Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Abraham H. Maslow
Chapter II. Dichotomized Science and Dichotomized Religion
My thesis is, in general, that new developments in psychology
are forcing a profound change in our philosophy of science, a
change so extensive that we may be able to accept the basic religious
questions as a proper part of the jurisdiction of science, once
science is broadened and redefined.
It is because both science and religion have been too narrowly
conceived, and have been too exclusively dichotomized and separated
from each other, that they have been seen to be two mutually exclusive
worlds. To put it briefly, this separation permitted nineteenth-century
science to become too exclusively mechanistic, too positivistic,
too reductionistic, too desperately attempting to be value-free.
It mistakenly conceived of itself as having nothing to say about
ends or ultimate values or spiritual values. This is the same
as saying that these ends are entirely outside the range of natural
human knowledge, that they can never be known in a confirmable,
validated way, in a way that could satisfy intelligent men, as
facts satisfy them.
Such an attitude dooms science to be nothing more than technology,
amoral and non-ethical (as the Nazi doctors taught us). Such a
science can be no more than a collection of instrumentalities,
methods, techniques, nothing but a tool to be used by any man,
good or evil, and for any ends, good or evil (59).
This dichotomizing of knowledge and values has also pathologized
the organized religions by cutting them off from facts, from knowledge,
from science, even to the point of often making them the enemies
of scientific knowledge. In effect, it tempts them to say that
they have nothing more to learn.
But something is happening now to both science and religion, at
least to their more intelligent and sophisticated representatives.
These changes make possible a very different attitude by the less
narrow scientist toward the religious questions, at least to the
naturalistic, humanistic, religious questions. It might be said
that this is simply one more instance of what has happened so
often in the past, i.e., of snatching away another territory from
the jurisdiction of organized religion.
Just as each science was once a part of the body of organized
religion but then broke away to become independent, so also it
can be said that the same thing may now be happening to the problems
of values, ethics, spirituality, morals. They are being taken
away from the exclusive jurisdiction of the institutionalized
churches and are becoming the "property," so to speak,
of a new type of humanistic scientist who is vigorously denying
the old claim of the established religions to be the sole arbiters
of all questions of faith and morals.
This relation between religion and science could be stated in
such a dichotomous, competitive way, but I think I can show that
it need not be, and that the person who is deeply religiousin
a particular sense that 1 shall discussmust rather feel strengthened
and encouraged by the prospect that his value questions may he
more firmly answered than ever before.
Sooner or later, we shall have to redefine both religion and science.
As always, dichotomizing pathologizes (and pathology dichotomizes).
Isolating two interrelated parts of a whole from each other, parts
that need each other, parts that are truly "parts" and
not wholes, distorts them both, sickens and contaminates them
(54). Ultimately, it even makes them non-viable. An illustration
of this point can be found in Philip Wylie's fascinating novel
The Disappearance. When men and women disappear into two
separated, isolated worlds, both sexes become corrupted and pathologized.
The point is driven home fully that they need each other in order
to be themselves.
When all that could be called "religious" (naturalistically
as well as supernaturalistically) was cut away from science, from
knowledge, from further discovery, from the possibility of skeptical
investigation, from confirming and disconfirming, and, therefore,
from the possibility of purifying and improving, such a dichotomized
religion was doomed. It tended to claim that the founding revelation
was complete, perfect, final, and eternal. It had the truth, the
whole truth, and had nothing more to learn, thereby being pushed
into the position that has destroyed so many churches, of resisting
change, of being only conservative, of being anti-intellectual
and anti-scientific, of making piety and obedience exclusive of
skeptical intellectualityin effect, of contradicting naturalistic
Such a split-off religion generates split-off and partial definition
of all necessary concepts. For example, faith, which has perfectly
respectable naturalistic meanings, as for example in Fromm's writings,
tends in the hands of an anti-intellectual church to degenerate
into blind belief, sometimes even "belief in what you know
ain't so." It tends to become unquestioning obedience and
last-ditch loyalty no matter what. It tends to produce sheep rather
than men. It tends to become arbitrary and authoritarian (46).
The word "sacred" is another instance of the pathologizing
by isolation and by splitting-off. If the sacred becomes the exclusive
jurisdiction of a priesthood, and if its supposed validity rests
only upon supernatural foundations, then, in effect, it is taken
out of the world of nature and of human nature. It is dichotomized
sharply from the profane or secular and begins to have nothing
to do with them, or even becomes their contradictory. It becomes
associated with particular rites and ceremonies, with a particular
day of the week, with a particular building, with a particular
language, even with a particular musical instrument or certain
foods. It does not infuse all of life but becomes compartmentalized.
It is not the property then of all men, but only of some. It is
no longer ever-present as a possibility in the everyday affairs
of men but becomes instead a museum piece without daily usefulness;
in effect, such a religion must separate the actual from the ideal
and rupture the necessary dynamic interplay between them. The
dialectic between them, the mutual effect and feedback, the constant
shaping of each other, their usefulness to each other, even, I
would say, their absolute need for each other is disrupted and
made impossible of fulfillment. What happens then? We have seen
often enough throughout history the church whose pieties are mouthed
in the middle of human exploitation and degradation as if the
one had nothing to do with the other ("Render unto Caesar
that which is Caesar's"). This pie-in-the-sky kind of religion,
which often enough has turned into an actual support of
daily evil, is almost inevitable when the existent has no intrinsic
and constant connection with the ideal, when heaven is off some
place far away from the earth, when human improvement becomes
impossible in the world but can be achieved only by renouncing
the world. "For endeavor for the better is moved by faith
in what is possible, not by adherence to the actual," as
John Dewey pointed out. (14, p. 23).
And this brings us to the other half of the dichotomy, dichotomized
science. Whatever we may say about split-off religion is very
similar or complementary to what we may say of split-off science.
For instance, in the division of the ideal and the actual, dichotomized
science claims that it deals only with the actual and the existent
and that it has nothing to do with the ideal, that is to say,
with the ends, the goals, the purposes of life, i.e., with end-values.
Any criticism that could be made of half-religion can equally
be made of half-science in a complementary way. For instance,
corresponding to the blind religions' "reduction to the abstract"
(71)its blindness to the raw fact, to the concrete, to living
human experience itselfwe find in non-aspiring science a "reduction
to the concrete," of the kind that Goldstein has described
(23, 24), and to the tangible and immediately visible and audible.
It becomes amoral, even sometimes anti-moral and even anti-human,
merely technology which can be bought by anyone for any purpose,
like the German "scientists" who could work with equal
zeal for Nazis, for Communists, or for Americans. We have been
taught very amply in the last few decades that science can be
dangerous to human ends and that scientists can become monsters
as long as science is conceived to be akin to a chess game, an
end in itself, with arbitrary rules, whose only purpose is to
explore the existent, and which then makes the fatal blunder of
excluding subjective experience from the realm of the existent
So also for the exclusion of the sacred and the transcendent from
the jurisdiction of science. This makes impossible in principle
the study, for instance, of certain aspects of the abstract: psychotherapy,
naturalistic religious experience, creativity, symbolism, play,
the theory of love, mystical and peak-experiences, not to mention
poetry, art, and a lot more (since these all involve an integration
of the realm of Being with the realm of the concrete).
To mention only one example that has to do directly with education,
it could be shown easily that the good teacher must have what
I have called elsewhere B-love (unselfish love) for the child,
what Rogers has called unconditional positive regard (82), and
what others have calledmeaningfully, I would maintainthe
sacredness of each individual. To stigmatize these as "normative"
or value-laden and, therefore, as "unscientific" concepts
is to make impossible certain necessary researches into the nature
of the good teacher.
And so it could go on and on almost indefinitely. I have already
written much on scientistic, nineteenth-century, orthodox science,
and intend to write more. Here I have been dealing with it from
the point of view of the dichotomizing of science and religion,
of facts (merely and solely) from values (merely and solely),
and have tried to indicate that such a splitting off of mutually
exclusive jurisdictions must produce cripple-science and cripple-religion,
cripple-facts and cripple-values.
Obviously such a conclusion concerns the spiritual and ethical
values that I started with (as well as the needs and hungers for
these values). Very obviously, such values and such hungers cannot
be handed over to any church for safekeeping. They cannot be removed
from the realm of human inquiry, of skeptical examination, of
empirical investigation. But I have tried to demonstrate that
orthodox science neither wants this job nor is able to carry it
out. Clearly what is needed then is an expanded science, with
larger powers and methods, a science which is able to study values
and to teach mankind about them.
Such a science would andinsofar as it already existsdoes
include much that has been called religious. As a matter of
fact, this expanded science includes among its concerns practically
everything in religion that can bear naturalistic observation.
I think I may go so far as to say that if we were to make a list
of the key words which have hitherto been considered to be the
property of organized religion and which were considered to be
entirely outside the jurisdiction of "science" of the
older sort, we would find that each and all of these words today
are acquiring a perfectly naturalistic meaning, i.e., they are
within the jurisdiction of scientific investigation. (See Appendix
Let me try to say it in still another way. One could say that
the nineteenth-century atheist had burnt down the house instead
of remodeling it. He had thrown out the religious questions with
the religious answers, because he had to reject the religious
answers. That is, he turned his back on the whole religious enterprise
because organized religion presented him with a set of answers
which he could not intellectually acceptwhich rested on no
evidence which a self-respecting scientist could swallow. But
what the more sophisticated scientist is now in the process of
learning is that though he must disagree with most of the answers
to the religious questions which have been given by organized
religion, it is increasingly clear that the religious questions
themselvesand religious quests, the religious yearnings, the
religious needs themselvesare perfectly respectable scientifically,
that they are rooted deep in human nature, that they can be studied,
described, examined in a scientific way, and that the churches
were trying to answer perfectly sound human questions. Though
the answers were not acceptable, the questions themselves were
and are perfectly acceptable, and perfectly legitimate.
As a matter of fact, contemporary existential and humanistic psychologists
would probably consider a person sick or abnormal in an existential
way if he were not concerned with these "religious"