Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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Abraham Maslow's main contribution to the study of religion, this category encompasses those profound experiences considered religious as well as phenomenologically similar experiences not interpreted through a theological framework.

Maslow found that among "self-actualized" individuals he studied, it was fairly common to find reports of mystical-type experiences. A lifelong atheist, Maslow wanted to distinguish mystical experiences from traditional religious experiences and to emphasize their natural origin, so he gave them a theologically neutral label. Although surveys suggest the experience is fairly common (as Maslow hypothesized), an empirical connection between self-actualization and peak experience has never been definitively established.

See also Experience, Mysticism

David Yamane


A. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (New York: Van Nostrand, 1962)

A. Maslow, Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences (New York: Penguin, 1964).

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