Explore Dr Leon Hammer’s model of developmental ontological psychology where the evolution of being is examined according to the energetic cycle of the five phases, an expression of the “great turning” or the cycle of yin and yang of Daoist cosmology.

From our…
Birth in the depths of Water,
Growth and negative assertion of Wood,
Full realisation of self and positive assertion of Fire,
Individuation and transformation of bonds in Metal
Return to Water or Shao Yin for the final journey.
…our survival is always supported by the Earth phase that nurtures and develops both the bonds that connect us, and the boundaries that protect us.

Each phase, while having a significant effect on our ontological development at certain times in our lives, are active and guiding our being throughout the entirety of our lives.

The Water phase is the repository of all phylogenies as well as ontology. These energies encompass the unconscious reservoir of innate and intuitive intelligence, intelligent will, and the life force which drives them to fruition. They are concerned with the identity of people individually and collectively, with the human race and with the transpersonal, a balance between awe and wonder and the banal and prosaic, with the best and the worst. Water energies relate to divine love, power, and spirit and to all that we are potentially capable of as children of the universe.

The Wood phase provides the assertion and direction of being, the question of when to advance and retreat in the face of life’s perplexing problems to facilitate the free and easy flight of the ‘red bird.’ The repression of these leads to passive-aggressive personality disturbance.

The Fire phase orchestrates the passion, creativity and communication of being. It generates and controls, protects and integrates, sorts and harmonizes energies for the joyful and loving expression of being. Deficiency or repression of these functions leads to problems of creativity, both of the right brain (yin) and left brain (yang), and to many of the interpersonal disasters that beset our race.

The Earth phase is responsible for bonding and boundaries, including the first bond with a mothering figure. This bond begins in utero in the latter part of pregnancy, continues through the early years of childhood and later expands, with the assistance of Metal energies, to include surrogate parents (teachers) and surrogate siblings (friends). Earth energies are more relevant to the quality and maturation of bonds rather than merely to their formation and expansion. Certain schizophrenic, schizoid, borderline, oral dependent, and narcissistic disabilities emanate from a failure of Earth energies during these developmental stages.

The Metal phase serves the process of individuation by lending its energies to the transformation and expansion of existing bonds to significant others and to society at large. The tenuous or consuming nature of the bond, both in its making and its keeping,
depends on the excess or deficiency of these energies.  Metal energies engage an ever-wider spectrum of variegated mortals by coordinating this process of letting go and re-attaching. These energies afford us our most immediate give and take with the environment and are especially important during preadolescence and adolescence, as well as during the initial incorporation of authority into ourselves.

The sixth stage in the cycle of being sees a return to the Water phase, where this cycle begins and sets also the final scene of being on this planet. It is responsible for moving the bond beyond society to a oneness with all creation and the life force—in Western terms, a union with God or the Universe.

The maturation of all these energies in the growing person depends on their integrity in the parent and the quantity and quality of appropriate investment of power in the relationship. The opportunities for abuse are multitude.

In short, concerning the evolution of the life force or the ‘dragon rising’: the power is Water, the direction is Wood, the bonding is Earth, the expression is Fire, and the expansion/transformation is Metal.

(Hammer L 1990 Dragon rises, red bird flies. Station Hill Press, Barrytown)