Einstein on Sigmund Freud: He Has Become Convinced, Slowly, of the Merit in His Work

“Einstein,” Freud once said, “understands as much about psychology as I do about physics.”

Nonetheless, here Einstein opines on Freud, telling his son Tete, then a medical student at Zurich University, what he thinks:

I hope…you have received the Freud lectures from Vienna. I read most of them a long time ago. The lectures made me admire the author greatly, even if I was not entirely convinced by his theories. Since then, however, I have slowly been convinced by them in light of some personal experiences, at least as far as the main theses are concerned.

Tete, who would soon succumb to schizophrenia, so admired Freud that he hung his portrait on his bedroom wall – and whether Einstein, in writing “kindly” about Freud, was placating his son or admitting a truth, is open to analysis.

Having then, attended to Freud, Einstein writes that the passions of youth don’t hold up in maturity: what matters, he says, is work and the quest for knowledge. He is at the moment re-reading Schiller’s poems – “I have not given them any attention since my youth… a bit pompous, but something grips one through the succinctness of expression and the richness of thought” – and looks forward, when he next has some spare time, to re-reading Shakespeare. Were Tete to do so too, he suggests, that would be something about which they could communicate.

Source: Einstein on Sigmund Freud (Autograph Letter Signed (“Papa”), in German, 2 pages, recto and verso, quarto, no place or date. To his son, Eduard “Tete” Einstein.)

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