By Malcolm Pines



From Darwin's notebooks: "Origin of man now proved.—Metaphysic must flourish.—He who understands a baboon would do more towards metaphysic than Locke" (2008, p. 257). By metaphysic, in his time, he meant the increase of knowledge.


Now we have a book, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind (Cheney & Seyfarth (2008). In baboon groups, social pressures change constantly, rapidly, and unpredictably Their social world is inherently dynamic and they possess a limited ability to recognize the mental states of others. However, what are, possibly, their rich causal narratives remain private, with no ways of sharing with others; there is no gossip. They live in the present and cannot engage in the human thought activity of “what if.” Here we have a complex society that operates without language, only with signs, or only with evidence of theory of mind—that is, knowing that what is in the mind of the other is understood by my sharing in that way of understanding myself.


Darwin said,

as man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united in the larger communities, the simplest reason will tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. (2008, p. 251)

What wonderful days these would be were Burrow alive! This book of his papers, researched and edited by Edi and Giorgio Perte­gato and introduced by his loyal co-workers Alfreda Galt and Lloyd Gilden of the Lifwynn Foundation, presents and preserves his group analytic work, which began over ninety years ago. Burrow lives again! And what an era this would be for Burrow the researcher: the rise of neuro-Darwinism, brain sciences, primatology (which deals with the social life of primates) (Hrdy, 2009), and the new knowledge and understanding of the central value of co-operation which exists in balance with competition in the biological sciences. Burrow the dedi­cated researcher would today find so many avenues for exploration in connection with these new models.


Among the panoply of explorers of the "social unconscious", Goldstein, Schilder, Foulkes, Moreno, Slayson, now also the current editor of this new series, nearly all had pioneered studies in brain sciences and how this knowledge could be applied to the new group therapies. Freud must be included, for, though he fiercely denied the value of Burrow's "experimental studies", Freud made great contri­butions to group psychology, as did the great neurologist Wilfred Trotter, whose ideas were a foundation for those of his pupil, Wilfred Bion, though at that time a surgeon.


Burrow's collected papers, edited and presented together here for the first time, show his very acute thinking about the primary union of infant and mother, then an unheard aspect of psychoanalysis which was then based upon Freud's drive theory and its Oedipal manifesta­tions. Ferenczi, Balint, Klein, Bowlby, Winnicottt, Anna Freud, and Rene Spitz were yet to be heard as was, much later, Heinz Kohut. Yet, Burrow's writings resonated with D. H. Lawrence, Herbert Read, and others outside the psychoanalytic community. There was an exchange of letters with D. H. Lawrence which commenced in 1925. "I am in entire sympathy with your ideas of social images." In 1926, Lawrence wrote, "Many thanks for the paper 'Psychoanalysis in Theory and Life' . . . It is true, the essential self is so simple - and nobody lets it be. But I wonder if you ever get anyone to listen to you" (Huxley, 1932, p. 634).

In 1927, he wrote,

It is really funny — resistances — that we are all of us existing by resist­ing — and that . .. a p.-a. [psycho-analyst] doctor and his patient only come to hugs in order to offer a perfect resistance to mother or father or Mrs Grundy — sublimating one existence into another existence ­each man his own nonpareil, and spending his life secretly or openly resisting the nonpareil pretensions of all other men — a very true picture of us all, poor dears. All bullies, or being bullied.

Men will never agree — can't in their "subjective sense perception." Sub­jective sense perceptions are individualistic, ab ovo. But do tell them to try! (Huxley, 1932, p. 615)

Burrow's writings had immediate deep meaning for D. H. Law­rence, for the psychoanalytic community, agitations and dismissal. Burrow's challenge was that the psychoanalytic community shared in a social cover-up; the fact that we all disguise is that neurosis is social and that a social neurosis can only be met through a social analysis. History was repeated when, similarly, Bion and Rickman challenged the British army at Northfield Military Hospital. They were dismissed.


Burrow's education was in the America of pragmatic psychology, of Cooley, Dewey, James, and George Herbert Mead.1 His primary group work was conducted as an experimental science, which, for him, had either to be confirmed or rebutted. The psychoanalysis of his days, principally the 1920s and 1930s, was based on the writings and methods of Freud, so Burrow's words fell on stony ground, and this book challenges why he has remained, to a very large extent, unheard. For myself, as a historian of Foulkesian group analysis, I have had to reconsider why he has remained "one of the Forgotten Pioneers" of whom I have written. The pivotal moment for the recognition of group methods as essential to a broad-based response to the chal­lenges of wartime and post war psychiatry began at Northfield Military Hospital, where both Bion and Foulkes were seminal figures. Bion was dismissed, Foulkes educated and listened to with respect. The psychiatric world had moved on and was able now to listen.

Why was Foulkes heard, whereas Burrow was not? Foulkes had impeccable European psychoanalytic credentials: training in Vienna, and work at the Frankfurt Institute of Psychoanalysis. For Burrow's background and psychoanalytic training, please see "The psycho­analytic period: from drives to relationships" (p. xxxix). Less obvious was his sociological education through his friendship with Norbert Elias, a peripheral member of the Frankfurt School of Marxist sociol­ogists. Foulkes gained and retained his status as a training analyst for the Anna Freud Group of the British Psychoanalytical Society, which included. Bowlby and Fairbairn as members, later James Anthony and myself. Foulkes was influential as a teacher of group psychotherapy at the Maudsley Hospital, which was the centre of British postgradu­ate education. He immersed himself in the creation, with Moreno, of The International Association of Group Psychotherapy. He founded the London Group Analytic Society from which the Institute of Group Analysis (London) developed and which has had a major role in the development of group analysis throughout Europe.

Foulkes was a gradualist who charmed and retained his audience; Burrow held on to his fundamental principles and, thus, his words did not compromise. Now he must again be listened to.

I hope that this book, which is part of the New International Library of Group Analysis, will have wide readership, and that Trigant Burrow regains his rightful place in the pantheon of group analysis and group psychotherapy.

Malcolm Pines

Editors' note

1. For Burrow's background and psychoanalytic training, see the section headed "The psychoanalytic period: from drives to relationships" (p. xxxix.