I had the great opportunity to interview one of Thomas Szasz’s close friends, Anthony Stadlen. Anthony is a psychotherapist working in London. It was a great honor and privilege to talk with Anthony. He was a close friend of Szasz. He has an incredible depth of knowledge and understanding of Szasz’s ideas. Listen below.
00:00:00.000 Anthony Stadlen http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/
00:00:16.899 Anthony’s interest in psychotherapy
00:02:24.037 Sartre https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_faith_(existentialism)
00:04:23.061 James Joyce https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Joyce
00:04:29.562 Freud: Interpretation of Dreams https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Interpretation_of_Dreams
00:05:21.125 Leonardo Da Vinci https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonardo_da_Vinci
00:08:21.490 Existential analyst https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existential_therapy
00:08:27.437 Ronald D. Laing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.D._Laing
00:08:28.518 Aaron Esterson https://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/p/obituary-aaron-esterson-daily-telegraph.html
00:09:46.627 The Divided Self https://amzn.to/3sIePsy
00:09:58.269 Existence Rollo May https://amzn.to/3dIHd9G
00:10:36.515 Ludwig Binswanger https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Binswanger
00:10:52.429 Case of Ellen West https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_West
00:13:52.286 The Myth of Mental Illness https://amzn.to/3nbmcrf
00:15:05.405 Praxis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praxis(process)
00:15:07.044 Human Action https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Action
00:16:50.937 Reason and Violence https://amzn.to/3tLjaMD
00:16:57.188 Sanity, Madness and the Family https://amzn.to/3awAnlF
00:17:07.867 David Cooper https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Cooper_(psychiatrist)
00:19:54.390 Szasz was an intellectual terrorist
00:22:16.654 When did you first meet Szasz?
00:23:46.731 Anthony Clare https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Clare
00:26:46.277 Case of Dora and Katharina https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dora_(case_study)
00:29:12.498 A Poor Model for Students: The Case of Thomas Szasz https://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/p/a-poor-model-for-those-in-training.html?m=0
00:30:00.845 Inner Circle Seminars https://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/?m=0
00:30:52.644 Szasz Inner Circle Seminar https://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/2010/01/inner-circle-seminar-no-73-7-december.html?m=0
00:31:05.942 Thomas Szasz Award https://www.centerforindependentthought.org/szasz
00:32:15.575 Szasz was my best friend
00:33:41.920 Szasz was an out-and-out atheist
00:34:36.363 The Myth of Psychotherapy https://amzn.to/2QnBP2E
00:35:21.212 The cure of souls
00:35:33.326 Carl Jung https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung
00:36:50.441 The Question of Lay Analysis https://amzn.to/3tNpbbY
00:38:57.796 Religious leaders as psychotherapists
00:40:03.788 Payment in therapy
00:40:31.500 The Ethics of Psychoanalysis https://existentialstoic.wordpress.com/2017/08/12/autonomous-psychotherapy/
00:42:13.453 The Myth of Psychotherapy https://amzn.to/2QnBP2E
00:44:02.599 Attending to the soul
00:44:53.205 Did Szasz believe in psychotherapy?
00:45:59.848 Against Therapy https://amzn.to/32StBCB
00:47:13.783 Psychoanalysis under Stalinism
00:50:14.893 Possibility for repentance in psychotherapy
00:51:19.931 Money and psychotherapy
00:52:30.378 Contract in Psychotherapy
00:56:54.184 Worldly care of the soul
00:57:07.553 Secular pastoral counseling
01:03:35.776 Why is it so hard for people to understand Szasz?
01:05:13.137 Involuntary psychiatry and the insanity defense
01:06:48.050 How Szasz came to his thinking on psychiatry
01:10:12.714 Ignaz Semmelweis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis
01:21:49.341 Why I am not a health professional http://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/p/why-existential-psychotherapy-is-not.html
01:30:07.528 The religion of the state https://amzn.to/3nboTZI
01:33:38.296 Will Szasz’s ideas ever become mainstream?
01:34:50.283 Szasz said psychotherapy was finished in the US
01:36:31.687 How did Szasz remain so prolific?
01:39:42.916 Szasz’s suicide https://anthonystadlen.blogspot.com/p/thomas-szasz-obituary-anthony-stadlen.html?m=0
01:41:49.343 What is your most fond memory of Szasz?
01:44:22.120 Szasz and the meaning of life
Anthony I wanted to get you on the call today one because out of all the people who have written about Sauce when I read what you’ve wrote about him you seem to really understand what he was saying and you know that’s kind of unusual when you come across writings on Sauce is that people often don’t quite even they can’t quite wrap their minds around what he’s trying to say and I also know that you had a personal relationship with him and but before we get in his ideas, I’d like to know what first got you interested in psychology and psychotherapy? When I was 1515 I think it was fifteen or probably more like 16 when when I was 16 I started no this isn’t this isn’t right I mean I was interested in psychology long before that I mean I I read Jane Austen I read Shakespeare when I was 13 I’d read books as long as I could remember of you know from whenever I could read.
So of course I was interested in people and in psychology. Um and how people related there were various lies told in my family about my own origins and parentage and I I devoted some time to to working out these lies and then because recognizing that they were lies was rather painful because they were coming from people whom I loved and whom I thought who who I thought loved me I had to disguise from myself that I realised that they were lies and that I actually knew more or less what the truth was.
So this was really quite a complicated operation I had to perform. It It’s a sort of operation that precisely somebody like Thomas Szasz but also Jean Paul Sarch would understand because it’s it’s perfectly described by SART in his concept of bad faith and of course SARS also understands it when he is trying to explain so-called mental illness which he doesn’t use the and movie soir but it is pretty much his thinking is pretty much equivalent and he was a great admirer of of Sach even though Sach was politically at the opposite extreme pretty much to Szasz Szasz was pretty contemptuous of Satra’s communism, his Maoism, his personal life, the the that Satra himself told but nevertheless Sas had a great respect for Satra’s refusal to accept the Nobel Prize on principle he he thought that Satra’s book Szasz which at the time of writing was probably the most comprehensive attempt by one man to understand another man in the whole of literature says quote letter magnificent book so so in my in my own personal life I for my very survival I had to be interested in so-called psychology and and as I say I I I investigated my own life and I invest I investigated through the medium of literature and plays and then when I was 16 I I got on to James Joyce and I got on to Freud.
I I started I I bought Freud’s interpretation of dreams and I found as fascinating but I also became morally corrupted by it because Freud has this peculiar this peculiar pseudoscientific pseudo natural scientific approach in which he tries to reduce everything to natural science and in particular to his own so-called metasychology he tries to reduce moral positions moral thinking to some sort of rather nasty psychological thinking which lies behind it so to take one example when Leonardo the Vinci has compassion for caged birds and he he would buy them and then he would he would buy them in a cage and then he would release the birds and far from admiring this Freud analyses this as a sort of rather contemptible streak of sort of feminine weakness and pacifism.
Pacifism was supposed to be reaction formation against repressed sadism and this was relevant in my case because I mean when I was a teenager this was the time of this was after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it was the beginning of the arms race between the west and the Soviet Union and we really we really believed that it was highly likely that there would be a thermo nuclear war in the very near future.
Um this was this was no fantasy. This was what most intelligent people thought was quite probable. Um I was against Britain for example getting a a nuclear deterrent and I I even went to jail because of protesting about this and squatting with some colleagues on a rocket site in Norfolk in England but all the time I was in jail I was in anguish because I had I was doubting what I was doing because I I thought that maybe Freud was right and that my pacifist inclinations were merely a reaction formation against repressed sadism.
So I was really quite confused. Um but I would argue that it was an intelligent in a sense it was totally stupid. But in in another sense it meant I was taking Freud seriously. I thought Freud was a great scientist of the mind just as Einstein was a great scientist of the natural world. And if Freud said something was so it was to be true.
Um it was another couple of years before I began to really see through what nonsense this was. Um now I thought psychotherapy for myself I ever since reading the interpretation of dreams I had thought it would be interesting to have personal psychotherapy psychoanalysis and I I was lucky enough to be able to get it when I was 22 but.
I I didn’t realise what a danger what a swamp I was actually entering but through great good luck I the analyst I found was one of the two analyst in Britain who called themselves existential analysts. This was laying and estesing. My my analyst was Estherson. And I mean he very quickly pointed out to me what what’s you know what nonsense this this idea of pacifism being a reaction against repesageism was and I mean he he says obviously it could be but it it didn’t have to be and I now a a couple of a couple of years no about one year, one year into my analysis with Estherson. I would have been 23. I had been reading I mean I I mentioned that I’d read Freud at the age of 16.
I’d also read some Yong. Uh after I started going to Estherson and learnt that he and Lang were existential analysts. I started studying the existential literature and this was 1962 and in 1958. Well Laying had Laying had written his two books The Divided Self and Self and others. They were published in 61960 and 1961.
in 191958 a big book called Existence edited by Rolo Mae Henry Ellen Berger and Ernest Angel had been published which had a number of important European existential and phenomenological writings in it. This was the real sort of breakthrough of so-called existential thinking in America and to some extent in England. I got this book and the the sort of showpiece of this book was a case history by the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst friend of Freud Ludovic Binsvanger and it this book contained two of his case histories a short one called The Case of Ilsa and a very long and pretentious and complicated one a famous one called The Case of Ellen West and I read the case of Ellen West and I was puzzled by it because I was reading this simultaneously with Sach and Sach is all about human freedom, about personal choice, there’s no such thing as a mental mechanism I mean as Ling said there may be phenomenologically something which feels like a mental mechanism but this is simply because the person has allowed himself to experience himself in a mechanical way.
Um and so when the therapist shouldn’t stop there but should try to question why why the person has come to experience himself in such a bizarre way as to mental mechanisms. Uh the the point is that he should become not a patient with with a mechanism but an agent who is who who who is doing pirouettes and complicated maneuvers with his mind in the way that Satra describes and and calls bad faith So I found Binsmango’s case of Ellen West puzzling because although it has very high flown high degarian terminology which to this day seems to bedazzle people so that they they think something very profound is being argued here.
Um I found it puzzling because it seemed to imply a sort of determinism which was exactly the opposite of what I had been reading in Sarge. And it was also the opposite of the way that Estherson my own analyst approached things. I mean he held me responsible for everything that that I did and for everything that I tried to disclaim responsibility for. Um this was very demanding but also very refreshing and demystifying.
Um now in about I I I would guess this was about May 1963 I was in the basement of a bookshop in the Cherring Crossroad.
Sharon Crossroad in London is a is a is a road full of second hand bookshops and I was in the basement of one of them very dark and I I came across a book called The Meth of Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz and I pulled this book out and I was rather pleasantly surprised that he seemed to be basing himself on the sort of philosophy that I had read before I got involved with this existential stuff I was interested in mathematics and logic and Russell and Vickenstein and philosophy of mathematics and so on and SAS seemed to come from this tradition.
He referred to these philosophers. Um and I was quite startled that he was actually arguing that a number of the cases which I had read in Freudence on were not really cases of mental illness at all. Um that that they were to be understood as he he didn’t use this language but in Satra’s language it would be praxis or he human action. The actions actions on one’s own consciousness.
Um Uh this this was very it was revelatory and I felt a bit scared of it and I I wondered whether it was being too glib, too clever. Um I didn’t actually buy the book. I mean I was fairly short of money at that time. Um but I stood there. I I would say for a long time I I don’t know. It could have been a matter of hours.
Pretty much read the book through. I was fascinated by it. And I and I felt that I’m going to have to choose between this way of thinking. And Binsvanger’s way of thinking. In the case of Ellen West. Um which was a bit daunting because I I I thought I had sort of adopted the the existential way of thinking but in fact I was finding really quite significant contradictions between Binsvanger and Sarge and now very very much the same thing if not more so between Binslanger and SARS.
Then then I went away and this this book that I’d read in the basement of the shop kind of stayed in the basement of my mind as it were for perhaps nine months and then two books by Ardi Lang and my own analyst Aaron Esteson came out. The first was called Reason and Violence A decade of Satras Philosophy and the second one a month later was called Sanity Madness in the Family Families of and this was by laying and sorry the first one was by laying and Cooper and the second one was by laying and Estherson and both of these books were I found very striking and very demystifying that the Satra one continued with the sort of liberatory process that I’d been embarked upon through reading Satra’s being and nothingness because Satra’s continuing the idea of individual personal freedom the he now called it Praxis which he distinguished from process so that then tried to apply this language to their study of the family so that they looked at things which psychiatrists thought of as process things just sort of happening just kind of natural events so that if one if one young woman in a family became diagnosed as schizophrenic this was thought of as sort of an event within nature you know rather as if she had got COVID you know got the virus or if as if she had got cancer or something like this a kind of natural process but Langine Estherson wanted to demystify this and try to understand what was going on by looking at the whole family and seeing it as a sort of complex web of people’s practice the the actual individual personal free choices that all the people in the family were making and with conflicts which which they found convenient to reach a pseudo solution to by identifying one person in the family in in this in the case of the book it was always a a daughter an adolescent or young woman daughter to identify her as ill and then call in the doctors who rubber stamped this idea that they were ill and then put the diagnosis of schizophrenia upon them.
Um this this I still think 60 years later is one of the greatest books of the 20th century, certainly in the field of psychiatry or though I mean of course it’s not it’s not in the field of psychiatry. It’s it’s seeing through the field of psychiatry. It’s blowing it blowing it up as Tom Szasz said that he would like to do. I mean SAS once he gave a seminar for me and he said that his ambition was to be a terrorist blowing up the whole field of psychiatry and I I I don’t know whether he ever put that in print and whether he would have been happy for me to be repeating it now but that’s certainly what he said then.
That was either 1903 or nine sorry 2003 or 2007 when when he gave wonderful seminars for me. Uh So well I your question was how did I get into this field? So I’ve described I’ve I’ve described I started from my own questions about my own life and family relationships and then started reading the literature and to my great good fortune quite early on in my investigations well not after a few years of confusion having been corrupted by Freud but then I I had the great good fortune to to an encounter Satra and Sas and Lang and Estesen, great demystifiers.
Yeah. Yeah. That’s fantastic. I mean, I really appreciate you walking me through that whole story. Um I I I had a similar experience when I first picked up Sauce and started reading him. I kind of I I couldn’t quite make heads or tales of what he was saying because I was so still in the mindset of the that man is a natural being and and that these things called mental illnesses or happenings not things that that people do.
They’re just they have like like cancer or COVID or something like that but the more I kept coming back to him the more I just kept thinking that he he’s making so much sense. It it just I and then and then I just devoured book after book of his and it it’s yeah he he is he’s an intellectual terrorist I guess would be the best way to describe it. Kinda blows up things in your mind that you had previously taken for granted.
But you know the at what point did you actually meet him and become you know acquaintances with him? The first one I saw him in the flesh we didn’t speak he he I mean I I saw him he probably just caught a microseconds glimpse of me. Um there was in 1977, he was talking. He was actually talking at giving a lecture under the auspices of the scientologists which of course is has led to a lot of nonsense about him.
People alleging that he was a scientologist or or agreed with their philosophy or something. Of course he didn’t. Um I mean I’m sure he thought it was a lot of nonsense. He he he just said he he would have taken he he would have taken money from anyone even psychiatrists and in fact he did take money from psychiatrists and he said nobody nobody ever criticized him for taking money from psychiatrists but they were far worse people to take money from them scientologists were and anyway he he was giving this lecture which was a very impressive lecture and discussion I mean since I’ve mentioned and I may as well mention one thing that impressed me the most I think in that lecture.
Um there was a well-known British psychiatrist called Anthony Claire who used to do a a program on the BBC on the radio. Um I don’t I don’t think he ever did it on television. He it was on the radio. Um and he it was called in the psychiatrist’s share. And he anyway Claire was one of the people on this panel. Um another of the people was Hans Keller a famous music critic. Um who also rather fancied himself as a psychoanalyst.
No became a friend of SARS. Um anyway Anthony Claire said in a in a rather sort of injured voice to SAS. He said he said so what troubles me about you Professor SARS is that you you you always you you you don’t seem to take account of the fact that there may be another view on the matter. And so Sas said something like this. So I I I’m very grateful to Doctor Claire for for making this very important point of view because it is indeed the case that on every question that we have considered today or or are likely to consider that there are certainly two views on the matter And that is why I am giving you one of you.
Uh I love that.
Yeah. He’s a very witty and funny man from what I can tell. Yes. He was extremely humorous. Uh that’s why I mean he he was I mean by heredity or whatever. He was bound to be doubly humorous. He was he was Hungarian and he was Jewish so That implies kind of two health things of humour. Um he anyway that’s the first place I saw him.
Yeah. But I didn’t talk to him. Um Oh I the first time I spoke to him was by telephone. I phoned him up actually. Um I I think he was just freely available in in the phone telephone directory for Syracuse, Mandys and I just phoned him up because I was doing some research. Um I I’ve investigated various paradigmatic case studies of starting with Freud and then going on to other people including Binsvanger the the psychiatrist I mentioned.
Um I I actually in investigated historically that that that dreadful case of Ellen West but at the time I rang Thomas Szasz I had been researching Freud’s famous Adora case and also his Katerina case and I was wondering where I could get a grant to support my research and I I phoned him up to ask him about it and he said he’d got no idea but he thought he could get me a large advance if I would write a of chapters of the book.
Um well I’m I’m very bad at writing books and I’m better at doing seminars and so I I I never did this but but but anyway that was the beginning of our relationship. Um and then over the years I had one or two exchanges by letter with him. Uh I finally met him I think it was the early nineties we met we met at conferences in London Yeah and and we we we corresponded by email towards the end of the 90s.
I mean I didn’t get a computer till near the end of the 90s But then we started corresponding by email and our emails became more and more frequent. In the year 2000 I was invited to go to Syracuse for his eightieth birthday conference and I delivered a paper there. Um and again got got to know him a bit better than got to know him better still as we continue to correspond.
Um now in two thousand and 2002, there there was some what I thought were rather stupid attacks on him in a journal existential analysis in in London and I I wrote a fairly detailed rebuttal replied to the to these criticisms and Is that the unreliable reader? Is that the title of that article? No, that’s a later one. No, no, that one was called what was it called? It was called a poor model for students in a poor model for those in training or something like that.
The the the subtitle was the important thing. The case of Thomas Szasz. You know I mean the the they were talking about him as if he was a sort of you know a madman a case and so I I that was you know that that was what I published I think it was 2003 and I I mean by by this time I Tom and I had been corresponding quite a bit Yeah yes yes sorry I I I can’t quite remember the the sequence of all this but I I had by this time I had been I was already doing my inner circle seminars which I started in 1996.
These are seminars some of them I conduct and some of them I invite world experts on various subjects but but they’re all to do with the demystifying of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, psychiatry and so on and the foundations, the historical and philosophical foundations of psychotherapy and and sort of demystifying mental illness, so-called mental illness and and so on. So they’re very much in tune with SAS and he he liked he liked the of my seminars and he agreed to do a seminar for me in the I think the first one he did was December 2003 something like that but round about that time I I actually got an award called the SAS award which was given not by him but by an institute I think it’s called the Institute for Independent Thought or something like that in the state a number of people.
It was called the the Thomas Szasz award for contributions to civil liberties and and and because some of my writing and my seminars and so on were were in defence of civil liberties because they they were demystifying psychiatry. Um I I was given this award and so I met him again then but I mean By then I’d I’d already met him a a number of times and we were already friends.
Um but I I would say it’s it’s from from from about the year 2000 really. Um from probably from the time I went for his eightieth birthday conference and celebration. Um I I our relationship grew grew much deeper and I mean I I came to think of him as really my best friend. Um in fact I I mean I I’d never had a man friend who was with whom I was as close as I was with Tom Szasz and he seems to respect me because I didn’t want to be sassy and not disciple you know I I mean I I was I was who I was in my own right and we and and I we would argue about a lot of things.
I mean and I I there were things I I didn’t agree with him about. On the on the fundamental issues of Um of sort of radical radical faith in freedom as he put it where the great title of one of his books is faith in freedom. That was something that we shared. This absolute holding holding oneself and other people responsible for what they did.
That that was something that absolutely united us. Um another thing that that we were close on may sound rather strange and other people who were his friends seemed to find it rather incomprehensible and that is he had a he was an he called himself an out and out atheist but he had a deep respect for certain sorts of religion that he respected and he respected the way that my wife and I were serious about Judaism.
Well well I mean we were serious about many religions but we actually practiced Judaism I mean without Um without regarding it as as the only the only possible sort of mythology as it were that one 1 could commit to. There there are many there are many ways but this was one and he respected this and we talked about this and he he had written a book The Myth of Psychotherapy.
Yes. In which and in this book he and I mean the heart of that book is his argument that psychotherapy is so called is not a medical discipline at all. It’s basically a kind of it’s it’s essentially a religious discipline but not in the not in the sense of being in the service of any particular religion but the the sort of heart of it he thought was was he he liked the phrase the cure of souls.
Um I mean he compared it to he he compared what he was doing to what Luther had done. Um and and for the first time he showed some sympathy with Young. He he he said I can’t remember he actually said it in the book but he certainly said it somewhere that he hadn’t appreciated previously the importance of Young or just what the split between Freud and Young had really been about.
He he had previously accepted the conventional account which was that Freud and Young split because of differences about the the significance of sex in childhood something like that but Sas says that he came to think that the real difference was that Young saw psychotherapy as a kind of religious enterprise and this was the real difference but I I mean paradoxically Freud himself came to see it that way but again I mean this word religious can be very confusing but spiritual.
I don’t much like the word spiritual but but it’s Freud write a whole book the question of lay analysis defending Theodore Reich a non-medical analyst who who was being accused of quackery in a trial in America and Freud wrote this book in defense of lay analysis arguing that psycho analysis was not anything medical and that a a proper institute of for training psychoanalysts would wouldn’t be a medical institute.
It it would teach anthropology and mythology and religion and history and art and so on. Um and one could become a psychoanalyst I think his position was basically that to become a psychoanalyst one should have done an honest job, an honest trade first. One should have made out as it were under fire in the incredibly complex society that we live in. One shouldn’t, one should be a man of the world, you know, not a one one should know the society in which one lives have made out in it and and then become do training as a as a a therapist and the the sort of honest trade could be that you had the first honest trade could be medicine but that’s only one of many.
You know I I think Freud would probably think you could have been a carpenter or a gardener or a historian or a school teacher he did say he didn’t think that he on one occasion he specified that the a psychoanalyst need not be a doctor but should not be a priest. He so he he actually did even though he was arguing it was a kind of religious enterprise he didn’t want paid up priests to to be analysts one of my students once wrote a a a arguing against that because he himself was a priest who was also a psychotherapist and he argued that it was quite possible and I have had a number of rabbis actually coming to train as psychotherapists with me but it it can create it can create difficulties if if people are as married as it were to a certain sort of orthodoxy, a certain sort of ideology as opposed to the sort of general religious feeling that Saz had in mind.
Um but but it it was but this was one of the strong things that he and I agreed about and which some of the other defeats of Saz found a bit difficult to believe even. Um for example a number of them argued with me that says always said that people should always pay for psychotherapy. Um it should be an honest contract. Um you know openly stated it it it should be a contract for money.
Um well as a matter of fact he didn’t. He early on he did in for example his book the ethics of psychoanalysis which is an excellent book though the it it’s subtitle is the the method of autonomous psychotherapy if I’ve remembered it rightly. Anyway certainly I think that is right. It’s the the ethics of psychoanalysis colon the method of autonomous psychotherapy and then for the Syracuse edition of it decades later he writes a new introduction or new preface and in it he says he he he says that says of course there there can be no such thing as a so called method of psychotherapy.
I mean I mean I don’t know whether he notices that he’s contradicting his own subtitle. But and anyway I mean both both of these both of these are sort of valid you know I mean he is he is giving he’s sort of giving you a method but he’s also saying you know there can be no method. I mean you you have the the reader has to sort of reconcile this contradiction as best he can.
Obviously if you follow if you follow us of technique you try to copy that then you’re not going to be any good at all but but if you take method in the original Greek sense of meaning sort of along the way or something he’s he’s he’s kind of he’s just pointing in a sort of pointing a way that you have to work out for yourself you have to take the way yourself and it’s a very good book but in that book he has not yet got to where he’s got to in the the myth of psychotherapy the following decade and of course in the myth of psychotherapy he argues that He he he argues that he argues against psychotherapy I mean most ferociously against the idea of psychotherapy in the medicalised form that it has taken this this corrupt decadent pseudomedical form that it’s taken in which therapy is understood to mean a mental treatment medical treatment and psyche is taken to mean some sort of object called the mind and of course Saz was absolutely dead against psychotherapy in that sense And I mean there’s one sort of so-called Sasian elder who who who writes to me complaining every time I use the word psychotherapy because he says you know Tom always explained to me that there was no such thing as psychotherapy because therapy meant something medical.
But the fact is that SAS was more complex than that and he did use the term psychotherapy when he chose to understand it in a totally non-medical sense and that’s how I use it. I use it to mean therapy in Greek means a certain way certain way of attending and means the soul. So I I’m I’m I’ve got no objection to calling what I’m doing attending on the soul of the people who come to me and of course soul doesn’t mean what what it has come to me in some sort of disembodied entity.
Soul Opsuhe according to Aristotle means something like the ground and manner of one’s relationship to all that is. So I’ve got no objection to to saying that I work on at at attending to the ground and relationship of somebody’s relation to all that is.
That’s what I mean by psychotherapy and that’s what Tom meant by psychotherapy and he was quite happy to use the term sometimes so that for example at a seminar in 2007 somebody asked him right at the beginning professor says you know you’re you’re you’re very much against psychiatry but I have the that you think that psychotherapy can be something worthwhile and Tom said oh yes psychotherapy I I think psychotherapy is one of the most worthwhile things in the world.
Now there’s any number there’s any number of people who if if I didn’t have if I didn’t have that on a recording would simply say that I was lying or deluded because that they’re convinced that SAS was I mean you you mentioned the outset that people have got you know wrong ideas about SARS. Well one of the wrong ideas which I’ve seen in Prince in numerable times is that he was against psychotherapy.
He that he wanted to abolish it. Well I mean that there was one person who wrote a book in the 1980s. That was Jeffrey Musayev Mason. He wrote the book against therapy. And he actually ended up saying that we could look forward to the day when psychotherapy would be a polished. Um and I I met I I I had met him before he’d written this book we were we were both speaking at a conference somewhere and I’d become quite friendly with him and so I I at another conference he was talking and yeah I I was in the audience and I asked him a question there and so he recognised me and then sort of beckoned me to come up and sort of sit with him you know on the platform so we could carry on talking there and I I then put it to him you you said at the end of your book against therapy that we could look forward to the abolition of psychotherapy and I said I’m actually a friend of the man who is the chairman of the psycho analysts of what was in the Stalinist time and he vividly described to me the experience of doing psychoanalysis under that under starlinism in which neither the analyst nor the analyzand knew whether the other person was a secret policeman and so so was Mason hoping for the you know to make psychotherapy illegal in to to ban and abolish psychoanalysis.
I I and I and I I used SAS as an example then. I said when Thomas Szasz says that he wants to abolish involuntary psychiatry and the insanity defense. He means exactly what he says. He he he wants to pass a law making making involuntary psychiatry illegal. And and and this is a quite practical project. You know just like making slavery illegal and in fact SAS explicitly compares his proposal to involuntary psychiatry illegal he compares it explicitly to the successful legal abolition of slavery and so what what do you actually mean when you talk about the abolition of psychotherapy and all Mason could do would just sort of waffle and say no well no he he just hoped it would sort of fade away or something like that so it it was really just waffle but there are plenty plenty of people write books and just casually say that SAS wants to abolish psychotherapy What’s nonsense? Um Saz spoke to me many times about psychotherapy in a very intimate kind of way and as a matter of fact he he he actually said I was the only person that he could talk to about psychotherapy.
Um and it had something to do with this this sort of deep deep religious sense I can only describe it as that he had about it. Even even while being a a an out and out atheist as he quite rightly said. I mean he nevertheless he he had a sort of awe you know kind of divine awe for the possibilities of psychotherapy thought this was a wonderful thing that Freud had invented.
He I mean he was full of contempt for Freud’s pseudoscientific theories but he thought it was a wonderful thing that Freud had pioneered the possibility of two people getting together so that one could simply attend to the soul or the the the urge to repentance of the other not SART but SARS SAS talked quite explicitly about psychotherapy as like like the cure of souls giving people a possibility for repentance.
I mean you you won’t hear that from many of the Sasians.
I mean this this is one way in which I don’t agree with a a lot of what is written even by people who claim to be close to Sas and to know what he’s thinking. Um this this idea of repentance for example. It’s all there in black and white in in the book the myth of psychotherapy. Um Saz also talked to in in these kind of religious terms. I I once said to him that I found his atheism deeply religious. And he’s and and he and and he said yes. He said in all seriousness he he said yes.
That’s how I think of it too.
And and oh yes and I I didn’t finish I didn’t finish what I was saying about how how people just take for granted that he was you know he thought he should only do psychotherapy for money. I mean this is this is one of the things that of course people are very indignant about. You know they they think he’s walking away from all these poor starving people. The rejects of society.
He only wants to work with rich people who are going to pay him. I mean this is one of the libels against him by people who simply don’t don’t read what he wrote and don’t don’t know how he thought. Um Of course he he wrote again and again and particularly in the ethics of psychoanalysis. Um if you are doing psychotherapy you know in private practice that then of course you’re going to charge and I mean and and unless you’re a philanthropist who’s going to do it all for nothing but you’re you’re going to be you’re going to charge and then Szasz says just how important it is to keep the contract and to be quite clear what it is you’re selling and and he argued that all the talk about the power of the therapist you know the power relation he thought all of that was nonsense he thought all the all the power was with the client.
He said the the the client is hiring you and he can sack you. So who’s got the power? It’s the client. You’ve you’ve you’ve got to you’ve gotta prove that you’re worth your keep. Simple as that. He he he wouldn’t accept any of this the the usual kind of power dynamics that people talk about. Um So so so he certainly said that that you that if you’ve got a contract then you honour it.
And and you and and you insist on the patient honouring it. So you don’t allow him to run up a big bill. You know if he if he if he doesn’t pay she doesn’t pay then you say sorry you know I’ll wait until you’ve got enough money to pay again. Um and for example he was deeply critical of Freud who had a patient a woman patient whose husband was being dilitry in sending her money out of which she would pay Freud and so Freud sort of magnanimously says that he will lend the woman some money so that she can get by until her husband pays up and SAS is extremely critical that Freud for this and says that it’s it’s morally exactly equivalent to the man with whole his sexual services from his wife and Freud offering his sexual services for the husband’s sexual services until the husband decides he wants to resume.
And I I so Saz was absolutely clear about this sort of thing about collusion and games playing he wanted no nonsense, absolute clarity, absolute straightforwardness about who was responsible for what, who was selling what and so on.
Bob that’s not the end of it. And this is where people find it very difficult to believe me but I’ve got it I’ve got it in writing printed in emails and I’ve also got it on sound recording. Uh he thought he he he actually wrote to me since what we’re doing in psychotherapy is really being simply human isn’t there isn’t there something wrong about making a profession of it? And he then he said well he said actually it’s a pseudo problem.
Our forefathers solved it.
The way they solved it was that first of all you had an honest trade. You know you you were a teacher, you’re a tailor, basket maker, something like that, that’s how you made your living and then in your spare time you were a rabbi.
Hm. That’s what he said and and he he that was that was actually his ideal for psychotherapy. That you shouldn’t be paid for it. That that it should be a a kind of ordinary human kindness as it were that you did in your spare time. You know that I mean the the first rabbis and priests were not paid. They were not paid professionals although they might be they might be they came to be supported by their communities but not always I mean they could just be basket makers or whatever and and then they did a bit of spiritual counselling in their spare time and of course Freud Saz liked very much the Freud’s description of what psychoanalysis was in the question of lay analysis because Freud said that psychoanalysis is is nothing medical it’s which means worldly care of the soul that I mean that’s almost identical to Szasz’s idea of the cure of souls but without the sort of religious ideology.
Secular postural counselling. So Freud and Saz are at one in the the only difference is that Freud was inconsistent and he would he would slip back into medicalizing and sort of trying to turn it all into natural science and so on but but but Freud was quite fierce about the idea that psychoanalysis was not a medical discipline. This was an another thing that confirmed him in the idea that America was a gigantic mistake because the American psychoanalysts insisted that their members should all be doctors. And Freud thought this was completely decadent and completely wrong. That they had completely missed the point which was that psychoanalysis was non-medical.
So so in that respect Freud Freud you could say was a a Sassian I I think that Saz in in the mismith of psychotherapy pointed out a few times where Freud went back and forth on that. When it when it suited his needs for example you know training his daughter of course it wasn’t a medical issue. Uh but then in in other circumstances he he has quotes from Freud saying oh of course it’s a medical issue.
So did you also see that he went back and forth on that? Uh that that that’s absolutely right. Freud Freud was Freud was a Great one for having his cake and eating it and so was Young. Young was also contradictory in this respect. You know both both of them will will sort of unbusheringly talk about the analyst as the doctor and the patient but then on on other occasions they they will say you know the analyst doesn’t have to be a doctor but yeah.
Yeah. Um yeah I I was just going to say so I mean this this is So really what I’ve been telling you about is is Sazi’s philosophy of of of mental illness which also of course implies that he didn’t believe in mental health. Um I’ll come back to that perhaps after a bit but but in so far as it is relevant to the practice of so-called psychotherapy and so I I just want to try to make clear that Szasz did believe in psychotherapy very deeply.
It it was something that as I say he was was very close to his heart and he believed in good psychotherapy. Of course he thought that what most psychotherapists do most of the time is nonsense. But but but that that didn’t that didn’t affect his his faith in the possibility of decent deep good wholesome enlightening so-called psychotherapy. I I mean he he tried to coin new term for it.
I I he talked about autonomous psychotherapy in the myth of in the the ethics of psychoanalysis and in the myth of psychotherapy he coined another term a yatrologic. But I mean that seems to me at least as bad as psychotherapy because yatro means you know Yatros is a doctor. So I mean that looks at least as medical or if not more medical than the term Psychotherapy.
I mean Ayastro is is it occurs in the word psychiatry which means you know doctor of the soul. And so how are you improving on on the word psychotherapy by calling it a yatrologic. So that’s not one of Tom’s final moments I think. And he himself dropped that dropped the idea after having introduced it. I don’t think he ever pushed for that word. Um and the subtitle religion, rhetoric and repression.
Religion, rhetoric and repression is the subtitle of the myth of psychotherapy.
And and and he when he talks about rhetoric he talks about it in the style of of actually talking and speaking well rather than some kind of salesman type thing. I Is that true? Oh yes. Nothing to do with being a salesman. It’s rhetoric in the deep sense of I mean he’s he said how can how can how can one can how can one pretend that when two peoples are speaking together they are not influencing one another and and rhetoric is the art of influencing other people so therefore psychotherapy pretty much by definition is a form of rhetoric not in the form of fancy words to seduce the other but sort of deep words, profound words and and a profound way of speaking which is going to be of benefit to the other and I mean this is going back I mean this this is what Saz calls noble rhetoric that as a as opposed to the base rhetoric of seducing people with with fancy words so so he saw almost all psychoanalytic theories, psycho psychoanalytic and psychological terms as base rhetoric that they’re a way of seducing and corrupting people but that didn’t mean that he didn’t believe in any sort of rhetoric.
He believed in the noble rhetoric of authentic psychotherapy.
Yeah yeah. Why do you think it’s so hard for people to understand SAS and to to wrap their minds around what he was trying to say? Right. Well this brings me to you see I’ve hardly mentioned I I’ve I’ve been focusing so far on psychotherapy but when Tom himself did his first seminar for me, he did three seminars and the very first one was called on psychotherapy but the day went on and the day went on and he scarcely mentioned psychotherapy and he was talking all about the law and people being locked up and people being excused for crimes who should be locked up or should be punished and things like this and it must have been rather disconcerting to people who were expecting to come along and be told don’t know techniques of psychotherapy or tricks of the trade or something and I mentioned to him in the lunch hour that people would probably be thinking that and he said yeah yeah but but he says that I’m I’m doing the groundwork and so everything that I’ve been saying to you so far has scarcely been mentioning something which was only only very glancingly touched on in the book The Myth of Mental Illness and that is what says called the Siamese twins of involuntary psychiatry that’s compulsory psychiatry on the one hand and the insanity defence on the other hand because a consequence or a or a a a justification a pseudo justification of the whole concept of mental health and mental illness is a Um to make to rationalise or to to justify those two practices that is locking up the innocent and excusing the guilty.
Locking up the innocent is compulsory incarceration of people simply on the grounds that they are mentally ill and excusing the guilty is making the defence that some who’s committed a crime is not really guilty of it because they were not really responsible because they were mentally ill. So so the says these are kind of Sime’s twins. They go together compulsory psychiatry and the insanity defence both of them based on the myth of mental illness.
Um So and and this and this was really possibly I should even have put sort of put the argument Tom’s sort of fundamental argument this way round. Well this is the way that he came to his thinking. But I I I’ve been telling you about the way that I came to my thinking and to my understanding of him. Um but he he doesn’t really explain in the myth of mental illness how how he came to his position.
The the way he came to his position was from war with with a an a woman servant of his family who was a sort of governance, not exactly. She would take him on walks around Budapest and she would point out buildings to him and big buildings and he learned that there were places called prisons where people who had committed crimes were locked up and there were places called hospitals where people weren’t locked up, the people went there voluntarily to be cured of or helped because they were ill.
There was a third sort of big building which was called a mental hospital or might even have been called a lunatic asylum no I I I think by that time it was called a mental hospital because the little boy Tom Thomas said to his his governors but the places where they where they lock up the the so-called crazy people they should they shouldn’t really be called hospitals.
They should they too should be called prisons.
So I mean so so Saaz was a little bit like Einstein. I mean Einstein didn’t know what as a child recognised that he didn’t know what everybody else knew. Everybody else knew what space and time were. But he recognised that he didn’t know and to begin with he was something wrong with him because he he didn’t understand but through his not understanding he came on the theory of relativity and realised that actually the people who thought they knew didn’t know that they didn’t know and similarly with Tom he he he he was like the little boy who saw that the emperor had no clothes.
He he he just had this single simple insight as a as a boy that places called mental hospitals were not hospitals but they were prisons and out of that came all of his thinking. He and he never changed his mind about that. He he says he never had to unlearn the concept of mental illness because he had never ever believed in the concept of mental illness. As as soon as he encountered it he thought there’s something suspicious, fishy about it.
The more he thought about it the more the more he thought he must be right. Um So So his so gone. Did didn’t he also mention that there was a statue of Ignas Semovice who said that you must wash your hands. Doctors need to wash their hands and everyone called him crazy and he was thrown in a mental hospital and died a few days later and wasn’t and I believe he was Semovice was Hungarian as well.
Yes he he does say that.
Semovice was a was a great hero of his and and and he he took that as encouragement you know that the doctors could be wrong and that a terribly simple observation might be right. I mean what you know what could be simpler than noticing that doctors had dirty hands and didn’t wash them before they touched women’s genitalia.
And so so Tom’s thought is basically incredibly simple.
Um just as Einstein’s was. You know the the the basic perception that that he didn’t he he simply didn’t really understand space and time. Um And and so so what I’m saying about psychotherapy Tom himself might have not been very happy about the way even that I have introduced his thinking to you. Well sorry I mean you know you you know his thinking already but if other people are going to be hearing this I I’ve I’ve given you the history of how I came to Sassy’s thinking but the the order that he preferred to put it in both in telling his own autobiography and also in the seminar he did for me as I said it the order he put wanted to put it in was first of all first of all talking about the conditions under which somebody gets locked up or the and the or the yeah that’s basically it or gets accused of a crime and what makes somebody guilty of a crime what are the reasons for which they can be incarcerated? What are the reasons how how how how does it come about that they can be incarcerated even if they’re not guilty and how does it come about that they can be let off and not incarcerated even if they are guilty.
Um so these are the primary questions if you like from which the incredibly simple basic questions within which all this talk about psychotherapy should be taking place so that if if I mean if a psychotherapist is not clear about this then the psychotherapist may well do what many of them do and when things get tricky in the psychotherapy then they call in a psychiatrist because these are the people who know when people need to be locked up because they’re mentally ill and so the whole of the psychotherapy takes place within this whole ideology of mental illness and mental health.
Uh so really the most fundamental questions for SARS of these terribly simple questions of liberty and freedom and responsibility and differentiating these questions from questions of health and illness.
He’s he’s simply pointing out that there’s a fundamental confusion between questions of health on the one hand and of ethics or law on the other hand. And it’s true that traditionally I I mean if if you look up the word ill or the word health in an etymological dictionary or any good dictionary you’ll find that originally they are sort of ambiguous.
I mean Shakespeare talks about the ills that flesh is heir to. Um he doesn’t actually mean only I mean when he says flesh. He he doesn’t actually only mean the body I think. He means you know that human beings. So ills can be ills can be sort of physical illness or they can be emotional ills or moral ills or it’s it’s it’s both but but when people use the word mental health or mental illness now.
Um they do not mean it in the traditional way. They mean it in a they mean those terms in a way which is hijacking or which is parasitic on the truly advanced and admirable modern science of medicine they’re they’re it it’s a pretense that what Szasz calls problems in living which are basically ultimately the questions of how how should one live how does one live the ethical and ethical and religious practical problems.
They’re they’re not medical problems. Medical problems as as you know the the usual sort of things. We know as medical problems of broken leg. Um a fever from a virus. This sort of thing. Um these these are being confused and that the whole language of medical ills and medical health is being applied to so-called moral ethical, spiritual ills and health.
So so successes Sassy’s whole attack is on the whole system of mental health and when when you say that you have the feeling that many people even I think you’re implying that even people who sort of say that they agree with SARS don’t actually understand him. I I certainly think this is the case. I think that both his adversaries and his most of his advocates don’t really understand him.
Um I mean many many so-called mental health professionals will tell you. Um oh yes Saz well I haven’t read I haven’t read him of course but I I know that he was I I I know he was very important and and I know that he he he taught people they shouldn’t use the word mental illness and so so we mental health professionals we don’t talk about mental illness anymore.
We we talk about mental disorders or we talk about we talk about mental health issues. And I mean I I heard Obama in a broadcast wondering he got himself tied into knots because he he found that he’d almost got himself to the point of saying mental illness and he wasn’t sure how to get out of it. Because I mean saying mental illness is a bit like saying nick or something like that.
I think you you may have to edit that out but I’m not that. Um you know it’s a dirty word it it’s it’s offensive but there’s nothing factually wrong with it you know I mean the word simply means black and and and similarly people people behave as if as if mental illness is not to be used according to Zaz because it’s offensive.
It’s an offensive term which may upset people or make them feel stigmatised. I mean it’s it’s completely stupid and and so you find Obama saying that mental health he he he found that he was about to describe what people in less politically correct times would have called mental illnesses and so he got as far as the word mental and he wasn’t sure what he was going to say.
So he said mental health illnesses.
And and I can prove that he said it. Not because I’ve got a recording of it but because the the speech of his was actually transcribed and published and I saw it the other day and there it is in black and white. Mental health illnesses.
Yeah and I mean the the the whole thing is so absurd. Um and and people so so most of the people who say they agree with SAS have got no idea what it is they’re agreeing with because the whole point of what SAS is doing is throwing out this the whole concept of mental and mental illness together as a total mystification and mythology.
He’s throwing he’s he’s throwing the whole lot out. He’s far more revolutionary and radical than people realise. He’s not just saying something politically correct and suggesting a less offensive language. Um there was a letter in the London Guardian last week. It was it was very good. Um it was criticizing the way people were reducing all emotional spiritual social difficulties people were having because of the the lockdown because of the virus they were sort of blandly talking about all of them as mental health problems I I thought it was very good that this lady was criticising that but she she she ruined her case by beginning it by saying that mental health professionals will be concerned that etcetera so so she was validating the whole concept of mental health professionals in the very first sentence which sort of undermined the rest of her letter.
I mean I just don’t believe in mental health professionals. I I I wrote a short article with the title why I’m not a health professional.
Yeah, that that article that you wrote was was very good and it’s it’s on your website so I’ll link to it in the notes but basically, you say in there, you know, you’re helping people live their lives better and that may or may not enhance their physical well-being. I mean, if someone’s wants to be an incredible rock climber, that might be a very dangerous activity but that might be how they want to live their life the most.
Yeah. Yeah. Up ups up it’s and I actually wrote that article in response to somebody who had attacked me because I had supported somebody else who was a a a woman who had written something opposing the the registration of psychotherapists by something called the health professions council. This this was going to be happening in the first decade of the 21st century and this had gone a long way towards being realised all this psychotherapy organizations like the well I won’t name them but there are number of psychotherapy and psychoanalytic organizations that were falling over themselves begging the government to register them to you know to to sort of legalize them that they I mean they needed no legalizing I mean not not in this country this is a wonderful country where we don’t have the Napoleonic code which tells you what you can do.
We’re free to do what we likes. We’re free to do anything unless it’s explicitly forbidden. And the and so so all sorts of things which in some other countries are very difficult like getting permission for non-medical therapists to practice simply didn’t arise here for example when the Freudian refugees from Vienna came here. There there was no difficulty about Anna Freud or Melanie Klein practicing psychoanalysis even though they went doctors for the simple reason that it wasn’t forbidden in British law.
But on the continent it’s much more difficult because you know in order to do something like that it it it has to be explicitly permitted by the law before you can do it. Um so I I mean I think Freud and Anna Freud and Melanie Klein when they came here and Ernest Jones although the the early psychoanalysts they would have thought it was extremely undignified and unseemly all all the psychotherapists at the end of the 20th century in the beginning of the 21st century scram to beg the government to register them and legitimate them.
Horrible and very extremely undignified and so there was a small minority of psychotherapists including myself who opposed this and one woman had written something opposing it and saying why should she as a psychotherapist be registered by the health professions council you know she said that her position was something like a chaplain in a hospital. You know that chaplain wasn’t practicing a health profession.
Um and nor was she. Um and so I wrote something agreeing with her and and and her defence saying as you saw you know why I’m not a health profession no no sorry that’s not correct I I I I wrote a letter in response to her and in it I said ours is not a health profession and then somebody wrote back and accused me of splitting splitting body from mind and working against wholeness because I was saying that psychotherapy was not a health profession I thought this was a a weaselly sort of argument.
The argument about wholeness is I I find a dishonest one because you can sort of argue almost anything from wholeness. Um you you can say that I mean if if wholeness is the sort of totality of what we do then why why should our physical why why should health be the the thing that characterises it anymore than ethics. You know if if wholeness is a sort of unity of medical health and of ethics why should you characterise it by by by the medical part of it so so rather than the ethical part and so so it it seemed to me simply dishonest and so and so I I was arguing that what what I and other psychotherapists do simply is is not a health profession.
I was I was just continuing with Freud’s position you know many decades earlier in which he had argued the case that psychoanalysis was not a medical profession.
Right. Is it still legal to practice in the UK without a license? Oh yeah I I forgot I forgot to tell you the punchline of this. It was very amusing.
So most of the psychotherapists were getting more and were rubbing their hands in glee. Any minute now they were going to be registered and they could congratulate themselves that they were all in a state registered. They were they they were registered by the state as psychotherapists. I mean Freud would have thought this was a terrible cop out a sell out. Um and it it was coming very close to that but then in the year 2010 there was an an election and a new government it was actually a coalition government which had its own problems not least through the fact that it was for the first time from you know long long time.
It it was a coalition and so they weren’t bothered about what psychotherapists were doing and so they just said that. They they said we’ve got no interest in registering psycho and that was that. Um and and and so thank God therapists are still not state registered. I mean of course there are there are good reasons I think why why doctors should be because there is an there is an objective science of medicine and there are good reasons why there’s the cancer act in which it’s it’s forbidden to claim that you have a cure for cancer for example.
Um But I mean in in the field of psychotherapy the the there there is no there is no equivalent science but the reason they want to be registered is that they want to pretend that there is an equivalent science. They want to claim the sort of equivalent status.
The the well-deserved status of medical doctors, a serious scientists.
Yeah, yeah. I think perhaps SARS would have even analogized it to that they wanted to, you know, a lot of people I think view the state as as a god these days and and they they view the state as as the official religion and if they can get ordained into that religion then that that will help them out in some way or they can be brought into the fold of of the mainstream religion. Do you think that may have something to do with that? Absolutely.
The I mean when I when I say that when I say that his attitude was religious of course his attitude was totally against theocracy and he coined the word pharmacracy to mean the you know the therapeutic state the the yes and and it it it was a it it was a kind of religion in in the worst sense. A sort of fundamentalist fanatical religion and actually a form of terrorism because I mean it must be terrifying to get locked up as a psychiatric patient.
Um I mean we we’ve covered so much here and I I I appreciate your time. I know it’s getting late there in London so I I won’t keep you longer than you than you would like to stay. Well it’s no problem. It seemed quite short to me as well but I mean you you just finish it when when you feel when you feel you’ve had enough. Oh well yeah do you think are are how are these ideas accepted in the UK versus the US. Do you have any sense of that? Oh I’m not competent to compare them.
All I can tell you is that my impression is that they are hardly really recognized anywhere. Um I mean people will Well in Safari’s his ideas are recognised at all. They’re usually not attributed to him anyway. They’re not credited to him. Um I mean somebody wrote a paper maybe about 20 years ago with the title diagnosis is not a disease or something like that. Well I mean that was a straight plagiarism from Thomas Szasz. Um when I criticized the person in question I I said but that title was that was Szasz’s title.
Um his answer was just well it’s mine as well.
Um no footnotes to Sas? I don’t know no. Yeah. And but but but even even even when his ideas are plagiarized they’re terribly watered down.
That I mean it’s very very rare to find anybody who actually advocates what he was advocating. Uh It When his ideas are accepted? I mean he he analogized it to slavery as you know at the time noone thought that a a black person be should be free but or very few people probably did but but the time eventually came where that happened. You think there will be a time when Sasa’s ideas are accepted as mainstream? I’m just not a prophet and I I I really don’t know.
I mean he and Estherson I mean Estherson was probably the closest to his thinking in this country. Estherson and I myself and Estherson thought that his ideas might take three or 400 years really to be accepted. Um SAS said exactly the same thing to me. He was he was fairly pessimistic about the immediate future. I mean he he thought that he thought that psychotherapy was was pretty much finished in the United States because Well first of all I don’t know whether you know but he himself stopped practicing as a psychotherapist because he was sued because a patient of his had committed suicide I I mean quite a long time after the patient had actually left had stopped having analysis therapy with him but I think the widow of this patient nevertheless sued says for not having prevented this suicide I think the insurers simply recognise says that it would be safer simply to settle not not not to not not to contest it in court and that’s what he did and he he just decided the whole thing was getting so ridiculous and hopeless.
He he stopped practicing psychotherapy from that time on. I think this was sometime in his 70s and he simply focused on writing his books. Uh I mean in a sense good came out of it because he wrote a incredible sort of flowering of books in his last decade between the year 2000 and his death or basically between 2000 and 2010, he wrote 10 magnificent books I mean they’re quite a big proportion of his total earth.
He wrote 3five books altogether and 10 of them he wrote between the ages of 80 and 90.
Incredible. Yeah and they’re very succinct very well written books. Very well. He was able to do that. How how did he I mean what was his process like to keep up that level of productivity? I I don’t quite know what the question means. I mean all all I all I know I don’t know what the process means. I mean all I know is that he did keep up the I think I mean did he ultimately be that he chose he’d I think that’s what he chose to do. He he decided that he was free to make the best use he could of what was left to him of life and that’s what that’s how he chose to make use of it and and and he and he achieved it.
Yeah. Yeah I mean his writing is so incredibly clear, concise, it really makes you think and the the fact that he was able to do that into his a and nineties is just incredible. Was he still emailing with you when he was in his 90s? Was was he? What in his 90s? Was he still able to use email with you when he was in his nineties? Yeah he he he we carried on email correspondents up to few days before he died.
His last email as far as I remember I think we are exchanging jokes about the anti-Semitic leader of a political party in Hungary who had turned out to be Jewish or something like that. It we would have been you know a lot of a lot of our correspondents was really quite you know humorous and I mean serious but humorous. I think that was the very last thing but we we were I mean we we were talking we we were constantly talking working out theory if you like.
Sort of theory in the in the true sense which mean I mean sort of reflecting on practice reflecting on on this this whole world on the ethics of psychiatry and psychotherapy and so on. Um we we we would correspond I mean sometimes you know several times a day and usually probably several times a week he he he was a very very close friend really in in those last years.
Yeah. So it’s and it certainly didn’t it it didn’t there was no He he I I think he he did he did decide that the last book that he wrote would be his last book. I think he I think I remember him saying that but he and and his last book was about suicide. And I I don’t know whether you know you you know that he committed suicide.
Yeah. Yeah. So so I I think he was probably thinking that I mean he the last thing he wanted was to carry on and be dependent on anybody else and so he I think he he was arranging it. He was he was planning it. Um he was timing it, timing himself. Um he was very disciplined. I mean he would walk an hour a day.
Um it was to keep himself physically fit. And he carried on doing that as far as I know pretty much up to the end. Um and and he I think he could have gone on for some years more but he had a fall. He he was always in the last decade or when I knew him he was worried about having a fall because his bones were brittle and he knew that was dangerous and he objected very strongly when I booked him a hotel room with a shower and bath in it and didn’t have a proper handle that he could hold onto to stop himself falling.
Um and and then he did have a fall and he he broke his spine incredibly painfully and he refused to stay in hospital as he was recommended and he was given some pills and I I think he took all these pills and maybe some other pills. I don’t know all the details but anyway he he just decided he didn’t want the indignity of carrying on being depend on anybody.
And and but fortunately he had achieved this magnificent body of work which he had already decided was was complete. At least the book his his series of books was complete. He he did carry on writing a few articles in his last year or two.
What do you think what what was your what was your most fond memory that you have of Saz? Do you have something in mind that you would be willing to share? The most fond memory or fond. Yeah. Fond. Fond. Fond.
It’s difficult to choose just one. I mean there there were many many occasions when his deep warmth and affection and sort of fundamental decency and sweetness was manifest in in a way that people didn’t didn’t realise just what a decent loving sort of man he was. Um although you some of it was it it was evident really if you saw him just answering questions in after he’d given a lecture or in a seminar he was he was very respectful of every question of every questionnaire.
He would take every question and say that’s a really good question and he would kind of relish it and he would see what could come out of that question. Thank you very much. Thank you for that question. Um fond fond memories the first one that came to mind was I stayed with him a number of times in Manlius where he lived near Syracuse where he was the professor Ameritus at the university and the last time I stayed there we used to go out and get a sort of late breakfast every morning in a place called Dave’s Diner.
It would be a kind of brunch. We would have two meals a day. Brunch and then evening meal at another restaurant. And Dave’s Diner we were very fond of but this last day it it happened to be full up and so we he drove me to another restaurant cafe and we went and it it wasn’t so nice. It didn’t have the same character as Dave’s diner. So we were a little bit disappointed and I don’t quite know what started him on this train of thought but possibly sort of association of people going on a journey to to to somewhere where you would be fed and then having a not very good experience when you got there.
Anyway for whatever reason I suddenly realised that he was asking me he said what’s it all about? You know what what what do you think it’s all about? What what does what does Judaism think it’s all about? Because he he’d been interested in learning about the Jewish religion from me because he really had a very conventional sort of assimilated Jew Kwazi Christian sort of knowledge superficial knowledge and and in fact you know about Judaism and he said so you know what what’s what’s the Jewish attitude on what it’s all about and he explained why he was asking the the he he said that you know when you think about some of the things that go on in the universe you know it could lead to a very bleak picture of things and the example he gave was of animals which crossed the desert in Africa I think.
They would they would walk they would track hundreds of miles I think he said to get to a watering hole.
And when they got there they were eaten by the predators that had been patiently waiting for them to come.
And so his question was you know what is this all about? What’s that all for? Uh and in and specifically what is the Jewish take on that? So I sort of mumbled something about I I I said well I suppose the traditional Jewish idea is that God made human beings in God’s image with the idea that they should collaborate with him in the sort of creation and improvement of the world and and the way that they were supposed to do that was by leading a decent life and loving their neighbours and loving strangers.
And he sort of looked up and he looked around and then the most enchanting smile came onto his face and he said it’s been quite a successful experiment don’t you think? And and the the people he was looking at I had been feeling very turned off by the I mean they were very obese almost like a parody of sort of gross obese Americans stuffing themselves and their families with what we call ships over here I don’t think it means the same as trips in the state you know French fries yeah French fries french fries and whipped cream and sorry you know pretty disgusting they’re also stuffing themselves and but Tom looked around and you know and I I had been saying this about what it was all about was leading a decent life and loving in neighbours and loving strangers and I had I had been looking you know actually with some sort of hostility at these I thought rather sort of vulgar strangers.
I wasn’t loving them but he looked around in this loving way and and he he obviously saw that he sort of seemed to be seeing to the heart of them and seeing that beyond all this superficial stuff in themselves they were basically decent people and that You know they they would have loved their neighbours. They would have opened the door to a stranger.
He could he somehow I I I could just see him from his smile thinking that and and he confirmed it by saying it’s it’s been quite a successful experiment don’t you think? So that his original sort of gloom when he was asking about these creatures had turned into a a sort of vision that that the world was basically good. You know like when God created the world and he’s you know he looked at everything and he saw it was good.
It it it was rather it shook me rather like that. Tom was thinking basically the world is a good place and people are basically good at heart you know and that that was this was the last day I saw him. Um a few hours later I flew back to England and I never saw him again. So that was a very happy lost memory or almost lost memory.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I sure appreciate you sharing that with me and I I would have loved to meet him but I didn’t learn about Sas until after he died but well I’m I’m sorry you didn’t. Sorry you didn’t. But he but he he was he was what we call him a mench. He he was a he was a real he was a real human being.
With with you know with his faults. I mean and and his books contain mistakes and sloppinesses and Simple errors. You know his books are not perfect but they’re they’re pretty good.
Well Anthony I sure appreciate you taking the time tonight to talk with me and come on this call and I I’d be more than happy to have you back anytime to talk about Sauce and his ideas but we’re coming up on two hours so I think we’ll we’ll end it here and that comes out and I I’ll put in some show notes and and release it to you. Thank you very much. Yeah. You’re always welcome to come back for more if you if you want to. Next Excellent. Well, take care. Have a great night.
Thank you. Thank you for asking me. Bye bye. Bye.