Psychological morphology

Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Salber was one of the most important psychologists after Sigmund Freud. He was director of the Psychological Institute at the University of Cologne for thirty years. Salber's interest in the philosophy of Nietzsche and the psychoanalysis of Freud led him to see in a "morphology", as Goethe had developed it, a point of reference for a decidedly psychological science. Psychological Morphology.

From the very beginning, his concept was determined by seeing "aesthetic" laws in the soul, not logical determinations. The soul develops according to a "logic of images", as it also unfolds in the works of art, film and literature. Salber's theory and method have become firmly established in numerous fields such as cultural research, market research, film psychology, art, psychotherapy and music therapy.

Wilhelm Salber has published about 200 psychological works, 35 of them monographs. His academic career went through the following stages:

  • 1947 A-levels at the Kaiser-Karl grammar school in Aachen
  • 1948 Graduated from the First German School of Journalism, Aachen; freelance contributor and illustrator for various newspapers.
  • 1949 Enrolment at the University of Bonn.
  • 1952 Doctorate (Dr. phil.); research assistant at the Psychological Institute.
  • 1953 Graduate psychologist; research assistant in Bonn and Erlangen.
  • from 1956 "Motivuntersuchungen" ("Motive Investigations") on how to deal with media and things (petrol, films, cosmetics, coal, reading); expert for the FSK of the film industry
  • 1958 Habilitation at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Bonn.
  • 1959 Appointment as professor at the Pedagogical Academy in Cologne.
  • 1961 Appointed to the University of Würzburg.
  • 1963 Director of the newly founded Psychological Institute II at the University of Cologne. Development of the concept of a psychological morphology; research on everyday life, art, culture, media; on education, advertising and treatment.
  • from 1973 Encounter with Anna Freud; psychoanalysis with her; trips to Russia at the invitation of the Academy of Sciences. Participation in psychology programmes on television ("Calls for Help"); films about "Goya" and "Don Quixote".
  • 1993 Emeritus after thirty years as Director of the Psychological Institute of the University of Cologne.
  • since 1993 Consulting and supervision; research projects and media studies; supervision of institutes for morphological impact research; study of developmental and generational problems.
  • from 2009 with other publication of anders - Journal of Psychological Morphology; intensive occupation with morphological metapsychology, investigations on the crucifix, on Caravaggio, on the meaning of wit and comedy in the mental.

Psychological morphology is a science in development - a concept that focuses on the metamorphoses of mental figures.

It is the eternal and same basic problem: How can we give our work a form of life, a living image, in a changing world? The restlessness of spiritual reality seeks to take shape and at the same time to be transformed. The resulting drama is the "meaning of life".
Instead of starting from details such as stimuli, cognitions or feelings, psychological morphology takes as its starting point units of action whose patterns develop over time. Of particular interest here is the categories in which such mental entities attempt to understand and treat themselves.
Psychological morphology sees the soul life as a flowing reality in which an unconscious operation is active. In her research she works out how this operation works from case to case. In doing so, she assumes that everyday life has something to do with "moving" images, or with art.

This also means that psychological morphology retains its sense of the poetry of a reality that often behaves paradoxically when it does science.

The test of any psychology is everyday life. Because everyday life is the soul: what people experience, do and suffer every day. But everyday life is at the same time the unknown, that which is hidden under prejudices and correction.

dreaming, waking up, getting dressed, breakfast, reading the newspaper, dealing with dreams, standing in traffic jams, listening to the radio, small talk, flirting, working with the computer, telephoning, arguing, visiting the doctor, cooking, looking out of the window, giving, reading a book, watching television, getting dressed, going out, dancing, sexual intercourse, falling asleep, dreaming...

The test of any psychology is everyday life. Because everyday life is the soul: what people experience, do and suffer every day. But everyday life is at the same time the unknown, that which is hidden under prejudices and correction.

The most common prejudice says that everyday life is grey. But everyday life is not grey. People tend to make it monotonous because it often seems monstrous to them. For some, getting up in the morning is a small end of the world, for others it is an exciting creation of the world. Working in an office often has something of a jungle fight about it and cleaning the apartment is often like a campaign. What emerges as an everyday business is a risky business. Because there is a "more" and "further" in it that urges transformation.

Psychological morphology asks: What must reality be like to produce such everyday dramas? Which units bind the development of psychological events? What destroys them or transforms them into something else? In hundreds of empirical studies, psychological morphology has worked out a picture of the soul that traces the unconscious operation of everyday life.

The investigation of psychological morphology is a method of development, because it does not break down its object into individual elements, but holds it as a whole and follows its twists and turns by means of psychological description and reconstruction.

This is only possible if you take your time and move along with the logic of the mental figures. How do they emerge from each other? In which turns do they simultaneously seek to maintain and transform themselves? What holds them together and what can destroy them?

Empirical studies of psychological morphology begin with an initial descriptive delimitation of their subject - for example, a visit to a museum. In order to obtain a more differentiated and psychologically in-depth picture, the next step is to conduct in-depth interviews with visitors to the museum. Their results are summarized in descriptions and explanations are given.

In an exchange between concept and phenomenon, between description and reconstruction, we follow how the walk through the museum is built up, how it finds a direction that as a whole goes through transformations - or not. The aim is always to obtain a picture of the course of development of the object under investigation that does not destroy it and its phenomena.

The phenomena themselves are the metaphysics of the soul

As a "mobile order" for an overview (reconstruction), this psychology takes up Goethe's concept of a "morphology". The phenomena and their forms (morphe) are the doctrine, and this doctrine is "doctrine of transformation". Through a psychological morphology this is further developed towards the independent categories of spiritual existence. (The basic prerequisite for psychological morphology is the description of what is sensually and vividly shown in behaviour and experience. While cooking, at the regulars' table, while seducing, while dreaming, and while shopping. On the other hand, it involves asking what justifies scientific psychology - which reasons and categories determine its approach. Most psychologists don't realize this at all :-)

Shape creates order and context

Psychological morphology tells how the soul emerges from the restlessness of reality and how the incomprehensible seeks its expression by forming significant figures. In this way a "system" or a "work" is formed in which the soul learns to understand, grasp, model and develop itself and its transformations. Ovid has already brought the gestalt connections into the picture in his "Metamorphoses".

Gestalt and transformation as a field of tension in mental production

Psychologically, everything boils down to the works of transformation and their drama of expression in figures. In contrast to the clichés that have become self-evident, in which the soul is talked about, it becomes strangely "unreasonable" and paradoxical here: to simultaneously hold a figure that can show itself and get into a transformation, that is a basic problem of the soul's life. How to save face and at the same time demonstrate that "anything goes"? The impossible drives us. Therefore, it becomes the content and methodological guideline of psychological morphology to uncover the field of tension between form and transformation. What connections become possible here, what transitions and developments come into play, how can conscious and unconscious processes transform into each other as forms. To what extent can form change into transformation without dissolving; to what extent can destruction bring about new forms of transformation?

Shapes break each other into units of effect - nothing exists in isolation

Here morphology encounters paradoxical "inseparability" of creation and transformation, of becoming and passing away. Shapes and transformations only work in such rotations, shape breaks or two-units. The works of the soul and the units of action are regulated by the fact that forms necessarily need something else and develop it further, that form is only maintained by moving and transforming. Nothing in the soul exists "purely", "in itself", as an isolated part. This two-unity everywhere is the peculiarity of the soul itself.

Mental works are orchestrated by hexagrams

By making itself into a special "something" in the process of becoming, the soul gains its ground, its self-awareness and its readiness to produce as appropriation, action, arrangement, expansion, equipping and transformation. This takes shape in the form of a hexagram familiar to all cultures. Like an orchestra, the six conditions of this figuration expand, unfold and complement each other to form life images and spheres of action. Because they also function as two units, universal living conditions (fixed and mobile, unifying and multiplying, etc.) always come into play.

People are disabled works of art

In these categories the forms of spiritual works are regulated according to their own characteristics and laws. They can come to a head in a dramatic crisis if the same figures are constantly repeated and held upside down - in contrast to this, the further movement of figure and transformation works in the manner of a work of art. Simplified one can compare the development of a neurosis (holding upside down) and the development of a work of art. The human being is a handicapped work of art. The transformation of mental processes under certain existential constraints, the unconscious making, discovered by Freud, can also be derived from this concept of form.

All details are expressions of shape transformations

Psychological morphology reconstructs the transmission of form and transformation in an open system; it can therefore derive psychological questions and methodological procedures consistently and in detail from the whole of the soul's operation - why consumer products are effective, why films are effective, why people join together in associations, where companies have their soul conflicts.

Fairy tales set paradoxical images of the soul in motion

At a glance, the fairy tales, the first and oldest works of art of human cultures, the range of form and transformation into typical images are brought to life. They show the drama of paradoxical mental twists and turns, the blissfulness, the tragic-comic, the obsessions from which cultivation processes emerge. This clearly shows that there is a unique mental logic from which dramatic developments emerge, which become the purpose of life for the soul. In the picture logic of fairy tales the psych-aesthetic logic of the soul is brought out at all. The fairy tales are the psych-aesthetic regulations of the soul. Everyday life is dreamlike and fairy-tale like.

Cultural morphology as a work of history

In the fairy tales the cultures of mankind also find their creative context. Morphology is always culture-morphology; in the cultures fairy-tale "soul revolutions" are carried forward - again paradoxically always only in concrete historical forms.