Tag Archives: Abraham Maslow

Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers VI

The extremely common estrangement of the human being from her directional organismic processes is not a necessary part of our nature. It is instead something learned, and learned to an especially high degree in our Western culture… The satisfaction or fulfillment of the actualizing tendency has become bifurcated into incompatible behavioral systems…

Carl Rogers on Personal Power (1977)

Both Maslow and Jung confirm these societal obstacles in the way of actualisation/individuation, which indeed are pretty self-evident. “Estrangement” (a cousin to “alienation” without the Marxist baggage) simply means being too occupied with the aforementioned social masks to be in contact with meaningful layers of oneself. This phenomenon was also noted by Wilhelm Reich.

Selves appear to be multifurcated and in fact shattered sometimes, in our current Western culture, rather than merely bifurcated. A great deal of psychology focuses on knitting together shattered selves into a new wholeness which is a definite achievement, existing in harmony with the underlying deeper consciousness. This process is described in subpersonality psychologies like Psychosynthesis, and also in the work of Grof. Via Rogerian processes it happens spontaneously, is noticed happening by itself, simply as a result of gentle congruous attention.

Since it also appears in shamanism, and in mythology in the stories of Osiris, Zagreus and Lemminkäinen for example, there must be a sense in which this shatteredness is age-old, probably a legacy of developments in human nervous system and culture. It may possibly be more widespread now that at previous times.


Best of Self = Way Beyond Self

It’s not actually that easy to illustrate the concept of “Peak Experience” without cliché

You at your best are good for you, because you do glimpse some truth in that moment. Concentrating on your peaks, moments when you have felt at your best (not necessarily when others would assume you to be at your best, although usually there are all sorts of resonances going on) feeds through your life and makes peak Breakouts more frequent. This is good prep for serious energy work not dissimilar to the Smile. Here again is the list from last week of the S-terms or B-values; one can meditate on how various of them are reflected in peak experiences and learn from these contexts how the best “you” feels and what it does, keeping it very personal to one own actualisation.

A collection of these can be dipped into for purposes of shifting mood, which can happen quite easily, especially when emotional arousal has dropped off. When bad emotions have been somewhat processed, they tend to linger for lack of a way to shift. Going to peaks and may produce a near-magical transformation.

Brief qigong exercises will make it doubly effective. An appropriate technique like qigong breathing can spread feelings through the system, or they can be gathered in the saliva and swallowed to the Tan Tien, Glenn-style. The more advanced with open meridians can run the feelings through them to see what they do. This practice is key to many of Glenn’s statements about energy, such as his comments on checking out the healer, Lisa:

I took some of her healing energy and ran it through me using the internal witness to observe. It was nice and pink and lit up all the meridians and organs. She knew her stuff.

Path Notes (1993, pp. 145-6)

Becoming a connoisseur of energy is a key to sensing people and situations. Glenn taught the martial way but it can be used in so many not-overtly-martial situations. These practices can help develop that awareness as can a few things in Chia’s Healing Light of the Tao (2008). Rob Williams gives excellent instruction in chapters 6 and 7 of his Hoshinjutsu (2009).

Over time of meditating on peaks people may get memories of ones that are very close to the kinds of thing Glenn recommends for the Smile — achievement, love, etc. — but may also get very different stuff. Many of my peaks didn’t look very interesting from the outside. It’s all good if it seems to be what really matters to and about you. This is not such a long step from meditating on the questions, “Who am I really?” (Maharshi), “What is my original face?” (Zen) and so forth, practices which if approached consistently can bring results in themselves, although the smoothing-out of Kundalini egoless states is very useful.

Having some way to understand things from this perspective really seems to cut out the bs, and I’ll advocate this more later, showing how it matches up with other systems but in a secular way. A whole theory is coalescing now around Maslow that also revises the Pyramid of Needs into a useful tool, plus systems of Shadow acceptance come from his self-actualisation approach… this is a great way to relate one’s experiences to ordinary life, because Peaks are seeded by ordinary life.

This gets to why Glenn so often said, follow your heart. He meant, follow the flavour of the feeling and learn to distinguish the subtlety thereof, to trust what you sense and get information from it:

… conscious love is created from the exploration and opening of one’s own heart through diligent meditation and introspection. It is only through knowing yourself that true love and compassion evolve… ninjo… is the concept of human feelings [B-cognition] being vastly more important than what is logical and profitable [D-cognition]… Start paying attention to what other people feel like in various situations… Don’t rationalize the feelings, just build your catalog… run hot angry emotions through your meridians and see if you like the migraine feeling… if you’re going to kick in the more intuitive side of your brain, which also processes feelings, you must remember that we feel before we think. Since most of us, particularly men, have had a lot of training in ignoring our emotions, finding them in charge can have interesting consequences…

– all from Path Notes

Continually strengthening and radiating your peaks through yourself starts the process of recreating and recoalescing towards what matters and what aligns all body and soul functions. As qi builds this spreads naturally to others around you via resonance, changing life in interesting ways. The work looks private, but no work giving instant access to the energy systems of others, as well as one’s own, could ever be private. Its results spread through everything you have ever entrained to, changing the world one person at a time.

Use of one’s own experience is I think a vital ingredient, one I’m going to design in more strongly. Peak is the psychology of the natural high. Given how I feel these days I still think it could and should change world, and it reminds me that Glenn used to say, “this is what people should be doing” — meaning, some form of it, not one form in particular, but a form that works.

However, there’s no denying that the Peak concept, in democratising, also was used in an irresponsible and ungrounded way. This is the 60s and 70s we’re talking about, that outburst which made so much possible, including stuff that led in unproductive directions. Maslow himself wrote excellently on that. The dangers of irresponsibility and selfishness, of needing to escalate the high, of impatience, the shadow of Peak, were well seen by him in his new 1970 Preface to Religions, Values and Peak Experiences (1964). In this and so many other things his patient voice was not always heeded. Not everyone used LSD the careful way Grof did. Meditation takes dedication, even if the methods are extremely efficient. Peak-hunger could get too frenzied.

A lot of things got winnowed out, which may be for the best considering the immense power added to these theories by qigong and Kundalini. But the unfortunate side of that in turn, as mentioned last week, is that much science has actually given up trying to understand human beings in this way. We turned to wishing ourselves numbered patterns. The attempt to master humanity by dehumanising reached to healing and life itself, and tried to snuff out the spirit that does indeed still keep us all alive.

Glenn seems to have nonetheless based himself in the older Humanistic and Maslovian approach quite strongly, using it to understand what had happened after his unexpected awakening. This was a big part of what he called ‘strategy’, which in turn focused on enjoyment and the investigation of feeling, yet could also be scientifically investigated with work on the chakras. That takes a certain amount of sophistication. Chakra openings are peaks of a different kind, but they are peaks. One finds instinctively one’s style, the archetypal push and flavour of the chakras, of the organs and meridians. Subjective hooking into the eternal makes meaningfulness of a uniquely self-actualising kind even as it breaks down the social masks, and with each new pattern of understanding you make a step into “becoming part of it” as the Navajo say.

The universe is a huge spontaneous poem written in feelings and images that course through the soul. Anyone who wants to make the run for the grail just has to get the meditations and peaks into gear. When the meridians and the chakras open properly there is no need to depend so much on memories of peaks, because the flow of energy clears conscious access to the living source of them, a step at a time. The job becomes to continually plateau-Breakout into the living truth of constant peak.

The qigong systems I use (see Reading Lists) are about flow. Those who haven’t yet experienced it, especially Westerners with their lack of much tradition concerning it, may not get that qi is as obvious and easy to feel — and later to see — as anything physical. Qi in motion on the level of the meridians can literally be felt clearing and refreshing all areas of the system, everything that was clung to can be let go in favour of flow with reality. These are not only physical-type blockages. Blockages of the soul, of trauma, of crisis, of meaning, are also dissolved. The beauty of this is hard to relate but easy to enjoy.

It becomes clear that everything one experienced was experienced through this, through this mind-body system which the energy is causing to zing and flash. Each area opened opens a level of the cosmos to one’s mind, and one’s mind to that level. Peaks at this stage have coalesced into the neutral guiding star of spontaneous persistence and beauty that continually lights the personal way to the universal. The seed planted by those peak moments grows to flower in the cosmos. The Taoists call this “becoming a real human”.

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I’m off to play with what I’ve got here for a while, and will probably be posting in a slightly differently pattern and style when I return, including more details on a secular psychological basis for these qigong realisations, and other stuff. Meanwhile I’ll be adding to the Reading Lists and dealing with the Webster rebuttal… enjoy. :)


Ataraxia: Sdeen fo Dimaryp

Abraham Maslow: not merely the Aaron Copland of psychology, although that too

Abandon desire all ye who enter here

sign at the entrance to “Damo’s Cave” in the Glenn Morris exercise.

Abraham Maslow is a genius I still love to read, in fact I plan to read him more and more closely as time goes on. He is one of those default thinkers, like Rudolf Steiner, who underlie everything and capture so much of what is necessary about their times, but are not referenced consciously nearly so often as unconsciously.

All agree though that his “hierarchy of needs” is somewhat problematic. Supposedly it shows human needs, from physical at the base, through safety, love, esteem, to self-actualisation at the apex. The idea is that as you satisfy the lowest level, the next opens up, and so on.

… and his Hierarchy of Needs

It’s ironic that the hierarchy is what most people know of Maslow, and the only thing of his that undergrads learn, because it is far from his most important idea. Much of the work done on Maslow’s stuff since his time is unimpressive, since cognitivism refused to look at values with his boldness, and tried to pretend that peak experiences don’t exist. But flaws spotted in the pyramid are more sensible — as this page puts it, the problem is simply “deciding when a level has actually been ‘satisfied’”. How do you know when you have ‘enough’ food, esteem and love to move on to actualising yourself? Like the serial murderess says in Black Widow: “Rich is hard — you never really figure you’re quite there…”

Come to think of it, how do we model a hunger striker in solitary confinement? He doesn’t have company, yet is doing without food… perhaps for esteem he can’t see, and that means higher parts of the pyramid can overrule lower, even though the other way round is supposed to be the “correct” direction — and we see too that a person overruling top–>bottom is actualised… a person may give up self-esteem for sex, or give up food to feed family… one is the ‘giving up’ of capitulation, the other, of self-sacrifice. In what sense is food a “need” in that case? Or life itself? — there’s the point!

The actual situation seems more or less entirely the reverse of how the pyramid is usually read, in that as soon as some level of actualisation is present (meaning among other things acceptance, creativity and ethics) the other “needs” begin to be overruled by it. Ultimately, good yoga or qigong practice may take away even the “need” for breathing and eating itself, at times. The encounter with self-actualisation broadly is an encounter with death…

… one of Webster’s many mistakes was not realising this… 32,414 words as of today and more or less done the first draft, apart from an evidential appendix…

… and death is where we will all end up — not eating, not breathing, heart not beating. Many spiritual training methods by some means or another go to the shamanic place of getting this death in sooner, to a degree, and learn that closer to death is closer to life, a great mystery which I don’t claim fully to understand, although I’ve remarked on the connection between kundalini and death, and the regathering of threads it involves, on this blog before now.

Self-actualisation is indeed relegated to the tip of the pyramid on ordinary, unreconstructed instinct, by which people operating as part of society do usually function, trying to avoid ceasing to exist. But if you awaken creativity now via Kundalini, it rewrites the program as it rewires the nervous system, and ultimately can completely upend the structure.

Although he wasn’t Kundalini-specific of course, Maslow must have seen this on some level. Self-actualisation theory was deeply empirical, floating very close to real observed behaviour. And the subjects were described as “not identifying with ordinary ways”, “non-ordinary in motivation”, “non-needy” and so forth, continually, showing that Maslow was seeing the process in action, but somehow didn’t quite put his finger on it. He also saw the vital importance of the transpersonal via Peak Experiences, but wished to remove their mystical connotations, so may not have associated them with death. That would have been too “supernatural”.

It is to be noted that Kundalini experiencers usually have to become more ethical; the goddess does not give them another choice except to suffer from not doing so. See Greenwell and Kason. This shows that awakening and ethics are instinctively connected, not only intellectually so.

Later aspects of Maslow’s thought included the ‘plateau experience’ which was like a peak experience but constant. Thought like that remains absolutely central to the psychology of realisation in my opinion. I relate it strongly to Greek ataraxia, the aim of Epicureanism, but it includes a strand of mythic eternity owing to Maslow’s theory of “B-cognition”. I will definitely return to these ideas when I have time; meanwhile Rhea White introduces them here.


Notes on free wills

Sure pal, like you turned out trustworthy. A different attitude on this and you wouldn't have fallen for the ring crap.

They’re really at the ‘no free will’ business right now, the skeptics. Someone pointed me to this article by Jerry Coyne, a fine example of the usual claim you have no choice in anything since you are a mere ‘meat computer’ that ‘must obey the laws of physics’. Of course there are more elegant anti-will claims. This is not one, this is a meatgrinder. One cannot help hearing the voice of the cyberman. Add in some ever-popular Freudian tango (“if this seems to deny something basic about your humanity, that only makes it more of a true revelation”), et voilà — one strangled personhood. And that is their aim.

As Volk points out, we can make changes in our physical brain structure through meditation, so the idea that our physicality limits us is wrong. Murphy wrote a very big book on that which Coyne would choke on. The autonomic can become consciously controlled via a couple of dozen disciplines at least. The use of the body against freedom is ironic as it is so often the source thereof. Since we also know ch’i exists and responds to intention, plus has the power to alter physical matter, the automated billiard ball psychological universe disappears on cue.

“We are biological creatures, collections of molecules that must obey the laws of physics,” Coyle says. “All the success of science rests on the regularity of those laws.” In other words, if you exercise free will you are betraying your own lifestyle and culture! Do you dare to contravene them even in thought, infidel?

Well you do and we can catch you at it. An important aspect of free will is “free won’t”, the ability to refuse or inhibit an impulse which even the Libet experiments, so often misused as skeptic ammunition, still allow. Goleman writes of the now-classic ‘marshmallow test’, in which four-year-olds are sat down opposite a marshmallow and told they can eat it, or wait for an adult to come back from an errand in which case they’ll get two. Impulse control was better in some kids than others and correlated to increased actualisation later in life — more control, more actualisation. A subsequent study found the area of the brain responsible for the inhibition as Goleman reported in 2007. It corresponds roughly to the dorsal fronto-median cortex.

“Free won’t” is actually like a muscle — we all have it, but attaining its potential requires work. The marshmallow routine should really be done not as a secretive test “on” children but as a training of them. If you have a kid do the test a few times and you will see improvement which feeds through into other areas.

Thus we have a property that not only exists measurably and differentially amongst humans but which can be shown to improve. Since improvement has been shown to correlate to happiness, to say that what one is improving “doesn’t exist” is just a reductionist sophistry, and a Trojan horse for the prevention of flourishing.

Marshmallows are low on the pyramid, challenge to achieve is high

How many who have done the marshmallow test realise it’s a spiritual training method? In Learning Ritual Magic Greer/King/Vaughn have a version where you bring a brightly-coloured object into a room and then do something for 10 minutes in that room but never look at the object. Same exact impulse control, same “free won’t” skill developing. But notice that the original marshmallow test used self-interested greed as a motivation (low on the hierarchy) where this one deliberately shows that no motivation is needed for an adult other than interest/challenge. True grit and other such subtleties are beyond the currency of Coyne since to him we only interpret neurotransmitters as motivations.

Free will training also shows relation to paradox that should surprise no-one — anyway no-one who has observed the effects of aporia. Mental patterns can be changed just as can physical ones if you know how. Kundalini involves a re-wiring of the nervous system, or “bein’ god-teched” as Glenn liked to say which radically reorientates the will.

“Free won’t” leads to free will since not-doing something is aided by doing something else. In another classic training exercise — I got it from Draja Mickaharic who I believe snagged it from Gurdjieff — a person walking home in a snowstorm reaches his front door but does not go in immediately; instead he walks around the block once first. Thus he strengthens his will. Here, free won’t or the refusal of gratification has been translated into free will or choice of alternative courses. (You could sing Ave Maria before going inside if you prefer.)

This is all related I think to the level of coalesced harmony and negentropy in the system, entrained around the decision-maker. That’s where knife edge is — when spirit is willing how is flesh doing? Through training, the answer to that question can change.

So much for the active form of free will. There is also a more subtle, paradoxical and probably fundamental form which is referred to as creativity. We saw last week how a Breakout or moment of inspiration can bring something new to the human system, which resolves stressful issues into harmonious relationship, and we also saw how it can be deliberately induced by giving up any attempt to consciously control. I often induce similar resolutions by Ericksonian trance. More sophisticated anti-willers like Wegner would say this is giving up free will, but of course you can choose to do it consciously and you thereby gain freedom. Meanwhile Coyne is far even from Wegner.

As with all concepts of intuition and inspiration, these are not things “I” do but appear from outside the closed circle of the personality. An argument for free will is not an argument for conventional personal identity or for the necessity of control. On the contrary, less control can mean more freedom. (This does not mean giving way to any “randomness” since randomness does not reduce disorder.)

Living closer to such inspiration is more alive, more on the pivot of the moment — there is a correspondence with the Taoist idea of Ziran — and this aliveness or creativity in the moment is to be contrasted with anything mechanical, which it is not. It runs rings around it. Morinaga calls it “dying in every moment”.

So we can cite some subconscious promptings as evidence of free will. How could Coyne even categorize this? (Deleuze wouldn’t have much problem with it though.) This is far from the last paradox to be enumerated since acceptance of reality as it is creates freedom of action, too, at least, yet seems to give up a freedom — the freedom of the illusory. There is no hope of solving this in physicalism. Acceptance of unwelcome reality for humans usually involves acceptance of death and the shadow, which are the keys to freedom. Thus to deny free will is probably to attempt to deny (“master”) death.

Maslow, not being bound up in any form of mechanistic thinking, says the following:

I must make a statement, even though it will certainly be disturbing to many theologians, philosophers, and scientists: self-actualizing individuals have more “free will” and are less “determined” than average people are. However the words “free will” and “determinism” may come to be operationally defined, in this investigation they are empirical realities.

Motivation and Personality

So here we have two good forms of free will. (I could also mention the longitudinal or diachronic aspect in which big freedoms accrue from small decisions repeated over time — even repeated mechanically, perhaps, which would be another paradox.) Let’s not take even the penny Coyne is trying to spend, let alone give him the pound of meat computer he wants.

All of this and I’ve barely touched on the transpersonal or what Coyne would call the ‘spooky’. The spooky quite plainly exists too, but I see I’ve been distracted by this stuff from more transpersonal things — next week I’ll make up for it. For now I just mention that opening the base chakra requires development of free won’t at the least, since the system must feel safe in increasing impulse power without its degradation into appetite.


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