Literally, the theory of changes is the psychology of historical
change. It aims at grasping the intrinsic connection between
present and past scientific and social phenomena.
Phenomenology and Metabletics
J.H. Van Den Berg
! Newton and the phenomenon of dispersion:
! “a beam of light reduced to ‘one’ single ray” ≠ sunlight
The six principles of the metabletical method
1. The principle of non-interference
2. The principle of reality
3. The principle of change, mutability
4. The principle of simultaneity
5. The principle of the unique incident
6. The principle of emphasis, of prominency
2. The Principle of Reality
(aka the materialistic or anti-idealistic principle)
! Are the phenomena which you (the phenomenologist) are
convinced one in no way interfere with real, that is, do they
belong to a concrete, objective, material world of reality?
! The phenomenologist would prefer to bracket such a
question because she is unable to free herself from the tenet
of philosophical ideal (i.e. that the objects themselves
cannot be reached in that which they are of their own).
! The metabletician would differ in that she, in describing
phenomena, would call them reality, hard concrete reality in
the first structure of everyday realism.
3. The Principle of Change (Mutability)
! Discoveries simultaneously made by independently working scientists signifies a change
in human beings as well as a change in the world. In other words, what’s discovered did
not exist before the time of its discovery. Once discovered, it means a change has
! Could the atomic bomb have been invented in the Middle Ages?
! No. Medieval matter, even in the celestial world explosions, is not the same as modern
! Is it permissible to transport to the past the scientific knowledge of the present?
! Nothing justifies this transplantation other than the unjustified and unjustifiable
principle of constancy
! If we open a book written during the Middle Ages which contains stories about stars. We
must take these stories seriously, if ever we expect future generations to take us and our
! How does this principle affect the writing of history, in particular for that of the natural
4. The Principle of Simultaneity
! How far has one particular discovery, attributed to one
particular discoverer, not after all also been made by
other scientists and at the same time?
! Re: these “riddles,” think ‘morphic resonance’
! Two hearts, one understanding: William Harvey’s
discovery of the circulation of the blood vs. Jean
Eudes’s devotion to the Sacred Heart
5. The Principle of the Unique Incident
! Metabletics is interested in the dog; just because the
majority of people agree on something that does not
mean they are right or that their opinion is significant!
6. The Principle of Emphasis, Prominency
! When we interpret historical texts, we look at the facts
through the lens of the present. More is disclosed than
the event literally suggests. This can lead us to
emphasize things out-of-context, which is certainly the
road to error. Nonetheless, it is the investigator’s duty
to make interpretations according to the Principle of
Prominency by examining and exploring the discovered
unique incident in an attempt to expose its innermost
parts and to reveal the depth of its secrets lest we see it
more clearly as it stands all by itself
The Despotic Eye:
An Illustration of Metabletic Phenomenology and Its Implications
Robert D. Romanyshyn
! Reality is a reflection of human life
! The mirror relation between humanity and reality is
one of participation
! Four psychological themes are identified in Van den
Berg’s work: the character and place of psychological
reality, as well as the therapeutic and ethical
dimensions of metabletic psychology
The changing nature of reality:
visibility & participation
! Natural science (explanation) vs. phenomenology (description):
What reality is is inseparable from how humanity imagines or
envisions it. Humanity’s psychological life is visible as the specific
and concrete historical manifestations of an age. In other words,
that we have split matter in the twentieth century is as much a
matter of psychology as it is of physics.
! The atomic structure of matter is no more a mere discovery of what
matter as a matter of fact is in itself, than it is a creation of the mind.
This atomic structure of matter appears between humanity’s way of
looking and what is there to be seen (i.e. participation). In other
words, human life is the real-ization of the world, that is the activity
of making the reality of the world real.
The Eye of Distant Vision and the Eclipse of the Human Body
Image of Florence, circa 1359
What’s the difference?
! Linear perspective: developed by Filippo Brunelleschi and descrived in Leon
Battista Alberti’s treatise on painting, De pictura (1435-36)
! Linear perspective, which pre-supposes that space is infinite and homogenous,
relies on the notion of a vanishing point (aka the centric point, the punto di
fuga, or the point of light). It fixes in pictorial space the point toward which
parallel lines converge
! The result is a change in the relation between the see-er and the seen, between
humanity and the world, or a correlation between distance and knowledge
! That relation which the fifteenth century artist newly imagines and makes
visible before the scientist, will turn into a method, and the philosopher will
transform this relation into an epistemological principle; making the body, as
a vehicle of knowledge and as humanity’s ground in the world, dispensable
! The fourteenth century illustration of Florence seems primitive and confusing
because it is an uncentralized representation (i.e. there is no center)
! The confusion which we see reflects or mirrors the eye with which we see. The artist
was trying to represent what it felt like to walk about, experiencing structure,
almost tactilely… In other words, a see-er whose eyes are embodied
The screen, or Leonardo’s window
Alberti in 1435 described this screen (aka velo or a veil) as a “means for organizing
the visible world itself into a geometric composition, structured on evenly space
The seeing eye (the detached eye, the disincarnated eye, and the eye of singular
vision) is always veiled. Humanity sees the world through a veil of symbols or
Albrecht Dürer woodcut, 1525
What’s the problem?
! The symbolic veil has become a literal fact. It has become an object actually placed
between the see-er and the world.
! The mind as a symbolic veil?
! The veil has become literal in a specific way, as a window and as such it has invited the
see-er to gaze upon the world as if he were now an outside looking in.
! Alberti’s velo is not as a window a transparent piece of glass, but rather it is a grid which
is mathematical and as such it invites the see-er to look at it rather than through it. So it’s
more like a magic glass which projects a world to be seen. We may even call this magic
window the first ‘movie projector’
! The velo, portrayed in Dürer’s woodcut, intends to squeeze the world into the eye and in
this respect the artist already anticipates that narrowing of vision by which Newton will
squeeze color out of the light of day (and out of the life of things).
! Due to the veil of separation, distance, and reduction… the eye has now become the
measure of the world.
Aesthetics, the Rule of Third, and the Golden
Two peculiar features of this eye,
and the psychology of infinite distance
! It is an eye, a singular eye, a seeing which is a monocular vision
! It is an eye which is fixed, a static eye
! This inaugurates a psychology of infinite distance, whose precondition is a denial of the
! In 1543, Copernicus will ask us to see a moving earth with this eye of distant vision
! Vesalius in the same year will portray for us what this discarded body has become: a
corpse, itself an object of vision
! Brunelleschi will father that eye, but after him Galileo and a Descartes will become
inevitable. Brunelleschi will inaugurate that vision, but after him Copernicus and
Vesalius, Harvey and Newton, will become psychological necessities.
! The living eye will be studied by Descartes from the distance of death
! The fixed and singular eye of distant vision with its eclipse of the body is anticipated in
the canvas of linear perspective in the 15th century
Tension between the eye of distant vision and the
The background space is not
executed in linear perspective
style even though the painting
dates from same year as
Brunelleschi’s experiment (1425).
The Virgin’s body appears too
large (an index of her
importance) but it is not accurate
in terms of its size and ratio in
relation the background, if we
are to think mathematically &
Jan Van Eyck’s Maddona in the Church, 1430
Horizon Line Isocephaly (HLI):
body-less heads; detached distant eyes
“Aligning the heads of
all standing figures both
in the foreground and
far distance along a
common horizon line…”
The vanishing point is the
point at an infinite
distance where all
parallel lines meet. As
figures are placed closer
to the vanishing point,
the body except for the
head shrinks in
Linear perspective drawing with horizon
“Men without chests” – C.S. Lewis
! This principle of HLI places us upon the path which
leads to the Cartesian cogito
! Leonardo da Vinci’s praise of the eye in the context of
movement: “This eye carries men to different parts of
the world.” The eye now carries the body; the body no
longer carries the eyes
! Since the 15th century, we have increasingly moved over
the face of the earth, going farther and faster, but as we
have done so, we have increasingly lost touch with the
earth over which we have moved
Two reflections of the despotic eye of distant
vision in 15th century life
! 1400: the arrival in Florence of Ptolemy’s Geographia
changed the art of map making (i.e. good angle,
direction and distance vs. Giotto’s art and portolan
Two reflections (cont’d)
! 1454: the appearance of the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed in the
West by the process of moveable type that offers a form of communication
which is predominantly visual and it makes possible and even demands a fixed
point of view.
! The printed page tended to increase silent reading fostering the new sense of
distance and isolation
! The typographic man is an “outsider” according to McLuhan. The silent
reader is like the artist on the hill above and beyond the city (i.e. bird’s-eye
! The artist and the reader share silence, which is the condition. The
consequence of that new vision is increase in the distance between humanity
and the world.
! What are the implications of this in the context of capitalism and our current
relationship as human beings with nature and with one another worldwide?
Psychological reality is a metaphorical reality
! Reality is mutable: between man and world reality changes.
! The Florence of 1359 and that of 1480 are different cities. The city has
changed. And yet, it is the same city. It is Florence.
! The principle of mutability presents a paradoxical picture of reality: a thing is
both what it is and not what it is.
! The real is a relation between the see-er and the seen. If we change the way we
see (e.g. the fixed eye of distant vision), what we see changes, too.
! Metabletics leads to metaphorics. The changing nature of reality and
humanity rests upon the participatory relation between them.
! The key is non-interference or non-judgment. In other words, pure experience.
Psychological reality is visible as world
! If the character of psychological experience is metaphorical,
its place is the changing world.
! Psychopathology is an illness of not only the mind, but also
of the world and of the body.
! Psychology as a natural science is historical and psychological
and not purely empirical.
! Metabletics is a meta-psychology: a psychology of psychology
or a psychotherapy of modern psychology and a
psychotherapy of modern culture as a whole. In other words,
a cultural therapeutics.
Metabletic phenomenology as a cultural
! After Brunelleschi’s experiment with LP in the 15th century, a Galileo and a Descartes
became psychologically necessary.
! “At the moment that history comes into being, everything is certain.” “Nothing is
certain.” Or everything is at that moment open. Metabletic phenomenology situates
itself between these two moments of the uncertain or the open and the necessary.
! In the movement between these two moments, MP remembers that what we experience
as the world is also how we experience the world. The recognition that the visible is also a
! MP in its reflections on the cultural-historical world as the field of human psychological
life recovers the reflections of the see-er in the seen. This work of recovery, of re-
membering, of de-literalizing; this work of restoring the how to the what is the work of
therapy, of cultural therapeutics.
! The cultural world from which we seem to be apart is in fact a part of us, a visible
expression of a story originated by us and continuing today.
! The psychotherapist hears the patient speaking of himself in speaking of his world.
! Neuroses as “socioses” because human life is radically social. The social-cultural world is
the field of human psychological life.
Metabletic phenomenology as an ethical
! We are responsible for what we see and what we say.
! We are responsible for our visions which become
incarnated as the visible cultural world.
! We are responsible for the ways in which we imagine,
dream, envision, and build the world.
! Frankenstein as a prophetic warning.
The creature created by Frankenstein is a monster precisely
because he has been abandoned by his creators.
What are the effects of the vision of the despotic eye in the
context of our current technological world?
Mirror and Metaphor
Images and Stories of Psychological Life
Robert D. Romanyshyn
Psychology and the Metaphor of Science
“In the Middle of Things”
! The term psychology is born in the 16th century. Philipp Melanchthon
[1497-1560] is the first one to use the word to describe a separate field of
study. Something as old as humanity is first named in modern times.
! The multiplicity of psychological life (as studied through metaphysics, logic, and
physics) gives way to the unity of psychology. It becomes a study of mind vs. that of
soul. Psychology becomes free from the clutches of philosophy.
! In the language of alchemy, which [James] Hillman regards as “the depth
psychology of an earlier age,” psychological life is essentially a mass of
confusion, a “mass confusa.” In this context, it is a positive confusion.
! Confusion has a place in psychological life. Psychological life is confusion. It is
not an error to be corrected (or explained), but a madness to be cured (or
! Confusion means “to our together.” It suggests a blending or mixing of things.
What’s in a name?
! The science of psychology becomes a historical appearance of
psychological life, the way in which psychological life appears in
modern times. Psychology becomes the modern name, and face, of
human psychological life.
! In the 16th century a positive confusion of studies pertaining to
the soul becomes a study of mind, and with this change a new
dream of human existence is born. The brief history of psychology
as a science is a continuation of this dream. It is a cultural dream
tied up with the modern history of things and the human body.
The Faustian character of this cultural dream made psychological
life bargain away its soul to become a science of mental life then a
science of behavior then through the skepticism of Locke and
Hume it loses its mind (in addition to its lost soul) till it finally
loses its consciousness in a consulting room in Vienna in the 19th
! The long past of confusion is indicative of the indirect character of
! Psychology as a science is a historical appearance of psychological
life. It is the reflection of psychological life in modern time.
! The short history of psychology tends to conceal more than reveal
the long past of psychological life.
! What does it mean to understand psychological life as a reality of
! What are the specific features of psychological life in psychology?
! What does the discipline of psychology conceal of psychological
The Mirror Reflection
! Where is the reflection that I see?
! The reflection is not on the glass any more than it is in
! The reflection (the explanation) vs. the experience of
the reflection (the description)
! Taxi Driver.
! The confusion between the see-er and the seen,
the touching and the touched, the listener and
the speaker is a positive phenomenon according
to MP, which he calls chiasm.
! Who is in the reflection?
! The reflection “de-realizes” the reflected.
! The mirror reflection as a double vs. as a figure
in a story
! Thursday’s Child.
! The one who sees through the reflection only a
duplicate of himself on this of the mirror is the one
who tells the tale of science.
! The reflection as a figure in a story infects the
reflected, and the one who sees the reflection is caught
up in the story. The reflection “de-realizes” the
reflected as it transforms the one who is on this side of
the mirror into a character in the tale.
Two features about the reflection
! The mirror experience illustrates that the reflection matters.
The image counts. It has weight.
! The example indicates that the reflection also transforms
the reflected. The image de-realizes the reflected. It refigures
! The reflection is always in need of being recovered from the
forgetfulness of habit and routine, but it is also always
destined to be re-covered (covered over) again.
The Immaterial reflection matters
! What does it mean to refuse the placement of psychological
life on the other side of the empirically real and to insist that
psychological life shows itself through and is a deepening
and re-figuring of the empirical world?
! What is the place of the reflection in relation to persons
! What is the place of psychological life in relation to persons
! Our psychological life is not in things, or because of them, it
is given through them.
! Psychological life is and is not the empirical world.
! In place of dualism (or reductionism), the paradox offers a difference. The
relation of difference exists in physics as well, in addition to psychological life,
between classical and modern physics.
! “Leibniz logic loop”: the analysis of the physical world, pursued to sufficient
depth will lead back in some now-hidden way to man himself.
! The person (the life of the ego) in psychological life vs. a figure in a tale.
Depth psychology recognizes that human psychological life is not identical to
the life of the person. There are empirical reality and psychological reality,
what should be their ideal relation?
! Psychological life is a third reality between persons and things, man and
world, subject and object, a story appears. The story which appears is the
appearance of psychological life. It is a reality of reflection, as an image, it is
neither subjective nor objective. Perhaps, inter-subjective?
The reflection re-figures the person
! Person is a philosophical notion; figure is psychological.
! If person has a logical primacy, figure has a psycho-logical one.
! Psychological life lies between fact and fiction when it comes to autobiography.
Influences and archetypes as figures.
! If psychology is to be psychological it must respect the difference between persons
(empirical) and figures (psychological). It is a difference which the fantasy or dream of
scientific psychology conceals.
! Recovered means only “found again” but also “hidden again.” The mirror reflection
whose significance is recovered must eventually be abandoned in order that one may
pursue the tasks of the day.
! Psychological life requires a discipline which is redone in
every age. As the world changes, so does psychological life
! Things of the world and the human body changes and the
way in which psychological life reveals and conceals itself
changes. So it’s a dynamic process.
! What does it mean to understand psychological life as a
reality of reflection?
! A recovery of how psychological dimension of human life
matters by re-figuring the world of fact as story and the person
as a figure in a tale
Mona Lisa’s smile is the face of modern
Can the visible spectrum be equated with the
Explanation (natural science) vs. description or experience (phenomenology)
! How to truly listen
! Embodiment and listening with one’s body as a whole
and not just with one’s ears
Literalization and the psychology of nightmare
! The physiology of the nightmare does not equal the experience of it.
! The increased heart rate is not the dreaming figure’s panic. On the contrary, it is when the figure is
fearful, when the dream is in a fearful world, that the heart rate increases.
! Psychology focuses on the events and (in)tends to see the experience in them. For psychology these
events are the facts of the experience. They are the literal transcription of the experience. They are the
date of psychology. They are psychology’s facts. The events are seen through the experience and not
the other way around.
! Psychology’s focus on nightmare is originally metaphorical, and its date are not facts but metaphors.
Focusing on what it sees, it forgets how it sees. And in this forgetfulness what originally matters
metaphorically is taken literally.
! The physiological length of a nightmare is less than one minute vs. the psychological length
! Literalization and interiorization are concealments of psychological life which are revealed.
! If psychological life is revealed in psychology as interior, literal fact, then what is conceal in this
revelation? What does the discipline of psychology conceal of psychology life?
Metabletics in the Light of Indo-Tibetan
Padmasambhava’s handprint in stone
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