1. How does Greek culture explain modern Western culture?

2. What are the necessary conditions for an experimental scientific answer rather than an astrological answer to a problem?

3. In what sense does Oriental philosophy differ from that of Western thought?

One of the major characteristics of modern thought is the emphasis upon thought, judgment, and problem solving -- the emphasis upon the rational side of man as opposed to the emotional; or, in classical psychological terms, the cognitive rather than the emotive. Because of California's proximity to the Orient, this distinction is not always clearly apparent. 1


We have reviewed some of the definitions and assumptions underlying the work of psychologists, old and new, and we have noted how these definitions influence what psychologists do. The word psychology and the vocation of psychologist have not always been. In this unit we look at some of their origins.

The interest and activities of present day psychologists originated from four major fields -- philosophy, physiology, medicine, and education, but mostly from philosophy and physiology. Applied psychology, dealing with questions of mental health, adjustment, and survival, is primarily rooted in the medical and educative professions. Other fields tangential to the development of psychology are physics, chemistry, zoology, mathematics, sociology and anthropology and even astronomy, engineering, and religion. Literature and humanities, long concerned with the observation of human nature are also important allied disciplines.

Traditionally, however, the history of both philosophy and physiology is the history of psychology. We add the history of two other fields, medicine and education, because they are related to the two major applied fields in psychology: clinical and educational psychology.

All academic areas have their origins in philosophy, the mother of all disciplines. Originally, philosophy was the one and only field of academic study. Philosophy, meaning love of knowledge, asks questions about the nature of man, the nature of nature, and the nature of the universe. Ho do we know? What do we know? Why do we know? And, what is the good or beautiful to know? These are the basic questions humans have asked. Eventually each field, as it became specialized, broke away from mother philosophy and established independent fields and individual methods for study. The first scientists were known as natural philosophers. They attempted to unravel the mysteries of external reality -- the nature of life, the universe, the solar system, the animal kingdom and, eventually, human beings and their social structures.

The problems of modern man are not really new. Sometimes, the alarmists protest too much, and lament that the world is deteriorating unless some grand plan is executed. On the other hand, it is fallacious to assume that man's long history means continued existence. The dinosaurs had a history much longer than man but eventually became extinct. The same fate could beset man.

All we are trying to suggest is that: a) man may not be destined for extinction and b) if extinction is possible, any one theory may not necessarily save him. On the other hand, the prospects for survival may only be illusory. Many proposals for the ideal life, for a Utopia, for better human conditions, have been advanced, but every proposal must face counter proposals. To assume that any one solution is the answer to man's ills is to assume that one person has universal truth.

Edith Hamilton, in her book, he Greek Way, argues that there is one prevailing characteristic of modern man, his faith in reason and his ability to create desirable personal and social changes. Hamilton contends that this modern role in man can be traced to beginnings in Greece. The Greeks, she argues, are really modern. For this reason, the first major period we will examine is that of the early Greeks.

But why was Greek culture more advanced than the earlier African development, mainly in Egypt, where culture existed some 1000 years prior to that of Greek civilization? Were not Egyptian and even Chinese cultural advancements prior to those in Greek culture? Hamilton maintains that Egyptian and Chinese cultures were more Eastern in origin, and Eastern thought is representative of more primitive thinking than is Greek culture.

Some students have objected to the word "primitive," thinking that it has a negative connotation. While "primitive" has bee used pejoratively, as in his primitive i instincts got the better of him," recall that the root stem is "prime" meaning "first," "origins," "beginnings," "original"first in in rank, degree, importance excellence, of highest quality, as in "prime rib" or "prime" wheat.

What characterizes modern thought? Hamilton maintains that modern man is not necessarily characterized as simply having a more recent chronology or identified by an arbitrary division of years or centuries. Rather, modern thought involves an awareness of oneself as an individual and one's role in society; it is the capacity to analyze situations and to act in accordance with principles derived from past experience. Mainly, modern thinking places faith in the rational side of man. Some third force psychologists, in rejecting this, advocate a more irrational approach. But the very decision that spiritual, mystical, or religious modes of existence are more desirable than materialistic or naturalistic approaches to life is arrived at by some intellectual or rational point of view.

Most modern persons make choices on reasonable (or logical) grounds, even though one's acts or choices may appear to be irrational or non-rational. Frequently, one hears an argument in favor of a more naturalistic way of living, or a claim that the mystical way of life is more valid for contemporary man. But to choose the irrational or the mystical is to assess or evaluate in pragmatic or rational terms. This was the way of the Greeks. It was not really until the development of Greek culture that humans seemed capable of or interested in evaluating their mode of living, making judgments about what they were doing, and making choices based on an analysis of the situation. One's future hope and present welfare then seemed intricately tied to the world of reason.


Early Hebrew thought antedated and influenced Greek thought. It also influenced it by emphasizing the importance of reason and also by advocating a mind-body dualism. According to the neo-Platonists, Hebrew culture appears to be the source of all knowledge and light. More (1930) suggests that the Hebrews influenced Pythagoras who subsequently influenced Plato and, thereby, Aristotle. There is a direct connection then between the Hebrew culture and that of Aristotle. The Hebrews considered wisdom the road to perfection; wisdom, therefore, is valued (Brett). The soul, identical with the breath of God, is common to all creatures. It is not a characteristic unique only to humans. The air also is occupied by spirits; therefore, there is transmigration of demons, angels, etc.

Brett suggests that for Philo (Hebrew), the senses are considered neutral, but that they have double sources of good. If the senses are sources of vice,then they are evil; if they are sources of knowledge, then they are the route to God. Therefore, the sense of the wise man is good; those of the fool are bad. The senses, as instruments, are relative. Sight is the best sense; light, therefore, is great! Taste, smell, and touch, however, are the lowest.


One of the earliest sciences was astrology. It was originally a method of devining the gods, rather than of predicting human behavior. It was practiced by the priests of Babylonian culture in a country where the Tigris and Euphrates valley fluctuated between famine and plenty. The Babylonian priests had two ways of devining the gods. First, there was the devining the liver of sacrificial animals. There was a theory that if the god accepted the animals, it was because the spirit of the god and the spirit of the animal were in tune. Since the spirit of the animal was assumed to reside in the liver, the priests thought that perhaps some sign of god could be determined by devining the liver of sacrificial animals.

The second method of devining the gods was through observation of the heavenly bodies. Both good and evil, i.e., rain, sun, drought, and pestilence, appeared to come from the heavens. The heavens, therefore, were believed to be the home of the gods. The various patterns of the sun, moon, and stars presumably reflected the patterns of the gods. An examination of the heavens then might lead one to an understanding of god's plan. Heavenly and earthly events were believed to be associated, and observations of both were therefore made. For example, when some great earthly event occurred, whether good or bad, note would be made of the patterns in the skies. When that pattern next occurred it would then be perceived as a sign of a similar earthly event. Other understandings of the heavens emerged by the sheer association of ideas. A drought was supposed to be bad and so any signs at that time were construed as bad signs. Thus, what was sheer correlation was assumed to be cause and effect.

Cause and Effect. Although astrology was considered to be one of the earliest sciences, it should be differentiated from modern science because of the following fact: astrology relied solely upon relating one observation to an inference about the antecedent conditions of a particular event. For example, if rains came down, it was inferred that the cause of the rains was somehow related to a preceding sign. This sign could be anything preceding the event -- e.g., the height of corn, the position of Orion as a constellation in the skies, or the dreams of a person the night before.

Noting the concomitant occurrence of two events does not constitute the verification of a cause and effect relationship. In science, there is only one way to establish clear evidence for a cause and effect relationship. That procedure is one outlined by Bacon in the sixteenth century. Bacon suggested that if an event is to be considered the cause of another event, it must be established that event A and only event A was present prior to the occurrence of event B. That is, if other events were present, it is not sufficient simply to observe that B occurs. Secondly, whenever event B occurred, it occurred only after the presence of event A. That is, one would have to test out and find many examples of where event A never occurred except as followed by event B. Conversely, whenever event A occurs, it is always followed by event B. Many observations would have to be made under different conditions by producing event A and observing that event B always follows. This is the nature of an experimental science -- the manipulation of event A in order to observe the presence or absence of event B. Thus, while astrology was a science (seeking deterministic relationships), its geocentric presumptions mistook chance associations for causation.

Astrology continued popular through the sixteenth century. At that time, Copernican theories supported a more natural science of astronomy. Astrology was then discarded.


Astrology was also associated with alchemy and hypnosis. Not only did the forces of the planets relate to the events in nature, but they related to the events in humans. This was a completely naturalistic, almost materialistic, point of view. The alchemist Paracelcus "...maintained that the human body was endowed with a double magnetism; that one portion attracted to itself the planets, and was nourished by them, whence came wisdom, thought, and the sense; that the other portion attracted to itself the elements and disintegrated them, whence came flesh and blood . . (Binet & Fere, 1892, p. 2-3)."

Astrology also led to animal magnetism and mesmerism, fields that assumed a relationship between the forces of nature and the forces of man. Mesmer took the idea one step further and suggested that the magnetism between the planets and humans could correct pathologies or malfunctions. Mesmer had taken the doctor of medicine degree at the University of Vienna. His thesis, published in 1766, was entitled, "The Influence of the Planets in the Cure of Diseases." In this thesis, he offered his proof "...that the sun, moon, and heavenly bodies act upon living beings by means of a subtle fluid, which he called animal magnetism, in order to point out the properties which it has in common with the magnet (Binet and Fere, 1892, p. 4)."

These early theories, relating the heavens to man, were naturalistic theories. Such theories proposed that man was an integral though separate part of the vast universe and that the forces of nature, and of the heavens in particular, were responsive to man and that man was, in turn, responsive to those forces. It is no wonder that Paracelcus, seeking a means to turn crude metals into gold, believed that magnets in the human body could attract wisdom from the heavenly bodies and flesh and blood from physical bodies.

The idea of the transmutation of elements, popular through many ages, is basic both to psychology and to general science. In the nineteenth century, finally, the great German physicist, Helmholtz, advanced the doctrine of conservation of energy, proposing an interchangeability among the various forces in the universe. Scientific proof was offered for a notion, common both to the Greeks and to the British empiricists, of changeability between objects and their sensations. Even Freud later maintained that there was a changeability between one's libido and one's dreams and wishes. The peripatetic school was another which advanced the doctrine of the transmutation of elements, a leading principle of their school (Fowler, 1889, p. 27).


Let us now turn to oriental philosophy which antedated Greek culture but also contained certain parallels. This discussion is not a necessary part of our understanding of the development of psychology. But because contemporary interest in oriental and Eastern philosophies exists, we would be remiss not to make some mention of certain aspects of these fields, inadequate as our discussion of them might be.

Greek thought, which was more modern, included an awareness of oneself as an independent thinking, conscious organism. In Greek political life, citizens were equals. In ancient oriental thought, however, humans are insignificant in the cosmos -- they are but one among the many. Here forms change, and humans intertwine with animals, plants, the unseen, and the mystical. The all is in the one, and the one is in the all. To put this in psychological terms, the figure ground relationship is unstable. The figure may be seen at one time as distinct and at another time as embedded in the background of a different figure. Man was seen as an insignificant part of nature, primarily because of the political, social, and cultural characteristics of the times. Ancient oriental cultures in Egypt, Persia, India and China contained powerful rulers who dominated the masses. The power figure was either a Pharaoh, Brahman, or Emperor. There was something powerful, driving, and special about the one person; others were but vehicles for the ruler's ends.

The religious life in ancient oriental cultures was part of the political structure. Divinities were incorporated into the culture. Sometimes they had substantive attributes, as dragons or cows or dogs; but these animals were but representations in flesh of some mystical incorporeal quality. In Greek culture, on the other hand, the divinities had human attributes. Greek divinities possessed live bodies, had feelings of love and hate, and could think.

The social life in much of oriental culture consisted of mean existences of large numbers of persons collected together in crowded places. There was little or no privacy. Social mobility was limited. A caste system insured that one's lot in life was fixed at birth. One's only hope for change lay in a life after death when a transmigration of the soul offered a move to another form or another existence -- either human, animal, or vegetable. There was little room for hope, at least on this earth. Expectation of a better life lay in another existence, and this provided the source of energy for the direction of all activities.

Egyptian culture illustrated this emphasis on death leading to new forms. Religious rituals, sanctity of the dead, entombing bodies in elaborate quarters in preparation for the next life, embalming of leaders for eternal preservation -- all were reflections of a clear respect for death. Egyptian religion, similar to other early religions, was animistic -- a belief that spirits pervaded all objects of the universe. Most animistic theories are accompanied by a belief in the transmigration of souls, or the movement of a soul from one body to another. If everything has spirit, and if these spirits are interchangeable with different forms, then oppression need be only a temporary condition and there is hope for the future. The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago has extensive exhibits of Egyptian artifacts relating to daily living and religion.

The Eastern part of the Mediterranean, extending through Jerusalem and Syria, was dominated by Egyptian culture. After 1400 B.C., the Syrian empire dominated, and stretched all the way from the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in the east, to Syria in the north, and Egypt to the south and west. The whole area, extending from the Persian Gulf in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, included the civilizations of Babylonia and Assyria and what was known as Mesopotamia. This ancient civilization influenced the development of Israel and of Judaic thought, which produced an emphasis on demonology, mythology (which influenced Greece), and the signs of the zodiac (which influenced European thought). The deities reflected the elements of nature, (sky, earth, and water), and the units of the heavens (stars, earth, sun, and moon), and the seasons of the year. There was much witchcraft and a multitude of spirits, both evil and good existed. And there was a strong sense of law and order.

Early Jewish culture developed in this climate. Moses ruled by peaceful procedures; Joshua ruled by "...the second law of nature -- that the superior killer survives (and) the Jews took their 'promised lands' (Durant, 1935, p. 302)." Joshua's philosophy reappears today both in the competition among nation-states and in the interpretation of some sensitivity group leaders that groups engage in leader killing. The large variety of gods eventually gave way to the God of Yahew, elevated to the one God. He was flexible and agreed that individuals might take the law into their own hands, avenge themselves, and take a "life for a life."

Persia, to the east of Assyria, produced Zoraster and the ZendAvesta and its philosophy influenced the Jews. Murphy and Murphy (1968), however, do not believe that there is any psychology either in Hebrew literature or in Zorastrianism. While the orientals had a religion and a technology, they did not have a philosophy or science until later when they learned it from the Greeks (Burnet, 1892, p. 16).1 This is not to say that the Greeks were not influenced by the Orientals. The Greeks were influenced by the Orientals through the Egyptians where mathematical ideas led to the geometry, and from the Babylonians they learned that the heavens had cyclical patterns which led to science (Burnet, p. 17 & 22).

Zorasterism maintains that the opposing powers in the world created a continuous struggle between good and evil, between the holy spirit and the evil spirit. In the end, however, good must prevail and become supreme. Everlasting life is the end goal. This point of view is reflected in the Freudian psychology of dual forces, eros and thanatos, competing in one person. Dual structures, Id and Superego, represent Evil and Good. Modern motivational theories, stemming from Freud, frequently emphasize one or another of those powers -- Reich (will to power); Adler (need for superiority); Jung (growth potential) and Maslow (self actualization).

The East, as part of the ancient world, gives little importance to the outside of man. In Egypt, the dead are important. Human life is cheap; there is human misery. In India, there is hope only in the invisible. It is the visible, the sensible, the known which is unimportant (Hamilton, 1948, Ch. 1). Perhaps that is why sensation psychology and empirical psychology with their stress upon materialistic and observational phenomena, are not very strong among Eastern and ancient psychologies.

One of the oldest academic societies in the United States was the American Oriental Society founded in 1842.


Now test yourself without looking at the reading. Check those answers which are correct (one or more) or fill in the blank spaces.

1. Applied psychology emerged primarily from which field(s)?
a. Philosophy
b. Education
c. Chemistry
d. Medicine

2. According to Hamilton, modern man is characterized by:
a. his technological advances
b. religious philosophy
c. awareness of himself
d. scientific discoveries

3. Astrology assumed that some association existed between the:

a. heavens and household animals
b. Greek gods and the Roman gods
c. heavens and nature
d. gods and the sacred books

4. In oriental cultures, the gods:
a. represented mystical, immaterial phenomena
b. were materialistic concepts
c. had live bodies and real feelings
d. were quite similar to Greek gods

5. Animism was the belief that:
a. man is superior to other forms of nature
b. man is part of nature
c. spirits are a part of everything in nature
d. one spirit existed, above nature.

6. A religious belief which perceived the world as caught in a struggle between the forces of good and evil (similar to some forms of psychoanalytic theory) was:
a. Jewish
b. Christian
c. Zorasterism
d. Humanism

7. Astrology and hypnotism primarily deal with:
a. functional statements
b. epistemology
c. idiographic studies
d. objective data

8. To establish the existence of a cause and effect relationship, it must be necessary to demonstrate that:
a. whenever the cause occurs, there may sometimes occur the result
b. whenever the cause occurs, the result always occurs.
c. whenever the effect occurs, it may or may not have been preceded by the cause
d. whenever the effect occurs, there must be evidence that the cause had occurred.

Check the answers 8 or more correct, go to Module 2.
Less than 8 -- complete exercises on next page.



1. Contemporary psychology originated primarily from the following fields:

2. Those persons who originally played the role of what became known as scientists were called:

3. The early alchemists believed that some metals could be changed into:

4. In oriental thought, man is conceived as:
a. above other forms of nature
b. an insignificant part of the universe
c. equal to the gods
d. below the gods but above nature.

5. Many oriental cultures contained beliefs about the transmigration of souls, which refers to:
a. the control of the mind over the body
b. control of the body over the mind
c. presence of spirits in all natural objects
d. change after death into another different animal or vegetable form.

6. Murphy and Murphy do not believe that the Greeks borrowed their psychology from the Orientals because:
a. the Orientals did not have any philosophy
b. there was no contact between the two peoples
c. Greek psychology began prior to oriental culture
d. the Orientals lacked an advanced technology

7. Modern motivational theories are similar to early oriental philosophies in their emphasis upon:
a. inner strivings
b. conflict between good and evil
c. internal forces
d. intellectual uncertainties

8. Psychoanalytic theory is based on the assumption that certain forms of energy are transferred into other forms of energy. For example, libidinal (sexual) energy gets transferred into psychic (intellectual) energy. This point of view is based on the old idea of:
a. will to power
b. transformation or transmigration
c. empiricism
d. motivation

9. Astrology and hypnotism assumed that behavior could be explained by some forces acting upon the individual. This point of view is:
a. deterministic
b. indeterministic
c. advocates free will
d. is an ontological problem


5. D 4. B 1. Philosophy Physiology

2. Natural philosophers 9.A

3. Gold 8. B 6. A

7. A, B, C




1. The history of psychology is primarily the history of what one discipline? ______________

2. Modern man is characterized primarily by his:
a. spiritual life
b. rational approach
c. mystical sense
d. religious beliefs

3. Astrology was a means of:
a. predicting the gods
b. predicting human behavior
c. reading the stars
d. reading other people's minds

4. The transmutation of elements
a. changes which take place in the digestion of food
b. change from one metal to another metal
c. a theory that the stars emerge into planets
d. the similarity among elementary ideas in a person's mind

5. The Jewish religion tended to emphasize:
a. law and order
b. an eye for an eye
c. animism
d. witchcraft

6. Zorasterism contains the belief that there are:
a. only good forces in the universe
b. only bad forces in the universe
c. both good and evil forces in the universe
d. evil forces which eventually prevail

7. Astrology and hypnotism have similarities in that both assume:
a. outside forces acting upon persons
b. physical forces can influence mental forces
c. invisible forces influence behavior
d. certain events can be explained by attractive forces in the universe

8. Astrology and hypnotism were both:
a. humanistic theories
b. existential theories
c. naturalistic theories
d. spiritualistic theories

9. Oriental philosophy is primarily concerned with questions of:
a. epistemology
b. ontology
c. logic
d. all of the above

Answer Key
8 or more correct, go to Module 2.
Less than 8 -- Instructor conference

Contents Unit 2 If you have any questions, please send me E-mail:

September 2, 2001