Scholar Exhibits

The Edwin G. Boring and Hanns Sachs Collection

In his book A History of Psychology in Autobiography, Dr. Boring admits that in 1933, at the suggestion of his friends and family, he began psychoanalysis treatment with a former colleague of Freud, Hans Sachs. Boring remained in psychoanalysis for a year, doing 5 sessions a week, but he found it to be ineffective in alleviating his concerns. Boring had hoped to achieve a change in personality by the end of this experience and was disappointed to find that he still had his old mindset. Four years later, both Sachs and Boring wrote about the experience in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. The two men agreed that the psychoanalysis was not successful. Coincidently, the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute bears Hanns Sach's name for its library and archives. While the bulk of Hanns Sach's papers did not get preserved and perished in the home of George Wilbur after his death, BPSI holds his legacy, two audio interviews with people who knew him well, his biographical materials, and his endowment entrusted to the library by Sach's lawyer and benefactor, David R. Pokross.

This memorial minute was written for the dedication of the Hanns Sachs Library, at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society, December 5, 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Sachs's death. It was also the 65th anniversary of his invitation to become our first permanent training analyst, after our first training analyst, Franz Alexander, had departed after a year, to found the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute. Dr Irmarita Putnam had asked her analyst, Sigmund Freud, who should succeed Alexander, & Freud had unhesitantingly recommended Hanns Sachs.

Sachs was born in Vienna in 1881, the youngest of four children in a well-to- do non-religious Jewish family. His father was a lawyer, his sister became a novelist & his brother wrote plays. In 1904 Sachs graduated from the University of Vienna with a degree in jurisprudence, a common practice among cultivated young Viennese who were more interested in literature & the arts than in practicing law. In the year of his graduation, Sachs read Freud's Interpretation of Dreams (1900), which had a profound effect on his intellectual development & his future career. He soon joined Freud's inner circle & attended the Wednesday evening meetings that became the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society. He was a close friend of Otto Rank, with a degree in jurisprudence, a common practice among cultivated young Viennese who were more interested in literature & the arts than in practicing law. In the year of his graduation, Sachs read Freud's Interpretation of Dreams (1900), which had a profound effect on his intellectual development & his future career. He soon joined Freud's inner circle & attended the Wednesday evening meetings that became the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society. He was a close friend of Otto Rank, with whom he founded the Imago in 1909, the first journal of applied psychoanalysis. Shortly after, Sachs published a translation of Kipling's Barrack- Room Ballads (1910), which he showed Freud & their mutual enthusiasm greatly enhanced their friendship. What attracted Sachs & Freud to Kipling's thumping rhythms & imperialistic sentiments may baffle the present-day reader, but Sachs's introduction suggests it was the appeal of his rough soldiers' slang, the melting-pot of a conscript army & the ballad-like romantic tone. Thes rough elements may have appealed to Sachs, in contrast to his comfortable middle-class family-life, as well as the exotic background of the Far East. In his version of The Road to Mandalay, Sachs succeeds in recreated its galloping beat with great skill.

At the first postwar meeting of the International Psychoanalytic Congress, at Budapest in 1918, Sachs had a hemoptysis that interrupted his analytic career. But after rwo years in a Swiss tuberculosis sanitorium, Sachs was ready to resume work. The newly founded Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute happened to be looking for its first training analyst at that time. Freud suggested Sachs, & by coincidence Sach's first candidate was Franz Alexander, his later predecessor in Boston! In Berlin Sachs was admired as a brilliant teacher & clinician, known for his interest in technique & training as "the analyst's analyst," according to his analysand & biographer, Fritz Moellenhoff (1966). According to the 10th Annual Report of the Berlin Institute (1930), Sachs taught the Introduction to Psychoanalytic Theory in 1920, & some thirty other seminars during the next decade. Many of these were theoretical seminars, but a number dealt with Shakespeare's history-plays, or "Expressions of the Unconscious in Comtemporary Art," reflecting his well-known interest in literature.

Sachs was a prolific writer, from his Ars Amandi Psychoanalytica (1920) to his posthumous Masks of Love & Life, the Philosophical Basis of Psychoanalysis (1948). Many papers concerned literary & historical figures, Schiller & Shakespeare as well as Napoleon & the Apostle Paul, & some were collected in The Creative Unconscious (1942). He wrote a novel, Bubi, The Life-Story of Caligula (1931), which Moellenhoff suggests was prompted by Hitler's conspiratorial activities. He also wrote a pamphlet, published in Switzerland (1930), condemning capital punishment. In later years he wrote several papers cautioning against excessive optimism & therapeutic zeal, urging the training analyst to "resist optimistic illusions about his success... since he is the extremely shortsighted leader of the blind." In the same vein he wrote: "We must never forget that we meet our patient's real ultimate wishes empty-handed; with great luck we can set his feet on the right way" (1941).

One of Sachs's best-known papers was "The Delay of the Machine Age" (1933). This elaborate essay addressed the historical question of why the Greeks & Romans, talented as they were in mathematics & engineering, never put their mechanical skills to practical use. Hero of Alexandria, for example, invented a steam-turbine but it was used only as a toy, & Ctesibius put his knowledge of pneumatic pumps to creating a whistling bird & moving scenery in a marionette- theatre. Sachs related these features of Graeco-Roman culture their love of sensuous beauty, their idealization of the human body & their unrepressed attitude toward the erotic. Sachs's arguments are unconvincing to the present reader, & his concepts & some classical examples can be found in Neuburger's history of Hellenistic science (1920). The Indian reader may also question Sachs's theory, being familiar with the undeniable idealization of female beauty in Hindu art & the pioneering use of steel beams at the sun-temple of Konarak in the 13th century.

In recalling Sachs's European life, we must remind ourselves that Berlin during the 1920s was the center of what came to be called "Weimar Culture," a convergence of revolutionary political & artistic events that emerged from the ruins of the Great War. In contrast, Vienna, no longer the capital of the Habsburg Empire, had become a somewhat provincial backwater, despite the progressive political & educational reforms of its Marxian Social Democrats. Vienna had experienced its cultural revolutions before the Great War, with the paintings of Klimt & Schiele, the buildings & decorative style of the 1909 Sezession movement, & the writings of Schnitzler & Robert Musil. In 1920s Berlin, psychoanalysis flourished, but as one of many avant-garde movements in the arts, literature & architecture: the International Style of Walter Gropius & the Bauhaus, the theatre of Berthold Brecht & the great pioneering movies of the silent era.

In this stimulating cultural atmosphere, it was not surprising that in 1925 Karl Abraham & Sachs were approached by Hans Neumann, a young film-producer, asking their advice on the making of an educational film (Lehrfilm) about psychoanalysis. Abraham, then director of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, was enthusiastic, & wrote Freud about the opportunity of making an authentic film, under analytic supervision. But Freud, in one of those hasty obiter dicta that later analysts have come to regret, wrote that analytic concepts were "unsuitable for plastic representation" & requested that his name be kept out of the enterprise. Max Eitingon & Ernest Jones immediately sided with Freud in condemning the film, as a vulgar popularization, even before the film had been produced. (I owe much of what follows to a brilliant article on the "film affair" by Paul Ries (1996.)

In spite of Freud's objections, Abraham & Sachs proceeded cautiously with their film-project, submitting clinical material from an actual case & collaborating with Neumann & his assistant. The project was taken over as a commercial film by the famous director, G W Pabst, whose recent success, Street without Joy, included an early appearance of Greta Garbo. The film about analysis, to be called Secrets of a Soul (Geheimnisse einer Seele), portrays a young childless couple, in which the husband, a chemist, is suddenly seized, while combing his wife's hair, by an irrational impulse to cut his wife's throat. Horrified by this, he moves to his mother's house & consults a psychoanalyst, whom he had met in a bar the night before. There he had forgotten his housekey & the analyst, observing him, had pointed out his unconscious wish not to go home. After a few months of daily visits to the analyst, the young man is cured of his phobia of knives, through the analysis of a recent nightmare, childhood memories & recent traumatic associations. Once he is able to acknowledge his repressed jealousy of his wife's handsome young cousin, who had come from far-off lands to visit, the young chemist is able to return home. He recovers his potency &, in a dramatic flash-forward , the film ends with the happy couple playing with the child they had always yearned for. (Atwell 1977).

This innocent, somewhat simple-minded, little film was fiercely attacked by Jones, Eitingon & other "loyalists," as if it were a sensational & misleading travesty of psychoanalysis, although none of them, including Freud, had ever seen it. Jones even approached the British Board of Film Censors & asked them, in secret, to suppress the film if it ever reached their hands (Ries 1996). Freud, who had enjoyed a long & trusting friendship with Karl Abraham, wrote him some peevish & unfriendly letters about the film controversy. Abraham & Sachs defended their role as consultants to Pabst & the project progressed during the last months of 1925. Then Abraham quite suddenly died, on Christmas Day, of a malignancy that had been diagnosed as a chronic bronchopneumonia.

The death of Abraham, with its ensuing eulogies by Freud & others, left Sachs as the sole defender of the film, although Freud had just written to Jones, in a more conciliatory vein on 13 Dec 1925 (Paskauskas 1993): "The business of making a film I disliked from the beginning. But I did not want to impose my feelings on the others by laying down the law." Persuaded by the argument that others would make an analytic film if Abraham & Sachs did not, Freud "desisted from emphatically stopping [them]...& only insisted that I myself not be part of it. Now the affair has taken an unexpectedly favorable turn" in obtaining funds for helping with the costs of Abraham's illness. "Perhaps we are all too conservative in this matter; one really ought to have made some concession to the film fever.". In conclusion, the film opened in major movie-houses in Berlin & London, in March 1926, & achieved a substantial , if short-lived, popular success. Pabst continued his career with the better-known films: Pandora's Box with the great Louise Brooks (1928), & The Threepenny Opera with Lotte Lenya in 1931.

Except for his conflict with Freud over the film, Sachs had flourished in Berlin. As a lover of music & the arts, as well as fine wines & beautiful women, Eitingon had wished him "a good long life in the Garden of Epicurus." Moellenhoff had called him "a successful combination of a scholar & a bon vivant, the German Lebenskuenstler," or "life-artist," one who knows how to live life to the fullest. Sachs was valued by Freud for his encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish jokes, that were "witty & profound & told with a playful elegance characteristic of his Viennese origin" (Moellenhoff 1966). Freud had teased Sachs about his incurable optimism, as in his joke about the fall of the Habsburg dynasty in 1918: "The Revolution will take place tomorrow at 2:30 PM; in case of unfavorable weather it will be held indoors."

Since 1910, Sachs had belonged to the secret "Committee," as one of the six self-appointed guardians of Freud & the psychoanalytic movement. It was founded by Jones, & besides Sachs it included Abraham, Eitingon, Otto Rank & Ferenczi; each wore a Greek seal-ring given them by Freud. Rank's defection from Freud was complete in 1925, when he was dropped from the Committee. After Abraham's death the Committee ceased being active, & during the 1927 IPA Congress at Innsbruck, Sachs was also quietly dropped. This probably took place with Freud's agreement, possibly as a distant effect of the "Film Affair."

Sachs's Epicurean sojourn in Berlin lasted only 13 years, when he welcomed, as we have seen, the invitation to become Boston's second training-analyst & our first permanent one. He arrived in 1933, just as Hitler was assuming power in Germany, among the first of an increasing flow of European analysts. On a preliminary visit in 1932, Sachs had requested the services of a young lawyer, not an old one who might disagree with him. His instructions were to buy & furnish a house for himself, his sister Olga Barsis & her son Max, & to hire an experienced couple to cook & keep house for them. The young attorney was David Pokross (1994), who became Sachs's very good friend, even double-dating with his much older client. Pokross was the legal adviser to the Boston Psychoanalytic Society-Institute, the family lawyer to many subsequent emigre analysts, & a long-term benefactor to the Institute Library, through the Hanns Sachs Fund.

The house Pokross bought for Sachs was at 168 Marlborough Street, in a neighborhood where most Boston analysts had lived, from J J Putnam's house in 1907 to the present day. Sachs moved in with his cheerful "family," in which his sister Olga was an excellent hostess & his nephew Max was a dashing young ski- instructor, a professional cartoonist & author of several humorous books about the new craze for skiing. Sachs entertained lavishly & his parties were notable for witty conversation, high spirits & a cosmopolitain knowledge of music & the arts. Boston at that time was a small provincial city, which was being transformed by "the great intellectual migration" from Nazi Europe. In this influx of Austrian & German intelligentsia, psychoanalysts were a prominent element, along with many Bauhaus architects, nuclear physicists , economists & other scholars.

Sachs's professional life was less happy than his social one, arriving, unbeknownst to him, in slightly choppy seas, after a stormy period of constitutional reform within at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society. A leader of the reformation was Ives Hendrick, who had been analyzed in Berlin & invited his own analyst, Franz Alexander, to be Sachs's predecessor. Hendrick was a staunch opponent of lay- analysis, & his constitutional reforms included "the faculty principle." This meant that applicants for analytic training could only be approved by a vote of the Education Committee, not by the whim of an individual, as European training- analysts were accustomed to doing. Sachs's arrival in this postwar atmosphere invited conflict, because he was not a physician & he had announced in advance that he did not believe in the "faculty principle." His battles with the Education Committee concerned eminent candidates whom Sachs had analyzed & deemed ready for membership, but who were repeatedly rejected by the Committee. Sachs withdrew from committee-work in protest, but he remained a loyal member of the BPSI for the rest of his life. He was, of course, indispensable in training, & he continued to analyze, or re-analyzed, many prominent members of the Society whose previous analyses had been with Otto Rank, Carl Jung or Paul Schilder. These re-analyses included Martin Peck, an ex-president of the Society, & Prof Stanley Cobb at Harvard Medical School, who established a pioneering analytically-training department of psychiatry at Massachussetts General Hospital in 1935.

Sachs taught many seminars & was admired, as in Berlin, for his brilliance as a teacher & supervisor. He was appointed Visiting Lecturer in Psychoanalysis at Harvard Medical School, a unique honor for a non-physician at that time, probably through the influence of Prof Cobb. Besides his many papers (138 in Grinstein's Index Psychoanaliticus), Sachs was an indefatiguable editor throughout his life, first with Otto Rank on the original Imago of 1909, & again on the new American Imago, with George Wilbur as co-editor, from 1939 until his death in 1947.

In the last decade of his life Sachs became somewhat pensive & detached, & these were the years in which he cautioned, like Freud, against excessive furor sanandi, or zeal for clinical results. In his loyal & touching biographical notes on Freud, in Freud, Master & Friend (1944), Sachs admitted that "Freud did not find in me some of those qualities he valued most highly. In the bond between us, something was missing." Those missing qualities, we may speculate, seem related to the contrast between Freud's austere, puritanical pessimism about human nature, in contrast to Sachs's eternal optimism & joie-de-vivre. Sachs was not an old man, & he was still working, translating some of Goethe' s maxims, when he died during an anginal attack in 1947, on his 66th birthday.

End Notes

I have dealt briefly with Sachs's "Delay of the Machine Age," but for readers interested in current scholarship on this ancient question, Peter Green has written a lively, erudite & entertaining chapter on Hellenistic science in his recent book, Alexander to Actium, the historical evolution of the Hellenistic age, chapter 27, pp 467-479, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1990.

Many of the details about Sachs's life in Boston have been obtained by the author over recent years by personal correspondence, conversations & taped interviews with his colleagues & friends.

Sanford Gifford MD 1 Hillside Place Cambridge MA 02140, USA


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Gifford, S. (1978). Psychoanalysis in Boston , Innocence & Experience, pp 325- 345, in Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy & the New England Medical Scene, 1894-1944, George E Gifford, editor. Science History Publications, New York.

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Paskauskas, R. A. (1993). The Complete Correspondence of Sigmund Freud & Ermest Jones, 1908-1939. Freud to Jones, 5 Dec 1925, pp 583-585. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass. USA).

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Ries, P. (1995). Popularize &/or be damned: psychoanalysis & film at the crossroads in 1925. *Int'; J Psa" 76:759-791.

Sachs, H. (1910). Soldaten-Lieder & andere Gedichte, Rudyard Kipling's Barrack-Room Ballads, translated by Hanns Sachs, Zeitler, Leipzig.

_________(1920). Ars Amandi Psychoanalytica. Reuss & Pollak, Berlin

_________(1930). Does Capital Punishment Exist? Pamphlet pp 7-20, published in Switzerland. Transl. from Die Psychoanalytische Bewegung, Jan-Feb, issue, 1930.

_________(1931). Bubi: The Life Story of Caligula. Elfin, Matthews & Marron,London.

_________(1933). The Delay of the Machine Age. Psa Quarterly 2:404-424.

_________(1941). Psychotherapy & the pursuit of happiness. American Imago, 2:356-364.

_________(1942). The Creative Unconscious. Science-Art Publications, Cambridge (Mass. USA).

_________(1944) Freud, Master & Friend. Harvard Univ. Press, Boston.

_________(1948) Masks of Love & Life, the philosophical basis of psychoanalysis. Science-Art Publications, Cambridge (Mass. USA).

_________(undated). Beauty, Life & Death, pp 82-132.