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And What It Did for the Kaiser


O MEN make history or does history make men? This engaging query has as ready a solution as the puzzling priority of the hen or the egg. The psychologist is committed to seek in human events no less than in human lives, the play of personality, to find the common motive forces in careers significant and insignificant. For in whatever setting, the nobilities and achievements, the inconsequences and failures, the vices and degradations of men are of one nature, one source. Man's nature and his works are equally exhibits of his traits; they are his making and undoing. Much of circumstance is of the same human making, the working of the same psychological forces, but on so monumental a scale that the beating of any ordinary pair of wings against them is helpless. The heroic is exceptional. The human story is the shifting interplay of personality and social circumstance, both ultimately of one origin. Now and then a commanding personality converts a cry in the wilderness into the reality of history.

In the course of empire, in the stress of economics, in the formulations of philosophy, in the expressions of literature, appear the issues of human urges playing their part in

the span of a life; a conflict humble or glorified among universal needs and their satisfaction in a thousand settings. In recorded fact or liberated fancy the dramatic may enlarge the worthy to the heroic and conceive the superman. Yet glory and power may lie in circumstance, with personality lacking in distinction or even handicapped by the clinical frailties of the human lot. The modern note in psychology aims at insight through analysis. Looking upon the drama of personality contending with circumstances or bending them to motive or ambition, it claims a voice in the interpretation of human behavior called history.

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In one momentous instance the theme may find an emblem in the withered arm of the last of the Kaisers. Herr Emil Ludwig is his psychobiographer. He He sets forth that because Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert von Hohenzollern was born in 1859 with a minor deformity, his subsequent behavior was such as to precipitate in 1914 that heroic catastrophe that in detachment we call the World War. When Freud comes to replace Grimm in nursery tales, children may read "The Story of the Withered Arm"; or some psychoanalytic Poe may tell the college

version as "The Strange Case of an Inferiority Complex."

The problem of William II, like that of many of us, was a problem in personality but was given a definiteness by fate of birth and a stage by fate of circumstance which he roughhewed into history; the problem of concealing, outwitting, defying a withered arm. Despite it, because of it would say the Freudian Adler —with a motivation like that of the tongue-tied lad who became Demosthenes, but with dire contrast in issue he made of himself a good rider, a skilled if bagging marksman, a martial figure in appearance, an overlord in reality.

"The moral victory over his physique was his destruction." In these oracular words his biographer has carved his epitaph for Wilhelm's exiled eyes to read.

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History, then, is biography on a grand scale, and biography is the psychoanalysis of personality. One withered arm upsets the peace and transforms the map of Europe and shapes the map of life of millions of souls animated by the same urges and compulsions, because of the consequential stage that the maneuvering of human motives called politics provides for the star players. The issue hangs not upon the hazard of a diplomatic stroke, but upon the uncertainties of a psychoneural constitution. If the accoucheurs had been more skilful, or if the loyal child had been of other psychic make-up, or if despite his station the young man could have been diverted from Berlin to Hollywood and persuaded to accept the tinsel glory and the matinée idolatry of a "movie"

nation, instead of insisting, centuries too late, upon the divinity that once did hedge a king; what we agree to call history might have been a different story, and all of us might be living and thinking differently. So far as this is true, is all this doom the cost of permitting one neurotic individual to act out in fateful reality what many of his kind live in the indulgence of fantasy, or experience through the creations of literature, or in what reasonable romance life affords? The play that many a striving self produces in a private Freudian "little theater" with sporadic uprushes into reality, follows the same plot that holds the stage in the momentous worldtheater so fatefully circumstanced for the last of the Kaisers.

The persistent key-note in low life and high life and in the "all highest" is the parent motive of domination. The nurse's, the parent's, the schoolmaster's, the economist's, the statesman's problem is all one: to control and adjust the ego-lust, the desire for dominance, the will to prevail. Yet, if crudely restrained or crushed, ambition would fail, and the servitude of dumb driven cattle be the common lot. Masters and slaves in some measure we must be, though in no dread approximation to a Nietzschean world; for the hazard of it is emblazoned in Freudian characters on the deserted palace walls of the withered arm.


The modern mind pursues two directive insights, two large comprehensions of the public human drama on whatever official stage it may be set. The one is the motivation plot called psychology; the other

the "reel" of incident and circumstance called history. Conflicting enterprises, conferences, parliaments, decrees, drawn battles, maneuvers, strategies, armistices, alliances, treaties, victories, subjections, compromises, tell the one tale; the consequential one. Ambitions, rivalries, lusts, dreads, animosities, triumphs, debasements, tell the other; the psychological one. The double trend -manifest content, and latent meaning and determination-that Freud discovers in the network of the dream, pervade reality. The ostensible plot, the staged conscious conflict makes the record of the conventional historian. By bringing forward the latent subconscious version, the psychologist remodels the technique. We are no longer content, refuse to be blinded by the glamour of diplomacy, the confusion of action, the alleged inevitability of man-made forces.


look behind the scene for the decisive motivation, the unacknowledged ambitions and repressions. The suppressed secret plot is hidden but not securely buried in the psychoanalytic crypt of Adamitic urges. History supplies the censored version for the populace and the text-books, and to uphold national pride and engage academic profundity. The exposures released by the post-war dismissal of the Freudian censor, contribute to the emancipation of our "now-it-may-be-told” era.


The case of Wilhelm Hohenzollern as reported by a social worker would make an interesting assignment. An unfortunate heredity, a birth palsy, a childhood troubled with nervous

and allied maladies, disturbed family

relations, an unsympathetic mother showing marked preference for her more normal children, a father distrustful and depreciative of his first-born son and heir, absence of sisterly and brotherly affection; fear of betraying physical weakness unbecoming to a soldierly station and destined career, a natural vanity reinforced by fawning associates; a lack of true companions, of adequate corrective control, of respected guides, philosophers or friends; a temperament imperious and bullying by nature as well as by prerogative, with no discipline of enforced adjustment; surrounded by turbulent cross currents of antipathies and dissensions; an impulsive, restless, rebellious, indiscreet, overweening, distrusted, fear-ridden youth, resorting to concealment and pose; all converging inevitably into a seriously maladjusted personality,—a tragic combination of a handicapped nature with an aggravating nurture.

A devoted marriage-if that were possible to so ego-bound an individual-to a perfect mate endowed with skill or charm to subdue unruly nerves, might have brought the redemption of home life; but as actually arranged was uninspiring and invited further estrangement and avenues of escape for unsatisfied urges. In the Ludwig version:

"What went on behind closed doors in this conjugal relation of a gifted nervous man with a sweetnatured, narrow-minded, devout country-girl was revealed to few and by fewer reported; compassion for the hapless consort of an hysterical autocrat disarmed all criticism."

A noble friendship might have brought salvation or mitigation. Of


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We have next to consider Wilhelm

a neurotic. The authoritative diagnosis of Dr. Morton Prince has the added value of a clinical prediction. "The Psychology of the Kaiser: A Study of His Sentiments and Obsessions" was written in 1915 upon the evidence supplied by the Kaiser's passion for expression, characteristic of his neurosis.

the few intimates in the procession dent critic dictating to architects, of Wilhelm's private attachments, sculptors, painters, dramatists, writparalleling the frequent shifts of his ers, thinkers; a self-appointed, selfpolitical "pilots," the most constant anointed superman, invoking the was a gifted dilettante, Philipp von divine only to confirm his kingship. Eulenburg, on the whole a humanizing influence, bemoaning the trials of his artistic temperament in a diplomatic atmosphere. But when he was involved in more than rumors of a coterie given to the nameless perversion, his long loyalty did not save him from dismissal. His comments when unreserved, were discerning; the sight of the Kaiser at the maneuvers aroused "that fear of megalomania which I combat incessantly." The "snapping,' the "hating," the "lying," the "betraying" of the Court made him feel as if he were "living in a mad-house; insane narrowness, insane controversies, insane arrogance; bedlam, bedlam, bedlam!"

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For the rest, the psychoanalytic interest lies in disclosing the personal in the political Kaiser. The strutting pomp and ceremony, the constant change of costume to look the part, the lime-light processioning, the theatricality of the Reise Kaiser, ever on tour, everywhere seeking to impose and receive the plaudits of the crowd; a conquering hero in any and every rôle of mingled pose and deluded reality; on land, at sea, at court, in his shooting-box, ever insatiable. The golden letters on a block of granite tell the tale:

"Here his Majesty, Wilhelm II, brought down his Most Highest's fifty-thousandth animal, a white cock-pheasant."

Aspiring to be his own chancellor, his own field-marshal, his own admiral; orator, preacher; a confi

"It would be absurd to say as some have said that the Kaiser is afflicted with paranoa, but it is true that in normal people we find the prototypes of mental processes observed in abnormal mental conditions, which in this case is a systematised delusion. . . . It would be extravagance to say that the Kaiser's delusion is anything more than a normal fixed idea which he could change if he wished to, but this fixed idea is so strong, so deeply rooted in his personality, and so directly the expression of a cherished and cultivated wish, conscious or sub-conscious, that it dominates his interpretation of facts which to an ordinary person flatly contradicts it."

Both when his accession was imminent and later, the fitness of the Kaiser to rule was discussed. Herr Ludwig, though he speaks only with the lay authority of a journalist, reaches an acceptable diagnosis.

"As a private individual, William the Second would not be declared legally irresponsible in any court of law, by a physician who knew his

business. It is true that such gifted and complex natures as his are never normal-they are always on the dividing line; but while it may please the psychiatrist to write him down as a case of neurosis, the psychologist will be particularly careful to avoid this 'flight into illness,' [a Freudian formula] and will seek to account for him simply and naturally as the inevitable product of heredity and environment, unmodified by controlling and counteracting influences."

It thus appears that the withered arm was but an aggravation in the neurosis, perhaps no more than the last straw on a back constitutionally unsuited to bear responsible burdens steadily and safely. The type of the Kaiser's emotional instability can hardly be placed anywhere except in the protean clinical picture of hysteria. Because this neurotic liability is more common in women, it must not be hastily inferred that the Kaiser's neurosis displayed feminine traits-though these are in evidence; the paranoid symptoms referred to by Dr. Prince are more common in men. It is this tendency that develops delusional beliefs. They may occasionally find a culture-bed in hysterical soil; the fusion is expressed in the masculine phases of domination. The Kaiser's delusions are fixed no deeper than the hysterical level. Had his hysterical instability not been complicated by the inordinate vanity, pushed by the paranoid trend beyond any ordinary hysterical orbit, it might have proved fairly innocent however difficult to those who had to bear with it; and we should not be tempted to give

it a large place in the protocol of history.

The delusional beliefs of the Kaiser, integrated closely with the exaggerated and unbalanced traits that express his neurotic nature, have acquired a public, an historical interest. Delusion, Dr. MacFie Campbell tells us, is an attempt of a personality, usually a burdened, distracted, stranded or otherwise illadjusted one, to deal with special difficulties,-"to neutralize some disturbing factor, to compensate for some handicap." One cannot ascribe to the Kaiser's belief-complex any deeper place in his maladjustment than we assign to his other vanities and overbearings. Because in part they follow, as Dr. Prince indicates, the prototype of paranoa, they do not make the Kaiser a paranoac, or in popular phrase a crank, wholly or in spots. Whether, if his symptoms could be regarded in detachment from their momentous setting, he could be registered as a psychopathic personality is questionable. His place in the gallery of deviation, where portraits of royalty or nobility appear about as in other strains, is much nearer the normal, and is readily paralleled among all sorts and conditions of men. If he had taken his place incognito in the waiting-room of a neurologist's clinic, the entry on the case-book would hardly have attracted unusual attention. His phases and symptoms of exaltation would have been dwelt upon; but it is his political exaltation that gave them moment as well as an extraordinary opportunity for gorgeous and imposing, psychologically imperial expression. Moreover, he found

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