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Discuss Awe and Self-Transcendence

In “The Happiness Hypothesis”, Jonathan Haidt describes the natural human ability to experience awe and self-transcendence:

“Awe is the emotion of self-transcendence….awe happens when two conditions are met: a person perceives something vast (usually physically vast, but sometimes conceptually vast, such as a grand theory…); and the vast thing cannot be accommodated by the person’s existing mental structures. Something enormous can’t be processed, and when people are stumped, stopped in their cognitive tracks while in the presence of something vast, they feel small, powerless, passive, and receptive. They often (though not always) feel fear, admiration, elevation, or a sense of beauty as well. By stopping people and making them receptive, awe creates an option for change….” Pp. 202-203.

Abraham Maslow referred to these as “peak experiences”—“those extraordinary self-transcendent moments that feel qualitatively different from ordinary life.” Some of their features: “the universe is perceived as a unified whole where everything is accepted and nothing is judged or ranked; egocentrism and goal-striving disappear as a person feels merged with the universe; perceptions of time and space are altered; and the person is flooded with feelings of wonder, awe, joy, love, and gratitude. Maslow’s goal was to demonstrate that spiritual life has a naturalistic meaning, that peak experiences are a basic fact about the human mind.” P. 205 in Haidt.

Have you had a peak or self-transcendent experience? Was it inspired by the vastness of nature or great works of humanity—as Kant defined the two causes of genuine awe, “the starry sky above and the moral law within”? Were you changed in a meaningful way? Why do human beings seek and value these experiences? Come discuss at our September meeting.

 

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  • Jim Z.

    Ideas seem to fly out rather independent from any deep discussion and perhaps that's naturally a requirement of a large group discussion. For me, it still works like magic and I leave happier than when I arrived. I am two for two!

    September 28, 2013

  • Roger P.

    Discussion was interesting. Not sure about the display of emotions on such a topic.

    September 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I was in Awe the entire time. :)

    September 28, 2013

  • steve r.

    I am very sorry I missed the meeting I had unexpected grandaddy babysitting duties. I am very much looking forward to the next meeting.

    September 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Happiness increases as we increase out gratitude

    September 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I did not get what I came for

    1 · September 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Has any research been done on the chemical changes that happen in the brain during the times of "wow "?

    September 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    This was my first meet up with this group. Well organized, thought provocative, and diverse blend of experiences and ideas. Pam, thanks for the nice job facilitating.

    1 · September 28, 2013

  • Don U.

    My moments of awe: A merging with the starry sky in one instance and a Monet in another. I am always seeking/hoping for more similar instances in my life.

    September 24, 2013

  • Jed F.

    I call these moments "WOW experiences" For me these moments are like a silk woven cloth and how its feels against your skin. When eating a bite of french silk pie. You don't just taste it you feel it in every cell in your body. That feeling when two bodies become one. I am speaking about when you cant tell the difference between her body and your own. You can't tell where one thing ends and the other begins, nor do you care and time seems to stop... frozen in a perfect moment. These feelings are not elusive...and can be experienced everyday. I can get there simply by walking bare foot in the grass.

    September 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I just want to listen! I am taking a vacation and riding from Joplin for this event. I am sure if will be worth it!

    September 9, 2013

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