Harville and Helen’s new book Doing Imago Relationship Therapy in the Space Between, A Clinician’s Guide. My major as an undergraduate was Philosophy and English. I feel a bit like I’m back in one of my philosophy classes working through this book. It is heavy sledding but a compelling read. What they are doing is helping the readers see (or fore see) a radical change or shift, in world view.
The first two chapters look at what they term Imago “metatheory”. Imago was born in the early 1970”s in what they will call the old world view which we are all more familiar with. This book is situating Imago in the new worldview that is emerging and takes a more relational focus. “Both (worldviews) of them are rooted in physics. The transition from our current worldview to a new worldview is a shift from classical mechanics to quantum physics.” P. 15
A Historical Approach
Taking an historical approach they state: “Over the course of our history, there have been only three views of the nature of physical reality: Ptolemaic cosmology, Newtonian atomism, and currently, quantum mechanics.” Pp. 19-20.
I love their description of Ptolemy’s (100-170 AD., the world’s first physicist} worldview: “The Earth was considered the second story of a three storied universe. Human beings lived on the middle floor of this universe, and all the heavenly bodies revolved around them. The upper floor was occupied by some sort of transcendent energy, and the lower floor was reserved for people who were out of favor with the occupant of the top floor.” P. 20 The resulting reality from this world view is what historically lasted for over 1000 years.
“Since this (Ptolemy’s) story is a product of the agrarian age, these authorities owned all the land and animals and also humans, whom they turned into serfs whose responsibilities were to obey, serve, and sacrifice for the political and religious leaders who identified themselves as representatives of the transcendent powers on the third floor.” P. 20
Astronomers Copernicus and Galileo
Copernicus and Galileo, both astronomers, came along in the 16th century and challenged this worldview (the Roman Church did not take kindly to this challenge) when they showed the universe was not three storied with Earth at the center.
Sir Isaac Newton in the 17th century, the world’s next great physicist, “proposed a new picture of the universe which became a new lens through which to look at the human situation.” P.21
“Newton’s separate, unchangeable, and autonomous atom was used in the 18th century by the social sciences as the model for the construction of an autonomous “self”. This was independent and self-sufficient, to replace the shackled “serf” of the middle Ages, who neither belonged to themselves nor had any freedoms. “p.21
Darwin and Descartes
Descartes and Darwin added to this world view. “The concept of the human as a self that was separate and isolated became the foundational cultural value for whom all the institutions of western civilization were designed to protect and promote. This includes psychology and psychotherapy.”p.22
Freud then, using this world view focused on the psychological self, whose primary feature was an inner world (the unconscious, dreams, etc.) “creating for the first time in human history the SPACE-WITHIN as the location of reality.” While acknowledging Freud’s focus on the psychological self, in tracing the history of psychology from Freud and the post Freudians to now, the authors do find a relational thread, even in Freud’s writings, but even more so in the history of psychology leading up to the third world view – that of quantum mechanics.
Years ago, from a theological perspective, a book entitled Tomorrows Catholic by Michael Morwood, challenged my own world view or, my faith view, might be a more accurate description. Morwood shared how, when the Bible was written, the earth was seen as the center of the universe. Then, Galileo and Copernicus showed that, not the earth, but the sun was at the center of our solar system. Today, we know that our earth and sun are just a tiny speck in the larger universe. He asked the question: If you made our solar system – the sun, earth and planets – the size of a postage stamp, what would be the size of the Milky Way, our galaxy? His answer. The size of Australia. And there are a billion other galaxies. That was a challenge to my concept of God for sure.
Rethinking My World View
Harville and Helen are challenging me to rethink my world view in relation to psychology. “Just as the substantial self of psychotherapy was rooted in the atom of classical physics, we need a new physics for the self as relationship. Quantum field theory comes to the rescue. Its theses that interconnectivity is the nature of nature provides the scientific basis for the self as relationship, and that as the bridge to the quantum self and, by extension, lays a quantum foundation for revisioning couplehood, and for positing our cosmic identity.” P. 34
As I said: “Heavy sledding”. To be continued