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  The Private Sea

    William Braden

        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 about—and 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 memories—which 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 unconditional—from 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 Being.
    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 satisfied—who 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 experience—an 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 is not perceived in terms of use, purpose, or relation to anything 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 evil—or 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 abstractions—including 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 be explained."
    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 view—and 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 it—but 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 gang—and 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 understood it.
    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 Being—but how does one form any precise knowledge of it?
    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 observation—by 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 rest—if 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 unconscious—and 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 superego—puts to sleep those internalized parents—and 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 character—you're cut, I bleed—and 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 punishment—and 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 pains—always 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 session—whenever 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 brotherhood—and 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 will—as 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 knowledge—in 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 substratum—on a primary state of Being—and 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 yourself—or 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 tree—not 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 free—in 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 identity—of our destiny, if you will—and 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 free—as 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 anxiety—neurotic and existential—and 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 unity—what 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 moment—what 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 ways?

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