Education Specialist (EdS)
Semester of Degree Completion
Paul D. Overton
This thesis serves two purposes: One, it reveals the influences of Taoist philosophy on Maslow's humanistic psychology which has become the third force in the field of psychology; secondly it lets all those who have regarded Chinese classics as nothing but a bundle of obsolete stuffs know that an archaic well still has fresh water to be drawn out to use.
In Tao Te Ching, or Lao Tzu the book, the man of Tao and innocent child are highly praised by Lao Tzu and may be referred to as ideal characters of his mind. Metaphysically, Tao is the Way, the universal principles of existence. It is "the origin of Heaven and Earth," and "the mother of all things." It is eternal, one, all-pervasive, and absolute. Above all, it is natural. And Tao has non-action, wu-wei, as its standard. From this it is quite clear that the way of wu-wei is the way of spontaneity, to be contrasted with the artificial way, the way of cleverness and superficial morality. It is Lao Tzu's attitude toward knowledge that when knowledge and intelligence appeared, there emerged great hypocrisy. So Lao Tzu emphasizes that people should have little knowledge. With decreasing knowledge people are in a right position to know how to be content and where to stop. In other words, people live in a simple life, a life of plainness, in which profit is discarded, cleverness abandoned, selfishness minimized and desires reduced. According to Lao Tzu, the idealization of the Man of Tao and innocent child is nothing more than the idealization of the Tao or Nature itself.
In the case of Maslow, the self-actualizing people is a Being-lover or Being-cognizer. The word ''Being" is commonly referred to the reality of universe in metaphysics of Western philosophy. If we substitute Being by Chinese expression, Tao is the exact word whatsoever.
The man of Tao has, in most part of spheres, the same characteristics which a self-actualizing people or B-lover cherishes.
There are in total fourteen characteristics of the self-actualizing people in Maslow's report, but a couple of characteristics can be regarded as a by-product of some basic characteristics to which a self-actualizing person pertains. Here are the abstracted four major characteristics which are shared by both the man of Tao and B-lover.
- Solitude, privacy, psychic space,
- To understand reality is to be enlightened
Once an ideal character is found, a desire of working on a Utopia in which we hope to live is stirred naturally. Both Lao Tzu and Maslow have their own desirable Utopia.
In the case of Lao Tzu, it is a small and sparsely populated kingdom in which the great Tao prevails and then people enjoy their lives. They are well satisfied with their basic needs and their spiritual lives are also harmonized. They are free from danger throughout their life time.
Maslow coined his human-oriented institutions ''Eupsychia." In Eupsychia, Maslow believed "this would almost surely be a (philosophically) anarchistic group, a Taoistic but loving culture, in which people (young people too) would have much more free choice than we are used to, and in which basic needs and meta needs would be respected much more than they are in our society. People would not bother each other so much as we do, would be much less prone to press opinions or religions or philosophies or tastes in clothes or food or art or women on their neighbors. In a word, the inhabitants of Eupsychia would tend to be more Taoistic, non-intrusive, and basic need-gratifying (whenever possible), would frustrate only under certain conditions that I have not attempted to describe, would be more honest with each other than we are, and would permit people to make free choices wherever possible."
Chang, Kuang-fu, "A Study of Basic Characteristics of "The Man of Tao" of Lao Tzu and "Self-Actualizing People" of Maslow" (1979). Masters Theses. 3148.