Psychology rebels... | paigemarshall23's Blog

Abraham Maslow, Transpersonal Psychology, and self-Transcendence

The American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) founded the Association for Humanistic Psychology in 1959 and, then, going a quantum jump further, established the Association for TranspersonalPsychology in 1969. He achieved both endeavors with the help of his colleague Anthony Sutich, with whom he helped edit the academic journals for both associations, The J. of Humanistic Psychology and the J. of Transpersonal Psychology.

Maslow, born of uneducated Jewish immigrant parents from Russia, grew up in Brooklyn before going on to attend City University of New York, then graduate school in psychology at Univ. of Wisconsin and Columbia University. He became a very original thinker, interested in taking psychology beyond its first "two forces," Freudian theory and Behaviorism, and their obsession with psycho-pathology. He thus called his Humanistic Psychology the "third force" and Transpersonal Psychology the "fourth force" in the field of psychology.

Humanistic Psychology wants to examine what is really right with people, rather than just what is wrong with them. That is to say, it wants to focus on psychological health and well-being rather than merely on mental-emotional-behavioral disorders.

Going much further, Transpersonal Psychology is interested to explore extreme wellness or optimal well-being. It is interested in those cases of persons who have often or perhaps permanently expanded their "normal sense of identity" to include the supra- or trans-personal, the Self of all selves, the One underlying the Many. Transpersonal Psychology explicitly acknowledges and makes use of the profound spiritual psychologies of the Great Traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, mystic Christianity, Judaism and Muslim Sufism), as well as new insights and methods in the human potential and consciousness-expanding movements.

Maslow articulated such key concepts as “self-actualization” (development of one’s capacities) for Humanistic Psychology, then exceeded it with his Transpersonal Psychology ideal of “self-transcendence” (full spiritual awakening or liberation from egocentricity), along with the notion of “peak experiences” (and “plateau living”).

Maslow is also famous for positing a hierarchy of human needs, ranging from “deficiency needs” or “D-needs” (i.e., needs for safety, nourishment, love, belonging, respect, self-esteem, etc.—the lack of which can lead to neurosis or psychosis) up to higher Being-needs, or “B-needs” (the need to engage in meaningful, helpful work and service, to promote justice, to creatively express oneself, to find spiritual fulfillment and self-transcendence in realizing what is True, Beautiful, Good—the lack of which can lead to “metapathologies”).

Human history is a record of the ways in which human nature has been sold short. The highest possibilities of human nature have practically always been underrated. Even when 'good specimens,' the saints and sages and great leaders of history have been available for study, the temptation too often has been to consider them not human but supernaturally endowed…. If we want to know the possibilities for spiritual growth, value growth, or moral development in human beings, then I maintain that we can learn most by studying our most moral, ethical, or saintly people.” — Abe Maslow.


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