Peak Experience: Maslow on bliss in everyday life – by Edward Hoffman, Ph.D – Psychology Today article, Sep 2011 |

Leave a comment

March 13 by The Running Son

What Was Maslow’s View of Peak-Experiences?

Abraham Maslow’s take on bliss in everyday life

by Edward Hoffman, Ph.D.

Published on September 4, 2011 by Edward Hoffman, Ph.D. in The Peak Experience, copyright by Edward Hoffman, Ph.D.

During the tumultuous years of the 1960s, Abraham Maslow devoted considerable attention to the topic of peak-experiences. Relying mainly on phenomenological reports of college students and colleagues, he became convinced of two key findings: First, that ordinary people may undergo genuine peaks in the seemingly most commonplace events and surroundings–while waiting for a bus on a sunlit city street, listening nostalgically to a romantic song on the radio, or preparing dinner for one’s family.

Maslow found it incredible that some of his undergraduates at Brandeis University unknowingly described their peak-experiences in language of rapture similar to those of famous spiritual teachers, East and West. The implication was clear: We needn’t be great religious mystics or even practitioners to undergo an unforgettable epiphany during daily living. Nor, as a corollary, Maslow asserted, is it necessary to meditate in a Tibetan monastery or travel exotically to gain such a wondrous encounter. As he poetically observed in RELIGIONS, VALUES, AND PEAK-EXPERIENCES, “The great lesson from the true mystics {is that} the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family, in one’s backyard.”

Second, Maslow eventually felt sure that the more emotionally healthy we are, the greater the likelihood of a peak-experience and also the more frequent such episodes become in the course of daily-to-daily living. Maslow also suggested that as we age physically, the intensity of peak moments gives way to a gentler, more sustained state of serenity that he called plateau-experiences. Unlike peak-experiences, he advised, such plateaus can be cultivated through conscious, diligent effort.

Shortly before Maslow’s sudden death from a heart attack in 1970, he began developing exercises to help people achieve the plateau state of consciousness, such as gazing at a tiny flower intensely and with total attention, or at a familiar family member or friend and imagining “that you [or he/she] is going to die soon.” Such methods, Maslow proposed, can serve to break the dull, habitual way we relate to others and help us to see the world once more with freshness and delight.

As Maslow’s biographer, I can report that he almost never discussed his own peak-experiences, even with family members and close friends. Why? Because he was a very private person. From their scattered remembrances, I learned that he found greatest peace when listening to classical music–especially the Romantic composers–or when bird-watching on Audubon Society nature walks in pastoral New England. Sometimes, at night, to reach a desired inner state, he listened to recordings of birdcalls. Lovemaking with his wife, Bertha, was another source of revelatory joy for him, as he sometimes told her.

Unfortunately, Maslow as an experimentally-trained psychologist had almost no formal background in theology or comparative religion with which to gain additional conceptual ground in his explorations of numinous experience. His unpublished diaries from the 1940s through the 1960s certainly reveal a sharp intellect whose favorite philosophical thinkers included Martin Buber, Mircia Eliade, Viktor Frankl, William James, D.T. Suzuki, Paul Tillich, and Alan Watts. But Maslow’s reading in this domain was haphazard and unsystematic–and he lacked both a conceptual framework and a vocabulary for reaching higher into human transcendence.

After the birth of Maslow’s granddaughter Jeannie in 1968, he gained renewed interest in peak-experiences–especially concerning childhood. Intuitively, he felt sure that even young children possess the capacity for epiphanies and numinous moments, but lack the vocabulary for articulating these. Maslow hoped to begin empirical research on children’s peaks once his health improved. But he died before starting any systematic exploration on this fascinating topic. For the past six years with colleagues internationally, I’ve been researching peak-experiences of our early years. But that’s a subject for another blog post.




The Running Father Blog

[ Source:]

♫ Talk to Jim...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

RFB editor Jim Aldrich, Joshua Tree CA 2013

RunningSon aka Jim Aldrich, Joshua Tree CA 2013 | This site is dedicated with the deepest gratitude to Dr. Cláudio Naranjo, whose writings gave me life.

  • 352,540 souls hit the RFB

Click to Follow the RFB!

Join 1,033 other followers

Recent Posts…

Some RFB Followers…

Flag Counter
DoubleU = W


UP!::urban po'E.Tree(s)

by po'E.T. and the colors of pi

The shadows of a dream

Words walking the tightrope from functionality to versification.


spice up your life vanilla style


A topnotch site


thoughts from my mind to yours

A Mirror Obscura,

Poetry, musings and sightings from where the country changes


Poetic Landscapes Of The Spirit


Ein schöner Tag - wenn er zu Ende geht, ist nichts mehr, wie es war...


Im here to expose true talent

phillymanjim's Blog

Poetry, Musings, Photographs

Blog It Or Lose It

Paloma's Pen

The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally

Here and now, with all of it.

James Radcliffe

Thoughts on Writing, Art, and Life

Tania Marie

Creating Life As A Work Of Art With A Magick Rabbit By My Side

Sean B

Nomadic & transient tales


Simple Living

Papermashed (Discontinued Blog of Eva Acharya)

A place for me to share my ideas, triumphs, and failing moments in pursuit of publishing.

Smuggling Bay

About expression

leather green gargoyle

what I hear, what I read, what I write

Gray Poet

Just a place to express my poems.

HA's Place

of organic poems, multifarious prose, rambunctious ramblings, and queer dreams


The greatest site in all the land!

Notes on a Spanish Valley

Award-winning blog - Living in rural Andalucia

Wendy L. Macdonald

My faith is not shallow because I've been rescued from the deep.


Women's Issues, Peace, Creativity & Spirituality


My muse's quiet amusement

Poemotherapi Shoppe

"Oh How Art Thou Love Of Poetry"



I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

∙ tenderheartmusings ∙

we were born naked onto the page of existence; with nothing but the pen of our soul to write ourselves into eternal ecstasy ~ DreamingBear Baraka Kanaan

Traces of the Soul

Whispering insights of this, that, then and there

"we'll never be royals."

Small artists with big potential and lots of cliché.


A Long Distance Relationship Blog. Join the FB Page:

David Emeron: Sonnets

If I swore not to describe my heart, would it stop beating forever?


Exploring Northern Himalayas

Simple Pleasures

Visual Poetry, Photography and Quotes

Of Distant Places

How it feels like feeling home to a person who lives 8,000 miles away

Manang Bok's House

Atrocities are sometimes nothing less than the vengeance of the tormented. (Louis de Bernieres)

going the distance for love blog

Life in a long distance relationship


My heart, mind and soul...transcribed!

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

%d bloggers like this: