Notes From a Conversation at Brandeis University, May 29, 1958
Source: AAP News–Nov 2007
Maslow expressed his keen appreciation of the validation of ideas [re: the Self and integration] from so many sources all over the world. He said “there has been a wave of thought over the last decade” about these subjects. In comparing European and American psychology, Maslow said, that, in his opinion, in Europe there was a more synoptic, holistic way of thought; whereas in the U.S.A. there is more “ortho-psychology”, more of an empirical approach, and research into particular aspects.
Discussing the Will, Maslow pointed out that Assagioli’s ideas are paralleled in America under different names. He, Maslow himself, considered ‘responsibility’ to equate with the Will. Other writers in Maslow’s opinion equated “cultivation” with Assagioli’s ideas on the Will.
There is much use in this country of the Freudian concepts, although many psychologists (Maslow included) are not completely satisfied with them. The great problem, per Maslow, in American psychology is that of the search for identity, for the self. He said that Erikson with his writings on ‘Identity’ is having a great influence.
Dr. Maslow stressed that he himself is trying to relate European and American thought.
Reverting to the discussion of the Will, Maslow agreed “in principle” that empirical experiments can be made. He mentioned that one thing disturbs him, because “he had seen it so often”, i.e., the use of such words as ‘the fusion of polarities’, the high and low, the deep and high. Maslow is dissatisfied because he thinks these terms overlook language limitations.
“How can the highest be also the deepest?”. Maslow said that he is now using these terms less and less, i.e., spatial terms.
He also referred to what is to him a problem, the relation of the unique individual to universality. He said that the more you “dig” into him [into the unique individual] for his “peaks” — the deeper you dig operationally into the individuals — the more alike they become. He is puzzled by the paradox of “uniqueness leads to universality”. He asked, “what to do with these paradoxes?”.
(Assagioli answered: “The intuitives will understand; the rest, never!”)
Maslow hopes to demonstrate what the intuitives know. Assagioli pointed out that, first of all, research will be on the Will, then on genius and the higher consciousness. Maslow referred to the Institute of Personality Development in California but explained that they are doing strictly empirical research.
Dr. Maslow stressed that if we do not move in the direction of “public research” then these ideas (such as he and Assagioli have been talking about) would remain with the few — and not be accepted.
Maslow referred to the “biological hierarchy of values” and of them being paralleled psychologically. He went on to mention that this leads to another paradox: in the mystic experience, in the “great moment”, there is perceived the essential nature of the world in an objective manner. Therefore, bridges need to be made in which the viewer and the viewed become one. In this connection he used several times the phrase “the leap needs to be made into another kind of values” wherein we are selfless, not needing, nor needed. Here he seemed to be touching closely Dr. Rugg’s (of Columbia) thought.[The original archive referred to the participants as “M” and “R.A.” which have been here spelled out as “Maslow” and “Assagioli.” — editor] The AAP recently received a copy of the above notes taken by an unknown person who attended the conversation on May 29, 1958 between Roberto Assagioli, M.D., and Abraham Maslow, Ph.D., at Brandeis University. AAP received these notes on Sept. 26, 2007, from John Cobb, President of School of Esoteric Studies in Asheville, N.C. In August of 2006, SES transferred to AAP several boxes of archives from the Psychosynthesis Research Foundation (1957-1976), which was the first organized effort to promote psychosynthesis in North America. AAP celebrated the 50th anniversary of the formation of the PRF at the annual AAP conference in July. Among the archives was a letter dated July 25, 1963, to Frank Hilton, Administrator of the PRF, from Abraham Maslow. In the letter, Maslow supported the publication of the Psychosynthesis Manual after receiving and reviewing a “working draft of techniques.” Maslow states in the letter, “My strong feeling was that this manual is very important to many people and should be published as a book as soon as possible. I would recommend not waiting too long to perfect it but rather revising and printing the editions after the first one had appeared. — Cordially, Abraham H. Maslow, Professor of Psychology. ” AAP members will soon be able to view this letter and these notes as well as other archives on the AAP Web site, currently being reformatted.