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Abraham Maslow, 1908 - 1970  [1]

"I was awfully curious to find out why I didn't go insane," remarked
Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology.

He was born and raised in Brooklyn, the eldest of seven children. He
was smart but shy, and remembered his childhood as lonely and rather
unhappy. Maslow attended City College in New York. His father hoped he
would pursue law, but he went to graduate school at the University of
Wisconsin to study psychology. While there, he married his cousin
Bertha, and found as his chief mentor Professor Harry Harlow. At
Wisconsin he pursued an original line of research, investigating
primate dominance behavior and sexuality. He went on to further
research at Columbia University, continuing similar studies. He found
another mentor in Alfred Adler, one of Freud's early followers.

 From 1937 to 1951, Maslow was on the faculty of Brooklyn College. In
New York he found two more mentors, anthropologist Ruth Benedict and
Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer, whom he admired both
professionally and personally. These two were so accomplished in both
realms, and such "wonderful human beings" as well, that Maslow began
taking notes about them and their behavior. This would be the basis of
his lifelong research and thinking about mental health and human
potential. He wrote extensively on the subject, borrowing ideas from
other psychologists but adding significantly to them, especially the
concepts of a heirarchy of needs, metaneeds, self-actualizing persons,
and peak experiences. Maslow became the leader of the humanistic school
of psychology that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, which he referred to
as the "third force" -- beyond Freudian theory and behaviorism.

Maslow saw human beings' needs arranged like a ladder. The most basic
needs, at the bottom, were physical -- air, water, food, sex. Then came
safety needs -- security, stability -- followed by psychological, or
social needs -- for belonging, love, acceptance. At the top of it all
were the self-actualizing needs -- the need to fulfill oneself, to
become all that one is capable of becoming. Maslow felt that
unfulfilled needs lower on the ladder would inhibit the person from
climbing to the next step. Someone dying of thirst quickly forgets
their thirst when they have no oxygen, as he pointed out. People who
dealt in managing the higher needs were what he called self-actualizing
people. Benedict and Wertheimer were Maslow's models of
self-actualization, from which he generalized that, among other
characteristics, self-actualizing people tend to focus on problems
outside of themselves, have a clear sense of what is true and what is
phony, are spontaneous and creative, and are not bound too strictly by
social conventions.

Peak experiences are profound moments of love, understanding,
happiness, or rapture, when a person feels more whole, alive,
self-sufficient and yet a part of the world, more aware of truth,
justice, harmony, goodness, and so on. Self-actualizing people have
many such peak experiences.

Maslow's thinking was surprisingly original -- most psychology before
him had been concerned with the abnormal and the ill. He wanted to know
what constituted positive mental health. Humanistic psychology gave
rise to several different therapies, all guided by the idea that people
possess the inner resources for growth and healing and that the point
of therapy is to help remove obstacles to individuals' achieving this.
The most famous of these was client-centered therapy developed by Carl

Maslow was a professor at Brandeis University from 1951 to 1969, and
then became a resident fellow of the Laughlin Institute in California.
He died of a heart attack in 1970.

"Human nature is not nearly as bad as it has been thought to be."

***Creating peak experiences by focusing on them*** [2]

'Peak experiences are not mystical experiences but a normal part of
everyday life' Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic
psychology, argued that all healthy people have peak experiences, and
that these are not mystical experiences but a normal part of everyday
life. Colin Wilson, in this book's foreword, recounts how Maslow would
get his students to describe peak experiences they'd had in the past
and had then forgotten about. He discovered that once they began to
describe peak experiences and to listen to those of others, they
started having regular peak experiences of their own. Just this act of
focusing on peak experiences and regarding them as a normal and
necessary part of life, was sufficient to induce them.

But Maslow was critical of hippies who were gluttonous in their
approach to spiritual experience - and critical too of growth centres
such as Esalen in Big Sur, California. <>

In one essay he writes:

We must beware of people who are anti-intellectual, anti-rational,
anti-scientific, and anti-research. ... We must seek knowledge, values,
and wisdom. Why is there no library at Esalen?

We must join health psychology with sickness psychology. Esalen should
not exclude the insights of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis.

There needs to be a better balance at Esalen between the Dionysian and
the Apollonian. There needs to be more dignity, politeness, courtesy,
reserve, privacy, responsibility, and loyalty. There should be much
less talk about "instant intimacy" and "instant love" and much more
about the necessity for Apollonian controls such as pace and style.

At places like the Esalen Institute, there must be more stress on work,
discipline, and lifelong effort. The ladder of consciousness must be
climbed gradually, step by step.

It is important to differentiate between peak experiences and plateau
experiences, between the flash of insight and the patient working
through of self-knowledge and between psychedelic experience and
psychotherapy. Esalen staff members tend to view human personality
growth in terms of the big bang of tremendous inner breakthroughs, but
true growth is rather a lifelong task.

'The notion of consciousness for consciousness's sake is amoral' The
notion advocated by many at Esalen of "consciousness for
consciousness's sake" must be criticised and rejected. This notion has
all the inherent evil of "art for art's sake," or "science for
science's sake," or "high intelligence for high intelligence's sake."
The essential point is that all such philosophies are amoral.

'Using other people as a means to alter one's consciousness rather than
to enter an I-thou relationship' The various Being-values must be
determined in terms of each other, or else they can lead to the evil
results that have arisen in the psychedelic or hippie movement today.
With these movements, people tend to search for and value anything that
will produce another intense experience or alteration of ordinary
consciousness. Historically, this ideology has always led in mystical
movements to a kind of selfishness - that is, in using other people
simply as a means to alter one's consciousness rather than to enter
into what Martin Buber has called an I-thou relationship with them.
Such an outlook has usually led to magic and a fascination for such
arcana as astrology, card reading, and numerology.

'These viewpoints have led into sadism because sadism may give new
experiences and may turn some people on' In turn, these activities
historically have led to an anti-rationalism, anti-intellectualism,
anti-science, and, finally, an anti-fact. And then, these viewpoints
ultimately have led into sadism because sadism may give "new
experiences" and may "turn some people on." In any case, with the
"consciousness for consciousness's sake" mystique, there are no
principles by which to criticise an alteration of consciousness, that
is, to say whether it is good or evil or whether it causes good or

The final product of this whole line of ideological development can be
a death wish, because dying, suicide, and killing can, in themselves,
produce "new experiences" ...

Growth centres like the Esalen Institute must always be judged by their
actual products ... : Do places like Esalen make good people or bad
people? DO they make our society better or worse?

**14 ways of reaching the Being realm**

But besides warning of the dangers, Maslow had his own recommendations
for ways to reach a higher state of being:

(1) Get out of the Deficiency-world by deliberately going into the
Being-realm. Seek out art galleries, libraries, museums, beautiful or
grand trees, and the mountains or seashore.

(2) Contemplate people who are admirable, beautiful, lovable, or

(3) Step out into clean air on Mount Olympus. Step into the world of
pure philosophy, pure mathematics, or pure science.

(4) Try narrowed-down absorption or close-up fascination with the small
world, for instance, the ant hill, insects on the ground. Closely
inspect flowers or blades of grass, grains of sand, or the earth. Watch
intently without interfering.

(5) Use the artist's or photographer's trick of seeing the object in
itself. ... Gaze at it for a very long time. Gaze while free
associating or daydreaming.

(6) Be with babies or children for a long period of time. They are
closer to the Being-realm. Sometimes, you can experience the
Being-realm in the presence of animals like kittens, puppies, monkeys,
or apes.

**'Contemplate your life from the historian's viewpoint - 100 or even
1,000 years in the future'**

(7) Contemplate your life from the historian's viewpoint - 100 or even
1,000 years in the future.

(8) Contemplate your life from the viewpoint of a non-human species,
for example, as it might appear to ants.

(9) Imagine that you have only one year left to live.

(10) Contemplate your daily life as though being seen from a great
distance, such as from a remote village in Africa.

(11) Look at a familiar person or situation as though viewing it for
the very first time, freshly.

(12) Look at the same person or situation as though viewing it for the
very last time, for instance, that the individual is going to die
before you see him or her again.

(13) Contemplate the situation through the eyes of the great and wise
sages: Socrates, Spinoza, or Voltaire.

(14) Try addressing yourself, or talking or writing, not to the people
immediately around you but over their shoulders, that is, to history's
great figures like Beethoven, William James, Immanuel Kant, Socrates,
or Alfred Whitehead.

These last two pieces of advice were of course easier for Maslow to
follow than for us less lofty mortals.

[1]  <>

[2]  Future Visions - The unpublished papers of Abraham Maslow edited by
Edward Hoffman, published by Sage Publications (2455 Teller Road,
Thousand Oaks, California 91320, USA, e-mail: <order at>, UK
tel 020 7 374 0645; 1996, ISBN 0 7919 0051 9; £16-50). Reviewed by
Nicholas Albery.  <>

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Learning implies Learning with Certainty or Learning without Certainty.
Learning across a Distance implies Learning by Being an Effect.
Learning by Being an Effect implies Learning without Certainty.
Therefore, Learning with Certainty implies Learning, but 
not by Being an Effect, and not across a Distance.

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