THE NEUROTIC CHARACTER – ALFRED ADLER
By Nicolas Soames
From our 21st century standpoint, the most influential, stand-out figures of 20th century psychology were Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and C. G Jung (1875-1961). They were colleagues initially, but their interests and personalities took them increasingly on divergent paths for which they are well-known, and for which they have their faithful adherents.
Of course, there were other figures, but these two acted as magnets to followers of differing natures, and both seemed to flourish partly because they dominated the academic scene, and produced well-organised establishments around them. Also, they had longer lives.
Alfred Adler (1870-1937), though he was part of the ‘Freudian’ circle in his early days, went his own way in 1911 and in 1912 founded the Society for Individual Psychology. Adler maintained that the external – social – world of the individual was as important in psychological work as the internal world. In that sense, Adler’s own circle had a strongly socialist character – his wife was friends with Leon Trotsky.
Adler went on to develop his ‘school of psychotherapy. He considered the issue of inferiority complex as a key matter: the ‘superiority/inferiority dynamic was central to his practice (where, interestingly, he discarded the couch for two chairs). In many ways, his accessible approach to treatment has been influential in the growth of the holistic psychotherapy movement in our time.
The Neurotic Character is one of his key works, dealing with these issues of inferiority, but set in an every-day context.
Adler travelled regularly and died in Aberdeen. He wrote and presented numerous papers during his lifetime, but, unlike the writings of Freud and Jung, they were subject to indifferent translations and did not benefit from extensive, formal, academic study and acceptance.
Henry H Stein, the American Adlerian psychotherapist has prompted a resurgence of interest in Adler and his works, not least by commissioning new translations of the major works. And The Neurotic Character is a major step towards a re-evaluation of Alder’s work.
THE COMPLETION OF SUMMA THEOLOGICA
The Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas (1224-1275) – an enormous undertaking comprising over 2 million words, offering an all-encompassing review of Catholic theology – was left unfinished at his death. His overall plan was completed by a close friend and colleague, Fra Rainaldo da Piperno, who drew largely on earlier writings by Aquinas. It is called ‘Supplement’ and its 40 hours brings Ukemi’s complete recording of the Summa to a close.
In its entirety, it runs for 220 hours, and has proved a remarkable feat of sustained reading by Martyn Swain, the English-born reader who now lives in Cape Town. As I have explained before, there is an extraordinary coincidence here, for it was in South Africa that this work, in its complete form, was, for the first time, translated into English. The translator of this magnum opus was Father Laurence Shapcote, (1864-1967) a modest, English-born Dominican priest who emigrated to South Africa in the first half of the 20th century living on the Rand and in Natal. He worked alone, and in ‘very austere condition. How he managed to translate this challenging text, with innumerable (and sometimes extremely obscure) references, away from major medieval libraries is, frankly, a mystery. But he did.
The Summa remains one of the most influential philosophical texts of the Middle Ages, not least because Aquinas incorporated the works of ‘pagan’ philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, as well as Arab commentators. And it is clear from the emails sent regularly to Ukemi, that Swain’s recording is widely appreciated from the start to, 220 hours later, the finish!