“Wolf children,” adopted by animal mothers and brought up in animal surroundings, have the form of human beings, but are not human. The essence of humanity, it is evident, is not something we are born with; it is something we make or grow into. We learn to speak, we accumulate conceptualized knowledge and pseudo-knowledge, we imitate our elders, we build up fixed patterns of thought and feeling and behavior, and in the process we become human, we turn into persons.
Knowledge is acquired when we succeed in fitting a new experience into the system of concepts based upon our old experiences. Understanding comes when we liberate ourselves from the old and so make possible a direct, unmediated contact with the new, the mystery, moment by moment, of our existence.
The first two Hebrew words in the Book of Psalms are: Ashre ha-ish—“Happy is the man;” then there follow the conditions to be fulfilled for a person to achieve true happiness. These two words set the tone of the entire book, for in effect they announce the two main characteristics that predominate in almost all the one-hundred and fifty psalms found in this book.
Another agent of transformation of ego-consciousness is the ideal. An ideal is a psychological phenomenon, which serves as a model of perfection and stimulates goal-oriented activity in the soul. Ideals are of two types, subjective and objective.