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New Pathways in Psychology: Maslow & the Post-Freudian Revolution

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  72 Ratings  ·  6 Reviews
Written with the "active & detailed cooperation of Abraham Maslow", the two of them having been friends & correspondents during the 1960s. Maslow worked together with Wilson to create this excellent study of Maslovian Psychology. New Pathways 1st reviews the history of psychology, providing a much-needed context for understanding the revolutionary nature of the "3r ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 28th 1972 by Taplinger Publishing Company (NY) (first published January 1st 1972)
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Erik Graff
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: persons interested in Maslow
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: psychology
The American psychologist Abraham Maslow took the unusual step of studying psychological health rather than pathology, thereby attracting the attention of Colin Wilson, an author devoted to the study of human potentialities. This book is an excellent introduction both to Maslow's work and to Wilson's obsession.
Claus Brinker
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a really fascinating book about the history of psychology and the potential future of psychology, centered around Maslow's theories. Colin Wilson leaves out a lot about human nature that might be pertinent to this discussion, but even considering only the ideas presented here by themselves, this book is highly worthwhile for anyone interested in methods for how to achieve higher states of consciousness and better mental health. Sadly, the future of psychological study predicted by the au ...more
For a book on existential psychology from Descartes to Maslow (with a particular focus on Maslow, as the author carried a 10-year correspondence with him before his death), it was surprisingly enthralling. Wilson writes the way all brilliant minds should, never wasting a single sentence, packing every page full of information, referencing various philosophies, literary works, poems, and histories as examples or illustrations of his ideas. Although you feel as though your head might burst from th ...more
David Moore
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent and highly recommended.
Eugene Pustoshkin
It could be a great addition to Ken Wilber’s INTEGRAL PSYCHOLOGY.
Steve Greenleaf
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
After writing my recent appreciation (and critique) of Colin Wilson, I found that one of my favorites books of his was available on Kindle, so I bought it and re-read it. I’m glad I did. It reminded me of what I find so valuable in Wilson (and it reminded me of some annoyances as well). This is Wilson at his best. He started the book as a biography of Abraham Maslow, with whom he met and corresponded, but it turned into more than that. In addition to it's appreciation of Maslow, it’s a history ...more
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Colin Henry Wilson was born and raised in Leicester, England, U.K. He left school at 16, worked in factories and various occupations, and read in his spare time. When Wilson was 24, Gollancz published The Outsider (1956) which examines the role of the social 'outsider' in seminal works of various key literary and cultural figures. These include Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Her ...more
More about Colin Wilson
“What, in fact, do we know about the peak experience? Well, to begin with, we know one thing that puts us several steps ahead of the most penetrating thinkers of the 19th century: that P.E’.s are not a matter of pure good luck or grace. They don’t come and go as they please, leaving ‘this dim, vast vale of tears vacant and desolate’. Like rainbows, peak experiences are governed by definite laws. They are ‘intentional’.

And that statement suddenly gains in significance when we remember Thorndike’s discovery that the effect of positive stimuli is far more powerful and far reaching than that of negative stimuli. His first statement of the law of effect was simply that situations that elicit positive reactions tend to produce continuance of positive reactions, while situations that elicit negative or avoidance reactions tend to produce continuance of these. It was later that he came to realise that positive reactions build-up stronger response patterns than negative ones. In other words, positive responses are more intentional than negative ones.

Which is another way of saying that if you want a positive reaction (or a peak experience), your best chance of obtaining it is by putting yourself into an active, purposive frame of mind. The opposite of the peak experience—sudden depression, fatigue, even the ‘panic fear’ that swept William James to the edge of insanity—is the outcome of passivity. This cannot be overemphasised. Depression—or neurosis—need not have a positive cause (childhood traumas, etc.). It is the natural outcome of negative passivity.

The peak experience is the outcome of an intentional attitude. ‘Feedback’ from my activities depends upon the degree of deliberately calculated purpose I put into them, not upon some occult law connected with the activity itself. . . .

A healthy, perfectly adjusted human being would slide smoothly into gear, perform whatever has to be done with perfect economy of energy, then recover lost energy in a state of serene relaxation. Most human beings are not healthy or well adjusted. Their activity is full of strain and nervous tension, and their relaxation hovers on the edge of anxiety. They fail to put enough effort—enough seriousness—into their activity, and they fail to withdraw enough effort from their relaxation. Moods of serenity descend upon them—if at all—by chance; perhaps after some crisis, or in peaceful surroundings with pleasant associations. Their main trouble is that they have no idea of what can be achieved by a certain kind of mental effort.

And this is perhaps the place to point out that although mystical contemplation is as old as religion, it is only in the past two centuries that it has played a major role in European culture. It was the group of writers we call the romantics who discovered that a man contemplating a waterfall or a mountain peak can suddenly feel ‘godlike’, as if the soul had expanded. The world is seen from a ‘bird’s eye view’ instead of a worm’s eye view: there is a sense of power, detachment, serenity. The romantics—Blake, Wordsworth, Byron, Goethe, Schiller—were the first to raise the question of whether there are ‘higher ceilings of human nature’. But, lacking the concepts for analysing the problem, they left it unsolved. And the romantics in general accepted that the ‘godlike moments’ cannot be sustained, and certainly cannot be re-created at will. This produced the climate of despair that has continued down to our own time. (The major writers of the 20th century—Proust, Eliot, Joyce, Musil—are direct descendants of the romantics, as Edmund Wilson pointed out in Axel’s Castle.) Thus it can be seen that Maslow’s importance extends far beyond the field of psychology. William James had asserted that ‘mystical’ experiences are not mystical at all, but are a perfectly normal potential of human consciousness; but there is no mention of such experiences in Principles of Psychology (or only in passing).”
“But the greatest human problems are not social problems, but decisions that the individual has to make alone. The most important feelings of which man is capable emphasise his separateness from other people, not his kinship with them. The feelings of a mountaineer towards a mountain emphasise his kinship with the mountain rather than with the rest of mankind. The same goes for the leap of the heart experienced by a sailor when he smells the sea, or for the astronomer’s feeling about the stars, or for the archaeologist’s love of the past. My feeling of love for my fellowmen makes me aware of my humanness; but my feeling about a mountain gives me an oddly nonhuman sensation. It would be incorrect, perhaps, to call it ‘superhuman’; but it nevertheless gives me a sense of transcending my everyday humanity.

Maslow’s importance is that he has placed these experiences of ‘transcendence’ at the centre of his psychology. He sees them as the compass by which man gains a sense of the magnetic north of his existence. They bring a glimpse of ‘the source of power, meaning and purpose’ inside himself. This can be seen with great clarity in the matter of the cure of alcoholics. Alcoholism arises from what I have called ‘generalised hypertension’, a feeling of strain or anxiety about practically everything. It might be described as a ‘passively negative’ attitude towards existence. The negativity prevents proper relaxation; there is a perpetual excess of adrenalin in the bloodstream. Alcohol may produce the necessary relaxation, switch off the anxiety, allow one to feel like a real human being instead of a bundle of over-tense nerves. Recurrence of the hypertension makes the alcoholic remedy a habit, but the disadvantages soon begin to outweigh the advantage: hangovers, headaches, fatigue, guilt, general inefficiency. And, above all, passivity. The alcoholics are given mescalin or LSD, and then peak experiences are induced by means of music or poetry or colours blending on a screen. They are suddenly gripped and shaken by a sense of meaning, of just how incredibly interesting life can be for the undefeated. They also become aware of the vicious circle involved in alcoholism: misery and passivity leading to a general running-down of the vital powers, and to the lower levels of perception that are the outcome of fatigue.

‘The spirit world shuts not its gates, Your heart is dead, your senses sleep,’ says the Earth Spirit to Faust. And the senses sleep when there is not enough energy to run them efficiently. On the other hand, when the level of will and determination is high, the senses wake up. (Maslow was not particularly literary, or he might have been amused to think that Faust is suffering from exactly the same problem as the girl in the chewing gum factory (described earlier), and that he had, incidentally, solved a problem that had troubled European culture for nearly two centuries). Peak experiences are a by-product of this higher energy-drive. The alcoholic drinks because he is seeking peak experiences; (the same, of course, goes for all addicts, whether of drugs or tobacco.) In fact, he is moving away from them, like a lost traveller walking away from the inn in which he hopes to spend the night. The moment he sees with clarity what he needs to do to regain the peak experience, he does an about-face and ceases to be an alcoholic.”
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