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Lowenfeld, H. (1960). Young Man Luther. A Study in Psychoanalysis and History: By Erik H. Erikson. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1958. 288 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 29:108-111.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:108-111

Young Man Luther. A Study in Psychoanalysis and History: By Erik H. Erikson. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1958. 288 pp.

Review by:
Henry Lowenfeld

Erikson continues his studies of the interactions between the individual and society in a new book full of ideas, and notable for its depth and scope.

Erikson's particular interest and the central theme of his book is the 'life crisis of adolescence', of which Martin Luther's life is a striking illustration. Another reason for Erikson's interest in Luther is his creativity. The author sees here something that is akin to Freud's inner struggles and work. Both men 'illustrate certain regularities in the growth of a certain kind of genius'. The author undertakes to show also how psychoanalysis can be used in the study of history.

Luther's life and struggles have been described by many authors in accordance with their own religious or psychiatric beliefs. The facts permit different interpretations, and 'each concocts his own Luther'. Erikson begins his portrait with a famous event in Luther's life, a seizure in the choir of the monastery which caused Luther to fall to the ground where he 'raved like one possessed and roared with the voice of a bull: "I am not"'. Erikson interprets this event as part of a severe crisis of identity in which the young monk denied what he was not in order to break through to what he was or was to be.

Luther's conflicts had driven him to become a monk over his father's vehement objections. The father had had ambitious plans for his son, wanting him to study law and take advantage of the opportunities which were becoming available to commoners.

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