“Maslow was more than anything else a philosopher of science.” — Henry Geiger
This isn’t the easiest book to read, but I thoroughly enjoyed Abraham Maslow’s The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (Amazon). In fact, I thought it was so great that I apparently took over 25,000 words of notes! That may be a new record and beat my notes from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth.
- This book was published posthumously in 1971 after Maslow’s death and includes many of his late-life writings—this is partly why it’s difficult to read; he wasn’t completely finished with the work, it wasn’t fully edited, etc
- Maslow really starts to get into transpersonal psychology (or spiritual psychology) which I find fascinating—the connection of psychology and spirituality
- This is the primary book people reference when they discuss Maslow’s thoughts on transcendence—the “new” top of the hierarchy of needs that he proposed above self-actualization
- Most psychologists focus on what goes wrong with humanity, but Maslow was interested in what goes right and allows for the best of humanity
- Maslow’s work is timeless as well as timely for us today:
It seems to me that we are at a point in history unlike anything that has ever been before. Life moves far more rapidly now than it ever did before. Think, for instance, of the huge acceleration in the rate of growth of facts, of knowledge, of techniques, of inventions, of advances in technology. It seems very obvious to me that this requires a change in our attitude toward the human being, and toward his relationships to the world.
Book Summary Contents: Click a link to jump to a section in the post below
- Full Humanness
- Choice & Responsibility
- Unitive Consciousness
- Peak Experiences
- Being-Values (B-Values)
- Metaneeds & Metamotivations
- Metapersons & Metalife
As always, all quotes are from the author unless otherwise stated, and I’ve added emphasis to quotes in bold.
Detailed Book Summary of Maslow’s The Farther Reaches of Human Nature
- “The first and overarching Big Problem is to make the Good Person. We must have better human beings or else it is quite possible that we may all be wiped out, and even if not wiped out, certainly live in tension and anxiety as a species.”
- “This Good Person can equally be called the self-evolving person, the responsible-for-himself-and-his-own-evolution person, the fully illuminated or awakened or perspicuous man, the fully human person, the self-actualizing person, etc.”
- “I believe that helping a person to move toward full humanness proceeds inevitably via awareness of one’s identity (among other things). A very important part of this task is to become aware of what one is, biologically, temperamentally, constitutionally, as a member of a species, of one’s capacities, desires, needs, and also of one’s vocation, what one is fitted for, what one’s destiny is.”
- “We have, all of us, an impulse to improve ourselves, an impulse toward actualizing more of our potentialities, toward self-actualization, or full humanness or human fulfillment, or whatever term you like.”
- “We all have unused potentialities or not fully developed ones. It is certainly true that many of us evade our constitutionally suggested vocations (call, destiny, task in life, mission). So often we run away from the responsibilities dictated (or rather suggested) by nature, by fate, even sometimes by accident…”
- “If, as I think has been demonstrated sufficiently, the human being is a choosing, deciding, seeking animal, then the question of making choices and decisions must inevitably be involved in any effort to define the human species. But making choices and decisions is a matter of degree, a matter of wisdom, effectiveness, and efficiency. The questions then come up: Who is the good chooser? Where does he come from? What kind of life history does he have? Can we teach this skill? What hurts it? What helps it?”
- “On the development of responsibility. It looks as if one way to breed grown-up people is to give them responsibility, to assume that they can take it, and to let them struggle and sweat with it. Let them work it out themselves, rather than overprotecting them, indulging them, or doing things for them.”
- “…the wise, self-actualizing, old adult who knows the whole of the D-realm, the whole of the world, all its vices, its contentions, poverties, quarrels, and tears, and yet is able to rise above them, and to have the unitive consciousness in which he is able to see the B-realm, to see the beauty of the whole cosmos, in the midst of all the vices, contentions, tears, and quarrels. Through defects, or in defects, he is able to see perfection.”
- “We need to teach our children unitive perception, the Zen experience of being able to see the temporal and the eternal simultaneously, the sacred and the profane in the same object.”
- “It is also desirable to say for Meister Eckhart and for Suzuki and for many other religious people that the way in which they define the unitive consciousness, i.e., the fusion of the eternal with the temporal, is by denying the temporal altogether…These people hover on the edge of denying the reality of the world in favor of treating as reality only the sacred or the eternal or the Godlike. But these must be seen in the temporal; the sacred must be seen in and through the profane. The B-realm must be seen through the D-realm. I would add that it can be seen in no other way since there isn’t any B-realm in the geographical sense of being on the other shore someplace, or being quite different from the world, being something other than it, something not-world in the Aristotelian sense. There is only the world, only one world, and the business of fusing ‘B’ and ‘D’ is really a matter of being able to retain both the ‘D’ and ‘B’ attitudes toward the one world. If we say anything else, then we fall into the trap of the otherworldliness which finally winds up in fables of a heaven above the clouds, some place which is like another house, or another room, which we can see and feel and touch, and in which religion becomes otherworldly and supernatural rather than this-worldly and humanistic and naturalistic.”
- “But it is a general principle that ‘you can’t go home again,’ you can’t really regress, the adult cannot become a child in the strict sense. You can’t ‘undo’ knowledge, you cant really become innocent again; once you have seen something, you can’t undo the seeing. Knowledge is irreversible, perceiving is irreversible, knowing is irreversible; in this sense you can’t go home again. You cant really regress, not even by giving up your sanity…”
- “The word ‘peak experience’ is more appropriate than I realized at first. The acute emotion must be climactic and momentary and it must give way to nonecstatic serenity, calmer happiness, and the intrinsic pleasures of clear, contemplative cognition of the highest goods. The climactic emotion cannot endure, but B-cognition (Being cognition) can.”
- “…during and after peak experiences would be: truth, beauty, wholeness, dichotomy-transcendence, aliveness-process, uniqueness, perfection, necessity, completion, justice, order, simplicity, richness, effortlessness, playfulness, and self-sufficiency.”
- “We have found that the peak experience contains two components—an emotional one of ecstasy and an intellectual one of illumination. Both need not be present simultaneously.”
- “We have to make a differentiation between the two kinds of peak experience and the two kinds of B-cognition. In the first place, there is the cosmic consciousness of Bucke, or of various mystics, in which the whole of the cosmos is perceived and everything in it is seen in relationship with everything else, including the perceiver. This has been described by my subjects in such words as ‘I could see that I belonged in the universe and I could see where I belonged in it; I could see how important I was and yet, also how unimportant and small I was, so at the same time that it made me humble, it made me feel important.’… This is one kind of peak experience, one kind of B-cognition, and must be sharply differentiated from the other kind in which fascination occurs, and in which there is an extreme narrowing of consciousness down to the particular percept, for example, the face or the painting, the child or the tree, etc., and in which the rest of world is totally forgotten and in which the ego itself is also totally forgotten. This is when there is so much absorption and fascination with the percept, and everything else in the world is so much forgotten that there is a felt transcendence, or at least self-consciousness is lost, or the self is gone, and the world is gone, which means that the percept becomes the whole of the cosmos. This percept is seen as if it were the whole world. For the time being, it’s the only thing there is. Therefore, all the laws of perception that apply to seeing the whole world now apply to seeing this cut-off percept with which we are fascinated and which has become the whole world. These are two different kinds of peak experiences and two different kinds of B-cognition.”
- “This ability to become ‘lost in the present’ seems to be a sine qua non for creativeness of any kind. But also certain prerequisites of creativeness—in whatever realm—somehow have something to do with this ability to become timeless, selfless, outside of space, of society, of history.”
- “In the healthy person, and especially the healthy person who creates, I find that he has somehow managed a fusion and a synthesis of both primary and secondary processes; both conscious and unconscious; both of deeper self and of conscious self. And he manages to do this gracefully and fruitfully. Certainly I can report that it is possible to do, even though it is not very common.”
- “It is always described as a loss of self or of ego, or sometimes as a transcendence of self. There is a fusion with the reality being observed (with the matter-in-hand, I shall say more neutrally), a oneness where there was a twoness, an integration of some sort of the self with the non-self. There is universally reported a seeing of formerly hidden truth, a revelation in the strict sense, a stripping away of veils, and finally, almost always, the whole experience is experienced as bliss, ecstasy, rapture, exaltation.”
- “The greatest cause of our alienation from our real selves is our neurotic involvements with other people, the historical hangovers from childhood, the irrational transferences, in which past and present are confused, and in which the adult acts like a child.”
- “Many experiments show that social suggestion, irrational advertising, social pressure, propaganda, have considerable effect against freedom of choice and even freedom of perception; i.e., the choices may be misperceived and then mis-chosen. This deleterious effect is greater in conforming rather than in independent, stronger people.”
- “Make the general assumption that no normative social thinking is possible until we have some idea of the individual goal, i.e., the kind of person to aim to be and by which to judge the adequacy of any society. I proceed on the assumption that the good society, and therefore the immediate goal of any society which is trying to improve itself, is the self-actualization of all individuals, or some norm or goal approximating this.”
- “Lawrence Kubie, in ‘The Forgotten Man in Education,’ some time ago made the point that one, ultimate goal of education is to help the person become a human being, as fully human as he can possibly be.”
- “Certainly this kind of education of the person should help create a better type of person, help a person grow bigger, taller, wiser, more perceptive—a person who, incidentally, would be more creative as a matter of course in all departments of life.”
- “Education can no longer be considered essentially or only a learning process; it is now also a character training, a person-training process. Of course this is not altogether true, but it is very largely true, and it will become truer and truer year by year.”
- “Generated by this new humanistic philosophy is also a new conception of learning, of teaching, and of education. Stated simply, such a concept holds that the function of education, the goal of education—the human goal, the humanistic goal, the goal so far as human beings are concerned—is ultimately the ‘self-actualization’ of a person, the becoming fully human, the development of the fullest height that the human species can stand up to or that the particular individual can come to. In a less technical way, it is helping the person to become the best that he is able to become.”
- “Another profound learning experience that I value far more highly than any particular course or any degree that I have ever had was my personal psychoanalysis: discovering my own identity, my own self. Another basic experience—far more important than my Ph.D. by way of instructiveness. If one thinks in terms of the developing of the kinds of wisdom, the kinds of understanding, the kinds of life skills that we would want, then he must think in terms of what I would like to call intrinsic education—intrinsic learning; that is, learning to be a human being in general, and second, learning to be this particular human being. I am now very busily occupied in trying to catch up with all the epiphenomena of this notion of intrinsic education. Certainly one thing I can tell you. Our conventional education looks mighty sick.”
- “Summarizing what we have said, the schools should be helping the children to look within themselves, and from this self-knowledge derive a set of values. Yet values are not taught in our schools today.”
- “Education is learning to grow, learning what to grow toward, learning what is good and bad, learning what is desirable and undesirable, learning what to choose and what not to choose. In this realm of intrinsic learning, intrinsic teaching, and intrinsic education, I think that the arts, and especially the ones that I have mentioned, are so close to our psychological and biological core, so close to this identity, this biological identity, that rather than think of these courses as a sort of whipped cream or luxury, they must become basic experiences in education. I mean that this kind of education can be a glimpse into the infinite, into ultimate values.”
- “Healthy people seem to have clear impulse voices about matters of ethics and values, as well. Self-actualizing people have to a large extent transcended the values of their culture. They are not so much merely Americans as they are world citizens, members of the human species first and foremost. They are able to regard their own society objectively, liking some aspects of it, disliking others. If an ultimate goal of education is self-actualization, then education ought to help people transcend the conditioning imposed upon them by their own culture and become world citizens.”
- “One of the goals of education should be to teach that life is precious. If there were no joy in life, it would not be worth living. Unfortunately many people never experience joy, those all-too-few moments of total life-affirmation which we call peak experiences.”
- “Another goal of education is to refreshen consciousness so that we are continually aware of the beauty and wonder of life. Too often in this culture we become desensitized so that we never really see things we look at or hear the things we listen to.”
- “One of the tasks of real education is to transcend pseudoproblems and to grapple with the serious existential problems of life. All neurotic problems are pseudoproblems. The problems of evil and suffering, however, are real and must be faced by everybody sooner or later.”
- “If B-Values are as necessary as vitamins and love, and if their absence can make you sick, then what people have talked about for thousands of years as the religious or platonic or rational life seems to be a very basic part of human nature. Man is a hierarchy of needs, with the biological needs at the base of the hierarchy and the spiritual needs at the top. Unlike the biological needs, however, the B-Values are not hierarchical in and of themselves. One is as important as the next, and each one can be defined in terms of all the others. Truth, for example, must be complete, aesthetic, comprehensive, and strangely enough, it must be funny in an Olympian godlike sense. Beauty must be true, good, comprehensive, etc. Now if the B-Values are all definable in terms of each other, we know from factor-analysis that some general factor underlies them all—a G-factor, to use the statistical term. The B-Values are not separate piles of sticks, but rather the different facets of one jewel.”
- “To live the spiritual life, you don’t have to sit on top of a pillar for ten years. Being able to live in the B-Values somehow makes the body and all its appetites holy.”
- “If we were to accept as a major educational goal the awakening and fulfillment of the B-Values, which is simply another aspect of self-actualization, we would have a great flowering of a new kind of civilization. People would be stronger, healthier, and would take their own lives into their hands to a greater extent. With increased personal responsibility for one’s personal life, and with a rational set of values to guide one’s choosing, people would begin to actively change the society in which they lived. The movement toward psychological health is also the movement toward spiritual peace and social harmony.”
- “The advancement of knowledge of the higher life of values should make possible not only greater understanding, but also should open up new possibilities of self-improvement, of improvement of the human species and of all its social institutions.”
- “From the point of view of the eternal and absolute that mankind has always sought, it may be that the B-Values could also, to some extent, serve this purpose. They are per se, in their own right, not dependent upon human vagaries for their existence. They are perceived, not invented. They are transhuman and transindividual. They exist beyond the life of the individual. They can be conceived to be a kind of perfection. They could conceivably satisfy the human longing for certainty.”
- “And yet they are also human in a specifiable sense. They are not only his, but him as well. They command adoration, reverence, celebration, sacrifice. They are worth living for and dying for. Contemplating them or fusing with them gives the greatest joy that a human being is capable of.”
- “Immortality also has a quite definite empirical meaning in this context, for the values incorporated into the person as defining characteristics of his self live on after his death, i.e., in a certain real sense, his self transcends death.”
- “Contemplation of ultimate values becomes the same as contemplation of the nature of the world. Seeking the truth (fully defined) may be the same as seeking beauty, order, oneness, perfection, rightness (fully defined), and truth may then be sought via any other B-Value. Does science then become indistinguishable from art? religion? philosophy? Is a basic scientific discovery about the nature of reality also a spiritual or axiological affirmation?”
- “If all this is so, then our attitude toward the real, or at least the reality we get glimpses of when we are at our best and when it is at its best, can no longer be only ‘cool,’ purely cognitive, rational, logical, detached, uninvolved assent. This reality calls forth also a warm and emotional response, a response of love, of devotion, of loyalty, even peak experiences. At its best, reality is not only true, lawful, orderly, integrated, etc.; it is also good and beautiful and lovable as well.”
- “A rather small percentage of clock time is spent in such exceptional moments (peak experiences) even in the most reactive individuals. Far more time is spent in relatively serene contemplation and enjoyment of the ultimate (rather than climactic fusion with them) which have been reveled in the great illuminations. It is thus quite useful to speak of Royce-type ‘loyalty’ to the ultimates, and of duty, responsibility, and devotion as well.”
- “This ‘cognition of being’ means really the cognition that Plato and Socrates were talking about; almost, you could say, a technology of happiness, of pure excellence, pure truth, pure goodness, and so on.”
- “…an illumination, a revelation, an insight. That is what they call it, by the way, in the interviews—to simply become a different kind of person because, in a fair number of peak experiences, there ensues what I have called ‘the cognition of being.'”
The Being-Values (as Descriptions of the World Perceived in Peak Experiences)
The characteristics of being are also the values of being.
- 1. Truth: honesty; reality; nakedness; simplicity; richness; essentiality; oughtness; beauty; pure; clean and unadulterated completeness.
- 2. Goodness: rightness; desirability; oughtness; justice; benevolence; honesty); (we love it, are attracted to it, approve of it.
- 3. Beauty: rightness; form; aliveness; simplicity; richness; wholeness; perfection; completion; uniqueness; honesty.
- 4. Wholeness: unity: integration; tendency to oneness; interconnectedness; simplicity; organization; structure; order; not dissociated; synergy; homonomous and integrative tendencies.
- 4a. Dichotomy-transcendence: acceptance, resolution, integration, or transcendence of dichotomies, polarities, opposites, contradictions; synergy. i.e., transformation of oppositions into unities, of antagonists into collaborating or mutually enhancing partners.
- 5. Aliveness: process; not-deadness; spontaneity; self-regulation; full-functioning; changing and yet remaining the same; expressing itself.
- 6. Uniqueness: idiosyncrasy; individuality; noncomparability; novelty; quale; suchness; nothing else like it.
- 7. Perfection: nothing superfluous; nothing lacking; everything in its right place, unimprovable; just-rightness; just-so-ness; suitability; justice. completeness; nothing beyond; oughtness.
- 7a. Necessity: inevitability; it must be just that way; not changed in any slightest way; and it is good that it is that way.
- 8. Completion: ending; finality; justice; it’s finished; no more changing of the Gestalt; fulfillment; finis and telos; nothing missing or lacking; totality; fulfillment of destiny; cessation; climax; consummation closure; death before rebirth; cessation and completion of growth and development.
- 9. Justice: fairness; oughtness; suitability; architectonic quality; necessity; inevitability; disinterestedness; nonpartiality.
- 9a. Order: lawfulness; rightness; nothing superfluous; perfectly arranged.
- 10. Simplicity: honesty; nakedness; essentiality; abstract unmistakability; essential skeletal structure: the heart of the matter; bluntness; only that which is necessary; without ornament, nothing extra or superfluous.
- 11. Richness: differentiation; complexity; intricacy; totality; nothing missing or hidden; all there; “nonimportance,” i.e., everything is equally important; nothing is unimportant; everything left the way it is, without improving, simplifying, abstracting, rearranging.
- 12. Effortlessness: ease; lack of strain, striving, or difficulty; grace; perfect and beautiful functioning.
- 13. Playfulness: fun; joy; amusement; gaiety; humor; exuberance: effortlessness.
- 14. Self-sufficiency: autonomy; independence; not-needing-any-thing-other-than-itself-in-order-to-be-itself; self-determining; environment-transcendence; separateness; living by its own laws; identity.
- “People who are reasonably gratified in all their basic needs now become ‘metamotivated’ by the B-Values, or at least by ‘final’ ultimate values in greater or lesser degree, and in one or another combination of these ultimate values.”
- “In another phrasing: Self-actualizing people are not primarily motivated (i.e., by basic needs); they are primarily metamotivated (i.e., by metaneeds = B-Values).“
- “Self-actualizing individuals (more matured, more fully human), by definition, already suitably gratified in their basic needs, are now motivated in other higher ways, to be called ‘metamotivations.'”
- “This preference for truth and honesty and all the facts again is one of the metaneeds rather than one of the ‘basic’ needs, and people who have the luxury of complaining at this level are strictly living a very high-level life.”
- “Basic needs and metaneeds are in the same hierarchical-integration, i.e., in the same continuum, in the same realm of discourse. They have the same basic characteristic of being ‘needed’ (necessary, good for the person) in the sense that their deprivation produces ‘illness’ and diminution, and that their ‘ingestion’ fosters growth toward full humanness, toward greater happiness and joy, toward psychological ‘success,’ toward more peak experiences, and in general toward living more often at the level of being. That is, they are all biologically desirable, and all foster biological success.”
- “The spiritual life is then part of the human essence. It is a defining-characteristic of human nature, without which human nature is not full human nature. It is part of the Real Self, of one’s identity, of one’s inner core, of one’s specieshood, of full humanness. To the extent that pure expressing of oneself, or pure spontaneity, is possible, to that extent will the metaneeds also be expressed.”
- “Depth-diagnostic and therapeutic techniques should ultimately also uncover these same metaneeds because, paradoxically, our ‘highest nature’ is also our ‘deepest nature.’“
- “Since the basic needs had been assumed to be the only motivations for human beings, it was possible, and in certain contexts also useful, to say of self-actualizing people that they were ‘unmotivated’. This was to align these people with the Eastern philosophical view of health as the transcendence of striving or desiring or wanting. (And something of the sort was also true the Roman Stoic view.)”
- “This can also be phrased as a kind of Spinozistic transcendence of the free will vs. determinism dichotomy. At level of metamotivation, one freely, happily, and wholeheartedly embraces one’s determinants. One chooses and wills one’s fate, not reluctantly, not ‘ego-dystonically,’ but lovingly and enthusiastically. And the greater the insight, the more ‘ego-syntonic’ is this fusion of free will and determinism.”
- “I have found it most useful for myself to differentiate between the realm of being (B-realm) and the realm of deficiencies (D-realm), that is, between the eternal and the ‘practical.’ Simply as a matter of the strategy and tactics of living well and fully and of choosing one’s life instead of having it determined for us, this is a help. It is so easy to forget ultimates in the rush and hurry of daily life, especially for young people. So often we are merely responders, so to speak, simply reacting to stimuli, to rewards and punishments, to emergencies, to pains and fears, to demands of other people, to superficialities. It takes a specific, conscious, ad hoc effort, at least at first, to turn one’s attention to intrinsic things and values, e.g., perhaps seeking actual physical aloneness, perhaps exposing oneself to great music, to good people, to natural beauty, etc. Only after practice do these strategies become easy and automatic so that one can be living in the B-realm even without wishing or trying, i.e., the ‘unitive life,’ the ‘metalife,’ the ‘life of being,’ etc.”
- “Can we, therefore, say that everyone yearns for the higher life, the spiritual, the B-Values, etc? Here we run full-tilt into inadequacies in our language. Certainly we can say in principle that such a yearning must be considered to be a potential in every newborn baby until proven otherwise. That is to say, our best guess is that this potentiality, if it is lost, is lost after birth. It is also socially realistic today to bet that most newborn babies will never actualize this potentiality, and will never rise to the highest levels of motivation because of poverty, exploitation, prejudice, etc. There is, in fact, inequality of opportunity in the world today. It is also wise to say of adults that prognosis varies for each of them, depending on how and where they live, their social-economic-political circumstances, degree and amount of psychopathology, etc. And yet is also unwise (as a matter of social strategy, if nothing else) to give up the possibility of the metalife completely and in principle for any living person. ‘Incurables’ have, after all, been ‘cured’ in both the psychiatric sense and in the sense of self-actualization, for example by Synanon. And most certainly, we would be stupid to give up this possibility for future generations.“
You May Also Like:
- What is Self-Actualization? Here’s what Maslow said about Self-Actualizers
- What is Transcendence? The True Top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
- 24 Characteristics of the Self-Actualizing Transcender (Maslow Theory Z Summary)
Also published on Medium.