Assorted Writings & Deliveries of Jim Klee
Jim Klee (1916-1996) by Mike Arons
"Jim had an amazing ability to discuss seemingly unrelated concepts and then somehow weave them together with a thread of consciousness, a reminder that at some level nothing is truly separate from anything else."
- Larry Schor
"I believe that everyone who comes into contact with this man knows that he is an intellectual powerhouse. But I've also learned how much compassion, empathy, and love this great big guy could offer me. I made a particularly tough personal journey in one of Jim's classes and, when no one else could meet me eye to eye, there was Jim. He looked at me with eyes that I experienced as warm, spirit-filled, and compassionate. He said, 'Anytime you want to talk about it I'll be there' (thank you Jim)."
- Bill Liggin
- About Jim Klee
- Learning: Acquisition or Selection, Possibility vs. Probability
- Hemingway and the American Dream
- Reactions to the Indian Academic Social Scene
- The Psychodynamics of Personal Services
- India's Mysterious Unity
- The Cultural Explosion
- Review of Medard Boss' A Psychiatrist Discovers India
- The Contradictions of the Cross
- The West Looks East
- Mysticism as Everyday Life: The Recurring Mystical Moment
Jim Klee earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in Psychology at the University of Michigan. He liked to remind his students that his animal studies done there with N. R. F. Mailer were different from those common to that period because "our rats could think." In the 1940s, Jim's experiments presaged an age of cognitive psychology, which would come into its own twenty years later. Jim's own thinking, like his 6'6" frame, has always been far too big to fit into the common categories. The thinking of the field has consistently followed from his intuitive excursions into the distant glimmerings of psychological reality.
Much of his academic career was spent at Brandeis University and at the State University of West Georgia. At Brandeis he joined Abraham Maslow in establishing the first humanistic psychology program in the nation. There he also became colleagues with and influenced George Kelly and Ulric Neisser, two founders of the cognitive psychology movement. Yet cognition was far too narrow and rigidly cast a vision for Klee himself. His great-plains-sized thinking simultaneously grounded humanistic psychology in existential-phenomenology while also stretching it to its own "outer reaches" in transpersonal psychology in its historical-temporal religious dimension.
Jim typically explored the territory between categories. He navigated his sailship of vision along the boundaries of words, concepts, and spheres of inquiry, between existing thoughts and disciplines, in a quest for openings of potential insight. In the interstices - in the "in-between" - he found a consciousness-expanding nexus of dimensionality and unity that reveals points of continuity among seemingly unrelated understandings offered by such persons as Sartre, Spence, Bergson, Skinner, Aristotle, Plato, Lao Tzu, and the Hindu mystics. For Jim, the continuity was recognized in the discontinuity, the paradoxical, the ironic, the symbolic.
In 1971, Jim joined the faculty of the newly-forming Humanistic Psychology program at the State University of West Georgia. Owing greatly to his largesse d'esprit, the program burgeoned to its current prominence as a principal center for studies and research in Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology. Jim was named Professor of Psychology Emeritus upon his retirement in 1987. He died in 1996.
The following are transcriptions of some of Jim's essays and lectures, supplied by Don Medeiros.
A few (*) appeared in his compilation Points of Departure: Aspects of the Tao (And Books, 1982) - but the majority are either unpublished or out-of-print. They not only reveal the insight of this extraordinary man, but also cover a good deal of relevant topics and concerns that are still discussed in our classes here today.
Learning: Acquisition or Selection, Possibility vs. Probability (1947) (*)
"This is not a denial of determinism in psychology. If a man’s choices were not determined, any stimulus could always lead to any response at any time and the result would be purely a matter of chance. It is a denial of the misinterpretation of determinism so as to mean compulsion by which a scientific description such as the Law of Effect is thought to be compelling upon the individual it describes. An individual doesn’t tend to repeat the successful because of the Law of Effect (What would happen if he failed to obey the law? What court sits on these cases?); We have the Law of Effect because we find the individual tends to repeat the successful. There would be no sense to the use of reward or whatever method of control works better if this were not true. If, then, man is determinate in his choices, we can hold him responsible for them and thus ask his help in our labors. We may at least hold him to his responsibilities within the area of his freely-made choices, those which express himself. That is all that can be asked without additional help from his environment. But that is all that need be asked of anyone."
Hemingway and the American Dream (1963) (*)
How have freedom and integrity fallen short in American life?
Reactions to the Indian Academic Social Scene (1963-1964)
"We found a situation which because of various causal factors encouraged a too-immediate pride based on academic degrees and titles, which fostered a defensive immaturity on the part of many of the youths and did little to encourage the adventurous spirit of hope and faith and trust in fellow men so necessary to growth and true responsibility. Defensiveness closes off the individual and prevents a critical self-examination and awareness necessary to responsible adventure and inspiration. Too often the individual turns upon those “outside” with accusations of corruption. The world in which he attempts to live is filled with fears both real and imagined but often overestimated. Yet the potentialities, like the problems to be faced, are equally unlimited. There is nothing which of necessity will keep India from inventing the life we all might happily share in the next century. Perhaps if we can keep in mind as a symbol of India the infant Krishna with the ball of butter in his small hand rather than the classic civilization now worn and hoary with age, we can foresee and more fully help the India that is to come."
The Psychodynamics of Personnel Services (1963-1964)
"Anything new becomes the occasion for anxiety as much as for the exhilaration of creativity. Anxiety is the price of freedom, and is the other side of the coin of the creative act. As the existentialists have pointed out since the realization of the 'death of the gods' as reassuring 'Father Images,' man has felt forlorn, forsaken, and anxiously in despair. No longer is he a child to obey the rules given him by his father. He must plan his own way, often into an unknown. . . . Recent advances in astrophysics, biological, and cultural evolution have for a century now emphasized that newness – creativity – is the rule, not the exception. . . . Man may be that which so far he has elected to become - in view of his human situation - his condition. What he will become he now realizes is up to him for he has been largely responsible for these conditions in which he finds himself. At least, he realizes it is now up to him."
India's Mysterious Unity (1964)
"India in the days of Khajuraho was on the threshold of maturity. It was willing to face the picture of sexuality - fully and publicly. It had a glimpse of what lay beyond sexuality. In a more civilized world India might have gone on beyond its great achievements to set a pattern for mature nations in a threatened world. Instead, its wisdom in recognizing the limits of achievement made it vulnerable to external invasion and its lessons unmarked. Now sections of the West stand on the very same threshold."
The Cultural Explosion (1966)
"The vast cultural explosion has made us strangers to our own lives. All of us will need guidance at one time or another. Some of us may even need guidance to ourselves. Guidance will be an essential experience to everyone. Yet where will it come from, but from us? The job is ours."
Review of Medard Boss' A Psychiatrist Discovers India (1969)
"He consequently offers no panacea rules, methods, hat tricks. This is no guidebook to the one and only guru. It offers no revolutionary formula in the cycle of rebirth. But like the expanded India, so strange to the West, it offers an invitation to the reader to the expansion of his own range and depth of consciousness. Rather than a great book as an “historical object,” it is part of the illumination of the whole. . . . The greater range of philosophy of the Indian sub-continent forces an entirely different point of departure. Where we have successive systems which seem to zero in on some revealed absolute truth, they have chosen to embrace all truths at once. One truth at a time to them seems but a form of Maya, of the 10,000 things, of illusion - especially if held to the exclusion of any other truth. Where we get into a bind of true or false, right or wrong - the syllogistic paradigm - they see truth as multi-faceted and are not bothered by contradiction. Indeed, when a devotee of Durga (often shown with 12 arms) says on the one hand and then on the other he still has eleven “other” hands to refer to."
The Contradictions of the Cross (1972) (*)
"If restored to its full-ness of its two arms akimbo, and if seen in dynamic imbalance of a walking figure - only one of whose legs touch the ground at the time, the other being in suspended searching for the next step - [the cross] will be a very stimulating symbol, sacred in its ability to reassure the act of extension into the world still to come. Here again the artist can resume his proper religious function, for the signs which reveal themselves epiphanously in his or our experience are the shortcuts which abridge history and make each present moment so much our own and the presence of the immediate “all” available to us now. For what else have we? . . . The fact that all symbols have at one time or another been used neurotically, defensively - like shoulder patches, fraternity pins, or even worse, chips on the shoulder to be merely defended - must not blind us to the fact that to the artist they can come again in an original creative way. Indeed they will again and again, for that is the best we can do. These are the best we can create. And if they are congruent with that of others, other lands, other times, even other species, perhaps we can be a little proud and very thankful. For they are relevant to the whole of life."
The West Looks East (circa 1973) (*)
A socio-historical and anthropological inquiry into the development of Eastern thought - with its roots in an orientation toward intimacy - and a good introduction to the ideas of inter-being, karma, and maya.
Mysticism as Everyday Life: The Recurring Mystical Moment (1980) (*)
"How many more tens of thousands of years will our species go before we have broken out of these attempts to freeze into permanence a few revelations when we could have continuous access to each and every moment? But then how courageous we would have to be, to be! Dare we risk it? But then could we even possibly lose, for isn’t it all sacred all the time?"
** When the Psychology Dept. moved from Pafford to Melson Hall in Spring 2002, we also came upon a set of open-reel tapes of Jim's lectures from a course in Phenomenology of Will, Choice, and Belief from Spring Semester 1973, which include portions from his essay "The Absolute and the Relative." We are currently in the process of transferring these recordings to CDs, which will become available through the department. **