Einstein to Austrian Psychoanalyst Theodor Reik about Sigmund Freud: “I am an eager admirer of Freud as an author and thinker”
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EINSTEIN, ALBERT. (1879-1955). German-born physicist, humanitarian and Nobel Prize winner; promulgator of the general and special theories of relativity. TLS. (“A. Einstein”). 1p. Small 4to. Peconic, August 3, 1938. To Austrian psychoanalyst THEODOR REIK (1888-1969). In German with translation.
“I keep myself completely apart from university circles and cannot take the initiative on your behalf due to a lack of personal contacts. But I am happy to empower you to mention me in your efforts. I am an eager admirer of Freud as an author and thinker, and I know that an opinion along the lines of what he has said about you demonstrates a lot. So please dispose of me, as far as it makes sense under the stated circumstances. With great esteem…”
In 1905, while working as a clerk at the Bern, Switzerland patent office, Einstein published four papers, including one detailing his special theory of relativity. His work laid the foundation for modern physics and was recognized with the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics. Despite his prominence, Einstein, like so many academics of his time, was forced into exile in 1933, due to the anti-Semitic persecution in Nazi Germany. Einstein, who was attached to Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study for the remainder of his life, wrote our letter from Peconic, New York, where he pursued his hobby of sailing.
Einstein’s interest in Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was of a personal nature. Einstein’s younger son Eduard, himself a medical student with an interest in psychoanalysis, suffered from mental illness. Eduard urged his father to read the work of Freud. In 1932, Eduard “had a major episode of schizophrenia and had to be taken to [Zurich’s] Burghölzli psychiatric hospital,” and the remainder of his life was marked by relapses and hospitalizations, (Albert Einstein, Folsing). He spent the last eight years of his life as a patient at the Burghölzli.
Einstein, who remained skeptical of psychoanalysis, met Freud in 1926 and after their meeting Freud observed of Einstein, “He is serene, assured and courteous, understands as much of psychology as I do of physics, and so we had a very pleasant chat,” (quoted in Albert Einstein, Fölsing). In July 1932, the physicist wrote to the psychoanalyst to open a dialogue about how best to avoid war. Their correspondence was published in the 1933 pamphlet entitled Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, Why War? by the International Institute for Intellectual Co-operation. “In the end, despite their mutual loathing for mass violence, Einstein and Freud’s approaches to war were completely different… [but] the disagreement around the issue of the reasons for war didn’t put an end to the two men’s close relations,” (“The Close Relationship Between Einstein and Freud, Relatively Speaking,” Haaretz).
In 1936, Einstein wrote Freud on the occasion of the latter’s 80th birthday: “I am glad that this generation will be granted the opportunity of expressing its respect and gratitude to you, as one of its greatest teachers, on the occasion of your 80th birthday… Until a short time ago I was only aware of the speculative force of your thought and its powerful influence on our contemporary view of the world, and was unable to make up my mind about the intrinsic truth of your theories. However, I recently happened to hear about certain, as such insignificant cases, which convinced me that any differing explanation (an explanation differing from the doctrine of repression) was excluded. This gave me pleasure, for it is always a source of pleasure when a great and beautiful idea proves to be correct in actual fact,” (ibid.)
Reik’s friendship with and tutelage under Sigmund Freud began after their initial meeting in 1911. Reik took part in Freud’s Wednesday night meetings while practicing psychoanalysis in Vienna but like most in Freud’s circle, he was forced to flee the Nazis, leaving his post at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute and emigrating to the U.S. in 1938. Reik founded the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis after he was refused membership in the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Despite his lack of a medical degree, the principle reason for his rejection, Freud himself wrote an essay (The Question of Lay Analysis) defending Reik’s credentials. The two remained friends until Freud’s death in 1939.
Folded and creased. Trimmed along the blank bottom and in very good condition; an excellent association!
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