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Moreno’s Universe of discourse – what the hell is that.

To Peter Howie and other AANZPA Facebook friends


Hullo Peter,


Your thesis topic gives opportunity for an in depth exploration of both “warm up” and the body of core concepts that J L Moreno produced as he observed the human condition and worked to access and develop spontaneity and creativity for the health of the whole universe by micro-relational means. I am really pleased you have elected to tackle “warm up”.


When Lera Boroditsky used the word “thinking” or “thought” you suggest we could fit in “warm up” and indeed we can. If that suggests that they are synonyms then not so. You don’t propose that. Rather you propose that “warm up” has greater adequacy because it is richer in useful data.


There are problems with Lera’s commentary on Chomsky, and surprisingly for someone focussing on language and claiming research strengths, in suggesting he simply proposed ideas while she is research based – implying that she is scientific one. She doesn’t consider that she and Chomsky operate in entirely distinct “universes of discourse”. She claims that language influences culture; but might that not be reversed. Indeed culture and social influence of perception studied since Asche in social psychology since the mid-thirties, and considered by social-philosophers down the ages would suggest language follows behaviour movement and Sociometry and therefore “culture”. Chomsky did not propose theory lightly. He gave much thought to linguistics in the widest imaginable way. He was eminently suited to propose the possibility that all humans have in common cognitive processes that determine underlying processes of languages that environment, history and culture will differentiate and vary. Psychologists can claim that research demonstrates this or that and that empiricism is to be relied upon. However the area of social-psychological research is notoriously confined to simplistic and limited examples of human functioning. It is when they build theories that they simply propose their ideas which go far beyond the application that can be justified on the basis of their research. Most of their research is relatively trivial. (My own area in psychology at Masters was social-psychology. One of my teachers in Auckland, Margaret Wetherall, went on to her doctoral thesis at Aberdeen comparing the benefits in useful data novelists provide over social-psychologist’s by their research. She focused on the work of Doris Lessing.)


Never-the-less the work of Lera Boroditsky witnesses to the strength of cultural/societal influences in the constructions (Berger & Luckman) of what become human realities Рor perhaps the specific universes (Maturana) of experience that each of us has individually. Looking at it from her ideas of the psychology of language form and structure. She does not choose to discuss, in her broadcast, the possibility of the  argument being stronger the other way round.


“It’s all in the warm up!” How often have we heard that cliche or truism proclaimed and approved amongst us? Yet it probably is a reality. What I think we should beware of is either the mysticism that leads to the elitisms of Ed or the search for grounded truth or communicable similes – boiled down explanations – with Adam. I’m glad Ed remind us, on Grouptalk, of Moreno’s uniqueness, and that Adam demands we be grounded in phenomena.


However I am quite sure nowhere else in any other thinker’s writing will we get to Moreno’s concepts. (“My God!”, I can’t quite believe the arrogance – even having perused all of human literature.)


When I was beginning a second or third search to get a better grip on Moreno’s “role” concepts in the mid “nineteen nineties”, I came to the thought that ‘cohesive thinking’ was not on the Morenian menu. Moreno’s legacy is ‘clues’. Numerous, scattered, inspiring and not very obviously connected up. The key concepts are however, crucially¬† inter-connected and cohesive when you put them on the table-top together. Indeed they cannot be separated. I sent my first drafts to Ann Hale and she made generous response. However she wrote that the collection of role factors I had made would involve her in so numerous considerations – in the moment as a ‘director’ – as to be beyond her actually bringing them to mind. Me too – of course. She went on to write that her own guide to observing role is “The Canon of Creativity”. Working, as she did, with Moreno in his latter years on the student edition of WSS might well have embedded that in her thinking. The ‘Canon’ diagram – or imago – does seem a ‘snapshot’ of Moreno’s vision of how,humans ‘work’. The circumference track reminds how crucial is ‘warm up’.


I am encouraged to remind myself of some key Morenian concepts:

Warm up, Functioning Form – Role(embryonic, rudimentary, adequate, over-developed, conflicted & progressing, surviving, striving & comprising: thinking, feeling & action), S Factor – Spontaneity(Levels: 1) Taking, 2) Playing, Creating), Creativity, Conserve, Sociometry, Action form: Psychodramatic, Sociodramatic, Social(social position – social status – social expectations), Psychosomatic, Doubling, Mirroring …



I doubt that our understanding of “warm up” will be helped by simile or comparison with other discipline’s language or common use terms – except to indicate the general ‘ball park’. (For example: readying, anticipating, focus, intrigue, creative-listening, imagination, eagerness, etc, etc.)


Moreno’s cohesion is revealed when his set of unique concepts are seen in dynamic interconnection. As you said at conference, describing doesn’t help except sometimes with engagement with a creative enquirer in a personal chat. Opening experience in the present and tracking the dramatic interaction certainly does make discernment possible. Enacting an example can open the mind.


You say you open conversations with peers who respond with their own experiences and understandings. In doing that you increase your store of data. I’m not adding to data here but hope the perspective I take may be useful. When I used the word “unique” I should perhaps have stayed with the idea of “universe of discourse”. I am reminded of a workshop at the Sydney Conference of ’88 led by Donnell Miller. It was on Anger and he argued and demonstrated that psychodrama does not work well if the director takes the route of dramatising abstractions and metaphors. (i.e. “Choose some one to be the anger.”) Donnell pointed out that psychodrama is relational and the dramas are essentially humans in relationships. Move outside of that the method loses integrity. I was very impressed and assisted by that. Gestalt does work with abstractions and metaphors. The dramas I have observed since 1988 have convinced me that Donnell was right. The connection with warm up is that I reckon to get people on board with Morenian eac concept we have to bring them into Moreno’s mind set or his “universe of discourse”. Creativity – and its Canon, spontaneity as an “S factor” with phases of development, role as a functioning form that includes three “components” and at least three “aspects” plus organisational gestalts and warm up that is inseparable from the Canon but also relates to phases of human activity, the inter-relationships displayed by Sociometry and so on.


However you tackle your doctoral thesis I look forward to wrestling with it and I have been stimulated and enthused by your writing as you did on our Facebook page.


Warm regards,



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