Open Letter to Freud from Thomas Mann, Virginia Woolf, H.G. Wells, and others
This piece originally appeared in The New Republic on June 17, 1936.
Sir: The eightieth birthday of Sigmund Freud gives us the welcome opportunity of offering our congratulations and homage to the Master whose discoveries have opened up the way to a new and profounder understanding of mankind. He has made eminent contributions to medicine, psychology, philosophy and art, and has been for two generations the pioneer in exploring the hitherto unknown regions of the mind. Intellectually independent, “ein Mann mit erzenem Blick”—as Nietzsche said of Schopenhauer—able to stand alone and draw to himself disciples, he followed his chosen path and advanced truths, which just because they uncovered what was hidden and illuminated what was obscure, seemed dangerous and alarming. Everywhere he put forward new problems and changed old standards. The results of his work have extended the field of research, and the stimulus he gave to creative thought made even his opponents his debtors. Future ages may reconstruct or limit this or that conclusion, but his questions will never be silenced nor his achievements permanently obscured. The ideas he formulated and the terms he coined have become part of our daily life, and in every field of knowledge, in literature, art, research, history of religion, prehistory, mythology, folklore, pedagogy and, last but not least, in poetry, we can trace his influence. The most memorable achievement of our generation will be, beyond doubt, the psychological achievement of Sigmund Freud.
We cannot picture the intellectual world today without his work, and we rejoice in his presence among us and in his unabated activity. May our gratitude accompany his days.
Thomas Mann, Romain Rolland, Jules Romains, H.G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, Stefan Zweig