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Psychoanalyst, (1877 - 1920)

zwei sehr ausfürliche webseiten hier: http://www.ottogross.org/
und hier http://www.laurentius-verlag.de/rdehmlow/projekte.htm#Otto_Gross
werke von gross online

zur räterepublik: Ein Brief kommt nicht an - die Botschaft bleibt erhalten: Otto Gross und die Münchener Räterepublik / von Raimund Dehmlow und Rolf Mader / http://www.laurentius-verlag.de/rdehmlow/brief.htm

Otto Gross: 'The Psychology of the Unconscious is the Philosophy of the Revolution!' [1]

by Gottfried Heuer

Although the Austrian psychoanalyst and anarchist Otto Gross (1877 - 1920) played a pivotal role in the birth of what today we are calling modernity, with wide-ranging influences in analysis, literature, psychiatry and sociology, he has remained virtually unknown to this day. To a large extent, this is the result of an analytic historiography which Erich Fromm has rightly called 'Stalinistic' (Fromm, 1989, p. 195): dissidents become non-persons and vanish from the records.

Yet there was a time, in the first decade of this century, when the greatest minds in analysis were full of the highest praise for Otto Gross. In 1908 Freud wrote to Jung, 'You are really the only one capable of making an original contribution; except perhaps O. Gross' (Freud/Jung Letters, p. 126). A few months later, after his mutual analysis with Gross, Jung replied to Freud, 'In Gross I discovered many aspects of my own nature, so that he often seemed like my twin brother' (ibid.,p.156). In 1910 Ferenczi wrote to Freud about Gross, ' There is no doubt that, among those who have followed you up to now, he is the most significant' (Correspondence Freud/Ferenczi, p. 154). In 1912, Alfred Adler referred to Gross as 'brilliant' (Adler, 1997, p. 58). Both Ferenczi and Karl Abraham reviewed Gross' works (Abraham, 1905; Ferenczi, 1920). Wilhelm Stekel spoke of 'the ingenious Otto Gross' (Stekel, 1923, p. 464). And in 'Free Associations', the autobiography Ernest Jones was working on at the end of his life, he wrote, Gross 'was my first instructor in the technique of psychoanalysis' (Jones, pp. 173f.) and called him 'the nearest approach to the romantic ideal of a genius I have ever met' (ibid.).

One generation before Wilhelm Reich, Otto Gross was the first analyst to emphasise the dialectical interdependence between individual inner change on the one hand and collective political change on the other. Gross had a lasting impact on Freud, Jung and other leading analysts. The Hungarian writer Emil Szittya (1886 - 1964) who knew Gross well, in an unpublished fragment of a novel even goes as far as calling Gross ' a friend of Dr. Freud and the intellectual father of Professor Jung' (Szittya, n.d., p. 211) [2]. When Freud referred Gross to Jung for analysis in 1908, he wrote to the latter why he himself had not wanted to take on Gross as a patient: 'the difficulty would have been that the dividing line between our respective property rights in creative ideas would inevitably have been effaced; we would never have been able to disentangle them with a clear conscience' (Freud / Jung Letters, p. 152). Jung wrote "The Significance of the Father in the Destiny of the Individual" (CW 4?, pp. 301 - 321) together with Gross - although in later editions he denied Gross' influence (CW 4?, p. 304, Note 8). And Jung based his differentiation of the extraverted and the introverted character types on concepts that Gross had first formulated twenty years earlier (CW 6?, pp. 273-77, 279-86, 418, 508).

At the centre of Gross' psychology is the concern for relationship and in this he can be seen as a pioneer of what today we call object relations. He saw the core conflict between that which is one's own and that which is the other's: "der Konflikt zwischen dem Eigenen und dem Fremden". Gross perceived the individual within the dynamics of the nuclear family and was the first to empathize deeply with the child in this conflict. And he recognized the way in which family structures that violate the individual reflect those of patriarchal society. For him the concept of the orgy described the space in which individual and collective liberation could become possible within the framework of a matriarchal ritual. Thus the idea of the orgy became his term for a sacralization of radical politics.

Gross did influence the course of analytic theory and clinical practice to the present day. He was a ' pioneer of life experiment' (Green, 1998, Introduction) and tried to live his radical ideas in both his private and his professional life - which he refused to separate. Thus he became unacceptable to those trying to establish the credibility of analysis as a science in the eyes of society and academe in the early years of this century. Already in 1921, less than a year after his death, the writer Anton Kuh wrote of Gross as 'a man known only to very few by name - apart from a handful of psychiatrists and secret policemen - and among those few only to those who plucked his feathers to adorn their own posteriors' (Kuh, 1921, pp. 161f.).


(1) Otto Gross, " Zur Überwindung der kulturellen Krise ", in Die Aktion, Nr. 14., III. Jg., 2. April 1913, Col. 385. [1]

(2) I am grateful to Hermann Müller of the Deutsches Monte Verità Archiv, Knittlingen, Germany, for drawing my attention to this text. [2]

Literature :

  • Abraham, K.(1905). " Otto Gross: Zur Biologie des Sprachapparates ", in Münchner Medizinische Wochenschrift, No. 1, pp. 38f.
  • Adler, A.(1997). Über den nervösen Charakter. Grundzüge einer vergleichenden Individualpsychologie und Psychotherapie. Kommentierte textkritische Ausgabe, Karl Heinz Witte, Almuth Bruder-Bezzel, Rolf Kühn, eds. Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht.
  • The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung. William Mc Guire?, ed. London: The Hogarth Press and Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974.
  • Ferenczi, S. (1920). " Otto Gross: Drei Aufsätze über den inneren Konflikt ", in Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, Vol. VI, 1920, pp. 364ff.
  • The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi. Vol. I., 1908 - 1914. (1993). Eds. Eva Brabant, Ernst Falzeder and Patrizia Gampieri-Deutsch.
  • Cambridge, Mass. and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
  • Green, M.(1998). The Life and Times of Otto Gross. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen Press.
  • Jones, E. (1990). Free Associations. New Brunswick and London: Transaction.
  • Jung, C.G. (1981). The Significance of the Father in the Destiny of the Individual. CW 4?. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  • Jung, C.G. (1981). Psychological Types. CW 6?. London: Rpoutledge and Kegan Paul.
  • Kuh, A.(1921). Juden und Deutsche. Ein Resumé. Berlin: Erich Reiss.
  • Stekel, W. (1923). Störungen des Trieb-und Affektlebens.(Die parapathischen Erkrankungen.) II. Onanie und Homosexualität. (Die homosexuelle Parapathie.) Berlin, Wien: Urban & Schwarzenberg.
  • Szittya, E. (n.d.). Er sucht einen Namen für seine 80 Jahre. Fragment of a novel. Manuscript in the Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach.

To know more : International Otto Gross Society : http://www.ottogross.org/


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