Discovery and Passion
Heuristic research is a method that was developed by Moustakas (1990) which describes how personal experience is used as a valid research method:
The root meaning of heuristic comes from the Greek word heuriskein, meaning to discover or to find. It refers to a process of internal search through which one discovers the nature and meaning of experience and develops methods and procedures for further investigation and analysis. The self of the researcher is present throughout the process and, while understanding the phenomenon with increasing depth, the researcher also experiences growing self-awareness and self-knowledge. Heuristic processes incorporate creative self-processes and self-discoveries. (Moustakas, 1990, p. 9)
For Moustakas (1990), heuristic research is a demanding, painstaking, lengthy process. One must be willing to “commit endless hours of sustained immersion and focused concentration on a central question, to risk the opening of wounds and passionate concerns, and to undergo the personal transformation that exists as a possibility in every heuristic journey” (p. 14). The journey begins with the passionate search for the illumination of a puzzlement, where wonder, intensity, intrigue, and engagement carry one along. This journey “must take its own course and . . . will not be satisfied until a natural closing and a sense of wonder has fulfilled its intent and purpose” (p. 55).
Discovery is at the heart of heuristic research. Polanyi (1969) maintains that all research begins with collecting clues that are intriguing, but are not immediately obvious in themselves; a good problem, something puzzling and promising, is half of discovery. One must be able to see a problem and sense a direction towards a solution where others see none, and eventually arrive at a solution that is surprising to all. Discovery is creative and requires originality. Polanyi (1960) explicates:
Originality entails a distinctively personal initiative and is invariably impassioned, sometimes to the point of obsessiveness. From the first intimation of a hidden problem and throughout its pursuit to the point of solution, the process of discovery is guided by personal vision and sustained by personal conviction. (p. 301)
In Polanyi’s allusion to obsession, we can see shades of Romanyshyn’s (1991) “complex knowing.” In describing his work, Jung (1961/1989) reflects:
All my writings may be considered tasks imposed from within; their source was a fateful compulsion. What I wrote were things that assailed me from within myself. I permitted the spirit that moved me to speak out. I have never counted upon any strong response, any powerful resonance to my writings. They represent a compensation for our times, and I have been impelled to say what no one wants to hear. (p. 222)
Heuristic or intellectual passion is the craving for understanding, which Polanyi (1963) feels is a proper motive of comprehension. He notes “the exhilaration shown by apes and babies when solving a problem prefigures the intellectual joys of science” (Polanyi, 1960, p. 194). “Heuristic passion is also the mainspring of originalitythe force which impels us to abandon an accepted framework of interpretation and commit ourselves, by the crossing of a logical gap, to the use of a new framework” (p. 159). Although Polanyi also warns that intellectual passions may be misdirected, we need intellectual passion to cross this logical gap between the problem and its solution. As we cross this gap, we must undergo a change in our intellectual personality. “Like all ventures in which we comprehensively dispose of our selves, such an intentional change of our personality requires a passionate motive to accomplish it. Originality must be passionate” (p. 143). Polanyi then further summarizes:
Creative scientists spend their lives in trying to guess right. They are sustained and guided therein by their heuristic passion. They call their work creative because it changes the world as we see it, by deepening our understanding of it. The change is irrevocable. A problem that I have once solved can no longer puzzle me; I cannot guess what I already know. Having made a discovery, I shall never see the world again as before. My eyes have become different; I have made myself into a person seeing and thinking differently. I have crossed a gap, the heuristic gap, which lies between problem and discovery. (p. 143)
Moustakas (1990) discusses the different stages of heuristic research, its phases: initial engagement, immersion, incubation, illumination, explication, and creative synthesis. He also describes the qualities and processes necessary to the process: tacit knowing, intuition, focusing, indwelling, and an internal frame of reference.
Tacit Knowing and Indwelling
One of the cornerstones of heuristic research is the concept of tacit knowing. By tacit knowing, Polanyi (1966) means “we know more than we can tell” (p. 4). Tacit knowledge cannot be put into words but is at work behind the scenes, essentially explaining from another view the underlying dynamics of the hermeneutic circle. Moustakas further explicates the concept of tacit knowledge:
Polanyi has stated that all knowledge consists or is rooted in acts of comprehension that are made possible through tacit knowing: . . . . “this knowledge cannot be put into words” (p. 4). Such knowledge is possible through a tacit capacity that allows one to sense the unity or wholeness of something from an understanding of the individual qualities or parts . . . . Vague and defined dimensions or components take on “sharp outlines of certainty, only to dissolve again in the light of second thoughts or of further experimental observations. Yet from time to time certain visions of the truth, having made their appearance, continue to gain strength both by further reflection and additional evidence. (Polanyi, 1964, p. 30) . . . . the tacit dimension underlies and precedes intuition and guides the researcher into untapped directions and sources of meaning. Tacit knowledge is a basic capacity of the self of the researcher and gives “birth to hunches and vague, formless insights that characterize heuristic discovery.” (Douglas and Moustakas, 1985, p. 49). (Moustakas, 1990, pp. 20-22)
Gauss is reported to have said, “ I have had my solutions for a long time but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them” (Polanyi, 1960, p. 130). His statement echoes the nature of tacit knowledge and its relationship to the heuristic journey. One intuitively discovers the destination before working out explicitly how to get there. The process is similar to Michelangelo’s unfinished St. Matthew, where the artist perceived the figure inside of the marble block and then just needed to cut away the stone from around the figure to reveal it (Polanyi, 1963).
The tacit knowledge Jung (1961/1989) realized in his “confrontation with the unconscious” was the foundation of his later work:
Today I can say that I have never lost touch with my initial experiences. All my works, all my creative activity, has come from those initial fantasies and dreams which began in 1912, almost fifty years ago. Everything that I accomplished in later life was already contained in them, although at first only in the form of emotions and images. (p. 192)
In Jung’s artwork and building games we see an example of focusing and indwelling. Focusing, a technique originally described by Eugene Gendlin, facilitates a receptive and relaxed state. It provides an internal clearing which enables one to tap into the essence of what matters, making contact with and explicating core themes (Moustakas, 1990). Jung’s confrontation with the unconscious required that he take the time and space he needed to really be with all of the contents of his unconscious. He unceasingly sought to understand and elucidate his experiences. He followed clues from his dreams and let synchronicity guide him.
Indwelling “involves the willingness to gaze with unwavering attention and concentration into some facet of human experience in order to understand its constituent qualities and its wholeness” (Moustakas, 1990, p. 24). It is conscious and deliberate but not logical or linear. One follows clues “wherever they appear and then dwells inside them expanding their meaning and associations until a fundamental insight is achieved” (p. 24). By indwelling, one moves toward the ultimate creative synthesis, which reveals an experience’s essential meanings and qualities.
Depth Psychology and Heuristics
Personal experience plays an absolutely essential and inescapable role in depth psychological research and theory, because when we deal with the psyche, personal experience is really all we have. We compare our own personal experience with another’s to see how it fits or what is missing. Like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle or map, we seek to add new pieces and to fill in uncharted areas. From the beginning of depth psychology, the personal experience of its founders figures prominently. Freud’s experiences led him to focus on instincts and the father, while Jung’s experience led him to bring the autonomy of the psyche, the collective unconscious, and the spiritual dimensions into the picture. Melanie Klein brought her experiences as a mother to Object Relations theory which stresses the importance of the mother/child relationship. Heuristic research, although it is ultimately subjective and personal, can open us up to the universal, the transpersonal.
Slater (2002, lecture) notes that since the specific and personal cannot ultimately be separated from the archetypal, by sticking to the uniqueness of the situation one can see through to the archetypal dimension. Grof’s work with holotropic nonordinary states of consciousness brings the birth process and transpersonal dimensions into focus, and in this way, mirrors the heuristic project, which is
to go through the complex to archetypal material and the universal on the other side of personal experience. One of the miracles of heuristic research is that the most personal is also the most universal and if you work it in the right way, you are also working with the universal. (Slater, 2002, lecture)
After amassing thousands of cases in his research with holotropic states, (both his own personal experience and that of co-researchers), Grof discovered that these experiences grouped themselves around different core experiences which he termed COEX systems (systems of condensed experiences). From his own personal experience with LSD, Grof became aware of other realms of the psyche and different levels of consciousness. Later, Grof used these different experiences to create his cartography of the psyche. The transpersonal dimensions he charted are reflected by verifiable postnatal and perinatal experiences of others (Grof & Tarnas, 2002, seminar).
The personal experience of the founders of the different schools of depth psychology is central to and has shaped these schools. Because of this variety in personal experience, the different schools view the world differently. Hocoy (2002, lecture) reminds us:
You can’t escape your lens, and what you see is what you elicit, so it’s not objective. You elicit what someone else wouldn’t, which is necessary for your unique eye’s view and for consciousness itself to be more fulfilled or to know itself more. So we are ultimately subjective, but if we are honest about it and show our lens, then others can check the validity and resonance.
People’s personal experience affects what they are drawn to and helps explain why their theories looks the way they do. At the same time, in my case at least, I have experienced the calling of “something unknown pulling me into the future” as Hillman’s daimon from The Soul’s Code suggests (Slater, 2002, lecture). But whether we are beckoned from the future or are a product of our past, it seems that people are almost “magnetized” and draw things to them, and see things in a unique way that is different from their predecessors. In this way we get different perspectives on the psyche and the world. As in the old story of the blind men and the elephant, each person describes the part of the elephant that he is in touch with, and whereas each gives an accurate account of his part, the whole is much more than any individual part.
Based on my personal experience as a bricoleur, I advocate combining different pieces of the different schools of depth psychology to give a richer view than any single theory offers. Some theories are better at describing different things and we bring into play whatever is the most useful to us at a particular time. I like to hold ideas from all of the different schools together loosely and rotate them to see which one is most useful at the time and which helps me see things more clearly. The process is similar to visiting the optometrist and having your vision checked by the machine where they try different lenses and ask you, “which one is better?”
Quantum physicist Amit Goswami (2001a, lecture) had a vision during his research that “we are each one eye in the big Eye of consciousness.” We each have something unique to contributeour own personal perspective. This idea of personal knowing corresponds to the Hindu idea of the “play of consciousness,” where the Divine, to know itself, has split up into all of creation in order to have different experiences.