Religious Experience
not a Placebo

Page 2

(8)Reality of co-determinate.

The nature of the results of mystical experience are crucially different from that of placebo and suggest a reality to the co-determinate.

a) Data Validating Peak Experience

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Abraham H. Maslow

Appendix D.
"What is the Validity of
Knowledge Gained in Peak-Experiences?"

Quote: 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 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.

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 (4 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.

b) Logic of the co-determinate.

Peak expereince is validated through a varitiey of data. It is proven to be a true consciousness change. Moreover, it has powerful and postive affects which last a life time. Since it is an expereince of "someting" (transcendence at leat if not of "God") we must concude that there is a real external cause at work producing the expereince. Religous expereince is expereince of something, something we usually call "God," thus it is logical to conclude that there really is a God to be experienced. At this stage we cannot argue that this is the God of the Bible, but that will be established on other pages. Religious experience is not merely a change in feeling or a veg indefinable sense of niceness set off by beutiful clouds or something of that nature, if that were the case it could not be life changing. That is is subjective is obvious, but that is merely subjective is belied by the fact that is and has been shared my millions of people (in fact on some level by the vast majority of people) thoughout human history.

c) Peak Experience Trnasformational.

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Abraham H. Maslow
Appendix I. "An Example of B-Analysis"

1) Valuable as End in itself

Quote: "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."

2) Ego and Identity Issues


Quote: "...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 is&emdash;not a phony, a fake, a striver, an impersonator. Here again, the experiencing itself is the revelation of a truth..."

3) Life Transforming Experience


Quote: ...Perhaps I should add here the paradoxical result&emdash;for some&emdash;that 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....

9) The nature of Religious a priori.

We have been using Peak experience, of a kind that is eccumenical, much of it related to eastern religion. Many of the studies apply to a Vedantic model of meditation, but many of the researchers also stress that their data do not merely apply to meditation and not just to the east, but to all traditions, espeicially Christian mysticism and prayer.

It is to the forms of the religious a priori that we now must turn. Assuming that one has read the full argument on my website, provided here:

It can be seen that there are many forms of the a priori, the sense of the Holy, outlined by Rudolf Otto, The Ultimate concerns disucssed by Paul Tillich, Schleiermacher's feeling of utter dependence and so on. Now all of these stand in marked contrast to any kind of "placebo" activity. They are clealry not the same thing at all. First, the a priori is not reduceable to any other activity or feeling. To try and make it into something else is merely to lose what it is. It is a non-congrative, pretheoretical consciousenss of God. That is to say, the religious devotee senses in the warp and woof of his life, or in the Holy, in the an object or a location or in the nature of things, a sense of speicial being, a sense of spiritual power and prsence of the Holiness unlike anyhting else.

I can not blame the Skeptic for trying to laugh at this sense, or for those who have not expeinced it for mistaking it for something else. But it is simpley not to be confussed with the momentary ditziness of a placebo effect. It is a life transforming thing which is transcendent of anything we find in ordinary life and which introduces one into the presence of the sacred. It is not communicated in sense data. This no doubt causes a great deal of concern to the skeptic since, like Hume, they tend to assume that sense data is the only valid form of perception. But we know better than this, and we cand and do experince this form of consciousness.

No doubt the skeptic things this is just a psycholoigcal trick but it has to be expeirnced to be understood. Once expeirnced, however, it forms the basis for a life time of assurance about the nature of the nature of reality and the reality of God.

Now one might argue that this is no proof for God, and one can hardly blame the skeptic for thinking that one cannot prove expeinces. Indeed one cannot prove expeinces and the fact that I or anyone has had such expeinces is not a stairghtforward kind of proof in the sense of the cosmological argument, for exmaple. But I think it does prove something, and the things it does give us provide the stage for a proof. Moreover, the things it proves cannot be the result of any kind of placebo.

First, it in dmeonstrating the normativity of religious expeirnce I place the burden on the skeptic to show why one should reject something is clealry in our nature and for which we seem to have been designed. Secondly, the logic of the codetemrinate suggests that there is good reason to assume that the expeinces are induced by connection with a reality external to ourselves. We are not misguided if we assume that this is the case, because it is in one sense or another. If it is not the God who inspired the Bible and sent Jesus to die on the corss, if it is nothing more than your own mental connection as humans with the nature of whcih we are actually a part, it is still transcendent of the dull materialistic reductionist outlook which would reduce humanity to mere numbers. But I think a good case can be made that it is more than that.

With the Thomas Reaid Arguemnt we have the same basic logical justification for assuming the reality of God that we have for assuming the reality of the external world, or of other minds, or even our own existence. Given the design argument that flows out of no. I (that we are made to be religious) and the co-determinate (that we have an experience of something, the experince has real effects we can and should assume the "something" the expeirnce is of is real) we have a probablistic argument for God.

We should expect to find that if God is real and if he created us to commune with him that he would give us a spirit and make it part of our natures that we would experience the trasncendent. And we find that this is the case. If God is real we should find that our religious epxeriences would have long term positive effects, and so we do. If God is real we should find that our experiences of God would reveal a prsence of God, and so they do. We have ever reason to assume that this is the case.

Now as with all the arguments, there is no aboslute proof in a scientific sense. But why do we need that? We have no absolute sicentific proof that the world is real, or that we exit, or that other minds exist, we assume the do because it is a way of life that works. Is that merely a placebo? What if it is? We cointinue to assume it anyway because it is real to us. So with God for those who have had the courage to make a leap of faith.

The Religious A priori