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(en) -S-e-x- -D-r-u-g-s- & Anarchy - Adolf Gross, Another forgotten rebel

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 19 Mar 2005 14:36:18 +0100 (CET)

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Yesterday marked the birthday of libertarian revolutionary Otto
Gross. A generation before Wilhelm Reich Otto exposed the links
between patriachy and repression and fascism. He tried to live his
radical ideas in both his private & professional life - which he refused
to separate - & so became unacceptable to those trying to establish the
credibility of analysis as a science in the eyes of society & academe.
Otto Hans Adolf Gross (also Grob) was born 17 March 1877 in
Gniebing near Feldbach in Styria, Austria. His father Hans (or
Hanns) Gross was a professor of criminality and one of the leading
authorities worldwide in this field. (He is, for example, seen as the
originator of dactyloscopy, the science of interpreting and using
finger prints.)

Gross was mostly educated by private tutors and in private schools.
He became a medical doctor in 1899 and travelled as a naval doctor
to South America in 1900 at which time he became addicted to
drugs. In 1901­02 he worked as a psychiatrist and assistant doctor
in Munich and Graz, published his first papers and had his first
treatment for drug addiction at the Burghölzli Clinic near
Zürich. His initial contact with Freud was either at this time or by
1904 at the latest. The writer Franz Jung (no relation to C.G. Jung)
claims that Gross became Freud's assistant much earlier than that
but there is no evidence that Gross had any contact with Freud
before 1904 other than his (F. Jung, 1923, P. 21) (2), except for a
passage in a letter to Freud from C.G. Jung after his treatment of
Gross, "I wish Gross could go back to you, this time as a patient"
(Freud / Jung Letters, p. 161; my emphasis).

In 1903 he married Frieda Schloffer and was offered a chair in
psychopathology at Graz university in 1906. The following year his
son Peter was born as well as a second son, also named Peter, from
his relationship with Else Jaffé, born Else von Richthofen. In the
same year Gross had an affair with Else's sister, Frieda Weekley,
who later married D.H. Lawrence. By that time Gross lived in
Munich and Ascona, Switzerland, where he had an important
influence on many of the expressionist writers and artists such as
Karl Otten and Franz Werfel as well as anarchists and political
radicals, like Erich Mühsam, who later was the first to proclaim
the republic during the Munich Revolution of 1919. In 1908 Gross
had further treatment at the Burghölzli where he was analysed by
C.G. Jung - and, in turn, analysed Jung. In the same year his
daughter Camilla was born from his relationship to the Swiss writer
Regina Ullmann, who later became a close friend of Rilke.

In 1911 Gross was forcibly interned in a psychiatric institution. He
subsequently wanted to found a school for anarchists in Ascona and
he wrote to the Swiss medical doctor and anarchist Fritz
Brupbacher that he had plans to publish a "Journal on the
psychological problems of anarchism". Two years later he lived in
Berlin where he had a considerable influence on Franz Jung (the
writer), Raoul Hausman, Hannah Höch and the other artists who
created Berlin Dada. His father had Gross arrested as a dangerous
anarchist and interned in a psychiatric institution in Austria. By the
time he was freed following an international press campaign
initiated by his friends, Gross had become one of the psychiatrists
working at the hospital. Together with Franz Kafka Gross planned
to publish "Blätter gegen den Machtwillen" (Journal Against the
Will to Power). Legally declared to be of diminished responsibility,
Gross was analyzed by Wilhelm Stekel in 1914 (cf. Stekel, 1925),
declared cured but placed legally under the trusteeship of his father
who died a year later, in 1915, when Gross was a military doctor
first in Slavonia and then in Temesvar, Romania, where he was
head of a typhus hospital. Together with Franz Jung, the painter
Georg Schrimpf and others, Gross published a journal called "Die
freie Strasse" (The Free Road) as a "preparatory work for the
revolution". He began a relationship with Marianne Kuh, one of the
sisters of the Austrian writer Anton Kuh, and in 1916 he had a
daughter by her, Sophie. Because of his drug addiction, Gross was
again put into a psychiatric institution under limited guardianship in
1917. He planned to marry Marianne, although he had a
relationship not only with her sister, Nina, too, but, possibly, with
the third sister, Margarethe, as well (Templer-Kuh, 1998). He died
of pneumonia on 13 February 1920 in Berlin after having been
found in the street near-starved and frozen. In one of the very few
eulogies that were published, Otto Kaus wrote, "Germany's best
revolutionary spirits have been educated and directly inspired by
him. In a considerable number of powerful creations by the young
generation one finds his ideas with that specific keenness and those
far-reaching consequences that he was able to inspire" (1920, p.
55). Except for Wilhelm Stekel, who wrote a brief eulogy, published
in New York (Stekel, 1920), but who was a psychoanalytic outcast
himself by that time, and a mere announcement of Gross' death by
Ernest Jones at the Eighth International Psycho-Analytical
Congress in Salzburg four years later, the analytic world remained
silent, a silence that has, with very few exceptions, effectively lasted
to this day.

Theoretical Survey

What were the ideas Otto Gross contributed to the development of
analytical theory and practice and what was it about them - and
himself - that finally made him persona non grata - or an
"non-person", to use the Stalinist term?

His personal experience of what appears to have been an
overpowering father and a subservient mother, early on provided
Gross with an experience of the roots of emotional suffering in
relationships within a nuclear family structure. He wrote in favour
of the freedom and equality of women and advocated free choice of
partners and new forms of relationships which he envisaged as free
from the use of force and violence. He made links between these
issues and the hierarchical structures within the wider context of
society and came to regard individual suffering as inseparable from
that of all humanity: "The psychoanalyst's consulting room
contains all of humanity's suffering from itself" (Gross, 1914, p.

In his struggle against patriarchy in all its manifestations, Gross
was fascinated by the ideas of Bachofen and others on matriarchy.
"The coming revolution is a revolution for the mother-right," he
wrote in 1913 (Gross, 1913a, Col. 387). He focussed on sexuality,
yet soon came to question Freud's emphasis on it as the sole root of
the neuroses. In contrast to Freud's view of the limits placed on
human motivation by the unconscious, Gross saw pathologies as
being rooted in more positive and creative tendencies in the
unconscious. He wrote extensively about same-sex sexuality in
both men and women and argued against its discrimination. For
Gross, psychoanalysis was a weapon in a countercultural revolution
to overthrow the existing order - not a means to force people to
adapt better to it. He wrote, "The psychology of the unconscious is
the philosophy of the revolution . . . It is called upon to enable an
inner freedom, called upon as preparation for the revolution"
(1913a, column 385, emphasis O.G.).

He saw body and mind as one, inseparable, writing that, "each
psychical process is at the same time a physiological one" (Gross,
1907, p. 7). "Gross joins the ranks of those researchers who refute a
division of the world into physical and spiritual-intellectual realms.
For them body and soul are the expressions of one and the same
process, and therefore a human being can only be seen holistically
and as a whole" (Hurwitz, 1979, p. 66).

Nicolaus Sombart summarizes two main points. "His first thesis
was: The realization of the anarchist alternative to the patriarchal
order of society has to begin with the destruction of the latter.
Without hesitation, Otto Gross owned up to practicing this -in
accordance with anarchist principles - by the propaganda of the
"example", first by an examplary way of life aimed at destroying the
limitations of society within himself; second as a psychotherapist by
trying to realize new forms of social life experimentally in founding
unconventional relationships and communes (for example in
Ascona from where he was expelled as an instigator of "orgies") . . .
Gross was not homosexual but he saw bisexuality as a given and
held that no man could know why he was loveable for a woman if
he did not know about his own homosexual component. His
respect of the sovereign freedom of human beings went so far that
he did not only recognise their right for illness as an expression of a
legitimate protest against a repressive society - here he is a
forerunner of the Anti-Psychiatry of Ronald D. Laing and Alain
Fourcade - but their death wishes as well, and as a physician he
helped with the realization of those, too. He was prosecuted and
incarcerated for assisting suicide.

His second thesis: Whoever wants to change the structures of
power (and production) in a repressive society, has to start by
changing these structures in himself and to eradicate the "authority
that has infiltrated one's own inner being". In his opinion it is the
achievement of psychoanalysis as a science to have created the
preconditions and to have provided the instruments for this
(Sombart, 1991, pp. 1l0f.).

Behind Gross' emphatic focus on transgression lies a profound
realisation of the interconnectedness of everyone and everything.
Therefore all boundaries may be seen as arbitrary and transgressing
boundaries then becomes a protest against their unnaturalness.
From a psychopathological perspective it would be all too facile to
diagnose - not unreasonably, though - a father complex, an
unresolved incestuous tie to the mother, a neurotic longing for
paradise as a return to the womb etc., etc. Very similar diagnoses,
incidentally, could easily be made of the other founding fathers of
analysis. But this would mean that we remain in the
compartmentalized realm of reason and rationality alone, where
everything and everybody is separated from everything and
everybody else. The historiography of analysis will lose out if we
were to brand Gross - as Jung and Freud did - a hopeless lunatic, or
maybe a puer aeternus, nothing but a charismatic failure.

>From a conceptual point of view, Gross' transgressions can be
understood as a longing for transcendence - a transcendence via the
body that does not leave the body behind in order to fly off into a
purely spiritual, uncorporeal sphere. I see his work as an
understanding of the ensoulment of matter and flesh. Analysts do
not unsually write about ecstasy, lust, orgy. Those who did paid the
price of becoming ostracized as outcasts - Gross, Reich, Laing. It is
only comparatively recently that analytic authors have ventured as
far as "the spontaneous gesture" (Winnicott, in Rodman, ed., 1987)
or "acts of freedom" (Symington, 1990).

It seems that Otto Gross has remained largely unknown to this day
because in true mercurial fashion he travelled deep into the
underworld and high into the heavens, trying to hold together
experiences of both realms. Freud, Jung and Reich all returned
from their respective creative illnesses or night-sea journeys
comparatively intact and lived to tell of them in a coherent manner.
Gross did not.

With his advocacy of sex, drugs and anarchy, Gross corresponded
to a spectre feared by the German-speaking bourgeoisie of Europe,
a threat to values of family and state.

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