Abraham Maslow

The Farther Reaches of Human Nature

Review by Georgia Gojmerac-Leiner, 2008

Maslow, Abraham H. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York, NY: Viking Press, 1971.

Abraham Maslow coined new language in order to solve the problems of psychology. He is well known for his fusion concepts or words such as “self-actualization,” “hierarchy of needs,” and “peak experiences.” Maslow explains that “fusion words and concepts permit us to participate in the normal advance of science and knowledge from its phenomenological and experiential beginnings on toward greater reliability, greater validity, greater confidence, greater exactness, greater sharing with others and agreement with them” (28). This parallels his proposition of adapting “the creative attitude,” especially in our educational systems.

Maslow used his own self to learn about psychology. He believed that we can learn the general from the specific. He did not lend his language to any particular value system, but described human experience at the existential level. Thus the phrase “peak experience” is not limited to religious experience but has broad applications for a great variety of life-giving, life-affirming, life-enlightening experiences (reviewer’s coinage). In that respect Maslow belongs in the company of Henry James.

The Farther Reaches of Human Nature is a collection of papers compiled by his wife, Bertha G. Maslow after his death. She grouped the writings by themes, dealing with a wide variety of concerns, from the Jonah complex to B-cognition, to B-values, from peak experiences to self-actualization, to metacounseling, from desacralizing and resacrilizing to Taoistic uncovering, to the creative attitude. At the outset Maslow explains that the new approach he invented is “a general philosophy of psychology” because the questions that psychology had to answer were the same as in philosophy. The rubric, “third force,” for example, “collected a variety of splinter groups in psychology to form a single philosophy” (4). Biology, also, or mind-body correlation, or how we behave as human animals with a choosing mind, became a complex model of looking into a human way of being, “B-values.” Maslow believed that the classical model of science as morally neutral was incorrect and dangerous. Human beings do not come from science but rather science comes from human beings. He also believed in the synergy between physical health and mental health. In all of this he moved away from the classical model of dualism, or as he put it, from the either/or, atomistic thinking. This is in part because he was concerned that our civilization would advance in material values only. Language, such as fusion concepts and words, help us keep up with the technological progress. This is a powerful statement about language.

Maslow wanted us to move toward “psychological-philosophical-educational-spiritual usages (30) in order to help us move toward full humanness (31). His own humanness is palpable in his writing. In the Appendix A, “”Comments on “Religion, Values, and Peak Experiences”,” Maslow cautions against seeking triggers for peak experiences; they are not solely good. Rather accept them as gratuitous grace (332). Unlike peak experiences, plateau experiences take time. They come as we grow older and wiser, especially as we make peace with death. Plateau experiences “can be achieved, learned, earned by long hard work.” (336)