MASLOW – Spiritual Transcendence (Part 1)


PREVIOUS: Transcendence #2

BOOK: “The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul

▪︎ Living with our Spiritual Brain

BACKGROUND: Maslow’s parents were first generation Jewish immigrants from Kiev (living in Brooklyn, NY), & he experienced anti-Semitism from teachers & schoolmates. Coupled with a troubled relationship with his mother & no childhood friends, he become a loner, spending hours in libraries.

As an adult – he was an atheist & so found it difficult to accept religious experience as valid, unless placed in a positivistic framework. Rather than ascribing peak experiences to God (as did many people he interviewed), Maslow argued that the basic experience is human, & that we use the language of “God” to describe it because that’s the only language available in most cultures to discuss such things. Accordingly, his “God” was the description, not the cause.

In contrast to Maslow, Victor Frankl – founder of Logotherapy & Existential Analysis – was deeply religious, & considered religious-spiritual experiences an important part of human nature. This in spite of what he suffered in Auschwitz, & where he lost his wife, his mother & brother.

Frankl criticized Maslow’s Humanistic Psychology movement for overlooking the transcendent nature of human experience.  He said: “Religion is the search for ultimate meaning…. not about ensuring the accomplishment of a relaxed life conduct, or the lack of conflict or some other psycho-hygienic objective. Religion offers more to human beings than psychotherapy, & indeed expects more from us.”

Their contemporary, Carl Jung, was luckier than Frankl – as a Swiss citizen he was spared the hell of war. Even so, the mental/emotional instability of his mother & the experience of poverty in his early years also caused psychological injuries. Yet he too was profoundly spiritual, delving into its many forms.

And the French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said:  “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience”.

3 Intelligences – IQ = Mental  //  EQ = Emotional // SQ = Spiritual
SQ says that human beings are essentially spiritual creatures, driven by a need to ask fundamental / ultimate questions. It allows us to be creative, seek answers & play an ‘infinite’ game. Spiritual experiences can be communing with God, for humanists – a feeling of oneness with nature, embracing humanity, or as simple as being elated during sporting events.

BENEFITS of enhanced SQ = resilience:
• live an energetic & balanced life
• effectively manage emotions
• become more reflective & introspective
• build capacity to face life’s ups & downs
• reluctance to cause unnecessary harm (also slide #46)

BLENDING – In a 2011 article, Dr. Melvin Morse wrote: “Recent scientific advances in Neuroscience & Information Theory have triggered a profound shift currently rippling through all areas of society – the long-awaited reunion of Science & Spirituality.  The New Paradigm embraces consciousness as a primal component of the Universe, no less than the mathematical laws which are also embedded in it.

Like prior shifts, ‘Consciousness Comes First’ does not overthrow our current knowledge of material reality. It simply adds a deeper level of understanding, that our Universe is made of ‘Vital Dust’, as Nobel Laureate Christian De Duve described it.” (More….)

Tony Jack & Julie Exline (Case Western Reserve U.) have studied the pragmatic conflict between science & spirituality/religion. They used neural imaging to shed light on the divide, finding that the differences come from the brain’s wiring.

Humans have 2 mutually exclusive & distinct neural pathways, so when one is activated, the other shuts down:
— an Analytical mode, ie. task positive network, which kicks in when we need to solve a task,  AND
— an Empathetic mode, ie. default mode network, which helps us understand other people’s emotions, & to identify with them.(More….)

Exline reminds us that our analytical mind sometimes comes up short on answers to life’s problems. Her research shows that when people dealing with spiritual struggles avoid tackling the big existential questions, their mental health suffers. Science & spiritual inquiry, says Jack, are like breathing in & breathing out. “You can’t do both at the same time, but you need both to stay healthy & well.”

A 2012 study which followed 114 adults for 10 years, showed that those with strong spiritual convictions had only one-fourth the risk for major depression, compared to their opposites. Researches stated : “Spiritual experiences involve pronounced shifts in perception, buffering the effects of stress on mental health.”  (American Journal of Psychiatry).

In addition to strengthening intellectual abilities, cultivating spiritual experiences can help people lead emotionally richer lives, & develop more open minds.
Surprisingly, it’s science that’s telling us to be more spiritual.

NEXT: Spiritual Transcendence #2

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