6. Newtonian Psychology

Like biology and medicine, the science of psychology has been shaped by the Cartesian paradigm. Psychologists, following Descartes, adopted the strict division between the res cogilans and the res exiensa, which made it extremely difficult for them to understand how mind and body interacted with each other. The current confusion about the role and nature of the mind, as distinct from that of the brain, is a manifest consequence of the Cartesian division.

Descartes not only made a sharp distinction between the impermanent human body and the indestructible soul, but also suggested different methods for studying them. The soul, or mind, should be studied by introspection, the body by the methods of natural science. However, psychologists in the subsequent centuries did not follow Descartes' suggestion but adopted both methods for the study of the human psyche, thus creating two major schools of psychology. The structuralists studied the mind through introspection and tried to analyze consciousness into its basic elements, while behaviorists concentrated exclusively on the study of behavior and so were led to ignore or deny the existence of mind altogether. Both these schools emerged at a time when scientific thought was dominated by the Newtonian model of reality. Accordingly, they both modeled themselves after classical physics, incorporating the basic concepts of Newtonian mechanics into their theoretical frameworks.

Meanwhile, working in the clinic and the consulting room rather than the laboratory, Sigmund Freud used the method of free association to develop psychoanalysis. Although this was a very different, even revolutionary, theory of the human mind, its basic concepts were again Newtonian in nature. Thus the three main currents of psychological thinking in the first decades of the twentieth century - two in the academy and one in the clinic - were based not only on the Cartesian paradigm but also on specifically Newtonian concepts of reality.

Psychology as a science is commonly believed to date from the nineteenth century, and its historical roots are usually traced back to the philosophies of Greek antiquity.l The Western belief that this tradition has produced the only serious psychological theories is now being recognized as a rather narrow and culturally conditioned view. Recent developments in consciousness research, psychotherapy, and iranspersonal psychology have stimulated interest in Eastern systems of thought, and particularly those of India, which exhibit a variety of profound and sophisticated approaches to psychology. The rich tradition of Indian philosophy has generated a spectrum of philosophical schools, from extreme materialism to extreme idealism, from absolute monism through dualism to complete pluralism. Accordingly, these schools have developed numerous and often conflicting theories about human behavior, the nature of consciousness, and the relation between mind and matter.

In addition to this wide range of philosophical schools, Indian and other Eastern cultures have also developed spiritual traditions that are based on empirical knowledge and thus more akin to the approach of modem science.2 These traditions are grounded in mystical experiences that have led to elaborate and extremely refined models of consciousness that cannot be understood within the Cartesian framework but are in surprising agreement with recent scientific developments.3 Eastern mystical traditions sre not, however, primarily concerned with theoretical concepts. They are, above all, ways of liberation, concerned with the transformation of consciousness. During their long history they have developed subtle techniques to change their followers' awareness of their own existence and of their relation to human society and the natural world. Thus traditions like Vedanta, Yoga, Buddhism, and Taoi&m resemble psychotherapies much more than religions or philosophies, and it is therefore not surprising that some Western psychotherapists have recently shown a keen interest in Eastern mysticism.'1

The psychological speculations of ancient Greek philosophers also show strong influences of Eastern ideas, which the Greeks assimilated, according to history and legend, during extended studies in Egypt. This early Western philosophical psychology fluctuates between idealistic and materialistic views of the soul. Among the pre-Socratics, Empedocles taught a materialistic theory of the psyche, according to which all thought and perception were dependent on bodily change. Pythagoras, on the other hand, expounded strongly mystical views that included the belief in the transmigration of souls. Socrates introduced a new concept of the soul Into Greek philosophy. Whereas it had been described before either as a vital force - the 'breath of life' - or as a transcendental principle in the mystical sense, Socrates used the word 'psyche' in the sense that modern psychology does, as the seat of intelligence and character.

Plato was the first to deal explicitly with the problem of consciousness, and Aristotle wrote the first systematic treatise on it, On the Soul, in which he developed a biological and materialistic approach to psychology. This materialistic approach, which was further elaborated by the Stoics, found its most eloquent opponent in Plotinus, the founder of Neo-platonism and last of the great philosophers of antiquity, whose teachings resembled the Indian Vedanta philosophy in many aspects and had a powerful influence on early Christian doctrine. According to Plotinus, the soul is immaterial and immortal; consciousness is the image of the Divine One and as such is present at all levels of reality.

One of the most powerful and influential images of the psyche is found in Plato's philosophy. ]n the Phaedrus, the soul is pictured as a charioteer driving two horses, one representing the bodily passions and the other the higher emotions. This metaphor encapsulates the two approaches to consciousness - the biological and the spiritual - which have been pursued, without being reconciled, throughout Western philosophy and science. This conflict generated the 'mind-body problem" that is reflected in many schools of psychology, most notably in the conflict between the psychologies of Freud and Jung.

In the seventeenth century, the mind-body problem was cast into the form that shaped the subsequent development of Western scientific psychology. According to Descartes, mind and body belonged to two parallel but fundamentally different realms, each of which could be studied without reference to the other. The body was governed by mechanical laws, but the mind - or soul - was free and immortal. The soul was clearly and specifically identified with consciousness and could affect the body by interacting with it through the brain's pineal gland. Human emotions were seen as combinations of six elementary 'passions^ and described in a semimechanical way. As far as knowledge and perception were concerned, Descartes believed that knowing was a primary function of human reason, that is, of the soul, which could take place independently of the brain. Clarity of concepts, which played such an important role in Descartes' philosophy and science;5 could not be derived from the confused performance of the senses but was the result of an innate cognitive disposition. Learning and experience merely provided the occasions for the manifestation of innate ideas.

The Cartesian paradigm provided inspiration, as well as challenge, for two great philosophers of the seventeenth century, Baruch Spinoza and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Spinoza could not accept Descartes' dualism and replaced it with a rather mystical monism; Leibniz introduced the idea of an infinite number of substances which he called 'monads/ meaning organismic units of an essentially psychic nature, with the human soul occupying a special position among them. According to Leibniz, monads "have no windows'; they merely mirror one another.6 There is no interaction between mind and body, but both act in 'preestablished harmony.'(Monism, from the Greek monos ('single'), is a philosophical view which holds that there is only one kind of ultimate substance or reality.)

The subsequent development of psychology followed neither the spiritual views of Spinoza nor the organismic ideas of Leibniz. Instead, philosophers and scientists turned to Newton's precise mathematical formulation of Descartes' mechanistic paradigm, and attempted to use its principles to understand human nature. While La Mettrie in France applied Descartes' mechanical model of animals in a straightforward way to the human organism, including its mind, British empiricist philosophers used Newtonian ideas to develop more sophisticated psychological theories. Hobbes and Locke refuted Descartes' concept of innate ideas and maintained that there was nothing in the mind that was not first in the senses. At birth, the human mind was, in Locke's famous phrase, a tabularasa, a blank tablet upon which ideas were imprinted through sensory perceptions. This notion served as the starting point for a mechanistic theory of knowledge, in which sensations were the basic elements of the mental realm and were combined into more complex structures by the process of association.

The concept of association represented a significant step in the development of the Newtonian approach to psychology, since it allowed philosophers to reduce the complexity of mental functioning to certain elementary rules. David Hume in particular elevated association to the central principle in the analysis of the human mind, seeing it as an 'attraction in the mental world' that played a role comparable to the force of gravity in the material Newtonian universe. Hume was also deeply influenced by Newton's method of inductive reasoning, based on experience and observation, and he used it to construct an atomistic psychology in which the self was reduced to a 'bundle of perceptions.'

David Hartley took a further step, combining the concept of the association of ideas with that of the neurological reflex, to develop a detailed and ingenious mechanistic model of the mind in which all mental activity was reduced to neurophysi-ological processes. This model was further elaborated by several empiricists and in the 1870s was incorporated into the work ofWiihelm Wundt, generally regarded as the founder of scientific psychology.

The modern science of psychology was a result of nineteenth-century developments in anatomy and physiology. Intensive studies of the brain and the nervous system established specific relations between mental functions and brain structures, clarified various functions of the nervous system, and brought detailed knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the sensory organs. As a result of these advances, the ingenious but naive mechanistic models outlined by Descartes, La Mettrie, and Hartley were reformulated in modern terms, and the Newtonian orientation of psychology became firmly established.

The discovery of correlations between mental activity and brain structure created great enthusiasm among neuroanato-mists and led some of them to postulate that human behavior could be reduced to a set of independent mental faculties, or traits, that were localized in specific regions of the brain. Although this hypothesis could not be sustained, its basic aim of associating various functions of the mind with precise locations in the brain is still very popular among neuro-scientists. At first researchers were able to demonstrate a high degree of localization for the primary motor and sensory functions, but when the approach was extended to higher cognitive processes, such as learning and memory, it did not lead to any consistent picture of these phenomena. Nevertheless, most neuroscientists continued their research along the established reductionist lines.

Nineteenth-century studies of the nervous systerr produced another field of research, reflexology, which had a profound influence on subsequent psychological theories. The neurological reflex, with its clear causal relation between stimulus and response and its machinelike reliability, became the prime candidate for the elementary physiological building block that formed the basis of more complex patterns of behavior. Thediscoveryofnew forms of reflexive responses gave hope to many psychologists that, ultimately, all human behavior would be understood in terms of complex combinations of basic reflex mechanisms. This view was put forth by Ivan Sechenov, founder of the influential Russian school of reflexology whose most prominent member was Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov's discovery of the principle of conditioned reflexes had a decisive impact on subsequent learning theories.

Detailed investigation of the central nervous system was complemented by increased understanding of the structure and function of the sensory organs, which helped establish systematic relations between the quality of sensory experiences and the physical characteristics of their stimuli. Pioneering experiments by Ernst Weber and Gustav Fechner resulted in the formulation of the celebrated Weber-Fechner law, which postulates a mathematical relation between the intensities of sensations and their stimuli. Physicists made major contributions to this field of sense physiology; Hermann von Helmholtz, for example, developed comprehensive theories of hearing and color vision.

These experimental approaches to the study of perception and behavior culminated in Wundt's research. Founder of the first psychology laboratory, he remained the most influential figure in scientific psychology for almost four decades. During that time he was the chief representative of the so-called elementist orientation, which maintained that all mental functioning could be analyzed into specific elements. The object of psychology, according to Wundt, was to study how these elements could be combined to form perceptions, ideas, and various associative processes.

The orthodox experimental psychologists of the nineteenth century were dualists who tried to draw a clear distinction between mind and matter. They believed that introspection was a necessary source of information about the mind, but saw it as an analytical method that would allow them to reduce consciousness to well-defined elements associated with. specific nerve currents in the brain. These reductionist and materialistic theories of psychological phenomena evoked strong opposition among psychologists who emphasized the unitary nature of consciousness and perception. The holistic approach gave rise to two influential schools, gestalt psychology and functional! sm. Neither was able to change the Newtonian orientation of the majority of psychologists during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but both strongly influenced the new trends in psychology and psychotherapy that emerged in the second half of our century.

Gestalt psychology, founded by Max Wertheimer and his associates, was based on the assumption that living organisms do not perceive things in terms of isolated elements but in terms ofGestaiten, that is, as meaningful wholes which exhibit qualities that are absent in their individual parts. Kurt Goldstein then applied the gestalt view to the treatment of brain disorders in what he called an organismic approach, with the aim of helping people to come to terms with themselves and their environment.

The development of functionalism was a consequence of nineteenth-century evolutionary thought, which established an important connection between structure and function. For Darwin each anatomical structure was a functioning component of an integrated living organism engaged in the evolutionary struggle for survival. This dynamic emphasis inspired many psychologists to turn from the study of mental structure to that of mental processes, to view consciousness as a dynamic phenomenon, and to investigate its modes of functioning, especially in relation to the life of the whole organism. These psychologists, known as functionalists, were highly critical of the tendencies of their contemporaries to analyze the mind into atomistic elements; instead, they emphasized the unity and dynamic nature of the "stream of consciousness.'

The foremost exponent of functionalism was William James, whom many people consider the greatest American psychologist. Certainly his work contains a unique mixture of ideas that have stimulated psychologists of many different schools. James taught physiology before he moved into psychology to become a pioneer of the scientific experimental approach. He was the founder of the first American psychology laboratory and played a major role in changing the status of his discipline from a branch of philosophy to a laboratory science.

In spite of his thoroughly scientific orientation, William James was a fervent critic of the atomistic and mechanistic tendencies in psychology, and an enthusiastic advocate of the interaction and interdependence of mind and body. He reinterpreted the findings of contemporary experimenters with a determined emphasis on consciousness as a personal, integral, and continuous phenomenon. It was not sufficient to study the elements of mental functioning and the rules for the association of ideas. These elements were merely arbitrary cross sections of a continuous 'stream of thought' that had to be understood in relation to the conscious actions of human beings in their daily confrontations with a variety of environmental challenges.

In 1890 James published his innovative views on the human psyche in the monumental Principles of Psychology, which soon became a classic. After its completion, his interest shifted to more philosophical and esoteric pursuits, such as the study of unusual slates of consciousness, psychic phenomena, and religious experiences. The aim of these investigations was to probe the full range of human consciousness, as he stated eloquently in his Varieties of Religious Experience:

Our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst alt about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness ...

No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question ... At any rate, they forbid our premature closing of accounts with reality.7

This broad view of psychology is probably the strongest aspect of James's influence on recent psychological research.

In the twentieth century psychology made great progress and gained an increasing reputation. It benefited considerably from cooperation with other disciplines - from biology and medicine to statistics, cybernetics, and communication theory - and found important applications in health care, education, industry, and many other areas of practical human activity. During the early decades of the century, psychological thinking was dominated by two powerful schools - behaviorism and psychoanalysis - which differed markedly in their methods and their views of consciousness but nevertheless adhered, basically, to the same Newtonian model of reality.

Behaviorism represents the culmination of the mechanistic approach in psychology. Based on detailed knowledge of human physiology, behaviorists created a 'psychology without a soul,' a sophisticated version of La Mettrie's human machine.8 Mental phenomena were reduced to patterns of behavior, and behavior to physiological processes governed by the laws of physics and chemistry. John Watson, who founded behaviorism, was strongly influenced by several trends in the life sciences around the turn of the century.

Wundt's experimental approach had been brought to the United States from Germany by Edward Titchener, the acknowledged leader of the 'structuralist' school of psychology. He attempted a rigorous reduction of the contents of consciousness to 'simple' elements and emphasized that the 'meaning' of mental slates was nothing but the context in which mental structures occurred and had no further significance for psychology. At the same time, the reductionist and materialist view of mental phenomena was decisively influenced by Loeb's mechanistic biology,and in particular by his theory of tropism - the tendency of plants and animals to turn certain parts in certain directions. Loeb explained this phenomenon in terms of 'forced movements' imposed on living organisms by the environment in strictly mechanistic fashion. This new theory, which made tropism one of the key mechanisms of life, had a tremendous appeal for many psychologists, who applied the notion of forced movements to a wider range of animal behaviors and, eventually, to those of human beings.

In the description of mental phenomena in terms of patterns of behavior, the study of the learning process played a central role. Quantitative experiments on animal learning opened up the new field of experimental animal psychology, and theories of learning were developed by most schools of psychology, with the notable exception of psychoanalysis. Among these learning theories behaviorism was most influenced by Pavlov's work on conditioned reflexes. When Pavlov studied salivation in response to stimuli coinciding with the provision of food, he took great care to avoid all psychological concepts and to describe the dogs' behavior exclusively in terms of their reflex systems. This approach suggested to psychologists that a more general theory of behavior could be formulated in purely physiological terms. Vladimir Bekhterev, founder of the first Russian laboratory of experimental psychology, outlined such a theory, describing the learning process in strictly physiological language by reducing complex behavior patterns to compounds of conditioned responses.

The general trend of moving away from concern with consciousness and toward strictly mechanistic views, the new methods of animal psychology, the principle of the conditioned reflex, and the concept of learning as a modification of behavior were all assimilated into Watson's new theory, which identified psychology with the study of behavior. To him behaviorism represented an attempt to apply to the experimental study of human behavior the same procedures and the same language of description that had been found useful in the study of animals. Indeed, Watson, like La Mettrie two centuries before him, saw no essential difference between humans and animals. 'Man,' he wrote,4 'is an animal different from other animals only in the types of behaviors he displays.'

It was Watson's ambition to raise the status of psychology to that of an objective natural science, and to do so he adhered as closely as possible to the methodology and principles of Newtonian mechanics, the eminent example of scientific rigor and objectivity. To subject psychological experiments to the criteria used in physics required that psychologists focus exclusively on phenomena that can be registered and described objectively by independent observers. Thus Watson became a vigorous critic of the introspective method used by James and Freud as well as Wundt and Titchener. The whole concept of consciousness, which resulted from introspection, was to be excluded from psychology, and all related terms - like 'mind,' 'thinking,' and 'feeling' - were to be eliminated from psychological terminology. 'Psychology, as the behaviorist views it,' wrote Watson,10 'is a purely objective, experimental branch of natural science which needs consciousness as little as do the sciences of chemistry and physics.' It would certainly have been a great shock to him had he known that only a few decades later a leading physicist, Eugene Wigner, would state, 'It was not possible to formulate the laws of (quantum theory] in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.'11

In the behaviorist view, according to Watson, living organisms were complex machines reacting to external stimuli, and this stimulus-response mechanism was of course modeled after Newtonian physics. It implied a rigorous causal relation that would allow psychologists to predict the response for a given stimulus and, conversely, to specify the stimulus for a given response. In actual fact, behavicrists seldom dealt with simple stimuli and responses but studied entire constellations of stimuli and complex responses, whici were referred to respectively as "situations' and 'adjustments.' The basic behaviorist assumption was that these complex phenomena could always, at least in principle, be reduced to combinations of simple stimuli and responses. Thus the laws derived from simple experimental situations were expected to apply to more complex phenomena, and conditioned responses of ever increasing complexity were seen as adequate explanations of all human expressions, including science, art, and religion.

A iogical consequence of the stimulus-response model was a terdency to look for the determinants of psychological phenomena in the external world rather than within the orgatism. Watson applied this approach not only to perception but also to imagery thinking, and emotions. All these phenomena were seen not as subjective experiences but as implicit modes of behavior in response to external stimuli.

Since the process of learning is especially suitable for objective experimental research, behaviorism became primarily a psychology of learning. Its original formulation did not contain the concept of conditioning, but after Watson had studied Bekhterev's work, conditioning became the main method and explanatory principle of behaviorism. Accordingly, there was a strong emphasis on control that was in keeping with the Baconian ideal that has become chancteristic of Western science.12 The aim of dominance and control of nature was applied to animals, and later on, with the notion of 'behavioral engineering,' to human beings.

0e consequence of this approach was the development of behavior therapy that attempted to apply conditioning techniques to the treatment of psychological disorders through the nodification of behavior. Although these efforts can be traced back to the pioneering work of Pavlov and Bekhterev, they were not developed in a systematic way until the middle of this century. Today 'pure' behavior therapy is totally symptom- or problem-oriented. Psychiatric symptoms are not regarded as manifestations of underlying disorders but as isolated instances of learned maladJUStive behavior, to be corrected by appropriate conditioning techniques.

The first three decades of the twentieth century are usually regarded as the period of'classical behaviorism,' dominated by John Watson and characterized by fierce polemics against introspective psychologists. This classical phase of behaviorist psychology gave rise to an enormous amount of experimentation but failed to produce a comprehensive theory of human behavior. In the 1930s and 1940s Clark Hull tried to construct such a comprehensive theory, based on highly refined experiments and formulated in terms of a system of definitions and postulates, not unlike Newton's Principia. The cornerstone of Hull's theory was the principle of reinforcement, meaning that the response to a specific stimulus is strengthened by the satisfaction of a basic need or drive. Hull's approach dominated learning theories and his system was applied to the investigation of practically all known problems of learning.13 In the 1950s, however, Hull's influence declined and his theory was gradually replaced by the Skinnerian approach, which revitalized behaviorism in the second half of the century.

. F. Skinner has been the main exponent of the behaviorist view for the past three decades. His special talent for designing simple and clean experimental situations led him to develop a much more rigorous but also more subtle theory, which has been highly popular, especially in the United States, and has helped behaviorism maintain its dominant role in academic psychology. The main innovations in Skinner's behaviorism were a strictly operational definition of reinforcement - anything that increases the probability of a preceding response - and a strong emphasis on precise 'schedules of reinforcement.' To test his theoretical concepts Skinner developed a new method of conditioning, called 'operant conditioning,' which differs from the classical, Pavlovian conditioning process in that reinforcement occurs only after the animal executes a predesignated operation, such as pressing a lever or pecking at an illuminated disk. This method was greatly refined by extreme simplification of the animal's environment. For example, rats were confined in boxes, called 'Skinner boxes,' which contained simply a horizontal bar that the animal could depress to release a pellet of food. Other experiments involved the pecking response of pigeons, which can be very precisely controlled.

While the notion of operant behavior - behavior controlled by its entire past history rather than by direct stimuli - was a great advance in behaviorist theory, the whole framework remained strictly Newtonian, in his well-known text, Science and Human Behavior., Skinner makes it clear from the very outset that he regards all phenomena associated with human consciousness, such as mind or ideas, as nonexisling entities, 'invented to provide spurious explanations.' The only serious explanations, according to Skinner, are those based on the mechanistic view of living organisms and satisfying the criteria of Newtonian physics. 'Since mental or psychic events are asserted to lack the dimensions of physical science,' he writes, 'we have an additional reason for rejecting them.'14

Although the title of Skinner's book refers explicitly to human behavior, the concepts discussed in it are based almost exclusively on conditioning experiments with rats and pigeons. These animals are reduced, as Paul Weiss has put it, to 'puppets operated by environmental strings.'15 Behaviorists largely ignore the mutual interplay and interdependence between a living organism and its natural environment, which is itself an organism. From their narrow perspective on animal behavior, they then make a huge conceptual leap to human behavior, asserting that human beings, like animals, are machines whose activity is limited to conditioned responses to environmental stimuli. Skimnerhas firmly rejected the image of human beings acting in accordance with the decisions of their inner selves, and instead has proposed an engineering approach to create a new type of 'man,' a human being who will be conditiioned to behave in the way that is best for himself and for society.

According to Skinner, this will be the only way to overcome our current crisis: not through an evolution of consciousness, because there is no such thing; not through a change of values because values are nothing but positive or negative reinforcements - but through scientific control of human behavior. 'What we need,' he writes, 'is a technology of behavior . . . comparable in power and precision to physical and biological technology.'16

This, then, is Newtonian psychology par excellence, a psychology without consciousness that reduces all behavior to mechanistic sequences of conditioned responses and asserts that the only scientific understanding of human nature is one that remains within the framework of classical physics and biology; a psychology, furthermore, that reflects our culture's preoccupation with manipulative technology, designed for domination and control. In recent years behaviorism has begun to change by assimilating elements of many other disciplines and thus losing much of its former rigid stance. But behaviorists still adhere to the mechanistic paradigm and often defend it as the only scientific approach to psychology, thus clearly limiting science to the classical Newtonian framework.

Psychoanalysis, the other dominant school of twentieth-century psychology, did not originate in psychology out came from psychiatry, which in the nineteenth century was firmly established as a branch of medicine. At that time psychiatrists were thoroughly committed to the biomedical model and were bent on finding organic causes for all mental disturbances. This organic orientation had a promising beginning, but it failed to reveal a specific organic basis for neuroses* and other mental disorders, and some psychiatrists began to look for psychological approaches to mental illness.

*Psychoneuroses, also called simply neuroses, are functional nervous disorders without demons! rable physical lesions, psychoses are more severe menial disturbances characterized by a loss of concact with popularly accepted views of reality.

A decisive stage in this development was reached during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, when Jean-Martin Charcot successfully used hypnosis for the treatment of hysteria.* In dramatic demonstrations Charcot showed that patients could be freed from the symptoms of hysteria purely by hypnotic suggestion, and that these symptoms could also be brought back again by the same method. This called in question the whole organic approach to psychiatry, and it made a deep impression on Sigmund Freud, who went to Paris in 1885 to hear Charcot's lectures and witness his demonstrations. When he returned to Vienna, Freud, in collaboration with Joseph Breuer, began to use the hypnotic technique to treat neurotic patients.

The publication of Studies in Hysteria by Breuer and Freud in 1895 is often regarded as the birth of psychoanalysis because it described the new method of free association which Freud and Breuer had discovered and found far more useful than hypnosis. It consisted of putting patients into a drowsy, dreamlike state and then letting them talk freely about their problems, with special emphasis on traumatic emotional experiences. This use of free association was to become the cornerstone of the 'psychoanalytic* method.

Trained as a neurologist, Freud believed that in principle one should be able to understand all mental problems in terms of neurochemistry. In the same year that saw the publication of his work on hysteria he also wrote a remarkable document, Project fm a Scientific Psychology, in which he outlined a detailed scheme for a neurological explanation of mental illness.17 Freud never published this work, but two decades later he again expressed his belief that 'all our provisional ideas in psychology will some day be based on an organic substructure.>lg For the time being, however, neurological science was not advanced enough, and thus Freud pursued a different avenue to study the 'intrapsychic apparatus.' His collaboration with Breuer ended after their joint research on hysteria, and Freud embarked alone on a unique exploration of the human mind which resulted in the first systematic psychological approach to mental illness.

Freud's contribution was truly extraordinary, considering the state of psychiatry in his time. For over thirty years he sustained a continuous flow of creativity that culminated in several momentous discoveries, any one of which would be admirable as a product of an entire lifetime. To begin with, Freud almost single-handedly discovered the unconscious and its dynamics. Whereas behaviorists, later on, refused to recognize the existence of the human unconscious, Freud saw it as an essential source of behavior. He pointed out that our conscious awareness represents only a thin layer resting on a vast unconscious realm - the tip of the iceberg, as it were, whose hidden regions are governed by powerful instinctual forces. Through the process of psychoanalysis these deeply submerged tendencies of human nature could be revealed, and thus Freud's system also became known as depth psychology.

Freud's theory was a dynamic approach to psychiatry that studied the forces leading to psychological disorders and emphasized the importance of childhood experiences for the future development of the individual. He identified the libido, or sexual drive, as one of the principal psychological forces and considerably extended the concept of human sexuality, introducing the notion of infantile sexuality and outlining the principal stages of early psychosexual development. Another major discovery was Freud's interpretation of dreams, which he called 'the royal road to the unconscious.'

In 1909, at Clark University in Massachusetts, Freud delivered an epoch-making lecture, 'Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis/ which brought him world-wide fame and established the psychoanalytic school in the United States. The publication of the lecture was followed by an autobiographical essay, 'On the History of the Psychoanalytic Movement,' published in 1914, which marked the end of the first great phase of psychoanalysis.1'' This phase had produced a coherent theory of unconscious dynamics based on instinctual drives of an essentially sexual nature, whose complex interplay with various inhibiting tendencies generated the rich variety of psychological patterns.

During the second phase of his scientific life Freud formulated a new theory of personality based on three distinct structures of the intrapsychic apparatus, which he called Id, Ego, and Superego. This period was also marked by significant changes in Freud's understanding of the psychothera-peudc process, especially his discovery of transference,(Transference denotes the tendency of patients to transfer onto the analyst, during the analytic procedure, an entire gamiii of feelings and attitudes that are characteristic of their early relationships with relevant figures of their childhood, particularly parents.) which would become of central importance in the practice of psychoanalysis. These systematic steps in the development of Freud's theory and practice were followed by the psychoanalytic movement in Europe and the United States and established psychoanalysis as a major school of psychology, dominating psychotherapy for many decades. Moreover, Freud's deep insights into the functioning of the mind and the development of human personality had far-reaching consequences for the interpretation of a variety of cultural phenomena - art, religion, history, and many others - and significantly shaped the world view of the modem era.

From the early years of his psychoanalytic explorations to the end of his life, Freud was deeply concerned with the aim of establishing psychoanalysis as a scientific discipline. He firmly believed that the same organizing principles which had shaped nature in all her forms were also responsible for the structure and functioning of the human mind. Although the science of his time wa^quite far from demonstrating such a unity of nature, Freud assumed that this goal would be reached sometime in the future, and he repeatedly emphasized the descent of psychoanalysis from the natural sciences, particularly from physics and medicine. Although he was the originator of the psychological approach to psychiatry, he remained under the influence of the biomedical model, both in theory and in practice.

To formulate a scientific theory of the psyche and of human behavior, Freud tried as much as possible to use the basic concepts of classical physics in his description of psychological phenomena and thus to establish a conceptual relationship between psychoanalysis and Newtonian mechanics.20 He made this quite clear when he said, in an address to a group of psychoanalyses: 'Analysts . . . cannot repudiate their descent from exact science and their community with its representatives . . . Analysts are at bottom incorrigible mechanists and materialists.'1 At the same time, Freud - unlike many of his followers - was well aware of the limited nature of scientific models and expected that psychoanalysis would have to be continually modified in the light of new developments in the other sciences. Thus he continued his exhortative description of psychoanalysts:

They are content with fragmentary pieces of knowledge and with basic hypotheses lacking in preciseness and ever open to revision. Instead of waiting for the moment when they will be able to escape from the constraint of the familiar laws of physics and chemistry, they hope for the emergence of more extensive and deeper-reaching natural laws, to which they are ready to submit21

The close relation between psychoanalysis and classical physics becomes strikingly apparent when we consider the four sets of concepts that form the basis of Newtonian mechanics:

  1. The concepts of absolute space and time, and of separate material objects moving in this space and interacting mechanically with one another;
  2. The concept of fundamental forces, essentially different from matter;
  3. The concept of fundamental laws describing the motion and mutual interactions of the material objects in terms of quantitative relations;
  4. The concept of rigorous determinism, and the notion of an objective description of nature based on the Cartesian division between mind and matter.22

These concepts correspond to the four basic perspectives from which psychoanalysts have traditionally approached and analyzed mental life. They are known respectively as the topographic, dynamic, economic, and genetic (Genetic as used by psychoanalysis refers to the origin, or genesis, of mental phenomena and should not be confused with ihe sense in which it is used in biology. ) points of view.23

As Newton established absolute Euclidean space as the frame of reference in which material objects are extended and located, so Freud established psychological space as a frame of reference for the structures of the mental 'apparatus.' The psychological structures on which Freud based his theory of human personality - Id, Ego, and Superego - are seen as some kind of internal "objects,' located and extended in psychological space. Thus spatial metaphors, such as 'depth psychology,' 'deep unconscious,' and 'subconscious,' are prominent throughout the Freudian system. The psychoana-lyst is seen as delving into the psyche almost like a surgeon. In fact, Freud advised his followers to be 'cold as a surgeon,' which reflects the classical ideal of scientific objectivity as well as the spatial and mechanistic conception of the mind.

In Freud's topographic description the unconscious contains ^matter' that has been forgotten or repressed, or has never reached conscious awareness. In its deeper realms lies the Id, an entity that is the source of powerful instinctual drives which are in conflict with a well-developed system of inhibiting mechanisms residing in the Superego. The Ego is a frail entity located between these two powers and engaged in a continual existential struggle.

Although Freud sometimes described these psychological structures as abstractions and resisted all attempts to associate them with specific structures and functions of the brain, they had all the properties of material objects. No two of them could occupy the same place, and thus any portion of the psychological apparatus could expand only by displacing other parts. As in Newtonian mechanics, the psychological objects were characterized by their extension, position, and motion.

The dynamic aspect of psychoanalysis, like the dynamic aspect of Newtonian physics, consists in describing how the 'material objects^ interact with one another through forces that are essentially different from'matter.' These forces have definite directions and can reinforce or inhibit one another. The most fundamental among them are instinctual drives, in particular the sexual drive. Freudian psychology is basically a conflict psychology. In his emphasis on existential struggle, Freud was undoubtedly influenced by Darwin and the Social Darwinists, but for the detailed dynamics of psychological 'collisions' he turned to Newton. In the Freudian system the mechanisms and machineries of the mind are all driven by forces modeled after classical mechanics.

A characteristic aspect of Newtonian dynamics is the principle that forces always come in pairs; for every 'active' force there is an equal 'reactive' force of opposite direction. Freud adopted this principle, calling the active and reactive foices 'drives' and 'defenses.' Other pairs of forces, developed at different stages of Freud's theory, were Libido and Des-trudo, or Eros and Thanatos, in both of which one force was life-oriented, the other death-oriented. As in Newtonian mechanics, these forces were defined in tern-is of their effects, which were studied in great detail, but the intrinsic nature of the forces was not investigated. The nature of the force of gravity had always been a problematic and controversial issue in Newton's theory, and so was the nature of the libido in Freud's.24

In psychoanalytic theory, understanding of the dynamics of the unconscious is essential for understanding of the therapeutic process. The basic picture is one of instinctual drives striving for discharge, and of various counterforces that inhibit and thereby distort them. Thus the skillful analyst will concentrate on eliminating the obstacles that prevent the direct expression of the primary forces. Freud's conception of the detailed mechanisms through which this goal would be achieved underwent considerable changes during his lifetime, but in all his speculations one can clearly recognize the influence of the Newtonian system of thought.

Freud's earliest theory of the origin and treatment of neuroses, and especially of hysteria, was formulated in terms of a hydraulic model. The primary causes of hysteria were identified as traumatic situations in the patient's childhood which occurred under circumstances that prevented an adequate expression of the emotional energy generated by the incidents. This pent-up, or jammed energy remained stored in the organism and would continue to seek discharge until it found a modified expression through various neurotic ^channels.' Therapy, according to this model, consisted in remembering the original trauma under conditions that would allow a belated emotional release of the trapped energies.

Freud abandoned the hydraulic model as being too simplistic when he found evidence that the patients' symptoms did not stem from isolated pathological processes but were consequences of the overall mosaic of their life histories. This new view saw the roots of neuroses in instinctual, predominantly sexual tendencies that were unacceptable and were therefore repressed by psychic forces, which converted them into neurotic symptoms. Thus the basic conception had shifted from the hydraulic image of an explosive release of pent-up energies to the more subtle but still Newtonian image of a constellation of mutually inhibiting dynamic forces.

The latter concept implies the notion of entities separated in psychological space but unable to move or expand without displacing one another. Thus there is no room for qralitative development and improvement of the Ego in the framework of classical psychoanalysis; its expansion can occur only at the expense of the Superego or the Id. As Freud saw it,25 'Where Id was, there shall Ego be.' In classical physics the interactions between material objects and the effects of the various forces on them are described in terms of certain measurable quantities-mass, velocity, energy, and so on - which are interrelated through mathematical equations. Although Freud could not go that far in his theory of the mind, he did attach great importance to the quantitative or 'economic' aspect of psychoanalysis, endowing the mental images representing instinctual drives with definite quantities of emotional energy that could not be directly measured but could be inferred from the intensity of the manifest symptoms. The 'mental energy exchange' was seen as a crucial aspect of all psychological conflicts. 'The final outcome of the struggle,' wrote Freud, "depends on quantitative relations.'26

As in Newtonian physics so also in psychoanalysis, the mechanistic view of reality implies a rigorous determinism. Every psychological event has a definite cause and gives rise to a definite effect, and the whole psychological state of an individual is uniquely determined by "initial conditions' in early childhood. The 'genetic' approach of psychoanalysis consists of tracing the symptoms and behavior of a patient back to previous development stages along a linear chain of cause-and-effect relations.

A closely related notion is that of the objective scientific observer. Classical Freudian theory is based on the assumption that the observation of the patient during analysis can take place without any interference or appreciable interaction. This belief is reflected in the basic arrangement of psychoanalytic practice, with the patient lying on the couch and the invisible therapist sitting behind her head maintaining a cold and uninvolved attitude, objectively observing the data. The Cartesian division between mind and matter, which is the philosophical origin of the concept of scientific objectivity, is reflected in psychoanalytic practice in the exclusive focus on mental processes. Physical consequences of psychological events are discussed during the psychoanalytic process, but the therapeutic technique itself does not involve any direct physical interventions. Freudian psychotherapy neglects the body just as medical therapy neglects the mind. The taboo against physical contact is so strong that some analysts do not even shake hands with their patients.

Freud himself was actually far less rigid in his psychoanalytic practice than in his theory. The theory had to adhere to the principle of scientific objectivity if it was to be accepted as a science, but in practice Freud was often able to transcend the limitations of the Newtonian framework. Beingan excellent clinical observer, he recognized that his analytic observation represented a powerful intervention that induced significant changes in the patient's psychological condition. Prolonged analysis would even produce an entirely new clinical picture - the transference neurosis which was not uniquely determined by the individual's early history but depended on the interaction between therapist and patient. This observation led Freud to abandon the ideal of the cool and uninvolved observer in his clinical work and to emphasize serious interest and sympathetic understanding. 'Personal influence is our most powerful dynamic weapon/ he wrote in 1926. 'It is the new element we introduce into the situation and by means of which we make it fluid.'27

The classical theory of psychoanalysis was the brilliant result of Freud's attempts to integrate his many revolutionary discoveries and ideas into a coherent conceptual framework that satisfied the criteria of the science of his time. Given the scope and depth of his work, it is not surprising that we can now recognize shortcomings in his approach which are due partly to the limitations inherent in the Cartesian-Newtonian framework and in pan to Freud's own cultural conditioning. Recognizing these limitations of the psychoanalytic approach in no way diminishes the genius of its founder, but is crucial for the future of psychotherapy.

Recent developments in psychology and psychotherapy have begun to produce a new view of the human psyche, one in which the Freudian model is recognized as extremely useful for dealing with certain aspects, or levels, of the unconscious but as severely limiting when applied to the totality of mental life in health and illness. The situation is not unlike that in physics, where the Newtonian model is extremely useful for the description of a certain range of phenomena but has to be extended, and often radically changed, when we go beyond that range.

In psychiatry, some of the necessary extensions and modifications of the Freudian approach were pointed out even during Freud's lifetime by his immediate followers. The psychoanalytic movement had attracted many extraordinary individuals, some of whom formed an inner circle around Freud in Vienna. There was a rich intellectual exchange and much cross-fertilization of ideas in the inner circle, but also a considerable amount of conflict, tension, and dissent. Several of Freud's prominent disciples left the movement because of basic theoretical disagreements and started their own schools, emphasizing various modifications of the Freudian model. The most famous of those psychoanalytic renegades were Jung, Adier, Reich, and Rank.

The first to leave mainstream psychoanalysis was Alfred Adier, who developed what he called Individual Psychology. He rejected the dominant role of sexuality in the Freudian theory and put crucial emphasis on the will to power and the tendency to compensate for real or imaginary inferiority. Adier's study of the individual's role in the family led him to emphasize the social roots of mental disorders, which are generally neglected in classical psychoanalysis. Moreover, he was one of the first to formulate a feminist critique of Freud's views on female psychology.28 He pointed out that what Freud called masculine and feminine psychologies were not so much rooted in biological differences between men and women but were essentially consequences of the social order prevailing under patriarchy.

The feminist critique of Freud^s ideas on women was elaborated later on by Karen Homey and has since been discussed by many authors, both within and outside the field of psychoanalysis." According to these critics, Freud took the masculine as the cultural and sexual norm and thus failed to reach a genuine understanding of the female psyche. Female sexuality in particular remained for him - in his own expressive metaphor - "the "dark continent" for psychology.'30

Wilhelm Reich broke with Freud because of conceptual differences which led him to formulate several unorthodox ideas that have had considerable influence on recent developments in psychotherapy. During his pioneering research in character analysis Reich discovered that menial attitudes and emotional experiences provoke resistances in the physical organism that are expressed in muscular patterns, resulting in what he called the 'character armor.' He also extended Freud's concept of libido by associating it with concrete energy flowing through the physical organism. Accordingly he emphasized the direct release of sexual energy in his therapy by breaking the Freudian taboo against touching the patient and by developing techniques of body work that many therapists are now elaborating upon.^1

Otto Rank left the Freudian school after formulating a theory of psychopathology that put primary emphasis on the trauma of birth and regarded many of the neurotic patterns Freud had discovered as derivatives of the anxiety experienced during the birth process. In his analytic practice Rank moved directly to the anxiety-producing issue of birth and focused his therapeutic efforts on helping the patient to relive the traumatic event, rather than remembering and analyzing it. Rank's insights into the significance of the birth trauma were truly remarkable. It was not until several decades later that they were taken up again and further elaborated by psychiatrists and psychotherapists.

Among all Freud's disciples Carl Gustav Jung is probably the one who went furthest in expanding the psychoanalytic system. He was originally Freud's favorite student and was considered the crown prince ofpsychoanalysis, but he parted with his teacher because of irreconcilable theoretical difficulties that challenged the Freudian theory at its very core. Jung's approach to psychology has had a profound impact on subsequent developments in the field and will be discussed in great detail later on/2 His basic concepts clearly transcended the mechanistic models of classical psychology and brought his science much closer to the conceptual framework of modern physics than any other psychological school. More than that, Jung was well aware that the rational approach of Freudian psychoanalysis would have to be transcended if psychologists wanted to explore the subtler aspects of the human psyche that lie far beyond our everyday experience.

The strictly rational and mechanistic approach made it especially difficult for Freud to deal with religious, or mystical, experiences. Although he showed a deep interest in religion and spirituality throughout his life, he never acknowledged mystical experience as their source. Instead he equated religion with ritual, seeing it as 'an obsessive-compulsive neurosis of mankind' that reflected unresolved conflicts from infantile stages of psychosexual development. This limitation of Freudian thought has had a strong influence on subsequent psychoanalytic practice. In the Freudian model there is no room for experiences of altered states of consciousness that challenge all the basic concepts of lassical science, Consequently, experiences of this nature, which occur spontaneously much more frequently than is commonly believed, have often been labeled as psychotic symptoms by psychiatrists who could not incorporate them into their conceptual framework."

In this area especially an awareness of modern physics could have a very salutary effect on psychotherapy. The extension of their research to atomic and subatomic phenomena has led physicists to adopt concepts that contradict all our common-sense views, as well as the basic principles of Newtonian science, but are nevertheless scientifically sound. Knowledge of these concepts, and of their similarities to those of mystical traditions, may well make it easier for psychiatrists to go beyond the traditional Freudian framework when dealing with the full range of human consciousness.