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Katan, M. (1949). Schreber's Delusion of the End of the World. Psychoanal Q., 18:60-66.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:60-66

Schreber's Delusion of the End of the World

Maurits Katan, M.D.

More than thirty years ago, Freud inaugurated a new approach to the understanding of the structure of delusions. He used Schreber's Autobiography mainly for the elucidation of two theories: 1, delusion is a defense against homosexuality; 2, delusion is an attempt at restitution.

The same material Freud used can be taken for further investigation. The following is a review of Schreber's basic conflict which led to his idea that the world was lost. Only the function of this idea, namely, the warding off of a danger, will be discussed in this paper. The mechanism, the structure of this idea, or of the delusion in general, will not be considered.

Schreber's illness may be divided into several periods. It started with a prepsychotic phase in which his whole personality was already changed but no psychotic symptoms were present. Schreber stated in his autobiography that after having been appointed to the presidency of the highest court of justice in Saxony, he dreamed that it would be delightful to be a woman submitting to intercourse. After undertaking his new career, he developed a 'neurasthenic' hypochondriacal syndrome which exhausted him completely, culminating one night when he was so excited he had six seminal emissions. At this point his psychosis started, in which Professor Flechsig, who was treating him, became his persecutor. Schreber's principal delusion was that Flechsig had interfered with the order of things in the universe. According to 'the order of things', everybody's nerves would, after death, go through a process of purification which would last up to thousands of years. The purified nerves would become part of the 'forecourts of heaven' and there attain a state of bliss. The forecourts of heaven he considered to be a part of God, and God himself floated above them. God got his energy from these forecourts of heaven and this enabled Him to create things on earth so that an eternal circle was developed.

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