|Notes on Innocent Cognition|
Much has been made of Abraham Maslow's "self-actualizing" person. But my curiosity was drawn to his notion of "innocent cognition" which seemed more profound. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 72)
B-cognition (B for Being) always comes when one has a peak experience, but it may come without a peak experience, and it may come even from a tragic experience. . . . we have to make a differentiation between the two kinds of peak experience and the two kinds of B-cognition. In the first place, there is the cosmic consciousness of Bucke, or of various mystics, in which the whole of the cosmos is perceived and everything in it is seen in relationship with everything else, including the perceiver. . . .
This is one kind of peak experience, one kind of B-cognition, and must be sharply differentiated from the other kind in which fascination occurs, and in which there is an extreme narrowing of consciousness down to the particular percept, for example, the face or the painting, the child or the tree, etc., and in which the rest of the world is totally forgotten and in which the ego itself is also totally forgotten. . . .
This cut-down and narrowed fascination is very much like the Japanese concept of muga. This is the state in which you are doing whatever you are doing with a total wholeheartedness, without thinking of anything else, without any hesitation, without any criticism or doubt or inhibition of any kind whatsoever. It is a pure and perfect and total spontaneous acting without any blocks of any kind. This is possible only when the self is transcended or forgotten. . . .
From such considerations, it's clear that we psychologists cannot accept the concrete perception as the only truth, or the only good, and that we cannot accept abstraction as only a danger. We must remember the description of the self-actualizing person as able to concrete and also as able to abstract, as the situation calls for; and also we must remember that he is able to enjoy both. . . .
. . . the concrete perception of the child and his ability to perceive suchness is definitely not the same as the concrete perception and the suchness perception of the self-actualizing adult. . . . He is innocent because he is ignorant. This is very, very different from the "second innocence" or the "second naiveté" as I have called it, of the wise, self-actualizing, old adult who knows the whole of the D-realm, . . . he is able to see the B-realm, to see the beauty of the whole cosmos, in the midst of all the vices, contentions, tears, and quarrels. Through defects, or in defects, he is able to see perfection. . . .
This adult innocence or "self-actualizing innocence" probably overlaps with, or maybe even is synonymous with, the unitive consciousness in which "B" (the realm of Being) is fused and integrated with "D" (the realm of deficiencies). . . . This is quite different from the B-cognition of the child who yet knows nothing of the world and had better be said to have ignorant-innocence. . . .
The only possible alternative for the human being is to understand the possibility of going on ahead, growing older, going on ahead to the second naiveté, to the sophisticated innocence, to the unitive consciousness, to an understanding of B-cognition so that it is possible in the midst of the D-world. Only in this way can the D-world be transcended, only by real knowledge and only by growth. . . .
The B-realm must be seen through the D-realm. I would add that it can be seen in no other way since there isn't any B-realm in the geographical sense of being on the other shore someplace, or being quite different from the world, being something other than it, something not-world in the Aristotelian sense. There is only the world, only one world, and the business of fusing "B" and "D" is really a matter of being able to retain both the "D" and "B" attitudes toward the one world. . . .
If one expects nothing, if one has no anticipations or apprehensions, if in a certain sense there is no future, because the child is moving totally "here-now," there can be no surprise, no disappointment. One thing is as likely as another to happen. This is "perfect waiting," and spectatorship without any demands that one thing happen rather than another. There is no prognosis. And no prediction means no worry, no anxiety, no apprehension or foreboding.
This is all related to my conception of the creative personality as one who is totally here-now, one who lives without the future or past. Another way of saying this is: "The creative person is an innocent." An innocent could be defined as a grown person who can still perceive, or think, or react like a child. It is this innocence that is recovered in the "second naiveté," or perhaps I will call it the "second innocence" of the wise old man who has managed to recover the ability to be childlike.
Innocence on the behavioral side, is unselfconscious spontaneity when absorbed or fascinated; i.e., lack of self-awareness, which means loss of self or transcendence of it. Then behavior is totally organized by fascination with the interesting world outside the self, which then means "not trying to have an effect on the onlooker," without guile or design, without even being aware that one is an object of scrutiny. The behavior is purely experience and not a means to some interpersonal end.