1st Edition

Sigmund Freud and The Forsyth Case Coincidences and Thought-Transmission in Psychoanalysis

By Maria Pierri Copyright 2023
    294 Pages
    by Routledge

    294 Pages
    by Routledge

    Sigmund Freud and The Forsyth Case uses newly discovered primary sources to investigate one of Sigmund Freud’s most mysterious clinical experiences, the Forsyth case. The book details Pierri’s attempts to recover the lost original case notes, which are published here for the first time, to identify the patient involved and to set the case into the broader frame of Freud’s work.

    Maria Pierri begins with a preliminary illustration of the case, its historical context, and how it connects to Freud’s interests in "thought-transmission," or telepathy. The author illustrates the possibility of a psychoanalytic interpretation of the transference and countertransference elements potentially conveyed by certain "magical" coincidences during the analysis, introducing the reader to a psychopathology of everyday life of the setting. The book also explores Freud’s further investigations into thought transmission, focusing on a meeting of the Secret Committee in October 1919 and his clinical work with his own daughter Anna.

    Sigmund Freud and The Forsyth Case features supplementary historical materials, adding valuable insight to the context and meaning of the case. It will be essential reading for psychoanalysts in practice and in training, as well as academics and scholars of psychoanalytic studies, spirituality, and the history of psychology. It is complemented by Occultism and the Origins of Psychoanalysis: Freud, Ferenczi and the Challenge of Thought Transference.

    Prologue: telepathy, superstitions and mushrooms

    1. Coincidences of the psychoanalytic setting: a strange home visit

    M de Fortgibu and his plum-pudding

    The maternal in the circumstances of the setting: the psychoanalytic clock

    "All things are chained, knotted, in love..."

    Coincidences in analysis: sites of memory

    Notable examples: From Carl G. Jung; From Eugenio Gaddini; From José Bleger; From Joyce McDougall

    Telepathy, an enlightening mistake

    Freud and the "Forsyth case"

    2. Forsyth arrives in Vienna to undertake a seven-week analysis with Prof Freud

    The decline of the West

    Introduction to psycho-analysis: the first 28 lectures

    Hunger in Vienna

    Parcels from England

    A passage to Austria

    A piece of forgetfulness by Freud

    3. Herr P ends his analysis with Prof Freud in a rather extraordinary way

    New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis

    The "Forsyth case"

    Solve et coagula

    The Postscript of a Preface

    4. The duellists

    Meeting in Zurich

    The duellists

    The first training analysis in Budapest

    Forsyth, the pediatrician "once a friend of mine"

    5. Nachträglichkeit: following the traces of a long deferral

    Freud becomes a heretic: the debate about the "transmission of thought" within the committee

    A mistake by Freud

    The memorable Harzreise

    1921, an essay in two halves: Vorbericht-preface; Nachtrag-postscript

    1922, dreams and Telepathy

    Perplexities, second thoughts, and experiments with Ferenczi and Anna

    1925, section C: "The Occult Significance"

    Still playing for time

    1933, Lecture XXX, "Dream and Occultism"

    The gold coin

    6. The disappeared-occulted manuscript

    The posthumous publication of the Vorbericht (1921) in "Psychoanalysis and Telepathy" (1941) and the disappearance of the Nachtrag

    Hide and seek

    Back to Freud's secret text: found in translation

    7. Sigmund Freud: postscript (1921)

    8. Manuscript details, slips, and errors

    Conditions and details

    Freud’s "errors" and the occulted "dritte Fall"

    Nachträglichkeit and reconstructions

    9. During the Great War

    Historical and personal circumstances

    A coming-of-age prematurely interrupted

    Freud’s forced inactivity: the Metapsychology and the Introductory Lectures

    Impotence and death anxiety. Towards the uncanny defeat

    Ernest Jones’s war

    Ferenczi's kisses

    10. Coincidences in Vienna: a week of fireworks in autumn 1919

    The new orientation towards the West

    The heart towards the East

    11. The strange case of Dr Forsyth and Mr Vorsicht: the build-up

    The "secret language"

    The Man of Property

    Setting the scene: the preconscious at work


    The Fortsein game: The troublesome individual and a first repression; The missed appointment; The coincidence of the "neighbours"; The joke of the "home visit"; An ambivalent gift

    12. The strange case of Dr Forsyth and Mr Vorsicht: the session

    Vorsicht, forsyth, forsyte

    The visiting card

    The Freud-Freund slip

    The nightmare and Jones's monograph on the "Alptraum"

    The faulty translations

    13. That Forsyte Woman

    Return to the mothers – telepathy, "distant proximity"

    Don Giovanni: Zitto, mi pare sentire odor di femmina....

    14. Retrospective: the lost scene

    Caritas Romana: "This is the place, this is the source"

    A destiny and a choice made long ago

    "Little Freud": a child is being conceived

    Me too!

    15. A hereditary transmission

    A daughter is being analysed

    Lou Andreas Salomé: a mother-sister

    Thought-transmission? A pair of twin papers: The father’s text; The daughter’s text


    "Not to be there": the process of separation and the game of Fortsein

    Anna, Antigone

    16. 1932 "Dreams and Occultism" and "Confusion of Tongues between Adults and the Child"

    17. "Herr Vorsicht," alias Paul Bernfeld

    "The eldest of a family of eight or nine children"

    The firm of Paul Bernfeld and Heinrich Rosenberg, B & R: jokes and repetitions by the preconscious

    18 A secret in the "Preface": the substitute of the third case

    19. Dr David Forsyth leaves the scene and the story: circumstances of the birth of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis

    Seven weeks in Vienna

    The Forsyth affaire

    Forsyth leaves the scene

    20. The Freud’s final orientation towards the West: from Vienna to London

    "Fortsein": Professor Freud has "gone away"

    Fort-Da. the return: story of a cap

    21. The importance of being Ernest Jones. The cycle closes

    Transmission of the tradition and "crypts"

    Free Associations: Memories of a Psycho-Analyst

    Epilogue: a debt to pay



    Maria Pierri is a psychiatrist and child neuropsychiatrist, formerly researcher and adjunct professor at the Psychiatric Clinic, Medical School, University of Padua. She is a training analyst of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society and International Psychoanalytical Association and member of the Editorial Board of the Rivista di Psicoanalisi.

    "The book by Maria Pierri, a passionate and recognized connoisseur of "coincidences", can be read as an engrossing detective novel of historical reconstruction as it unfolds towards its resolution, elegantly written and full of surprises, and opening up unexpected new fields of thought. Which is not to say that it actually is a novel: rather, it is real History with a capital H, thoroughly documented with a precise investigative method which revisits one of the most mysterious and controversial areas of Freudian research, that of telepathy." - Stefano Bolognini, past President of the IPA and the Italian Psychoanalytic Society.


    "With rigorous documentation, including previously unpublished material, and elegant writing, Maria Pierri conducts a passionate investigation of hypnosis, occultism, suggestion, "coincidences and misunderstandings", studied by Freud, who applied his scientific mentality to them. The secrets and enigmas around the origins of psychoanalysis, the deep ties and conflicts between the pioneers "who made the venture" with Freud will emerge from the courageous search for that "elsewhere" of human thoughts we call unconscious, with which we are confronted daily in clinical practice and theory." - Paola Golinelli Training analyst, Italian Psychoanalytic Society. Author of Psychoanalytic Reflection on Writing, Cinema and the Arts. Routledge, 2021.


    "Maria Pierri’s work is not only an excellent example of historical and archival research into the interest of emergent psychoanalysis in telepathic events, but a radical demonstration – thanks to the "work as a double" performed by thought-transmission – of how unsustainable it is to maintain that Freud was a monist. In this way, through the wealth of phenomena being observed, the author opens up a new direction for study and theoretical enquiry that will send us back to Freud, differently every time, and to his very early intuition of a psychic field that is created in the analytic relationship." - Maurizio Balsamo, Training analyst, Italian Psychoanalytic Society. Maître de Conférences et Directeur de Recherche, UFR Études Psychanalytiques, Université Paris–Diderot