeting them.


               Is there, one might ask, anything specifically Baha’i in this approach to Humanities education? I believe so. First of all, I think that the ‘Needs Approach’ is called for and validated by Baha’u’llah’s injunction to be “anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” (Gleanings, CVI, 213). This can be read in at least three ways.


First, and most obviously it tells us to find solutions to the needs of our times in our various areas of endeavor. In Humanities education, this leads us to question about what kind of education system best meets the “exigencies and requirements” (Ibid.) of the age. Surely, if we want to create a more spiritual world – spirituality being the essential key that will open the door to finding solutions to other pressing problems – then surely we must create the intellectual conditions that allow students to envision the world from a more unitary and spiritual perspective. We must help students become more aware of the important role of values, choices, consciously and unconsciously held philosophical and religious beliefs; we must educate them to see beyond mere historical materialism, i.e. to see that individual and collective actions are informed by more than material conditions and power relationships. While we cannot ignore these factors, we must do more to help students put them into proper perspective that adequately reflects the full reality of humankind  and not merely a narrow selection.


Moreover, our age needs the ‘Needs Approach’ because, more than any other, this approach allows us to focus on the essential one-ness of human nature, i.e. the universality of human needs, even while studying the differences and conflicts. We require an approach that allows students to see that the conflicts on which we focus so much in traditional Humanities education are merely surface phenomena, are the waves on a vast sea of universal human needs. The ‘Needs Approach’ helps students achieve this unity-centered vision. They will be intellectually prepared with factual knowledge and understanding, with the intellectual tools to recognize all humankind as “one soul” (Gleanings, CXXII, 260; CVII, 214). They will also, as already noted, be prepared to understand the importance of spirituality (transcendence) in the human quest for development. In other words, the ‘Needs Approach’ brings Humanities education into harmony with the essential Teachings of Baha’u’llah by laying the foundations for “another brotherhood, the spiritual, which is higher, holier and superior to all others. It is heavenly; it emanates from the breaths of the Holy Spirit and the effulgence of merciful attributes; it is founded upon spiritual susceptibilities” (Abdu'l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p.14). In other words, through the ‘Needs Approach’, we can continue the educational project already begun by Baha’u’llah: “Through spiritual education He led the people out of darkness and ignorance into the clear light of truth, illuminated their hearts with the splendor of knowledge, laid a true and universal basis for religious teachings, cultivated the virtues of humanity, conferred spiritual susceptibilities, awakened inner perceptions and changed the dishonor of prejudiced souls to the highest degree of honor and capacity” (Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, 341).

Second, I think the ‘Needs Approach’ is specifically Baha’i because it leads naturally to conclusions that are in harmony with aspects of the Writings that are specifically and uniquely identifiable as ‘Baha’i’. For example, the essential one-ness of religions is shown to be not just a matter of tolerance and sentiment, but a demonstrable scientific fact: religions share the same fundamental Teachings and, above all, spring from the same universal set of transcendent needs. The “Needs Approach’ shows that – at least intellectually – the Baha’i Faith a pivotal position because of its unique explicit recognition of religious unity, as well as the doctrine of progressive revelation which provides a coherent and inclusive religious history of the humanity.


               Finally, if we  apply Baha’u’llah’s injunction to be “concerned for the needs of the age [we] live in” (Gleanings, CVII, 213) to all ages, we find that, in effect, it is an injunction to analyze ages and humankind in terms of their needs. After all, do not the Manifestations arrive to meet the needs of the next stage of human development? Otherwise, how could Baha’u’llah claim to be “He from Whose lips have gone out counsels that can satisfy the needs of the whole of mankind, and admonitions that can profit them” (Gleanings, CXXXI, 286; italics added)? This understanding of Baha’u’llah’s injunction is also supported by the fact that the Writings are filled with references to needs and the necessity of fulfilling them. In other words, the very language of the Writings encourages us to vision humankind in terms of needs. Such a vision is further emphasized by the references to the correlative of meeting needs which is ‘service’ as well as by the images of the Manifestation as a physician (Gleanings, CVI, 213). By definition, a doctor is someone who meets the needs of others.


               It should also be mentioned that the ‘Needs Approach’ also has practical applications in daily life outside the classroom when applied to the ‘psychology of everyday life’. Learning to understand behaviors in terms of expressions of needs makes one more attuned to others and this inevitably enhances the quality of inter-personal relations. Indeed, the ‘Needs Approach’ give sight of new options in dealing with the wide variety of behaviors students encounter; it expands and develops the ‘circles’ of sympathy and empathy. 


               I will now provide the framework of this “choices and values” approach to the study of history and literature. (This version of Maslow’s needs hierarchy is based on William G Huitt.)


                                                       Transcendence / Spirituality




Aesthetic Needs


Knowledge and Understanding Needs


Esteem / Ego Identity  Needs


Belonging and Love Needs


                                     Safety Needs


Physiological needs


The expansion shown below is compiled from work by Abraham Maslow, Alfred Adler, Kazimierz Dabrowski, Norman Kune, Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, Clayton Alderfer, William G Huitt,  Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, Francis Maurice Bucke with some additions by the author of this paper.


1) Collective and /or Individual Physiological Survival Needs: “deprivation” needs, that is, things needed for bare  physical survival,


-        air / clean air

-        water / clean water

-        sufficient and proper food

-        adequate shelter

-        heat

-        fairly constant body temperature

-        reproductive success       


2) Safety /Security Needs


-        adequate defense against (a) natural disasters; (b) non-humankind predators; (c)          

humankind predators

-        freedom from fear

-        stability and order; rules and regularities in personal and collective life


3) Belonging and Love Needs (friends, family spouse, personal network)


-        the ability to get and give love, acceptance (basic trust, cf. Erik Erikson)

-        family network (group membership)

-        an adequate extended social network (group membership; community)

-        sense of loyalty

-        satisfactory personal relationships esp. in regards to love, sex and marriage

-        justice and fairness in personal and collective relations

-        play

-        feels and displays adequate social interest (cf Alfred Adler)

-        need for as behavior / moral code


4) Ego or Esteem Needs (achievement, mastery, recognition, respect)


-        able to get and receive respect

-        adequate sense of identity and knowing who one is

-        able to display and experience competency (power, cf. Alfred Adler)

-        appropriate and adequate work

-        ability to experience a feeling of value, worth, self-confidence; a sense of person ‘rightness’

-        sense of self-sufficiency and autonomy


5) Knowledge and Understanding Needs


-        basic rationality i.e. the ability to understand and/or devise reasons for personal and collective actions

-        knowledge adequate to social functioning and personal satisfaction

-        need for an adequate ‘map of the world’; able to understand / explain the natural and human environment to personal needs and satisfaction;         answers to the ‘Great Questions’. 

               -      knowing the truth about things and/or people; wonder and curiosity

               -     contributing knowledge


6) Aesthetic Needs


-        need to find and the ability to experience find beauty, elegance, symmetry,

   disinterested, non-utilitarian satisfaction in nature or products of human imagination

-        ability to find inner balance, peace, serenity

-        self-expressive needs


7) Self-Actualization Needs


-        necessity to develop and externalize one’s unique inner resources

-        need to feel at one with ourselves; need to feel ‘as one’



8) Transcendence or “Peak Experiences” Needs


-        the ability to experience “highs”, “flow experience” (Csikzentmihalyi), ego-boundary  breaking;

-        boundary breaking at the personal and/or collective, cultural level

-        sudden moments of growth, creativity, insight, understanding

-        a sense of completion

-        feeling of connection with something larger, greater than self, “cosmic consciousness”



According to Maslow – and there is some dispute about this – the higher needs cannot be fulfilled unless the lower needs have been met in a satisfactory manner. Frankl, for example, suggests that the need for meaning is so powerful that unless this need is met, human beings have difficulty in activating the will to meet even their physiological needs; if they see no purpose in living, they may well see no purpose in meeting their basic physiological needs. However, in my view, there is no real contradiction here: while a sense of meaning may well be necessary to activate and sustain the will to live – and here I think Frankl carries the day –  it is nonetheless true that this will to live must first concern itself with meeting the basic physiological needs as Maslow suggests. Both are right. Even an undeveloped sense of meaning, i.e. a sense that for some (perhaps unknown) reason one’s life is worthwhile and worth preserving is necessary to motivate the will but this activated will must be directed at the right kind of activities.   


               Two other facts must be added to this ‘Needs Approach’ to studying the Humanities. First, it must be noted that at above the basic physiological and security needs, human beings often can choose to satisfy these needs inwardly or outwardly, i.e. in an extroverted or introverted manner. For example, a person denied love and/or respect by others may compensate for this lack by becoming religious and attaining the missing emotions through the conviction of divine love.  “Jesus loves me” – even though nobody else does. Such a person could, of course also seek a false substitute for respect by engaging in destructive or even criminal behavior and thereby earning fear, exasperation, outrage or despair. This choice between the introverted or extroverted path of need fulfillment must always be kept in mind, as must the distinction between genuine and substitute or ersatz fulfillment of needs. For example, “getting high”, achieving “peak experiences” and breaking through ego-boundaries at least for a while is a universally observed human need, but whether this is moist commonly done by seeking hyper-adrenaline rushes, drug-induced ecstasies, criminal escapades or contemplative practices such as meditation and prayer will depend on a variety of personal and collective factors.


The same applies to all cultures and civilizations, which, like all humankind beings, act to fulfill their needs and/or perceived needs in each of these areas. Some cultures or historical periods such as the Renaissance tend to promote extrovert responses while others, such as the Middle Ages, tend to promote introvert responses. Furthermore – and I realize that this is a radical suggestion – some cultures show strong tendencies to destructive and or false ways to fulfilling their needs. However, we cannot escape the conclusion that some cultures and/or historical periods, no less than individuals can pursue toxic, regressive, non-creative or even destructive and self-destructive responses to their needs. That, after all, is why God sends Manifestations; the Divine knows that individually and collectively humans have a strong tendency to go astray and are in need of effective guidance. 


As we study how individuals and cultures fulfill their needs, we will find that in each case trade-offs and compromises are made among these areas to develop a unique mixture of choices and values.


We should also note that most if not all of these needs are operative at all times in an individual or community but not always to the same degree. This is especially true once have gone beyond the basic physiological and security needs and begun


               In the ‘Needs Approach’, whether we deal with cultures and civilizations or real or fictional individuals, we study how they met these various needs. This leads naturally to a set of ‘core questions’ that can be applied to any individual, or to any society or culture in any situation.


1)      What is X’s primary problem at this time? To which need is this problem mostclosely related?

2)      What other problems does X have? To which needs are these problems most closely  related?

3)      Are these problems X’s responsibility? Entirely? Partly? Who or what else is alsoresponsible?

4)      Does X try to solve these problems externally? Internally? Both?

5)      Does X solve the problem (meet the need?) If so, how? If not, what internal or external factors  prevented X from doing so? Did X seek real or         substitute solutions?

6)      Were the responses adequate or did the problem recur? Why or why not?

7)      What disadvantages did these responses bring, i.e. was the solution negative and/or self-destructive in any way?

8)      How did X cope with these disadvantages?

9)      Why did X choose these ways of responding?

10)     Was X satisfied with the responses? Why?

11)     Are there conflicts or potential conflicts among the responses to these needs?

12)     Could X have met the needs differently? 


It is plainly evident that with these questions, we have already surpassed the mere ingestion of facts and have begun working with them at a level that precludes superficial answers. The approach encourages the spiritualization of the intellect insofar as it encourage asking questions about and evaluating choices and values both from our point of view and from the respondent’s.


               To help students examine what Maslow calls the higher “B-needs” in greater depth, I developed what I call the “Great Questions”, which every person as well as every civilization answers in its own way. Their answers are expressed in visual arts, myths, and legends, literature, music, architecture, religious beliefs, philosophies, social structures and laws, education and even the sciences they develop. Some of the answers to these B-needs overlap with specific branches of philosophy.   Please note that the questions are inter-related and that answers will sometimes overlap and that the questions can be adapted to various age levels.


I ) METAPHYSICS: [See Knowledge and Understanding Needs; Transcendence Needs]  concerns the ultimate nature of the universe

                                and reality and how they work.


1) How did the universe come into existence and what is its ultimate fate, if any?

               a) -did it come into being by the Big Bang? Divine Creation? Has it always existed?

               b) - is matter, the physical, material world,  all there is?

               c) - are there non-material planes or realms?

               d) - what are the basic laws of this universe? Are there any basic laws?

               e) - is there such thing as spirit?

               f) - are there other ‘dimensions’ higher than our 4-D world?


2) Ontology: what is the nature of things?             

   a) - do we discover reality? Do we construct it? Both?

   b) - is reality ‘real’ or is it some kind of illusion or (maya)?

   c) - is change real or an illusion?

   d) - do things have an essence ( set of traits they need to be what they are)? Do we

               discover these essences or do we construct them?

   e) - can ‘essences’ change? Can you change your ‘essence’ as a human being?

   f ) - what is ‘change’? What do we mean when we say something ‘changes’?

   g) - does everything change? Can we step into the same river twice?

               h) - what is time? Is it real? Does it flow like a river? Is it a circle or a spreading ripple?


II)Religion and Spirituality [Transcendence / Spirituality Needs]


1)  Are there superior beings, gods, God, goddesses, angels, demons, spirits and/or ghosts who

guide, control and/or dictate or influence the way the universe works and our actions.

               a) - how much power do they have?

               b) - are they good, evil, neutral? Some of each?

               c) - what role do they play in humankind history?

               d) - can they be trusted?

               e) - can we really get to know these beings?

               f) -  are there people with special gifts for being in communication with the superior beings?

               g) - are their techniques (rituals, prayer, meditation) by which we can communicate with the superior beings?


3) Is there such a thing as life after death in another realm or plane?

a) - what, if any, is their image of life after death?

b) - who or what decides what happens to people after death ?

c) - do we re-incarnate? always as humans?

             d) -  is there further spiritual growth/evolution/development after death?

e) - is there a heaven or hell? Are they in some place or are they something different like a state of mind?


III ) EPISTEMOLOGY: [Knowledge and Understanding Needs] What is truth and how can we discover it? 

   a) -there such a thing as (absolute) truth? can humans know it?

   b) -are there different kinds of truth, e.g. artistic truth, religious truth, scientific truth?

   c) - can we rely on the senses to give us absolutely true knowledge?

               d) - can we rely on reason to give us absolutely true knowledge?

               e) - do some people have special talents, gifts for finding certain kinds of truth?

               f) - does divine revelation (if it exists) give us truth?

               g) -does intuition give us truth?

               h) - is all truth a matter of opinion?

               i) - what kinds of evidence do we regard as legitimate?

               j) - can dreams tells us truths?

               k) - can emotions and feelings tell us truth?

               l) - does a culture limit us in what truths and what kinds of truths we are allowed to know?

               m) - what defines your own circle of truth* ?                    

               m) - can animals or machines think?

               n) - what is meant by 'thinking'? Is being logical the same as ‘thinking’?


* ‘The circle of truth’: the boundary of the kind of evidence a belief system or person will accept. For example, even if Einstein bore personal witness to the existence of angels, many would reject his claim because the evidence was not (a) material; (b) mathematical; (c) duplicable; (d) falsifiable. Einsteins’ past record as a scientist and his personal credibility is outside the ‘circle of truth’ drawn by modern science. 


IV ) ETHICS: [Belonging and Love Needs] the study of what is right or wrong and why?

1) What do we mean by good or bad? Evil?

   a)- what makes things good or bad?

   b)- how do we decide if something is good or bad? Who decides? Individuals? Society?

God? Gods?  Nature? Our individual or collective preferences?

   c) - do people have a natural, innate knowledge of basic morals?

               d) - are there universal morals or standards of moral conduct?

               e) - is all morality simply opinion?

               f) - are there moral absolutes that must never be violated?

               g) - why do bad things happen to good people?

               h) - can what is good or bad change from situation to situation, or person

                              to person?

               i) - does such a thing as the devil (Mara, Satan, etc ) exist? Or is s/he just a symbol?

               j) - why do people do evil?

               k) - can non-human things be evil? Or are they only ‘bad’?


2) Are all bad things evil? E.g.. is an earth quake or a disease evil?             

   a) - can only people be evil? Can animals be evil?

               b) - is evil just a matter of opinion?

               c) - is there an embodiment of evil like Satan or Mara?

               d) - are people evil or only their actions? e.g. Stalin, Mao, Hitler?

               e) - can evil lead to good?

               f) - can good lead to evil?


3) What is the moral code by which to live in harmony with these superior beings?

   a)- what is allowed? Forbidden? Why?

   b) - what duties are required to live a good life?


4) What is the "good life"? How do re recognize a life worth living?             

         a) - what makes a life ‘worth living’? 

         b) - what is happiness?

   c) - is there such a thing as one kind of happiness for all?

               d) - is physical comfort the same as happiness?

               e) - do we have a right to happiness?

               f) - is happiness a goal or a by-product of the way we live?

               g) - can all humans ever be happy? Can we be happy all the time? Should we be?

               i) - is there value in sadness, dissatisfaction, fear, grief, disgust, hatred?

               j) - how important is thoughtfulness to being happy?

               k) - can we be happy alone? do we need others to be truly happy?

               l) - can we be happy making others miserable?

               m) - do people knowingly and intentionally do evil or do they confuse evil with good?


5) What are the greatest humankind virtues? What are the worst vices?

    Try to put them in order of priority. Feel free to add your own.


               gentleness             courage                 modesty                  good will                 self-sacrifice

               temperance           tolerance                justice                     liberality                  sincerity                                      

               curiosity                 friendliness            enlightened             self-interest             love

               wisdom                  truthfulness            loyalty                     open-mindedness   respect

               knowledge             helpfulness            sympathy                 purity of heart         honor

               honesty                  hopefulness           creativity                 empathy                  beauty


V) PHILOSOPHY OF LAW: [Collective Survival Needs; Security Needs; Belonging and Love Needs]

                                            deals with issues of justice, fairness and how society enforces these notions.


1) What is justice? Fairness?        

   a) - is treating all alike  or same just?

               b) - is justice 'appropriateness'? How do we decide what is appropriate? 

               c) - are law and justice the same? If not, how do they differ?

               d) - should law always be just or is it enough sometimes for law to be practical

                      and useful to achieving our social goals?

               e) - what is the purpose of law?


2)      Should the emphasis in law be on prevention, punishment or rehabilitation? Why? 

               a) - is it legitimate for the state to take life?

   b) - in case of an irresolvable conflict, whose rights take priority, the individual’s or the



VI) PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION: [ Collective Survival Needs] deals with why and how knowledge 

      should be passed on to  the next generation in order to keep a society alive.


1)      What is the primary purpose to education?  Job training? Thoughtful people? Good citizens?

Independent individuals? Faithful believers? Spiritual people?

               a)- how will this goal be achieved? What kind of a curriculum? What  subjects?

               b) - why those subjects? What benefits do you expect from each subject?

               c) - who should or should not be educated?

               d) - who should control education? The individual? Parents? Society? Teachers?

                      A combination of these? Who decides what will be learned?

               e) - should schools teach morals?

               f) - should all opinions be welcome in a school?

               g) - should there be tests? Failing? Passing?

               h) - should all get the same education? Streaming or division into ability groups?

               i) -  should universities and colleges be for the elite?



VII ) THE PHILOSOPHY OF POLITICS: [Collective and Individual Need for Order] deals with questions relating

                                                                to the organization and rule of society. 

                                                                The need for government is obvious to and accepted by all societies.


1) Who should lead? What qualities do we need in leaders?  

   a) - how shall we choose leaders? Election? By whom? On the basis of age and

                      experience? Heredity? Tests? Morals?

               b) - should all be eligible for leadership? 

               c) - what makes a government legitimate? Illegitimate?

               d) - who should follow? What are the qualities of a good follower?

   e) - what kind of governmental organization do we want or will serve us best?

                      Democracy? Dictatorship? Monarchy? Oligarchy? Plutocracy? Benevolent despotism?          

               f) - what are the advantages and disadvantages of the kind of government we have chosen?

                      Its weaknesses? Its strength?

               g) - how should society protect itself?

               h) - how can we balance the powers of government with other powers in a society?                

               i) - how much power should government have?

               j) – how much power should government have to regulate individuals? Economic life? 

               k) - how much should government do for people?

               l) - how do we change governments (if we do)?


VIII) SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY: [Belonging / Social Order Needs] deals with questions about how a society as distinct

                                               from government should be organized.


1)      How shall we deal with the seemingly natural humankind distinctions in intelligence, talent, will power, character, charm, appearance? 

   a)- shall we 'equalize' all these things or let them develop as they will? shall we legislate  equality?               

         How much?

   b)- in what ways are  or should all people be equal? Legally? Socially? Economically?    

                     Spiritually? Politically? Artistically?

               d) - is elitism an inevitable part of all societies?

               e) - do social classes and roles reflect natural differences among humans,

                      or are such classes imposed upon us by those in power?


2) How should  wealth be distributed?

               a) - should all people be roughly equal in wealth, status and power?

               b) - how could such equality be achieved?

               c) - should there be upper and/or lower limits on how much people can earn?

               d) - how can we justify economic differences among people?

               e) - why are some people (and nations) poor and others well off?

               f) - does wealth equate with intelligence? Talent? Fitness? Social usefulness?


3)      What should be the individual's relationship to society? Whose needs come first in event of a conflict?         


4)   What are the causes of personal and social conflict? How do D and B needs explain them and

          help us find solutions? 


5)   How many kinds of freedom are there? Economic? Personal? Intellectual? Political?

                a)- can there be too much freedom for individuals? When? For whom? 

                     Who decides? Are there reasonable limits to freedom?

                b) - who should regulate freedoms? Individuals? Society? Religion?




deals with the arts, the pursuit of beauty and the cultivation of thought and feeling.


1)      Why do all societies spend so much time, energy, attention and wealth on art and the arts?

           What benefits do individuals and society receive from the arts?


               a) - what humankind needs do the arts fulfill?

               b) - how the arts help our mental, emotional and social development?

               c) - is the artistic expression  fundamental need to one extent or another in all people?

               d) - what is beauty?

               e) - are there universal standards of beauty?

               f) - is beauty only a matter of opinion or is there such a thing as objective


               g) - why do beautiful objects of whatever kind makes us feel good?

               h) - can works of art makes us do bad or evil things?

               i) - what are the specific roles of poetry? stories? music? art? architecture?

                              decoration? what do they do for us?


X) PHILOSOPHY OF LOVE [belonging and love needs]; deals with questions about the nature and

                                             kinds of love, the role of love in our lives,


1)      How many kinds of love are there? (The ancient Greeks suggest four loves (eros – or

romantic, erotic love;  storge love – or nurturing love; philos – or friendship love given in reciprocity;

and agape – spiritual selfless love or love of God.)


2)      Can you think of other kinds of love? What about “patriotism” or love for one’s country or

group? Or love for an idea or belief? Or “aesthetic” love for a work of art or beautiful object? The adulation given a pop idol or a great leader, thinker, writer?


3)      Is there such a thing as loving too much? (Think of obsessions.) Does the object of love



4)      Can love lead to suffering? Can we suffer from love? Were the Greeks right in giving

Eros a sharp arrow?


5)      Are there inappropriate forms of love?


6)      Are there things or even people who should not be loved? Should we love such

               criminals as Hitler or Stalin?

7)      Is love truly all you really need? Does loving and/or being loved make life worthwhile?


8)    Is love the only basis for marriage? (Remember other cultures!)


8)      What makes two people ‘fall’ in love? Is it ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ or ‘Opposites

          attract’ or a bit of both? Is it possible to ‘fall’ in love with someone who brings out the

          worst in you or is ‘bad’ for you?


XI) PHILOSOPHY OF MAN (Philosophical Anthropology) : [Knowledge and Understanding Needs] deals with questions relating

                                                                                                   to humankind nature, psychology, attitudes, family life, and history.


1) How much of humankind nature is natural, in-born, hereditary or genetic (and therefore unchangeable in any significant way)

    and how much is cultural and educational (and therefore changeable)? Consider this question in regard to:

               a) - sex and gender differences; gender roles

               b) - physical attributes like strength, endurance etc.

               c) - aggressiveness

               d) - kindness and compassion

               e) - competitiveness

               f) - acquisitiveness and sharing

               g) - intelligence

               h) - ambition and perseverance


2) What is the nature of sex and gender?

               a) - are men and women fundamentally different? The same? Half and half?

               b) - are these differences innate or encultured? To what extent?

               c) - how shall gender roles be decided? should there be gender roles?

               d) - how are male and female brains different in structure and function?

               e) - to what extent does biology affect male and female nature?

               f) - can male and female nature be significantly changed?

               g) - are some activities more male or female than others? How do we know?


3) Do humankind beings have free will? If so, how much?

               a) - do all have the same amount of free will?

               b) - can people over-ride their cultural, personal and genetic heritage?

               c) - is there fate? Are we pre-destined? By society? Genes? Powerful institutions? 


4) Why are humans so religious? 

               a) - what benefits does religion provide?

   b)- why so many 'ridiculous' beliefs last for so long?

   c)- are there things that all religions have in common?

   d) - what are the personal costs of having religious commitments?


5) What is our society's and our own personal life-image?

    The life-image’ is an individual’s image of what life is all about. This image helps explain their actions. For example

   a) - The Medievals thought life was a pilgrimage from earth to heaven; they were pilgrims.

   b) -  Renaissance people often thought life was a journey of exploration; they were explorers.

   c) -  Today many people think of life as a tour; we are tourists.

   d) -  Many Romantics thought life was a period of exile; they were exiles.


6) Do our individual lives have a purpose?

               a) - are  all people here for a 'mission' of some sort? Are we all here for a reason?

               b) - do individuals have greater purposes than the pursuit of personal advantage?                        

   c) - what do we mean by a ‘wasted life’? Is there such a thing?


7) What is more important to us, the outer world of 'real', 'practical' things or the inner world of dreams, feelings,

     ideas and imaginations? Which is primary: internal or external motivation?


8) What is freedom and how much do we need?

              a) - are there different kinds of freedom?

  b) - how do we balance ‘freedom for’ something with ‘freedom from’ something?

              c) - is freedom the highest value?


9) Why is there war?

  a)- how do wars actually get started? What are the main causes of war?

        Consider individual and collective D and B needs, i.e. the role of scarcity and subsistence. 

  b) - would a society ruled by women have wars?

              c) - why have we never discovered a truly peaceful society?

              d) - is all war evil? can there be a 'just' war?

  e)- is war a legitimate way to pursue national or personal goals? Never? Sometimes? 


10) How should families be organized? 

   a)- what is a family? People who are genetically linked? Friends? People who care about each other?

               b) - are all forms of family equal? Are all equally successful now or in our evolutionary past?

               c) - what are 'family values'?

               d) - what is the proper relationship between husband and wife? Parents and children? Siblings? Extended family?

   e)- how far out does the family spread  in time and space? Would you include ancestors, descendents and remote cousins?


11) What shall we do about sex and love?

               a) - are sex and love too important to be allowed absolutely free reign?

               b) - how should they be regulated? By whom?

               c) - how many kinds of love are there?                            

               d) - is all love good? Are there bad forms of love?

               e) - are there limits to love?

   f) - why do all societies have marriage?

               g) - what is the ‘proper form’ for marriage?

               h) - why do some societies practice polygamy and (rare) polyandry?

               i) - how sacrosanct should marriage be?

               j) - is personal love the only possible basis for marriage? The best?


12) What is humankind’s place in the natural world?

               a) - is there a dividing line that separates  humankind from the rest of nature?

               b) - is humankind just another animal?

               c) - what is and should be our relationship to the non-human natural world?

               d) - how does humankind differ from animals, if it does?

               e) - is humankind superior to nature in some way? Inferior? Equal?



13) Has the human race made progress? Stayed the same? Showed a decline in: 

               a) - individual morality?

               b) - social or collective morality?

               c) - economics?

               d) - the arts?

               e) - science and technology?

               f) - human rights?

               g) - forms of government ?

               h) - education?

                  i)  - tolerance?


Applications of the Needs Method: Some Suggestions


Literature (grades 8-12)


Novels and Plays


1)      The Pigman by Paul Zindel (Grade 7, 8, 9) : Belonging and Love needs; self-esteem / identity

needs; Great Questions relating to love, sex, gender, family . . .


2)      Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Grades 10,11,12): Belonging and Love needs; self-esteem / identity needs; knowledge and understanding needs; Great Questions relating to law, politics, community . . .


3)      Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Grades 10, 11,12) : Physiological needs; safety needs; belonging and love needs; transcendence needs; Great Questions relating to law, politics, power; war; religion and spirituality . . .


4)      1984 by George Orwell (Grades 11,12) : Safety needs; belonging and love needs; knowledge and understanding needs; aesthetic needs; Great Questions relating to law,

politics, power; war; aesthetics and self-expression; purpose . . .


5)      Hamlet by William Shakespeare (grade 12) : Knowledge and understanding needs; self-actualization; Great Questions about religion and spirituality; meaning and purpose; power; law; internal and external motivation / life . . . 


6)      Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Grades 9, 10): Belonging and love needs; knowledge and understanding needs; Great Questions about love, sex, gender; family; war and conflict; free will . . .


7)      Saint Joan by Bernard Shaw (Grades 11,12) : self-actualization needs; transcendence needs; Great Questions on religion and spirituality; war; social philosophy . . .


8)      Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (Grades 11,12) : Esteem / identity needs; knowledge

and understanding needs; Great Questions about social philosophy; purpose; free will . . .


9)      Shane by Jack Schaefer(Grades 7,8,9) : Belonging and love needs; esteem / identity needs;

Great Questions  about war and conflict  . . .


10)   All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (Grades 11,12): safety needs;

esteem / identity needs; aesthetic needs; Great Questions about war and conflict; power; love and sex; ethics . . .


11) Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaardner (Grades 11, 12): transcendence / spirituality needs; self-

          actualization, aesthetic needs; knowledge and understanding needs; ego identity needs . . . 


11)   Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare :Grades 10,11): esteem / ego Identity  needs; belonging

and love needs; Safety needs; Great Questions about power, ambition, morality,

loyalty, the nature of rulers, and the state . . .


12)   The Pearl by John Steinbeck(Grades 7, 8, 9) : esteem / ego identity needs; belonging and love

needs; safety needs; Great Questions about ethics (good and evil), fate and free will, community relations . . .


13) The Red Pony by John Steinbeck (Grades 7,8,9): belonging and love needs; Great Questions

about the philosophy of love . . .


14) Who Has Seen the Wind by W.O. Mitchell (Grades 9, 10,11): belonging and love needs;

knowledge and understanding needs; Great Questions about philosophy of love, religion and spirituality and metaphysics . . .


15) Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Grades 7, 8, 9,10): belonging and love needs; identity needs; 

                          Great Questions about ethics; philosophy of man . . .


SOCIAL STUDIES / HISTORY (from Comparative Civilizations 12)


Unit: The Fall of Rome to the End of the Middle Ages


1)      We study how the Roman Empire fell because it was no longer able to meet the needs of the people within the Empire itself.


2)      We study the ‘Dark Ages’ from the point of view of the struggles to meet the needs of the

European peoples and what worked and/or didn’t and why.


3)      We study the Middle Ages from the time of Charlemagne to the Renaissance (app. 1400)

and how the civilization of the Middle Ages lasted so long because it (a) successfully met the

needs and (b) provided clear and comprehensible responses to the Great Questions.


For example: How did the universe come into existence and what is its ultimate fate, if any?


ANSWER: The universe came into existence by a divine act of creation as described in Genesis. This divine act created matter from nothing (ex nihilo), then shaped the rest of the universe and world from the material thus created.


For example: Should all people be eligible for leadership?                            


ANSWER: The leader (usually but not always a king)  should/must  have (a) the right heredity; (b)  an adequate military and economic power base; (c) the agreement of the Church; (d) a power base of support from at least some powerful nobles.                                                 

4)      As we move into the Renaissance, we study how the answers to the Great Questions

       changed. For example, the answer to ‘What is the prevalent’ life-image changed from

       ‘a pilgrimage from earth to heaven’ to ‘a journey of exploration’. We then explore how this

       affected attitudes towards nature, the human body, the arts and so on.


5)      There is an on-going assignment throughout Comparative Civilizations 12: develop your

answers to the Great Questions. The assignment is marked strictly on the basis of completion and depth of explanation. Students can pick and choose their answers with references to the various civilizations studied. Thus, students discover what they have in common with other civilizations and times; some, for example, find their outlooks have strong Chinese or Muslim Arabic elements while others find a strong affinity for the European medieval period, Enlightenment or Romanticism. The philosophy of man assignment thus combines academics with self-discovery and a growth of appreciation for spiritual values. 


The results of this assignment have been extremely gratifying to say the least. With rare exceptions, students find the assignment ‘addictive’ and the clear majority of the work done is truly excellent. This is one assignment they all want back at the end of the term. The average paper is 25 printed pages in length though some have gone over 100 pages!


The key thing to remember about this assignment is that it can be adapted to a wide range of age levels, from the intermediate grades (7 and 8) to the high school and university level. (Though I have no experience at the primary and elementary levels, I believe that some of these issues can be and are dealt with there albeit it in simplified form.) 




































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