A Forgotten Freudian: The Passion of Karl Stern by Daniel Burston

By Daniel Burston

This e-book explores the lifestyles and paintings of a ignored determine within the historical past of psychoanalysis, Karl Stern, who introduced Freudian thought and perform to Catholic (and Christian) audiences round the world.

Karl Stern used to be a German-Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist who fled Germany in 1937 – first to London, then to Canada, the place he taught at McGill college and the collage of Ottawa, turning into leader of Psychiatry at numerous significant clinics in Ottawa and Montreal among 1952 and 1968, whilst he went into deepest perform. In 1951 he released The Pillar of Fire, a memoir that chronicled his youth, youth and early maturity, his clinical and psychiatric education, his first research, and his serial flirtations with Jewish Orthodoxy, Marxism and Zionism – all in the middle of the galloping Nazification of Germany. It additionally explored the long-standing inner-conflicts that preceded Stern’s conversion to Catholicism in 1943.

The Pillar of Fire was once a run-away most sensible vendor, and was once via a sequence of exceptional books and papers that suggest Freud (and psychoanalysis often) to Christian audiences, together with The 3rd Revolution (1954), The Flight from Woman (1965) and Love and Success (1975). Stern firmly believed within the compatibility of technology and religion, and was once a celebrity of the Catholic lecture circuit, the place he usually spoke concerning the evils of anti-Semitism. His friendship and correspondence with Thomas Merton, psychiatrist/psychoanalyst Gregory Zilboorg, philosophers Jacques Maritain and Gabriel Marcel, activist Dorothy Day and novelist Graham Greene (among others) shed massive mild on Catholic highbrow lifestyles within the chilly warfare period, and the problems dealing with Stern, whose simultaneous efforts to strive against Christian anti-Semitism and to combine Freudian inspiration into the center of Catholic philosophy met with combined effects.

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28 A F O R G OT T E N F R E U D I A N In any case, in 1931, Karl returned to Frankfurt to become Professor Volhard’s “Lecture Assistant”—a rare honor. At eight every morning, Karl appeared in Volhard’s office to describe the patients who were available for the day’s clinical demonstrations. Like a chef who proposes the menu of the day, I would say: “We have today a mitral stenosis, a cirrhosis of the liver with ascites, a cancer of the colon, a chronic pericardial adhesion and a spastic hemiplegia,” and he would reply: “Always the same stuff.

Predictably, perhaps, the exemption for war veterans was extremely short lived, P S Y C H I AT RY, P S Y C H OA N A LY S I S , A N D P O L I T I C S 35 prompting a concerted flight of German Jewish doctors, neurologists, and psychiatrists from Germany and Austria, chiefly to the United Kingdom and North America. Indeed, by most estimates, by December of 1933 Central Europe lost one third of its top-notch neurological, psychiatric and psychological researchers; an exodus of medical talent which benefited the English-speaking world enormously (Stahnisch, 2010, p.

In the years that followed, as war hysteria grew, and Europe was engulfed in flames, Stern found that people he thought of as “staunch liberals” frequently turned out to be rank opportunists, while former “reactionaries” or cultural conservatives (like Schultz) often ended up in death camps for their principled opposition to the Nazi regime. If nothing else, the Nazis taught Stern not to judge a person’s character or motives solely on the basis of political ideology. In the end, he said, “the only thing that counts in this world is the strength of moral convictions” (Stern, 1951, p.

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