Weijenborg Reinhold ,
Recensione: ULRICH BECKE, Die Welt voli Teufel. Martin Luther ah Gegenstand psychohistorischer Betrachtung,
Antonianum, 58/1 (1983) p. 160-162
In this doctoral dissertation in theology, written under the guidance of professors S. Pfurtner (Catholic) and H. Liebing (Lutheran) at the University of Marburg the Author examines Luther's psychology according to the most important testimonies and studies on the subject from 1524 till now. In eight chapters he gives by means of short, but well chosen and revealing quotations the contents of some 115 studies on Luther's physical and psychic disturbances. The authors who receive a more ample treatment are R. Weijenborg (p. 117-131), P. J. Reiter (p. 136-147; 206-216) and E. H. Erikson (p. 159-180; 188-205). Usually Dr. Becke expresses a very fair judgment on the opinions he does examine. His own contributions to the progress of science are numerous. In the first place he recalls with 0. Clemen, against H. Grisar and several others, that Luther according to the oldest evidence of Paul Bachmann from 1524 in the choir of the Erfurt conventual church did not cry in 1505: « I am not [understand: possessed by the devil]», but simply: «I am not mute ». He thinks that this latter cry is « essentially more harmless » than the former (p. 46). It is, however, clear that according to Weijenborg the most serious problem for Luther in 1505 was his unhappy concealment of what had happened at Stotternheim. With the consent of the same Weijenborg, Dr. Becke communicates some explications which the latter gave him in letters written from 1977 till 1980. Moreover the Author proves with felicitous comparisons of texts that. E. H. Erikson in his Young Man Luther. (New York 1958), depends for his description of Luther upon what he had written in Childhood and Society (1950) on Adolf Hitler (p. 177) and upon what A. Kubizek in 1953 had told of the latter in his Adolf Hitler mein Jugendfreund (Graz 1953; p. 176-177). From this dependence there results the danger of a contamination of the two stories. The Author, then, critically examines the book edited by R. A. Johnson, Psychohistory and Religion. The Case of Young Man Luther, (Philadelphia, Md., 1977), which studie sthe psychology of Luther suggested by Erikson and indicates some of its weak spots. But the most important contribution of Dr. Becke to the discussion of Luther's psychology consists in the fact that, having found by his own research the unedited 1000 page study Martin Luther, The story of the development of his personality and religious ladership, written by P. J. Reiter in the sixties and left by him in this English version at his death in 1973, he communicates a part of its contents; among other things he notices that Reiter saw himself indebted to Weijenborg (1956) and Erikson (1958) for the provocation radically to revise his own previous conclusions (p. 207). Dr. Becke's own conclusion is «pastoral ». He does not seek what Luther called his devils, but how he lived with them (p. 225). He thinks that the Reformer «found a way to live with his anguish» and that he overcame it « in his faith in the Word, in the work for his cause, in intimate love for his family and in friendly solidarity with them, who were on the way with him » (p. 226). So the Author seems particularly to appreciate the cure Luther applied not to the cause, but to the symptoms of his disturbances.