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The Metamorphic Technique and the Universal Principles

by Agnes Boes(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 28 - May 1998

Life itself is the great healer. It appears simple and obvious, yet the finite mind has difficulty in grasping it. The Metamorphic Technique and the Universal Principles put into practise this idea and offer an environment for contacting and reawakening the self-healing quality of life.

From Reflexology and Prenatal Therapy to the Metamorphic Technique

The Metamorphic Technique began in the 1960s as a result of the work of a British naturopath, Robert St. John (1912 – 1996). He was disappointed that many people who had been helped by treatment later fell back into their old ways of behaving and their former illnesses recurred. He realised that there are two basic patterns which influence our life: the afferent pattern, which is inward-moving, and the efferent pattern, which is outward-going. This is exemplified in the extreme by the autistic person who tends to pull away from life, and by the Down’s syndrome person, who will grasp life unreservedly. The current methods of treatment do nothing to help these proclivities.

The author with a client
The author with a client

This dissatisfaction with his work led him to explore Reflexology. He created his own charts of the reflex points on the feet, as he found them. From here, his intuition led him to realise that many of the ailments found in the body as reflected in the feet could also be related to a corresponding blockage in the spinal reflexes; he realised that the massage was just as effective when he worked only on the reflex area and not on the whole foot.

As the spine, the main bony support for the body, contains the central nervous system and as there is no separation between body and mind, Robert St John’s attention was drawn to observing the psychological effects of the treatment. He discovered the mother principle reflected in the heel area and the father principle reflected around the first joint of the big toe. To recognise these psychological states, Robert St. John had had to raise his vantage point by superimposing a psychological map upon the physical reflex map.

He then raised his vantage point still further. Through insight he saw that between the father principle at the toe and the mother principle at the heel, lay a reflection of another map, a time map, of the nine months we spend in the womb. The spinal reflex points are thus recognised as a support for a structure of time, the gestation period, during which all our characteristics were primarily established. It was in the 1960s that Robert St. John made his discovery. He first called it Prenatal Therapy and its work consisted in lifting the blockages established during gestation. But the intervention was found not to be permanent until the realisation came that one element in the person could create a permanent transformation, the life force of the person.

Gaston Saint-Pierre, who worked with Robert St. John in the late 70s coined the phrase The Metamorphic Technique. The new name illustrated the different approach towards the loosening of that important time structure, our gestation period. In the Metamorphic Technique, the practitioner does not attempt to lift blockages established during gestation. Instead the practitioner loosens that time structure with an attitude of detachment which Gaston Saint-Pierre defines as: “noting the facts of the person or the situation, acknowledging their presence and letting them be. This does not mean that the practitioner must remain passive. On the contrary, through keen attention to the facts and letting be, a deep communication is established at a level other than the verbal or kinesthetic ones between practitioners and patients, based on a deep objective love”. The practitioner acts as a catalyst, providing the person who comes for a session an inner environment free of direction, interference and preconceived ideas, knowing that the life force of the patient guided by its innate intelligence can alter the characteristics laid down or formed in the past (which are still effective) and release them, thereby creating a greater inner freedom. In this way the patient’s ability to heal him/herself is truly at work.

Case Study

“A few days ago, I had my feet done. The next day I felt quite sick but after that I had the most remarkable menstrual cycle. My hormonal metabolism was profoundly affected by it. At the physical level, there was this strong awareness of what was going on in my body: I could sense my ovaries, my uterus, I could feel small vibrations at that level, my breast enlarged much more than they normally do, I felt nauseous, I had cravings for certain food, at a certain point I thought that I was pregnant. I felt my body preparing itself for the start of the period but even its start was different: it happened during the night, I had a lot of contractions and I woke up several times because of this pain. I did not realise until the morning that my period had started. Afterwards there was no pain anymore. Every month I feel changes occurring in my body but this was quite remarkable to the degree in which I was drawn into this female physical happening.

“There was not only this strong heightening of my bodily awareness but at the same time I had this urge to stay at home, stay inside. For almost ten days I hardly left the house, did not even go into the garden although the weather was so beautiful. I was sitting, reading, sleeping, sometimes feeling depressed. At a certain point I felt confronted with my lack of creative expression. I realised that the basic motive of my desire for having a child is the fundamental desire for being creative, at least once in my life.

“At a certain point, while I was in the house, I thought of poems that I had written during the last two years. There were not a lot and they were written in this booklet, on that piece of paper. I started to look for them, put them in the computer and even wrote some more. It was only the day afterwards that I realised that they are an expression, that this is something creative. When I printed them and read them again, I really felt contented.

“A menstrual cycle is a monthly reminder of one’s potential creativity whether it is through the creation of a child or through the further realisation of one’s own potential, one’s own life. It is a cycle and every month it leads you through or confronts you with certain things, it is a monthly opportunity to go through something, to round it off and to let it go. If something specific is going on in your life of which you are unaware or against which there is a resistance to really face it, the cycle will force you to confront it. A smooth menstrual cycle or one with lots of distress are linked with these underlying blockages”.

Map 1: The Metamorphic Technique. Chart of the Prenatal Pattern as formulated by Robert St. John.
Map 1: The Metamorphic Technique. Chart of the Prenatal Pattern as formulated by Robert St. John.

Map 2: The Universal Principles. Chart of the Universal Principles as formulated by Gaston Saint-Pierre.
Map 2: The Universal Principles. Chart of the Universal Principles as formulated by Gaston Saint-Pierre.

From the Metamorphic Technique to the Universal Principles

The work with the Universal Principles was developed by Gaston Saint-Pierre, (1940–) who worked with Robert St. John in the late 70s and founded the Metamorphic Association in 1979, which became a charitable trust in 1987. Through his intense work with the Metamorphic Technique, he created a new approach based on the Universal Principles.

The Universal Principles are a set of primary elements regulating us and the universe, which we can recognise at the level of awareness at which we are operating. In a way, these laws are an expression of our level of awareness. It is possible to presume that, at other levels, different laws are operating. By knowing the nature of these laws, we can benefit from them by aligning ourselves to their dynamism. At this moment we are working with nine Universal Principles. They are reflected in the feet, hands and head and correspond to specific weeks of the prenatal period.

In 1984, Gaston Saint-Pierre came across a leaflet succinctly explaining the nature of the Seven Universal Principles as propounded by Hermes Trismegistus. These principles were the following: gender, causation, correspondence, rhythm, polarity, vibration and mentalism. He found that these were a very good description of what he had observed from his patients in the course of practice over many years. When Robert St. John created the work with the Metamorphic Technique, he used two of the Universal Principles, namely the principle of Mentalism, i.e. everything is the mind, the Universe is Mental, everything starts as an idea, and the principle of Correspondence, that everything reflects every other thing, i.e. the spinal reflex zone corresponds with the gestation period which is a reflection of life itself.

If everything reflects every other thing, then it meant that these principles were also reflected on the feet, and mostly through intuition, the exact points relating to the principles were mapped out, not only on the feet but also on the hands and the head. However, it became obvious that some of the Principles were a reflection of others at a primary level. There were three groupings relating to specific parts of the body. The Principles of Gender, Causation and Correspondence were connected with the lower part of the body; the Principles of Rhythm, Polarity and Vibration were related to the upper part of the body, pituitary gland included, and the Principle of Mentalism was connected with the pineal gland. However, the last level had only one principle connected with it. It is why for some time, during workshops, Gaston Saint-Pierre would write on the board question marks for the last two missing. Why had not Hermes mentioned them? Could it be that at that period, the energies of these principles were not yet activated, thereby absent from the consciousness of the time? In September 1985, during a workshop with the Universal principles, the nature of these last two became apparent: They were the principles of Insight and Communication, later named fully as the Principles of Insight/Illumination and Communication/ Communion.

“During the last workshop (on the Universal Principles) it became clear that the Principle of Polarity (and of Causation) was quite active in me. The ‘answers’ that I received while doing the foot exercise clarified a lot. I realised how present polarity was in my current life but I also realised the shifting that is taking place in my approach to this polarised state and how this is softening and transforming it. The key is the awareness and the embracing of both poles at the same time: an alert love for both poles, observing the presence of both without focusing on one of them. Polarisation has played such an important role in my life until now. It is as if I needed to learn so much of it. What I used to do, is identify myself completely with something or someone – being attached as it came out during the weekend – and forget who I was. There was response but no awareness, so also polarisation within the principle of gender, within the principle of causation and so on. Then the extremity of living only one aspect created dissatisfaction and resulted in a very strong swing to the other pole. Again there was total identification and for a while contentment and a certain kind of peace – but then it started all over again. It is true that I learned and explored a lot through these different experiences. However, there was no integration within the aspect of polarity. After this weekend I realised that this integration is taking place now ‘by not being able to choose’. I always had the idea that one had to chose, that one cannot be both, one has to be one. As far as I can see it now, this is where polarity becomes problematic. Instead of suffering from the inability to choose, I start to realise that in fact – for the first time in my life – I am embracing polarity. There are not only opposing poles, there is also awareness of these poles, it is OK that two opposing poles are present in me at the same time and I’m actually starting to cherish them for what they are. I can’t describe it other than a loving alertness for polarity in whatever way it expresses itself. This of itself means that it can transform itself. When I look back at my life in the last few months, then I see that this is one of the things that is actually happening.”

The Metamorphic Technique and the Universal Principles are as brother and sister, two sides of the same coin. The main concern of both is to find ways of being an environment in which the life force of the patient can act completely freely, without interference, allowing the person to transform in whatever way is necessary. In the Metamorphic Technique the practitioner uses the loosening of the time structure together with the detachment of the practitioner, in the Universal Principles nine principles underlying and controlling our existence are used as a means to ‘stay out of the way’ of the life of the patient. Working with the Metamorphic Technique and the Universal Principles is as if one is working with the concrete and the abstract, within the domains of unity and duality, within and beyond time, space and matter at the same time. With the development of the Universal Principles the work of Metamorphosis, of transformation, has reached a new state of wholeness.

The practice

At the physical level a light touch is used on specific parts of the feet, hands and head. Practitioners contend that no physical, mental or emotional approach can do permanent work of transformation. So they never consider the ailments or difficulties of the people who receive their attention. By practising an attitude of detachment they act as catalysts, like the earth for the seed, aware, however, that the tremendous power of life that keeps the patient going at one level can transform the characteristics of that level, therefore bringing about a subtler level of being, the energy of the characteristics serving as the fuel for the transformation. The whole movement is therefore permanent, being regulated by the innate intelligence of the person. The butterfly cannot regress and return to being a caterpillar.

As the transformation of the patterns of the person takes place, so healing, help and cure occur as a by-product, being an innate ability that is present throughout the whole of nature. It is thus that people help themselves, being able to fulfil at last their potential of creativity, the ultimate work of art revealed as being none other than themselves.

A session (with adults) lasts one hour. The practitioner sits at right angles to you, with your right foot resting on her/his lap. She/he touches lightly the spinal reflexes on this foot, later the left foot, the hands and the head. The practitioner works about 20min. on each foot, 5min. on each hand and 10min. on the head. It is not necessary for the practitioner to concentrate on what she/he is doing, so one can talk, be silent or one can just relax and fall asleep if one wants to. The practitioner does not need to know your background or case history. You may wish to talk about it and that is OK but it is not a necessary precondition for the practitioner to give before a session.

The practitioner may use the Metamorphic Technique on its own or combined with the Universal Principles.

A session can be given wherever you are, at any time of the day. There are no special requirements. The patient may be watching television, listening to music, talking with a friend, or simply doing nothing.

Anyone can work with another person, a child with his parents, a husband with his wife, a grandmother with her grandson; one can work with one’s friends and with complete strangers. A mentally handicapped child can rub your feet just as you can rub his. It is the life and the intelligence inherent in each person that is operating the movement of transformation, not the practitioner.

Patients can receive sessions together with therapies such as orthodox or alternative medicine; it does not disturb their effectiveness. Very often, people find the particular treatment they require as part of the transformation process.

A very simple technique, accessible to all

The simplicity of the practice allows people from all walks of life to use it within the family or with friends. It is accessible to every living being: pregnant women, new born babies, children, adults, elderly people, the mentally ill or people with learning disabilities, people who are dying, seriously ill people.

Recently, I had the chance to introduce this work in two drop-in centres for the mentally ill in the Bristol area. The service-users loved it because as one put it “something was offered that was not about again taking more and other drugs, but something that was gentle and appealed to something within themselves”.
In order to give a session, only two basic conditions have to be fulfilled: the person receiving a session is alive and the practitioner is willing to operate with detachment. Whatever the condition of the person receiving a session, however seriously ill the person may be, this person is alive: her/his life force and innate intelligence are at work. The fact that a person comes to receive a session indicates a willingness to get on with his or her own inner transformation. The practitioner engages her/himself to act as a catalyst, not to interfere

So one only has to sit down and apply the Technique. The life force of that person guided by her/his innate intelligence will transform that person in whatever way is necessary.

After the session

It seems that people in all walks of life with extremely varied conditions of health or seeking change, find their way to a practitioner’s door. Some are stuck in a job they hate, in studies they do not like, others feel blocked emotionally, yet others have tried to get rid of problems, addictions, physical ailments, precarious mental health, behavioural abnormalities; in other words they want to get moving.

These are the facts with which they arrive. The practitioner gives them a session. Mostly people experience it as very pleasant and relaxing and they go home. Their life force transforms their patterns.

It is because our life force operates beyond our mental control, out of time, space and matter that we notice that transformation happens automatically, unconsciously and in a natural way. There is no effort. It just happens.

It can express itself in physical, emotional changes or changes in one’s environment. Sometimes this change can take place at a subtle level, so that it is hardly noticed by the conscious mind. The life force brings about movement out of old patterns, both physical and psychological, the Metamorphic Technique/Universal Principles acting as an environment.


People are pushed by their hunger for transformation to seek a catalyst; they come to a practitioner, we work with detachment, their life force transforms their patterns. There is no relationship of cause and effect between the ‘feet being done’ and the transformation that occurs. Transformation occurs because people are alive. As practitioners we cannot claim anything for ourselves or the Metamorphic Technique/ Universal Principles. The practitioner acts as a catalyst for the life force and it is this enormous force that does the work of transformation.

Life is the great healer. This work is a wonderful and extraordinary tribute to this simple and challenging fact. The grandeur of this work, which is the grandeur of life itself, one cannot really grasp, one can only notice, acknowledge and let it be.

Further Information

For more information send an SAE to:
Agnes Boes, 28 Withleigh Road, Knowle, Bristol BS4 2LQ.
Tel 0117 907 3381 Fax 0117 907 3380
or to:
Gaston Saint-Pierre and The Metamorphic Association, 67 Ritherdon Road, London, SW17 8QE
Tel/Fax 0181 672 5951.


  1. sherri carter said..

    Hello: I took the Vibrational Metamorphic Technique from Elizabeth Butler and Jim Matheson at a 6 day intensive retreat a number of years ago. I worked as a counselor for 15 years and I am currently opening a practice in the area where I am offering Reflexology, Cranial Sacral Therapy, Stone Therapy and Reiki. I would very much like to offer the Metamorphic Technique as well as I have found it to be a magical portal into transformative healing but we were not provided with certificates at the time. Is there a record of students at The Metamorphic Association and how might I obtain a certificate for the course taken. Perhaps there is a challenge paper or exam for those who have been practicing having recieved the training. Any guidance you might provide would be helpful. Respectfully, Sherri Carter

  2. Patricia Newman said..

    Gaston Saint Pierre claimed to have studied with Robert, actually he just attended a few seminars, got some knowledge and then renamed the work the Metamorphic Technique. Robert did not give him permission to do this, nor did he approve of the teaching Gaston offered. The International Metamorphosis Associations teaching adhere to Roberts early and advanced work.

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About Agnes Boes

Agnes Boes was born in 1957 in Belgium. She has a degree in psychological and educational sciences and started to practise and teach the Metamorphic Technique in 1983. She has been training with Gaston Saint-Pierre. She is a recognised member of the Metamorphic Association, living in the UK since 1996.

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