In the 1830s the fate and character of the foundling, Kaspar Hauser, aroused fascination, indignation and political controversy. His name was as well known to European newspaper readers as that of Dreyfus at the turn of the century. Kaspar was one of the most famous people in Europe. During the few years between the discovery of the unfortunate boy tottering down a street in Nuremberg and his murder, a visit to Kaspar Hauser was considered part of the Grand Tour for distinguished visitors to the kingdom of Bavaria. Despite the many books and thousands of publications about Kaspar Hauser, his story has not, as far as I know, been the subject of psychoanalytic investigation. The case of Kaspar Hauser can teach us much about child development under conditions of deprivation. and is of especial interest to those concerned with that crime for which Ibsen (1896) declared there is no forgiveness: soul murder (p. 246). The term soul murder was probably coined by the compassionate jurist, Anselm von Feuerbach, who wrote a widely read (and widely translated) pamphlet on Kaspar Hauser in 1832. Von Feuerbach was a distinguished judge. He was a reformer of penal laws who had drawn up a new penal code for the kingdom of Bavaria which was used as a model by many of the other German states. It is likely that his book on Kaspar was read by the judge Daniel 'Paul Schreber whose use of the phrase soul murder in his Memoirs (1903) caused it to become well known in psychiatric circles. (Freud's famous study of paranoia based on Schreber's book appeared in 1911.) Soul murder refers to killing the joy in life and interfering with the sense of identity of another human being. It is primarily a crime committed against children (see Shengold, 1975a,b).
Part of the explanation for the neglect by psychoanalysts may be that the facts of the Kaspar Hauser case have never been definitively established. Those critics who have declared that Kaspar Hauser was an impostor and a simulator are in the minority, but they have not been, and perhaps never can be, completely refuted. Psychoanalysis requires that the patient has, or at least will ultimately acquire, the motivation to tell the truth. And if Kaspar were a willful liar, then psychoanalytic understanding of his story is compromised. I am aware of this risk, and of the weak position of the psychohistorian and the psycho-biographer who are obliged to derive their data from the unprivileged distance of secondary written sources and not from a patient in analysis. With Kaspar Hauser I have proceeded under the assumptionwhich can be questionedthat his original story was, by and large, the truth as best he could tell it. This is my own impression derived from reading the source material; it is supported by the fact that all the original witnesses of Kaspar in Nuremberg who had the opportunity to study him, believed in him (see Zingg, 1939, pp. 276, 295). Handwriting experts and professional and amateur students of crime have defended Kaspar's veracity, but there is also a considerable literature of disbelief. I fall back on the secondary assumption that if Kaspar Hauser was an impostor, he was an impostor of genius, and that his story still has relevance to students of soul murder (as does the fiction of Dostoevsky, Strindberg, Ibsen and other great literary geniuses who used the term or the concept in their work.)
The English translation of von Feuerbach's (1832) book has a long title which summarizes its story: Kaspar Hauser. An Account of an Individual Kept in a Dungeon, Separated From all Communication With the World, From Early Childhood to About the Age of Seventeen. Kaspar 'came into the world' (p. 40), as he put it, on 26 May 1828, when he was discovered stumbling down a Nuremberg street, carrying a letter addressed to the Captain of Cavalry stationed in the town. Kaspar could neither stand nor walk properly. He appeared to be about 16 years old. He did not seem to understand the questions put to him, and kept repeating a few barely intelligible phrases or words of jargon. (It was later discovered that he usually attached no particular meaning to his few sentences but expected them to convey whatever he had to express.) The boy's words were interspersed with groans, tears and unintelligible sounds. Here is von Feuerbach's description:
He appeared neither to know nor to suspect where he was. He betrayed neither fear, nor astonishment, nor confusion; he rather showed an almost brutish dullness...his tears and whimpering, while he was always pointing to his tottering feet, and his awkward and, as the same time, childish demeanour, soon excited the compassion of all present...his whole conduct...seemed to be that of a child scarcely two or three years old, with the body of a young man (pp. 3 4).
The boy showed aversion to all food but bread and water; he astonished the observers, when pen and paper were brought to him, by being able to letter out the name Kaspar Hauser. It seemed to be the only thing he could write. This ability made several of the policemen think the boy might be a deceiver. The official and casual observers had the definite impression that the boy was not insane, but a kind of 'human savage' (p. 5) - a 'natural man' (Rousseau was still fashionable, and so were tales of children brought up by animals). Von Feuerbach, who saw the boy shortly after the first observers in 1828, described him as seeming ' to hear without understanding, to see without perceiving, and to move his feet without knowing how to use them for the purpose of walking ' (p. 4).
Kaspar seemed 'mild, obedient and good-natured' (p. 71). He passively complied with the teasing and pestering of the hordes of visitors who came to stare at him as if he were a zoo animal when he was first lodged in the tower of the municipal jail. Kaspar kept his good humour even when subject to the 'not very humane experiments' (p. 71) of citizens who set out to be amateur psychologists. Indeed, Kaspar seemed incapable of anger. He appeared to be unable to differentiate between animate and inanimate objects: he had no sense of distance or perspective. He did not recognize himself in the mirror and kept looking for a person concealed behind it. He was bothered by light and habitually looked away from it, usually at his feet. His sleep had the quality of deepest hypnosisit was almost impossible to waken him. All this aroused the curiosity and sympathy of the citizens of Nuremberg who flocked to see the boy.
When found he had been dressed in old and ill-fitting clothes. He wore a white kerchief marked in red with the initials K.H. The letter he had been carrying was badly spelled; the writer called himself ' a poor day labourer (with) ten children...the mother of the child only put him in my house for the sake of having him brought up. But I have never been able to discover who his mother is.' The writer claimed that the boy had been with him for 16'years, since he was six months old, and that he had never been allowed out of the house. ' I have taught him to 'reed and write ' (p. 12) He had taken the boy to Nuremberg 'to become a cavalry soldier as his father was' [my italics; Kaspar kept repeating a phrase like this when he was first found]. The letter concluded: 'If you do not keep him, you may kill him, or hang him up the chimney' (p. 13). There was another note, written in Latin but by the same hand, supposedly from the boy's mother, asking the labourer to bring up and educate the child and then send him to Nuremberg when he became 17 years old; to the Sixth Regiment of Light Horse to which his 'father had belonged. This note ended: 'I am a poor girl and cannot support him. His father is dead' (p. 13). Handwriting experts have concluded that these two notes were not written by Kaspar himself.
What made the discovery of Kaspar a political issue was the legend that grew from an investigation of his originsa legend that was believed by many and that still has not been definitively disproved. Kaspar was alleged from the first to be the victim of an evil plotperhaps the illegitimate son of a high-born lady or a priest But what most took hold of the popular imagination was the story that Kaspar was the legitimate Crown Prince of Baden, son of Stephanie Beauharnais; this niece of Josephine Bonaparte had been given by Napoleon as wife to the reigning Grand Duke Charles of Baden. It was said that the child's kidnapping had been arranged by Charles's morganatic wife, the Countess of Hochberg, in order to get the throne for her own offspring. This seemingly wildly romantic tale (hinted at by the sober von Feuerbach) was taken up by anti-monarchists, and Kaspar's assassination in 1833 was widely believed to have been politically motivated. It was cited as an example of the iniquity of the nobility of Europe. Prince Metternich, an inveterate persecutor of anyone connected with Napoleon, was said to be one of the instigators of the plot. (The morganatic line of Hochberg did ascend to the throne of Baden shortly before Kaspar Hauser's release from confinement; see Zingg 1939, p. 276) The Baden story was supposedly disproved in 1875 by the publication of the records of baptism and of post-mortem examination, dated 1812, of the infant Crown Prince who was said to be kidnapped. But supporters of the legend maintained (based on 'documents' that can no longer be verifiedsee Evans, 1892) that a dead baby of a peasant girl was substituted for the true heir of the Grand Duke Charles, that the stolen baby (the Kaspar Hauser-to-be) was then put in the care of a wetnurse who was told he was the illegitimate son of an aristocratic lady. She kept him until he was three or four years old, after which he was brought up in the cellar that he remembered and described in 1828. (I shall discuss below the psychological basis for believing that there were three or four years of relatively adequate mothering for Kaspar.) Kaspar's fine, fair body skin, his delicate and beautifully formed hands and feetthe latter showing no signs of callouses ('as soft as the palms of his hands '; Feuerbach, 1832, p. 14) or of having worn shoes beneath the bleeding welts caused by the recently acquired bootsand a vaccination scar (an aristocratic designation in the early 19th century) all were cited to show the boy's aristocratic descent. A series of publications in the 1880s and 1890s (chiefly in England and Germany) revived the story of the stolen Baden heir. The truth seems beyond any establishing and, says the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1910, p. 70), 'the evidence is in any case in complete confusion'.
With the help of tutors, but especially due to the efforts of prison-keeper Hiltel's 11-year-old son Julius (a constant companion in the prison tower where Kaspar was first kept in Nuremberg), Kaspar soon learned to speak and became able to tell his story. The Mayor (Burgomeister) of Nuremberg had Kaspar brought to his home almost every day; he extracted a history from the boy which was later supplemented by Kaspar's own written narration. Binder's account is quoted from and commented on by von Feuerbach:
He neither knows who he is nor where his home is. It was only at Nuremberg that he came into the world [my italics; von Feuerbach, p. 46, calls this an expression Kaspar 'often uses to designate his exposure in Nuremberg, and his first awakening to the consciousness of mental life'.] Here he first learned that, beside himself and 'the man with whom he had always been', there existed men and other creatures. As long as he can recollect, he had always lived in a hole...which he sometimes calls a cage...where he had always sat upon the ground, with bare feet, and clothed only with a shirt and a pair of breeches (pp. 41-2).
Apparently Kaspar had been unable to stretch out his full length (this was confirmed by the peculiar configuration of his knees) and had slept sitting up with his feet extended. It was discovered that he had been habitually drugged with opium in his water (Kaspar recognized the taste when given a few drops in his water by his guardian). He never saw the face of the man; who brought him his food and water, cleaned him, changed his clothes and cut his nails while Kaspar was in his stuporous sleep. In the 'hole' he had two wooden horses and several ribbons, and playing with these was the main occupation he remembered. The 'hole' had been his universe:
How long he continued to live in this situation he knew not; for he had no knowledge of time. He knew not when or how he came thither. Nor had he any recollection of ever having been in a different situation, or in any other than in that place (pp.42-3)
Kaspar, while in the 'hole', had not had his narcissism checked by reality. He had considered himself 'as it were the only being of his kind' (p. 138). For some time before he had been taken to Nuremberg, the man 'with whom he had always been' had, standing behind him, taught him to spell out his name on paper by repeatedly guiding his hand. After that he spent much time lettering out his name. The man had also tried to teach him to walk. Formerly the man had almost never spoken to him, but he began to make Kaspar repeat the phrase about wanting to become a horseman like his father. Recounting this story evokes the moral indignation of the good von Feuerbach. He calls it an account of:
the criminal invasion of a human soul. Caspar's mental condition, during his dungeon life, must have been that of a human being immersed in his infancy, in a profound sleep, in which he was not conscious even of a dream.... He had continued in this stupor [my italics] until, affrighted with pain and apprehensions, he suddenly awoke, stunned with the wild and confused noises and the unintelligible impressions of a variegated world, without knowing what happened (P. 47).
Von Feuerbach's ' stupor' is more than a metaphor:
Caspar sinks, even yet, whenever he rides in a carriage or waggon, into a kind of death sleep, from which he does not easily awake...and, in this state, however roughly soever it may be done, he may be lifted up or laid down, and packed or unpacked, without his having the least perception of it. When sleep once has laid hold of him, no noise, no sound, no report, no thunder is loud enough to wake him (p. 50).
Kaspar was in what we would now call a hypnoid state, spontaneous and defensive as well as induced by opium. These alterations of consciousnessundoubtedly protectivemust have added to the boy's confusion. Von Feuerbach's accusation continues:
Not only the brutish den and crippling position to which he was confined, and his coarse diet...but (principally) the crude withholding from him of the most ordinary gifts, which nature with a liberal hand, extends even to the most indigent;the depriving him of all the means of mental development and culture,the unnatural detention of a human soul in a state of irrational animality [represents] an attempt...to exclude a man from nature and from all intercourse with rational beings, to change the course of his human destiny, and to withdraw from him all of the nourishment which nature has appointed for food to the human mind (p. 52)
Von Feuerbach, nurtured on Rousseau's Émile and using his common sense, clearly sees that deprivation has crushed the boy's emotional as well as mental development; and he sees the irreversibility of the deprivation:
Caspar, having been sunk during the whole of the earlier part of his life in animal sleep, has passed through this extensive and beautiful part of it, with out having lived through it. His existence was during all this time, similar to that of a person really dead; in having slept through his youthful years, they have passed by him, without his having had them in his possession; because he was rendered unable to become conscious of their existence. This chasm, which crime has torn in his life, cannot any more be filled up [von Feuerbach was writing while Kaspar was still alive and under his immediate observation]; that time, in which he omitted to live, can never be brought back, that it may be lived through; that juvenility, which fled while his soul was asleep, can never be overtaken. How long soever he may live, he must for ever remain a man within a childhood, and boyhood a monstrous being, who contrary to the usual course of nature only began to live n the middle of his life. Inasmuch as all the earlier part of his life was thus taken from him, he may be said to have been the subject of a partial soul-murder (p. 56; my italics).
Soul murder is achieved by a combination of torture, deprivation and brainwashing. One person who has absolute power over another enforces submission and an identification with the oppressor, who is justified or even idealized by the victim. (A modern instance of soul murder is to be found in Orwell's 1984 where the tortured and broken hero ends by 'loving' the 'Big Brother' responsible for his ruin. Orwell (1949) projected his own childhood experiences into the future.) The most likely victim of soul murder is a child, like Kaspar. I have stated elsewhere (Shengold, 1975a,b) following Orwell, that in order for soul murder to be effectivei.e. to maintain the break in identity and integritythe power of rational thought must be interfered with, the victim's ability to know what has happened to him must be compromised. Von Feuerbach sees the brainwashing:
The deed done to Caspar differs from the crime that would be committed by one who should plunge a man of sound intellect, at a later period, into a state of stupid idiocy, unconsciousness, or irrationality [this would apply to Winston Smith in 1984], only in respect to the different epoch of life at which the blow of soul-murder was struck; in one instance, the life of a human soul was mutilated at its commencement; in the other it would be mutilated at its close (pp. 56-7).
The terrible anger evoked by torment and overstimulation in soul murder is added to the untamed rage that every young child has to master. Under the totalitarian regimen necessary for soul murder, the child must suppress his anger. Not only would expression of it bring punishment, but the victim must try to keep destructive feeling from the internal images of good parents or a good Providence in order to maintain some kind of promise without which there is no motivation to continue living. So the unavoidable rage is largely turned against the self, and the tormentor must become (delusionally) 'good '. This was true of Kaspar.
Kaspar's passivity and gentleness impressed everyone and even chastened some of the thoughtlessly cruel experimenters who were among his early visitors. Kaspar wrote in his narrative: 'They teazed me also with all sorts of things which caused me shocking pain' (Feuerbach, 1832, p. 166). Von Feuerbach adds:
Before Hauser was brought to the Burghermaster Binder...the most frightful suffering was caused him by the ignorance and wantonness of others. They forced upon him, to whom even the smell of such things was the cause of terror, tobacco, and snuffs, and spirituous liquors, and placed him consequently in a condition even to frighten the savages themselves who caused or allowed it (pp. 166 7).
Kaspar did not get angry. And he could not be angry with 'the man with whom he had always been', who, he said, 'never did him any harm' (p. 43). After he had learned to talk, Kaspar expressed a wish to go back to 'the man ':
At home (in his hole)...he had never suffered so much from head-ache, and had never been so much teazed as since he was in the world.... He had therefore no fault to find with 'the man with whom he had always been' except that he had not yet come to take him back again, and that he had never shewn him any thing of so many beautiful things which there are in the world. [When von Feuerbach expressed his] surprise that [Kaspar] should wish to return to that abominably bad man, he replied with mild indignation, 'Man not bad, man me no bad done' (pp. 71-2).
Although the only thrashing Kaspar told about was the one administered just before he was taken to Nuremberg, there were many scars on his limbs, and he did expect to be beaten once when he had made noise (p. 28). His reaction to storms strongly suggested that he had been beaten. One day when it began to thunder (this was in 1829 when Kaspar was writing down his thoughts), Kaspar said:
Me should not dare to go out just then, there is a great man outside who is very angry...when it has thundered I always stooped down . . when it thundered it has given me a very painful pressure upon the head, as if some one had struck me on the hoed with the hands.... Then said I, as the storm was gone by, 'Mother [Professor Daumer's mother] now you say that the man shall not be angry any more...then she said, 'I tell the man he shall no more be angry' (Daumer, 1832, pp. 153-4).
Still, von Feuerbach is quite right to stress that it was not so much the physical cruelty that is criminal but the terrible deprivation of the 'natural' rights of the child to the benevolent parental care and contact that are needed to develop a sense of identity, a sense of reality and the capacity for thought and emotion that make up a child's human qualitieshis soul.
Kaspar was very sensitive to anger and pain in others. 'He expressed his indignation against a boy who struck the stem of a tree with a small stick, for giving the tree so much pain' (Feuerbach, 1832, p. 91). Von Feuerbach tells how Kaspar once, a year after his release, expressed anger towards his former captor:
It was in the month of August, 1829, when on a fine summer evening, his instructor shewed him, for the first time, the starry heavens. His astonishment and transport surpassed any description. He could not be satiated.... ' That ', he exclaimed, 'is indeed, the most beautiful sight that I have ever yet seen in the world. But who has placed all those numerous beautiful candles there? Who lights them? Who puts them out?'...At length, standing motionless, with his head bowed down, his eyes staring, he fell into a train of deep and serious meditation.... He sank trembling upon a chair, and asked, why that wicked man had kept him always locked up, and had never shewn him any of those beautiful things? He (Caspar) had never done any harm. He then broke out into a fit of crying... and said that 'the man with whom he had always been' might now also be locked up for a few days, that he might learn to know how hard it is to be treated so. Before seeing this beautiful celestial display, Caspar had never shown anything like indignation against that man; and much less had he ever been willing to hear that he ought to be punished (pp. 95-6).
The first attempt on Kaspar's life came when he had lived for over a year with Professor Daumer, who had taught him to read and write. A false newspaper report had appeared that Kaspar was engaged in writing his memoirs. In October 1829, Kaspar was found dazed and bleeding in Professor Daumer's cellar. While the professor was away, someone had hit him over the head with a sharp cutting instrument. Kaspar had seen the entirely black head of a man (his face apparently covered with a black veil), and thought it was the chimney-sweep: 'the black man stood suddenly before me and gave me a blow on the head ' (p. 128); then the man had run away. Kaspar had lost consciousness and, when he came to, had gone to hide in the cellar. His first, quasi-delirious words when he was found show that he identified the black man with 'the man with whom I have always been ':
'Man! Man! Mother! [the Professor's mother] Tell Professorman beatblack manlike sweep....The man kill me! Away! Don't kill! I all men love; do no one anything.... Man, I love you too; don't kill! Why the men kill! I have done you nothing. Don't kill me! I will yet beg you may not be locked up! Never have let me out of prison, you would even kill me! You should first have killed me, before I understand what it is to live. You must say why you locked me up' and etc. (pp. 124-5).
The confrontation may not have been an actual recognitionKaspar had not remembered ever seeing the 'man '. The blackness could have connoted the darkness of the 'hole' of his early life. (Kaspar 'described the walls of his prison as "very black",' p. 161.) Whether or not the would-be killer was the 'man', Kaspar's 'black' expectation of him shows, beneath his need to love the murderer.
[Caspar] declared afterwards that if the unknown who had held him in confinement, and whom he steadfastly maintained to be the very person that had attempted the murder, were discovered, he would beg for him, as, notwithstanding [the attack] the man had brought him up as a child, and had not killed him (Daumer, 1832, p. 181).
The incident confirms the statement of Robert Fliess (personal communication) that, to the unconscious, the black man is the father (here the father-figure) in the dark.
The years of soul murder had made it impossible for Kaspar to feel angervon Feuerbach speaks of his 'indescribable goodness' (p. 145). The boy was 'incapable of hurting a worm or a fly, much less a man' (p. 111). Kaspar's reaction to angry and hostile displays by others sometimes revived the cannibalistic intensity that he almost always suppressed in himself. For a long time he refused to eat meat; he at first had considered animals to be human beings. (He kept telling the Daumers' grey cat to go wash himself.) Professor Daumer (1832) reports:
With an expression of infinite sorrow [Kaspar] once said to me, 'Mr. has killed today in his sporting, a hare and two birds, which I still saw bleeding. How is it possible (continued he) that men can have no pity for these animals, which have done no hurt to anyone?' When he was told that men kill these animals in order to feed on their flesh, he replied, 'A man might eat something else, bread for instance as I did' (p. 179).
Kaspar's sexuality had also been crushed. The jailer, Hiltel, in whose family Kaspar lived after his first days in Nuremberg, watched the boy closely, often observing him without Kaspar's knowledge, and saw no signs of sexuality. He told of the boy's 'innocence and ignorance' (Feuerbach, 1832, p. 93). The boy had no feeling of shame about his nakedness when given a bath by the jailer's wife. (This afterwards changed to an exaggerated modesty.) Kaspar distinguished men from women only by their dress. He 'expressed his desire to become a girl' (p. 30) this was taken to mean that women's clothes pleased him more because they were more colourful. Although, in 1832, Kaspar would tell von Feuerbach of his plans to study hard, make a lot of money and settle down with a wife, it was von Feuerbach's impression that Kaspar simply regarded a wife as: 'an indispensable part of domestic furniture. He never thinks of a wife in any other manner than as a housekeeper or as an upper servant, whom a man may keep as long as she suits him, and may turn away again' (p. 136). There was no indication of any kind of sexual interest. Von Feuerbach says: 'In his conduct in all the various relations of life, he showed that his soul was spotless and pure as the reflex of the eternal in the soul of an angel' (p. 30).
From the very first Kaspar seemed incapable of humour; the boy showed no capacity for, or at least no interest abstract thought. His power of fantasy had been stifled. He said that he began to dream only after he slept on a bed for the first time when he lived with Professor Daumer. (At first he took the dreams for real occurrences.) Kaspar's passivity was so intense that von Feuerbach calls his obedience to all those who acquired paternal authority over him 'unconditional and boundless' (p. 73). When asked by the judge why he always felt obliged to 'yield to such punctual obedience ? he replied, "The man with whom I always was taught me that I must do as I am bidden" ' (p. 73). Yet Kaspar was not without rebellion and resistance brainwashing had not been completely successful: the compliance that extended to his behaviour did not always result in his acceptance of the ideas or the information told to him by the 'fathers'. (He had an especial resistance to indoctrination by ministersmen in black.) Kaspar needed to be convinced by the power of his own senses, and these developed rapidly under the tutelage of Professor Daumer. Not authority, but his own experiments gave conviction. His soul was not dead. Von Feuerbach describes a characteristic vacant and mindless facial expression, adding: 'but, if any thing pleasant affected his mind, a lovely, smiling, heart-winning sweetness diffused over all his features the irresistible charm that lies concealed in the joy of an innocent child' (p. 15; my italics). Killing the capacity for joy is one of Ibsen's definitions of soul murder.
Speculations about what happened to Kaspar during the first years of his life can be valuable only if they are based on the boy's behaviour and reactions after he 'came into the world' and was observed by others. Von Feuerbach says of his belief in Kaspar's story:
And thus we see an instance in which our estimation of the degree of credit which we are to give to the narrator of an almost incredible occurrence, is made to rest almost altogether upon psychological grounds. But the evidence furnished in this instance upon such grounds, outweighs that of any other proof. Witnesses may lie, documents may be falsified; but no other human being [can produce] the very personification of truth itself. Whoever should doubt Caspar's narration, must doubt Caspar's person (pp. 59-60).
It is 'Caspar's person' that gives credence 'upon psychological grounds' not to the specifics but to the substance of the two time elements in the story and the legend that involve the boy's infant years. The letter purportedly from 'the man' said that the child was six months old when he was abandoned. The legend has it that Kaspar was in the care of a wet-nurse until he was three or four years old. There can be little doubt (based on the work of observers of children) that there must have been some approach to adequate mothering in Kaspar's infancy. He is not one of those feral children who had so little human contact that they can never be taught to achieve even a semblance of human identity. The presence of 'the man' with whom he had always been' is not enough to explain the degree of differentiation of self and the potential for educability that was present from the beginning in Nuremberg. I assume that the infant was separated from the primary mothering figure at six months and given over to a substitute up to age three or four. With the child-rearing in upper-class families of the time performed mainly by servants, such an 'abandonment' might have produced little more disturbance than that which might have occurred if the wet-nurse had been changed at six months in the parental home. If the loss of the primary mother-figure occurred at the age of six months without any adequate substitute mothering, one would expect, based on the work of René Spitz (1945, 1946; Spitz & Wolf, 1946) with 'anaclitically depressed' infants who lost their mothering in the second half of the first year of life, that Kaspar would also have, as described by Mahler (1968), 'succumbed to inanition and literally died as a result of the symbiotic object loss. Yet in those cases in which the mother was restored to the anaclitically depressed baby, and when this occurred within a reasonable period of time (after separation), before the infant's vulnerable ego had suffered irreversible damage, the infants did recover' (p. 3).
The substitute mothering of the first few years must have been good enough to allow Kaspar to develop some sense of separate identity. He was not (in Mahler's terms) autistic. It turned out (16 years later) that he could learn to separate the concept of his self from that of others, and that he was able to make use of a parental figure as a 'beacon of orientation in the world of reality' (Mahler et al., 1975, p. 3; cf. Dahl, 1965, on Annie Sullivan's ability to educate Helen Keller being based on the child's good early mothering before the sensory deprivation at 19 months).
That Kaspar never remembered anything of his earliest childhood and of the hypothecated substitute mother whom he lost, I attribute to the repression resulting from the many long years of trauma and deprivation in the 'cage ' much of it spent in timeless drugged hypnosis. (I have seen similar massive repression of early years, also frequently involving hypnosis, in patients who had been severely and chronically traumatized in early childhood.) Kaspar had no distant memory at all; only the recent different events in relation to the journey to Nuremberg had interfered with the sense that things were as they 'had always been'.
I propose to take von Feuerbach's (1832) estimate literally. He felt that the boy showed the mental advancement of 'a child scarcely two or three years old' (p. 5). Although his original development may have gone beyond this in some respects, a mental level more or less appropriate to this age was what he preserved under the comparative mindlessness of the years in captivity. If, guided by Anna Freud (1965), we try despite the dearth of data to look at Kaspar's 'developmental lines' (p. 62), it would seem that his ego development suffered less from the trauma and the regressive deep-freeze of the years in the 'hole' than did his instinctual development. (Kaspar's hypnotic defense would serve to disguise the traumata and deprivations of these years; see Fliess, 1953; Dickes, 1965; Shengold, 1971.) Kaspar was able, comparatively quickly, to learn to walk, to talk, to read; he was able to learn to distinguish the animate from the inanimate, to separate the image of himself from that of others. Although he made a beginning, he was not able to learn to hate or to love (cf. Freedman & Brown, 1968).
We know nothing about Kaspar's 'oral' line of developmentfrom 'sucking to rational eating' (A. Freud, 1965, p. 69); when 'found', he would only ingest bread and water and showed fear and disgust towards anything else. Of the developmental instinctual line 'from wetting and soiling to bladder and bowel control' (A. Freud, 1965, p. 72), we can only speculate. Presumably these developments took place early. We do not know what regimen the 'man' imposed on Kaspar, or what was done about defecation and urination in the 'hole'. Kaspar said that he was 'cleaned' by 'the man' but gives no specific details about elimination of body wastes. There is no mention of Kaspar's toilet habits after he 'came into the world'. Is this mid nineteenth century reticence?or does it mean that there were no problems and that Kaspar required no toilet training? Kaspar does mention that he was using the water-closet when he was attacked in 1829. An inference that he had been trained long before emerging in Nuremberg can be derived from Kaspar's obsessive cleanliness and tidiness. The following description pertains to Kaspar after several months 'in the world'.
A most surprising and inexplicable property of this young man, was his love of order and cleanliness, which he carried to the extreme of pedantry. Of the many hundreds of trifles of which his household consisted, each had its appropriate place, was properly packed, carefully folded, symmetrically arranged etc. Uncleanliness; or whatever he considered as such, whether in his own person or in others, was an abomination to him (Feuerbach, 1832, p. 75; my italics).
The obsessive-compulsive character that Kaspar went on to develop, and his obedience and suppression of anger show an anal and a predominately masochistic tie to the 'man' who always cleaned him and who always kept behind him. The anal stage was probably as far as Kaspar's libidinal development proceeded in the 'cage'; the anal manifestations when he was observed appear mainly in attenuation, sublimated, and reversed in reaction formation. Von Feuerbach says: 'He observed almost every grain of dust upon our clothes; and when he once saw a few grains of snuff on my frill, he shewed them to me, briskly indicating that he wished me to wipe those nasty things away' (p. 75).
There is no evidence of Kaspar's progress to the phallic oedipal level. His desire to be a girl was understood in terms of wanting feminine attire. This may be validit suggests the boy's expunged sexual feelings. I suspect that Kaspar's 'femininity' was primarily related to his fear of aggressiveness and was not accompanied by sexual stirrings from negative oedipal impulses. Whatever the pregenital instinctual mix beneath the inhibited defensive surface, Kaspar appeared to be asexual. Although he was minutely observed without his knowledge in the first weeks in the Nuremberg Tower prison, there is no hint of masturbation; his observer stated that Kaspar's 'whole demeanour...was a mirror of childlike innocence' (p. 33).
Kaspar's wish for women's clothes might have involved worries about his body. Kaspar was initially without exhibitionistic shame, but went on to develop exaggerated modesty. There are not enough details to determine if he was dealing with, or if he went on to develop, castration anxiety. It seems relatively absent. When first found, Kaspar was thought to be absolutely unafraidhis only concern seemed to be his painful feet. When he began to recognize the external world and anxiety did show (usually in reaction to excessive or strange stimuli), it was expressed mainly through somatic reactions: cold sweats, vomiting, headaches. Were these pregenital conversion symptoms? Sometimes they appeared unaccompanied by conscious anxiety (see Feuerbach, 1832, p. 110). On other occasions (see pp. 105, 153-3) Kaspar felt the terror (of strange foods and smells, of storms and thunder, of black creatures) and would seem to have suffered from what Schur (1953) describes as 'somatic discharge phenomena of uncontrolled anxiety' (p. 80). Mitscherlich (1963) talks of Kaspar's 'pre-genital, almost pre-verbal anxiety' (p. 162). This primitive anxiety was eventually tamed; from the start 'in the world', Kaspar's defenses were formidablemassive isolation, denial and auto-hypnosis. He returned to these when they were needed in later years. We know too little to work out from Kaspar's anxiety and his symptoms the specifics of the damage done to Kaspar's instinctual endowment. With all of the shifting of parental figures that Kaspar had to endure, we do not hear of any indications of anxiety in relation to separation. Instead there was a reaction of brutish, dull apathy. (This is very well brought out in Wassermann's, 1908, novel, Caspar Hauser.)
In regard to maturation of ego potentialities, Anna Freud (1965) sets forth the lines of development ' from egocentricity to companionship, from body to toy...from play to work (p. 79). Here there had been some advancement for Kaspar, I postulate, that was regressed from when the boy was in the 'hole'. There he had only 'the man' and some toys, wooden horses and ribbons, for companions. Toys function for all children as magically alive 'transitional objects', allowing repetition of the 'transition' of psychic interest from the child's body and the body of the primary parent on to others. This direction was only partially traversed by Kaspar; it could only be completed when there were organic and alive 'others'in Nuremberg. Kaspar must also have used his toys to help develop some sense of mastery over his environment. Anna Freud (1965, p. 80) describes how the opportunity to move toys around tends not only to displace interest from the body opening and their functions, but also provides pleasure in motility and some sense of mastery of it. Moving and adorning his wooden horses must have been desperately important to Kaspar who needed to compensate for his cramped limbs and lack of locomotion. It is therefore no surprise that Kaspar was passionately fond of horsesfirst toy ones, then real ones. The word for horse was one of the few he had from the first: 'to every animal he met with, whether quadruped or biped,...he gave the name of "Ross" (horse) ' (Feuerbach, 1832, p. 23); and he begged so piteously for a 'Ross' that he was immediately given wooden horses by the people in Nuremberg: ' For hours together...has Caspar sat playing with his horses without attending in the least to anything that passed around him or by his side (p. 23).... [Caspar] often dragged his horses backwards and forwards by his side, without changing his place or altering his position' (p. 28). During the first few weeks it was obvious that the boy considered that his horses were alivehe tried to give them food and water, and was distressed when one, made of papier-mâché, started to deteriorate. Much later on he learned to ride real horses, and did it well; it was one of the few talents he was able to maintain. The passion for real horses can be understood (literally and symbolically) in relation to fulfilling Kaspar's wish to 'be a rider like my father was'to have and to be a good father. His riding was also a continuation of the attachment to the 'companions' of his imprisonment.
In Mahler's (1972b) terms, Kaspar, when 'found', had already 'hatched out...beyond the symbiotic orbit' and had entered and partially traversed the subsequent 'separation individuation' phases 'on the way to object constancy'all in relation to a primary mothering person (for Kaspar, probably a substitute mother acquired at six months). In the 'cage', where he undoubtedly regressed, he could only continue his development towards individuality in relation to the 'man with whom I have always been'. There Kaspar was deprived of what Mahler calls 'the greatest step in human individuation. [The toddler] walks freely with upright posture'.
The power to move away from the motherthe advance through 'crawling, paddling, pivoting, climbing and righting himself...[to] free upright locomotion' usually takes place from seven to 18 months. For optimal mental development and individuation to proceed during this time, the infant must have adequate motheringa mother to return to for 'emotional refueling'. I think it can be assumed that Kaspar had gone through this development (Mahler's 'practicing sub-phase'that he had learned to walk in his second and third year of life. He was then deprived of the powers of locomotion so vitally needed for the development of internal mental structure This assumption would help to explain how 'the man' was able to teach Kaspar to walk so relatively quicklyit was a re-learning. Kaspar did not walk well when he was first discovered, but it was a wonder he could do it at all. It took him many months to learn to walk properly. Kaspar could not climb or descend stairs at firsthe saw everything in flat perspective and had no concept of up or down. The riding of horses provided the acme of his mastery and of his joy in locomotion.
Mahler's (1972b) description of the child during the months after he has achieved the power to walk away is appropriate to the 16-year-old Kaspar after he had re-acquired that power and had a need, similar to the young child of ten to 18 months, to learn about the outside world:
With the spurt in autonomous functions, such as cognition but especially upright locomotion, the 'love affair with the world' (Greenacre, l957) begins...the world is his oyster. Libidinal cathexis shifts substantially into the service of the rapidly growing autonomous ego and its functions, and the child seems to be intoxicated with his own faculties and with the greatness of the world...the elation of this sub-phase has to do not only with the exercise of the ego apparatuses, but also with the infant's delighted escape from re-engulfment by the still-existing symbiotic pull from the mother.
Kaspar's 'elation' (as with the more disturbed rather than the normal child) was accompanied by a strong sense of the loss of the symbiosis and a longing to return to the timeless bondage with the 'man' of the earlier developmental phase. The intensity of wanting to be re-engulfed and to merge is part of the reaction to the chronic overstimulation involved in soul murder. Yet Kaspar's elation was very real. There was a marvellous flowering of his mental powers in the year or so after his release. Acquiring language and the ability to walk seemed to free his soul. From the first weeks in the prison tower, there was a hunger for contact with people. The many visitors, says von Feuerbach (1832), tended to 'awaken [Kaspar's] mind more and more to attention, to reflection and to active thought, according as his self-consciousness became more clear' (p. 36). What was revealed with the quick acquisition of speech sufficient: 'at least in some degree to express his thoughts [was] so active a mind, so fervent a zeal to lay hold on every thing that was new to him, so vivid, so youthfully powerful, and so faithfully retentive a memory' (p. 37), as to astound the observers. Here was a rebirth, a psychological birth. ('The biological birth of the human infant and the psychological birth of the individual are not coincident in time'; Mahler et al., 1975, p. 3.) Marvellous as it wasthe citizens of Nuremberg were enthralledit could not be completely what occurs with the natural development of a child, so beautifully remembered in Wordsworth's (1803) 'Recollections of Early Childhood':
There was a time when meadow, grass and stream
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
Von Feuerbach (1832) also describes- Kaspar's fervent apprehension of the universe in terms of lightof luminescence and incandescence.
Although Kaspar's 'love affair with the world' was less than full, he was helped towards the feeling of glory by the world's love affair with him. People flocked to see him and he evoked parental feelingcompassion and attention: 'From being the adopted child of the city of Nuremberg... he became the child of Europe,' says von Feuerbach (p. 120) of Kaspar in 1829 (see also Lang, 1904, p. 118). Kaspar lived with a series of parent-substitutes who at furst took an intense and benevolent interest in him. Prison-keeper Hiltel took him into his home; the Burgomaster of Nuremberg and Judge von Feuerbach were immediately and intensely involved (he stayed at their houses); Professor Daumer (Kaspar's tutor) took the boy to live with him, and with his mother and sister promised to become a second family; Lord Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield, declared his intention to adopt Kaspar. These people began to provide that Kaspar had been so cruelly deprived ofthe narcissistic promise of a continuing parental acceptance (the neveroutgrown need derived from the craving of the infant for the fond and accepting gleam in the eye of the nursing mother).
The striving to know, connect and remember had an intensity that Kaspar expressed in an active, motor fashion. This too has its parallel in normal development. The child of one to one and a half years is described by Mahler (1972a) as in the practicing subphase, during which the child uses its intellect and its muscles to get away from the mother and absorb the environment. Kaspar, perhaps in part to compensate for the years of cramped confinement;) and motor inhibition, used his muscles (especially his eye and facial muscles) to help comprehend,; and integrateas if they were 'grasping' extensions of his mind:
Whenever any person was...introduced, Caspar went up very close to him, regarded him with a sharp staring look, noticed every particular part of his face, as his forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, etc., successively...and, as I could distinctly perceive, at the very least, he collected all the different parts of the countenance, which at first he had gathered separately and piece by piece, into one whole.... And now he knew the person; and, as experience afterwards proved, he knew him for ever (Feuerbach, 1832, p. 64).
When he was trying to absorb a new fact or idea or word, or 'whenever he endeavoured to connect any thing that was unknown to him with something that he knew' (pp. 65-6), Kaspar would (during those first weeks) first go into spasms of his facial muscles and then those muscles would become impassive and rigid, Kaspar insisted on active 'practising'he would only accept something as so if he could verify it with his own senses. He was convinced that the balls of a ninepin alley ran of their own volition until Professor Daumer had him roll a ball of crumbs for himself; he had to plant beans and watch them grow to accept that plants come from seeds.
Kaspar's memory ('as quick as it is tenacious', p. 72) and his progress with words was astonishing. Von Feuerbach writes of his first meeting with Kaspar:
About an hour after we had seen him, we met him again in the street...[Kaspar was being conducted from the jail to the Burgomaster's] . . he mentioned, without the least hesitation, the full name of every one of the company, together with all our titles, which must, nevertheless, have appeared to him as unintelligible nonsense (p. 73).
Kaspar evidenced an incompletion in his individuation, consistent with the development of the two- to three-year-old, by first talking of himself in the third person: 'Caspar very well' (p. 66) and then he gradually developed the use of I and me. Kaspar showed some of the natural facility for poetry of the developing child of three. (This was, as with children, 'imagist' poetry; Kaspar never showed any ability for abstract thought.)
He called a corpulent gentleman...'the man with the great mountain'. A lady, the end of whose shawl he once saw dragging on the floor, he called 'the lady with the beautiful tail' (p. 67).
[In] winter, when the snow first fell, he expressed great joy, that the streets, the roofs, and the trees, had now been so well painted; and he went quickly down into the yard to fetch some...but he soon ran to his preceptor with all his fingers stretched out, crying...and bawling out, 'that the white paint had bit his hand' (p. 74).
Kaspar's favourite activity in the first few weeks of his new life was playing with and bedecking the toy horses he had been given; but this 'delight' (p. 32) was then given up for what the prison-keeper called the 'more serious and more useful occupations' (p. 32) of learning about people and his environment which more and more furnished delightthis was the elation of the 'practicing subphase'.
Kaspar's sense of perspective was at first remarkably deficient. Everything seemed almost one-dimensional to him. With the acquisition of free locomotion he began to develop rapidly the complicated muscular and mental 'measuring apparatus' to estimate distance, dimension and shape:
In the beginning [Kaspar later said] he could not distinguish between what was really round or triangular, and what was only painted as round or triangular. The men and horses represented on sheets of pictures, appeared to him precisely as the men and horses that were carved in wood; the first as round as the latter, or these as flat as those. But he said that, in the packing and unpacking of his things, he had soon felt a difference; and that afterwards, it had seldom happened to him to mistake the one for the other (p. 78).
The wise von Feuerbach was aware of the importance of being able to walk, and to coordinate walking with seeing, in order to judge realistically the distance and size of objects; and he attributes Kaspar's (relative) slowness in learning these things to his habit, on his short and infrequent walks of the first weeks: 'in consequence of the irritability of his eyes and his fear of falling, [of looking down] at his feet...and [avoiding] looking out into the vast ocean of light around him, [so that] he had, for a length of time, no opportunity of gaining experience concerning the perspective and distances of visible objects' (p. 82).
Von Feuerbach was alarmed that the rushing in of new impressions might be providing overstimulation for the eager and precocious boy who was so little acquainted with the mastery of any kind of excitement:
The unaccustomed impressions of the light and of the free air...the almost constant and uninterrupted intercourse with the numerous individuals who thronged to him at all hours of the day...the strange and often painful minglings of diverse excitatives which continually flowed in upon his senses; the effort to which his mind was constantly stimulated by his thirst for knowledge, labouring, as it were to go beyond itself, to fasten upon...to devour...whatsoever was new to himand all was new to himall this was more than his feeble body, and delicate yet constantly excited, and even over-excited, nerves could bear (pp. 83; my italics).
Kaspar did become sick. Then he was taken by Professor Daumer to live with him, his mother and sister; in the Daumer family home he could be educated at a slower pace, and in a private and more peaceful setting. The Daumers tried to become Kaspar's new family. The boy's good feelings and enthusiasm revived; his increasing powers of moving about freely, and of talking and writing brought about a slower, more stable progress. There was less incandescence; changes implying psychic structure began to occurthe boy showed strong obsessive-compulsive tendencies that at first were compatible with an emotional openness and enrichment. His innate mental and emotional endowment again began to flower. Kaspar learned finally to distinguish the animate from the inanimate. (He was at first indignant with a much bespattered statue in the Daumer garden for not washing itself.) He started to write down his thoughts. At the Daumers' Kaspar slept in a real bed (rather than a straw one) for the first time, and then began dreaming for the first time that he remembered. The soft bed perhaps symbolized the much-longed-for matrix provided by the Daumer family: '[Kaspar] would often say, that this bed was the only pleasant thing that he had met with in the world' (p. 99).
Like many other deprived children who need to make the most of their powers in order to survive, Kaspar had developed certain extraordinary gifts in the course of adapting to his years of imprisonment; these contributed to the initial impression of his remarkable endowment. His sensory perceptions seemed supernormal:
It has been proved by experiments carefully made, that in a perfectly dark night, he could distinguish different dark colours, such as blue and green from each other...when at the commencement of twilight, a common eye could not distinguish more than three or four stars in the sky, he could already discern the different groups of stars and he could distinguish the different single stars of which they were composed from each other, according to their magnitudes and the peculiarities of their coloured light...scarcely less sharp and penetrating than his sight was his hearing (pp. 101-2).
He could recognize at a very great distance (when others present could not even hear) various persons by the sound of their footsteps. His sense of smell was also extraordinarily acute: 'He could distinguish apple, pear, and plum trees from each other at a considerable distance, by the smell of their leaves' (p. 106). Kaspar had 'less aversion [to] what we call unpleasant smells' (p. 105) than he did to the scent of flowers or perfumes. This may be a reference to the odours of excretion, and could be explained by what Kaspar had become accustomed to in the 'cage'.
Kaspar's diligence in learning and his 'steady progress in ciphering and writing' (p. 118) under Professor Daumer's tutelage continued up to the murderous attack made on him in the Daumer home in the summer of 1829. That attack must have had a terribly disillusioning effect. Kaspar had been trying to re-establish his capacity to feel and to love in relation to the parental substitutes. It was towards the Daumers, the Burgomaster and von Feuerbach that Kaspar had turned the hunger of the deprived child 'to extract every drop of human nutrient, every bit of stimulation available' (Mahler, 1968, p. 49). They had so much more to offer than the 'man', and must have been idealized into gods. But with all their riches, and goods, and power, they had been unable to protect him. The 'man' had returned and had almost killed him. It had been difficult enough to try and make Kaspar believe in a kindly God (Kaspar was much beset by well-meaning theologians)now what was reinforced was the concept of a malevolent, murderous Providence. (Werner Herzog's, 1974; film about Kaspar is sub-titled, 'Every Man for Himself, and God against All'; it is partly a religious parable, with Kaspar as Christ, killed by His Father.) Von Feuerbach (1832):
Once when the conversation was concerning the omnipotence of God, [Caspar] proposed the question: 'Can Almighty God also make time recede?' , a question which contained a bitter sarcastic allusion to the fate of his earlier life, and...concealed the inquiry, whether God could restore his childhood and youth, which had been lost to him in a living grave (p. 115).
Kaspar stayed on with the Daumers for two years after the attack, but much was changed. As Kaspar looked about him, he began to appreciate the enormity of his deprivationwhat it meant not to have and never to have had a real family. At Professor Daumer's, says von Feuerbach, Kaspar:
began more and more to reflect upon his unhappy fate, and to become painfully sensible of what had been withheld and taken from him. It was only there, that the ideas of family, of relationship, of those human ties that bind parents and children and brothers and sisters to each other, were brought home to his feelings; it was only there that the names mother, sister, and brother were rendered intelligible to him, when he saw how mother, sister, and brother were reciprocally united to each other by mutual affection and by mutual endeavours to make each other happy. He would often ask for an explanation of what is meant by mother, by brother, and by sister; and endeavours were made to satisfy him by appropriate answers. Soon after, he was found sitting in his chair, apparently immersed in deep meditations. When he was asked, what was now again the matter with him? he replied with tears, 'he had been thinking about what was the reason why he had not a mother, a brother, and a sister? For it was so very pretty a thing to have them' (pp.96-7)
It is during the second 18 months of life that the developing child is vulnerable to the loss of the feeling of elation that accompanies his new locomotive and mental powers. The relative imperturbability begins to fade and a new vulnerability develops. Mahler (1968) calls this the developmental sub-phase of 'rapprochement': 'It is the time when the child's self-esteem may suffer abrupt deflation' (pp. 22-3). The world is so huge, and the child must cope with it. The child is really able to be more independent, but increased mastery of reality brings sadness that comes with the realization of separation from the parents and of the loss of magic. After the elation, the child shows 'an increased need and wish for his mother to share with him every new acquisition on his part of skill and experience' (Mahler, 1972a). It was at a corresponding developmental phasewhen increasing knowledge of the world had brought a new fragility, and an increased need for parental carethat Kaspar began to appreciate his terrible and irrevocable loss. He had tried with all his will to learn what the world was like, and what he learned turned out to be devastating. Kind as the Daumers and some others were, they were not his parents. They could never make up for the past deprivation of the 'mother's spontaneous pleasure in the child's achievement' (A. Freud, 1965, p. 86). Moreover, they were not strong enough to keep the murderous black man away, nor loving enough to dilute Kaspar's own murderous black rage. He was forced towards obsessiveness and depression.
Because the Daumers had not been able to protect Kaspar, the municipal authorities took more of a supervisory interest. It may be (as Wassermann (1908) portrays in Caspar Hauser) that Professor Daumer became frightened and wanted to decrease his responsibility. At any rate, a decision was made that showed lack of empathy and increased the sense for Kaspar that his foster family could not fulfil his needs. Kaspar was sent out of the Daumer home (where he had been tutored by the Professor) to spend a good part of the day attending Gymnasium (high school); there he was put into an advanced class with students of his own age. He was expected to act as an independent 18-year-old when his emotional development was that of the three-year-old, who, according to Mahler (1972a), 'becomes more aware of his separateness and employs all kinds of mechanisms to resist separation from the mother'.
The separation and the exile to school evoked the disapproval and indignation of von Feuerbach (1832): ' this poor neglected youth...who was still deficient in so much knowledge which other children acquire at their mother's breast or in the laps of their nurses, was at once obliged to torment his head with Latin grammar and Latin exercises' (p. 139; my italics). Von Feuerbach saw clearly the need for emotional sustenance that was scanted by taking Kaspar out of the 'bosom' of the home-tutoring situation, and substituting 'the dry trash of a grammar school' (p. 140). At the school, Kaspar was tormented by comparing himself with his schoolmates and realizing, as von Feuerbach says, that he 'should never be able to regain his lost youth, to equal those who were the same age with him' (p. 140). In assenting to this change, Professor Daumer generally so kindly disposed towards Kaspar (he continued to write about his former pupil up to his old age), played the role of the weak sad unempathic parent so often seen in cases of soul murderthe parent who allows the child to be damaged not out of evil intent but out of passivity and inadequacy.
During his last years at the Daumers', Kaspar's intellectual development continued at a much slower rate, and there was a regression of his already stunted emotional growth. The feelings of irrevocable loss, of unfulfillable longings were too much to bear, and the more he learned about the world, the more aware he was of what he would never have. Kaspar became depressed and dull, his incipient anxiety and the all-too-dangerous anger needed to be quelled. He must have once again called upon his old hypnotic defences.
Another mistake was made in 1831, when Kaspar was taken entirely away from the Daumers, and sent out of the familiar and accepting environment of Nuremberg. The responsibility for Kaspar's expenses had been undertaken by the Earl of Chesterfield, Lord Stanhope (who did not take Kaspar to England to live with him as he had promised); Kaspar was sent to an unsympathetic guardian, Herr Meyer, in Ansbach (see Zingg, 1939, p. 352). Kaspar worked as a clerk in the office of von Feuerbach at Ansbach. With the death of von Feuerbach in 1833, Kaspar had lost all the good parent-substitutes. These relationships were lost when they were not yet of sufficient duration nor of intensity to provide the needed establishment by identification of parent-figures within Kaspar's mind, and the continuing inadequacy of, Kaspar's sense of identity and completeness deprived him of any possibility for enrichment of his meagre emotional life. The high intelligence, the poetry, the beginnings of humour, the passionate intellectual curiosity, the marvellous memoryall faded with the defensive restriction of the boy's feelings. In 1832 von Feuerbach noted how much promise Kaspar had lost, how much his soul had shrunk:
In his mind there appears nothing of genius; not even any remarkable talent; what he learns he owes to an obstinately persevering application. Also the wild flame of that fiery zeal, with which in the beginning he seemed anxious to burst open all the gates of science, has long since been extinguished. In all things that he undertakes, he remains stationary, either at the commencement, or when arrived at mediocrity. Without a spark of fancy, incapable of uttering a single pleasantry or even of understanding a figurative expression, he possesses dry, but thoroughly sound common sense...within the narrow sphere of his knowledge and experience, he shews an accuracy and an acuteness of judgement, which might shame and confound a learned pedant (P. 135).
He regulates his conduct with a scrupulous exactness, which, without affectation, approaches even to pedantry (p. 138).
The extraordinary, almost preternatural elevation of his senses, has also been diminished and has almost sunk to the common level. He is indeed still able to see in the dark... but he is no longer able to read in the dark. Of the gigantic powers of his memory and of other astonishing qualities, not a trace: remains. He no longer retains anything that is extraordinary, but his extraordinary fate, his indescribable goodness, and the exceeding amiability of his disposition (p. 145).
After von Feuerbach died, even the goodness and the amiability began to fade into passivity and indifference.
Before he arrived in Nuremberg, Kaspar had advanced to and become fixated in the anal phase of libidinal development. In the 'cage', compliance was enforced ('I must do as I am bidden', p. 73). There were manifestations of some soul-saving bits of resistance in Kaspar's clinging to his conviction in the evidence of his own senses. Kaspar's primitive superego functioned partly within and partly without his mind. (Freud, 1940, speaks of the precursor of the superego, saying it is based on 'parental influence, which as precursor of the super-ego, restricts the ego's activities by prohibitions and punishments, and encourages or compels the setting-up of repressions'; p. 185). For Kaspar the godlike coercive 'man' was always incipiently present, always about to return and take the boy back to the 'cage'; there was also an internalized imago of the 'man', easily transferred to others: [Caspar's] obedience to all those persons who had acquired parental authority over him, particularly to the burghermaster, Professor Daumer, and the prisonkeeper Hiltel, was unconditional and boundless' (Feuerbach, 1832, p. 73; my italics). Following the exposure to kindly parental substitutes in Nuremberg, some modification, relaxation and maturation occurred in Kaspar's superego. But the murderous presence continued, inside and outside his mind. The physical attack in 1829 was disastrously disillusioning; there was a reinforcement of the presence of the murderous black man. This made for a regression to that pre-stage of the superego that Ferenczi (1925) calls 'sphincter morality'. Sphincter morality involves the excessive use of anal sphincter control. According to Fliess (1956)who describes the external cruel precursor of the superego as 'expressive of an interpersonal relation to a parent who has not as yet been introjected' (p. 122) and as dominated by sphincter moralitythe anal sphincter is 'charged with the mastery of regressive and archaic affect' (p. 121). Fliess is describing normal development. In cases of soul murder, the archaic affect is enhanced by that terrible rage (so frequently 'anal rage'; see Shengold, 1967, pp. 411-12) that the victim feels as both subject and object, as coming from inside and outside. The rage and the anality make for an intensification of obsessive mechanisms and a push towards melancholic withdrawal.
Kaspar's development of obsessive-compulsive character was also determined by the fact that the boy's intellectual progress far outstripped the maturation of his emotional and instinctual life. Kaspar's obsessiveness, observed from the beginning in Nuremberg, became more entrenched; his life took on the rigid predictability of a caricature. This regression accompanied the series of losses of parental substitutes. It was as if there were a sphincter operating to close off Kaspar's entire emotional life.
Von Feuerbach describes Kaspar (in 1832 when he was living at his home) as being very aware of 'the dependence of his person upon the favour or disfavour of men' (p. 138). This awareness was a new version of the registration of his former dependence on the 'man'. That had had the form of unconscious assumptionit was the order of the universe. Now that Kaspar had become painfully conscious of his relative helplessness, he developed certain defensive traitsof wariness, of making minute observationsthat might have gone on to become talents, or character defects:
Hence his expertness in observing men which was almost forced upon him in self-defence: hence the circumspect acuteness which, by ill-disposed persons, has been called slyness and cunningwith which he quickly seizes their peculiarities and foibles, and knows how to accommodate to those who are able to do him good or harm, to avoid offence to oblige them, adroitly to make known to them his wishes, and to render the good-will of his favourites and friends serviceable to him (Feuerbach, 1832, p. 138).
What might have developed into creative observation and useful adaptiveness became (as part of Kaspar's general withdrawal and retrogression) slyness and obsequiousness. Towards the end there are hints of the appearance of other unpleasant character-traits. According to the (admittedly biased) account of Herr Meyer, Kaspar became increasingly crabbed and demanding, complaining and bitter. The distrustful Meyer (who, according to his own account, believed Kaspar to be a liar) became Kaspar's guardian and brought out Kaspar's suspicion and secretiveness ('Every Man for Himself and God against All'). These qualities, evoked by a hostile or indifferent environment, were intermixed with the angelic goodness of the earlier period.
Kaspar's disillusion with the world he had tried so hard to know and to embrace was much more acute than that of the normal child who sadly gives up his feelings of omnipotence and his belief in his parent's magical powers. When this renunciation is done well, it is done largely out of love. But Kaspar lacked this resource. What did he have to make up for the loss of the intimations of immortality?
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream ?
(Wordsworth, 1803, p. 588)
Wordsworth can take comfort, and justify the loss 'of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower' (p. 590) since as a man he had attained what Kaspar never could:
A faith that looks through death...
the philosophic mind ...
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears ...
It was the deficiency of the heart, in himself but above all in those around him, that resulted in a second. piecemeal soul murder. This is welldepicted in Wassermann's novel, Caspar Hauser, which is subtitled Die Trägheit des Herzens, literally 'the slothfulness of the heart', translated as 'The Unheeding World' (see Introduction to the English Edition, p. 7). The Child of Europe whose fate and aspirations had moved so many, whose soaring intellect had encouraged fantasies of his being restored to noble rank and perhaps even to a throne, had become a prematurely aged, pedantic petty clerk. Twice deprived of maternal love and empathy, his soul withered.
The soul murder of Kaspar Hauser culminated in actual murder. In 1833, after the death of von Feuerbach, Kaspar was still working as a law clerk in Ansbach and living with Herr Meyer. He was accosted in a park by a stranger who gave him a lady's handbag and, while the youth opened it, stabbed him in the chest with a dagger. Kaspar lived on for three days and was able to tell what had happened. A confused note was found in the handbag. Handwriting experts have established that the writing was not Kaspar's. The assailant was never identified. Kaspar's eager taking of the purse proffered him in this last fatal encounter shows perhaps a kind of greediness to make up for his emotional losses by the acquisition of things: he had himself by then become a thingless than fully human. When he was killed, his soul was already half-dead.
Soul murder is as old as human history. Whenever individual human identity first appeared, so did the potentiality for its annihilation by psychological as well as physical means. Whenever soul murder has become an institutionalized social phenomena, it tends to be taken for granted within a society; if it is pointed out by the accusations of an enemy, it is denied (as with Nazism or Stalinism). It is essential to soul murder that it not be acknowledged. The basis for soul murder in individual psychology evokes the deepest resistanceparental destructiveness is so hard to admit; the child desperately needs a good parent. The child-victim must deal with what has happened by not knowing, not acknowledging, not remembering. The child identifies with the parent, and the 'badness' is often projected upon others. The facts stay hidden. Kaspar Hauser's story is a rare instance of great attention paid to the crime of soul I murder. Von Feuerbach (of whom, it will not surprise the reader to hear, I have become very fond) has something characteristically wise to say about how hard it is to establish, and how easy it is to hide, the crime of individual soul murder:
... here an instance is given of a most extraordinary... case in which the matter of fact that is to prove the existence of a crime, lies almost entirely concealed within a human soul; where it can be investigated and established only by means of inquiries purely psychological, and founded upon observations indicating certain states of the thinking and sentient mind of the person injured (p. 59).
Von Feuerbach is saying that the discovery of soul murder is the task of the psychologist. Social scientists, political thinkers and the possessors of political power need the insight of the artists and psychoanalysts; economic determinism is not enough to identify and to understand the de-humanization and de-individualization that threaten our culture.
Mitscherlich (1950, 1963) does not try to analyse Kaspar but makes use of his story to epitomize the effects of the social, political and economic changes of the mid 20th century on the development of the minds and souls of children: 'Kaspar Hauser, whatever his prehistory may have been, is the prototype of the individual who has suffered from birth from impoverished relations with his cultural environment' (1963, p. 159). Mitscherlich (1963) supports his ideas about our times by citing Orwell's prophetic 1984 (p. 159). Both men see in current history the institutionalization of the capacity to warp the individual soulthe nightmare of a totalitarian control that can devastate the family nucleus of our civilization. Without the caring provided the child by mother and father and family, how can that child develop the sense of dearness that one human being can feel for another? Totalitarian power, supported by a de-humanized science and technology, has brought about destruction of culture, concentration camps and brainwashing. Even the best-intentioned have found no solutions to the problems of poverty and war that also create the conditions for more Kaspar Hausers.
Mitscherlich, a Freudian analyst, is not intending to contradict Freud's theories when he states that the oedipus complex (which presupposes considerable development and a constant parental relationship during the first years of childhood in the setting of an ordered society) is no longer characteristic of the neurosis of our times. Instead, he says, we see increasingly what he calls 'the Kaspar Hauser complex'his term for the consequences in the individual of the breakdown of family ties in the culturally disorganized and yet technological society of the mid 20th century. Mitscherlich (1963) speaks of 'the total unreliability, alienness, and dangerous nature of man and things. This attitude to life, the sense of being utterly at its mere, the lack of any basic experience of love and comfort, might well be described as the Kaspar Hauser Complex' (p. 160).
We must strive against poverty and war and chaos. But external forces have to be understood in relation to the primal instinctual sources of our nature. Murder and soul murder arise both from within and without the mind. The economic and political conditions of early 19th century Germany did not cause the tragedy of Kaspar Hauser, except in the most important sense that general conditions do contribute to the destructiveness in human beings who have power over a helpless child. no restructuring of society could eliminate soul murder; that would require a miraculous change in our instinctual nature. But social structure can be set up to try to prevent it. Freud (1917) felt that most people would not be able to be helped by psychoanalytic therapy but would require first of all the therapeutic power of Emperor Joseph (p. 432): the money and the power to combat poverty and social evils. Today we can hope for such power to be guided by psychoanalytic understanding, as well as by sociologic, economic and technologic knowledge. (See Wallerstein, 1973, for a comprehensive contemporary appraisal of the relation of therapy to 'external' reality.) To hope for the triumph of Intellect and Heart is of little comfort in the face of the possibility of the society of 1984, based on the practice of soul murder and discharging its rage in wars. Emperor Joseph is long gone, but we now see the prospect of the 'therapeutic power of Mao-Tze-Tung' which can evoke the soulless and heartless world of Kaspar Hauser's last years: a world of bureaucrats and automatons.
Anna Freud (1976; see also Shengold & McLaughlin, 1976) in a recent speech talked of the increasing number of people who come for psychoanalytic help, or who need it, and yet are not able to respond to it. Their conflicts are not based on what they have done to themselves but on what others have done (or what Fate has done) to them. They are the insulted and injured, whose ego and instinctual development have been crushed by parents and environment, by trauma and catastrophe; or who have come into the world with some inherent deficiency. (Not all of these are victims of soul murder.) It may be that, however hard we try, psychological healers will not have much to offer people whose conflicts are not primarily internal. We can study them and perhaps lighten their burden. We can be guided by our understanding of what deprived children need and what they still need as adults. We can avoid that 'slothfulness of the heart' that destroyed Kaspar for a second time. Miss Freud reminds us that the psychoanalyst's knowledge of human development can be used to plan changes in the lives and care of children as well as to guide the treatment of those who are abandoned and ill-usedthere is hope of prophylaxis. As therapists, we must continue to try. As individuals, we must struggle in our private lives and in the world to attain the awareness and the power that can assuage and help revent, to quote von Feuerbach for the last time, 'the criminal invasion of man's most sacred and peculiar propertythe freedom and destiny of his soul' (p. 55).
I want to thank Professor J. M. Masson (a psychoanalyst and, like von Feuerbach, a scholar of Indian languages) for directing me to the reference to soul murder in von Feuerbach's memoir of Kaspar; and to thank Dr Kurt Eissler for telling me about the project of a paper on Kaspar by Dr Siegfried Bernfeld. It was apparently not completed at the time of his death and has not been found. (I am indebted to Dr Bernfeld's daughter-in-law, Mrs. Isabel Paret, for this information.)
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