The Legacies of Schreber and Freud
The paper is criteriological overview of the Schreber scholarship ever since Freud’s 1911 epochal analysis of Schreber’s seminal work, Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken. Freud’s formulaic, psychoanalytically hermeneutic reading of Schreber’s book was, except for a few details, anhistorical; it was an exercise in applied, not clinical, psychoanalysis, misinterpreting Schreber’s misdiagnosed paranoia as caused by homosexual desire. Historical Schreber investigations were inaugurated in 1955. Niederland endorsed Freud’s formula and interpreted Moritz Schreber’s educational works as proof that the son’s illness resulted from the father’s traumatic manipulations of his child by means of posture-correcting appliances. In various publications the author has provided a correction of these two mistakes and a vindication of Schreber father and son. He has also shown that soul murder was not Schreber’s psychotic neologism but a correct, if obsolete, forensic term for the iatrogenic traumas—which Schreber called malpractice— caused by Flechsig and Weber who practiced a psychiatry without a soul. Schreber alleged paranoia is compared with the paranoid Hitler and the group paranoia he inspired. Additional references are cited for the first time.
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out
(Hamlet. Act 2, Scene 1).
I have the impression therefore that in my
future life some great and magnificent
satisfaction is in store for me…that great fame
will be attached to my name surpassing that of
thousands of other people much better
(Daniel Paul Schreber).
It remains the future to decide whether there is
more delusion in my theory that I should like
to admit, or whether there is more truth in
Schreber’s delusion that other people are as
yet prepared to believe (Sigmund Freud).
The year 2011 commemorates two historical dates: Paul Schreber’s death in 1911 and Freud’s analysis of Schreber’s immortal book. Denkwürdigkeiten eines Nervenkranken. published in 1903 and mistranslated in 1955 as Memoirs of my Nervous Illness instead of great thoughts of a nervous patient. thus shifting the focus from person to pathology. Furthermore. Schreber not only a person. he was an author who made a pact with his readers (Stingelin. 1998).
Among the meanings of ‘memoir’ in English are biography and dissertation.
Schreber’ Memoirs are not just reminiscences, as also shown by such recurrent German titles as “Erinnerungen und Denkwürdigkeiten (memories and memorables),” but the author’s retrospective recreation of the drama of his second illness with the declared purpose: of proving his sanity in a court of law and getting out of his psychiatric incarceration alive. As a highly educated polyglot, he offered varied reflections on language, literature, religion, history, and more. The book is a work of art written in two styles, sober prose and poetical-magical realism evocative of Goethe, but also of James Joyce’s Ulysses or Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. It is also Schreber’s Zeitgeschichte: bearing witness to his “era of contemporaries.” i.e., “all of the past that touched directly or indirectly” (Engstrom. 2000, p. 399) on Schreber’s life.
If it were not for Freud’s 1911 epochal essay the names of Paul Schreber and his father Moritz, who earned a place of his own in the history of medicine, would have disappeared in the dustbin of history. Freud created the paradigm of Schreber as a sufferer from paranoia caused by passive homosexual desires towards his first psychiatrist. Paul Flechsig, a dubious hypothesis, as Freud said himself (p. 46; see epigraph); it still held on to by “orthodox” psychoanalysts, e.g., Erdheim (1997) and Mangini (2007). The theory had little influence on German psychiatrists but it was accepted by many American psychoanalytically-influenced psychiatrists early on. On the whole, Freud was shunned by the European psychiatric establishment except for the Zurich school, as compared to the USA, where psychoanalysis ruled American psychiatry roughly until the end of the 1960’s. Mark well: the theory that repressed homosexual emotions may cause emotional disorders in some people, or even operate in homophobic men, is not being questioned per se. I have only disproved its validity as explaining Schreber, and I am not the first one to have doubted it. My conclusions are based on historical research: it is showing the man vs. the myth, the person vs. a universal paradigm.
Freud was right to question his delusions. i.e., his fantasies about Schreber, or the legend of Schreber he had created. Niederland (1974) would compound Freud’s legend. or myth, by adding another, the myth of the Schreber’s father Moritz as a sadistic tyrant who tortured his son between the ages three and four. As a result, the two myths became a kind of a Rorschach test, a Pirandellian search of a character, a Rashomon retelling of the story, and an opportunity for all manner of psychoanalytic schools and literary and cultural critics to project their favorite theories on Schreber, grafting a plethora of fictions on a paucity of historical facts. The misinterpretations compounded numerous misdescriptions, thus falsifications. But let every interpreter beware: de te fabula narrator,the story is about you. Moreover, Schreber was himself an interpreter. and he had his own ideas about what caused his illness. On the other hand, his creative mind as an author has stirred the imagination of psychiatrists. Psychoanalysts, writers, philosophers, poets, dramatists, opera composers, film makers. At the end of the day it is his interpretations that count, it is his voice that deserves to be heard.
A matter of method
When analyzing and interpreting a life, in order to explain so as to understand, we can resort either to hermeneutics or to history:
Freud’s basic project at the time of his writing about Schreber was to establish psychoanalysis as a scientific, dynamic explanatory psychology of the neuroses. … in the process of “tracing back . . . the nucleus of the delusional structures with some degree of certainty to familiar human motives.” he found lurking behind the symptoms “the monotony of the solutions provided by psycho-analysis” (Freud. 1911a. p. 54); thus Freud was no longer a historian reading from the text but a hermeneutist reading into it. For science subsumes and generalizes, going from the general to the particular. History individuates: it goes from particular to particular (Lothane. 1992. pp.33-34).
At the same time that Freud sought to establish the libido theory as the foundation of psychoanalysis as a natural science, he also developed the hermeneutic method of applied psychoanalysis, embracing psychoanalytic theories of the most diverse provenance. Accordingly, the individual was subsumed under generic, universal paradigms. As a result, the correspondence between the thing interpreted and the interpretation was not established by consensual validation but rested solely on the authority of Freud the interpreter. While undoubtedly of heuristic value, applied psychoanalysis, when pushed relentlessly, as Freud himself showed, can easily degenerate into wild analysis and give rise to hermeneutic myths. The hermeneutic readings of Schreber have given rise to myths that have become legends. Such legends grow as a result of interpretations that are created at given historical moments. One such legend concerning Schreber– that he was a homosexual–was instigated by Freud … Another legend–that Schreber’s father was a sadist and child abuser–was started by Niederland (Lothane. 1992, p. 438).
These legends died hard and became conducive to character assassination (Lothane. 1996b)
The man Schreber, his memories and memoirs
A number of favorable reviews of the Denkwürdigkeiten appeared in psychiatric journals in 1903-1905 but the first detailed discussion of Schreber was published by the Austrian psychiatrist Otto Gross in 1904, an early admirer of Freud. later a troublesome patient of Jung and a cause celèbre after his father Hans Gross, a forensic psychiatrist, had committed to an asylum against his will (Lothane. 2010b). Gross (1904), C. G. Jung (1907), and Eugen Bleuler (1911) saw Schreber as a paradigmatic schizophrenic, as the essemtial madman, without considering a differential diagnosis of a mood disorder, which Schreber diagnosed in himself. Freud equivocated between paranoia, paranoid schizophrenia, and paraphrenia, a diagnosis coined by Kraepelin. Schreber’s self-diagnosis of a mood disorder was confirmed by Lipton (1984), Lothane (1992. 2004), and Peters (1995). No diagnosis was recorded by Schreber’s first psychiatrist Flechsig whereas Sonnenstein director and forensic expert Guido Weber put down paranoia, caused by a chronic and incurable brain disorder, which had dire social consequences for Schreber.
Weber did not consider Kraepelin’s 1898 epochal differentiation between paranoia and dementia praecox, or schizophrenia. This moved Schreber to include in his book, in addition to his brilliant self-defense, an essay on forensic psychiatry entitled “In what circumstances can a person considered insane be detained in an asylum against his declared will?” (Schreber. pp. 363-376; here and henceforth the page numbers refer to the original 1903 edition, marked on the margins in the English and French translations of the Memoirs; and the same applies to Freud’s quotations of Schreber). This title became the future subtitle of the Denkwürdigkeiten but was unforgivably omitted in the English translation. Note that ‘detained’ is associated with police activity, not with psychiatric therapy. Overall, psychiatrists showed interest in Schreber’s book when it first appeared but and then sporadically. Schreber is cited as a schizophrenic a number of times in Karl Jaspers’ textbook General Psychopathology, first published in 1913. Jaspers would later leave psychiatry to become an existential philosopher.
There was a minimal interest in Schreber from 1911 until after the Second World War when a number of Schreber themes emerged in articles by Maurits Katan in 1949 and Niederland in 1951, sparking a renewed interest in the Memoirs and in Freud’s theories. The year 1955 marked a watershed, the discovery of the historical Schreber, the man behind the Memoirs, with the publication by Franz Baumeyer of historical facts about Schreber’s life culled from Schreber’s clinical chart and a sequel (Baumeyer. 1970) supplied by descendants. Baumeyer’s researches were followed in 1959 by contributions of W. G. Niederland (1974) and in the 1980’s by Daniel Devreese (1989), Devreese et al. (1986), Han Israels (1989), Lothane (1989a. 1989b), and Gerd Busse (1991). After first mentioning Schreber in 1982 I became immersed in Schreber’s book in 1987. Building on the instigations of my predecessors and adding my own my goal became to recreate Schreber, a life (Lothane. 1992, 2004), the person not the paradigm or a pathological specimen, to look beyond pathology and to rediscover Schreber as an author and thinker (2010b) as well as a critic of contemporaneous psychiatry (Lothane. 2011).
The final chapter in my 1992 book is entitled “the dreams and dramas of love” and in the German version: “dreams, traumas, and dramas of love.” These ideas and my clinical and teaching experience led me (Lothane. 2009) to develop the concept of dramatology as complement narratology and yet different from it. Life’s dramas consist of conduct, conversation, and controversy by characters engaged in conflicts external and internal.
Dramas are primarily about love, power, prestige and pecunia, along a spectrum from the mundane to the morbid. Descriptive psychiatry translates life’s dramas into pathological conduct, into symptoms, syndromes, and systems. Dynamic psychiatry as founded by Freud creates “a translation of the paranoic mode of expression into the normal one” (Freud. 1911. p. 35) and dramatology does just that: it re-translates the “technical terminology of medicine” (p. 43), here psychiatry, into everyday dramas and trauma. But there is this difference between medicine and psychiatry: while pneumonia is one. an objectively discovered disease diagnosable by physical examination and tests, creating no controversies and no schools, there are as many paranoias and schizophrenias as there are people called paranoid or schizophrenic and those who diagnose them. For diagnoses are invented entities, defined differently by each sufferer and by each “school”; for a primary focus on the disorder is indeed medical, but a primary focus on the person is psychological and social. Thus, while the names of pathology are invented, the social and psychological problems in living are not: they are dramas and traumas of everyday life.
Here is a brief sketch of Schreber’s adult love dramas. focusing on his conflicts in two basic areas, career and conjugal love. Schreber was 19 when his father died. 35 when his elder brother killed himself with a gun, and 36 when he got married. In 1884, at 42, he was defeated in his bid to be elected to the Reichstag. a wish for a career change and fame, which plunged him into a moderate depression successfully treated at Flechsig’s psychiatric hospital. He recovered and “spent eight years with [his] wife, on the whole quite happy ones, rich also in outward honors and marred only from time to time by the repeated disappointment of [their] hope of being blessed with children” (p. 36). In the summer of 1893, the prodrome of his second illness, Schreber was startled when he “dreamt several times that [his] former nervous illness had returned… [and that] one morning [he] had the idea that it really must be rather pleasant to be a woman succumbing (from Latin subcumbere, to lie under, of unterliegen) to intercourse” (p. 36). Note that the polysemous character of ‘unterliegen’: can have both a literal and a metaphoric meaning the power of man over woman or suggesting the opposite. man succumbing to the power of woman when figuratively unmanned by woman.
Schreber’s illness returned explosively in the fall, caused “by the extraordinary burden of work on taking up office as President of the Senate of the Superior Court of Appeal in Dresden” (p. 34), compounded by a recent disappointment in being blessed with children. According to archival documents, the last such disappointment occurred in 1892 when his wife Sabine gave birth to a still-born boy. By the fall of 1893 Schreber was in an agitated depression, sleeplessness refractory to medication, imaginings of bodily decay and dissolution, and suicidal attempts or gestures. Intractable insomnia, noted by Freud, is not seen in either paranoia or schizophrenia but is characteristic of depression and of conflicts of conscience. Schreber could neither work nor stay at home. and fears of suicide necessitated an emergency admission to Flechsig’s hospital once again. The depression and the despair were the basic illness, the rest was fanciful elaboration.
Why did Schreber choose to go back to Flechsig rather than be admitted to a friendlier, luxurious, but much more expensive private Thonberg hospital? Why had he not sought private psychotherapy from one of its practitioners in Leipzig, e.g., Dr. Paul Möbius? Why did he not consider being treated in the spacious home of his widowed mother in 43 Zeitzer Strasse by private doctors with around- the-clock nurses? The fateful decision was made for him. This time, too, Flechsig did not offer him much needed psychotherapy: it “seemed to [Schreber] in retrospect that Professor Flechsig’s plan of curing [him] consisted in intensifying [his] nervous depression as far as possible. in order to bring about a cure all at once by a sudden change of mood” (p.40), a kind of pharmacological shock treatment, based on Flechsig’s bromide-opium treatment of epilepsy and later discredited, which had struck the patient as one of Flechsig’s “white lies … hardly ever appropriate in my case…a human being of high intellect, of uncommon keenness of understanding and acute powers of observation” (p. 62). On “the fourth of fifth night after his admission” (p. 66) Schreber was brutally dragged by brutal attendants, kicking and screaming, into an isolation cell which scared him to death. The next morning he had a conversation with Dr. Täuscher (actually: Teuscher. the future owner of the private sanatorium Weisser Hirsch), “the only day on which I was enlivened by a joyful spirit of hope” (p. 42; italics Schreber’s). Subsequently Schreber was treated with drugs and prolonged bed rest: “The way I was treated externally seemed to be with the intention announced in the nerve language; for weeks I was kept in bed and my clothes were removed to make me–as I believe–more amenable to voluptuous sensations, which could be stimulated in me by the female nerves which had already started to enter my body; medicines, which I am convinced served the same purpose, were also used; these I therefore refused. I spat out again when an attendant poured them forcibly into my mouth.
… One may imagine how my whole sense of manliness and manly honor, my entire moral being, rose up against it” (pp. 56-57). Neither Flechsig nor later Weber showed an interest in Schreber’s aching soul or in psychotherapy: they both reduced the person to pathology, a form of soul murder.
Mark well: while still at Flechsig’s Schreber began experiencing fantasies of having “a female genital organ, although a poorly developed one, and in [his] body felt quickening like the first signs of life of a human embryo: by a divine miracle God’s nerves corresponding to male seed had been thrown into my body; in other words, fertilization had occurred” (p. 4. footnote #1). Such transgender imaginings of becoming a child-bearing woman I regard as stemming from the recurrent disappointments of childlessness, uterus- envy and an identification with mother Pauline and elder sister Anna, both of whom bore many children, or even a wish to comfort childless wife Sabine: you were unable to do it, let me do it for you. In addition, it gave Schreber the chance to self-mockingly proclaiming himself as the metaphorical progenitor of “new human beings out of Schreber’s spirit.” a prophecy fulfilled by the legions of Schreber-schreibers to date. He played with this “illusion” (p. 280) but knew full well that even if it is “possible, indeed probable, that to the end of his days there will be strong indications of femaleness.… [he] shall die as a man” (p. 289). Both ‘illusion’ and ‘delusion’ derive from the Latin root ‘ludere’, to play, to engage in make-believe. Schreber’s playful illusions were pathologized as morbid delusions, stamped with the label of macabre madness, resulting in a declaration of mental incompetency and reducing his civil rights to those of a seven-year old child: having his assets controlled by a court-appointed guardian and incarcerated. Moreover, Schreber labored under another illusion, i.e., the expectation, that Flechsig would not abandon him, and in this was sorely disillusioned. Schreber did not hate Flechsig, as Freud theorized, but reproached him for being disloyal, for having used bylaws to remove him from the university hospital and bury him alive in a public asylum.
Although Schreber recovered by 1897 (Schreber, p. 425), he was unable to return to “orderly domestic life surrounded by near relatives, as I may need more loving care than I could get in an Asylum” (p. 338), his fate doubly sealed by the diagnosis of incurability and incompetency, until five years later he fought his way out by his own brilliant self- defense in court. Between 1902 and 1907 he returned to his wife, writing legal briefs, publishing an article on chess, of which he was an avid aficionado (Schreber. 1906), and raising with love an orphaned adolescent girl Fridoline born in 1890 whom he adopted as his daughter. She later became a nurse, married Dr. Leiber; and was interviewed by Niederland in 1969 (Lothane. 1992). I submit that Paul Schreber’s recovery in 1897 was facilitated, among other things, by the death of Sabine’s father in 1897 and perhaps for the first time becoming amenable to the idea of adopting a child, which was finalized in 1906. Childlessness had been Schreber’s great worry for years and adoption became the resolution of both his external and the internal conflicts. I met with Fridoline’s daughter Mrs. Liselotte Leiber-Hammer and her daughter Mrs. Lorenz in 2006 and participated with them in a theosophical prayer before starting the meal. The ladies thought it possible that Schreber may have been such a spiritual influence on his daughter. In 1907, after his mother died and the wife suffered a stroke, Schreber lapsed into his final and deadly depression, entered voluntarily the Leipzig-Dösen Asylum, and died there due to physical causes in 1911.
Guido Weber’s bait of falsehood
Director Weber diagnosed Schreber as suffering from paranoia. “a disease characterized by… more or less fixed elaborate delusional system…not amenable to correction by objective evidence and judgment of circumstances as they really are [due to] hallucinatory and delusory processes…The patient is called to redeem the world…the most essential part of his mission of redemption is that it is necessary for him first of all to be transformed into a woman.…a “must” according to the Order of the World…by way of divine miracles” (Schreber. p. 386). But what necessary corrections, whether based on common sense or science, apply to a belief in miracles or God in established religions? And are all private mystical states to be classed as delusions as well? Weber expressly rejected any possibility that such ideas were imaginings, fantasies, dreams, or similar ideas are found in the Bible, the Gnosis or the Kabbalah (Lothane, 1998b, 2008). According to Weber, Schreber’s were delusions in a strictly forensic sense, incurable pathological effects of a hopelessly diseased brain. Therefore, it did not matter to Weber “whether the delusional ideas refer to…the field of politics, religion, sex, etc. is of little importance for judging the total state” (p. 457); the global effect was that Schreber would never be able to function in normal society again. The very plan to publish the Memoirs was further proof of pathology, in view of Schreber’s “unembarrassed detailing of the most doubtful and aesthetically impossible situations… [using] most offensive vulgar words.… [that] would compromise him severely in the eyes of the public … his whole attitude to life pathological . … if the tremendous overvaluation of his own person caused by lack of insight into his illness had not clouded his appreciation of the limitations imposed on man by society” (p. 402). Schreber duly defeated Weber in court and established a legal precedent. In a report published in 1905 Weber, acting as a sore loser, still argued that the court erred in releasing Schreber because he would fail as a free man. The judges not only rehabilitated their former colleague but also saved Schreber’s book from destruction.
Paul Schreber was not only capable of telling perception and imagination apart. as he held quoting Kant, but also of imaginatively recasting the dramas of his life as a heroic drama in the manner of Goethe’s Faust and The Book of Job (Lothane. 1998a). To explain why bad things were happening to him, a good person, Schreber anonymously quoted Mephistopheles describing himself as “the power ‘which always will the evil and yet creates the good” (p. 145), whose source Freud missed. While still at Flechsig’s, Schreber played on the piano, at his “wife’s urgent persuasion…the aria from Handel’s Messiah ‘I know that my Redeemer Liveth’” (p. 169) to words taken from Job 19:25. Job is persecuted by God because God yielded to Satan’s provocation to try innocent Job’s faith by visiting upon him all manner of disasters and bodily diseases. Similarly, Mephisto- Flechsig managed to “endanger God’s omnipotence” and to seduce Him to persecute innocent Schreber by “raising himself up to heaven…[and] making himself a leader of [divine] rays” (p. 56) such that “God himself must have known of the plan, if indeed He was not the instigator, to commit soul murder on me” (p. 59). Soul murder was launched in mid-March or April of 1894. Mark well: soul murder is not a psychotic neologism, it is a
word in the dictionary and legal term current in early 19th century which the prominent jurist Anselm Feuerbach applied to the unlawful incarceration of Kaspar Hauser (Küper. 1990). After he got out of Sonnenstein, and just prior to the printing of the Denkwürdikgeiten, Schreber accused Flechsig of malpractice and called it soul murder (Schreber. pp. X-XI). The purpose of the plan or plot of soul murder was to subject Schreber to ignominious sexual and other abuses “after his disease had been recognized as, or assumed to be, incurable… [and] simply ‘forsaken’, in other words left to rot” (p. 56); in this connection, “being buried alive (Lebendigbegrabenwerden) was also repeatedly mentioned as a way of ending my life”(p. 59). Thus it was not Schreber’s rectum but his soul that was being raped, or figuratively murdered. Being buried alive behind asylum walls was a simile often used in contemporaneous anti-psychiatry pamphlets published by former inmates and victims of involuntary hospitalization. Schreber’s legal-forensic equivalent of being buried alive in an asylum, Freiheitsberaubung, or deprivation of liberty, a psychological soul murder, a term repeatedly mentioned in his aforementioned essay, “In what circumstances etc.” Schreber suffered real persecution at the hands of his psychiatrist Weber (Lothane. 1992, 1993a, 1993b, 2004), his wife, and his boss, all three having conspired to declare him legally insane and mentally incompetent. Why did Schreber concentrate all his alleged paranoia on Flechsig and exhibited none towards Weber?
Freud’s bait of falsehood
What Weber saw as religious paranoia Freud redefined as sexual paranoia. Influenced by18th century Enlightenment and 19th century Darwinism, himself a self-declared godless Jew, Freud might as well have chosen to analyze Schreber’s religious fantasies as his sexual ones. Freud could not help feeling flattered that “Schreber’s sexualization of the state of heavenly bliss” seemed to buttress the view “psychoanalysts have supported … that the roots of every nervous and mental disorder are chiefly to be found in the person’s sexual life. … Schreber himself speaks again and again as though he shared our prejudice” (1911, pp. 30, 31). Freud would later defend himself against the charge of pan-sexualism.
Contrary to common opinion and by his own admission, Freud did not discover the dynamics of hidden homosexual desires as the psychological cause of paranoid delusions by reading Schreber: he applied a theory he had developed years earlier in discussions and correspondence with Jung and Ferenczi. Ferenczi was the second (1911) author after Maeder (1910) to publish clinical observations of paranoia rather than fantasizing about a book. But since Schreber was neither paranoid nor homosexual, Freud’s double mistake landed him “in the absurd position described by Kant’s famous simile in the Critique of Pure Reason— …like a man holding a sieve under a he-goat while someone else milks it” (Freud. 1911, p. 34).
This happened because Freud misdescribed and misinterpreted Schreber real life crises and did not consider that Schreber was a heterosexual man suffering from sexual frustration, an ‘aktual’-neurosis, as Freud called it, at least during his hospitalization if not before. Freud quoted Schreber that a serious “decline in [his] nervous state and an
important chapter in my life commenced on the 15th of February 1894 when my wife… undertook a four-day journey to her father in Berlin….After her return…I could not wish my wife to see me again…I no longer considered her a living being. Decisive for my mental collapse was one particular night [when] I had a quite unusual number of pollutions (perhaps half a dozen) (44)” (Freud. p. 45). However, trapped in the homosexuality formula, Freud interpreted the multiple pollutions not a sign of lack of sexual gratification but that “the mere presence of his wife must have acted as a protection against the attractive power of the men around him; and if we are prepared to admit that an emission cannot occur in an adult without some mental concomitant, we shall be able to supplement the patient’s emissions that night by assuming that they were accompanied by homosexual phantasies which remained unconscious” (p. 45), an unproven assumption converted into an irrefutable interpretation.
To make his case, Freud went back to the summer of 1893, when Schreber was “between sleeping and waking, the idea occurred to him ‘that after all it really would be very nice to be a woman submitting to the act of copulation. (36)” (Freud. 1911, p.13). Later that summer, according to Freud, following his nomination to the Supreme Apellate Court of the Kingdom of Saxony—and prior to being admitted to Flechsig’s hospital in the fall of that year—that is, “during the incubation of his illness, a recollection of the doctor was also aroused in his mind, and that the feminine attitude [read: to be anally penetrated] which he assumed in the phantasy was from the first directed towards the doctor. … Perhaps [the 1884 episode] had left behind a feeling of affectionate dependence upon his doctor, which had now, for some unknown reason, became intensified to the pitch of an erotic desire” (p. 42). We do not know, nor did Freud, if Schreber found Flechsig attractive or if he was attracted to him or to other men. The sexual desire for the doctor, Freud believed, was his transference from an infantile sexual desire, a derivative of “the feminine attitude towards his father which he had exhibited in the earliest years of his childhood” (p. 58). Freud had no biographical evidence for inferring such an inverted Oedipus complex or for its return in adulthood. If this was true, why then did not Schreber exhibit this transference towards Flechsig during the first admission to Flechsig’s? It did not occur to Freud to wonder about Schreber’s identification with mother, because he did not even mention once that Schreber had a mother. Freud assumed that by God Schreber always meant father, which he did not, and he tacitly equated Flechsig as psychiatrist with himself as a psychoanalyst as another professional above suspicion: feeling persecuted by Flechsig was merely Schreber’s delusion caused by a father transference. Therefore Freud missed the iatrogenic reality of Flechsig’s (and Weber’s) actual handling of their patient.
Schreber’s ironical portrayal of Flechsig’s God-like pronouncements showed up his “professorial arrogance” (p. 113), whose actions set in motion the injustice that was done to him.
Freud did, however, recognize Schreber’s “wishful phantasy…in connection with some frustration, some privation in real life. Now Schreber admits having suffered a privation of this kind. His marriage, which he describes as being in other respects a happy one, brought him no children (Freud, 1911, p. 57)…Dr. Schreber may have formed a phantasy that if he were a woman, he would manage the business of having children more successfully” (p. 58). Instead of further pursuing this important idea, Freud connected it with homosexuality: “and in particular [the privation] brought him no son who might have consoled him [for] the loss of his father or brother upon whom he might have drained off his unsatisfied homosexual affections” (p. 57), another arbitrary assumption, when compared with Freud’s acknowledging “that his family line threatened to die out, and it seems that he felt no little pride in his birth and lineage” (pp. 57-58). In fact, Freud noted that “the great Napoleon obtained a divorce from Josephine (though only after severe internal struggles) because she could not propagate the dynasty” (p. 58) and in a footnote quoted Schreber: “I have never trifled with the idea of obtaining a divorce, nor have displayed any indifference to the maintenance of our marriage tie”? (436)”. In overplaying the homosexual interpretations, Freud confused and conflated sex with nonsexual love, missing Schreber’s repeated references to his love for his wife, a composite of adult interdependence and child-like clinging dependence. Similarly, it did not matter to Freud that Schreber also expressed important spiritual and ethical ideas about God and the relationship between God and mankind. During those long years of incarceration Schreber was a very lonely man and God was a great imaginary companion, giving him hopes to end as a winner, as he offered this theodicy shortly before leaving Sonnenstein:
The Order of the World’ is the lawful relation which, resting on God’s nature and attributes, exists between God and the creation called into life by Him….God, whose power by rays is essentially constructive to its nature, and creative, came into conflict with Himself when he attempted the irregular policy against me, aimed solely at destroying my bodily integrity and my reason. This policy could therefore only cause temporary damage, but could not lead to permanent results. Or perhaps, using an oxymoron, God Himself was on my side in His fight against me, that is to say I was able to bring His attributes and powers into battle as an effective weapon in my self defence (Schreber, p. 61. footnote #35).
Freud also noted Schreber’s aptitude for what he calls ‘drawing’ (that is by calling up visual images) he is able to give himself and the rays an impression that his body is fitted out with female breasts and genitals; ‘it has become so much a habit with me to draw female buttocks on to my body—honi soit qui mal y pense [shame on him who thinks evil of it. the motto on the heraldic shield of the House of Windsor] … (233). [He is] ‘bold enough to assert that anyone who should happen to see me before the mirror with the upper portion of my torso bared—especially if the illusion is assisted by my wearing a little feminine finery—would receive an unmistakable impression a female bust’ (280). … He then arrived at the firm conviction that it was God himself who, for his own satisfaction, was demanding femaleness from him: ‘No sooner, however, am I alone with God (if I may so express it). than it becomes a necessity for me to employ every imaginable device and summon up the whole of my mental faculties, and especially my imagination, in order to bring it about that the divine rays may have the impression…that I am a woman luxuriating in voluptuous sensations’ (281)” (Freud. pp. 33-34; italics added).
The delusion, or illusion, of transformation into a woman was further facilitated by a transvestite enactment of the fantasy, “a realization of the content of [the original] dream” (Freud. p. 33) Schreber had in the summer of 1893. It is not only that God
demanded of him to have fantasies of femaleness, it is because cultivation of femininity has now become consonant with the Order of the World, because Schreber needed such fantasies and illusions for the purpose of self-healing. To strengthen such an illusion Schreber engaged in small acts of cross-dressing, but without denying that he was still a man. Indeed. Freud noted that Schreber “confessed to this frivolity [Spielerei: playfulness] ([in] July 1901)…after his cure: ‘standing before the mirror or elsewhere, with the upper portion of my body bared, and wearing sundry feminine adornments, such as ribbons, false necklaces, and the like…when I am by myself, and never… in the presence of other people’ (429)” (Freud. p. 21). However, Freud would not consider such cross-dressing in a non-homosexual male, for such dynamics were well known at that time, or the way they became a major discourse in a number of disciplines today. Surprisingly, Freud quoted a pertinent 1910 essay by Adler but dismissed it as irrelevant. Even more surprising was Freud’s literalization of a number of Schreber’s metaphors, especially since figurative meanings are quite native to German. Thus Entmannung, unmanning, is metaphorically not castration but loss of manly pride or power, or a humiliating defeat. Freud also missed that Entmannung as turning into a woman was explained by Schreber as a “regression. or a reversal of that developmental process which occurs in the human embryo in the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy, according to whether nature intends the future child to be of male or female sex” (Schreber. p. 53). Schreber may have also read a work by Leipzig anatomist H. Weber, in 1833 author of a brief biography of his father, who in an 1846 monograph I recently found described and illustrated the comparative anatomy of reproductive organs in animals and man. According to E.H. Weber, the prostate is a homolog of the uterus. Thus Schreber argued both as a scientist and as a harbinger of the transvestite and transgender revolution in life and the arts today. Schreber also addressed this scientific question to Weber:
does the science of neurology acknowledge the existence of special nerves whose function is to conduct the sensation of voluptuousness (nerves of voluptuousness or sensory nerves)? … If I understood Professor Weber correctly, the science of neurology does not recognize the existence of special nerves as carriers of sensuous pleasure;…on the other hand, he did not dispute that the fact that the feeling of sensuous pleasure—whatever its physiological basis—occurs in the female to a higher degree than in the male, involves the whole body, and that the mammae particularly play a very large part in the in the perception of sensual pleasure… For myself.… when I exert light pressure with my hand on any part of my body, particularly…on my chest where the woman’s bosom is.…I can produce a feeling of female sensuous pleasure…I am absolutely compelled to do so if I want to achieve sleep or protect myself against otherwise unbearable pain” (Schreber, p. 275-276).
Schreber seemed not to know that male nipples function as erogenous zones in both women and men. Guido Weber did not know that sexual receptor cells in males and females were mentioned in an 1883 textbook of psychiatry and in an 1874 book by Haeckel (Lothane. 1992), confirmed by recent research on sensory pathways originating in the Pacini and Ruffini corpuscles and so-called genital end bulbs in the glans and shaft of the penis and the clitoris.
Freud’s most amazing blind spot was his misunderstanding of the fantasy of turning into a woman as pointing to the fundamental androgyny of man and God, as depicted in a number of religions (Lothane. 1993b, 2008; Winterstein, 1913), as was his having repressed the bisexuality theories of his erstwhile bosom friend Wilhelm Fliess. Thus Freud missed Schreber’s remark that “the female characteristics which are developing in my body show a certain periodicity” (p. 278). Freud forgot that the idea of bisexual periodicity had been developed by Fliess in 1897: “the menstrual bleeding of the female expresses a process that applies to both sexes…these facts teach us that in addition to the menstrual process of the 28-day type there is a 23-day cycle that also rules every age and every gender…These processes are powerfully and intimately connected with male and female sexual characters. And this is also in keeping with the intrinsic double sexual constitution in man and woman, however, differently emphasized” (pp. III-IV; my translation; italics Fliess’). Writing on the “theory” of “the bisexual constitution of human beings,” Freud asserts that the motive force of repression in each individual is a struggle between two sexual
characters. The dominant sex of the person, that which is more strongly developed, has repressed the mental representations lf the subordinated sex into the unconscious. Therefore the nucleus of the unconscious (that is to say. the repressed) is in each human being that side of him which belongs to the opposite sex. … To put the theory briefly: with men. what is unconscious and repressed can be brought down to feminine instinctual impulses; and conversely with women (Freud. 1917a, pp. 200-201).
Fortunately, in “paranoia…the patients themselves…possess the peculiarity of betraying (in a distorted form. it is true) precisely those things which other neurotics keep hidden as a secret” (1911, p. 9). Without a trace of distortion, Schreber masterfully described his feminine impulses.
Paranoia is a fantasy but paranoid people can have real enemies who persecute, and Freud did not sufficiently appreciate the reality of Schreber’s hospitalization and its effect on Schreber, even though he was quite aware of it, since he cited page 409 of the Memoirs where Schreber states:
The court found…that I suffer from hallucinations…[at] present … [but it] belongs to a time which lies years behind me; it only existed during the first year or two at most of my stay in the Asylum. … I can only therefore leave the question open whether my ideas concerning the matter rested only on hallucinations or on factual events (Schreber. 1955, p.409).
Whether one sees the above statement as normal or as deluded, Freud did not appreciate enough that the factual events in Schreber’s life, or the reality of life in the asylum, which acted as instigators of his hallucinations and delusion the same way the day residue is an instigator of the manifest dream content. Soul murder was not a sexual fantasy but a fantasy caused by factual events: Flechsig’s conduct toward his patient and his real persecution in Sonnenstein (Lothane. 1993a, based on presentations in 1990 at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in New York and in the Netherlands).
Freud expressed many misgiving about his essay. In a letter to Jung of 18 December 1910 he gave vent to self-deprecation:
My Schreber is finished. … The piece is formally imperfect, fleetingly improvised. I had neither time nor strength to do more. Still, there are a few good things in it, and it contains the boldest thrust at +++ psychiatry since your Dem. Pr. [Jung’s book 1907 book based on Freud’s ideas]. I am unable to judge its objective worth as was possible with earlier papers, because in working on it I had to fight off complexes within myself (Fliess) (Freud/Jung Letters. p. 379-380).
In a letter to Ferenczi of October 6 1910 Freud wrote:
I no longer have any need for that full opening of my personality. …. This need has been extinguished in me since Fliess’s case, with the overcoming of which you just saw me occupied [during their trip in Sicily where Freud started writing the essay]. A piece of homosexual investment has been withdrawn and utilized for the enlargement of my ego. I have succeeded where the paranoiac fails (Freud/Ferenczi Correspondence. p. 221).
I have discussed elsewhere Freud’s projecting his homosexual emotions onto Schreber (Lothane. 1997a). Anticipating future criticism, Freud offered this self-defense:
Anyone who was more daring than I am in making interpretations, or who was in touch with Schreber’s family, and consequently better acquainted with the society in which he lived and the small events of his life, would find it an easy matter to trace back innumerable details of his delusions to their sources and so discover their meaning. … But as it is, we must necessarily content ourselves with this shadowy sketch of the infantile material which was used by the paranoic disorder in portraying the current conflict (Freud. 1911, p. 57).
Actually there was no infantile material in Schreber’s book: Freud’s was given to vague generalizations. The limited biographical data Freud read about the Schreber children were published in 1909 Freund der Schreber-Vereine, a later issue of which was sent to Freud by his Dresden follower Dr. Stegmann (Freud,1911, p. 51). Unfortunately, Freud did not do any further research, including reading hospital charts, where he would have found the suppressed 3rd chapter. or interviewing Schreber’s doctors and family members. Instead of doing such research Freud resorted to an applied analysis at the expense of clinical analysis. to deluding himself that “the relation between the patient and the persecutor can be reduced to a simple formula” (p. 41). or a universal “schematic outline” (p. 47). He thus forfeited his core clinical method of his dream psychology, dream-work (Traumarbeit), and delusion-work (Wahnbildungsarbeit, mistranslated by Strachey as “delusion-formation” p. 38), in favor of formulas.
More was lost because of Freud’s formulaic reduction of the varieties of emotion to sexual desire, or missing the passions of romantic love, to which Schreber alluded by mentioning Wagner’s Tannhäuser (p.18), Weber’s Freischütz, Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, or lines about vanished love and revenge in Mozart’s Magic Flute (p. 263), i.e., the many faces of tender spousal love, of sadness and joy, of anger overt and covert, of irony and disillusionment. Freud had done a much better job in analyzing dramas of Shakespeare and Ibsen and of a short story by a now forgotten German author, Wilhelm Jensen, who died the same year as Schreber (Lothane. 2010c).
Freud’s homosexual formula did not escape criticism. Bleuler (1912) was the first to challenge Freud’s sexual interpretations of Schreber’s delusions as a cause of his psychosis. And so did Jung in a letter to Freud, dated 14 November 1911:
Our personal differences will make our work different. … In my second part [of “Symbols and transformations of libido”] I have got down to a fundamental discussion of the libido theory. That passage in your Schreber analysis where you run into the libido problem (loss of libido = loss of reality) is one of the points where our mental paths cross. In my view the concept of libido as set forth in the Three Essays [on the theory of sexuality] needs to be supplemented by the genetic factor to make it applicable to Dem[entia] praec[ox] (Freud/Jung letters. p. 461).
Jung believed that schizophrenia, which he assumed to be Schreber’s illness, had a toxic origin and here he added to it his own “genetic factor”, which meant Jung’s desexualized concept of libido, akin to Bergson’s élan vital and derived from mythological sources. And Jung goes on an attack with weapons Freud put in his hands in a letter of 11 December 1911:
So far as possible I shall take note of your objections to my method in dealing with mythology. … As for the libido problem,…your remark in the Schreber analysis [paragraph] (3)
[dealing with libidinal cathexis and ego-cathexes. Z. L.] has set up booming reverberations. This remark, or rather the doubt expressed therein, has resuscitated all the difficulties that have beset me throughout the years in my attempt to apply the libido theory to Dem. praec. The loss of the reality function in Dem. pr. cannot be reduced to repression of libido (defined as sexual hunger). Not by me, at any rate. Your doubt shows me that in your eyes as well the problem cannot be solved in this way. The essential point is that I try to replace the descriptive concept of the libido by a genetic one. Such a concept covers not only the recent sexual libido but all the forms of it that have long since split off into organized activities (Freud/Jung Letters. p. 471; emphasis Jung’s).
For Freud, who had excommunicated Adler for his revision of the libido theory, these were fighting words. It was not long before they caused a growing friction between the king and the crown prince, right up to the breakup of their historic relationship that cast a long shadow on the relations between Freudians and Jungians. This rift has not been healed yet, in spite of some recent efforts (IPA Congress, Panel Discussion, 2004).
Another challenge came from the historians of psychiatry Ida Macalpine and Richard A. Hunter (1953), a mother and son team, with the mother in the leading role and with a profound understanding of mothering and psychoanalysis. They also doubted the etiological role of Schreber’s homosexual fantasies in favor of procreation fantasies: “Schreber’s behavior cannot be understood in phallic or genital terms, nor in terms of libidinal drives directed towards other persons. It is very different from homosexuality in which a man qua man desires sexual relations with another of the same sex. Clearly passive homosexual urges, whether conscious or unconscious, should be sharply distinguished from the confusion about their own sex invariably found in schizophrenia. … the more overt … [the] the transvestitism, the less frankly psychotic the patient, a view supported by the course of Schreber’s illness” (Schreber. pp. 404-405). Macalpine and Hunter also doubted the effectiveness of Freud’s interpretations as a cure: “had Schreber been in psychotherapy and given the accepted interpretations of unconscious homosexual wishes… it is anybody’s guess what might have happened to him” (p. 410); “the lack of psychotherapeutic success with psychotic patients, as well as the lack of advance in theory,is due to adherence to the libido theory of psychiatric symptom formation” (p. 406). Jacques Lacan (1977) would later make fun of Macalpine’s interpretation, which he attributed to her feminine bias (pp. 190-192). As noted, it is also remarkable that Freud did not say one word about Schreber’s mother.
Another woman who brought her maternal instincts to bear upon redefining paranoia, including that of Schreber, was Melanie Klein (1946) with her theories of the paranoid schizoid position of the infant and splitting:
Schreber described vividly the splitting of the soul of his physician Flechsig (his loved and persecuting figure)……… the division of the Flechsig soul into many souls was not only a splitting of the object but also a projection of Schreber’s feeling that his ego was split … effected by very destructive means used by the ego against itself and its introjected objects (Klein. 1946, pp. 109—110).
But what splits in splitting: it is another suggestive metaphor. In the wake of Melanie Klein’s work the trend was to modify the connection between homosexuality and paranoia was continued by the Kleinian Herbert Rosenfeld (1949), who reviewed the preceding literature extensively and concluded that homosexuality was a defense against the paranoid position and Walters (1955).
Freud did catch a most important carp of truth, a most revolutionary insight:
[Schreber’s] subjective world has come to an end since the withdrawal of his love from it. … He builds it up again by the work of his delusion. The work of constructing the delusion [=Wahnbildung. my translation], which we take to be the pathological product. is in reality an attempt at recovery. a process of reconstruction (1911, pp. 70-71; Freud’s italics).
Schreber created his own therapy using his very active imagination. One man’s mythology can easily become another man’s pathology. Schreber’s mythology, his work of self- healing, became Weber’s pathology. The same could be said of any theology: e.g., myths to heal the soul, in paradises terrestrial and celestial. For all the animosity that led to their historic breakup. Jung ran with Freud’s creative ideas to develop his own mythology- theology in his 1912 “Transformations and symbols of the libido” and for many years to come. For Freud this was heresy from the myth of goddess Libido.
Niederland’s bait of falsehood
Like Freud. W. G. Niederland (1974) became trapped in a different literal reading of Schreber’s metaphors and similes: those in Chapter XI of the Memoirs, in which Schreber described his emotional reactions to the traumatic banishment to Sonnenstein and his first year in the “Devil’s castle.” Schreber felt persecuted by a host maladies, euphemistically and antithetically (Freud. 1910) called miracles, all caused by a wrathful God. Niederland believed that the torments and “tortures” described by Schreber were revivals of memories of being abused as a young child at the hands his father, as described in Moritz Schreber’s books on child rearing. This was due to Niederland’s—and his countless copiers’— ignorance of Freud’s discovery, that hallucination-work and delusion-work, like dream- work, are instigated by traumatic day residues such that hallucinations and delusions become the emotional reactions to current environmental stimuli and stresses, i.e., their iatrogenic effect on the patient, as expressed in dramatic imaginings and psychosomatic bodily metaphors.
Niederland’s misread the common figurative meaning of Engbrüstigkeit which still means shortness of breath or a painful oppressive sensation in the chest caused by anxiety, which Schreber referred to as Engbrüstigkeitswunder, “the so-called compression-of-the- chest-miracle, which … consisted in the whole chest wall being compressed so that the state of oppression caused by the lack of breath was transmitted to the whole body” (p.151). By rendering Schreber’s Beklemmung as “oppression,” the translators reinforced the pressure idea but missed that in German this expression refers to das Herz beklemmen, to oppress the heart, so that the person feels anxious and heavy at heart, suffering from a kind of a cardiac neurosis. In Niederland this description was concretized and extrapolated into alleged hair-raising tortures of the child Schreber by means of an appliance his father invented called the Geradhalter (straight holder). Niederland misdescribed the Geradhalter as “a horizontal bar pressed against the chest that prevented any movement forward or sideward, giving only some freedom to move backwards to an even more rigidly upright position” (Niederland. 1974. p. 77). The reader is also referred to Niederland’s pp. 53-53, where two forms of the appliance are pictured: (1) the original iron bar, which did not prevent any movements sideward, and (2) a later form of the appliance, taken from the 1891 reissue of the book, i.e., 30 years after Moritz’s death, thus constructed in the shape of leather harness by someone else, which did indeed limit sideward movement. Subsequent commentators not only copied Niederland’s faulty description but converted the appliance into a gruesome torture “machine.” As stated by Niederland, Paul Schreber himself did describe an imaginary “head-being-tied-together- machine” (p. 77), and when the little devils turned the screws of this machine his head assumed an elongated pear-shape, causing him excruciating pains, Schreber’s embodied metaphor of how he felt as a prisoner in Sonnenstein. However, this was not a “compression machine” which Niederland imagined was like the appliance Moritz Schreber tried out on his son, allegedly a rigid compressing device “like a helmet-like Kopfhalter (head holder)”, depicted on page 54. Wrong again: this appliance was not compressing at all: it was called a chin-strap, supported by leather bands placed on the head, and used to correct prognathism, or excessive growth of the chin bone; its correct name was Kinnband (even Israels in the German edition of his 1989 book had it mislabeled as Kinnbinde). It was made of soft leather and there was nothing rigid or helmet-like about it and it would not compress the head or cause pain when applied to a school-age child wearing it. The Kopfhalter was a totally different kind of a leather strap (Schreber. 1858, p. 199). And here is the aftermath: “In 1963 Niederland was courageous to admit: ‘I do not claim that the data so far accumulated throw light on the nature of Schreber’s psychosis. Suffice it to say that some of them appear to be useful in our effort to unravel a few among the many obscure features of the clinical picture and to make the hitherto incomprehensible aspects of Schreber’s delusional system accessible to further investigation’ (Niederland, W.G. (1963). Further data and memorabilia pertaining to the Schreber case. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 44:206)” (Lothane. 1996c). Niederland, with whom I was on friendly terms and visited often during the last years of his life, was supportive of my work, which completed his investigations.
By means of the aforementioned misrepresentations and misinterpretations innocent appliances like the chin strap became horrific. inquisition-style torture machines. Thus was born the legend of a despotic and sadistic or perhaps psychotic parent who subjected the young child to manipulations with various tormenting appliances which became the delayed cause of his son’s adult illness. This legend was sensationalized in a 1973 best-seller by Morton Schatzman. Both Niederland and Schatzman touted a false connection between Paul Schreber’s invented paranoia and Moritz Schreber’s alleged sadism and the paranoia of mass murderers Hitler and Stalin and their regimes.
The Schrebers, Hitler, and the Nazis
The more egregious false connection was insisted upon by Schatzman (1973) quoting Elias Canetti’s famous 1960 Masse und Macht (Crowds and Power, 1962): “‘We shall find in Schreber [the son] a political system of a disturbingly familiar kind (1962, p. 443)…it became the creed of a great nation leading to the conquest of Europe….Thus Schreber’s claims were posthumously vindicated by his unwitting disciples (p. 447)’” (Schatzman. p. 143). Rubbish, Canetti, the Nazis were no disciples of Schreber nor were copies of the Denkwürdigkeiten required reading in schools, army barracks, or universities: Hitler’s Mein Kampf was.
I later found, thanks to Sander Gilman, that Canetti had plagiarized the German- Jewish novelist, essayist, humanist, and pacifist Arnold Zweig (1887-1968), ardent admirer of Freud, Eastern Jews, and Martin Buber, who stunned the conscience of the world after the Great War with his pacifist novel The Case of Sergeant Grischa. He later lived in Palestine and after a series of misunderstandings returned to Communist East Germany after World War II, where he died. An ardently adoring correspondent with Freud, Zweig was inspired by Freud’s 1911 Schreber analysis and in a book published in 1933 after Hitler’s rise to power, The Balance Sheet of the German Jewry, in which he made a valiant effort to come to grips with the rise of Nazi tyranny and Germany’s succumbing to totalitarianism and the black tide of anti-Semitism. He sought an answer this riddle by focusing on Hitler’s pathology, in turn explaining the latter by means of Schreber’s pathology. Zweig went further: he found a parallel, nay, an identity, between the “paranoid” anti-Semitic and nationalistic Nazi “mass psychosis” and the “classical testimony of the true genius of self-description, the unusually shrewd legally insane psychotic. former Senatspräsident Dr. Daniel Schreber,” who succeeded in overturning his insanity status by dint of his “intellectual cunning.” Zweig saw the Nazis’ “peculiar dress and gestures” and propaganda tactics mirrored in the “case of Dr. Schreber by the transformations wrought in his body”; moreover, just as Schreber felt subjected “to a conspiracy of cosmic proportions,” so did the Nazis in the “Ahasver-Gestalt” of demonic world Jewry. The culmination of Zweig’s calumny of Schreber was to equate the style of Hitler’s Mein Kampf with that of the Memoirs, Hitler’s “demonic propaganda,” his “uncanny twaddle, emotion- drenched hectoring rants engendered by flight of ideas” with the uncanny intertwining of “delusion and drivenness” in psychotic inmates like Schreber, whose mix of “lucidity and delusion makes relating with such patients so taxing and dangerous” (p. 87). Rubbish, Zweig, Paul Schreber was neither dangerous nor demonic. Hitler was. The paranoid individual, craving to be loved, feels unloved and therefore is unduly suspicious of imagined enemies whose victim he believes himself to be, his delusions are a form of self- love. The paranoid person is harmless in his suffering. A paranoid dictator, a Hitler or a Stalin, first seduces then forces the masses to love and adore him (Lothane. 1997b). The dictator is dangerous to everybody, he jails and murders as enemies those who oppose his tyranny and want freedom. Zweig’s major omission was to remain blind to the major issue in mass dynamics: the relationship of the mass to the leader, as analyzed by Freud in 1921.
Schreber’s delusions were child’s play that only harmed him compared to Hitler’s paranoia. Here is a sample of Hitler’s paranoid delusions of persecution: “From time immemorial, the Jews have known better than any others how falsehood and calumny can be exploited. Is not their very existence founded on one great lie, namely, that they are a religious community, whereas in reality they are a race? And what a race! … Schopenhauer called the Jew ‘The Great Master of Lies’ ” (p. 134). “He will stop at nothing. His utterly low-down conduct is so appalling that one really cannot be surprised if in the imagination of our people the Jew is pictured as the incarnation of Satan and the symbol of evil” (p. 184):
Look at the ravages from which our people are suffering daily as a result of being contaminated with Jewish blood. Bear in mind the fact that this poisonous contamination can be eliminated from the national body only after centuries, or perhaps never. Think further of how the process of racial decomposition is debasing and in some cases even destroying the fundamental Aryan qualities of our German people … This pestilential adulteration of the blood, of which hundreds of thousands of our people take no account. is being systematically practiced by the Jew to-day. Systematically these negroid parasites in our national body corrupt our innocent fair-haired girls and thus destroy something which can no longer be replaced in this world (Mein Kampf, p. 310).
The paranoid and hate-filled anti-Semitic delusions Hitler spewed out in Mein Kampf became the instrument of seduction of a great nation by means of propaganda filled with hate and lies so that the paranoid prejudices of a demagogic leader became paranoia of the massed crowds (Lothane, 2006). This seduction was celebrated in mass torch lit rallies, with swearing allegiance to the Führer, public book burnings, state sponsored terrorizing of the Jewish population with murder and violence, e.g., the Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. Hitler’s Third Reich deliberately established its domestic and foreign policy on a foundation of racism and anti-Semitism, declaring Jews to be its enemies and incorporating social and political disenfranchisement of the Jews as official policy built into the Nazi constitution of 1937 (Hofer. 1957). These policies culminated in the paranoid blaming the Jews for starting WW II, which Hitler was already planning, threatening the Jews with extinction in his January 30th 1939 speech to the Reichstag:
“Today I want to prophecy once again. Should the international finance-Jewry in Europe and elsewhere succeed in plunging the nations once again into a world war, then the result will not be the bolshevization of the globe and the victory of the Jewry but the extermination of the Jewish race in Europe.”
Had Bolshevik Stalin, who masterminded the paranoid doctors’ trials, not died in 1953, Russian Jews would have been rounded up and deported to Gulag-like camps.
Hitler fulfilled his prophecy by masterminding the Final Solution and having his henchmen organize the Holocaust, the real machinery of death, the scientifically organized genocidal extermination program, industrialized on an unprecedented mass scale. It was implemented daily with the willing participation of Nazi doctors who carried out the daily selections of Jews either for slave labor, or death by gassing, upon arrival in Auschwitz, or when worked to near death. The doctors had previously murdered tens of thousands of incurable invalids, retarded children, and chronic psychiatric inmates of asylums in an action ordered in writing by Hitler, an extermination program that became a dress rehearsal for Auschwitz, as documented in Harry Friedlander’s 1995 book, The origins of Nazi genocide From Euthanasia to the final solution. One of the carbon monoxide gassing sites was the former Sonnenstein Asylum: its Nazi director Dr. Paul Nitzsche was found guilty of crimes against humanity in Nuremberg and hanged. Today Sonnenstein is no longer a psychiatric hospital but the site of Gedenkstätte Pirna-Sonnenstein, a museum of and a memorial to the crimes committed there. The actions of Dr. Nitzsche and of others like him at the other euthanasia sites had been inspired by a 1920’s book by Binding and Hoche, a jurist and psychiatrist respectively (the latter a declared enemy of Freud), who advocated the killing of chronic and incurable persons defined as “life unworthy of living.”
Niederland thought that Alfons Ritter, author of an Erlangen University dissertation on Moritz Schreber, “expressed admiration for Schreber… and Hitler, the former [i.e., Moritz Schreber] as a sort of spiritual precursor of Nazism” (1974. p. 65). But how important is what Ritter said in his “Foreword” or in his minor and forgotten dissertation? So as to better to understand this conflation it is essential to realize how as a result of Hitler’s becoming Germany’s dictator in 1933, Nazi ideology took control of the entire German educational system. Even prior to 1933 the example had been set by the chief Nazi ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg, the guru of racism and violence, tried in Nuremberg and executed as a war criminal. In his 1930 Myth of the Twentieth Century, the most important sequel to Mein Kampf, Rosenberg claimed Meister Eckhart as the source of his ideas. What craven lie, what cruel irony: Meister Eckhart, the fourteenth century German theologian and mystic, tried as a heretic by the Church for his spiritual ideas about God and religion, quoted time and again in Aldous Huxley’s spiritually-oriented Perennial Philosophy! And here is Schatzman quoting from Ritter’s “Foreword”: “The road to renewal of the German essence and the German strength necessarily involves acknowledgment of blood and soil.
… It is our duty in this present time to remember in gratitude to the man who was one of the first men to call upon us to return to the soil of our fathers” (p. 140), another false appropriation, for Moritz Schreber did not write about ‘blood’: “blood and soil” were indeed defined in a nazified reference work as “two of the most important concepts of National Socialism; it means race (the community based on origins) and the soil of the homeland with which the race interconnected and interwoven” (Schmidt. 1934). Even though Moritz Schreber had his own patriotic sentiments, he appealed neither to race nor to blood and soil in the Nazi sense. As to soil, it could have only meant the soil of the Schreber-gardens about which he did not write a word, for the name Schreber garden was applied to inner city gardens three years after his death by adoring Leipzig teachers. Ritter’s illegitimate appropriation of Moritz Schreber to Nazi ideology was copied by Schütze (1936) and Ackermann (1943): “in connection with the importance of the will and ideas of this great doctor for our present goals, we ought to be filled with joy and pride that Schreber was one of us” (p. 219). No: Moritz Schreber was not one of them. German Jew Niederland, who escaped Nazi Germany with his life in 1940 and circled the globe as a ship doctor before landing on the West Coast of USA, sought to comprehend the Holocaust and found Moritz Schreber responsible for Nazi ideology. Schatzman went Niederland one better: “Remember, Hitler and his peers were raised when Dr. [Moritz] Schreber’s books, preaching household totalitarianism, were popular” (1973. p. 143).
Nonsense: Schreber’s books on education, printed in limited editions, as shown by Israels (1989), were known in Austria only to a handful of specialists. It is easy to calculate: Hitler’s (born1889) generation, raised on obedience to a war-mongering Kaiser, fought a futile WW I whose veterans became the fathers of sons that would fight in WW II and succumbed in the millions to the Nazi gospel. Schatzman reached the height of demonization of Moritz Schreber in averring that in Mein Kampf, “Hitler’s attitude toward the ‘masses’ is similar to Dr. Schreber’s implied feelings towards children, but much more cynical: ‘The psyche of the broad masses is accessible only to what is strong and uncompromising, like a woman…They see only the ruthless force and brutality of its determined utterances. to which they always submit (1939. p. 47)’ ” (Schatzman. 1973, p. 144).
Another revelation for me was discovering the books by Nazi convert Dr. Johanna Haarer (1900-1988) and two analyses of her work (Chamberlain, 1996, 1997). I was not able to find any citation of Schreber in Haarer’s books but it is quite probable that she knew about Schreber. Haarer was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler (1943) and authored books on child-rearing (Haarer. 1934, 1936) that sold millions of copies before, during, and after WW II. Chamberlain (1996) quoted lines from Mein Kampf on Nazi-style child rearing: “the State’s work of education should be organized to treat the young body in such a manner, already in the earliest childhood, that it should be hardened for later life… by means of thorough training of nurses and mothers” (p. 95). Chamberlain commented: “a Nazi child rearing and an authoritarian child rearing are not the same: the goal of the former was a systematic destruction of the bond [between mother and child] from the beginning of life” (p. 96). Accordingly, immediately after birth, the newborn is swaddled, separated from the mother and only handed to the mother for breast-feeding. ‘The separation of mother and child offers extraordinary child rearing advantages [for] educating the child starts immediately after birth’ (Haarer)” (Chamberlain. 1997, p. 23). Moritz Schreber did not prescribe such methods. True, Moritz Schreber did make a distinction between the healthy screams of a two months old baby as growth-promoting vs. a six months old baby spiteful tantrum, which he believed should be disciplined. This made Niederland indignant and it does beg the question; but it cannot be seen as systematic terror of children and a cause of adult mental illness. In a hitherto unknown self-analysis by E. P. Farrow (1926, 1927) in which he recalled his resentment at his father for hitting him when he was six months old (Lothane. 2004). On the other hand, Moritz Schreber recommended an attitude of benevolence towards the child (Lothane. 1989b), pleading for a “welcome reception of the new arrival, with loving contact through gaze, tone, friendliness … to create a small paradise … that would set the mood for the entire life” (Schreber. 1858, p. 59). At age 2-7 Moritz Schreber recommended fostering the child’s age appropriate freedom of movement in keeping with its developmental abilities. Schreber did not suggest that children be corraled in play pens, a prominent feature in Haarer, with this commentary from Chamberlain: “the child cooped up in a pen appears depressed” (p. 127). The continuing disturbance in bonding leads to clinging behavior in the child, which creates a “vicious circle: “denied closeness creates clinging, clinging provokes rejection and a further denial of closeness, increasing the ungratified longing of the child for closeness and consequently. a proclivity for unhealthy symbiosis” (p. 133). In stark contrast to this was the promoting of brutal and violent sports in the rearing of adolescents in the Hitler-Jugend established in 1926, as promulgated by Hitler himself (Hofer, 1957):
My educational methods are harsh. The weaklings must be hammered out. In my elite schools ayouth will be raised that will terrify the world. I want a violent domineering, fearless, cruel youth.
… The free, glorious beast of prey must once again flash in its eyes. … I want an athletic youth. That is most important. In this way I erase millennia of human domestication. … In this way I can create a new mankind. … I do not want any intellectual education. Youth is destroyed by knowledge. They should only learn what is native to their play instinct and thus willingly adopted. It must learn self-control. It must endure the severest trials of the fear of death. This is the zenith of heroic youth that gives rise to … creative men, to God-men … to the future ideal of manliness (p. 88. my translation).
This educational program was a preparation of the young to become SS-men, the elite corps in charge of the firing squads and burials in mass graves and the industrialized mass murders of the Final Solution. The SS troops were also an instrument of terrorizing the people of Germany on their own soil.
Psychiatry’s bait of falsehood: healthy vs. psychotic
Schreber insisted that he was Nervenkrank, that he suffered from a disorder of nerves, i.e., anxiety, worry, tension, stress, mental strain, but that he was not geisteskrank. i.e., psychotic, especially in the legal sense, as stated in his books subtitle, his work of self- vindication. Schreber was seen as psychotic because of the form of his discourse and the form of his enactments, which points to the following thesis and an anti-thesis: is psychosis a result of a fixed insane psychotic core, a psychotic essence, or is that inner center essentially sound? During the 1993 Schreber symposium in Cérisy-la-Salle (organized by Devreese, Lothane, and Schotte, 1998), the late philosopher of religion Edmond Ortigues (1998) used to quip: “est-ce que Schreber était sain ou saint?”
There was one more important facet to Schreber’s soul murder: “All other conceivable methods were therefore tried [by rays. i.e., God]….Always the main idea behind them was to ‘forsake” me, that is to abandon me… and later by destroying my reason (making me demented, Blödsinningmachen) (p. 94). And he explained: “All attempts at committing soul murder, at unmanning me and later at the destruction of my reason, have failed” (p. 61); Schreber had also noted that “in Private Asylums one finds as a rule only well-to-do patients and only exceptionally are really demented (verblödete) or idiots found there” (p. 104). In addition, in psychiatric text-books paranoia was described as resulting in terminal dementia, also so famously stated by Valentin Magnan’s “Délire chronique à évolution systématique.”
Therefore it was not really God who attempted to make Schreber demented.
Schreber had good reasons to think that God-playing psychiatrist Flechsig was doing the same, hich he expressed with biting irony: “about the time of the Easter Holidays…in 1894 [i.e.. the time the soul murder plot was initiated], an important change must have taken place in Professor Flechsig’s person. [In] visions…Professor Flechsig called himself ‘God Flechsig’ ” (p. 82), whose psychiatry was based on brain anatomy and brain-mythology.
Schreber also targeted god-like Kraepelin, whose 1899 “Textbook” he cited (p. 307) and who would have influenced the treatment approach of Director Guido Weber and his doctors: “As I had shown no interest in anything nor displayed my intellectual needs. [all my physicians and attendants] could hardly see in me anything but a stuporose dullard (in soporösen Stumpfsinn verfallenen].” i.e.. catatonic or demented. “and yet the real situation was that I had to solve the most intricate problems ever set for man” (p. 146). Similar testimonies were given by Boisen (1936. 1960) and Custance (1952. 1954): for them, too, illness was a gateway to spiritual discoveries.
In the 1899 work Kraepelin discussed the course of paranoid forms of dementia praecox: “the end result of dementia paranoides is feeble-minded (schwachsinnige) confusion (Verwirrtheit), while the patients remain conscious and oriented…The speed with which this dementia (Verblödung) develops is not always the same” (p. 188; my translation). As noted before, in 1894 Schreber believed that Flechsig assumed his illness to be incurable which Weber certified in due course. Schreber was also aware of the dangers of needlessly prolonged hospitalizations that led to warehousing of incurable inmates in custodial institutions. e.g., Colditz (p. 368), where Guido Weber had been trained as resident in psychiatry.
Schreber’s view of his illness was thus diametrically opposed to the pessimism of the organic psychiatrists: “not even in a dement (beim Blödsinnigen) is there complete cessation of mental activity, only a very variable degree or pathological diminution or change of mental activity” (p. 185. footnote #77). And it was a fact that “before Easter 1900 the medical expert [Weber] only became acquainted with the pathological shell. as I would like to call it, which concealed my true spiritual life” (p. 297). Schreber maintained throughout that he was not legally demented or psychotic but suffered from a nervous reaction to overwhelming stresses on the job and in the marriage. This was his main argument against Kraepelin and Weber who postulated an irreparably and organically damaged pathological core. In Weber’s eyes, no matter how courteous were Schreber’s manners, how scintillating his conversation at the director’s table, Schreber just was not to be taken seriously: once mad, always mad. Arguably, there was an analogy here to the colonial, segregational, attitude towards Blacks, the prejudice against gays, the anti- Semite’s view of the Jew among the nations, or the Nazi view of the Jew as an Untermensch (subhuman): once a Jew always a Jew, no matter how well-spoken or what contribution he made to science or society.
Freud took Schreber seriously and expressed similar ideas about the healthy inner core of the psychotic:
The problem of psychoses would be simple and perspicuous if the ego’s detachment from reality could be carried through completely. But that seems to happen only rarely or perhaps never. Even in a state so far removed from the reality of the external world as one of hallucinatory confusion, one learns from patients after their recovery that at the same time in some corner of their mind (as they put it) there was a normal person hidden, who, like a detached spectator, watched the hubbub of illness go past him…what occurs in all these cases is a psychical split (Freud. 1940, 201-202; Freud’s italics).
The prominent French psychiatrist Henri Baruk (1950, 1989) called the healthy core of the person in a state of psychosis “la personnalité profonde”: it is this healthy center of the suffering person that remains hidden behind the hubbub of the voices and the visions, the hallucinations and the delusions, the latter dramatizing, by encoding in figurative form, or Traumarbeit (dream work) and Wahnarbeit (delusion work), the real emotional needs and passionate appeals of the patient. It is also a Trauerarbeit, grief work (Freud. 1917b, p.
244), a working through of the loss of previous attachments. Freud was almost there in 1911: he connected Schreber’s fantasy of catastrophic world-destruction with “periods of mourning [when] we are constantly detaching our libido in this way from people or from other objects without falling ill” (p. 72). Schreber rarely spoke directly of his “depression” (Niedergeschlagenheit) (p. 145), mostly in terms of being forsaken by God and people. And one more work: conscience work, working through of moral conflicts and dilemmas related to work and marriage. In the process of therapy we attempt to establish an emotional contact between the therapist’s emotions and those of the patient in his life dramas (Lothane, 2009), and thus be able to translating the code language of delusions into direct expressions of vital concerns about the present and future (see also Searles. 1965).
Baruk (1989) juxtaposed the early 19th century dynamic French approach to functional psychoses with the static Kraepelinian system, built on the model of neurosyphilis and the search for brain lesions, later applied by Flechsig and Weber. In spite of the explosion of neuroscience and proliferation of pharmacological agents the last decades, we are still far from solving the problem of treating psychosis. Schreber inspires us once again as a teacher of psychiatry. Debating Kraepelin about hallucinations Schreber writes:
I think it is quite possible that some such cases [of hallucinations’ were instances of genuine seers of spirits… Even so-called spiritualist mediums may be considered genuine seers of spirits of the inferior kind in this sense, although in many cases self-deception and fraud may also play a part. Therefore one ought to beware of unscientific generalizations and rash condemnation in such matters. If psychiatry is not to deny everything supernatural and thus tumble with both feet into the camp of naked materialism, it will have to recognize the possibility that occasionally the phenomena under discussion may be connected with real happenings, which simply cannot be brushed aside with the catchword ‘hallucinations’ (Schreber. 1955. pp. 78-80).
In this passage Schreber is not only trying to bolster his claim of being a seer of spirits (Geisterseher) but, without saying it, to give expression to the psychological and emotional reality of his mystical experiences (Ortigues. 1998). William James (1911) expressed a similar appreciation of Frederic Myers’ contribution to psychology (pp. 145-206). i.e., ideas about the subliminal mind, that preceded Freud’s concept of the unconscious, as they emerged from his work on mediumistic phenomena. Myers was the leading light of the London Society for Psychical Research of which Freud became an honorary member in 1911.
The lessons of professors Schreber and Freud, who wanted psychiatry to be more humane, psychological and psychotherapeutic, are relevant today more than ever before. In spite of earlier advances over an exclusively biological psychiatry, current psychiatry has regressed back to 19th century biologism and the static Kraepelinian classifications as reflected in DSM-III and DSM-IV, with the purpose of re-medicalizing psychiatry, a social and a moral science (Szasz. 1970) as well. In spite of a claim to be “more scientific” it denies the reality of the sciences of man. As noted by Szasz (1970), “the diagnostic label imparts a defective personal identity to the patient….The psychiatric nosologist not only describes his patient’s so-called illness, but also prescribes his future conduct” (p. 203; emphasis Szasz’s); “natural science seeks to master the universe by means of accurate description and appropriate scientific strategy. The science of man cannot have the same goal and remain a morally dignified enterprise. Instead of aiming to control the object of its investigations, it must seek to set it free. To achieve this requires methods unlike those of the physical sciences”(p. 215).
Psychoanalysis is also in crisis –when was it not?—partly caused by the crisis in psychiatry, Freud-bashing, and, more importantly, by a crisis of identity. It cannot expect to be saved by neuroscience, no matter how much it gratifies its science envy. It must remain true to its calling and nature as a science of man. The Chinese ideogram for ‘crisis’ reads: danger and opportunity. Let us hope that in spite of all the problems. humanism and commitment to the suffering individual will remain the guiding light of psychiatry as a healing art. Perhaps there is truth in the old Talmudic saying, that whosoever preserves a single soul is as though he had preserved all of mankind.