I’d think that any psychologist, even an MSW, would jump at the chance to discuss Otto Rank, but apparently not. Some of you more intellectually curious might read these quotes and then, perhaps with a more open mind, re-visit, or visit, my blog “Man Woman Relations” http://www.thomhartmann.com/users/alberto-ceras/blog/2012/04/man-woman-relations And maybe my “Why Do You Have Children? Aka Why Have Children?” http://www.thomhartmann.com/users/alberto-ceras/blog/2012/04/why-do-you-have-children-aka-why-have-children. This last blog of mine might have been better titled “The Wicked Question” in honor of Dr. Rank


Brought to the attention of a wider public by Ernest Becker, Paul Goodman, Rollo May, Esther Menaker, Anais Nin, Carl Rogers, Jessie Taft, and Irvin Yalom, Otto Rank is regaining an audience interested in psychotherapy, creativity and the arts, humanistic psychology, feminism, and philosophy. Many of his ideas have entered the mainstream although his role as an innovator in interpersonal and existential psychotherapy has yet to be recognized in full. His writings brim with insights on art, myth, religion, education, will, soul, life-fear and death-fear, and psychotherapy.

Quotes About Rank

The Best, Worst, and Oddest Things in Print about Otto Rank

“The insights seem like a gift….Living as we do in an era of hyperspecialization we have lost the expectations of this kind of delight….Rank’s system has implications for the deepest and broadest development of the social sciences, implications that have only begun to be tapped. ”

–Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, 1973. The 1974 Pulitzer Prize was awarded for this book, the year Becker died. His posthumous Escape from Evil (1975) was dedicated to Rank’s memory.

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“I consider Otto Rank to be one of the great spiritual giants of the twentieth century, a genius as a psychologist and a saint as a human being. Though vilified by his original community of Freudians, he never became bitter. He died a feminist and deeply committed to social justice, in 1939….His deep understanding of creativity makes him a mentor for all of us living in a postmodern world….I believe that Art and Artist, especially chapters 12 to 14, may well emerge as the most valuable psychoanalysis of the spiritual life in our time.”

–Matthew Fox, Wrestling with the Prophets, 1995. Chapter 11 is devoted to Otto Rank. Fox refers to Rank enthusiastically in other books and in his teaching.

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“Precisely as the new physics, in its analysis of the atom, has come upon a dynamic element in a universe now no longer like a machine, so Dr. Rank, again like the physicists rejecting causality in its rigidly and hopelesly deterministic sense, has come upon a dynamic element in the human psyche and has reinstated in its proper place and function the psychology of the will.”

–Ludwig Lewisohn, Preface, Otto Rank’s Art and Artist, 1932

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”…perhaps the most brilliant and clairvoyant of the young investigators who still stand by the master’s side”

–Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life, 1923

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“What predominated was his curiosity, not the impulse to classify. He was not like a scientist intent on fitting a human being into a theory. He was not practicing mental surgery. He was relying on his intuition, intent on discovering a woman neither one of us knew. A new specimen. He improvised. ”

–Anais Nin, Diary I, 1966

~ ~ ~

“Rank admired Mark Twain’s parody of literature, Huck’s search for complications, additions, circuitous ways. ”

–Anais Nin Diary 2, 1967

Nin’s slip is showing. She confuses Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, totally reversing the picture (her editors didn’t catch it, either)! Unlike Tom, Huck was simple and straightforward. Rank identified with him so much so that he signed himself “Huck” in letters to Jessie Taft and Estelle Buel, his second wife.

~ ~ ~

“Of all the original Freudian Group–Jung, Adler, Rank, Ferenczi, Jones, Eitingon, Sachs–the one whose ideas still have the sharpest freshness for me is Rank. Freud had liked him, cherished him as a disciple, and then–when Rank dared pursue some lines of research in a direction of his own–Freud had turned against him. So did all the others who headed the little satrapies in Freud’s empire, including Ernest Jones. That was why I was eager to know about the artist’s experience with Rank.”

–Max Lerner “Touch Bottom,” The New York Post June 15, 1959. Reprinted in Journal of the Otto Rank Association 5:1, June 1970.

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Rupert Pole’s Invention

“The relationship is somehow tragicomic: the father feels he is crowning his Don Juan career by attempting to seduce his daughter, but Anais knows she is acting on the advice of her psychiatrist (and lover) Dr. Otto Rank–to seduce her father and then leave him as punishment for abandoning her as a child.”

–Rupert Pole, Executor, the Anais Nin Trust, Preface to Incest by A. Nin, 1992 (corrected in the paperback edition). Nin had not yet met Rank, much less become his patient or lover, at the time of the alleged seduction of her father. Rupert Pole admitted to confabulating this. Gunther Stuhlmann, Nin’s agent and editor–and also agent for the Rank estate– let it pass! This fabrication unfortunately appears in the German translation and probably others.~ ~ ~

The Peter Principle?

“Rank’s reunuciation of truth-seeking forms part of the global anti-intellectualism of his final period….he was well on his way to the mysticism of his last books….the irrationalism of Rank’s final period must be deplored as a retreat from the quest for self-knowledge that prompted him to become a disciple of Freud.

Although Rank’s theoretical odyssey came to a dead end, his life abides as a human triumph. It may not be possible to accept his post-1927 answers, but Rank never ceased to pose the essential questions….If in its explorations of the role of the mother and the unthought known, psychoanalysis has begun to catch up with Rank’s anii mirabiles, perhaps Rank may yet be reclaimed for the fold from which he ought never to have departed.”

–Peter Rudnytsky, The Psychoanalytic Vocation, 1991

P.R. credits Rank with being an unsung pioneer of object relations theory, but disdains Rank’s most mature works. To me this is like shunning Beethoven’s late quartets because they don’t sound like Mozart or Haydn.

~ ~ ~

“Since culture is itself a poiesis, all of its participants are poietai–inventors, makers, artists, storytellers, mythologists. They are not, however, makers of actualities, but makers of possibilities. The creativity of culture has no outcome, no conclusion. It does not result in art works, artifacts, products. Creativity is a continuity that engenders itself in others. “Artists do not create objects, but create by way of objects.” (Rank [Art and Artist])

–James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games, 1986. A wonderful aphoristic book by Emeritus Professor of Religion at NYU.

~ ~ ~

“When I finally came to my first hour with Rank, while consciously submissive, afraid, and fully aware of my ignorance of psychoanalysis, my underlying attitude was far from humble. I was, after all, a psychologist. I had some knowledge of myself and my problems. I had achieved a point of view psychologically. If there was anything in my unconscious in terms of buried memories, I would have to be shown. And so the battle was joined; but I soon found that it was a battle with myself. I was deprived of a foe. It took only two weeks for me to yield to a new kind of relationship, in the experiencing of which the nature of my own therapeutic failures became suddenly clear. No verbal explanation was ever needed; my first experience of taking help for a need that had been denied was enough to give a basis for the years of learning to follow.”

–Jessie Taft Otto Rank, 1958, p. xi. Rank’s patient, then colleague, translator, and first biographer.

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Reviewed with a Vengeance

“Disciple Taft, 76 this week…reveals the agonizing details of Rank’s character…shocking that a man so disturbed should win such acceptance. Rank early and arrogantly declared himself an “artist”–a designation that he viewed as equivalent to a patent of nobility…. In Rank’s later years his behavior was more appropriate to the role of patient than therapist. He went through one emotional crisis after another (diagnosed by famed Freud biographer Ernest Jones as a mild manic-depressive psychosis)…In the post-Freud patter of the cocktail hour, Otto Rank was “sick, sick, sick.”

–Gilbert Cant, Medicine Editor, Time Magazine June 23, 1958. In those days such reviews were unsigned. I contacted Mr. Cant about 1980. He expressed some chagrin about using the “sick” cliche. A similar review by him appeared in the New York Post–a double whammy against Rank and Jessie Taft. Then 76, she died two years later. The Otto Rank Association was founded in 1966 by Virginia Robinson and others, publishing the Journal of the Otto Rank Association until 1983, when Rank’s name and work were gaining visibility and respect in the “mainstream.”


Spectator's picture
Spectator 5 years 28 weeks ago

Apparently no one at TH has the guts to answer "wicked questions." But then, what are wicked questions anyway?

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