Unfinished Quest To Transcendence

In September 2015, I was attending my first class at university. The class was Introduction to Business Management. I remember vividly that one of the first concept introduced is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The hierarchy starts down from physiological needs such as food, and all the way up to self-actualization which means the feeling of achieving our potentials.

maslow's hierarchy of needs five stage pyramid

Firstly, I think the hierarchy is kinda boring because it is almost like common sense. Then, when I took other classes I realize the importance of the theory because, in almost every courses that I took on the first and second semester, there always will be Maslow hierarchy of needs in the textbook.

So I started to research more about it, and then I came across a youtube video about Maslow’s unpublished top layer which is self-transcendence which is beyond the self-actualization. Although self-transcendence is just one layer, the impact is huge. Because it gives us an opportunity to understand and learn our altruism, wisdom, and spirituality. One of the particular emotions from self-transcendence is awe (right part of the picture below).

Psychologists Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt said that awe enable us to “perceived vastness (something we think to be greater than ourselves), and accommodation, a need to assimilate the experience of vastness into one’s current mental structure.”.

By being sold and my curiosity about the feeling of awe, I decided to go on a quest to transcendence. When I read Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind, I find something very interesting. Although self-transcendence only discovered in the 1970s (from Abraham Maslow’s private notes), it turns out that there is a plethora of ancient rituals and cultures that help us to achieve the state of transcendence. Such as meditations in Buddhism, consuming psychedelic mushrooms in Tassili culture, and the constant united spinning in Turkey’s Dervish Dance.

Obviously, I can’t do all of the cultures and rituals above. Because meditation requires years of training, psychedelic mushrooms are illegal, and Dervish Dance is very sacred. But among the ways of achieving transcendence, there is another way to reach awe. Which is being with nature, as experienced by Ralph Waldo Emerson. So throughout my vacation, I always try to anticipate the self-transcendence feeling.

The first attempt is the grand canyon, one of the original Seven Natural Wonders. So I went to grand canyon and try to lose my self in nature. But because of the crowd that surrounds me, it’s really hard to get lost. But it still an amazing experience. The second attempt is in Komodo island which is the new Seven Wonders of Nature and this is the closest I got to awe-ness.

Luckily, Komodo is newly discovered destinations in the world, so the crowd and tourists are not that massive compared to the grand canyon. From 7 destinations that I visited around Komodo island, the most memorable ones are when I’m snorkeling.


It’s by far the most beautiful things I ever saw with my own eyes. When I first look down, I smile and laugh so hard until my scuba mask was off and I have to re-surface and put it on again. At the second look, it’s just phenomenal. I was left wept, tranquilized and awed by the magic of nature. I was so mindful and present, and not thinking about something else. It’s probably the only time in my life that I was meditated and present, even though I tried and failed to get the same feeling with mindful meditation many times.

This sheer of unparalleled feeling makes me one step closer to finding out self-transcendence, even though I knew that I am way too far to achieve transcendence. But it gives me an opportunity to know the colossal impact of nature that can’t be emulated by anything else. With that in mind, I hope in the future I could get closer to transcendence one step at a time with nature.


Awe and Self-Transcendence. (2019, May 25). Retrieved from https://blog.allpsych.com/awe-and-self-transcendence/

Four Defining Characteristics of Self-Transcendence. (2018, March 27). Retrieved from http://www.drpaulwong.com/four-defining-characteristics-self-transcendence/

Google, T. A. (2012, August 13). Jonathan Haidt: “The Righteous Mind” | Talks at Google. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2APK3tlPL_0

Gregoire, C., & Gregoire, C. (2017, December 07). Cultivating This Overlooked Emotion Can Boost Your Well-Being And Quality Of Life. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-psychology-of-awe_n_5799850

Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (n.d.). Rediscovering the Later Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-Transcendence and Opportunities for Theory, Research, and Unification – Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, 2006. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1037/1089-2680.10.4.302

Mcleod, S. (2018, May 21). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

Philosophical, F. (2019, February 23). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Self-Actualization, and Self-Transcendence. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmLQTUeur2s

Price, D., & Stephen. (2019, June 10). When Did Psilocybin Mushrooms First Appear In Human Culture? Retrieved from https://thethirdwave.co/history-of-psilocybin-mushrooms/

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