PREVIOUS: Additional Levels
POSTs: ‘Spiritual Resilience – 1 & 2′
TRANSCENDENCE – Level #8
DEF: To rise above or go beyond the limits of a situation
▪︎ To triumph over negative or restrictive aspects of something
▪︎ A state of being or existence above & beyond material experience
Most Self-actualization traits involve making everyday life more enjoyable.
Self transcendence (SC), on the other hand, is not about competing with others for basic (B) needs, but a personal journey of self-discovery. It requires personal effort – the willingness to change – with an awareness that succeeding is a combination of the personal “little I” & the bigger, universal “I”. Mystical experience is a particularly advanced state of self-transcendence, in which the sense of a separate self is temporarily abandoned altogether
As one of the developers of Humanistic Psychology, Maslow had an extremely positive view of humanity – valuing man’s goodness, dignity & intelligence. Spirituality is then mainly about personal development, connecting with other people & the world of nature.
Maslow’s systematic works, like The Psychology of Being, didn’t focus on the treatment of various pathologies (as Freud did), but rather on understanding & defining humans in their optimal state, especially regarding ‘peak’ experiences & self-fulfillment. Ordinary human unhappiness was ‘too easy’ to find. He wanted to encourage the healthy core of people achieve self-actualization, with which the highest spiritual good is realized.
“The fully developed (& very fortunate) human being, working under the best conditions, tends to be motivated by values which transcend his Self…. My satisfaction with achieving or allowing justice…. is equally outside & inside: therefore, it has transcended the geographical limitations of the self.” (1969)
Maslow believed striving for these highest needs is instinctive – beyond self-interest, considering wider holistic principles for the greater good, in service to others, & the pursuit of causes bigger than any individual
He thought Transcenders would be highly religious – regardless of which type, indicating his theory had a broad social application: “Culture is absolutely needed for their actualization, but it can also fail to actualize them, & indeed this is just what most known cultures actually seem to do, & have done throughout history.”
He pointed out that, if successful, self-trancenders often crave peak experiences. Beyond the routine of fulfilling deprivation (D) needs (#1-6), some people have extraordinary deep moments of understanding, love, even rapture, making then feel more alive, whole & empowered, yet a part of the world. They’re more aware of goodness, harmony, justice, truth….
Peaks are exciting & elaborate situations which become the most important things in their lives – the most precious & validating – their high spots. It could explain why some people gravitate to jobs such as policeman or firefighter, putting their lives at risk for others. (“PEAK” in biz)
Maslow believed such states are mostly emotional & temporary but not always flukes – there are people who can access them easily. He also thought that some self-trancenders may be saddened by realizing that others don’t have such hight moments. While he said that mature people (self-actualized) are most likely to have peak experiences, he felt everyone had the potential.
From Students’ Peak Experiences (1985), James Polyson found that most :
— occurred during athletic, artistic, religious or nature experiences
— during intimate moments with a friend or family member….
— when students achieved an important personal or collective goal….
— overcame some adversity or danger — or by helping someone in need
💙 However, Maslow eventually noted that with age, the intensity of the highs gives way to a gentler, more lasting state of quiet between the “orgasmic peaks of the mystic gone wild”. This he called high plateau experiences (more mental), which can be cultivated through conscious, diligent effort.
At the end of his life he cautioned against the ‘‘Big-Bang’’ theory of self-actualization, recognizing the need to value ‘patience for the awesome elements in ordinary existence’, combining miraculous & normal consciousness (Maslow, 1970), a state said to be the true & final goal of the mystic’s endeavors
“With today’s ‘fast food spirituality’ there is a pressing need to understand both the positive & negative poles of self-transcendence. Ferrer (2002) points out that Western transpersonal psychology’s emphasis on experiential processes & peak states…. have often neglected the proper preparations, maturity, & ethical scaffolding long-standing spiritual traditions usually provide” (Nicole Gruel, AU)
NEXT: Transcendence #2