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Religions, Values, and Peak ExperiencesAbraham H. Maslow
Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences1964 by Kappa Delta Pi and 1970 (preface) The Viking Press.Published by Penguin Books LimitedISBN 0 14 00.4262
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Editorial Introduction and PrefaceI. IntroductionII. Dichotomized Science and Dichotomized ReligionIII. The "Core-Religious" or "Transcendent" ExperienceIV. Organizational Dangers to Transcendent ExperiencesV. Hope, Skepticism, and Man's Higher NatureVI. Science and the Religious Liberals and Non-TheistsVII. Value-Free Education?VIII. ConclusionsAPPENDIXES:A. Religious Aspects of Peak ExperiencesB. The Third PsychologyC. Ethnocentric Phrasings of Peak-ExperiencesD. What is the Validity of Knowledge Gained in Peak-Experiences?E. Preface to "New Knowledge in Human Values"F. Rhapsodic, Isomorphic CommunicationsG. B-Values as Descriptions of Perception in Peak-ExperiencesH. Naturalistic Reasons for Preferring Growth-Values Over Regression-Values Under Good ConditionsI. An Example of B-AnalysisBibliography
Editorial Introduction
The world has seen increasedcommunication among political and economicphilosophies, among the social sciences,among religions, among the physical sciences,and among people in general. Although thereare individual differences in the cultural andmaterial developments of the nations of theworld, there has been a growing movementtoward the establishment of a world philosophyin the social and physical sciences.Concurrently with this growth ofinternational communication and the unity it hasbrought about in the sciences, and the lesseramount of agreement it has engendered amongpolitical and social theorists, there has been arising sentiment in favor of increasedcommunication among, if not unity of, thereligions of the world. Protestant groups haveabandoned, or are abandoning, their strictsectarian views. The Ecumenical Council hasbrought changes that, although so far largelyprocedural, give promise of increased world co-operation between the Roman Catholic churchand other faiths. And efforts have been and arebeing made to reconcile the views of the greatreligious leaders of all major religions—Jewish,Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu—religions that, in the past, have been regardedby their followers as having been founded uponthe direct revelation of a supreme being to achosen earthly prophet.Traditionally, religion has been of thespirit; science, of the body; and there has beena wide philosophic gulf between the knowledgeof body and the knowledge of spirit. The naturalsciences and religion have generally beenconsidered as natural and eternal opponents.William James, through his psychology,especially his Varieties of ReligiousExperience, and John Dewey, in his ACommon Faith, have strongly influenced theviews of Dr. Maslow in this, the thirty-fifthvolume in the "Kappa Delta Pi Lecture Series."Dissenting from the followers of those prophetswho claimed direct revelation from God, and
from the nineteenth-century scientists whodenied not only direct revelation but Godhimself, the author declares that theserevelations were, in his words, "peak-experiences" which are characteristic not onlyof specially ordained emissaries of God but ofmankind in general. Dr. Maslow considersthese revelations valid psychological eventsworthy of scientific, rather than metaphysical,study—keys to a better understanding of apeculiarly "human" aspect of man's existence.This volume is presented as acontribution to philosophical and scientificthinking, as one interpretation of a fundamentalaspect of life, as a step toward a betterunderstanding among the religions of the world,and as a possible program for the developmentof a healthy relationship between modernscience and modern theology.E. I. F. Williams, EditorKappa Delta Pi Publications
Since this book was first written, therehas been much turmoil in the world and,therefore, much to learn. Several of the lessonsI have learned are relevant here, certainly inthe sense that they are helpful supplements tothe main thesis of the book. Or perhaps Ishould call them warnings about over-extreme,dangerous, and one-sided uses of this thesis.Of course, this is a standard hazard for thinkerswho try to be holistic, integrative, and inclusive.They learn inevitably that most people thinkatomistically, in terms of either-or, black-white,all in or all out, of mutual exclusiveness andseparativeness. A good example of what Imean is the mother who gave her son two tiesfor his birthday. As he put on one of them toplease her, she asked sadly, "And why do youhate the other tie?"I think I can best state my warningagainst polarization and dichotomizing by ahistorical approach. I see in the history of manyorganized religions a tendency to develop twoextreme wings: the "mystical" and individual onthe one hand, and the legalistic andorganizational on the other. The profoundly andauthentically religious person integrates thesetrends easily and automatically. The forms,rituals, ceremonials, and verbal formulae inwhich he was reared remain for himexperientially rooted, symbolically meaningful,archetypal, unitive. Such a person may gothrough the same motions and behaviors as hismore numerous coreligionists, but he is neverreduced to the behavioral, as most of them are.Most people lose or forget the subjectivelyreligious experience, and redefine Religion [1]as a set of habits, behaviors, dogmas, forms,which at the extreme becomes entirelylegalistic and bureaucratic, conventional,empty, and in the truest meaning of the word,anti-religious. The mystic experience, theillumination, the great awakening, along withthe charismatic seer who started the wholething, are forgotten, lost, or transformed intotheir opposites. Organized Religion, thechurches, finally may become the majorenemies of the religious experience and thereligious experiencer. This is a main thesis ofthis book.But on the other wing, the mystical (orexperiential) also has its traps which I have notstressed sufficiently. As the more Apolloniantype can veer toward the extreme of beingreduced to the merely behavioral, so does themystical type run the risk of being reduced tothe merely experiential. Out of the joy andwonder of his ecstasies and peak-experienceshe may be tempted to seek them, ad hoc, andto value them exclusively, as the only or atleast the highest goods of life, giving up othercriteria of right and wrong. Focused on thesewonderful subjective experiences, he may runthe danger of turning away from the world andfrom other people in his search for triggers topeak-experiences, any triggers. In a word,instead of being temporarily self absorbed andinwardly searching, he may become simply asel1ish person, seeking his own personalsalvation, trying to get into "heaven" even ifother people can't, and finally even perhapsusing other people as triggers, as means to hissole end of higher states of consciousness. In aword, he may become not only selfish but alsoevil. My impression, from the history ofmysticism, is that this trend can sometimeswind up in meanness, nastiness, loss ofcompassion, or even in the extreme of sadism.Another possible booby trap for the(polarizing) mystics throughout history hasbeen the danger of needing to escalate thetriggers, so to speak. That is, stronger andstronger stimuli are needed to produce thesame response. If the sole good in lifebecomes the peak-experience, and if all meansto this end become good, and if more peak-experiences are better than fewer, then onecan force the issue, push actively, strive and
hunt and fight for them. So they have oftenmoved over into magic, into the secret andesoteric, into the exotic, the occult, the dramaticand effortful, the dangerous, the cultish.Healthy openness to the mysterious, therealistically humble recognition that we don'tknow much, the modest and gratefulacceptance of gratuitous grace and of just plaingood luck—all these can shade over into theanti rational, the anti-empirical, theantiscientific, the anti-verbal, the anti-conceptual. The peak-experience may then beexalted as the best or even the only path toknowledge, and thereby all the tests andverifications of the validity of the illuminationmay be tossed aside.The possibility that the inner voices, the"revelations," may be mistaken, a lesson fromhistory that should come through loud andclear, is denied, and there is then no way offinding out whether the voices within are thevoices of good or evil. (George Bernard Shaw'sSaint Joan confronts this problem.) Spontaneity(the impulses from our best self) gets confusedwith impulsivity and acting out (the impulsesfrom our sick self), and there is then no way totell the difference.Impatience (especially the built-inimpatience of youth) dictates shortcuts of allkinds. Drugs, which can be helpful when wiselyused, become dangerous when foolishly used.The sudden insight becomes "all," and thepatient and disciplined "working through" ispostponed or devalued. Instead of being"surprised by joy," "turning on" is scheduled,promised, advertised, sold, hustled into being,and can get to be regarded as a commodity.Sex-love, certainly one possible path to theexperience of the sacred, can become mere"screwing," i.e., desacralized. More and moreexotic, artificial, striving "techniques" mayescalate further and further until they becomenecessary and until jadedness and impotenceensue.The search for the exotic, the strange,the unusual, the uncommon has often taken theform of pilgrimages, of turning away from theworld, the "Journey to the East," to anothercountry or to a different Religion. The greatlesson from the true mystics, from the Zenmonks, and now also from the-Humanistic andTranspersonal psychologists—that the sacredis in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one'sdaily life, in one's neighbors, friends, andfamily, in one's back yard, and that travel maybe a flight from confronting the sacred—thislesson can be easily lost. To be lookingelsewhere for miracles is to me a sure sign ofignorance that everything is miraculous.The rejection of a priestly caste whoclaimed to be exclusive custodians of a privatehot line to the sacred was, in my opinion, agreat step forward in the emancipation ofmankind, and we have the mystics—amongothers—to thank for this achievement. But thisvalid insight can also be used badly whendichotomized and exaggerated by foolishpeople. They can distort it into a rejection of theguide, the teacher, the sage, the therapist, thecounselor, the elder, the helper along the pathto self-actualization and the realm of Being.This is often a great danger and always anunnecessary handicap.To summarize, the healthily Apollonian(which means integrated with the healthilyDionysian) can become pathologized into anextreme, exaggerated, and dichotomizedcompulsive-obsessional sickness. But also thehealthily Dionysian (which means integratedwith the healthily Apollonian) can becomepathologized at its extreme into hysteria with allits symptoms. [2]Obviously, what I am suggesting hereis a pervasively holistic attitude and way ofthinking. Not only must the experimental bestressed and brought back into psychology andphilosophy as an opponent of the merelyabstract and abstruse, of the a priori, of what Ihave called "helium-filled words." It must thenalso be integrated with the abstract and theverbal, i.e., we must make a place for"experientially based concepts," and for"experientially filled words," that is, for anexperience-based rationality in contrast to the apriori rationality that we have come almost toidentify with rationality itself.The same sort of thing is true for therelations between experientialism and-socialreform. Shortsighted people make themopposites, mutually exclusive. Of course,historically this has often happened and doestoday still happen in many. But it need nothappen. It is a mistake, an atomistic error, anexample of the dichotomizing and pathologizingthat goes along with immaturity. The empiricalfact is that self-actualizing people, our bestexperiencers, are also our mostcompassionate, our great improvers andreformers of society, our most effective fightersagainst injustice, inequality, slavery, cruelty,exploitation (and also our best fighters forexcellence, effectiveness, competence). And it

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