Self-Transcendence calls us to reclaim the sacred nature of the human psyche
as we seek a touch of the Divine.
To the early transpersonal psychologists, the key problem with psychoanalysis and behavioralism was their reduction of spiritual experiences and altered states of consciousness to mere neuroses, mechanical responses to outside stimuli, or chemical brain functions. Indeed, any number of mental or physiological activities may occur in people who are in or out of balance, but individuals are much more than their symptoms or outward behaviors.
One of the great contributions of transpersonal psychology is its acknowledgement that peak experiences touch on the sacred. In his writings, Maslow speaks passionately about the negative effect of the post-modern mindset that dismisses the existence of values and virtues—giving rise to a defense mechanism he calls desacralizing. In other words, reducing the individual to a concrete object barely worthy of notice.
With this kind of thinking, it’s no wonder suicide rates are so high, especially in young people whose developing minds innately crave contact with the unitive, with experiences that are actually “awe-some.”
Maslow asserts that we must resacralize our view of all life. What Maslow meant,
Resacralizing means being willing, once again, to see a person “under the aspect of eternity,” as Spinoza says, or to see him in the medieval Christian unitive perception, that is, being able to see the sacred, the eternal, the symbolic. It is to see Woman with a capital “W” and everything which that implies, even when one looks at a particular woman.¹
In the same paragraph, he goes on to describe the difference between a desacralized medical student who dissects a brain, seeing only a collection of tissue, versus the student with a sacralized perspective who sees the same brain “as a sacred object also, sees its symbolic value”—even seeing it “in its poetic aspects.”
It is this emphasis on the “poetical” that I find most appealing. Maslow was certainly a man ahead of his time and in many ways, I don’t think we’ve caught up to him yet. (See “When Work Becomes Sacred,” Reflection 29 in Reflections on Doing Your Great Work in Any Occupation.)
¹ Maslow, A. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: Viking Penguin, 1971, p. 48.
Articles by Cheryl on Self-Transcendence
- Unleashing the Joy of Self-Transcendence
- Are You a Self-Transcender?
- How to Be a Self-Transcender
- 7 Ways to Enhance Self-Transcendence #1-3
- 7 Ways to Enhance Self-Transcendence #4-5
- 7 Ways to Enhance Self-Transcendence #6-7
- The Psychology of Transcendence
- Maslow’s Revolutionary Insights
- More About Maslow
- Notes on Being Cognition
- Going Beyond Self-Actualization
- Resacralizing Perception