The Desire of Fathers to Suck Their Sons Into Black Holes

One shouldn't tell everyday stories just for the sake of telling, because they tell themselves all the time. But sometimes one tells them again anyway, because due to everyday routine no other stories come to mind. Sometimes one tells them simply to avoid going mad. Or in order to remind oneself that the special, the departure from the norm, is nearly nonexistent, and that things generally run their everyday way.

The following is also a story about an everyday occurrence, namely about a father and a son and how the father wants to destroy the son. The story attracts attention because the father is successful. After all, many fathers want to destroy their sons without success. In this story, which is about a real incident, it is the case that the father dies first, but by that time he has broken the son so completely that the son dies shortly thereafter. While the father was still alive, he taught other fathers and sons about surveillance and punishment. Through this he met the man who would later teach his son. But the two didn't really become close until the teacher, like the father, wanted to break the son and the student, because he was turning the teachings upside down.

This first open attempt at destruction led the today nearly forgotten son Otto to become the moving spirit behind numerous avant-garde movements. A strange being, he soon wandered under false names through many novels of his time. Otto is Dr. Hoch in Johannes R. Bechers Der Abschied, Dr. Kreuzer in Frank Leonhardts Links, wo das Herz ist, Dr. Gebhardt in Franz Werfels Barbara, oder die Frömmigkeit.

It began innocently enough with a study of medicine in Graz. Afterwards, Otto worked as a ship doctor, the last century having just started, on the South American route of the Hamburg steamboat line Kosmos. Back on land, he lectured privately and, through his publications, made a name in psychoanalysis. Together with Carl Gustav Jung, he was soon counted as one of Freud's most important students. If one believes his close friend, the writer Franz Jung, Gross was even Freud's assistant. However, such details were soon impossible to establish: 1908, at the First International Psychoanalytic Congress in Salzburg, came a break. While Freud's conception of psychoanalysis called for self discipline, Otto, completely convinced of the opposite, recommended freeing natural drives and viewed "the psychology of the unconscious as the philosophy of revolution." Responding to this extention of psychoanalysis into politics, "to the all-encompassing problem of culture and the imperative of the future," Otto's teacher answered the Congress laconically with the words, "Doctors we are and doctors we will remain." Soon afterwards the teacher began pulling out heavy artillery against the deviant student.

But Otto did not let himself be flustered and kept working on a politicization of psychoanalysis. With his teachings of free love, he quickly became one of the heads of the German Reform Movement. Otto's insight into the political potential of ecstasy, influenced by his intense drug experiences, was way ahead of his time. But it was precisely the drugs which gave the father and the teacher the ammunition to declare this naughty deviant as ill. The teacher, repressing his own cocaine episodes with all his might, wrote a letter to Carl Jung in which he requested that Otto, who was now to him a case, be taken by Jung into therapy: "He now desperately needs your medical assistance. It's a pity about this highly talented, ardent man. He's using cocaine and seems to be standing on the edge of toxic cocaine paranoia." Jung, the good student, was shocked in a horrible way by the condition of the transferred patient. He noted in his file: "The worst was the never-ending theorizing and an eternal questioning of why and how". In the eyes of the doctor, Otto was no longer an intellectual who should do just that, but a patient in whom such behaviour was simply annoying.

Otto on the wall and Hans in an armchair

However, the doctors didn't stop at pathological interdiction. Soon Freud began erasing the traces of Otto's work from the quarries of psychoanalysis. Even those early texts of the unruly student, those which still stood in harmony with Freud's perception of pure teaching, were removed from the textbooks. And suddenly came assistance from an unexpected corner: Otto's father Hans played his international police contacts. In a self-initiated night and fog operation, he arrested his son in Munich and had him transferred to the sanatorium Burgholzli near Zurich. The order for compulsory internment was signed in Vienna by Sigmund Freud.

The father was not just anyone. Hans Gross' Handbuch für den Untersuchungsrichter (1983) is regarded as the founding of academic criminology. He renewed the idea of police dogs, was a footprint specialist, and through the periodical Archiv für Kriminal-Anthropologie und Kriminalistik, initiated the first criminal museum in Graz, where he taught at the German University. His students included Franz Kafka, who spent three semesters studying criminal law, criminal code, and legal philosophy. Radical ideas of his teacher, such as the camp for Roma and the fight against untruth, would be reflected later in Kafka's tale In der Strafkolonie and in Der Prozeß.

The power of the father and the teacher over little Otto was short-lived. Otto broke out of the psychiatric ward and returned to Munich. He now no longer published in psychoanalytic department papers but in political magazines. The step from theory to practice followed: in a mill outside Ascona he founded an anarchist commune that intentionally committed crimes and experimented with group sex. Half a century before the Vienna Actionists, Otto swore to the sacred freeing potential of the orgy and was one of the first to represent the equation of the personal with the political. Even before the first world war, he used the term "sexual revolution". But in the midst of all this work for a better world, he was arrested. This time, he is charged with assisting the suicide of the incurably ill Sophie Benz with a cocaine overdose. Otto denies the charges and flees to Italy, where he is again arrested by the Italian police. The father has his fingers in the game again and has him brought to Vienna.

After two years, Otto resettles in Berlin, where he frequents Dadaist circles. In 1914, the father succeeds in having his son declared as "dangerous to public safety". Once again, he is arrested and brought to Vienna to the Psychiatric Institution Steinhof. Thanks to international pressure, Otto is released. The father dies embittered a year later. Otto Gross begins to take drugs again.

When, after the end of the first World War, the Red Guard in Vienna stormed the City Hall, Otto Gross demanded the Ministry to liquefy the middle class for himself. But it didn't work with the revolution in Austria. Otto Gross is interned again in a clinic because of drugs. After his release, made homeless by permanent prosecution, he wandered through bitter-cold winter Berlin. "The friends could now and again perhaps rob a drug store in the night with a pistol in the hand, but this isn't the normal case. Gross felt abandoned and had no energy left to look for someone where he could lie down for the night" (Franz Jung).

One night he stops, suffering of a lung infection, and lies in the otherwise unused doorway of a warehouse. Found two days later by a passerby, it is too late for help. The day afterwards, February 13, 1920, Otto Gross dies in a Berlin hospital.

Recently the City Museum of Graz presented a catalogue and an exhibition with the same name:
The Law of the Father. Gerhard Dienes / Ralf Rother (Hg.). Wien / Köln / Weimar 2003.

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