About the book
“Dear Max Planck Society, …” is a collection of materials which uses a double entendre to address more than a research institute. It focuses on a confrontation of the individual and society through a dialogue consisting not of mutual understandings, but of overlapping and mutually manipulative feints.
This project began as ruminations on the narrative potential of documents. It describes its characters through papers which they authored or received. I searched for a situation of the greatest dissonance in the characters’ perceptions, that offered the best possibility to create notes with a point of view.
In 2007, an amorous adventure with the young assistant doctor Annika von Stein offered an early possibility to explore such a process. She told me about a patient in her department at the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf. His condition presented thus: A man of the name Stefan Schneider claimed to have unearthed a conspiracy of extra-terrestrials. In his opinion, trees were planted on earth solely to act as antennas to send signals into space. This paranoia motivated the man to make a large quantity of notes, drawings and explanations about the signal technology of these tree antennas. Although these papers were found, the patient did not want to speak about them any further at the time of his commitment. Through research and a variety of feints, the clinic created a situation to make the patient believe, that he had to guarantee the safety of the hospital from extra-terrestrial sanctions.
For my work, this cooperation was a lucky stroke without comparison. I am very grateful to Frau von Stein for the food for thought, as well as making research materials available to me. The documents revealed a relationship between patient and society which was expressive in its unmediated nature. Frau von Stein expressed the desire to neither participate in the publication of a medical paper nor a journalistic exposé, and I am honoring this wish to the best of my abilities.
This book also recognizes Schneiders aesthetic achievements, which distances itself from the scientific claims of the documents. In countless meetings, Frau von Stein and I viewed a large quantity of materials. Together we made a selection exposing the developing spiral of deceit and self-deception in Schneider’s case. In our opinion, this method is ill suited for therapy, especially for the treatment of psychiatric illness. This strongly influenced our motivation and our collaborative work on this book. Our work on Schneider’s case allows us to investigate socio-cultural realities of contemporary psychotherapies. Through the tireless efforts of all participants, this publication illustrates how Schneider’s case relates to overall social phenomena as well as their illustration of an ambivalent relationship to a constructed reality.
The book opens with the transcript of a monologue as reconstructed from memory by Frau von Stein. She received the original monologue from the patient in 2008. Therefore, she cannot assure the authenticity of Schneider’s expressions, but nevertheless allows us a glimpse into the world of his thoughts and associations. It will ease the readers’ entry into the rest of the book.