In this 1968 film we spend time with Abraham Maslow, who is one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. Maslow is one of the central figures in my intellectual life and is the author of, what I consider to be, the most important book for psychology students of the the twenty-first century; The Psychology of Science. I assign this text in all of my psychology courses hoping to make the contemporary psychology student question with critical intelligence, the assumptions of reductionism, mechanism, and materialism that dominate the current academic psychology culture. My lectures on Abraham Maslow can be found here.
This is a 1950 WNYC radio presentation by psychoanalyst Karen Horney. Horney was a founder of social psychoanalysis in New York City, and a close companion of Erich Fromm. Although her teachings are neglected in the contemporary academic psychology programs, her words a very insightful and reward the reader with depth and clarity. My lecture on Karen Horney can be found here.
Towards the end of his life, the novelist George Orwell wrote a short, reflective essay on Why I Write. This is a question that is with me on a daily basis. I can’t imagine that this question is not the primary question of any creative or performing artist, at least at some point in their life. Why do we write, draw, paint, compose… make?
Orwell deals immediately, almost dismissively, with the obvious need to write for livelihood. I can relate to his dismissive mentioning of the “need to earn a living” from one’s art. This idea that we must make money and sustain ourselves from our art, make our profession, like that of a lawyer or a physician, is common amongst Americans. I think this is more of an artifact of growing up with a specific worldview. It is not a common feature of artists in every society, and certainly not universal in our society. However, it does seem to be a predominately attitude and is often more of a bane than an enrichment of our creative lives. It is not the reason to create that Orwell is after, and I agree. I think it is worth explaining this, for the benefit of those who are still embroiled in this confusion between the need to create, and the need to make a living. My advice to younger artists is to leave this concern behind immediately. Even if that means making your living in a way that is entirely separate from your art. Continue reading
Sea of Faith was presented by the BBC in 1984. In this series Don Cupitt discusses the philosophy of theology from antiquity through the twentieth century. In his journey, Cuppit explores the Ptolemaic worldview, the Enlightenment, Modernism, and Postmodern ideas. The series is in six parts and covers the major thinkers in the philosophy of belief from Copernicus through Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. This is a great preparatory series for the study of Martin Heidegger’s work.
Death & Impermanence
There is no way for us to know how much time we actually have. The fact is that there is a limit on our existence. Existence is seemingly only meaningful while we are alive; so to take it too seriously seems not to be too wise. The very fact that there is a limit places consequences on our living experience, the consequence is what we call value. The limit of life creates a certain value to how and what we do with our life. Continue reading
Although there are many kinds of meditation, Buddhist practitioners typically speak of two approaches to meditation, Samatha and Vipassana. Samatha meditation predates Buddhism and is a calming, focusing, and clarifying practice. Vipassana practice is uniquely Buddhist and cultivates insight and an opening of experience to broader realties (awakening). Vipassana is commonly called mindfulness meditation. I find it useful to think of Samatha meditation as a first stage of meditation that leads into Vipassana. Vipassana practice begins with Samatha practice. Continue reading
We are exploring the Eightfold Path of the Middleway, and the Four Noble Truths. The first of the eight suggestions for living a life free of extremes concerns how we understand life. The Buddha taught that there is a beneficial way of understanding life, of seeing the world, which will help us to live a more pleasant life. This first of the Eightfold Path is typically translated as the right view. I will use beneficial view, to avoid the idea of correct or incorrect; right and wrong.
The Buddha taught that the beneficial view of the world is the Four Noble Truths. If we understand these four truths, we will see the world and our lives in a way in which we can reduce suffering and live a life of contentedness. It is the central concept of Buddhist teaching, and requires us to examine our habitual, unproductive attitude, and adopt a different attitude towards life.
Continuing our exploration of Siddhartha Gautama’s first lecture, The Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dharma Sutta, we turn to the central teaching of Buddhism: the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path toward the Middle Way.
This lecture (Dhammacakkapavattana in Pali) was delivered in a deer sanctuary in Sarnath, India. It is taught that after Siddhartha awoke to the insights of enlightenment (Buddha means awoken one), he delivered this lecture to a small group of five people. This sutra (the Sanskrit word sutra is like the English word suture; it sews things together) is so dense and rich that we could spend years exploring the text. I would like to present a few concepts that are most relevant to psychology and life philosophy. This is the essence of Buddhist thought (presented in Part 4 of this series); the Eightfold Path of the Middle Way, and the Four Noble Truths. Continue reading
One of the first lessons that one learns in wild mushroom hunting is that even the choice edibles can be poisoned by the soil in which they grow. Mushrooms that grow on a chemically-treated golf course, or along a roadside might contain toxins that are absorbed into the mushroom from the polluted soil. In this way, a choice edible can become poisonous to eat.
This brings an awareness not only of the characteristics of the specific mushroom variety, but also the soil or context in which it grows. Context becomes as important as the object. The ground becomes synonymous with the figure. We find a parallel in understanding our experience of ourself in both Eastern Buddhist and Western psychodynamic and existential psychologies.