Eugene Taylor, leading thinker in Existential psychology, has passed away

Eugene Taylor, leading thinker in Existential psychology, has passed away

Saybrook University, with deep sadness, is announcing today the death of Dr. Eugene Taylor, a noted scholar and 20-year member of our executive faculty.

“We are sorry to see Eugene go,” said Mark Schulman, President of Saybrook University, “He was a scholar and a teacher respected by all with whom he came in contact. He is, truly, irreplacable.”

Taylor died on January 30 at 10:30 a.m. EST with his family in attendance.  He was 66.

Taylor was a prominent historian of psychology.  The author of books including Shadow Culture:  Psychology and Spirituality in America;  The Mystery of Personality:  A History of Psychodynamic Theories;  and William James on Consciousness Beyond the Margins, he was a research historian at Harvard Medical School, the curator of Gordon Allport’s papers,  and an internationally renowned scholar on the work of William James.  He was also the founder of the Cambridge Institute of Psychology and Religion, a board member of the Philemon Foundation, a fellow in two APA divisions, and a founding member of The New Existentialists.

He held degrees from Southern Methodist University, Harvard Divinity School (where he was the 1983 William James Lecturer), and a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Psychology from Boston University.

An early student of humanistic psychology, Taylor was present at some of the earliest transpersonal psychology conferences in the1970s.  Combined with his long-standing interest in Eastern religions, this exposure helped develop his scholarly interest in the study of consciousness itself, which he placed at the center of the psychological experience.  Psychology, he emphasized, is a “person centered science,” in which the subjective experiences of everyone involved are at the center of best practice.  He held that the current “neuro-revolution” in science will further affirm this:  that the effort to study the neurons of the brain for the stirrings of consciousness will lead to the realization that there is no “empirical” way to study consciousness without involving radical subjectivity. To take that subjectivity into account as central to understanding rather than futilely trying to dismiss it was, he said, the essence of good science.

“There is no science anywhere that does not involve someone’s personal consciousness somewhere,” he wrote.

His work at Saybrook, where he at various times chaired the programs in Consciousness Studies and Humanistic & Transpersonal Psychology, inspired many to follow in his footsteps and put existential psychology at the center of their own work and practice.

“Eugene gave much of his life to humanistic psychology, and served in many ways as our historian,” said Louis Hoffman, the President of the Society for Humanistic Psychology (APA Division 32) and a colleague of Taylor’s on Saybrook’s executive faculty.  “His passion for humanistic psychology was evident to anyone who knew him. His scholarship and, more importantly, the man, will be dearly missed by his students, colleagues, and the whole humanistic community.”