Wilhelm Salber in memory

Hundreds of people attended the funeral Wilhelm Salber in Cologne on 15 December 2016. He had passed away in Cologne on December 2. From all parts of Germany relatives, colleagues, friends and students of the founder of psychological morphology had gathered. Vicar General Meyering, the son of the deceased Prof. Dr. Daniel Salber and Prof. Dr. Dirk Blothner, chairman of the WGS, spoke in the chapel of the cemetery on Melaten. Mr. Daniel Salber was only able to deliver a part of his speech in the given time. In order to remind friends and colleagues of Wilhelm Salbers of the atmospheric devotional service and to make the full wording of the two funeral speeches available to interested parties, we are printing them here.

The speech of Prof. Dr. Daniel Salber

Since I still lack the words to say something about my father, I borrow the words of a greater one: I read Rilke to you, the Fifth Sonnet to Orpheus. I will read the poem in its entirety. Then I'll tell you what it tells me about my father.

Do not erect a memorial stone. Let the rose
only bloom every year in his favour.
For Orpheus is. His metamorphosis
in this and that. We are not supposed to bother

...other names. Once and for all...
it's Orpheus singing. It comes and goes.
Isn't it a lot when he's got that rose bowl
to get through a few days sometimes?

O how he must fade that you may know it!
And though he himself feared that he himself was fading.
By putting his word above being here,

he's already gone where yours hasn't.
The lyre grate does not force his hands.
And he obeys by crossing over.

The sonnet begins with a request not to do something:

Do not erect a memorial stone.

To erect, to establish thinking in a rigid stone: that does not correspond to Orpheus. And not the thinking of Wilhelm Salber, which IS a course, a process. In the stone his thinking would no longer be moving. A thinking stone can only be justified as an impulse for thinking - it can never replace being on the way.
In order to commemorate Orpheus, a peculiar doing is required, not an activity, but a letting:

Let the rose / bloom only every year in his favour.

A letting instead of building. The rose in its blossoming and withering is the sense-image of Orpheus. All blossoming is transient, but returns again and again: every year. The annual letting bloom is a remembrance of the transformation. My father's entire thinking was about transformation.

Because Orpheus is. His metamorphosis / in this and that.

In bloom of the rose IS Orpheus, and: in this and that. There was also something of Orpheus in Wilhelm Salber. The orphic being is metamorphosis. Our existence as metamorphosis: that is what Wilhelm Salber taught and lived. And this experience of being lives on beyond him: in this and that.

We are not to bother / about other names.

Like building, the heavy effort of naming and defining misses the ease of the Orphic-morphic experience of being. Leave it, says Orpheus. Let the conceptual fiddly work. Through names one can indeed take something, bring it into one's possession, control it. But that is wrong, like the thinking stone, the existence which is always on the move, which is only "there" in change.

Once and for all / is Orpheus when it sings. He comes and goes.

It sings: the singing IS Orpheus. For Rilke, Orpheus is not just someone who sings, but singing itself. Singing is how people experience their existence. Only singing "are" we! And this singing, this Orpheus, also sang from Wilhelm Salber. It sang out of him: as a gift that cannot be kept forever. For Orpheus comes and goes.

Isn't it already a lot, if he sometimes survives the rose bowl / for a few days?

Orpheus goes beyond his symbol and cannot be captured in the rose bowl either. I am thinking here of the many books of my father in which he is - and beyond which he has always been and still is.

O how he must fade that you may know it!

We are to understand that Orpheus must disappear, that he must leave. Just as we must leave one day. The disappearance is painful, but at the same time a prerequisite for understanding the one who has disappeared. While singing, Orpheus cannot be grasped. Only in retrospect can we imagine what really moved a person like my father.

And though he himself feared that he himself was fading.

Like a human, Orpheus is afraid of disappearing. But at the same time he is certain that he is already somewhere else. For him, disappearance is not extinction, but disappearance into another realm:

In that his word transcends being here, / he is already there where yours does not accompany him.

Orpheus exists in transcending, in transition. Transition was one of my father's favorite categories. Transition or transcendence happens in the word. Orpheus is already there in his Word, where we cannot accompany him. The art of being already elsewhere in the word, of opening up new spaces in the word, was an Orphic gift of my father.

The lyre lattice does not force his hands, / And he obeys by transgressing.

Orpheus is an obedient one. Also Wilhelm Salber was an obedient. However, this obeying of his destiny, the listening to the song of being, is not a receiving of orders, but on the contrary a resonating: an opening of the "there".

Our existence is a constant between here and there. Nothing simply existing! But that which is to be opened in the passage through the narrowness of the "lyre". This is exactly what Wilhelm Salber taught: Existence - the soul - is only in the transcendence of being here. Dasein is an in the transition Er-Wachsendes. Orpheus shows us this.

Transition to where? Into there. To the roots, to the earth, to the dead (see VI. Sonnet). We humans have always been on the way to the There, insofar as we really exist. Orpheus sings about that. "Song is existence" (Sonnet III). And the song of existence was taught and lived by my father. And between here and there he will continue to be - and sing.

Wilhelm Salber in summer 2003

The speech of Prof. Dr. Dirk Blothner

Now the long feared day has come when we have to carry Wilhelm Salber to the grave. He became 88 years old. Twice the symbol of infinity. A good age to die, he had told us in summer. My thanks and sympathy go to his family, who asked me to find a few words in his memory on this day.

In the severe shock left by his death, we tend to praise Wilhelm Salber's greatness. But how do you measure the greatness of a man and his work? By what yardsticks, what comparisons? Salber himself has never spoken of greatness in our presence in relation to human beings. Neither of his own nor of another. Even as a child he had a deep distrust of appearances that promised greatness. At the meetings of the young people before the war he laughed in the heroic places. But one thing is certain: if you take his life and his work together, there will never be someone like him.

Salber did not like to hear or speak of greatness. But of strength. Before one of his heart operations he told me he had a "strong soul". When we once travelled to England together in the 1990s, I found it remarkable how he used every break - for example on the train - to recharge his soul with a little "nap" (minute nap). This kept him fresh, awake and open to the things to see and think about. The strength of his soul made it possible for him to go his own way courageously and consistently. With his psychological morphology, he broke old, sublime categories. Seeing and understanding what is what, that was his passion. Emotion, cognition, motivation - does this really correspond to the mental activity as we observe it? It took strength to free psychology from its abstractions and formalizations and to place it in the middle of the frizziness of everyday life. An unbelievable deed already that!

Salber wanted to know more about it. His psychology, but also his innumerable drawings, were intended to familiarize people with their mental state. Not everyone had the courage to follow him in them. But he stuck to it. In one of his last works he advocated a second, a psychological clarification. Only if we know how to treat reality - that means always simplifying, bending, suppressing - we can "cultivate the garden of the earth differently". Salber's soul had the power to fearlessly look at the changes and reversals of our time. His 1993 book "Soul Revolution" was the impressive prelude. I myself had the good fortune to take part in regular meetings with everyday, product and cultural researchers over many years. In doing so, I was always able to observe in amazement how he formed a decidedly psychological standpoint on the latest phenomena of social development. This was most recently the case with the refugee crisis or the American presidential election.

So the loss of Wilhelm Salbers is really incomprehensible for all of us. He has now left us alone and forces us to find and maintain a similar point of view by our own efforts. I think he wished that we never let up in this effort.

In his old age Salber had the strength to publish his comprehensive thoughts in vest pocket format. The journal Zeitschrift für Psychologische Morphologie anders, which has format, to a large extent, also through his own illustrations, was his late work. The most recently published number 28 is called Lachgeschichte. In it, Salber recalls the long line of writers and poets (from Aristophanes to Arno Schmidt) who saw the "fragile and risky formations of the soul and the laughter about the fact that it is just the way it is", as he did. In a previous work, Salber had first described humour as perhaps the only real freedom of man and thus - like no other - granted the unconscious and the social contexts a fateful power for us all. His wife Linde says that after reading Laughter Story she told Salber: "This is your 'outline of morphology'. And unlike Freud, you have remained true to your approach." Salber was visibly pleased with her interpretation. He thanked her with a happy smile.

Just as Salber had to laugh about heroic performances as a child, so in his laughter story he deals with anti-heroes of literature. With Mark Twain he came across the fallen angel Satan, who sends letters to his angel colleagues from the earth and describes in them what kind of curious things people deal with. Salber seems to have taken particular pleasure in the way this angel represents people's ideas of heaven. To his great astonishment, human heaven consists exclusively of things that they do not like on earth! Isn't that strange? Most people do not sing, they do not want to sing, but in heaven they want to sing all the time. People pray, but only a few of them do it with real conviction. But in heaven they want to pray all the time? On earth people are active, they want to be active and feel that they can make a difference. In heaven, however, they supposedly want to sit around and sing and sing again and again: "Hosanna, hosanna ... rhubarb, rhubarb". For Mark Twain it was clear that the inventor of such a kingdom of heaven could not have thought it up himself. He had obviously taken this idea "from the pomp of some ruler in the Far East". That is because people usually do not think for themselves. They take over the thoughts of others. I can't tell you who thought up this heaven. Only one thing I know: This heaven is not made for Wilhelm Salber's strong soul. He will not sit up there and sing. If he is up there, he will take action very soon. He will look at everything carefully, describe it and probably draw it. And then maybe we will get a letter from him.

Now it's time to say goodbye. But not without once again addressing the deceased personally. In the form in which we addressed him in all our years and decades together: Dear Professor Salber. Please accept our sincere thanks for everything you have given us. You have taught us to love life as it is.