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EINSTEIN, ALBERT - Einstein on Psychoanalysis: “I am of course a bloody layman, but have a natural scientific instinct”
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EINSTEIN, ALBERT - Einstein on Psychoanalysis: “I am of course a bloody layman, but have a natural scientific instinct”

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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. 4to. Princeton, June 20, 1948. On his blind-embossed Princeton stationery. To Austrian psychoanalyst THEODOR REIK (1888-1969). In German with translation.


Thank you your kind and pleasant information regarding Mr. Oliver Freud. I will do my best to be of assistance to him, as far as I can. I am reading your book with sincere admiration. One can feel your close relationship to the issues, not to mention your appealing prose. It is not far-fetched or intellectually cobbled together, which is something that has always disconcerted me about other books on the subject matter. By the way, I have not yet made it to page 100, as you mention, because I am a slow and deliberate reader. Thank you so much for the wonderful stimulation that pours from your book. I am of course a bloody [“blutiger,” i.e. complete] layman, but have a natural scientific instinct. With the utmost admiration and kind regards, Yours… P.S. The chapter ‘Twenty Years Later’ is a true masterpiece.”


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, he, like so many academics of his time, was forced into exile in 1933, due to the anti-Semitic persecution in Nazi Germany. Einstein was attached to Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study for the remainder of his life.


Einstein had a personal interest in psychoanalysis, of which he remained skeptical. His younger son Eduard, himself a medical student with an interest in psychoanalysis, suffered from mental illness. Eduard, who had urged his father to read the work of Sigmund Freud, “had [in 1932] 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 Freud began after their initial meeting in 1911. Reik took part in Freud’s Wednesday night meetings while practicing psychoanalysis in Vienna and like most members of 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, Freud himself wrote an essay defending Reik’s credentials (The Question of Lay Analysis). The two remained friends until Freud’s death in 1939. Reik penned numerous significant books on the subject of psychoanalysis, the most influential of which was Listening with the Third Ear, published in 1948.


Folded with some creasing and wear, otherwise in very good condition.



Item #19862


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