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2. Bo Johnson’s two articles on the Circle test.

Bo Johnson´s circle test.
Dear Szondi friends, 151009

Herewith I send you information about two very short personality tests, each one giving you in a few minutes information about some main personality characteristics.

The first one is the Circle test, created at the end of the fifties by a friend of mine, Dr. Bo Johnson, a psychiatrist. The other one is an adaptation of the Lüscher Colour test revised by Prof. Borg. Both the Circle and Borg´s adaptation the BBL colour test give essential information in a few minutes.

Already as a student, before I started to work as a specialist in psychological diagnostics at the end of the fifties, I was interested in this question.

About the same time Dr. Bo Johnson started experimenting with his graphic Circle test by which he in a few minutes could distinguish indications of psychic disturbances. (See attached files.)

Moreover I learned in the same period about the existence of several other colour tests. Of these I found the Lüscher and Friedling test the most promising. Experiments showed me that the Lüscher test took the least time to apply. Two registrations could easily be made, in less than 10 minutes. This test was furthermore very easy to interpret. Lüscher presented 56 basic standard interpretations which made the interpretation rather mechanical and simple. This was probably also the reason why many people underestimated the possibilities of this test.

Two years ago I read Prof. Borgs book "Szondi in the Year 2004" in which he showed the correlation between the 8 Szondi factors and the Lüscher´s eight colours. This proved to be a very promising method about which I will give you more details in my next article about Short tests. I hope this information proves to be valuable for some. With Szondi greetings to you all. Your editor: Leo Berlips, www.szondiforum.org.

The Circle Integration's Test. A Study of the Diagonals.

By Bo G. Johnson. Lillhagens Psychiatric Hospital. Gothenburg. Written in 1968. Translated by Leo Berlips. Corrected by Dr. Arthur C. Johnston.


Harmonious circular patterns are considered by different authors, above all by C.G. Jung, to represent an integrated psyche (Agresti & Long. 1961; Ahlenstiel & Kaufmann, 1952; Jacobi, 1953; Jung, 1960; Tucci. 1961). Experiences from different projective tests, as e.g. the sand-pit test (Harding, 1965), Rorschach test, etc. show that an organization of the parts corresponds to a capacity to organize the processing of stimuli, in such a way that the parts work together in a dynamic way and form a whole (a Gestalt). This falls in turn back on the organization of the which is most highly developed in the mature individual. The circular organization form is most general and it seems as if the human psyche possesses an autonomy to produce spontaneously this form, when certain conditions are fulfilled, e.g. with the s. c., eidiotropic Gestalt tendency (Sander & Volkel, 1967).

I have designed a test with the intention to use this autonomous Gestalt principle for a study of psychic functions. Starting from the most important form elements, I have been formulated the following instructions:

“Draw a circle with a center and draw afterward whatever you wish inside the circle". The drawing is made on a blank A 4 paper with a pencil of degree 2 hardness.

Rawak (1968) let patients draw freely on a pre-drawn circle. This gives the possibility of a subjective interpretation, likewise when generally judging pathologic art (Suchenwirth & Sander, 1967). In the current test, the possibility is used that one self chooses the size and location on the paper (behavior variables) and shape the drawn content in the circle (projective variable). Extensive testing of patients and normal persons have given results which are worthwhile to present in different sections (Johnson. 1970).

The intention with the current study is to try to decide the psychic correlations to the horizontal and vertical circle-diagonals that frequently present themselves as “skeletons” in the abstract harmonious patterns and therefore should have a central significant importance. Because the diagonals are not available for direct analysis, the study has been based on the existing material of the drawing of 949 students etween 3 to 9 and to 54 years, from preschool, basic, medium and folk-högskola (a kind of popular high school).

The principle has been to assess the specific function of those elements in the concrete drawings, i.e., those that on the lowest level of development precede the diagonals.


The material shows that young children especially draw concrete items. At 13-14 years of age the abstract patterns suddenly increase in highly rising frequency, which afterwards dominate in higher ages. At 11 years of age temporarily a transition form is shown, consisting of a concrete picture with peculiar structural features that otherwise is found only in the abstract patterns. (See Fig. 1.) (Anastasi & Foley, 1944).

The development in the graphical medium from concrete to abstract form should be considered to represent a corresponding increase in mental maturity. These I denote as Transition forms.

Fig. 1. Division of the Total Material
a) concrete shapes b) transition forms c) harmonious abstract patterns.

[Alder = age.]

In a corresponding way the increase of the (psychic) differentiated Circles mirror the fact that with increasing age the child draws more and more objects in the circle, while at the same time shows more skill in organizing details into an integrated motif.


After the age of 13, there occurs a striking increase of abstract patterns. Of these 66% show diagonals in different planes and a horizontal and vertical diagonal in 45% (n 132).

An isolated vertical diagonal, (meaning: without at the same time the presence of a horizontal diagonal) does not occur, likewise occurs an isolated horizontal diagonal only in one drawing. Because diagonals even occur in concrete drawings, as for instance in the horizon line, we study the age variations of the diagonals in the total material. One finds then that:

  • The vertical diagonal, in combination with the horizontal diagonal, continuously increase with age up to 20%.
  • Isolated horizontal diagonal occurs in all ages with a pronounced minimum at 11 years.
  • Isolated vertical diagonal does not occur at all.

If one compares the relative distribution of the diagonals, one finds that horizontal diagonals mostly occur in young age and that the vertical diagonal appears more with increase in age.

The horizontal diagonal, as a part of the abstract pattern, is found as has been mentioned also in the naturalistic concrete motifs but has there the function of a horizontal ground line, mark line, etc. In the youngest ages, one finds attempts at such a ground line, e.g., in a short base line (a short dash). As expected this short base line has a high frequency in young age but decreases quickly afterwards. Then the whole mark line and horizon line, on the other hand, have a tendency to increase up to 13 years and later decrease again. After 13 years on the other hand the horizontal diagonal increases in the abstract patterns. (See Fig. 2.) Here, we find thus continuity in the horizontal line in its different graphical contexts and through studying its functional role one can formulate a hypothesis about its psychological importance.

Stone & Church (1968) say that the child's perception of his or her room equates different maturity phases and calls these: “action space", “chain space", “map space" and finally “abstract space". In the drawings, one can trace this development, and the base line plays a dominant role. One finds here that:

  • the base line serves the purpose to define the spatial figure within which the patterns are related;
  • the horizontal diagonal in its most mature form would represent in a graphical form an awareness about an abstract object, free from a (visual) spatial relationship," i.e., “abstract space”.

In the same way one can analyze the function of the vertical diagonal. Unfortunately, one does not find here some vertically-oriented linear element that can form the starting point for analysis (Rennert, 1969). Instead one can use the so-called transition forms with their over-structurizing tendencies. These can be considered as precursors to the vertical diagonal. In order to clarify still more the preconditioned requirements: there has to exist an entire horizontal line, because we already know that the horizontal diagonal precedes the vertical diagonal and one thus can expect that the picture then already is “mature" (ready) for a vertical diagonal.

Twenty-nine drawings could be selected by these criteria. In the center, one could then identify various item categories like growing trees, walking persons, etc. These could functionally be reduced to the concepts "energy" and "growth".

These could be expressed on different levels, partly correlated with age, vegetative-biological, psychological and social growth and finally symbolic representation of humanity's future, for instance danger from the atom bomb, etc. The vertical shapes express thus the level of the subject's "biological, sociological, and philosophical awareness.”

When then later the vertical diameter in the abstract structures takes the place for the vertical objects and replaces them, this line starts to represent this biological, sociological, and philosophical awareness. Likewise as abstract space for the adult constitutes a reality dimension in reality, so will energy, plant and life also be used to represent an aspect of reality and complement the room aspect.

When a person draws a vertical diagonal, this would then point out that he is aware about this dimension, however mainly on a pre-verbal level.

This finds its equivalence in what Church & Stone say, namely that “the adult has a kind of ”multidimensional base plan" of the world. Moreover, certain items exist in a social context with its innumerable relationships as family, spheres of interests; duty, sex role, status, etc. For corresponding interpretations of dimensions see also Carp (1947), Ey (1969) and Sjövall (1969).

The mature adult has an extensive, differentiated and highly integrated reality sense. This reality view is not chaotic but is built up as a pattern that moulds itself into a Gestalt. As a structuring tendency principle it appears more than anything else as that which regulates orientation in space and orientation in life.

These two principles become more or less aware to one during the development of abstract thinking and are expressed here graphically as the horizontal and vertical circle diameter.

Transition Form. An old man who structuralizes with specific abstract elements: radiuses, four subdivisions, concentric circles, etc.


Circle Integration Test: A Study of the Diagonal:

The circle content in the CIT passes through three qualitatively separated stages with increasing age: concrete form, transitional form and abstract form. The main elements in the last mentioned are the horizontal and vertical diameters. As the vertical diameter has been shown to have a pathognomonic significance, it is important to understand its possible psychological correlates. Based upon drawings of 949 normal persona from 4 to 53 years of age, a functional analysis has been done on those structures, in the transitional drawing forms, which are considered pre-stages to the diagonals.

The result is that a horizontal orientation of the objects represent extension in space and that the horizontal diameter represents the highest form of development, namely the concept of abstract space. In an analogous way the vertically oriented objects are considered to represent different levels of life processes and the vertical diameter finally to represent the conception of an abstract biological, social, and philosophical dimension.


Agresti, E. & Longhi, S.: Considerazioni sul significato dei Mandala nclle opere figurative dei malati mentali. Rivista sperimentale di freniatria e medicina legale delle alienaziony mentale. 1965, 89, 829-848.
Ahlenstiel, H. & Kaufmann, R.: Über die Mandalaform des „linearen Yantra". Schweizer Zeitschrift für, Psychologie, 1952, XI, 188-197.
Anastasi, A. & Foley, P. J. Jr.: An experimental study of the drawing behaviour of adult psychotics in comparison with that of a normal control group. Journal of experimental Psychology, 1944, 34, 169-194.
Carp, E. A. D. E.: Medische Psychologie En Pathopsychologie. Scheltema & Holkcma's Bockhandel en Uitgoversmaatschappij N.V. Amsterdam, 1947.
Ey, H.: Outline of an Organo-dynamic Conception of the Structure, Nosography, and Pathogenesis of Mental Diseases. I: Natanson, M. (ed.): Psychiatry and Philosophy. Heidelberg, Springer-Verlag, 1969. pp. 111-161.
Harding, G.: Leken som avslöjar. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, 1965.
Jacobi, J.: Ich und Selbst in der Kinderzeichnung. Schwelz. Zeitschrift für Psychologie 1953, XII, 52-62.
Sjövall, B.: Pierre Janet och personlighetens integrering. Nordisk psykiatrisk tidsskrift 1969, XXIII, 72-78.
Johnson, B. G.: The Circle Test. Rorschachiana, 1970, 53, 537-542.
Jung, C. G.: Dream Symbols of the Individuation Process. I: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks. London: Routledge &. Kegan Paul, 1960, 341-423.
Rawak, F.: Der Kreis-Test. ;Wien Zeitschrift Nerven Heilkunde, 1968, 26, 91-98.
Renncrt, H: Die „vertikale Blickwinkelverschiebung" in der schizophrenen Bildnerei. Psychiatrie, 1969, 9, 325-329.
Sander, F. & Volkelt, K: Ganzheitspsychologie. München: Becksche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1967.
Stone, J. L. & Church, L.: Chlldhood and Adolescence (2nd cd.). New York: Random House, 1968.
Suchenwirth, R. & Sander, Fr.: Abbau der grapischen Leistung. Stuttgart: Georg Thieme Verlag, 1967.
Tucci, G.: The Theory and Practice of the Mandala. London: Rider & Co. 1961.
Werner, H.: Comparative psychology of mental development (2nd ed.). New York: International Universities Press, 1957.

Bo Johnson

The Developing Man as viewed by a new personality test on Mandala structure

In Psychiatry one tries to cure diseases which means people who are sick are restored to a state of normal functioning. Psychiatrists are satisfied when the patients, are restored up to the point where they can function in work and in social relations. Anyhow the doctor meets people intimately and is in a situation where he may tap their inner resources and potentialities. In psychoanalysis the enigma is how to help people find trust and confidence in themselves when they have had a troublesome psychological development. The experience from clinical work is that people might have their diseases cured in a " biological " sense when they have had their physical treatment but many are not free from symptoms of psychological shortcomings. They are crippled as human beings. The way out from that point onward is to devise new medicines that will have an additive effect on the medicines used before. The primary contribution of psychiatry is to restore " biochemical " health. In addition to this the patient is helped to get a job and adapt to it, to get along with his spouse and so forth. When the patient functions as an ordinary man, psychiatry has done its part. But there is more to life than just that. I don't here mean anxieties and other minor troubles which might upset man and set him off searching for help but another not so frequently observed "drive " to come to better terms with life. To understand life, to understand oneself and get a motivation towards a higher level for action. It is more than Frankl's "will to meaning" as this "meaning" might be valid just to a circumscribed part of existence and not this maximal openness of mind I am trying to describe. C. G. Jung's idea of the Self goes very deep as it includes archaic levels i.e. over- personal experiences and their powers " numen ". But as Jung defines the archaic as the collective and condensed experiences of the past of humanity, does the concept of the Self not implicate anything about the future. But there are theories of man deeper in content, that postulate that man is a growing conscious organism and that he always has more potential abilities than what he has just now accomplished. What are those powers of man, where can you find them functioning. This new concept of man we might find in modern literature inspired from the Orient. We have the concept of the master in the theosophical literature. People on their way to that supreme state of development have a richer inner life than ordinary man. Their intellectual grasp of life is more differentiated. That means that they have a fullness of knowledge which also is organized into a coherent whole. They also are able to transcend the level of concrete knowledge of things. They might have glimpses of hidden things: "that are prior to the seen thing ". That means that they experience that the world has layers of existence and that the inner layers precede and create, together with outer determinants, the material world, as we with our senses experience it. The picture of man as a biological organism beginning to establish a spiritual consciousness is new in science. There is a growing literature about this with Maslow as a pioneer.

With this as a somewhat sketchy introduction and if his concept of man is true, which much psychological and literary evidences point to, it would be of greatest interest if those potential powers could be made visible. That means to devise some kind of test that would register the individual state of development. This test should be projective in character as the growing tendencies of man are mostly to be expected from unconscious levels. A culture rich in spiritual experiences is the Chinese. C. G. Jung has found that spiritual states very often demonstrate themselves by the so called Mandalas, circular harmonious diagrams. The Mandala is to be regarded as the mirror of spiritual life. This idea was my starting point for my work to develop a drawing test around this Mandala idea. Rawak has invented the " Kreis Test "in which the subject is told to draw what he likes into a pre-drawn circle on a sheet of paper. Sometimes he draws a Mandala. According to my opinion there is a greater chance that he draws this form. A circular form would not be enough to lead the thoughts of the subject to such a form. With the test instruction "draw a circle with a centre and then draw what you like into the circle" would better suit the purpose. This instruction given to children and adults gave a very different result. About 50% of the adults drew Mandala-like forms but only a small percent of the children. Likewise only a small per cent of a psychiatric hospital population drew these forms. I concluded then that the test registered the maturity level of the subject. I will say that as far as I know, no " spiritual " people in the above mentioned sense were tested in my series. It was rather clear that the test, as far as common man is concerned (as subject), could register the level of psychological development of the subject. In my other writings I have, in more detail, discussed why just this Mandala form appears on the the drawings. So I will discuss here only the results of different correlative analysis based on interviews, ratings, questionnaries and psychometric testing. Instead of Mandala, which is used in the writings of Jung, I prefer the word "form of integration" as this test form has nothing of " magic" as the Mandala has.

When people spontaneously draw a Mandala, first they draw a circle and then something into the circle. The content has a peculiar structure. For my own part I define the drawing as "integration form "in the test when the structure has concentric circles from the centre outward, radii, and some element that presents it as an ornament or the like. Anyhow, it is clear that the content is formed by the intellectual cognitive process but steered by some unconscious ordering process. This process makes all integration forms almost the same structure. There seems to be a Gestalt law involved in this process as it is balanced left-right, up and down. The central core of the structure forms a cross consisting of a vertical and a horizontal diameter. Studies on children show that, with increasing age, the content of the circle also shows changes. These developmental trends are briefly: first, concrete objects as a man, a house etc. Then an increasing number of objects appear. These are increasingly more integrated to each other to make a whole picture. At the age of 13, there is an abrupt increase of abstract integrative forms (Mandalas). That means that the concrete naturalistic forms develop into geometric abstract ones. That is the trend. Although you might find at a higher age highly differentiated and integrated naturalistic motives, they should be rated as the same psychic developmental level as an abstract integrative form. This change from concrete to abstract forms is parallel to the age when the growing child changes from concrete to abstract thinking. Therefore abstract forms are regarded to indicate an abstract intellectual functioning. I will not go into detail about what is meant by abstract thinking but it is partly an ability to grasp the general from the particular i.e. the concrete. The general becomes a thing in itself i.e. a concept and is also related to reality as is the concrete object.

As the two diameters are the main core of the structure it would be of interest to try to analyze what they would represent i.e. what does the person mean by drawing them. Of course he is not at all aware of the significance of these lines, they must be analyzed by inference. In the child sample of about 800 subjects, the drawings were classified according to the age of the subject. One then finds that in the drawing, a horizontal line is drawn to represent the horizon or a part of the earth, floor, etc. on which other objects are situated. It is apparent that there is a growing awareness of physical space as a base for objects and as a scheme or dimension for arranging the objects. This horizontal line remains as an important part of the picture at an older age and when the picture transforms into an abstract geometric pattern, the baseline in the drawing gets a new function, it becomes a diameter of the circle. My interpretation of this phenomenon is that this diameter represents the abstract conception of space, the dimension that orders and relates all things. Then what about the vertical diameter? It is interesting to observe that this line appears at a later stage in older children, as the horizontal line. By observing pictures drawn by children of just before 13, you will find a vertical position of some objects. These are mostly growing objects, plants, animals and human beings. They might be symbols of life and death and are also vertically situated. Suddenly this " mature " picture of concrete forms changes to a geometric one. In this the vertical line is distinctly drawn. My interpretation of this is that the vertical diameter represents an abstract conception of the life process in contrast to the material life aspect. Some authors when describing the human consciousness also write about these two dimensions of mind: one that covers the material world, and the other that covers the apprehension of all kinds of life including social life and responsibilities and so forth into the spiritual domain. Interesting enough a vertical diameter without a concomitant horizontal one is only to be found in schizophrenic patients. This can be interpreted as the result of the neglect of the physical and an emphasis of the philosophical aspect (the vertical line). The disruption in the schizophrenic should then consist of a splitting of the materialistic sense and the adaptation to the physical world and a dreaming into an autistic world of fancy.

Before proceeding further about the psychological meaning of the drawing variables we will now discuss what the circle surface stands for. When testing a person it is evident that when he forms the content it is the outcome of an intellectual process. The percept the individual bears in mind and puts on the paper is his remembered experiences. The sensory impressions are selectively stored as so called appercepts. That means a percept that is influenced by the highly individual associative processes. In psychoanalysis this memorizing is called "internalizing of objects". In the mind of a grown up person there will be a replica, a picture of the outer world, as the person has experienced it. The important thing is now that different persons have somewhat different pictures.

The hypothesis is that what the person draws on the circular surface represents his cognitive mirroring of the world. His ability to mirror in a realistic way is determined by the energy level of the cognitive processes and the refinement of the associative network of the brain. I have come to this conclusion by studying drawings by psychiatric patients. Besides varying from concrete to abstract form, the content also varies according to the filling up of the circular surface and now the differently drawn objects are related to each other to make a circular whole. Patients very often draw their pictures on a reduced surface and the objects are few in number — very often only one object is drawn. Different ways of experimental analysis of this phenomenon has led to the conclusion that when only one object is drawn, the cognitive process is, in general, functioning at a low energy level. This I have called "cognitive asthenia". This is to be found in endogenic psychosis and also as a constitutional variant. At the psychological level this means that the subject has a reduced, a contracted experience of the world i.e. what the world means for him. His way of living is stereotyped and he is involved only in a few things. You may here speak of a state of autism. He then also has a poor ability to handle many different things at the same time i.e. a reduced "simultaneous capacity ". Autistic schizophrenic patients are thought of as lacking introjected objects and therefore they go astray when they meet with heavy demands in life. They just can't handle complex situations. The other dimension that you easily can register from the drawing is its degree of integration of the different objects. As the mind mirrors the surrounding world by means of its internalized objects, will a poor organizing capacity result in a poor mirroring and a poorly organized picture in the test. This results in a defective apprehension of the world. The individual is not able to understand the world as his cognitive capacities makes it possible, therefore the instrument of understanding i.e. his brain, being defective, he will have a defective apprehension. As he is not able to experience the world as a spatio-temporal continuum with all its relations, his adaptation to the world will suffer. This faulty integrative power can be the result of a slow developmental process, a lacking of maturation or it can be the result of a damage with a de-integration as a consequence. This is to be found in traumatic brain damage but also in schizophrenia. Here the drawn picture often shows peculiar distortions which points to the fact that the schizophrenic person has a distorted cognition, so called perceptual distortions. That means that the cognitive processing of sensory data is defective which will end up in a distorted mental picture of the world.

Finally, the analysis points to the fact that the Circle Integrative Test makes visible in a drawing the characteristics of the cognitive processes in the individual. Of course there is more relationship to consciousness than what is written here but the dimensions that we have here discussed are important for understanding the individual and have important practical implications which have been pointed out. The riddle of the Mandala seems also in part to be solved. The Mandala is also called a " psycho-cosmogram ". The meaning of this in the psychological sense seems then to be that there is a parallel between the cognitive process and the outer world. The objective world remains always hidden for the subject. His only means to get a picture of the surrounding world is by sensual experiences and a central cognitive processing of raw data. If the processing is outstanding in quality, the final mental picture will, as much as possible, correspond to the objective world. This mental picture of the world is projected from the brain on to the outer world. We never know this mental picture. Only, in dreams and imagination we have some experiences of this inner world. Therefore it is easy to understand why the Mandala is regarded as a symbol for the psyche and the outer cosmos which means an outer chaotic world brought into order. This means that when the mental picture is completed (as far as possible) the individual experiences the world as ordered. This subjective feeling of inner harmony of which Jung writes in combination with an ordered perception of the world prompts the individual to express this experience in a Mandala structure. The order in the Mandala corresponds to the psychic order and the order in the world.

There is also an important aspect of this peculiar structure. This structure is to be found everywhere in nature, in the mineral, in plants and unicellular organisms. It is also the form which certain physiologic stimulations can take shape. In man it stands for his wholeness. As the structure represents an integrated personality and in the lower worlds it represents a skeleton structure it seems evident that this structure implicates an architectonic structure to increase the objectivity of the individual. This individual might then be the mineral, the silicon alga (diatom?) or man. For man, it functions as a buffer system that will be unchanged or can assimilate noxious stimuli without disruption. The structure then is a projection of the integrative state of the personality. Such a man will be able to assimilate problems, work them through and end up with a proper reaction. He will not be inefficient in his struggle. He represents an open system towards the environment but has an inner autonomy to stand fast in a troubled world.

This phenomenon points to the fact that man has his roots in nature and has inherited this special form of structure which in the mineral world is formed by chemical forces. Jung calls the mandala an archaic symbol which springs forth from the depth of the collective unconscious, With archaic he means that the symbol is a concentrated expression of the past experiences of the human race. This conception does not apply in this case. Instead it points to the fact that there are physical elementary forces laid down in creation which will determine the structural outcome when parts of the physical world, molecules, combine into larger complexes. The complexes get by this means a high stability and resistance. These complexes combine in their turn into even larger complexes and arrange into similar structures. And so forth. The biological organism is a highly differentiated physical structure and in many aspects it determines the conscious processes, i.e., the thinking. So when the different parts in consciousness arrange into this structure, which is made visible by his art production, this only indicates that conscious processes are part of Nature and are governed by the same laws that govern Nature at large, even in the elementary world. It could be these circumstances by which man is attracted to these forms. Intuitively one might understand the function of the mandala as it is created from subconscious layer of the mind that it connects man to his natural background i.e. Nature. It gives him a profound feeling that he is one with Nature. But this structure is also himself with its implicated possibilities and responsibilities for actual living. When this structure finally is formed as a mark of the person's psychological development, it also gives him a platform for further psychic development along, which I suppose, spiritual lines.

© 1996-2002 Leo Berlips, JP Berlips & Jens Berlips, Slavick Shibayev