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Meng, H. (1963). Preface to Psychoanalysis and faith: the letters of Sigmund Freud and Oskar Pfister. The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 59:8-10.

(1963). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 59:8-10

Preface to Psychoanalysis and faith: the letters of Sigmund Freud and Oskar Pfister Book Information Previous Up Next

Heinrich Meng

Oskar Pfister, the youngest of the four sons of a Protestant pastor, was born in Zürich in 1873. He lost his father at the age of three. After attending school in Zürich he studied theology, philosophy and psychology in Zürich, Basle and Berlin. His first congregation was at Wald in the canton of Zürich, and in 1902 he joined the Zürich circuit, of which he remained a member until his retirement in 1939. In 1934 he received an honorary degree from the theological faculty of the University of Geneva.

His first wife, Erika, née Wunderli, died in 1929, leaving a son who is now a psychiatrist in Zürich. His second wife was a widowed cousin, Martha Zuppinger-Urner, who already had two children, to whom Pfister was an admirable father.

During the first years of his ministry Pfister wrote a paper protesting against ‘the sins of omission towards psychology of present-day theology'. In 1908 he came across the work of Freud, which provided him with the tool for which he had long sought, enabling him to give additional aid to those whom his spiritual aid alone had been insufficient. He made his way to the unconscious and half-conscious sources of anxiety states, doubts of conscience and obsessional ideas of those who sought his help and, in so far as medical intervention was not called for, worked with them in loosening up and dispersing their psychological difficulties, fixations and repressions, and independently laid the foundations of a psychologically oriented system of education and pastoral work.

Between 1909 and his death in 1956 he published numerous books and papers in which he described his work and observations, in particular on psycho-analytic technique, on the aetiological importance of sexuality in the formation of the neuroses, on religion and hysteria, the psychology of art, philosophy and psycho-analysis, analysis in pastoral work, Christianity and anxiety, and related themes.

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