You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

June 8: Abraham Maslow and Humanistic Psychology

Lawrence Bush
June 8, 2010

abraham_maslow-236x300Abraham Maslow, a founder of the humanistic psychology and human potential movements that blossomed in the 1960s and ‘70s, died on this date in 1970 at age 62. He was the oldest of seven children in a Brooklyn family, the only “little Jewish boy in the non-Jewish neighborhood,” he said, which was “a little like being the first Negro enrolled in an all-white school.” Maslow studied psychology at the University of Wisconsin and Columbia and spent fourteen years on the faculty of Brooklyn College before settling in at Brandeis from 1951 to 1969. He developed the concept of the “hierarchy of needs,” the fulfillment of which lead to “self-actualization,” basing such theories especially on his observations of humanistic Jews such as Ruth Benedict (anthropologist) and Max Wertheimer (Gestalt psychologist) and Albert Einstein, self-actualizers, all. Maslow considered his work to be complementary to Freud’s: “It is as if Freud supplied us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill out the healthy half.” He also developed the concept of “peak experiences” to describe profound moments of love, awareness and alivenessMaslow’s thought has become a touchstone of the positive psychology movement (Martin Seligman and others), which seeks to understand human happiness as well as pathology and illness. His work has also been widely applied in modern business management psychology. In 1967, Maslow was named the Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.
“The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” — Abraham Maslow

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.