OS2 Project Description
This © site last updated June 27, 2000
 
"Life never presents us with anything which may not be looked upon as a  fresh starting point, no less as a termination."  Andre Gide.

I. WHAT?

 An historic conference was held in November 1964 at Old Saybrook, Connecticut.  For many, that conference marked the official birth of Humanistic Psychology.  It was a meeting-of-the minds which transformed psychology, challenged a period, and helped regenerate a cultural landscape.  Among those present were A. H. Maslow, Carl Rogers, Rollo May, James F. T. Bugental, Clark Moustakas, Henry Murray, S. I. Hayakawa and .

 The Old Saybrook II Project is named after that conference, both to celebrate the vision of 1964 and to express our hope that the field of Humanistic-Existential-Transpersonal Psychology is ready for a re-visioning of its insights and purposes as we prepare for the 21st century.  The Old Saybrook II Project is an interactive process of generative conversations, actual and virtual gatherings, and distributed texts, which together examine the history and present state of the humanistic tradition in American psychology, as well as the emerging challenges and opportunities which it faces.

At present, the project consists of:  

  1. This Web Page, where interested parties can post position statements engage in conversation and debate about the future of humanistic-existential-transpersonal psychology.
  2. Linkages to the Web Pages of co-sponsoring organizations:
    • The Consortium for Diversified Psychology Programs (CDPP)
    • The National Psychology Advisory Assn. (NPAA)
    • The Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP)
    • The American Psychological Assn. (APA), Division 32, Humanistic Psychology
    • Saybrook Graduate School
    • State University of West Georgia
    • Sonoma State University
  3. A series of events on the future of humanistic-existential-transpersonal psychology organized by co-sponsoring organizations:  
    • NPAA  10th Anniversary Conference (Pacifica, CA, April 1998-past)
    • Old Saybrook II at AHP Midwest:  A preconference institute and panel at AHP Midwest 99 (Indianapolis, IN, March 19-21, 1999)
    • Old Saybrook II at West Georgia:  An interorganizational convocation at the State University of West Georgia (Carrollton, GA) in the spring of 2000.  This event will be an opportunity for organizations associated with humanistic-existential-transpersonal psychology to send intellectual and organizational representatives to Carrollton to discuss intellectual and organizational issues of mutual interest.    It is planned that APA Division 32, and the Editorial Boards of The Humanistic Psychologist and the Journal of Humanistic Psychology will play a special role in defining the intellectual content of this event.

The goals of the Old Saybrook II Project include:  

  1. To examine the original Old Saybrook Conference as a historical event, to assess its successes and its failures, to understand better its contribution to American psychology then and now, and to retrieve insights from that event which were ahead of their time.
  2. To look at the polychromatic quilt of Humanistic Psychology today and to attempt to reframe and reintegrate its themes into a new more complex and coherent whole.  This will be done with a view to arriving at a new iteration of its basic epistemologies, moral positioning, and views of reality, in terms that are relevant to the multiple cultural contexts of a new millennium.
  3. To develop a manifesto and to outline a plan for future activities towards the continued development of a reinvigorated Humanistic Psychology as a psychological discourse with its own frames of reference, its own shared theoretical domain and its own scope of praxis.
  4. To highlight domains of human experience which are most pointedly addressed by humanistic psychology, e.g., existential, feelings and emotions, creativity, values and ethics, the spiritual transformative and to identify spheres of human enterprise in which this new Humanistic  Psychology can be of service both as theory and as praxis.  These may include education, mental health practice, community action, business, religion, governance, and the arts and  media, as well as research in the human (behavioral and social) sciences.

II -- WHY?

Advanced democratic societies, individually and collectively, are well into a period of intense cultural destabilization brought on by rapid advances in science and technology, globalization of commerce and culture, the global spread of identity politics, and major geopolitical realignments.

The principal purpose of the Old Saybrook II Project is to revisit a set of ideas and humane practices which in the early 1960s became known as Humanistic Psychology.  Humanistic Psychology  held several basic tenets which were articulated by conference attendee James F. T. Bugental, as follows:

  1. Human beings, as human, supersede the sum of their parts.  They cannot be reduced to components.
  2. Human beings have their existence in a uniquely human context, as well as in a cosmic ecology.
  3. Human beings are aware and aware of being aware--i.e. they are conscious.
  4. Human beings have some choice, and with that responsibility.
  5. Human beings are intentional, aim at goals, and seek meaning and values.
These ideas took a significant step towards consolidation into a distinct voice within  American psychology as an outcome of a conference convened at Old Saybrook, Connecticut in November 1964, and supported by a grant from the Hazen Foundation.  The stated purpose of that conference was to pursue the interface between psychology and the humanities in search of a person-centered psychology which could address questions of meaning, morality, and values.  

This present Old Saybrook II Project is designed to ask again some of the key questions addressed at Old Saybrook, in light of the great cultural transformations now upon us.  In particular, it is to look again at the interface between psychology, the humanities, spirituality, and the social sciences at the end  of the twentieth century, or era of modernity, and the beginning of what many describe as an era of postmodernity or transmodernity.   A central question is:

How does the vision of psychology of articulated at Old Saybrook, which boldly asserted both the plenitude and subtleties of Human Being, now reaffirm itself in an era of information and communication technology, which include as its symptoms a globalizing economy, an acute awareness of environmental crisis, managed healthcare, and the rampant industrialization of mental health and human services?

The Old Saybrook II Project will explore what aspects of Humanistic Psychology theory and praxis need to be deconstructed and reconstructed in the light of new social structures and cultural realities, and will ask what service a reinvigorated and reframed person-centered psychology can offer to a world in the process of reinventing itself.  We hope to call forth the creative spirit of Old Saybrook, which has been challenged by the grey dust of social conformity and the complexities of explosive social change.  How can humanistic theory and praxis reframe and reinvigorate (de- and re-construct) themselves so as to keenly and vitally serve the exigencies of a rapidly self-reinventing world?

III -- OUTCOMES

Some of the outcomes we hope to see develop out of this process include:

  1. Encourage public policies and practices that promote institutional redesign according to humane and democratic values and in the service of human emancipation.
  2. Enlarge the scope of concern of Humanistic Psychology beyond the private  sphere, to embrace the task of institutional, community and cultural  restructuring so that a moral commitment to universal access to the basic necessities for a satisfying individual, family, work and community life  are at the center of all our institutions.
  3. Reinvigorate the humanistic organization network by involving the younger generations of scholars and professional practitioners, in the interest of joining the well established themes of self actualization and human potential to others, such as environmental sustainability and cultural pluralism, the interests and objectives of which have always been heavily supported by humanistic psychology, but whose relevance is becoming more widely recognized in today's world.
  4. The practical applications of these desired states can be stated as: "Making human systems work for human beings."  Some specific arenas in which this focus is appropriate include:
  • Making cities work
  • Making "work" work
  • Making the health care system work
  • Living a spiritually meaningful human life in the 21st century
  • Articulating the relationship between a pluralistic epistemology and expanded states of consciousness and the self-conscious evolution of human institutions.

Art Warmoth -- September 4, 1998