You Can't Do That: When Compassion Calls For Telling The Trut


Carl Rogers, leader of the Human Potential Movement, spoke for both of us when he confessed to an attitude of "they're doing the best they can."

For a twenty-year period, Carl Rogers and I were associated in a publishing venture called Studies of the Person. The publisher was Charles E. Merrill, then a division of Bell & Howell, later a division of Macmillan. We signed the contract in December 1967 and were consulting editors until January 1987, when the last remaining book in the series went out of print. Rogers died the next month, but not because the series had gone out of print. He was glad to see it go. He had tried to call it off in 1971. On August 17 that year he wrote to the publisher as follows:

I am a person who finds it very difficult to make evaluations, whether it is people or manuscripts. Bill is much better at that than I am. I tend to be too sympathetic with the author and feel, “Well, he doesn’t seem to have done it very well, but I can see that he is trying to say something.” I have very little confidence in my judgment about manuscripts. [1]

He said I was better but I wasn’t. When prospective authors submitted bad work, we should have said, “You can’t do that.” It would have been compassionate. But we didn’t. Rogers spoke for both of us when he confessed to an attitude of “they’re doing the best they can.”

This idea became a movement: that people who might be doing objectively bad work or practicing objectively bad behavior (like having sex outside of marriage) are doing the best they can as long as they’re sincere. The movement was called by some the human potential movement—singular—and by others the human potentials movement—plural, for the fact that we have more than one potential: as well as the potential to behave, we have the potential to misbehave. It is not widely known that Abraham Maslow became a critic of this movement. He’d been asked to help find authors for the series, but to the best of my recollection never referred anyone. He called our style of editing books, running workshops and institutes and so on “the Rogerian motherly father.” In his Journals, published in 1979, nine years after his death, long after it could have been helpful to us, he wrote about “Rogers, et al.” He said the problem with “Rogers, et al.” is “in their giving up of evil, or at least their total confusion about it....” [2]

It seems to me now he might have had in mind events like our selection of Donald H. Clark’s book for our textbook series. More recently an avowed homosexual psychologist in San Francisco, Clark was at the time we met him a married man on the staff of Hunter College, the father of two, who’d recently come on leave to visit the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute in La Jolla, where we worked, there to get involved in encounter groups and get in touch with the self (or as Maslow was deriding it in his Journals at that time, the self, the self, the self). He then left home and moved to San Francisco. In a subsequent book, Loving Someone Gay, he writes of the breakup of his marriage and coming out of the closet at the 1971 meeting of the Western Psychological Association at the San Francisco Hilton. It was a panel of gay psychologists. He had not before then declared himself. The audience seemed unreceptive:

I remember looking at a sea of smug faces. They had that “I’ve been analyzed for twelve years and resolved my homosexual hangups” look on their faces, or so I imagined, and I was swept by one of those moments of inspired and unexpected rage. I told the audience what I imagined I saw in their faces and suggested anyone who felt that complacent ought to put his or her right hand in the crotch of the person of the same gender seated nearest, leave it there for five minutes, and see if they still felt complacent. To my amazement, that moment of sudden truth was greeted by the audience with a spontaneous, loud ovation. [3]

On the phone he told me it had been a standing ovation. We referred his name to the organizing committee for an education conference in the Midwest. Loving Someone Gay tells what happened:

One of the funniest and saddest growthful times was when I was the keynote speaker for the annual education conference in South Dakota. They had wanted Carl Rogers, and got me. My speech was entitled, ‘Humanistic Teaching-A Vote for Deviance’ and in it I spoke of my own homosexuality ... and the need to risk personal exposure as a teacher. Well, I certainly exposed myself .... There was a smattering of polite applause and then enough social space around me to make me feel as if I had a contagious social disease-and I guess they thought I did. But even from that experience I grew. I had said it. I had told my truth (p. 272).

It was easier to get our endorsement than South Dakota’s. Donald Clark became a Studies of the Person author. [4] His book was one of five we recommended for publication in 1971. Called Humanistic Teaching, it was directed to teachers in training and had a section of advice on homosexuality. The argument was this:

From what we know of normal human beings, if they were living in a nonrestrictive society, they would probably enjoy a wide variety of sexual experience, including contact with their own sex....

Nightmarish suffering may result because of the strong taboo against homosexuality. Many grown men in our culture today who have seemingly established a “normal” heterosexual orientation entertain secret doubts about their masculinity and thus their psychological health or their worth as human beings. This is a sad state of affairs.

Signs of change are in the air. Homosexuality is more openly displayed, discussed, and accepted today than in the past. Today’s under-thirties, far more than previous generations, accept many forms of deviance or individuality, and they will soon set the standard for our culture....

Here is where you can be extremely helpful. You cannot buck the cultural taboo, no matter how enlightened you are, by permitting or encouraging wholesale physical expression of affection among boys, but you can permit or encourage what the traffic will comfortably bear....Little children with arms around each other can be going to Funsville, and older youngsters can be blindfolded and try to identify classmates by feeling their hands and faces (pp. 114, 115, 116).

To “encourage what the traffic will comfortably bear” became problematic advice with the advent of AIDS. I have sometimes thought that Mother Nature is saying, “I can’t bear any more.”

But let me take you forward eleven years from the publication of Humanistic Teaching to November 1982. It is seventeen months since first reports of the AIDS virus began arriving at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. In 1982 not many Americans yet suspect the magnitude of the problem. In San Francisco they suspect. A conference is held at the University of California Medical Center. Dr. Harold Jaffe attends from the Atlanta centers. His job at CDC includes pattern analysis of early reports from the front: geographical sites where the disease appears to concentrate. What they have in common is big-city anonymity and large homosexual enclaves. He tells a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle that nearly 90 percent of the reported cases have a history of prior venereal disease; two-thirds, he says, have had hepatitis. The reporter summarizes the balance of Jaffe’s report.

[M]any have been exposed to feces through oral or anal sex acts, and nearly all have used a variety of drugs ranging from marijuana and alcohol to cocaine and the nitrite compounds known as “poppers, if that are commonly used in the gay community as aphrodisiacs.

But the most striking characteristic of all the victims ... is the large number of sex partners they have encountered. Many having had anonymous sex with hundreds or even thousands of partners in gay bathhouses, while others end night after night of cruising by engaging in sex with strangers. [5]

At about the same time as the Jaffe report another Chronicle reporter conducts interviews among men of the Castro district:

I seem to lead a very lucky life,” said K., waving a cigaret [sic]. “And I haven’t read anything conclusive that says marijuana, poppers, homosexual sex or anything else is related to it. I just don’t see that there’s anything to convince me to give up something I enjoy a lot. [6]

M. has been listening in on the conversation and disagrees strongly with K. M’s companion has recently been diagnosed: in his mid-thirties he has Kaposi’s sarcoma and is dying.

“Most people in the gay community don’t want to hear it,” he said bitterly. “I don’t think people know people are dying. They say, ‘I want to go disco, man, I want to go get laid.’...”

Still [the reporter writes], M. mourns the end of a lifestyle he loves.

“There were all these good times, a good lifestyle. That’s hard, to take away what your culture’s about, celebrating life.” [7] While AIDS as a cause of death-in-celebration-of-life becomes a concern to some in San Francisco, an educational scandal is developing to the south. Apparently no one guesses a connection between the two stories. (I know that I did not, not for some time. Then I realized: We have been teaching people to be homosexual! Whether approaching our subject in the name of “risk taking” or “spontaneity” or “authenticity” or “sincerity” or “personal courage” or “congruent expression of felt needs” or “intimacy” or “the claims of the present,” we have been teaching people to be homosexual. But this realization came later.) Here is the story as it develops in Southern California: in May and June of 1982 the Los Angeles Times reports on an unusual course, a regular offering of Cal State Long Beach. The Times exempts the class syllabus:

Psychology of Sex professor Barry Singer...advises students: “ may, with prior instructor approval, get credit for engaging in experiences involving actual sexual behaviors which are new for you: for instance, extramarital sex, group sex, gay or lesbian sex, casual sex. See the instructor first to work this out.”

Singer, 38, a tenured professor with a doctorate in psychology, said...requirements included keeping a “play book” in which students describe their sexual feelings and practices.

Some faculty members and students have complained...[of] mail critical of the Long Beach courses, and they suspect the protest is part of an organized campaign by [-guess who-] evangelical Christians. In a statement to the Times, Singer wrote about how “thrilling” it was when women students in his course this spring explored their lesbian fantasies in written class assignments.

Singer said he arranged for the women to meet at the home of a female teaching assistant “to discuss their sexual feelings for each other.” At the time he wrote the report, he said, he did not know if the meeting resulted in lesbian affairs. “I presume so...,” he said.

When the women wrote about these sexual feelings or spoke to him about them, Singer said in the statement, “my message to them was the same: ‘Go for it!’” [8]

San Francisco is where go-for-it might be said to have originated. In San Francisco, dermatologist Marcus A. Conant, who by now had seen far too many cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma, wasn’t mincing words. He directed his remarks on go-for-it to the homosexual community, as whose good friend he had long been acknowledged. In November 1985, he granted an interview to KCBS radio reporter Betsy Rosenberg. He said,

Ten percent of the people who did not have the AIDS virus last year have been infected this year. What that means is that we have not been effective in terms of educating the people at high risk, namely the gay community in San Francisco, how to avoid acquiring the AIDS virus. The message that we need to put out should be, “If you don’t want to get AIDS, don’t catch the AIDS virus-and if you don’t want to catch the AIDS virus, don’t have sex. [9]

In other words, you can’t do that.

Survey research among homosexual men, published during that period, highlights a problem not easily solved: how to get the promiscuous to realize promiscuity is wrong. In a study of six hundred and fifty-five gay men in San Francisco, many readily agreed that reducing the number of sexual partners would reduce the risk of infection. Of this group, however, thirty-five percent admitted they still “had sex with more than five different men during the month prior to sampling.” And sixty-nine percent of the men who’d had sex with three or more partners the previous month said they agreed with this statement: “It is hard to change my sexual behavior because being gay means doing what I want sexually.” [10]

This is simply the old self-actualization, human potentials formula of the ‘60s and ‘70s in tighter focus-”Let’s roar off the face of the earth” was one of Maslow’s expressions for it.

Writing in 1979, psychologist Judith Bardwick, author of Psychology of Women, characterized it as the dictate “that the self is to become magnificently independent....[M]any people view an inability to be truly autonomous, to be free from old rules and old relationships as a clear demonstration of being ‘unliberated’. Since the mid-’60s, she added, feminism, the human potential movement, and the sexual revolution have come together to generate a search for egocentric hedonism. Moreover, this goal has become the essential criterion by which we measure whether we are getting enough out of work, parenthood, marriage, any experience or relationship, all commitments. [11]

Homosexual men are paying with their lives for the dominance of this philosophy, which pretends to be compassionate and releasing. The gay lifestyle was unlikely enough to succeed without human potentialism and its theories rationalizing it, as though setting out to have sex whenever one felt a sexual itch should be seen as a marker for personal growth. The result of the compulsion to self-fulfill is seen in a 1983 study by sociologists Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz. They surveyed twelve thousand couples, including gays and lesbians. They found that of the married heterosexual couples, seventy percent were mutually monogamous ten years after marriage. Of the homosexual couples together more than ten years, only six percent remained faithful. Ninety-four percent either could not remain monogamous or simply did not want to. The authors reported that these men had had sexual relations with other men, but it was nearly always casual sex without any emotional involvement. Among male homosexual couples, in fact, sexual relations between partners was found to decline dramatically with time, while outside sexual activity increased. [12]

Why all this random sexual activity, this “anonymous sex with hundreds or even thousands of partners” which Harold Jaffe noted? I believe it is because gay persons are trying to do what nature doesn’t allow. They keep trying. In hundreds or even thousands of different come-and-go pairings, they try to make babies man-to-man. Only through our children-or some other self-denying vocation-do we escape having to believe that every good and personal thing happens in the here and now. Homosexual men are forced into the here and now. There is no other self-respecting place to go, not if they’ve read the early, over-promoted work of the great human potentialists.

Preeminent among these great men were Carl Rogers and Abe Maslow. A tape-recorded interview was conducted by Joseph Hart with Rogers in 1966, before Rogers realized that Maslow was in the process of turning away from human potentialism or realized why it might be necessary. As readers of his Journals later learned, he was turning because he saw human potentialism eroding the intelligence of his people, the Jewish students of Brandeis University.

Roger’s didn’t know about these developments. For one thing, Maslow’s turnabout wasn’t decisive but proceeded in fits and starts. Rogers said,

I think Maslow is probably the most visible and the most verbal and most out-in-front of the humanistic psychology trend. He embodies within himself some of the things that both stimulate me and concern me. A lot of his ideas are very exciting, and he’s continually formulating new ideas. But I think he has very little concern with tying humanistic psychology to science. [13]

Maslow was actually to agree. In his Journals, for example, in an entry of September 29, 1969, nine months before his death at the age of 62, he spoke of dangers he too had seen in some of his earlier enthusiasms; for example, he had once been an Esalen Institute enthusiast, but now,

Slowly crystallizing into consciousness: to cosmocize and universalize my critique of Esalen into an examination of benefits and booby-trap not only of Esalen and its whole chain, but also of the hippie culture, psychology 3 [his own “Third Force Psychology”], Synanon, NTL [National Training Labs, i.e., sensitivity training] -in fact the whole Eupsychian network. Much of it is a misuse of my thinking. But the misuses are all old philosophies and issues: romanticism, pro and con; anti-intellectual, anti-scientific dangers. [14]

Maslow’s overheated early theorizing had created problems for himself as a father and academic, and for his people, who (as people everywhere) call for effective leadership. He had once believed, and announced to the world before Carl Rogers himself knew whether to believe it, that the therapy research of Rogers and his apprentices established a universal leadership ideal. “Acceptance, understanding, and permissiveness” is what they called it. [15] How to create this package in practice became the focus of consulting efforts at the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute in the 1960s. WBSI later collapsed. Maslow’s contribution to WBSI’s approach (and perhaps its problems) included to promote the doctrine called nonjudgmentalism-in elementary schools since then called “no put-downs.” He suggested that the extraordinary individuals he called “Olympians” could afford to “play total acceptance” with one another. In the 1960s, many at WBSI wanted to believe that most people, maybe all, were capable of becoming Olympians. Rogers saw this experiment-if it worked as providing “therapy for normals” and “unleashing freedom.” Visiting WBSI in mid-1962, Maslow used the expression I mentioned before, about “roaring off the face of the earth.” In his Journals he wrote:

I think Olympians know how not to criticize ... let’s roar off the face of the earth for awhile. Let’s play total acceptance .... As in therapy, where I guess just this happens-we learn to open up, to not fear being laughed at, scolded, punished. We learn to be naked and to show the secret scars we’ve been hiding all along. We discover from the true friend, or from the accepting therapist, that we can jump and we positively will not be hurt. We will not be laughed at, punished, etc. (p. 177, entry of July 7, 1962).

But he was wrong. We could be hurt.

The context of his remarks is that, unlike many nondirective, Rogerian psychotherapists, he didn’t really think it was appropriate to include ordinary adults as players in the game of total acceptance-and as he later clarified, most especially not children. But it was too late. His ideas had taken on a life of their own. By the end of August 1962 he was writing of having observed problems, for instance, in the business world. He noted what he called “overextensive use in business of my theories and findings. They’re being taken as gospel truth...,” and he complained that his famous “hierarchy of human needs” was being abused: “My motivation theory was published 20 years ago, and in all that time nobody repeated it, or tested it, or really analyzed it or criticized it. They just used it, swallowed it whole...” (Journals, pp. 188, 190, entry of August 30, 1962).

By 1965 he was ready to oppose any overreaching by psychotherapists. Accordingly, he wrote a note about the need for decisive fathers in the home-guys who would say to their children, if you will, when reality called for it, “You can’t do that: You can’t smoke dope, you can’t drink and drive, you can’t be rude to your mother, you can’t watch TV before doing your homework”-who would do it (lest this sound ugly) not as a disconfirming so-called “you-message” but as a timeless message: “Homework is for doing; TV is for turning off; mothers are for honoring.” To say “You can’t do that,” when it’s true (a child won’t know it at first, but a parent will) will be, thus, a compassionate act. Maslow wrote,

Every son fights his father. And then he himself becomes a father and changes into a repressive force necessarily, a controller, the policeman, judge, punisher, a stabilizer, a restrainer of impulse freedom. Andhe learns the advantages of stability, order, politeness, reciprocity, etc. I guess the only way to discover fatherhood and its conservations is by experiencing fatherhood (Journals, p. 514, June 9, 1965).

After his death, Bertha, his widow, granted editors of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology a preview of Maslow’s notes, which were not to see print in the Journals of A. H. Maslow until 1979; impressed with the importance of what they read, the editors published an undated excerpt in 1977. It supports the 1965 journal entry on the exigencies of fatherhood-and again raises questions about Maslow’s earlier attraction to teaching people about roaring off the face of the earth and playing total acceptance:

At times it seems as though the growth centers and revolutionary youth both agree on discarding the worth and value of rationality. They seem to overemphasize the senses and emotions, and they exaggerate the number of people who are “up tight” in the United States and who need release from inhibitions without considering that many people need more inhibitions rather than fewer....They often tend to be too exclusively Dionysian, regarding logic, science, education, and the like as imprisonment, with feeling and sensory experience, rather than knowledge, as the wellspring of their motivations. They stress impulsive expressiveness, mistaking it for healthy spontaneity. They agree in mistrusting power and authority, defining them both in an extremely low way....They believe that if one lifts the restraints and allows absolute freedom that only good will result, which means (implies) an unfounded faith in basic human goodness and an implied belief that evil comes only from social restraints and inhibitions. They do not have enough respect for the profound instinctive needs of safety, security, law, order, keeping the peace; and they do not realize that without these needs, freedom is impossible. They think of power as evil, not realizing that they must temper, restrain, and control the forces of inhumanity and chaos within the human soul. They agree in lacking intimacy and a sense of community, and keep on seeking it unconsciously. They tend to be short-term, here-now, impatient, and they do not realize that education, persuasion, becoming a good person, and developing a good society, are all lifetime tasks requiring a large segment of time.

Another journal entry, that dates from the year before Maslow died, makes the same point and is worth quoting. I said he had earlier been high on Esalen, the growth center at Big Sur Hot Springs. Now he saw it more objectively. Too many people had been hurt, including some who had no idea how badly they’d been hurt. He wrote:

The staff, mostly young people, and many in the hippie or near hippie style, treated in the Esalen way and presumably having the massages and nudism and easy sex and the therapy and seminars and the Utopian atmosphere, have turned out as a group to be contemptuous of the squares...just snotty, arrogant, neglectful.... That is, they’ve formed an amity-enmity culture, good with each other but not with “outsiders” (Journals, pp. 117-18, February 21, 1969).

Maslow makes note of the “contemptuousness of the squares” observed at Esalen. It’s an observation that can shed light on the common temptation of schools of amateur and semi-professional psychotherapy to try to defeat their patients’ families and might ultimately shed light on the scandal of “False Memory Syndrome.” Therapy, that is, can become what Maslow described as an “amity-enmity culture,” in which the therapist and the patient enlist one another to campaign against the reputation of the parents, who are the therapist’s rival. In doing therapy it’s easy to begin to believe “I’d be a better father or mother to you than your own.”

The problem wasn’t always as clear as it became when Maslow saw his people getting hurt. In 1967, three years before his death, he confessed to responsibility for having “smuggled” something into humanistic psychology. What was it? Others had smuggled other things; he said he himself had smuggled in the good; he’d tried to reduce the good, that is, and by extension the true and the beautiful, to something more defensible to psychologists-to reduce them to breaking through one’s repressions, say, or (as he’d put it in 1954 in his classic text Motivation and Personality) to reduce them to listening to and heeding “the impulse voices.” In any case, the program of reductionism was mistaken. The good is irreducible. Ethics is not psychology.

Maslow laid out the problem in his Journals on May 28, 1967. Concerning his popular concept of self-actualization, he wrote that he’d had an important insight that morning: Self-actualization? “I realized I’d rather leave it behind me,” he wrote.

Just too sloppy....going through my notes brought this unease to consciousness. It’s been with me for years. Meant to write and publish a self-actualization critique, but somehow never did. Now I think I know why. I think I had a hidden, unconscious criterion of selection [of self-actualizing people] beyond health (pp. 794-95).

He said he’d been looking over lists of people who, though they fit his formal criteria of self-actualization, he found he “just couldn’t swallow.” On the list were Mrs. Roosevelt and the entire board of directors of the American Psychological Association. So, he said,

I guess I did read into my selectees a criterion beyond “health.” Maybe I should have kept on calling them “Good Human Beings” (GHB) as I find I did in notes of 1945, or “Wonderful People,” instead of shifting over to talking about “psychologically healthy.”...I’d certainly better publish what I saw this morning-that I’d smuggled in an unconscious additional variable of Beingness, Being-values, Being-language (p. 794).

In other words, the attempt to get rid of ethics just didn’t work. It might have been well intended, generous. Its inadvertent reductionisms might have been made in the name of an attractive brand of humanism-”religious humanism” Maslow called it here and there-but that didn’t make it right.

Admitting the problem in May 1967, he proceeded to act in October as if he hadn’t. Crowell-Collier asked him to give a luncheon talk at the Plaza Hotel in New York City October 23, 1967. The subject was “The Self-Actualizing Manager.” Though he no longer believed in self-actualization, he gave the talk anyway. Afterward he didn’t like himself for it. His journal entry of that date passed this judgment: that he’d done a “Crappy job,” that he “Felt like a swindler.” But he added, “They thought it was good” (Journals, p. 832).

So you can fool people. Martin Buber said the origin of all difficulty between myself and others is that I do not say what I mean and do not do what I say. It was a common form of misconduct in the leadership circle of the human potentials movement at that time. As to the general type of this problem, Michael Polanyi accounted for it as an effect of what he called “perfectionism”:

Perfectionism, which would transform the whole of thought and the entire society, is a program of destruction, ending up at best in a world of pretense. The existentialist contempt for all values not chosen by ourselves, condemning them as bad faith, is likewise either empty or destructive. [16]

This is the problem: the leaders of human potentialism had been given reason to disbelieve in an approach to social change which they proceeded to recommend anyway-as I think some of their apprentices did, too.

In 1977, Carl Rogers wrote about his own problem with this kind of behavior, his problem with himself, that is, because of it. He put it in the form of a question, and he said he cried when it came to him this way: “To what degree am I misleading people through my ideas and my writings?” [17]

He answered himself with “There is absolutely no one to say.” Maybe it was true at the time-Maslow had been dead seven years and other colleagues were pretty unresponsive (for one thing, a lot of opportunities to appear before the public could be jeopardized). Three years before his death, Maslow had answered questions like Rogers’ in advance, in the Journals where he added, “maybe it would, at this time anyway, be more diplomatic not to say anything” (p. 824, entry of August 30, 1967).

He was a little intimidated by Rogers. He said that as a Jew, he was afraid to get kicked out of the club. (Accordingly, when he was nominated to be president of the American Psychological Association, he was shocked; he thought this had never happened to a Jew, though it turned out there was another Jewish APA president before him.)

If he was intimidated, it was also true that he greatly admired Rogers; but the issue in 1967 was that it seemed Rogers risked going down in history as someone who’d come to hate excellence. Maslow’s Journals illustrate both what he meant by excellence and what he meant by hating it. A homely example was recorded September 28, 1967. The morning began, he reported, with what he described as another “Long breakfast talk with Bertha,” the sort which was a regular feature of their four decades of marriage. The journal entry reflected on “how people admire her taste and often beg her to help them shop or decorate.... Her superiority is factual and clear and undoubted and proved by a record of successes...” (p. 755, his emphasis). But often the same people who recognized his wife’s superior taste and solicited her advice, he said, “then reject her recommendations.” He asked himself why and speculated it was because of pride: they rejected the advice of this person of superior taste, “To save the self, self-expression, autonomy, pride, ego. Especially in this age when there’s so much talk about trusting the self, self-expression, actualization of the self, etc.” (pp. 755-56). Like most people, he was naturally attracted to “excellence, superiority, talent.” But such attraction had become problematic in an era of “democratic dogma” (as he was soon to call it) [18]. To use today’s term, speaking confidently of superiors and inferiors had become politically incorrect. In part it was incorrect because of the success he himself had had in spreading the doctrine of self-actualization-”my whole (and too exclusive) emphasis,” he said, had been “on just these things-self, self, self”(p.756). It was an emphasis that had backfired:

Supposing you are factually inferior. Then what? What happens to self-actualization when I say (as I do) to Bertha and Ann [their older daughter] : ‘Look, you’re better than I am at picking clothes, furniture, fabrics, etc. You do the choosing for me.” [19]

And he added that when he tells Bertha she’s better, she says, “Of course.” Does it diminish one to admit to his limitations? Must it be taken as a failure of self-esteem? No. If Abe Maslow is a bad shopper, fortunately his wife and daughter are not.

Excellence deserves acknowledgment. There is a corollary: “Where scoundrels, inferiors, jealous-weak ones get power,” or where they “can and do veto the factually superior, then that society is finished.”

Six months after this entry, he’s asking himself, “Why do people hate excellence?” (November 12, 1967, p. 845). He’s found a surprising example: his friend Carl Rogers. On August 30 he writes, “I remember how angry and disturbed Rogers got at Palm Beach when I talked about aggridants [Maslow’s name for factually superior people]. He couldn’t take it. And since then Bob Tannenbaum told me that Rogers was furious, more than angry” (p. 824, his emphasis). In his November notes he asks himself again: “Why did Carl Rogers get so disturbed by my aggridants?” What does it say about him? “Democratic dogma? Repression of his own violence? = defining superiority as evil?” (p. 848). He couldn’t figure it out.

If he’d had a shade more than an extra decade of life, he might have understood. It would have been long enough to study Emerging Woman, the book self-published by Carl and Helen Rogers’ only daughter; long enough to review some of the braggadocian confessions written by Rogers’ students or to read news reports of subsequent troubles some of them had with the law. [20] Plenty had gone wrong on the road to self-actualization. Some of the roadsigns had been put in place not only by Maslow but by Rogers-so blame didn’t rest with their followers alone, and Maslow wasn’t the only theorist who was implicated. One man speculated he might have stopped short of disaster if Rogers had been judgmental about sexual behavior that was public and increasingly gross and eventually got him sent to jail. Open disapproval by Rogers of Maslow’s theory of “our animal nature” might have helped, too. In a book called It’s Me and I’m Here! the man who went to jail wrote of having complained to Rogers “when we were last together” about his “reluctance to take a stand, right or wrong, about anything. I feel he is very middle-of-the-road at times in his desire to always be accepting, and this angers me when I am treated this way. How can he accept everything, everyone!” Actually, Rogers didn’t. The man wasn’t sure. “Perhaps he isn’t as accepting as I think he seems....I really don’t know him that well personally, though I have gained this impression of him. What I have done to Carl Rogers-and myself-is the disservice of making him bigger than life.” [21]

Natalie Fuchs-later she took back her maiden name of Rogers-was one who had gotten self-actualization theory directly from Maslow, at a time when he still believed it. Naturally, she also read her father’s books, but Maslow was the main man. As she wrote after her father’s death, “I reentered college [in 1958] to get a Master’s degree at Brandeis University”; and, she added, “Abe Maslow was my mentor.” [22]

It was a bad time to come under Maslow’s influence: as Carl Rogers later suggested, Maslow had lots of “exciting new ideas” but was too little concerned “with tying humanistic psychology to science.” Maslow himself pretty much confirmed this; but by then it was too late for those among his students who believed he meant them when he talked about self-actualization. By 1961, he was ready to clarify this, perhaps even to students in his Brandeis classes. (But Natalie, who had graduated the year before, wouldn’t be there to hear it.) In a conference on counseling in January, he told of

Some of my students [who] read a paper or two on self-actualization, and then have a kind of sudden conversion experience, and on Thursday at two o’clock, they decide they’re going to be self-actualized as of that moment. Then, I find I’ve let loose in the world people who have jumped to the goal too quickly. [23]

Natalie jumped, but not on Thursday. With a husband and three children, there were obligations to hold her back; there were also lessons of her upbringing to heed, lessons that stressed duty; finally, there was the fact that, as the wife of a professor at an important East Coast university, she was embedded in a culture that expected prudence. In the summer of 1964, however, she, her husband and children were in California, where, as Look magazine editor George Leonard described it, “every segment of that society is constantly on the moral firing line.” In a feature article of 1962, Leonard, who later become a seminar leader and vice-president at Esalen Institute, quoted “a San Francisco Methodist layman” on the subject of California’s “new aristocracy of those who care.” In a followup article of 1966, he quoted Carl Rogers on the confusion California could cause, even to one of the new aristocrats:

Methodist layman (1962): Where a man is born into his role in life, he has fewer moral choices than where he is forced to make his own role. There is no moral choice in doing what you have to. In California, the old social compartments are being broken down, and we are creating a new aristocracy, an aristocracy of those who care. Membership in this new aristocracy is restricted only by a man’s capacity for concern. [24]

Leonard (1962): In such a fluctuating society, it will be easy for the individual to become bewildered....But if the dangers are great, so are the opportunities. What happens in California during the next few years will bear watching by every American. [25]

Rogers (1966): Since coming to California two years ago, I’ve somehow become more interested in my work in education and religion -or whatever you may call them-than in the field I’ve spent my life in, psychology. The only trouble is, out here, I feel myself overstimulated. Too much is going on. [26]

Leonard,, where more people than anywhere else have taken journeys into inner space, the social as well as personal dangers and benefits of the mind-expanding experience may be calmly viewed....In this and other matters, such as sexual morality, that do not readily yield to the pollster’s blunt instruments, California sets the pace ....

Natalie was one who, in retrospect, seems to have been vulnerable to the Look magazine interpretation of California. Visiting her parents in La Jolla in the summer of 1964, opportunity arose to put herself on the moral firing line and, perhaps, to reinforce lessons learned at Brandeis: a “Workshop in Human Relations with Carl Rogers” was offered the public August 2-7, co-sponsored by WBSI and the humanistic psychology program at Sonoma State College. The schedule featured daily lectures by her father, followed by sensitivity groups into the evening. Prospective participants received this statement, signed by Carl Rogers:

I am looking forward to the workshop as a chance to come into close, personal contact with a variety of searching individuals. I hope to be able to give of myself in this relationship and I hope also to learn from and receive from others who are there. I believe that workshops such as this are in the forefront of a modern cultural trend. I believe we are exploring ways in which man’s hunger for deep relationships-his desire to be just what he is, without having to put up any defensive front-can be met. I believe such a workshop is also an attempt to meet and assuage the loneliness which is felt by most individuals in this modern age. I hope we can make it a meaningful experience. [27]

Natalie signed up, attended, and found it meaningful; for instance, she wrote of being “amazed” in her small group

when people responded to me as a warm, intelligent, caring human being with my own identity. People were relating to me-not as wife, not as mother, but just plain me. It was like coming out from under the deep shade of a tree where others could only vaguely see me, into the bright sunlight, where I stood in full view. Both the warmth and the exposure seemed risky and exhilarating. [28]

As Donald Clark left his wife and children after deciding that he was gay, Natalie left her husband and children after deciding that she was a person.

When her father blew up at Abe Maslow, as recorded in Maslow’s Journals, he seems to have been angry not only with his friend for misleading his daughter but with himself. S.A. stuff and Becoming a Person stuff had merged in the undoing of a marriage.

On Becoming a Person was written by Carl Rogers in a three-week period in the summer of 1960, pulled together largely from earlier writings of his on the subject of psychotherapy. [29] The book focused on the process by which clients in Rogerian therapy thought of themselves as having learned to be free of various roles-especially the role of victim-and to become persons of self-respect. The book contained no small amount of the kind of scientific writing that had brought Rogers fame. It was, in fact, intended for professional therapists: Rogers’ working title had been “A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy” (though the publisher suggested a name with wider appeal). “To my astonishment,” Rogers wrote, On Becoming a Person was a success with the general public, [30] among whom it seems to have been received as a design for self-actualization. There was some mention of Maslow’s ideas but not much: for instance, a previously unpublished paper by Rogers was included, which had been withheld from publication for ten years because although Rogers could cite in this paper Maslow’s “vigorous case for man’s animal nature,” he could not yet embrace it. [31] Maslow’s case hinged on this statement: “I can report empirically the healthiest persons in our culture...are most (not least) pagan, most (not least) ‘instinctive,’ most (not least) accepting of their animal nature.” [32]

One part of Rogers’ problem with this statement was its claim to be empirical, which was dubious. Maslow had once been an empiricist-and would become an empiricist again toward the end of his life-but in the Forties and Fifties he was more inventive, “continually formulating new ideas,” as Rogers would put it to Joseph Hart. [33]

In spite of Rogers’ reservations, On Becoming a Person as a whole, much more than his previous wirings, shared Maslow’s commitments. This paid off in popularity, as Maslow’s ideas were “very exciting.” [34]

Rogers both did and didn’t resist popularity. More often than not, at least for awhile, he continued to write as a scientist, e.g., balancing reports of therapeutic success with warnings about the dangers of overgeneralization; there was, for instance, the series of cautions he expressed about sensitivity workshops of the type Natalie had taken (though her name was not mentioned). One appeared in Rogers’ chapter in James Bugental’s Challenges of Humanistic Psychology (1967) and another in Psychology Today (1969):

1967., Some of the tension which exists in workshop members because of this potential for damage was very well described by one member when he said, “I feel the workshop had some very precious moments for me when I felt very close indeed to particular persons. It had some frightening moments when its potency was very evident and I realized a particular person might be deeply hurt or greatly helped but I could not predict which.” [35] mixed intensive workshops positive and warm, loving feelings frequently develop between members of the encounter group and, naturally enough, these feelings sometimes occur between men and women. Inevitably, some of these feelings have a sexual component and this can be a matter of great concern to the participants, and-if their feelings are not satisfactorily worked through-a profound threat to their spouses. [36]

When Natalie left her husband and daughters and had no one to stand by her, her father couldn’t remain on the sidelines. He’d been planning to cut back on writing; [37] now he went to work on a theoretical framework that would not only defend Natalie and others like her but place them in the vanguard of social change-forerunners of the future, as he suggested the daring colleague who went to jail might be described (though, it must be said, he suggested this before the colleague was put in handcuffs). Attempts at self-justification by Natalie would lead to rejection: it turned out that publishers, for example, “didn’t want to advocate my lifestyle.” [38] But her father had leverage. When he was invited to speak at commencement at Sonoma State College in June 1969, and addressed himself to the characteristics of a hypothetical “Person of Tomorrow,” the college promoted the result in a pamphlet which was widely distributed and quoted:

I see elements of him [the person of tomorrow] in the philosophy of the “dropouts” in our generation-the hippies, the “flower people.”...
He is almost the antithesis of the Puritan culture, with its strict beliefs and controls, which founded our country....
He wants his learning to involve feelings, to involve the living of learning...
He has little regard for marriage as a ceremony, or for vows of permanence...
Currently, he likes to be “turned on” by many kinds of experiences and by drugs...
He is active-sometimes violently, intolerantly, and self-righteously active in the causes in which he believes... [39]

The year 1972 saw the reprinting of this address in an education journal and the publication of an equally provocative Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives:

It fascinates me that as I look over the list of names of the people who have so honestly filled this book with themselves, the great majority of them have, in their struggles for a better partnership, engaged-either in the past or present-in practices which federal, state, or local laws would class as illegal. To give them their old-fashioned names, “living in sin,” “committing adultery,” “lewd and lascivious conduct,” “fornication,” “homosexuality,” “ingesting illegal drugs,’even “soliciting”-these have all been present in these pages, though when they are actions engaged in by individuals struggling to find a better pattern of partnerships, the old-fashioned names are, frankly, ridiculous.

So perhaps one thing we as a culture might do which would preserve this enormously valuable laboratory, these pioneering ventures into new relationship space, would be to relieve them of the everpresent shadow of moral reproach and criminal action.

If only we dared to say, “We will not interfere,” this would be an enormous step forward in facing reality. [40]

Throughout the remainder of the decade, Rogers applied his considerable rhetorical skills to Natalie’s cause: she needed someone to cover for her till she could cover for herself. Though his responsibility was greater for her than for the others, he didn’t write lifestyle books in the Seventies to justify her alone. A student nun participated in his encounter project with the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart; she got two sexually transmitted diseases after breaking free; she exemplified the many youthful experimenters who needed support: she said she had “loved the early morning hours, the walk to chapel through the citrus grove in the fading starlight...chanting psalms”; after leaving the convent for a series of experiments in profligacy, she was reduced to living,(as a squatter on Mifflin Street, the hippie village of Madison” in Wisconsin, with “one crisis after another over money, jobs, illness, and the extreme cold.” [41] Rogers tried to stretch the cover to fit cases like hers. Hal Lyon was another who needed help, although Rogers’ writing couldn’t keep him out of jail, and in fact, may have nudged him along. Described by the Washington Post at the time of his arrest in 1981 as a “nationally known educator,” Lyon got involved in human potentialism. “Does he realize what he is getting into?” Rogers asked in 1974, in his foreword for It’s Me and I’m Here! But then he proceeded to style the man an exemplar, who has “risked, changed, grown.” Rogers asked readers to consider: “Do we possess equal courage?” [42]

When he left science behind, Rogers swapped his belief in an objective realm of goodness and truth for the idea that what feels good really is good, at least in the personal sphere, as long as it’s sincere. After Becoming Partners, his next book offered “The Emerging Person: Spearhead of the Quiet Revolution”-a revolution in which, among other things, “homosexuality, bisexuality, and sexual freedom are given far greater social acceptance.” Carl Rogers’ daughter and a diseased nun and an educator who was in the process of courting arrest had become heroic, along with others of their self-actualizing kind:

These are persons who are aware that they are continually in process-always changing. In this process they are spontaneous, vitally alive, willing to risk. Likes and dislikes, joys and sorrows are passionate and are passionately expressed. The adventuresomeness has an almost Elizabethan quality, everything is possible, anything can be tried. [43]

Rogers might have added, borrowing from Maslow, “These are persons who can roar off the face of the earth, who can jump and positively not be hurt.” Rogers of course would have been as wrong as Maslow, though he would have been later to admit it, so many young victims did he feel obliged to defend. Finally this personal admission was heard in a tape recording circulated from La Jolla in 1976:

I started this damned thing and look where it’s taking us. I don’t know where it’s taking me. I don’t have any idea what’s going to happen next .... And where’s it going to carry us? And did I start something that is in some fundamental way mistaken and that may lead us off into paths that we will regret ... ? [44]

Earlier, when he was doing the work that brought him honor as a scientist, he’d clearly respected objective truth, goodness and beauty: what Michael Polanyi called the firmament of values. I think we are justified in saying that in the period he was explaining his research in Scientific American (1952), continuing somewhat past the date of his Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association (1956), he held the same belief as Maslow, when Maslow recovered his balance: that there “must eventually be objective instrumentation that could differentiate a high peak from a low one, or higher pleasures from lower ones” [45] — in other words, that right and wrong will turn out to have demonstrable, objective reference after all, even in the personal sphere. Rogers had once tried to express something like that to a client who had been agonizing all too long about whether or not he might be destined-or might choose-to follow a homosexual path. Rogers let the tape recorder run as he replied:

I feel vaguely dissatisfied with the direction this is going; because in one sense-I don’t know just how literally I mean this-I don’t care whether you’re homosexual or heterosexual or somewhere in between. I don’t care whether you’re a priest or a non-priest. But I don’t think you will find much satisfaction in living unless there is something outside of yourself that you want to give yourself to.

And this is what I don’t quite catch in all the talk. And this obviously doesn’t call for reply: you can’t manufacture something like that. But it seems to me that’s where the issue is, not on some of the things being talked about. It’s more the question, ‘Is there anything in this wide, wide world that you want to give yourself to?’ [There was a pause but no response. So Rogers continued:] It could be a woman or it could be wanting to give yourself to people or it could be wanting to give yourself to engineering or science or God knows what. But just to translate it entirely into another field -it occurs to me that if you said, ‘I want to be a scientist because that would be a way of being somebody and it would mean that I could give knowledge to the world’-i don’t think that’s a good enough reason for being a scientist.

In other words, it’s insufficiently self-denying. The problem, Rogers evidently thought, was that the young man’s ego kept getting in the way of his vocation. The possibility of self-giving was being shoved aside by self-fascination.

Looking back now, almost 30 years later, we see that many of the human potentials experiences-with Rogers’ own sensitivity sessions an admitted example-promoted the self, the self, the self. Rogers was to say the movement had been “thoroughly insidious in religion” and the group he said this to, a facilitator training workshop in 1976, laughed. They didn’t laugh later, I think, when some experienced firsthand that the term “religion” had a pretty broad application and that their own marriages or their own children or their own worklife were affected. In the last year of Rogers’ life, a record fourteen of his apprentices (and apprentices of those apprentices) were on their way to loss of license to practice psychotherapy, for (in some cases and among other things) having sex with their clients in therapy. They’d thought they could choose to do this. They were sincere. The State Medical Board of California disagreed absolutely. You can’t do that, the board said, and to back it up, published a booklet titled “Psychotherapy Never Includes Sex” (their emphasis).

The locus of the admitted insidiousness of Rogerianism in religion actually embraced what I said Maslow had called “humanistic religion” and that Rogers toward the end of his life called “spirituality”; Rogers admitted, for example, that in his distress he’d gone to a medium, there to seek out the ghost of C. J. Jung for professional counsel. Really.

In an article published in October 1967, New York Times’reporter Richard Reeves described other unfunny developments he saw the human potentials movement stimulate. One was a workshop at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Reeves wrote that

In one ‘happenings nun told of her struggles with sexual desires and an overly-considerate woman, taunted in an encounter group as ‘super mama,” erupted for the first time in a rage against her husband. The principles are similar in most of the movement’s activities .... In body awareness, people may get down on the floor and roll over each other, pretending they are animals at play. In role-playing, a man may act out before a group some unpleasant behavior of his wife.

In describing to the group the unpleasantness of his wife (and earning gratitude for his openness), the man gains one attachment and loses two. Loyalty to the workshop group becomes more important than loyalty to the wife and to the moral law.

I said Maslow saw this problem. To focus too long on the self produces stage fright of a sort. A pianist who thinks all the time about his fingers can’t make music. Maslow applied this insight to the same problem Rogers had addressed with his young client. Maslow, that is, wrote about homosexuality. In a Journals entry, March 25, 1964, he asked his posterity to consider the ways of what he called “the 57th St. crowd” in New York City:

They seem confident that they are perceiving something, that they have vision. They are decisive, authoritative, confident. Then all the 99% who are dim, unsure, uncertain, will follow along, defer, accept the opinion, even when it’s crazy or distorted. So the homosexuals can set taste in art, fashions, music, and God knows what else. Because they are decisive, the undecisive ones will accept their visions; but these are the authentic, real perceptions of homosexuals! And therefore quite unsuitable for nonhomosexuals (p. 357, his emphasis and punctuation).

I mentioned that a personal problem—really a disaster—might have caused Rogers to “get so mad” at Maslow when the discussion turned to objective excellence. Not only was Natalie’s marriage in trouble at the time, her brother’s was, too. The life commitments of the only two children Carl and Helen Rogers had were dissolving. [46] The whole enterprise was imperiled-the future of the Rogers family including the future of six grandchildren. Remember that Maslow had spoken of the need for “objective instrumentation that could differentiate a high peak from a low one.” He and Bertha (married 42 years at his death) and Carl and Helen Rogers (married 54 years at her death) possessed just such a measure-42 and 54 respectively: they possessed, or were possessed by, marriages that attested to an objective reality. To understate the matter, it became evident that keeping solemn promises is a higher peak than breaking them; that the pleasures of long-term fidelity, that is, exceed the pleasures of infidelity; that enduring marriages accord with the moral law, the Tao, as Maslow called it. But at the time of Maslow’s puzzlement over Rogers’ fury, the need had arisen for Rogers to defend against the claim that such a law is to be obeyed, or that it is even real. His children, his people, his tribe, the only tribe he had, were breaking it simultaneously.

There are repercussions to lawbreaking. Natalie’s Emerging Woman details some of them. She writes of a good marriage for eight years. Then came studies in humanistic psychology. This diary entry captures the flavor of what preceded:

There are repercussions to lawbreaking. Natalie’s Emerging Woman details some of them. She writes of a good marriage for eight years. Then came studies in humanistic psychology. This diary entry captures the flavor of what preceded:

When I look at our photo album I see pictures of a loving honeymoon in Europe with our tiny English car, hikes and picnics with the kids, birthday celebrations and travels. There is warmth in our faces, radiance and laughter in the children. Together. As many hours of as many days as possible, together. We shared our lives focusing on the world and the children. Bedtime stories, Saturday walks, family art projects on Sundays. Together we build a nest, a house out of which each of us could fly, only to return to its safety and warmth.

Later there was another diary entry. It told of taking a walk. As in other sad cases of that era, the direction she followed seems to have been specified by the misbegotten imperative of universal self-actualization:

I can’t believe this is me ... that I did it! I have actually pulled out of our house and away from my children .... Will I ever have breakfast with them again? As I write this I sob. I feel totally cut off from who and what I am-the mother, wife, housekeeper, party-planner, birthday-party giver, counselor to children and husband ... (p. 30).

She proceded to do what Harold Jaffe reported of “many men” at the 1982 San Francisco conference: to have lots of sex partners. Some of these partners of Natalie were married; sometimes, she writes, she had more than one affair with a married man at a time. (I do not want to sound as if I am telling stories: it is all in the book.) Of one of these affairs she wrote:

I respected his wife when she walked into my house with flashing angry eyes. She accused me of being needy and without compassion .... She said,”‘You invaded our relationship.” I said, ‘I responded to his overtures. I was open to loving and so was he.”

Afterwards I thought, “She is asking me in the name of sisterhood to collude with her against a strong interest of his. Is that right or fair? He loves you and is loving me. Why should I not act on my own feelings? I am open to hearing yours, and relating to you, also” (pp. 130-31).

Her father should have told her it’s uncivilized. He should have said, “You can’t do that.” Maybe he did. Natalie writes that her mother did but then caught herself and apologized as follows: “There have been times when I have not listened to you in an empathic way ... [and] have been too judgmental .... I have always been a very forthright, outspoken person, which sometimes gets me in trouble”-so said the mother. [47] If, following this confession, Helen Rogers became more empathic, and sacrificed forthrightness to do it, it’s a double loss. (I am thinking of the necessity not only of regretting the sacrifice of forthrightness but the rise of a certain sort of empathy, popular with a certain sort of politician, this empathy-fake empathy, really-says easily and often, “I feel your pain.” Said Carl Rogers, who was a master of effective empathy in the clinic: “It looks and sounds so easy to do. It is actually very difficult.” [48] It’s not worth giving up forthrightness for the sake of fake empathy.)

Let me conclude by way of the instructive event that happened between Rogers and one of his apprentices. The apprentice had given an interview to a San Diego newspaper, linking participation in the human potentials movement with divorce. The interview was a condemnation of divorce, yes, but also a condemnation of the human potentials movement. Having read it, Rogers sent him an open letter:

You have every right to oppose the human potentials movement in any way that you wish. But ... you must admit that you are part of the human potential movement and a very important part at that. You cannot at one and the same time say you are opposed to it and yet foster an influential aspect of it.

You can’t do that, he said-which wasn’t literally true, since the man had done it. What Rogers meant was, “You mustn’t do it.” Given what had been a long association between them, it would not have been appropriate for the younger man to reply as a human potentialist: “Thanks for sharing that.” It would have been dismissive. Equally unresponsive would have been to say, “Well, that’s your opinion” or “My, aren’t you judgmental.” Carl Rogers had fired off a moral absolute precisely because he had something important to declare, to which he wanted his colleague to attend. It wasn’t about his feelings; it was about matters of substance. Apparently he cared enough not to speak in the language of psychotherapy. He talked like a man.

There are many stories that could be offered from a twenty-year association, stories of Carl Rogers giving good example. They speak of a man who lived in a world of moral realities at odds with the philosophy laid out in his books of the Sixties and Seventies. What Carl Rogers’ good example throughout much of that bad period reflects is his solid upbringing. Finally he couldn’t shake it. It isn’t that he didn’t try: he told an interviewer once that everything he’d developed professionally was the antithesis of his upbringing, [49] and for a time, to help defend against criticism of the lifestyle experimentation going on around him, he even tried to live by what his books said rather than by what he was given to be.

He bounced back. I don’t have time to tell that story now, but I want to say that an intellectual influence alien to Rogerian philosophy supported him in bouncing back and suggested, moreover, that he shouldn’t have strayed in the first place. The influence was Michael Polanyi’s. Polanyi, the great philosopher-scientist, confidant of both Rogers and Maslow, explained his professional concern as follows: “to establish a better foundation than we now possess for holding the beliefs by which we live and must live, though unable adequately to justify them today.” [50] Interestingly, the Studies of the Person volume that focused on Polanyi and his issues was the first in print and the last to go out of print. Here is what he said that bears on our theme. It appears in his Personal Knowledge:

... man stands rooted in his calling under a firmament of truth and greatness. Its teachings are the idiom of his thought: the voice by which he commands himself to satisfy his intellectual standards. Its commands harness his powers to the exercise of his responsibilities. It binds him to abiding purposes, and grants him power and freedom to defend them.

And we can establish it now as a matter of logic that man has no other power than this. He is strong, noble and wonderful so long as he fears the voices of this firmament; but he dissolves their power over himself and his own powers gained through obeying them, if he turns back and examines what he respects in a detached manner. Then law is no more than what the courts will decide, art but an emollient of nerves, morality but a convention, tradition but an inertia, God but a psychological necessity. Then man dominates a world in which he himself does not exist. For with his obligations he has lost his voice and his hope, and been left behind meaningless to himself. [51]


  1. The letter (which may be in the Carl Rogers collection at the Library of Congress, but if not, can be obtained from me) led to an exchange of correspondence with the publisher, but not to the end of their association. Rogers had written Freedom to Learn for Merrill two years earlier, and it became a best seller. Later Merrill, wanting more, “really pushed me to make a revision of that book. And I said no. Then they pointed out that, well, in the contract I signed so many years ago, it said that if they wanted a revision of it, if I was unable or unwilling to revise it, could hire someone else to revise it” (from a tape-recorded commentary by Rogers, July 23, 1981). That was intolerable. Someone else “monkeying with my baby,” as Rogers put it, “just didn’t appeal to me.” So he continued with Merrill, revising Freedom to Learn but plugging in a new section, twenty-five pages questioning the Rogerian approach as it had worked out in the real world. Called “A Pattern of Failure,” this section was eliminated when, after his death, Freedom to Learn was revised again, this time by an education professor. In all, the Rogers-Coulson endorsement appeared on the cover of seventeen volumes of Studies of the Person, including Freedom to Learn, but not the revised editions. Two other volumes have since come back into print, also without the editorial endorsement: Willard B. Rick’s Humanistic Psychology., Interviews with Maslow, Murphy, and Rogers (Bristol, IN: Wyndham Hill Press, 1989) and James T. Dillon’s Personal Teaching: Efforts to Combine Love and Professional Skill in the Classroom (Lantham, MD: University Press of America, 1990). Back to text.
  2. In Richard J. Lowry, ed., The Journals of A. H. Maslow (Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1979), p. 951, entry of March 31, 1969. Hereafter Journals. Back to text.
  3. Don Clark, Loving Someone Gay (NY: New American Library, 1977), p. 271. Back to text.
  4. Donald H. Clark and Asya Kadis, Humanistic Teaching (Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1971). Asya Kadis died early in the project. Her name remained as co-author, but she had little to do with the final product. At the time of her death she was director of a group therapy clinic in New York City. Back to text.
  5. David Perlman, “A War Against’Gay Plague’,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 17, 1982. Back to text.
  6. Glennda Chui, “The High Health Price of the Sexual Revolution,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 12. Back to text.
  7. 1982. Back to text.
  8. Ibid. Back to text.
  9. Two Los Angeles Times articles yield the quotes here: Maura Dolan, “No More Will Scholars Get Credit for Sex,” May 20, 1982, and “Sex Professor’s Personal Life Described as Quiet, Low Keyed,” June 1, 1982. Back to text.
  10. Marcus A. Conant, M.D., interviewed on KCBS radio, San Francisco (broadcast November 11, 1985). L. McKusick, W. Horstman, & T. J. Coates, “AIDS and Sexual Behavior Reported by Gay Men in San Francisco,’ American Journal of Public Health, 75 (5), May, 1985, pp. 493-496. Back to text.
  11. Judith M. Bardwick, In Transition: How Feminism, Sexual Liberation, and the Search for Self-Fulfillment have Altered Our Lives (NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979), p. 7. Back to text.
  12. Philip Blumstein and Pepper Schwartz, American Couples: Money, Work, Sex (NY: Wm. Morrow, 1983), pp. 267-281 and 299-302. The summary quoted is by New York Times writer Jane Brody, October 4, 1983. Rogers didn’t know about these developments. Back to text.
  13. Published in J. T. Hart and T. M. Tomlinson, eds., New Directions in Client-Centered Therapy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970), p. 524.
    Back to text.
  14. Journals p. 1186, entry of September 29, 1969, Maslow’s emphasis. Back to text.
  15. See Chapter 8 in Rogers’ Client-Centered Therapy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951). The chapter was wriften by Rogers’ associate Thomas Gordon, who said he and other associates “have persistently raised the question whether such factors as acceptance, understanding, and permissiveness” would be as effective outside Rogers’ own therapy practice as inside it, e.g., in supervision or teaching (p. 320). Back to text.
  16. Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension (NY: Doubleday, 1966), pp. 82-85. Back to text.
  17. Carl Rogers on Personal Power (NY: Dell, 1977), p. 177. Back to text.
  18. See Journals, p. 848, entry of November 12, 1967, which speculated on the possibility Carl Rogers was in the grip of ‘democratic dogma.”
    Back to text.
  19. Ibid. Back to text.
  20. See Natalie Rogers, Emerging Woman: A Decade of Midlife Transitions (Santa Rosa, CA: Personal Press [800/477-2384], 1980); see Harold C. Lyon, Jr., It’s Me and I’m Here! (NY: Delacorte, 1974) and Joseph Hart, Richard Corriere, and Jerry Binder, Going Sane (NY: Dell, 1975). News reports include Sandra Boodman, “Extrovert or Exploiter?: Federal Official Charged with Sex Offenses” (Washington Post, November 15, 1981, p. Al) and Lois Timmick, “Psychotherapy Center Sued by 19: Attorneys for Ex-Patients Say Group Operated Like Cult (Los Angeles Times, June 30, 1981, part 2, p. 6). Back to text.
  21. Harold C. Lyon, Jr., op. cit., pp. 156-57. Back to text.
  22. Natalie Rogers, The Creative Connection: Expressive Arts as Healing (Palo Alto, CA: Science & Behavior Books, 1993), p. xv. Back to text.
  23. Quoted in Edward Hoffman, The Right to Be Human: A Biography of Abraham Maslow (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1988), pp. 261-262.
    Back to text.
  24. Quoted in George B. Leonard, “California: What It Means,” Look magazine, September 25,1962, p. 104. Back to text.
  25. Ibid. Back to text.
  26. Quoted in George B. Leonard, “Where the California Game Is Taking Us, Look magazine, June 28, 1966, p. 34. 27. Ibid., p. 30. Back to text.
  27. Quoted in an undated letter from workshop director H. Gordon Tappen to prospective participants, summer 1964. Back to text.
  28. Natalie Rogers, Emerging Woman, p. 25. Back to text.
  29. He describes this in his autobiography in E. W. Boring and Gardner Lindzey, eds., A History of Psychology in Autobiography, 5 (NY: Appleton-Century Crofts, 1967), p. 371. Back to text.
  30. See Carl R. Rogers, A Way of Being (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980), p. viii. Back to text.
  31. It was cited in chapter five, “Some of the Directions Evident in Therapy,” in Carl R. Rogers, On Becoming a Person (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961). The paper cited was Maslow’s “Our Maligned Animal Nature” (Journal of Psychology, 28, 1949, pp. 273-78). Back to text.
  32. From page 277 of Maslow’s 1949 paper, his emphasis. Back to text.
  33. In New Directions in Client-Centered Therapy, loc. cit. Back to text.
  34. Ibid. Back to text.
  35. Carl R. Rogers, “The Process of the Basic Encounter Group,” in James T. F. Bugental, ed., Challenges of Humanistic Psychology (NY: McGraw-Hill, 1967), p. 273. Back to text.
  36. Carl R. Rogers, “Community: The Group Comes of Age,” Psychology Today, July 1969, p. 61. Back to text.
  37. See the account of Rogers’ intention in Willard Frick’s book of interviews, op. cit., p. 112. Back to text.
  38. Natalie Rogers, The Creative Connection, pp. 160-61. Back to text.
  39. Carl R. Rogers, “The Person of Tomorrow,” (pamphlet published by Sonoma State College, June 1969. his emphasis); reprinted in Colorado Journal of Educational Research, Fall 1972, 12 (1). Back to text.
  40. Carl R. Rogers, Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives (NY: Delacorte, 1972), pp. 213-14. Back to text.
  41. See the chapter “Revolving Doors” by “Coriander,” in Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan, Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence (Tallahassee, FL: Naiad Press, 1985), pp. 181-93. In the same volume, see also the chapter ‘My Immaculate Heart” by Jeanne Cordova, pp. 3-15. Back to text.
  42. From Rogers’ foreword to Lyon’s It’s Me and I’m Here!, pp. xi-xiii. Back to text.
  43. Ibid., p. 273, his emphasis. Back to text.
  44. Later released as ‘Carl Rogers at the La Jolla Program’ (La Jolla, CA: La Jolla Program, 1977). Back to text.
  45. Joumals, p. 830, entry of October 18, 1967. Back to text.
  46. He wrote about this in chapter one of Becoming Partners, pp. 7-30, indicating, for example, that ‘our two children have had their full share of marital difficulties’ (p. 29). A case study of ‘a good marriage which disintegrated’ (pp. 14-18) turned out to be Natalie’s, somewhat disguised. She broke the disguise tentatively in Emerging Woman and decisively in The Creative Connection. On the cover of Emerging Woman, her father praised her courage. Those who have wanted to understand the effects of the movement that helped do her marriage in have every reason to be grateful to her as well. 48. Excerpted in Natalie Rogers, Emerging Woman, p. 22. Back to text.
  47. Quoted by Natalie Rogers, ibid., pp. 172-73. Back to text.
  48. From Carl R. Rogers, “Reflections,” a 1976 video tape available from the Carl Rogers Memorial Library. Back to text.
  49. Center for Studies of the Person, 1125 Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037. Back to text.
  50. Ibid. Back to text.
  51. Quoted in W. R. Coulson and C. R. Rogers, eds., Man and the Science of Man (Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1968), p. vii. Back to text.


Coulson, W.R. “You Can’t Do That: When Compassion Calls For Telling The Truth.” Collected Papers from the NARTH Annual Conference, (Saturday, 29 July 1995).

Reprinted with permission.


William Coulson, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist. During the 1960’s he was a research associate to Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow at Western Behavioral Sciences Institute in La Jolla, California, co-editing a 17-volume series on humanistic education with Rogers and helping Rogers organize the country’s first program of facilitator training. He is author of Groups, Gimmicks and Instant Gurus and now heads the research council on Ethnopsychology.

Copyright © 1995 Narth

Subscribe to CERC's Weekly E-Letter



Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.