There we stepped out to look at the stars.

E quindi uscimo a riveder le stelle.

(Inferno XXXIV, 139,

translated by Hartmut Köhler)

In September 1907 Sigmund Freud traveled to his beloved Rome for the third time and, as Goethe called it, let himself be rushed through the city by the muses and graces. He proudly reports to his wife Martha in Vienna's Berggasse that he has long been moving through the city like a local. Since the museums are closed to his great grief on the Italian national holiday on September 20th, the now world-famous neurologist rents a cab and lets himself be driven to the Via Appia. He has hired a tour guide to show him underground Rome: the oldest Roman columbaria from the first century as well as the Christian and Jewish catacombs, although he hated graves and burials, especially Jewish ones, throughout his life.

As he climbs out of the cold and dark underworld, which is actually a displeasure for him, it is by no means coincidental that the closing verse from Dante's “Hell” occurs to him: “E quindi uscimmo per riveder le stelle” - not surprising for a man of stupendous scholarship who could read his Dante in the original as well as the Latin and Greek classics, by the way. In Freud's library, which is now kept in his London house, there is still the three-volume edition of the Commedia, which he used as a student in Trieste in September 1876 and from which he was able to quote when the opportunity arose. Having Dante in mind was not uncommon in educated society at the time. But of all travelers who made a pilgrimage from the cold north across the Alps to the south,Probably no one left for Italy more thoroughly prepared than Sigmund Freud.

Knowledge of the Commedia was taken for granted. Conversely, it could even be argued that Dante and his journey with Virgil into the underworld was a motive that should not be underestimated and that Freud's biographers often overlooked for his crazy love of Italy. Of course, the grave of the “gigantic Dante” and a pine forest that he “sung about” were on the program when he visited Ravenna in September 1896. And on a suitable occasion, such as in his study of Leonardo da Vinci, he casually incorporated a few verses from St. Peter's speech of anger against his unworthy deputy on earth from Dante's “Paradiso” in order to explain the perseveration in the present case.

The commedia fascinated Freud as the sum of the scientific, philosophical and theological knowledge of its time, as well as the extreme, fantastic, untamed and uninhibited world that the narrator of the afterlife spread out before his audience as a single hubbub of the infernal storm of the voluptuous. Freud was familiar with the staff: from the ancient poet princes (Homer, Horace and Ovid) to the master thinkers Plato and Aristotle, from Cleopatra, Helena and Dido des Aeneas to the adulterous lovers Francesca and Paolo, whose bodies intertwined by the Inferno float. Already during Freud's self-analysis and even more clearly during the conception of his major work, the “Interpretation of Dreams” published in 1900, Dante seems almost like an imaginary ancestor.Freud had taken the motto of his book of the century from the “Aeneid” of Dante's companion Virgil: “Flectere si nequeo superos Acheronta movebo” (If I can't get the gods moving, I'll stir up the underworld). With good reasons, because, in his opinion, the sentence summarized the main thesis of the "interpretation of dreams" in due brevity: that the wish that is rejected by "higher authorities" sets the "spiritual underworld" in motion in order to assert itself. .which is rejected by "higher authorities", which "sets the spiritual underworld in motion in order to bring itself to bear".which is rejected by "higher authorities", which "sets the spiritual underworld in motion in order to bring itself to bear".

As is well known, the founder of psychoanalysis assumed that nothing of what was once formed would perish in the human soul and that it could be brought out again under suitable circumstances.

One only has to descend - in the manner of archaeologists - into the underworld and unearth what is hidden there.

The resulting metaphor of psychoanalysis as a journey into the underworld has become commonplace.

The ascent from the underworld works for Freud as it does for Dante: to the stars!

Jörg-Dieter Kogel

was program director of the Nordwestradio and is a member of the board of the Woflgang-Koeppen-Stiftung.

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