Essays > Personalities Featured — 11 September 2014

Shanti aka Iam writes to Abraham Maslow.

Dear Abbie,

Yes, I know, with Charon’s help you have crossed the Styx, that imaginary river separating the worlds of those who are supposed to be alive from those who are supposed to be dead. But while you were here, on this side of the river, alive and kicking, you have flowered. Your fragrance, dating from the sixties and seventies of the last century, is still with me, now, here.

Abraham Maslow

In those years I was studying psychology, at the universities of Leiden and Amsterdam. The dominant image of man offered to me then, by the mainstream of behaviorism and psychoanalysis, was a very limited and a rather ugly one. It failed in doing justice to man, to honor his humanity. Most research was more in tune with our animalistic nature than with our human nature. The focus was on conditioning, on how to manipulate our behavior, on the impact of the dramas of our past and on our pains and shortcomings. Our psychological sicknesses were widely researched, but it was hard to find any publication on how psychological health looked like and could be celebrated. Even today, dear Abbie, there is a worldwide Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for the classification of mental disorders (DSM), but there aren’t even concepts to communicate about psychological health. To me this story was rather limited and pretty boring, so I started a search for writers with a more juicy, a more complete and inspiring image of man, one more in tune with the many blessings and joys of my life up to then, a picture opening our eyes and our hearts to our potential as a human being, a perspective on our psychological health next to a focus on our disturbances. That’s the way I found, among many others, inspiring teachers and writers like Roberto Assagioli, Erich Fromm, William James, Fritz Perls, Carl Gustav Jung, Ronald Laing, Wilhelm Reich, Alan Watts and, last but not least, you, my dear Abraham Maslow.

Together with friends in Amsterdam we started a bookshop called “The Round Rainbow”, offering a more complete spectrum of what it means to be a healthy and happy human being than mainstream psychology in the European Universities had to offer. We even dared to look over the fence and the prison of ourselves as being “Westerns” and so we browsed through the books on humanity offered by other cultures, by people like Ram Dass on the teachings of his Master, Neem Karoli Baba, Pir Vilayat Khan on Sufism, D.T. Suzuki on Zen Buddhism, Pjotr D. Ouspensky on George Gurdjieff and on man’s possible evolution, Walter Y. Evans-Wentz on Tibetan Buddhism, Karl Graf von Dürckheim on Zen, Patanjali on Yoga, Vivekananda on Ramakrishna, Lao-Tze on Tao, Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, Paramahansa Yogananda, Jalaluddin Rumi en Jiddu Krishnamurti.

It was much more than a breath of fresh air, it was a mind blowing experience, a new perspective on what it can mean to be a human being:

  • Able to see things in a more objective way, undistorted by personal needs or existing mental frameworks;
  • Understanding and fully accepting oneself;
  • Seeing the arrogance in this quotation: “I am the Master of this College and what I know not is not Knowledge”;
  • Able to endure uncertainty, without the need to jump into any premature conclusion;
  • Capable of being vulnerable;
  • Able to stand alone, to walk one’s own path, to be a rebel, without the need for the support or the applause of those who surround him;
  • Capable to be open, receptive, awaiting, taoistic; keeping the mind quiet and the mouth shut, silent, in wonder, like a innocent child, without judging or labeling things as good or bad, without already formulating a standpoint or an answer;
  • Choosing the projects supposed to be of great value instead of the ones which he knows how to do them;
  • Able to learn from others, without being impressed beforehand by names and authorities;
  • Capable of being both rational or analytic and intuitive as well;
  • Free from that compulsive need to paint everything in black or white, to choose either/or; able to see what is right and valuable in both points of view.

Yes, dear Abbie, thanks to your humanistic and transpersonal psychology in general and to you and your many beautiful writings in particular, I finished my university study in psychology in a meaningful way and I found new tips and pointers for actualizing our still sleeping human potential. You are to me what a glorious sunrise can do to a man who is just opening his eyes in the early morning, or what an unexpected warm day in a new spring can do to a man who is just recovering from a very cold winter.

Nowadays Western Psychology is still on its way to a more complete picture of man. A few researches on human psychology were sent to me recently. One is on dogs, who seem to wag their tail towards the left when they feel frightened and towards the right when they feel relaxed. The other one is on a fifth and brand new way of feeling bored, the so called “apathetic boredom”; this one is being published in the Scientific Journal, “Motivation and Emotion”. Terrific, isn’t it? What about our joy, our self-respect, about courageously living our values, about the impact of our most fulfilling moments on our daily life, about our courage, about living our integrity, about our moments of bliss or enlightenment, our sense of being at home in this universe, our dance, our love, our embracing of who we are, our innocence, our honesty, our discipline, our playfulness, our peace, our wonder? Without developing proper concepts about these human experiences and giving scientific attention to them, psychology becomes a partner in de-humanizing man! It is still a long way to “Tipperary”, to a balanced interest in and a focus on our past as well as our potential, on our “valley” as well as on our “peak-experiences”, to a psychology of the neurotic as well as a “Psychology of the Buddhas”. It is still a long way for psychology as well as for man (all the way “From Here to Here”) to become more human. Can you hear Osho singing about this, in “Just Like That”, page 110?

If you think man now is the end product, then you will feel,
like the existentialists,

that man is meaningless, a tale told by an idiot.
But if you can look in the potentiality, then suddenly, man is not diseased,
rather on the contrary, nature is trying to reach a higher point,
the greatest yet attained – evolution working in man.”

Well, dear Abbie, so far so good, isn’t it? Good luck to you and once again, thanks a lot for kicking psychologists under their ass and for making my academic study much more meaningful and inspiring!

Shanti, aka Iam

Related essays:
The Religious Pyramid
The Hierarchy of Needs

Osho on Maslow:
Your Spirit is Only a Potential

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