Eugene Irvine Taylor, Jr., Professor of Psychology at Saybrook University, died of liver cancer January 30, 2013, at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With his passing the psychology of religion and spirituality lost one of its most serious and productive interdisciplinary scholars. Eugene personified the "liberally educated gentleman," and he was too much the practitioner of Geisteswissenschaft to attain Fellow status in the quantitatively biased Division 36 of the American Psychological Association . He was, however, an APA Fellow in Divisions 1 (The Society for General Psychology), 24 (The Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology), 26 (The Society of the History of Psychology), and 32 (The Society for Humanistic Psychology). Over the years Eugene also held memberships in the American Academy of Religion, the American Association for the History of Medicine, the American Society for Psychical Research, Cheiron: the International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences (editing their Newsletter from 1986-1995), the European Association for the History of Psychiatry, the History of Science Society, and several other groups I’ll mention in context later. I enumerate these because the many tributes I’ve read since Eugene’s death demonstrate that few of his colleagues and acquaintances in these organizations knew him in his full complexity, most of them connecting with only one dimension of this multi-dimensional man.
Eugene was born in Philadelphia October 28, 1946, only 355 days after his sister Louise. Eugene’s father, Eugene Irvine Taylor Sr., served with the U.S. forces in WWII on Truk in the South Pacific, and was eventually sent home with a foot injury. Later he worked as a building contractor, serving as president of the firm Scott-Taylor . When his father died in 1993, Eugene presented a loving eulogy and wrote the obituary for Main Line Times and Suburban and Wayne Times. No doubt the eulogy for his father reflected Eugene’s version of the Taylor family sense of humor, which his sister Louise described as "weird." Eugene’s mother, Frances J. Flaherty Taylor, was an award-winning artist. An early member of Actor’s Equity, she directed the Ocean City Cultural Arts Center in New Jersey for 12 years and organized various other artistic and cultural events. Frances died in 2011, and her obituary was published in the Main Line Media News and The Ocean City Gazette. Their parents strongly influenced Louise and Eugene, and their younger brothers Stafford and Evan, by introducing them to culture and the arts through family vacations to museums. Eugene provided one other glimpse into his parents in a tribute he wrote (on the occasion of the Barzun Centennial) to the historian Jaques Barzun, who shepherded Eugene’s book on the William James Lowell lectures through the publication process. When Eugene told his mother that Barzun was going to be his editor, Eugene discovered that his mother and father had read all of Barzun’s books as they came out, so she heartily approved. Eugene wrote: "And what higher authority was needed than one’s own mother?"
Eugene continued the tradition of cultural and artistic education in his family of procreation, passing on to his children his love of both music and art. Eugene was married from January 31, 1981 through December 1992 to Pamela Gretchen Carter, who died in 2004. They had two children, Lily (8/13/81) and Guy (7/16/84). Both children are musical artists. Lily Taylor earned a degree in contemporary music and is a professional vocalist and performer. Her husband, Sean Miller, earned a degree in inter-media arts and works with sound, video, sculpture, and space. Guy Taylor is co-owner of Switched On Music Electronics, a vintage electronic music retail store and repair shop. That Lily, Sean, and Guy have artistic and literary sensitivity in addition to their musical careers is clear on their Facebook pages.
Eugene’s higher education began at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, where he matriculated as a biology major. He dropped out after two years in 1968 to spend 9 months in San Francisco with a rock and roll band. During that time he had a vision and concluded that he needed to devote his life to the history and psychology of religion. He returned to SMU, where he earned the AB in Psychology (1969) and the MA in General/Experimental Psychology (1973), with a minor in Asian Studies. Eugene’s 1975 master’s thesis, directed by the psychophysicist William H. Tedford, was a report on a 4-year experimental study on meditation: Psychological Suspended Animation: Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, Time Estimation, and Introspective Reports from an Anechoic Environment. The thesis earned him the 1975 Award for Scholarly Attainments in the Field of Psychology from the Southwestern Psychological Association. Eugene’s interest in meditation continued, and he edited and wrote a new introduction for the 1997 second edition of Murphy and Donovan’s The Physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation: A Review of Contemporary Research with a Comprehensive Bibliography, 1931-1996. He also published the pamphlet, Cyberphysiology: The Science of Self -Regulation (1988) for the Minnesota-based Archaeus Project.
Eugene held several "clinical" jobs during the Dallas years, as a counselor for runaway teenagers and their families, and as an emergency intervention counselor in cases of student drug overdoses. At SMU Eugene was both student and instructor, teaching in the School of Continuing Education for 4 years (1973-1977). He was also an active participant in the Dallas counter-culture. He started practicing and teaching Aikido, and eventually earned a 4th degree black belt. During this time he also met Pamela, who (according to their daughter Lily), came to one of his lectures, then showed up at his Aikido class. Later he became a member of The United States Aikido Federation and in 1981 became the Chief Instructor in Aikido (Sandan) in the Harvard Department of Athletics. One of Eugene’s mentors at SMU was Richard Hunt, widely known for his work on clergy assessment (and later my colleague at Fuller Theological Seminary), who introduced Eugene to Gardner and Lois Murphy and the world of humanistic psychology. While still in Dallas, Eugene attended early meetings of humanistic psychologists, and joined the fledgling Association for Transpersonal Psychology. He studied Classical Eastern Philosophy at The Perkins School of Theology under the Indian Mahayana Buddhist scholar Frederick J. Streng, who ignited his interest in comparative religion and fueled his later advocacy for indigenous psychologies. Prefiguring his life-long interest in Asian psychology, he published An Annotated Bibliography in Classical Eastern Psychology: Readily Accessible Paperback Materials on the Formative Periods of India, Tibet, China, and Japan (1973) with The Essene Press, a publisher of metaphyiscal and occult books which also published several of his later works. Eugene studied Hindi, Urdu, and Hindustani music at the University of Rochester, funded by a 1970 National Defense Foreign Language Fellowship. He mastered Sanskrit by tutorial (continuing these tutorials at Harvard with Daniel H. H. Ingells), and became proficient in Latin and theological French.
In 1978 Eugene enrolled at Harvard Divinity School as a Resident Graduate in Applied Theology and the History of Religions. His faculty sponsor was William R. Rogers, who soon thereafter left Harvard to become president of the Quaker Guilford College. It was Bill Rogers who first mention Eugene to me, probably at a meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and then facilitated our long professional friendship. Frustrated by Harvard’s ban on interdisciplinary degrees, and the lack of a faculty sponsor, Eugene began a career as an independent scholar, applying the techniques of historical scholarship in comparative religions to archival reconstructions in the history of American psychology and psychiatry.
Of necessity Eugene became an accomplished grant writer, and over the years obtained modest grants and monetary awards from various agencies in the arts and humanities. These included three grants from the Swedenborgian Wesley N. Gray Trust; the Mid S. Weiss Award from the American Society for Psychical Research; the Contributions to Medical Communication award from the American Media Writers Association; two Grants for Historical Writing from the American Philosophical Society; two grants each from the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust, the Richard Hodgson Fund, and the Katherine and Frank Martucci Endowment for the Arts; six Grants for Historical Writing from the Parapsychology Foundation; a research grant from the Rockefeller University Archive, and two Rockefeller University research grants for writing on behavioral medicine and alternative therapies.
Eugene also found, or created, a number of part-time positions to support himself. In 1981 he was appointed Historian in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, and in 1982 he became an Associate in Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, ascending to Lecturer in 1992. Eugene published extensively on historical topics related to clinical psychology and psychiatry in New England. A few examples include a journal article on Louville Eugene Emerson, the first clinical psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital; the first use of "psycho-analysis" at Massachusetts General Hospital; and the early histories of the American Psychopathological Association and the American Society for Psychical Research. He also co-authored a book on the founder of the Psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital: Stanley Cobb: A Builder of the Modern Neurosciences (1984). Eugene eventually enrolled at Boston University, completing the PhD in the History and Philosophy of Psychology in 1992 under Sigmund Koch. In 1993 he founded the Cambridge Institute of Psychology and Religion, a base for his consultations and lectures, and the vehicle for his involvement in the Tibet/US Resettlement Project in the early 1990s. He soon published two books: The Epistemological Problem of Consciousness: Essays in the History and Philosophy of Psychology (published by the Institute and the Essene Press in 1995) and William James on Consciousness Beyond the Margin (1996). The latter book earned him the 1995 D. Scott Rogo Award for the best forthcoming book in parapsychological literature. Eugene also co-edited, with Rob Wozniak, Pure Experience: The Response to William James (1995).
Eugene became the consummate archival researcher. Overseeing the Gordon Allport papers at the Harvard University Archives, Eugene compiled an index of Allport’s files and collaborated in completing the index of Allport’s correspondence. He engineered the creation of an index of 10,000 reprints amassed by E. G. Boring while writing his 1929 and 1950 histories, a collection augmented by Gordon Allport and R. S. Stevens. Because of his familiarity with the Allport Archives, he was of considerable help to me when I worked with Allport’s archival material on religion. Eugene also immersed himself in the unpublished manuscripts of William James and remnants of the James family library. Utilizing notes keyed to hundreds of books in Harvard’s open stacks, Eugene painstakingly reconstructed James’s 1896 Lowell Lectures (published as William James on Exceptional Mental States, 1982). While playfully cultivating the persona of a reincarnated William James, Eugene labored earnestly, and wrote and lectured extensively, to document James’s significant contributions to the origins of clinical and abnormal psychology–he published about two dozen journal articles on James. He also served on the editorial board of Streams of William James for the six years it was published (1999-2004). From 1982 to 1988 Eugene assisted Henry A. Murray in locating and organizing Murray’s papers for archival distribution, and collaborated with Murray in completing his psychological analysis of Herman Melville. Together they published A Melville Mosaic: Morsels From an Unpublished Biography (1988) and the article (with H. Myerson) Allan Melville's By-Blow (1985).
In 1993 Eugene joined the faculty of the Saybrook Graduate School and Research Institute, launching the Oral History Project in Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology. He situated this movement in the context of American academic psychology, and contributed a number of articles and book chapters to the literature. He was a founding member of The New Existentialists. In 1994 he joined the editorial board of The Journal of Humanistic Psychology.
Eugene regarded the history and philosophy of psychology as a vocation, devoting himself to the neglected histories of clinical psychology and folk psychology, which he viewed as equal in significance to academic psychology, and which he accorded equal time in his History of Psychology course at Saybrook. Pursuing these interests, Eugene immersed himself in the study of Henry James Sr.’s annotated collection of Emmanuel Swedenborg’s writing, wrote about the psychology of religion for Studia Swedenborgiana, examined the Swedenborgian roots of American Pragmatism and Swedenborg’s relationship to C. S. Peirce, and by late 1980 was recognized by the American Academy of Religion for his Swedenborg scholarship. The Swedenborg Foundation published Eugene’s A Psychology of Spiritual Healing (1997). Eugene’s further immersion in the James collection of ephemera of "crank literature" culminated in the book Shadow Culture: Psychology and Spirituality in America (1999).
Eugene occasionally lectured on the psychology of religion at Cambridge’s Swedenborg Chapel (Life of the Spirit, 1991, 1995), speaking on "The Hope of the Great Community," "The Parable of the Fourth Wise Man," "Education and Spiritual Growth," "Truth and Reality," "Genesis and Resurrection," and "The Problem of Evil." The Chapel also hosted the Cambridge Tibetan Society services, dance, & language classes, and according to his daughter Lily, it was Eugene who arranged the visit of the Dalai Lama to the chapel in 1995: Eugene is part of the small circle around the spiritual leader in the official photos. When I first visited the Chapel’s web page, it included a photo of "Eugene Taylor’s collection of Swedenborg’s writings and other collateral interests" (the photo is no longer online), and it was at the Chapel (also known as The Church of the New Jerusalem in Cambridge) that Lily and Guy hosted a memorial service in celebration of Eugene’s life on May 26, 2013.
Eugene was already interested in archetypal psychology when he published a 1976 paper on the mandalas of Joseph D. Quillian, Jr., the dean at Southern Methodist University’s theology school. Later Eugene wrote papers on Jung’s intellectual context, Jung’s relationship with William James and the Boston psychopathologists, Jung’s influence on American psychotherapeutics, and the archetypal significance of America in Jung’s own process of individuation. Eugene participated in the launching of the New Jung Scholarship which aligns Jung with the late 19th century psychologies of transcendence, and served on the board of the Philemon Foundation, which was established to publish and translate Jung’s unpublished manuscripts, seminars, and correspondence. They have already published The Red Book (1999), The Jung-White Letters (1997) , and Children’s Dreams (1997) in The Philemon Series. Eugene tied together the many divergent threads of his historical clinical research in his final book, The Mystery of Personality: A History of Psychodynamic Theories (2009).
Eugene and I carried on a professional correspondence and friendship for nearly 4 decades. For many years we met regularly for a long dinner at the American Psychological Association convention, discussing our ongoing writing projects and our mutual interests in the history of psychology and religion. I wrote letters in support of two of Eugene’s fellowship applications, and was impressed not only with his work and his ability to situate it in a larger context, but also with the passion with which he approached what he saw as his vocation. It is also true that he could be sloppy in his documentation on first drafts and presentations, and he failed to remove from his Curriculum Vita the proposals that did not materialize into books and the manuscripts that were not accepted for publication. It took some deep digging to verify his publications when I was writing the obituary for The American Psychologist, and even as I was writing this piece I discovered errors in his listing of the names of organizations. But he cleaned up these errors for his published works, all of which were grounded in painstaking archival and historical research.
When I think of Eugene now, two of our convention gatherings come to mind. On one occasion, not long after the car accident that left me with a head injury, we were in Boston, where I had arrived at the convention hotel after being hopelessly lost and taking a short-cut that could not legally be repeated. I shared this experience with Eugene, who quickly assessed my need for assistance in finding my way out of town. When it was time to leave, Eugene drove many miles out of his way to lead me to the traffic circle that would take me to my destination in Winchester. Several years later, we had a dinner date on the last evening of the convention. Shortly before our dinner together I learned that my brother Gerrit, whom I had hoped to see once more before his imminent death, had died that morning. Eugene was a comforting, empathic presence to me that evening. This capacity to "imagine the real" (as Martin Buber would have put it) in my experience far outweighed the narcissistic streak that was also real, but not dominant, in Eugene.
In 2011 APA’s Division 32 presented Eugene with the Abraham Maslow Award, which is "given to an individual for an outstanding and lasting contribution to the exploration of the farther reaches of the human spirit." I like to think that his spirit is now soaring in those far corners he so passionately explored.
~Hendrika Vande Kemp
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