Since 1965 when his first book appeared, Akhter Ahsen has authored or edited some forty books on imagery.  His body of work, which has come to be known as IMAGE PSYCHOLOGY, draws its inspiration solely from the Image.  The thrust of the imagery movement, which follows Ahsen’s lead, is that the Image is most central to human activity and expression, much as behaviorists believe that behavior is central.

Image Psychology, as propounded by Ahsen, represents an experiential system of complex mental structures and dynamic image formations that demonstrate various functions and operations of the mind and body.  It discovers imagery blueprints in the psyche, locates them at their source, and traces their tributaries.  As the images are studied and reveal what they do at various levels, it becomes clear how different images affect the emotions and the physiology differently and why.  Entering the image arena with full awareness of the principles through which imagery operates, we are able to play with their infinite possibilities and create change along the lines we want or desire.

But Image Psychology is more than just a method.  Its solidly grounded theory accounts for both Eastern and Western traditions of science and philosophy and is derived from a thoroughly lived knowledge of its extensions in literature, myth, religion, and art as well.  In addition, it draws on the most recent neuropsychological evidence involving two-process theory and holographic images in the brain and the discovery of fractals in computer science to explain the fast moving and amazing results effected by imagery in terms of “hard science.”

Image Psychology has profound appeal to many fields outside of therapeutics because the Image itself holds great fascination for many branches of knowledge.  Recently, Image Psychology has encouraged literary and social criticism based on analysis of the image in such related fields as sociology and the creative arts.  No longer are its drama, adventure, engagement, and transformational possibilities accessible to us only through the work of someone who presents the intuited image such as Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Rembrandt, Magritte, Steiglitz, Rodin, and Coppola.

But interestingly, it was the scientist Pavlov, from whose work behaviorism developed, who pointed this out so succinctly in his book, Conditioned Reflexes and Psychiatry, when he wrote that there are “two categories of people—artists and thinkers.  Between them there is a marked difference.  The artists…comprehend reality as a whole, as continuity, a complete living reality, without divisions, without any separations.  The other group, the thinkers, pull it apart, kill it. … This difference is especially prominent in the so-called eidetic imagery of children. … Such a whole creation of reality cannot be completely attained by a thinker.”

It is exactly this image—the EIDETIC—on which Image Psychology is based.  In 1907, V. Urbantschitsch in Germany found a repeatable form of imagery called “Anschauungsbilder” (the earlier German term for eidetic).  Following this E. R. Jaensch took up the research, and between the first and second World Wars, work on eidetics emanated from the Marburg Institute of Psychology, popularly known as the Marburg school.  He concluded that the same laws which apply to normal perception also apply to eidetic phenomena, except that the two were “quantitatively different.”  In 1928, Heinrich Kluver concluded that “There is…no doubt about the value of the attempt to investigate problems of ‘classical’ psychology by systematically applying laboratory methods.… The eidetic studies have brought out that it is possible to utilize objective methods for the determination of the subjective experiences of the individual.”  As the events crossed over the 1930s, however, his work was replaced completely by two diametrically opposed trends in psychology—psychoanalysis and behaviorism—both concentrating from two opposite standpoints.

According to Ahsen’s research on imagery, which took place after the Second World War over a fifteen-year period prior to the publication of his first book in 1965, the type of image that repeatedly emerged as capable of resolving significant family or social issues had the same qualities as the eidetic described by the Marburg school.  In 1977, after having tested and applied the concepts and techniques of eidetics in the experimental as well as clinical setting, Dr. Ahsen distinguished between structural eidetics (eidetic images based on the individual’s personal history and the changes he could cause in them) and typographic eidetics (an exact reproduction of the presented picture under laboratory conditions), which was quickly accepted by the field.

Following this, Ahsen introduced the term NEW STRUCTURALISM to distinguish between Titchenerian and Saussurean structuralism and other neo-structural theories and also examined other post-structuralist developments in this context.  The notion emphasized the necessity of dealing with the introspectively available data, since images fall in this special region of inquiry but represent an activated data-source.  New Structuralism was distinguished from Husserl’s phenomenology, being particularly concerned with dramatic possibilities in the image which, in spite of existing entirely in the mind, operates as a real thing in the real world.

Compared to Akhter Ahsen’s penetrating analysis of imagery formation and eidetic processes, all other clinical uses of imagery appear singularly embryonic.  David F. Marks, the experimentalist, has called Ahsen’s work on Image Psychology and the empirical method “brilliant” with “scintillating analysis of some very heady philosophical, psychological and rhetorical concepts…provocative and challenging established positions.”  Kenneth Burke, the literary critic, has called it “ingenious.”  Regarding his purely literary achievements, mythologist Joseph Campbell has said about Ahsen’s epic poem Manhunt in the Desert, “One thinks of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land,” calling Manhunt a “prophetic vision” having the “quality of revelation,” and “a truly powerful poem, with an empowering answer, vividly wrought from the rock and sand, transmuted, of our own desert today.”  Harry Slochower, editor of “American Imago,” wrote about Ahsen’s play, Opedipus at Thebes, that it “goes deeper than Eric Fromm’s sociological approach.  It is all poignantly applicable to the ritualism of our age.”

Ahsen leaves little doubt that, as it has happened over and over again before, the bridge between the worlds of psychology, literature, and art must be traveled again.  Image Psychology stands central to this as the image stands central to the psyche, harmonizing all possibilities in one unifying portrait.

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