Oesterreich, Traugott Konstantin
(1880–1949)
German professor of philosophy, an authority on religious
philosophy, and one of the first modern scientists in Germany
to declare publicly his belief in psychic phenomena. He taught
philosophy at Tübingen University in 1910 and was appointed
professor in 1922. He somehow survived in Nazi Germany, in
spite of his Jewish wife and his anti-militarist views, although
he was dismissed from his post in 1933, reinstated in 1945 and
again forced into retirement on reduced pension soon afterward.
He was originally skeptical of psychic phenomena, and in
the fourth volume of Friedrich Ueberweg’s Geschichte der Philosophie
he referred to Baron Schrenck-Notzing, pioneer of investigations
into materialization phenomena, as the dupe of
tricksters. In private correspondence with Oesterreich,
Schrenck-Notzing protested at this sweeping charge and submitted
his entire literary and photographic material on Eva C.,
the medium. Oesterreich became interested, investigated the
mediumships of Maria Silbert and Willi Schneider, and finally
became convinced of the reality of such phenomena.
In 1921 he published two books Grundbegriffe der Parapsychologie
and Der Okkultismus im modernen Weltbild; and in the latter
title testified to materializations and telekinesis as facts. He
also presented his revised conclusions in Ueberweg’s Geschichte
der Philosophie published in 1923. His book Weltbilder der Gegenwart
contained further contributions to psychic science. As an
active and thorough psychical researcher, Oesterreich also
published a number of scientific papers and monographs supporting
psychic science.
His classic work, however, was a study of psychic obsession
and possession, Possession Demoniacal and other among Primitive
Races, in Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and Modern Times, translated
into English by D. Ibberson from the German publication of
1921. This is a detailed study of possession and multiple personality
from earliest times onward. For many years it failed to
secure other than a highly specialized readership, but following
the 1966 reprint by University Books, it attracted the attention
of William Peter Blatty, who derived much of the background
material for his book, The Exorcist (1971), from it. After the
movie of the book, there was a new wave of interest in demonic
possession and exorcism, and Oesterreich’s book was again reprinted
by various publishers, sometimes under variant titles
such as Possession and Exorcism and Possession and Obsession.
He died in 1949. His wife Maria wrote a biography of him
that was published in 1954.
Sources
Oesterreich, Maria. Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich—
Lebenswerk und Lebensschicksal. N.p., 1954.
Oesterreich, T. K. Die Bessessenheit. English ed. as Possession
Demoniacal and Other among Primitive Races, in Antiquity, the Middle
Ages, and Modern Times. Translated by D. Ibberson. New
Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1966.
———. Occultism and Modern Science. New York McBride,
1923.
———. Occultism of the Present Day. London, 1922.