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The Rainbow: Inverting the Maslow Pyramid

Updated on July 19, 2015
Quirinus profile image

"Every artist dips his brush into his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures." - Henry Ward Beecher, 1813-87, Writer/Reformer


Ten years ago, we had a discussion about Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs during one of our post graduate education courses.

Maslow’s hierarchy implied, at least to me, that only after meeting one’s material needs can man attend to pursuing his true passion.

I had then asked does it follow that when one is poor, one cannot be self-actualized? The teacher, for some reason, did not seem to want to go against the expert’s opinion, so had a non-committal shrug for an answer.

“Impossible” is overused, as per a statement shirt I just recently saw. This is the same principle that Stephen Covey is trying to teach us, beseeching us to explore, when speaking about shifting paradigms. Our old belief systems rooted in the scarcity paradigm no longer work, especially not in this fast-paced, ever-changing world where we are constantly bombarded with an overload of information from all sides. “Material resources are limited”. “Time is limited”.

True it seems but then … Think again. A statement is true only if it applies “always”, on all instances.


The vision of a rainbow came to me, during a silent sitting meditation.*

The hypothetical meaning, as given by is:

“… a bridge between your earthly grounded self and the higher spiritual self …”

Our intuition sends us messages all the time. It’s just a matter of personal context when it comes to interpreting how the meaning applies to one’s current life situation.

What I took the message of the rainbow to be is a metaphor for my daily going-about routine and tasks involved in being an employee representing my “earthly grounded self” while my early morning sittings and writing, my “higher spiritual self.”

Whenever I clicked the button on the web app we were using at work, to start the next task, I made sure to silently sing the word “rainbow” as recalled from a kiddie chocolate ads jingle. For whatever reason.

Several days and sittings later, I get a deeper perspective for the rainbow metaphor. It is all about mankind’s belief---e.g. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Having accepted Maslow as an established social scientist who has based his hypotheses on a statistical study, we have come to assume that it is true, worst of all, for including ourselves.

It has been mentioned that the more we dwell on what we see, the more of what you see (e.g. bills and bills to pay), the more of what we see is what we WILL get. So if we dwell on the negative things around us, the more of these will materialize in our experience. The reverse is true:

The more we dwell on gratitude for the blessings we have received, the more blessings WILL come our way.

(We can replace the word “dwell” with a more powerful one if you are willing to stretch your imagination: “visualization”, which has been mentioned in an entirely separate hub: “The Power of Feeling Good Now”)

The rainbow has turned from one with only a personal significance to one questioning mankind’s necessity for believing in Maslow’s theory. Yes, that could be accepted as statistics and true in the past. But the past isn’t anything we can change, why bother with it except for using the discernment developed from past lessons in navigating through the NOW?

Everything that is currently perceivable by our five senses was merely an idea in the past. It is in the NOW that tangible things in the future are created. Using our will to choose positive imagery in the NOW, we are creating the future now. And we can create the future that we desire or something approximate to or better than that picture.

Many visionaries ahead of us and amongst us have spoken of this truth. It has been coined as “visualization” as a layman’s term, or positive imagination, in my own words. … And worry as negative imagination/visualization. What did the visionaries know or believe that made them different from us ordinary mortals?

Inspiration is one word I can think of. What can prevent us from being inspired or believing in our selves?

“To know the unlimited, be free of the limited.”

– Tao Te Ching by Ray Grigg

We need to watch out what seeds are planted in our mind by mass media, politicians, consumerism, etc. We need to question why they are planting these seeds. We need to understand why they can succeed. We need to know how to rise from it, if we find ourselves unwitting victims of this mass “hypnotism”.

We were made to think that we can be happy only if we acquire prized (”the limited”) possessions or accomplishments that they tout around as epitome of success … only if we had this and that, in the future sense always. Never in the now. But others know---others who have gone before us in the past and others in our generation:

In the now, there’s much we can do and that includes being happy with things just as they are---the Universe’s gift of a moment. The bridge that is the rainbow?

As a spiritually-oriented person, I prefer the paradigm that God loves me without limits, much like he loves everybody else. And that I am nurtured by His loving Universe. It makes me feel secure to think and believe that way. It makes things happen.

“Know the what, without asking the how, of what you need.

God takes care of the how. That is His job.”

“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.“ (Matthew 6:8) I have seen wondrous things happen and it makes me humbled before the magnitude of His love and power, the Universe’s generosity. Everything that we need arrives at the exact time that we need it. But it can sometimes be frustrating to realize that what we want isn’t really what we need.

It comes as a blessing to arrive at an AHA moment when you finally realize a want was really not your heart’s but your ego self’s or somebody else’s desire after all. Maybe from a script that society is playing to run the individual’s life according to what society should be. Who said society should run our lives for us?

This is not to discredit the value of implementing rules to make for an orderly community, but merely to point to the direction of the true source of wisdom. It is within reach. It is within.

Ho hum. Telling what our real needs may be a matter of being in tune with our body. Is it hungry? Perhaps it is meal time. Is it sleepy? Bed time perhaps? But a lot of people have lost touch, running after proverbial success.

It’s time to touch ground and not be slave to an illusion that we need to be running after time, just like everybody else; that we need to be busy just like everybody else. We are not everybody. We need to use the intellect of our heart, our soul to tell us what really matters.

Instead of rushing with the crowd, maybe allow for an additional five minutes for travel time, for use with greeting the neighbor a friendly hello or allowing a stranger ahead of you on the counter queue.

There are many ways we can show a more humane face to the mass of strangers we meet every day, face to face with humanity, by merely adding five minutes to a hectic schedule.

There’s so much that one can do waiting on a stop light merely by counting one’s blessings. There are blessings too many to count if we realize we have a lot of things so many people do not have. We need to count these blessings instead of comparing ourselves with others for the things that they have that we wish we also had. This is the opposite end of the spectrum (abundance vs scarcity paradigm) mentioned earlier. The more we dwell on not-having-enough, the more of not-having-enough will materialize in our experience.

A lot of things are lost with man’s preoccupation with rushing. Sitting in the bus, the mind is busy rushing through the next task that needs to be done, unaware of the moment that is now or what is happening in the immediate surroundings. We forget to say thank you to the lady who moved to make more space for us to sit. Rushing from the bedroom to the bathroom sink, the mind is busy rushing through the task at the office, unaware of the mongrel wagging its tail to greet the master good morning.

There are so many blessings we fail to notice. No wonder we don’t feel blessed. We are, but we don’t take the time to acknowledge and appreciate the gifts that the Universe has gifted along with the moment. All it takes is a moment of our attention.

They say, to see is to believe.

Some say, to believe is to see. I’d second to that:

To believe and BE in the NOW is to see. Believing, being in the now gives birth to seeing.

The NOW is the rainbow, the bridge between our earthly grounded self and our higher spiritual self.


Originally, I had wanted to google up the Maslow pyramid and turn the image upside down, looking at it to obtain a structure or outline for this hub. My internet service being down at that time had caused for me to write the musings above instead. Now, with the connection back, we can take a look at the inverted pyramid:


- (

At the bottom of the original pyramid is the physiological need (e.g., food, clothing and shelter). This need has to be fulfilled first before the others can follow. The needs are listed below, in the required order according to Maslow:

  1. Physiological
  2. Safety
  3. Love/Belonging
  4. Esteem
  5. Self-actualization

It tells us that we can only pursue self-actualization if we have passed all levels 1 through 4.

There is not much that this hub is contending except that we need to start with self-actualization before all the other needs automatically materialize.

Preposterous perhaps but there is nothing new about this idea. From the biblical point of view, everyone is familiar with verses:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL (Step 1) LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38"This is the great and foremost commandment. ("The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL (Step 2) LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' ) …” (Matthew 22:37-8)

From a spiritual perspective, based on the context of my perception or experiences, I am then taking the following analogy, the inverted pyramid:

Biblical vs Maslow

  1. Seek/love God vs Maslow's need no. 5, Self-actualization, e.g pursuit of one's true passion
  2. self/others/material needs vs Maslow needs nos. 1-4

Such simplicity in the Master’s two-step program. In this “new” paradigm on Maslow’s, one does not need to have the much sought after trappings that the material world worships. One can be living within meager means and still be actualized.

We can recall the biblical verse about the camel entering the hole of a needle as the figure of speech representing the challenges for someone with much worldly stature or possessions.

The simple man or woman, in contrast, can be actualized using the freedom from worldly attachments, as one constantly seeks His presence and thus sees/notices 3-dimensional reality in action, the physical unfolding of His generous Universe.


… and thus sees from the paradigm of abundance.



“To see a world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower,

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

And eternity in an hour.”

- William Blake








" ... Originally, I had wanted to google up the Maslow pyramid and turn the image upside down, looking at it to obtain a structure or outline for this hub."

Taking the spirit of the metaphor further, the inverted pyramid can be converted to a funnel. As individuals, whose earthly grounded selves are bridged to their higher, spiritual selves, we can be funnels of heavenly blessings (e.g., needs level 1: food, clothing and shelter; needs level 2, etc.) to the earth, for ourselves, our family and everyone around us.

Know the what, without asking the how, of what you need.

God takes care of the how. That is His job.









“Maslow spoke clearly about these levels and their satisfaction in terms such as "relative," "general," and "primarily." Instead of stating that the individual focuses on a certain need at any given time, Maslow stated that a certain need "dominates" the human organism.[9] Thus Maslow acknowledged the likelihood that the different levels of motivation could occur at any time in the human mind, but he focused on identifying the basic types of motivation and the order in which they should be met.”










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    • Quirinus profile imageAUTHOR

      Queirdkus Ω Ibidem 

      3 years ago from Sitting on the Rug

      Thank you for sharing the light, Eric.

      It feels like somehow you have read my mind. I had wanted to conclude the hub with a request to visitors to share if and what insights they may have arrived at reading through here, to help me determine if I am somehow reaching the audience.

      You are part of this generous Universe, my friend! So is everyone to each other’s experience, a funnel of blessings from heaven to the earth---rainbows everywhere.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      It is always in my mind when looking at or thinking of rainbows that we can look through them. They do not block the light but rather transform it. "Essential" is a word that I think of when I think of needs. God and Love of others are essential. Food, light, water and sleep are essential but that is qualified as to only the physical. Perhaps someday I will experience the essence of my existence.

      Thank you for a most illuminating and joyful article.


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