What is Happiness? (Part 3)

Continuing with the thoughts of my previous post, we now witness the much-anticipated convergence of the conclusions arrived at by the intellectual “prose” of Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi, and Campbell.  The three academics, independent of one another, have reached identical conclusions regarding those who have reached the highest levels of human development.  Maslow’s theory presents the ultimate level of human development – self-actualization: fulfillment of a mission (or call or destiny), acceptance of one’s own nature, and a drive towards integration with others.  Campbell’s study of world myths presents the hero who successfully crosses the threshold back to the everyday world: one released of all personal ambitions, limitations, and fears.  Finally, Csikszentmihalyi’s research reveals the individual who has reached the final level of development: integration with other people and with universal values.

The ancient thinkers echo in their teachings the conclusions of the above three modern thinkers that, if our moral and intellectual development goes as it should, we will progress from valuing food and warmth, to valuing social relations, to valuing moral virtue.  We will require four virtues to reach the threshold of happiness: wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice.  But, as stated brilliantly by St. Aquinas, the final virtue of love of neighbor is necessary to pull us across the threshold into the realm of happiness.  It is at this moment of passage into happiness that the boon of the adventurer is delivered for the benefit of society.

Characterized by each of the three modern thinkers as the ultimate level of human development, and reflected in the teachings of the four ancient thinkers, happiness is: 1) fulfillment of one’s call or destiny and the subsequent acceptance of one’s nature and limitations, 2) freedom from personal ambitions (desires), fears, and limitations, and 3) integration with universal values and the promotion of the greater good of society.

More to come!

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