Moreno on studying society.


The dynamic logic of social relations is particularly intricate and has remained unconscious with Man because of his maximal proximity and involvement in his own situation. For millennia therefore, the activities of human society perhaps have been a greater mystery to him than every other part of the universe. Because of their greater distance from him he could see the movement of the stars and planets, or the life of the plants
and animals, more objectively. Therefore, the science of human society is today hardly as far developed as physics and astronomy were in the minds of Democritus and Ptolemy. It takes enormous sacrifice and discipline to view and accept himself as he is as an individual man, the structure of the individual psyche, its psychodynamics; but the degree of invisibility of the structure of human society, of its sociodynamics, is much greater than that of the single individual. The effort of becoming objective toward the socius encounters many more obstacles than to be objective toward his own individual mind. The involvement of the ego he can still grasp, perhaps he can pretend to know it because it operates within him. The involvement of the socius, however, he cannot pretend to know as it operates outside of him; but it is an outside to which he is inescapably tied.


The same paragraph appears in a different context in Who Shall Survive? P73.

Here are my thoughts about  this passage which I think has some important concepts and raises a question for another post:

    • “The dynamic logic of social relations is particularly intricate”

This might sound trite, but it shows how he is focused on the relationship, not the individual. Not like Freud, Jung and all those on that tree of thought, who were predominantly individualists, in theory and practice. And note the  words dynamic logic. Dynamic, moving changing, alive, and logic, something that makes sense, that can be grasped. Moreno wrote this in 1949 so this is written at the time of the upsurge of systems theory, cybernetics and the Macey conferences in New York. Maybe he was influenced by the zeitgeist of the time, or influenced it.

    • “…remained unconscious with Man because of his maximal proximity and involvement in his own situation.”


  • Unconscious. He uses the word unashamedly even though he is equally unashamedly anti Freud later in the same essay. The words maximal proximity are nice. McLuhan used the analogy of a fish not knowing what water is. It is because of the water’s maximal proximity to the fish. While so much is made of the bias of maximal proximity we see that for the study of humans Moreno turns this problem into the crucial advantage. Science is turned on its head, the group studies itself. Of course! Humans are explorers of space, of stuff outside of us, minimal proximity, so to study ourselves we have to make that inescapable maximal proximity a feature of the work.
    • “… the degree of invisibility of the structure of human society, of its sociodynamics, is much greater than that of the single individual. The effort of becoming objective toward the socius encounters many more obstacles…”


    The invisibility of the structure of human society is a phenomena.  Invisibility … we can see people, but not ‘systems’. someone famously said “you can’t kiss a system”.  Now the meditation on Moreno’s writing here gets interesting… note the title of the section:  The Material Aspect of the Social Situation.  So does the relationship, the network, have a material aspect?  What does that look like?  You can see two things but the relationship between them is a space.  The space between is a cherished notion in Imago Relationship Therapy.  I’m not sure how Moreno resolves these questions about the material aspect.  (I think I heard Timothy Morton talk sense on this. For another post.)

    The socius.   Another potent word.  He uses it as if there is a reality that exists. I think of his other wording: the sociometric matrix as being somewhat similar, if not the same.  The socius is similar and just as slippery as ‘the psyche’.

    •  “The involvement of the ego he can still grasp, perhaps he can pretend
             to know it because it operates within him.”

Note the word pretend. For Moreno it’s all roles. There really is no inner even though he uses that language here.


I’m looking forward to writing another post  on the whole section on the material aspect of relationship


“Origins of Encounter and Encounter Groups” by J.L. And Zerka Moreno

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I managed to get hold of a monograph, Origins of Encounter and Encounter groups. (Moreno & Moreno, 1970). It is a stimulating read. I have just created three separate posts.

Balancing openness with the integrity of the psychodrama method.

Moreno and social science
This monograph has a concise statement that I have not seen before.

This is obviously the main theme of the monograph. Useful. Encounter is so central to Moreno’s opus, but it has not been developed well in practice. It was railroaded by the ‘encounter’ movement.

Moreno, J. L., & Moreno, Z. T. (1970). Origins of encounter and encounter groups (Psychodrama and group psychotherapy monographs, no. 45). Beacon House.

Moreno and social science

This is the second of three posts based on the monograph “Origins of Encounter and Encounter Groups” by J.L. And Zerka Moreno

I’ve read and written extensively on Moreno’s scientific methods. This is a concise statement from the Encounter Monograph I have not seen before.

Moreno’s Ideas of a Science of Human Relations

An adequate science of human relations did not exist before the advent of sociometry. *

“Comte’s Hierarchy of the Sciences, 1) mathematics, 2) astronomy, 3) physics, 4) chemistry, 5) biology, and 6) sociology, has become obsolete. His assumption that all sciences can be treated by the same basic methodology is an error. The social sciences need—at least in their crucial dimension—different methods of approach. The crux of the ontology of science is the status of the ‘research objects.’ Their status is not uniform in all sciences. There is a group of sciences like astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology in which the research objects are always mere ‘objects’. Their actions speak for themselves and the generalizations concluded from them are not threatened by any metaphysical protest or social revolution of their kind.

Then there is another group of sciences, the social sciences. It is because of a chronic inertia in their development that sociometry has raised the question: how are social sciences possible? It has found that the social sciences like psychology, sociology, and anthropology require that its objects be given ‘research status’ and a certain degree of scientific authority in order to raise their level from a pseudo objective discipline to a. science which operates on the highest level of its material dynamics. It accomplishes this aim by considering the research objects not only as objects but also as research actors, not only as objects of observation and manipulation but as co-scientists and co-producers in the experimental design they are going to set up.” Our two chief experimental designs are sociometry and psychodrama.

* J.L. Moreno, Who Shall Survive?, 1934 and 1953. p. 63-64.

(Moreno & Moreno, 1970)

Moreno, J. L., & Moreno, Z. T. (1970). Origins of Encounter and Encounter Groups (Psychodrama and group psychotherapy monographs, no. 45). Beacon House.

Why are psychological methods often known by the names their founders?

Freud, Moreno, Jung… methods are known by their founders.

This is because they are working in the realm of relationships. They are included in the science.

They are not working with things.

Marx is the same.

The objective thing they are working with is not objective in the way things are – at least things on the surface are objects.

In so far as we are part of such a modality we are part of a community around that person. We are part of a community of practice. A language community.

The Buddhists have lineage, so do psychologists but we don’t acknowledge that so easily.

It would be better to acknowledge our whakapapa in the psychological realms of our work in a more conscious way.

Later: Sunday, 7 January, 2018 

Love that idea of our psychological whakapapa.  Maybe there is a whakapapa of science too?


I think I’d like to research and rewrite the Moreno one.  I think it is not so much existential as relational .

A generally semantic journey

I have enjoyed some of the writing and audio from Al Turtle a relationship therapist. I get an RSS feed of his updates and today found a link to his favourite books. Great idea!

I found an ebook of A. E. Van Vogt’s The World of Null-A, non-Aristotelian logic in SF form. I see that this is not a one-off in Al’s list! He is into General Semantics – intrigued I went off on a search trail.

Continue reading “A generally semantic journey”

Dr. Rory Remer

I am delighted to have discovered Rory Remer’s site. A Psychodramatist, TEP. Now more focussed on Chaos theory and how it leads to other psychotherapeutic modalities.

Of particular interest are these papers:

An Introduction to Chaos Theory for Psychodramatists

The interesting thing is that here, for the first time I have seen someone make the same point I have in my Psychodrama Thesis and in my Moreno & Scientific Method paper. The fractal nature of the systems.

Blinded By The Light
A critique of “evidence based” practice.

Gender Issues
Has a link to a good article “Did I Hear You? What Are You Really Saying?” (not by him but Denise Twohey and Antoinette L. James University of North Dakota)

And an interesting couple of pages on supervision.

I want to read more some of this carefully!


I am intrigued by the parallel between the physics of particles/waves that change depending on the observer, and the psychotherapy process.

Once an observer is introduced we change the nature of the psychotherapy. The very stuff we grapple with in a diad, trust, engagement, transference are impacted in many ways if there is a third party observer. All the relationship stuff of the psychotherapy would be present with the observer as well. In addition what happens to the unconscious processes as a result of the invitation, allowed by the therapist, on the work with the therapist?

In a brief conversation today with colleagues I noted two comments that I’d like to reflect on more.

“Even inside the group there are things we can’t see.” (A)

And the other…

“Deciding to LOOK at the process changes the group as well, even when the observers are all members.” (G)


It might be useful to see how these observations relate to Moreno’s “Rules” of sociometry, which is a form of research relying on practice based evidence. I’ll quote my summary of them.

  1. Participants are informed, ready, willing and able to participate.
  2. Participants in the group are “researchers”, and the leader is also a participant.
  3. Participation is done in action. Learning is experiential, it is learning by doing.
  4. There is acknowledgment of the difference between process dynamics and the manifest content. To quote Moreno: “there is a deep discrepancy between the official and the secret behaviour of members”. (1951:39) Moreno advocates that before any “social program” can be proposed, the director has to “take into account the actual constitution of the group.” (ibid)
  5. Rule of adequate motivation: “Every participant should feel about the experiment that it is in his (or her) own cause . . . that it is an opportunity for him (or her) to become an active agent in matters concerning his (or her) life situation.” (ibid)
  6. Rule of “gradual” inclusion of all extraneous criteria. Moreno speaks here of “the slow dialectic process of the sociometric experiment”.

References are to: Moreno, J. L., 1951, Sociometry, Experimental Method and the Science of Society . Beacon House, Beacon, New York. Page 31