The Private Sea
11. Humanistic psychology
It is said that Freud had an almost pathologic fear of metaphysics.
According to Jung, Freud was appalled by the "occult"
implications he encountered in his exploration of the human psyche.
Probing ever deeper into the mysteries of the unconscious region,
he heard whispers perhaps from that unseen world William James
talked aboutand they frightened him.
Freud confessed to him, said Jung, "that it was necessary
to make a dogma of his sexual theory because this was the sole
bulwark of reason against a possible 'outburst of the black flood
of occultism."' Consider, for example, the idea of intra-uterine
memories, or recollections of life in the womb. If carried further
this might suggest the possibility at least of pre-uterine memorieswhich
in turn might lend some support to the Eastern doctrine of reincarnation.
Freud refused to consider such implications, and this necessarily
resulted in his negative attitude toward the unconscious, which
he regarded as a sort of garbage heap for man's brute instincts.
As a consequence, said Jung, psychology became for the most part
"the science of conscious contents, measured as far as possible
by collective standards." But suppose for a moment that the
unconscious is something more than this. What if it is in fact
man's link to ultimate reality and the Ground of his Being?
Psychology has finally started to consider this possibility, urged
on in part by psychedelic evidence. In a pioneering study, humanistic
psychologist Abraham H. Maslow proposed that his fellow psychologists
move Toward a Psychology of Being, and Maslow's unorthodox
theories have recently inspired something of a Freud is Dead movement.
The development is comparable in many ways to the radical upheaval
in theology, and Maslow might well be described as the Bonhoeffer
or Robinson of psychology.
What does this mean, a psychology of Being?
Maslow began by agreeing in a sense with Robinson and disagreeing
with Sartre. He began with the assertion that every man has "an
essential biologically based inner nature." This inner
nature "is to some degree 'natural,' intrinsic, given, and,
in a certain limited sense, unchangeable, or, at least, unchanging."
(That is to say, it is unconditionalfrom Robinson's viewpoint,
transcendent.) Moreover, it is not bad or evil: it is either neutral
in character or positively good. Man therefore would do well to
discover and develop it; rather than suppress it, he should follow
it: he should live his life according to its dictates. Psychology
likewise should acknowledge it and seek to understand it.
Freudian psychology is preoccupied with pathology; it is primarily
a sick psychology, or a psychology of sickness. But it fails to
define health. Or rather it tends simply to equate healthy behavior
with successful adjustment to the social environment, nothing
more, and it regards conscience as a sort of learned response:
an internalization of one's "shall" and "shall
not" parents. It is situational and subjective. It does not
suggest the existence of any values, goals, or ideals in any sense
absolute, objective, or unconditional, and it does not provide
for the possibility of an ultimate reality or ultimate state of
On the other hand, Being psychology is a psychology of health.
It defines healthy behavior in terms of successful adjustment
to one's essential inner nature, and it regards conscience as
the "unconscious or preconscious" perception of that
nature. It affirms, of course, the existence (or potential existence)
of an ultimate reality or state of Being, and it says, in effect,
"to thine own Self be true." It does not ask what men
do: it asks what they should do. It asks what men are, but it
also asks what men might be and should become.
Being psychology indicates that man has a built-in potential,
as it were, like the oak which is hidden in the acorn, and conscience
is the intuitive awareness of that potential. The Freudian superego
may also exist, but its demands are imposed from outside: from
the society and the culture, transmitted by the parents. The conscience
of Being, by comparison, is intrinsic; its demands are imposed
from within, by the essential inner nature: it is an inner voice
which insists that we be true to that nature, true to the future,
true to the truth.
Being psychology, or B-psychology, is different from Deficiency
psychology, or D-psychology. D-psychology studies sick people
whose basic needs have not been satisfiedwho are afflicted,
so to speak, with psychic deficiency diseases. B-psychology studies
healthy people whose basic needs have been satisfied and who
therefore can devote their energies to life, to the world, and
to growth: to the actualization of their essential inner natures.
Maslow developed his theories in part by studying a class of healthy
people he described variously as meta-motivated, growth-dominated,
and self-actualizing. He also referred to this type as inner-determined
rather than outer-determined, recalling the sociologist David
Riesman's distinction between the inner-directed individualist
and the other-directed conformist. He said further that self-actualizing
people appear to be capable of a special kind of love and a special
kind of cognition. These he termed B-love and B-cognition, as
opposed to D-love and D-Cognition, the letters again standing
for Being on the one hand and Deficiency on the other. What is
more, he said, a capacity for B-love and B-cognition will sometimes
enable a self-actualizer to achieve a special kind of experiencean
intense, if fleeting, moment of utter joy and complete fulfillment.
This Maslow called a "peak experience."
D-love is a selfish love in which the lover seeks primarily to
satisfy his own needs; in short, it is I-It love. B-love is unselfish,
non-possessive admiration for the Being of another person; in
short, it is I-Thou love. Similarly, D-cognition can be summed
up here as the I-It mode of perception and understanding, while
B-cognition refers to an I-Thou view of the world.
In B-cognition during a peak experience, said Maslow, an object
else; it is perceived as a whole. "It is seen as if it were
all there was in the universe, as if it were all of Being, synonymous
with the universe." The B-cognizer becomes totally absorbed
with the object to the exclusion of all else, and he admires it
without comparing it, evaluating it, judging it, or desiring to
possess it; above all, he does not rubricize the object,
which means to say he does not attempt to classify it or put it
in a category with other objects. The B-cognizer, moreover, is
relatively "ego-transcending, self-forgetful, ego-less."
He also is non-motivated in terms of future action; he regards
the peak experience as a "self-validating" end in itself
and not as the means to some future end. A "very characteristic
disorientation to time and space" occurs, and the B-cognizer
finds himself, subjectively, outside of time and space. He is
"most here-now, most free of the past and of the future."
He is therefore "non-striving, non-needing, non-wishing."
His perception is nondualistic, and he thus denies the existence
of evilor views it rather as "only a partial phenomenon,
a product of not seeing the world whole and unified." Being
as such is good, or neutral. And finally, the peak experience
is beyond abstractionsincluding verbal abstractions. It cannot
really be put into words, since it is after all a view of the
whole, and words cannot express the whole.
B-psychology's description of a healthy person's peak experience
sounds very much, of course, like James's description of mystical
religious experience, Buber's description of I-Thou experience,
the drug cultist's description of psychedelic experience, and
the Zen Buddhist's description of satori. Maslow's essential inner
nature, as we have already indicated, sounds very much like Tillich's
Ground of Being and Bishop Robinson's transcendent or unconditional
God. And the B-psychologist's attitude toward the unconscious
would certainly appear to support the view of James and Jung.
"Because the roots of ill health were found first in the
unconscious," wrote Maslow, "it has been our tendency
to think of the unconscious as bad, evil, crazy, dirty or dangerous,
and to think of the primary processes as distorting the
truth. But now that we have found these depths to be also the
source of creativeness, of art, of love, of humor and play, and
even of certain kinds of truth and knowledge, we can begin to
speak of a healthy unconscious, of healthy regressions. . . .
We can now go into primary process cognitions for certain kinds
of knowledge, not only about the self but also about the world."
Maslow, unlike Robinson, did not attempt to say in so many words
what man's essential inner nature might be. But a clue to his
thought is provided perhaps by his expression of wonder at "the
mystery of communication between alone-nesses via, e.g., intuition
and empathy, love and altruism, identification with others, and
homonomy in general." Maslow added: "We take these for
granted. It would be better if we regarded them as miracles to
The scientist Lecomte du Nouy expressed the same idea in his book
Human Destiny when he pointed out that "the appearance
of moral and spiritual ideas remains an absolute mystery."
How, then, are we to account for our "unaccountable aspirations"?
The scientific unbeliever insists upon cause and effect and
then refuses to acknowledge any cause creating such effects as
love, conscience, charity, and sacrifice. The cause is denied
because it cannot be seen. Thus, as physicist David Bohm has noted,
nineteenth-century positivists such as Mach held that the idea
of atoms was meaningless and "nonsensical" because atoms
could not then be observed. But even science will sometimes accept
the evidence of things not seen, as in the case of the outer planets.
The existence of some unseen planet was first suspected because
of perturbations in the orbit of Uranus; when a proper telescope
was brought to bear, giant Neptune swam into viewand Pluto
later was similarly discovered. So what would happen if we were
to focus our attention on the phenomena of love and morality,
searching in the same way for the source of these perturbations?
What might swim into view in this case?
Evidence of an essential inner nature led Maslow to reconsider
the possibility that mankind might be able to develop a humanistic
morality or scientific ethic. As it is, Western morality tends
to be legalistic and authoritarian; our basic rules of conduct
are handed down from above, as it were, in the form of commandments,
on tablets of stone, and we are expected to obey them without
asking questions. Thou shalt not kill, for example. No doubt that
is a very good law, and there is probably a very good reason for
itbut we are not told what the reason is. Similarly, no particular
reason is given for the less basic rules of conduct which are
imposed upon us by mundane authority. As a general proposition,
all in all, we are expected to behave this way or that way because
God said so, or our parents said so, or Congress said so, or Emily
Post said so.
The system does work, in a fashion, if we sense that the laws
in question are for some reason good ones. Thus most of us feel
intuitively that the law against killing is a good law, which
explains why it has remained on the books for so many years in
so many lands, and most of us therefore do not kill other people,
unless of course we are told to by Congress or the President.
But the system breaks down too, and especially so in an age of
empiricism when people develop the disturbing habit of demanding
a reason for everything. We are distressed, for example, when
criminals and juvenile delinquents band together in gangs, make
their own rules, and refuse to honor the laws of society. We wonder
why it happens. But society itself is a gang it is simply a
very big gangand its rules are no more sacrosanct than the
Mafia's unless some valid reason can be produced to recommend
them: a reason, preferably, which will demonstrate that the rules
as such are grounded in the very nature of things. This is why
men have dreamed of discovering a "natural law" which
is grounded in the nature of Being itself, demonstrably true and
irrefutable: a law which no man could possibly deny, having once
Such a law indeed is central to the Tibetan concept of Dharmakaya.
As the Evans-Wentz edition of the Tibetan Book of the Dead
tells us: "Dharmakaya is the norm of all existence,
the standard of truth, the measure of righteousness, the good
law; it is that in the constitution of things which makes certain
modes of conduct beneficial and certain other modes detrimental."
In the East, for instance, human compassion is a matter of elementary
logic based upon the supposedly monistic character of mankind.
"When you're cut, I bleed. Therefore, I had better see to
it that you are not cut." In the West the idea of a natural
law can be traced back to Plato's assertion that virtue and knowledge
are the same thing: that all real virtue springs from knowledge
alone. Saint Augustine perhaps was hinting at something of this
sort when, addressing himself to God, he bemoaned the crimes of
Sodom. "But how can men's insults touch you, who are undefiled?
Or what injury can be committed against you, who cannot be hurt?
But your vengeance is in that which men do against themselves,
because when they sin against you, they are acting wickedly against
their own souls, and iniquity gives itself the lie."
Robinson likewise in his New Morality was attempting to establish
an ethic based on love, the Ground of Being, and he believed that
this could be accomplished by de mythologizing the legalistic
Christian ethic. The West of course insists that the character
of mankind is pluralistic and personal, not monistic and impersonal;
in East and West alike, however, those who affirm the existence
of a natural law are in fundamental agreement on one point: they
all base their arguments on the existence of a primary state of
Being. Natural morality is not possible unless Sartre was wrong
and such a primary state of Being actually exists; it matters
not in this case whether you refer to that state as Atman or as
an essential inner nature. Here, then, we discover a critical
point of convergence which brings together the drug movement,
radical theology, B-psychology, and Eastern metaphysics.
Maslow, for his own part, conceded that all past attempts to realize
a natural morality had failed. But he added that contemporary
developments in psychology "make it possible for us for the
first time to feel confident that this age-old hope may be fulfilled
if only we work hard enough." If men knew what they really
were like, and what they were meant to become, the very nature
of their Being would emerge as "a court of ultimate appeal
for the determination of good and bad." It would at last
become possible to establish a system of "morals-from-within."In the past, all efforts to establish such a system have been
frustrated by man's apparent inability to determine what his essential
inner nature actually is. It is all very well to say there is
a primary state of Beingbut how does one form any precise knowledge
Maslow thought he now saw a way to solve this problem. The first
step would be for psychology to abandon its exclusive interest
in sickness. Let psychology turn its attention also to a study
of health, and of ends and values as well. Specifically, let it
study the habits and attitudes of healthy, self-actualizing people:
the growth-dominated B-cognizers and B-lovers who have peak experiences.
Maslow said that "it looks as if there were a single
ultimate value for mankind, a far goal toward which all men strive."
All men to some degree are struggling to attain that goal, which
is the realization of their essential inner nature; but the self-actualizers
by comparison have the goal already in sight. Presumably, then,
psychology could learn a good deal by keeping the self-actualizers
under close observationby examining, for example, the hedonic
choices they make in the course of their daily lives: by
taking careful note of the things that delight them. And why do
this? Because, said Maslow, such people will automatically make
the right choices. They will choose virtue just as we choose a
dessert, because virtue delights them. "They spontaneously
tend to do right because that is what they want to do,
what they need to do, what they enjoy . . ." To such
self-disciplined people, said Maslow, we can safely say: "Do
as you will, and it will probably be all right." And if this
sounds familiar, it may remind us of that Augustinian directive
from which Robinson constructed his New Morality.
Through the self-actualizers, therefore, psychology can discover
"which values men trend toward." Indeed, said Maslow,
"it is possible that we may soon even define therapy
as a search for values." This in turn calls to mind a cartoon
which appeared in the New Yorker, I believe, quite a long
time ago. A psychiatrist glares down at the free-associating patient
on his couch and snarls, "You cur!" Or something to
that effect. The idea seemed funny at the time, but in a sense
it is just the sort of attitude Maslow has proposed. Psychology
should start making value judgments. It should say: "Here
is what it is like to be fully human." "This is wrong."
"That is right."
Maslow failed to dispose entirely of one problem: who decides
what health is, and who chooses the self-actualizers? If such
an all-wise person exists, then why bother with the self-actualizers?
Why not study him instead? Again we meet one of those saber-toothed
circles, and here again the matter might restif Maslow stood
alone in the witness box. As we have already indicated, however,
the case for a primary state of Being is bolstered by the supporting
testimony of psychedelic experience, mystical experience, radical
theology, and the Eastern movement as such. Coming together as
they do, all of these give added weight to Maslow's argument,
just as Maslow's argument gives added weight to them. Also, each
of them provides as it were an additional laboratory tool with
which to probe the unconsciousand thereby to test the assertions
of B-psychology. It is not necessary to depend upon peak experience
alone, or any one person's definition of a peak experience. The
psychedelics would appear to be especially promising in this connection,
and, in so far as it enables men to know themselves better, LSD
makes a natural morality far more of a possibility than it has
ever been before. There is some evidence that LSD in effect anesthetizes
the Freudian superegoputs to sleep those internalized parentsand
thus allows the intrinsic conscience to take over.
If you grant the validity of a primary state of Being, what are
the practical implications of this? What would a natural morality
actually mean in terms of human conduct? The answer is obvious
if you assume that the primary state is monistic in characteryou're
cut, I bleedand this interpretation in fact suggests a possible
distinction between law and justice. If mankind were a single
man, and that man had a gangrenous arm, law would simply whack
off the arm to save the man. Justice would first do all it could
to save the arm. Justice would not be interested in punishing
the arm, for the sake of punishmentand while justice itself
might consent finally to radical surgery, it would do so only
as a last resort. Law recognizes the integrity of the whole. Justice
recognizes the integrity of the whole, but it recognizes also
the parts' participation in that whole. Monism therefore provides
a firm basis for decision-making in interpersonal relationships.
It is a question simply of how much you are willing to hurt yourself.
Are the gains worth the painsalways remembering that the pains
are really yours? (If Stalin had been a monist, for example, he
might have hesitated over his decision to liquidate the kulaks.)
Indeed, this does seem to be the direction in which our court
system is presently moving, to the despair of many good citizens.
As a general observation, in fact, whatever our voiced convictions,
it might be said that we act as if life were monistic. I am struck
by this personally whenever I see a fire engine racing to a fire,
or the United Nations in emergency sessionwhenever society
mobilizes its resources in some dramatic fashion to protect the
welfare of individuals or the common good. And what, for that
matter, is the real meaning of our personal and social gregariousness?
But after all, it is possible to account for such phenomena without
resorting to an unqualified monism. While it seeks to preserve
the integrity of individual personality, Western religious tradition
has been just as insistent that there are bonds which in some
ineffable way unite us all. We are told this again now by radical
theology, by B-psychology, and especially perhaps by the drug
movement. Whether or not mankind is utterly monistic, psychedelic
experience does seem to hint at a brotherhood which is something
more than brotherhoodand to this extent it may help to provide
a rationale for social action, including civil rights. As the
LSD researcher Willis W. Harman has said in connection with those
who somehow manage to break the spell of cultural hypnosis, whatever
the means, a man who is privileged to look at ultimate reality
will know thereafter from his own experience "that we are
elements of a greater whole, and that what one does to another
he does ineluctably to himself."
A monistic awareness, qualified or not, might also explain why
LSD has proved helpful in treating alcoholics, who say they no
longer feel isolated from the rest of the world, and in easing
the anguish of terminal patients, who have reported new insights
into the real meaning of life, death, and immortality.
In so far as it confirms an unconditional human nature, LSD might
also be helpful in solving another philosophical problem. Implicit
in the idea of a natural ethic based upon a primary state of Being
is a possible validation of free willas opposed to a mechanistic
determinism. The modern argument for free will has been founded
very often upon the science of quantum physics and Heisenberg's
famous Principle of Uncertainty or Indeterminacy. Heisenberg said
it is impossible for science to predict the behavior of an individual
particle at the atomic level, since the very act of observation
and measurement will influence the behavior of the particle. (This
has been compared with the difficulty a blind man would encounter
if he attempted to learn about a snowflake by touching one. )
But some physicists have gone even further; carrying uncertainty
to the point of indeterminacy, they have asserted that individual
particles actually behave in a chaotic, capricious, and lawless
manner. You can never tell what a particular particle is going
to do next, and thus there is no causality or determinism in the
microcosmos. The laws of nature are derived only when you apply
the theory of statistical probability to a vast number of particles;
then individual capriciousness will cancel out, and it is possible
to predict how matter will behave in the macrocosmos. Flip a coin
once and it will come up either heads or tails. Flip it a million
times and it will almost certainly come up heads a half-million
times and tails a half-million times.
Some philosophers and theologians have seized upon this idea,
finding in microcosmic anarchy a possible justification for the
thesis that man himself has free will. This of course links free
will inexorably to physics, and it is perhaps a rather dangerous
position. In the first place, there are those who suggest that
the lawlessness of the particles is only apparent; as Bohm has
proposed, an explanation for microcosmic behavior may yet be discovered
at some deeper level of causation below the atomic and subatomic.
And where would that leave free will, if not on a sawed-off limb?
More to the point, as philosopher Ernst Cassirer has argued, ethics
would surely be in a sorry position if it had to take refuge in
the gaps of scientific knowledgein a mere possibility which
is, essentially, negative in nature. Should freedom be equated
with causelessness? Is that the kind of ethic you would really
prefer if you had your choice? Could you trust such an ethic,
and could you trust any person whose actions were determined by
a capricious whim? Or would you prefer instead an ethic which
is grounded in reason, and would you rather do business with somebody
whose conduct is determined by his essential inner nature? Describing
Spinoza's views on the subject, Cassirer wrote: "To act freely
does not mean to act arbitrarily or without prior decision; it
means rather to act in accordance with a decision which is in
harmony with the essence of our reason. This essence and with
it the specific priority of reason consists of the knowledge of
the whole." True ethical judgment, said Cassirer, does not
put a high value on capricious behavior; rather, "it values
a course of action that springs from the basic substratum of the
personality and is firmly anchored in it."
Natural morality is predicated of course on just such a substratumon
a primary state of Beingand it suggests in turn a kind of freedom
we might describe as ontological freedom. This has nothing
to do with anarchy or lawlessness. It implies a freedom to be
yourselfor more exactly, a freedom to become that which you
were meant to be. In this sense, freedom for Beethoven would not
mean a freedom to become a sailor or an architect or an outlaw:
it would mean simply a freedom to become a composer of music.
In the same sense, freedom for the acorn would be a freedom to
become an oak treenot a hibiscus or a sugar maple, but only
an oak. Freedom, in other words, means the freedom to realize
your essential inner nature, and Beethoven for example would be
subject to a blind determinism only if his father, say, forced
him to study medicine. Ontological freedom applies both to the
individual and to the whole, and it is valid even if the whole
should prove to be in fact monistic.
Here too Spinoza has spoken. If we are nothing more than
parts of a whole which is in the process of realizing itself,
we nevertheless contribute to that whole, each and every one of
us. It is an expression of us, just as much as we are an expression
of it. In so far as we partake of the whole, we each of us determine
in part what the whole is and shall be. If we are cogs in a machine,
we are not merely the servants of the machine: we each of us in
part comprise the machine, and it is just as much subservient
to us as we are subservient to it. In fact, we are the machine,
and the machine is us. (What was it Bergson said? The universe
is a machine for the making of God?) In so far as the whole is
free, then we also are freein so far as we partake of the whole.
The sense of a dictatorial determinism arises only when we fail
to recognize our true identity or essential inner nature, and
it matters not whether that identity is pluralistic or monistic.
The sense of freedom arises with our awareness of our identityof
our destiny, if you willand we recognize that we are free when
we understand that we are responding either to our own inner nature
or to the inner nature of a whole in which we partake. This perhaps
is a deeper meaning of the saying "You shall know the truth
and the truth shall set you free." The truth is our essential
inner nature, pluralistic or otherwise, and, to the extent that
it provides us with a greater awareness of the truth, the psychedelic
experience sets us freeas do also the peak and mystical experiences.
Or so at least the argument might run.
In his important book The Secular City, Harvey Cox has
asserted that "the era of metaphysics is dead" and that
"politics replaces metaphysics as the language of theology."
Perhaps metaphysics is dead for Cox, who apparently subscribes
to the doctrine of God's hiddenness. But obviously it is very
much alive for Altizer, for Bishop Robinson, for B-psychology,
for the drug cults, for the Eastern movement. In this case Cox
may have completely misread the signs of the times, for it appears
far more likely that we are witnesses today to a significant rebirth
of metaphysics. As we have shown, even psychology is now asking
ultimate ontological questions about the nature of Being. And
perhaps it was inevitable that psychology should do this. As Tillich
has indicated, there are two kinds of anxietyneurotic and existentialand
only ontology can distinguish the one from the other. Neurotic
anxiety is unreal, or rather has a misplaced object of attention,
while existential anxiety is the result of a realistic analysis
of the way things actually are. Clearly it is important to distinguish
the two, and that is why Tillich complained about "the lack
of an ontological analysis of anxiety and a sharp distinction
between existential and pathological anxiety."
Two decades ago, at the end of the war, Jacques Maritain wrote:
"What is essentially needed is a renewal of metaphysics.
. . . What is needed first and foremost is a rediscovery of Being,
and by the same token a rediscovery of love. This means, axiomatically,
a rediscovery of God. The existential philosophies which are today
in fashion are but a sign of a certain deep want and desire to
find again the sense of Being."
He said further: "In perceiving Being Reason knows God."
Those words have a prophetic ring now. A rediscovery of Being
is central to the contemporary developments we have discussed,
and from one point of view it might be said that man today is
making another desperate effort to find his God again. But, as
noted, the rediscovered God has seemed more often than not to
be the Eastern God, and the new metaphysics has been deeply influenced
by mysticism. Today's radical ontology may therefore be subject
to a Western-oriented criticism, including a major objection which
was expressed some years ago, in another connection, by no one
less than Tillich:
"Mysticism," said Tillich, "does not take seriously
the concrete and the doubt concerning the concrete. It plunges
directly into the ground of being and meaning, and leaves the
concrete, the world of finite values and meanings, behind. Therefore
it does not solve the problem of meaninglessness. In terms of
the present religious situation this means that Eastern mysticism
is not the solution of the problems of Western Existentialism,
although many people attempt this solution."
Buber raised the same point in rejecting the Eastern concept of
a mystical union with the godhead: "What does it help my
soul that it can be withdrawn anew from this world here into unity,
when this world itself has of necessity no part in the unitywhat
does all 'enjoyment of God' profit a life that is rent in two?
If that abundantly rich heavenly moment has nothing to do with
my poor earthly momentwhat has it then to do with me, who have
still to live, in all seriousness still to live, on earth?"
This brings us back to questions we asked earlier. Are the East
and the West as diametrically opposed as they appear to be? Or
are they both perhaps attempting to say the same thing, in different
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