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International Forum of Psychoanalysis 6: 62-64

Unconscious Logic. An Introduction to Matte Blanco's Bi-Logic and its Uses

Eric Rayner. London: Routledge 1995.

Review by

Margaret Arden, M.B., B.S., D.P.M.

Ignacio Matte Blanco (1908-1995) was born in Chile and qualified in medicine at the age of 20. By the age of 25 he was
assistant professor of physiology, but his interest in psychiatry and psychoanalysis led him to London where he trained as an
analyst in the late 1930's. While in England he also studied mathematical logic. After working as a psychiatrist in America during
the war he returned to Chile to take the chair of psychiatry at Santiago. He spent many years studying the speech of schizophrenic
patients. His findings were published in the Int. J. Psych. Anal. in 1940, 1943 and 1959. He wrote two books, The Unconscious as
Infinite Sets (1975) and Thinking, Feeling and Being (1988)[] in which he expounded his own theory of the mind. His work is
particularly about the role of emotion in thinking. Starting with Freud's two principles of mental functioning, primary and
secondary process, he elaborated in detail how these represent two different logics. He described primary process as symmetrical
thinking, in contrast to the differentiating asymmetry of rational secondary process thought. The term bilogic denotes the
combination of these two processes in all mental activity. For example, although dreams are the purest example of symmetrical
thinking we have, they often contain elements of rational thought.
Eric Rayner was the first to generate support for Matte Blanco with his 1981 paper in the International Journal of
Psychoanalysis. Since then he has been the leading light of the London Bi-Logic Group, which although small has attracted
people with a wide variety of interests who have seen the creative possibilities in Matte Blanco's work. Without this focus, Matte
Blanco would have remained unknown outside his native Chile and Rome, where he spent the last thirty years of his life.
Matte Blanco's ideas are quite difficult to understand at first acquaintance, and many people have dismissed his work as
idiosyncratic. Those of inquiring mind may be fascinated by a new and distinct way of thinking about mental life.
Rayner has spent a lot of time over the years in discussion with Matte Blanco himself and with others who have used his
ideas. He has contacts with members of many different academic disciplines in many countries, and his knowledge of bi-logic is
unrivalled. He writes in an informal style, encouraging the reader
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to explore the ideas presented. This book is invaluable as an introduction, an explanation of bi-logic and a guide to Matte Blanco's
influence on others. The early chapters are a detailed exposition of Matte Blanco's ideas in clear steps with examples and some
mental exercises, which help the reader to enter the world of bi-logic.
The central chapters are a discussion and appraisal of bi-logic in relation to psychoanalysis. Matte Blanco's ideas were
formed in the 1930's and he pursued his own path without taking much notice of developments in psychoanalytic theory. Rayner
considers how far Freud's drives and instincts can be expressed in systems theory terms, i.e. in the language of negative feedback
and homeostasis. Although these concepts were not available to Freud, the principle of constancy can easily be seen as an
example of such thinking. However Freud's views on the discharge of psychic energy do not fit.
In the chapter Bi-logic and Infinite Sets Rayner attempts to reconcile Matte Blanco's idea of infinity with other theories
about the relationship between thinking and feeling. The mathematical basis of symmetrical logic is that the logic of sets breaks
down when the set approaches infinity, so that a part can be equal to the whole. Freud's characteristics of the unconscious, and
verbal constructions such as metaphor and paradox, show that logical thought and speech contain irrational ideas which increase
under the influence of emotion. Whether Matte Blanco's explanation is mathematically valid or not, the idea of radiation and
maximalisation of ideas under the influence of emotion is a useful clinical concept.
In the same chapter Rayner discusses the application of four philosophic visionsthe romantic, tragic, comic and ironicto
the analytic attitude, and also the classicalromantic duality. This interesting discussion shows the value of Matte Blanco's way
of using primary and secondary process as the indivisible and divisible modes. Investigators in many different fields are asking
similar questions about the value of mental events, and bi-logic provides one kind of evidence about primary process functioning.
To quote Rayner:
Let us turn to some overall structural aspects of the mind that can be explored by the bi-logical method. Matte Blanco never
attempts to construct an overall model of the mind but confines himself to various separate visions of mental functioning seen in a
bi-logical light.

WARNING! This text is printed for the personal use of the owner of the PEP Archive CD and is copyright to the Journal in
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Matte Blanco writes that the dreamer sees a multidimensional world with eyes that are made to see only three dimensions.
Although he points out quite clearly the limitations imposed on Western thought by Cartesian dualism he is simultaneously
attempting to explain the unconscious mind in logical terms. Rayner is very honest about the problems in this difficult enterprise,
pointing to the areas where resolution has not yet occurred. The idea that eyes are meant to see in three dimensions can be
misleading. Eyes existed long before man developed the idea of dimensionality. The reader should bear in mind that it is only in
Western civilisation, in the past few centuries, that the scientific rationality which we take for granted has existed. In other parts
of the world, and in the West before the Enlightenment, holistic world views prevailed.
Many theoretical problems disappear if a holistic theory is adopted which transcends Cartesian dualism. For example, in
David Bohm's theory of implicate order, derived from quantum physics, all the different aspects of reality are part of the totality
or holomovement. Any aspect of the world that we are thinking about is unfolded from the totality into the explicate order of
ordinary reality. Science, philosopy and subjective experience are all parts of the explicate order. Explicated realities are unfolded
into the individual or group mind and are reenfolded into the holomovement when we cease thinking about them. The implicate
order itself is something we can only glimpse. My view is that the experience of dreams gives us intimations of the implicate
order where dimensions greater that three can be comprehended when the rational process of conscious thought is suspended.
Here we confront the challenge and the fascination of Matte Blanco. I was first hooked on The Unconscious as Infinite Sets by
the frontispiece, which shows a Byzantine mosaic of an archangel with three pairs of wings which almost hide his face. The
17-line caption suggests various ways in which the artist tried to convey the depiction of dimensions higher than three, which are
beyond the laws of Aristotelian logic but which could be unfolded into those laws. Rayner gives clinical examples which show
how multiple dimensions occur in clinical situations. He emphasises the subjective and emotional nature of these experiences and
shows how understanding the multidimensionality of the unconscious can be useful clinically.
The last three chapters connect bi-logic with ideas in other fields. First is a chapter on the therapeutic
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process with clinical examples of the use of bi-logic. In the next chapter, Bi-logic as a crossroads between disciplines, the work
of Piaget, Levi-Strauss, Bateson, Edelman and Bion are scrutinised from a bi-logical point of view. It has to be admitted that the
connections are not always entirely clear, but the general tendency towards a holistic or systems theory approach is evident
It is interesting in this connection that when discussing aggression Matte Blanco writes: It is as though the child said to the
mother I don't want to be you any more, I want to be myself. Such an affirmation amounts to the birth of space (separation,
instead of previous unity) and hence of time (perhaps the great sin of Adam and Eve, and of Lucifer, was to have affirmed
their independence of God). Here Matte Blanco's vision includes the whole range of religious experience, culture and myth.
Unlike Freud, he is not attempting an explanation of mind in scientific terms. For example, when Rayner is discussing basic
psychoanalytic concepts in the light of bi-logic he shows how identification does not have to be a symmetrical process, although
symmetry is always involved. Rayner uses the language of bi-logic to give a picture of how healthy relationships contain and hold
the different elements and how psychopathology can be explained in terms of symmetry getting out of control. In this connection
the equation of mania with infinity seems very helpful.
The last chapter is Complex systems, mathematical chaos and bi-logic. Rayner has studied these subjects with Ian Mordant,
a mathematician who is a member of the London bi-logic group. These new techniques can be usefully applied to psychoanalysis
in order to recast Freudian theory in current terms. This is a fascinating development which compensates for the fact that Matte
Blanco only used the Freudian concepts available in his youth.
Bi-logic is a holistic theory of mind much more amenable to cross-disciplinary use than traditional psychoanalysis. Matte
Blanco's preoccupation with primary process is very modern. Instead of the linear where id was, there shall ego be he provides a
model of circularity and interpenetration of rational and irrational. Jordan (3) pointed out in his obituary of Matte Blanco that
bi-logic has developed those aspects of Freud's theory which do not fit into a traditional scientific framework. When we do get a
new paradigm of mental functioning, it may well show that Matte Blanco has been there all along.

[1] Arden M. Psychoanalysis and survival. Int. J. Psycho-Anal. 1985;66: 471.[]
[2] Bohm D. Wholeness and the implicate order. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980.
[3] Jordan J-F. Int. J. Psycho-Anal. 1985;76: 1035.[]
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Article Citation [Who Cited This?]

Arden, M. (1997). Unconscious Logic. An Introduction to Matte Blanco's Bi-Logic and its Uses: Eric Rayner. London:

WARNING! This text is printed for the personal use of the owner of the PEP Archive CD and is copyright to the Journal in
which it originally appeared. It is illegal to copy, distribute or circulate it in any form whatsoever.
Routledge 1995. International Forum of Psychoanalysis 6: 62-64

WARNING! This text is printed for the personal use of the owner of the PEP Archive CD and is copyright to the Journal in
which it originally appeared. It is illegal to copy, distribute or circulate it in any form whatsoever.