|Own your ow legal marijuana business||
Your guide to making money in the multi-billion dollar marijuana industry
|Special Collections of Documents|
|The Rufus King Collection|
Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Abraham H. Maslow
Appendix D. What is the Validity of Knowledge Gained in Peak-Experiences?
This question is too huge and too important for a small space. All I can do here is to try to make a prima facie case for taking the question seriously. Both the question and the answers can be more clearly conceived and phrased today than ever before. This is so mostly because the mystic experience has been detached from local religious creeds and brought into the realm of nature and, therefore, of science. The questions can be more specific and, furthermore, can often be phrased in a confirmable-disconfirmable way.
In addition, it appears quite clear that the kind of (putative) knowledge gained in peak-experiences can also be obtained from desolation experiences. Furthermore, these insights may become independent of peak-experiences, and thereafter be available under more ordinary circumstances. (The way in which I have phrased this in my own vocabulary is: B-knowledge, B-cognition, and peak-experiences may occur independently of each other.) It is also possible that there is a kind of "serene," non-ecstatic B-cognition, but I am much less sure of this.
The question has to be differentiated still further. There is no doubt that great insights and revelations are profoundly felt in mystic or peak-experiences, and certainly some of these are, ipso facto, intrinsically valid as experiences. That is, one can and does learn from such experiences that, e.g., joy, ecstasy, and rapture do in fact exist and that they are in principle available for the experiencer, even if they never have been before. Thus the peaker learns surely and certainly that life can be worthwhile, that it can be beautiful and valuable. There are ends in life, i.e., experiences which are so precious in themselves as to prove that not everything is a means to some end other than itself.
Another kind of self-validating insight is the experience of being a real identity, a real self, of feeling what it is like to feel really oneself, what in fact one isnot a phony, a fake, a striver, an impersonator. Here again, the experiencing itself is the revelation of a truth.
My feeling is that if it were never to happen again, the power of the experience could permanently affect the attitude toward life. A single glimpse of heaven is enough to confirm its existence even if it is never experienced again. It is my strong suspicion that even one such experience might be able to prevent suicide, for instance, and perhaps many varieties of slow self-destruction, e.g., alcoholism, drug-addiction, addiction to violence, etc. I would guess also, on theoretical grounds, that peak-experiences might very well abort "existential meaninglessness," states of valuelessness, etc., at least occasionally. (These deductions from the nature of intense peak-experiences are given some support by general experience with LSD and psilocybin. Of course these preliminary reports also await confirmation. )
This then is one kind of peak-knowledge of whose validity and usefulness there can be no doubt, any more than there could be with discovering for the first time that the color "red" exists and is wonderful. Joy exists, can be experienced and feels very good indeed, and one can always hope that it will be experienced again.
Perhaps I should add here the paradoxical resultfor somethat death may lose its dread aspect. Ecstasy is somehow close to death-experience, at least in the simple, empirical sense that death is often mentioned during reports of peaks, sweet death that is. After the acme, only less is possible. In any case, I have occasionally been told, "I felt that I could willingly die," or, "No one can ever again tell me death is bad," etc. Experiencing a kind of "sweet death" may remove its frightening aspect. This observation should, of course, be studied far more carefully than I have been able to. But the point is that the experience itself is a kind of knowledge gained (or attitude changed) which is self-validating. Other such experiences, coming for the first time, are true simply because experienced, e.g., greater integration of the organism, experiencing physiognomic perception, fusing primary-and secondary-process, fusing knowing and valuing, transcending dichotomies, experiencing knowing as being, etc., etc. The widening and enriching of consciousness through new perceptual experiences, many of which leave a lasting effect, is a little like improving the perceiver himself.
More frequently, however, peak-knowledge does need external, independent validation (70) or at least the request for such validation is a meaningful request; for instance, falling in love leads not only to greater care, which means closer attention, examination, and, therefore, greater knowledge, but it may also lead to affirmative statements and judgments which may be untrue however touching and affecting they may also be, e.g., "my husband is a genius."
The history of science and invention is full of instances of validated peak-insights and also of "insights" that failed. At any rate, there are enough of the former to support the proposition that the knowledge obtained in peak-insight experiences can be validated and valuable.
This is also true sometimes for the awe-inspiring, poignant insights (both of peak type and also of the desolation type) or revelations that can come in psychotherapy even though not very frequently. This falling of the veils can be a valid perception of what has not been consciously perceived before.
This all seems very obvious and very simple. Why has there then been such flat rejection of this path to knowledge? Partly I suppose the answer is that this kind of revelation-knowledge does not make four apples visible where there were only three before, nor do the apples change into bananas. No! it is more a shift in attention, in the organization of perception, in noticing or realizing, that occurs.
In peak-experiences, several kinds of attention-change can lead to new knowledge. For one, love, fascination, absorption can frequently mean "looking intensely, with care," as already mentioned. For another, fascination can mean great intensity, narrowing and focusing of attention, and resistance to distraction of any kind, or of boredom or even fatigue. Finally, what Bucke (10) called Cosmic Consciousness involves an attention-widening so that the whole cosmos is perceived as a unity, and one's place in this whole is simultaneously perceived.
This new "knowledge" can be a change in attitude, valuing reality in a different way, seeing things from a new perspective, from a different centering point. Possibly a good many instances could come under the head of gestalt-perception, i.e., of seeing chaos in a newly organized wayor of shifting from one gestalt to another, of breaking up an imbeddedness or creating a new one, changing figure-ground relationships, of making a better gestalt, of closure, in a word, of the cognition of relationships and their organization.
Another kind of cognitive process which can occur in peak-experiences is the freshening of experience and the breaking up of rubricizing (59). Familiarization dulls cognition, especially in anxious people, and it is then possible to walk through all sorts of miraculous happenings without experiencing them as such. In peaks, the miraculous "suchness" of things can break through into consciousness. This is a basic function of art, and could be studied in that realm also. This kind of "innocent perception" is described in one of my articles (63). It is a kind of perspicuity which contrasts with what can only be called "normal blindness."
A subcategory of this renewed perception of what lies before our eyes is the peak-perception of the fact that truisms are true, e.g., it is wonderful to be understood, virtue is self-rewarding, sunsets are beautiful, money is not everything, etc. These "platitudes" can be rediscovered again and again in peak-moments. They, too, are examples of the new depth and penetration possible in such moments when life is seen freshly as if for the first time, and as if never seen before. So also is the experience of gratitude, of appreciation for good fortune, of grace.
In Appendix I and elsewhere in this essay, I have spoken of unitive perception, i.e., fusion of the B-realm with the D-realm, fusion of the eternal with the temporal, the sacred with the profane, etc. Someone has called this "the measureless gap between the poetic perception of reality and prosaic, unreal commonsense." Anyone who cannot perceive the sacred, the eternal, the symbolic, is simply blind to an aspect of reality, as I think I have amply demonstrated elsewhere (54), and in Appendix I.
For "ought perception," "ontification" and other examples of B-knowledge, see my article "Fusions of Facts and Values" (54). The bibliography of this paper refers to the literature of gestalt psychology for which I have no room here. For "reduction to the concrete" and its implications for cognition of abstractness in various senses, Goldstein (23, 24) should be consulted. Peak-experiencers often report something that might be called a particular kind of abstract perception, i.e., perception of essence, of "the hidden order of things, the X-ray texture of the world, normally obscured by layers of irrelevancy" (39, p. 352). My paper on isomorphism (48) also contains relevant data, of which I will mention here only the factor of being "worthy of the experience," of deserving it, or of being up to it. Health brings one "up to" higher levels of reality; peak-experiences can be considered a transient self-actualization of the person. It can therefore be understood as lifting him "higher," making him "taller," etc., so that he becomes "deserving" of more difficult truths, e.g., only integration can perceive integration, only the one who is capable of love can cognize love, etc.
Non-interfering, receptive, Taoistic perception is necessary for the perception of certain kinds of truth (49). Peak-experiences are states in which striving, interfering, and active controlling diminish, thereby permitting Taoistic perception, thereby diminishing the effect of the perceiver upon the percept. Therefore, truer knowledge (of some things) may be expected and has been reported.
To summarize, the major changes in the status of the problem of the validity of B-knowledge, or illumination-knowledge, are: (A) shifting it away from the question of the reality of angels, etc., i.e., naturalizing the question; (B) affirming experientially valid knowledge, the intrinsic validity of the enlarging of consciousness, i.e., of a wider range of experiencing; (C) realizing that the knowledge revealed was there all the time, ready to be perceived, if only the perceiver were "up to it," ready for it. This is a change in perspicuity, in the efficiency of the perceiver, in his spectacles, so to speak, not a change in the nature of reality or the invention of a new piece of reality which wasn't there before. The word "psychedelic" (consciousness-expanding) may be used here. Finally, (D) this kind of knowledge can be achieved in other ways; we need not rely solely on peak-experiences or peak-producing drugs for its attainment. There are more sober and laboriousand perhaps, therefore, better in some ways in the long runavenues to achieving transcendent knowledge (B-knowledge). That is, I think we shall handle the problem better if we stress ontology and epistemology rather than the triggers and the stimuli.
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
Major Studies of Drug and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Licit and Illicit Drugs
Short History of the Marijuana Laws
The Drug Hang-Up
Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Frequently Asked Questions About Drugs
Basic Facts About the Drug War
Charts and Graphs about Drugs
Information on Alcohol
Guide to Heroin - Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin
LSD, Mescaline, and Psychedelics
Drugs and Driving
Children and Drugs
Drug Abuse Treatment Resource List
American Society for Action on Pain
Let Us Pay Taxes
Marijuana Business News
Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
Drug Legalization Debate
Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
Legal References on Drugs
GAO Documents on Drugs
Response to the Drug Enforcement Agency
|Drug Information Articles|
Taking a drug test:
How To Pass A Drug Test
Beat Drug Test
Pass Drug Test
Drug Screening Tests
Drug Addiction Treatment