*

JACOB L. MORENO AND PSYCHODRAMA

Dane Rudhyar

A number of years ago, a few young people recently out of college became close friends of mine and talked very frankly about the problems of their youth. They had been to "progressive schools"; their parents were busy professional men and women in most cases; several had experienced homes broken by divorce; they had been left entirely free — free to express themselves, to experiment with almost every conceivable "fact of life." They had been so free, indeed, that I found, to my astonishment, that much of their later adolescence had been passed devising various kinds regulations to limit this freedom, the responsibility and hazards of which they could not or did not dare to bear.

 

I was astonished because, born as I was in the Europe of the late nineties, I grew up in the very opposite atmosphere. My generation, and those before mine, passionately sought to break away from the bondage of family patterns, of social and religious traditions, even of European culture Christianity. Our problem was how to achieve freedom; no cost — to ourselves as well as to those around us — seemed too great.

 

The difference in the psychological situation of youth, before and after the start of the World War era, is of the greatest significance. It provides a background for the discussion of a profound change that has been gradually taking place during the last decade in the field of psychotherapy — that is, with regard to the problem of curing the mental-emotional ills of human beings. Much of the responsibility for this change of approach rests upon the broad shoulders and dynamic mind of Jacob L. Moreno. Therefore, in this chapter, I will briefly outline some the main aspects of the "creative revolution" he led in the fields of psychology and sociology and endeavor to relate them to some of the psychological characteristics of his birth-chart.

 

When Sigmund Freud publicized the concepts and techniques of psychoanalysis in Vienna, the Western world was still struggling out of the Victorian age and its hypocrisy, self-satisfied pomposity, and rationalistic, greedy materialism. When, in 1921, Jacob Moreno began to promote, also in Vienna, his action actional-creative and socially oriented ideals and methods of psychotherapy (psycho-drama, sociodrama, group psychotherapy, etc.), he was addressing himself to a generation which had seen its past way of life shattered by World War I and which, in feverish excitement, was challenged to build a new world. This generation proved unable to meet the challenge effectively because its members, while set theoretically "free," did not dare to be truly "creative" in a socially oriented and organic manner. Whatever creativity there was — and there was much in the defeated Germanic nations — exploded primarily into anarchic self-glorification and irrational (rather than suprarational, spirit-illumined, and integrated) ways.

In 1900, Freud had to deal with individuals whose strenuous emotional attempts to become free from an obsolete and rigid social order produced in them psychological shocks, wounds, and malformations — neuroses or psychoses. These people were members of a society which had tried to dam up the root powers of life, frustrating as well the creative rhythm of the human spirit. Thus, man had only his middle-class ego left — that is, all that remained was the structure of his own adaptations to a society which was itself soulless and materialistic.

Freud was what I have called a "soul surgeon." His use of the "psychoanalytic couch" with the patient lying down as if ready for a surgical operation, his way of probing through associational materials as with a sharp knife, dextrous pincers, and blood-absorbent gauze (transference), his techniques and his reliance (after the psychoanalytic "operation") upon the patient's will-to-sanity (the circulatory system of the psyche) to somehow build up new soul tissues — all are typical of a surgical approach. Freudian psychoanalysis is clinical; it was born of the characteristically materialistic point of view of the century which produced Feuchner, Marx, and Darwin. His sociological approach was, in a sense, undeveloped; when he thought of group psychology, he thought of a person's relationships to other individuals primarily in terms of the trouble these relationships cause: "In the individual mental life, someone else is invariably involved, as a model, as an object, as an opponent" (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego). In other words, Freud saw society as something already made, and the individual could only struggle against it, be hurt by it, and (after analysis) become adjusted to it — all for the sake of maximum comfort and happiness.

 

Dr. Moreno's view was an entirely different one. For him, society is in the making; we are all challenged to build its future form, and we can do so only as creative participants in a group activity which should be constant, ubiquitous, and protean (multi-formed). Everyday, everywhere, and in myriads of ways, the individual must be co-creative with other individuals if he is to be psychosomatically healthy and if society is to be a wholesome and integrated interplay of group activities, geared to the optimum development of creative, God-expressing freedom. This is the basic thread which runs through the many books and activities of the dynamic, challenging, outspoken, and revolutionary person, Dr. Jacob Moreno. He began life with his mind filled with religious ideals — and his earliest books are glowing attempts to reformulate traditional Western ideas of God. They sing of a God to be experienced as a central and omnipresent creative Reality, active in every moment, a God forever challenging to rebirth all those who cling to old social and cultural forms. Moreno's early writings reveal to us a God who not only creates as Father, Author, and Source of the creative potency in every movement, but who re-creates the world in a symbolical "turn-back" of imagination and enacted fantasy. In so doing, He frees Himself and His creation from the fate inherent in all complex group activity.

This glorification of the creative potency of every moment is not an entirely new idea in philosophy; but with Moreno, it took on a new meaning, for he translated it into terms of a practical and purposeful regeneration of a humanity which has left the archaic rituals of ancient society only to become bound, even more meaninglessly, to the modern rituals of mass-production and mass-distribution. Dr. Moreno's fertile mind was adept at devising new techniques and instrumentalities for the use of our technique-worshipping and science-haunted generations. The very complex and challenging methods of actional therapy covered by the broad term psychodrama, with all its physical and psychological devices, constitute a means for enabling individuals to re-enact, in a specialized and purposeful setting, those "moments" of their lives in which, because they failed to let the creative power within them act, they built their own chains, sealed their own fate, and set in motion their frustrations and illnesses.

A description of the psychodramatic process at work is obviously far beyond the scope of this chapter. The psychodrama is a world in itself; to operate successfully in and with it (whether as "director," "auxiliary ego," or "double") requires not only skill and training, but an intuitive faculty and a profound sense of human sympathy, not easily taught in college courses to self-consciously intellectual men and women. Briefly, however, a patient is made to re-experience familiar situations in actional awareness. Thus, he is given a chance to rebuild his world — not against his abnormal fantasies, but through them. The essential points are:

1. Action, on a circular stage with several levels, replaces the introspection fostered in many techniques by the patient's lying on a couch or sitting relaxed in a comfortable chair;

 

2. The doctor-patient relationship ("monovalent" relationship) is transformed into a multivalent group relationship, in which the patient finds himself challenged not merely to "understand" himself, but to release what he, as it were, has leased to fate and to the automatic compulsions of complexes and the like; and

 

3. Verbal and largely symbolical communication (as in depth psychology) is broadened to become more total interaction between real persons. Through these enacted relationships, the personality comes to see itself less and less as a special product of circumstances, and more and more as a participant in a social process which, on the psychodramatic stage, constantly presents new opportunities to regain the lost touch with the creative power within.

 

It is because this touch was relatively or temporarily lost under some harsh confrontation that the person began to be emotionally and mentally ill. No "reduction" analysis of symptoms can ever guarantee that it will lead to the regaining of a renewed contact with the creative force. The analyzed patient may be able to function more happily and "normally," with less strain and a clearer sense of how to "adjust" to a society which he may learn to tolerate better; but is this real sanity?

 

I believe Dr. Moreno would agree with my often-repeated statement that unless a person who has passed through the crisis of temporary insanity emerges from it a greater person than before, the whole experience, including the so-called "cure," falls short of any spiritual purpose. It is all in vain — as many "victorious" wars are fought in vain and become spiritual defeats. What people and nations need most today is a way to emerge from crises, illness, and insanity with the experience of being greater, freer, more purposeful, more vibrant, more loving, more "human" because of these crises. This is what Dr. Moreno tried to teach after the war crisis and the revolution had led to no real creative rebirth of society. This is the deeper meaning of his action therapy, his stress upon the conscious use, measurement, and creative arousal of group relationship (sociometry).

 

Dr. J. L. Moreno was born (May 19, 1892, around 4 A.M.),(1) by a curious symbolism of destiny, on a boat on the Black Sea on its way to Rumania, where he lived for a few years. As a child, he was brought to Vienna, the city which was then witnessing the rise of Freud and the development of psychoanalysis. Beginning in early childhood, Moreno showed signs of a deeply religious temperament, as well as a passionate interest in acting out his fantasies. Before he was 20, he was gathering around him, in Vienna's parks, groups of children to whom he would tell and act out all kinds of imaginary tales. He opened a theatre for children, and, at the same time, he began his medical studies, graduating as a doctor of medicine in 1917. In 1919 he became superintendent of Mitterndorf State Hospital near Vienna.

It seems that he then decided that his religious and mystical experiences — which led him to a fresh and vivid approach to the nature and meaning of God — could best form the foundation of a new attitude toward the problem of healing human minds and souls. Led by his demand for spontaneity and creativity — the two pillars of his world-view — he developed the "Impromptu Theatre" in 1921, with the goal of establishing a stage on which individuals could act out their own and the world's problems in the absolute freedom of improvisation and in complete disregard for traditional plots, or what he called "cultural conserves." He built a circular stage that was raised above and surrounded by the spectators-participants. The performances were unique and striking, and many Viennese, yearning for a social and cultural renascence, attended. Soon, however, the theatrical gave way to the therapeutic, and the psychodrama was born. Thus was started the great psychotherapeutic revolution which has since changed most methods of psychiatry and psychology in America and throughout the world.

Dr. Moreno came to New York in 1925, and settled there in 1927 at the age of 35. He established his reputation as a challenger of the techniques of Freudian psychoanalysis. He strenuously opposed the Freudian interpretation of genius in terms of psychoanalysis and the "debunking" of great artists and religious leaders. He stressed the idea that where truly creative forces are active, the concepts of Freud became entirely inadequate and invalid. To Freud's essential pessimism and materialism, Moreno responded with a socially-oriented, spiritually healthy, "Promethean" attitude of creative optimism. He stood for action-therapy as opposed to the purely verbal, introspective approach of psychoanalysis. He insisted on transforming the couch into the stage — the psychodramatic stage on which individuals, defeated in the activities of everyday life, could regain faith in their own powers, their spontaneity and creativity, by acting out their problems, fears, dreams, and the frustrating experiences at the root of their maladjustments.

 

Moreno's methods removed psychotherapy from the realm of the isolated individual "confessing" to the more or less hidden and impersonal analyst, and transferred it to the open sphere of social and group activity. His approach indicates a realization that the maladjusted individual is a participant in a group-life (family, etc.) in which he has failed. The human relationships of this group life have confronted him with pressures, conflicts, attacks, or shocks that he could not withstand without fear, soul-paralysis, or collapse. The individual can therefore never really be well and healthy as a positive force in society until he learns to act freely and spontaneously as a member of a group — that is, from the creative center of his personality.

 

The complex techniques of the psychodrama — complex in spite of their apparent simplicity and seemingly improvisational character — were devised by Moreno to progressively lead the maladjusted or sick personality to actional participation in a group. First, the patient himself summons forth a group of specially trained helpers ("auxiliary egos" as Moreno called them); later, the group may be made up of his own relatives or associates who directly or indirectly participate in the healing process.

 

From the idea of healing individuals, Dr. Moreno was inevitably led to the concept of healing society. But here he refused to indulge in large-scale social schemes, reform programs, or ideological systems. Society he realized, is in the making the very moment a few people act together and build (even unconsciously) a web of actional and feeling relationships — which he called a "social atom." Every individual is asked by life to be a builder of the future society, to improve upon its group-patterns of relationship, upon the quality of its group-communications and group-interchanges. Operating in many and varied ways, this act of being co-creative with other individuals is the very warp and woof of a psychosomatically healthy society. All social, political, and economic actions or programs succeed or fail, sooner or later, according to the extent group relationships are harmonious and creative interchanges or stress competitive conflicts, fear, or greed.

 

Moreno's contribution to this sociological problem is the new science "sociometry," the principles of which were formulated in his book, Who Shall Survive? A New Approach to the Problem of Human Interelations (1934). Through the use of "sociograms" and numerous other tests, the structure of interpersonal relationships (attraction, repulsion, indifference) within the group is determined; whoever has to deal with the group can learn how to intelligently and effectively approach the group as a whole through its key individuals. This is highly important in a democratic society in which individuals and their ideas or personal decisions are (at least theoretically) the foundations of any group activity.

 

America, open to such psychological and sociological innovations, and eager for them, was to prove Moreno's initial field of achievement. He released into it his enormous vitality, his enthusiasm and one-pointedness, all the challenging power of a dominant planetary cross in fixed, energy-focusing zodiacal signs. At his birth, the Sun was at 28° Taurus, conjunct the Pleiades (stars of great mystic significance). The north node was close to the ascendant; Mercury was above it, in exact opposition to Uranus and square a tenth-house Mars in Aquarius. The Aquarian Moon in the house of social ideals and reform squared the Sun; the twelfth-house Jupiter squared Venus in Cancer, with the Sun in semi-square to both. In contrast, Mars was trine a nearly exact conjunction of Neptune and Pluto in the first house. The Sun was trine a sixth-house Saturn in Virgo. Several powerful quintiles, semi-quintiles, and bi-quintiles can be seen as clear indications of Moreno's potential "genius" and of his future emphasis upon creativity.

 

 

The chart, however, is not a peaceful one. Saturn and Uranus, both retrograde, are isolated in the sixth house, while all other planets are in the eastern hemisphere. This suggests deep inner conflicts and the possibility of psychosomatic disturbances. However, the exact opposition of Mercury and Uranus focalizes the conflict on a potentially creative mental-intuitive level, and the T-square of Mars to both Mercury and Uranus provides a dynamic release through the public life (tenth-house). The strength of the fixed sign cross and the rising Sun is a token of stubborn vitality as well.

 

The twelfth-house Mercury and Jupiter indicate, therefore, that the pull toward psychiatry was deep — compulsive actually — as was the need to serve and work to fulfill a pattern of destiny. This compulsion of destiny is shown in the near coincidence of the natal horizon with the axis of the Moon's nodes (also near the Mercury nodes' axis), as well as in the 40-degree distance between the two retrograde sixth house planets. These planets, Saturn and Uranus, symbolize respectively the ego as a psychic structure and that which forever tends to shatter such a structure. Saturn in Virgo represents Moreno's insistent realization of the need for scientific methods and technical procedures, while Uranus in Scorpio (opposing Mercury and squared by Mars) stresses power conflicts and a fecundant intuition.

 

Interesting in the birth-chart of a man who is so much the "actor" is the lack of emphasis on Leo and the fifth house. Lack of emphasis on a house or sign means, however, lack of a problem in the corresponding field, not lack of function or activity. "Acting" for Dr. Moreno was not a problem because it was an irrepressible instinct! The problem in the chart is the twofold Saturn-Uranus emphasis in the house of work and service, personal crises, and illness. This house, and all that it implies, is stressed — and the stress can be, as always, interpreted either positively or negatively. Nevertheless, the tenth house Mars, acting as a dynamic focal release point for this sixth house-twelfth house stress, is a further indication of Moreno's innate and intuitive "acting out" — but, as clearly shown, an acting out quite different in quality from what one would expect from Leo or fifth house indications.

 

Moreno's great vitality and creativity (the quintile series of aspects refer to the "creative order" of experience) led to a positive statement of what, otherwise, could have made him change places with his patients! Indeed, genius is madness put to a creative use — and, in some cases, but not always — to the service of humanity and God. Moreno chose to serve, as well as to "create." He occupies a position of quite unique importance in the world of psychiatry, having made many bitter enemies among Freudians and various other analysts, especially as chief founder and leader of the movement for group psychotherapy (which should be sharply differentiated from the more Freudian type of "group psychology," with a strong attachment to the individualistic methods of depth psychology).(2) As the father of sociometry, Moreno also made a strong mark upon the field of sociology.

 

The remarkable thing about Dr. Moreno is that a man with his "radical" ideas and his revolutionary approach to psychology, sociology, therapy, and religion was able to establish himself in an official capacity in the psychiatric world and in the world of education. This obviously speaks well for his practical sense and realistic attitude. Among the centers and organizations offering educational programs and information about Dr. Moreno's work and ideas are The Moreno Institute and The American Society for Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama. Dr. Moreno's devoted and efficient co-worker and wife, Zerka Moreno, continues training and group sessions at The Moreno Institute, Beacon,(3) founded by Dr. Moreno.

 

It may be too soon as yet to evaluate with sufficient historical objectivity Dr. Moreno's contribution to our civilization. His summons to spontaneity and creativity; his crusade against all stereotyped forms of culture and reliance upon memory and tradition; his daring attempt to take the neurotic (and who is not neurotic, these days!) out of the private "holy of holies" of the psychoanalytical confessional and make him act in the "real world" of human relationship (the psychodramatic session), while being safeguarded from the irrovacable results of actions and relations in a cruel and competitive society — these and many other departures which cannot be fully discussed here testify to his innovative genius. His techniques have proven successful, even though they are difficult to apply, except for psychologists and therapists who have somehow experienced in their own personal lives the validity of his spontaneous, creative, iconoclastic, and spirit-releasing approach.

Dr. Moreno spoke of "the Creative Revolution," whose beginnings are gradually becoming more apparent in the world — yes, even in spite of the seeming triumph of totalitarianism, mechanical standardization, and commercial materialism. . . or, perhaps, because of them. We assuredly need such a revolution, and I, for one, have called for it through the last decades — in the arts, in philosophy, and religion. . . and in astrology. We desperately need a new "descent" of the Creative Spirit. We need it in the hearts and minds of individuals — for the first and the last word always belong to individuals. Society must call for such creative individuals, such avatars. It must be healed enough to recognize them when they come, however strange their behavior or countenance. Society must want to be free, to be spontaneous, to be God-transfigured. I believe that creative individuals like Dr. Moreno are voices in the wilderness, stirring others to be free in the only way in which freedom matters — the freedom to act out their own inherent divinity, without which there can be no real health.

1. The date given in official publications, May 20, is due to an error in translation in the Gregorian calendar of the original birth-date.  

2. Editor's note: Today, group psychotherapy and various forms of psychodrama are generally accepted and practiced by mental health professionals around the world. At the time this article was written and published (1951), Dr. Moreno was actively working in America, strenuously challenging the techniques of Freudian analysis, its pessimism, materialism, and its availability to those only of considerable financial means. The degree to which Dr. Moreno — and those who followed — succeeded in making a creative psychotherapy available to countless persons should be readily apparent to anyone interested in the field today. Indeed, group psychotherapies abound, and many of Moreno's psychodramatic techniques have been adapted for, and incorporated into, current psychotherapeutic practice, such as Gestalt therapy and Transactional Analysis. In fact, Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy, admitted to the author of this work that he had taken most of his ideas directly from Moreno's work. It is unfortunate that in so adapting his techniques, many practitioners, teachers, and writers in the field have failed to acknowledge Dr. Moreno's innovations and contributions. It is perhaps even more unfortunate that in the popularization of these psycho­dramatic techniques, the profound and creative philosophy behind Dr. Moreno's work has rarely been considered.

3. Most recently, the New Mexico Institute for Psychodrama has been founded (1976) under the direction of Eya Fechin Branham. Other centers in America which feature Dr. Moreno's ideas include Psychodrama Institutes in Boston, Phoenix, and Denver; the Psychodrama Section of St. Elizabeth's Hospital (Washington, D. C.); and the California Institute of Socioanalysis (Long Beach). In Europe, a Moreno Institute has been established in Uberlingen, West Germany.

 

Astrology and the Modern Psyche

 

Mindfire