Columbia Library columns (v.33(1983Nov-1984May))

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  v.33,no.3(1984:May): Page 3  

Otto Rank in America


IT was May 1924 when Dr. Otto Rank first visited the United
States. For nearly two decades he had worked at Freud's side,
becoming a prolific author while Secretary of the Vienna
Psychoanalytic Society. Only a locksmith when he met Freud,
Rank resumed formal education at twenty-one, obtaining the first
Ph.D. awarded for a psychoanalytic thesis in 1912 from the Uni¬
versity of Vienna. After serving in the First World War, Rank
returned to establish a psychoanalytic publishing house while
teaching, writing and practicing in Vienna.

Rank's more important books include The Myth of the Birth of
the Hero (1909), The hicest Motif i7i Literature a7id Legend
(1912), The Traurna of Birth (1924: it precipitated the break
with Freud) Soul-belief and Psychology (1931), Art a7id Artist
(1932), and Will Therapy (1936). His voyage to New York at
age forty was endorsed by Freud, then sixty-eight and beginning
his long fight against oral carcinoma. But Rank's independence
proved incompatible with his role as chief lieutenant of the bur¬
geoning psychoanalytic movement. Competition raged for pa¬
tients and for power. Rank, the first non-physician analyst, was
vulnerable to economic and political pressures from the medical
establishment. Rivalry within Freud's intimate circle, especially
involving Ernest Jones, led to Rank's painful separation from psy¬
choanalysis and Vienna. He moved to Paris in 1926 and finally
settled in New York.

In his post-Freudian period. Rank influenced the development
of what we now call relationship therapy or existential psycho¬
therapy. Frederick Allen, Carl Rogers, Rollo May, Fritz Perls,

Opposite: Otto Rank in his office in Paris with a portrait of Freud behind
him, early 1930s. (Courtesy of Helene Rank Veltfort)
  v.33,no.3(1984:May): Page 3