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Body, Mind & Spirit

Dr Bob, my therapist, will retire one day. We haven’t discussed it but it’s inevitable. Counseling is only part of his professional life, however; Dr Bob is also a faculty member in a psychology department hereabouts. When he retires, I’ll probably go it alone. But I wonder what will become of all his office notes. Will they be preserved for a time to suit some “statute of limitations” and then go to one of those record destruction facilities? I have more faith in him than in them. 

This question comes to mind in connection with my friend Howard’s piece on Agincourt’s private psychiatric clinic, Walden Retreat, opened in 1925 and operated until about 1953, when it morphed into a retirement home following its founder’s death.

Some month’s ago Howard wrote about a cache of paintings done by one of the clinic patients as part of Dr Reinhold Kölb’s innovative art therapy program. The paintings had been discovered in a walled-up closet during routine plumbing repair and given to the community’s memorial art collection in the old public library. [A selection are to be included in a loan exhibit at the next Agincourt exhibition, by the way, now tentatively scheduled for 1913 at the Plains Art Museum.] Several of the paintings are signed, but the clinic’s records had long ago been destroyed and the identity of the artist remains a mystery. In the same box, however, there was also a notebook, presumably written in Kölb’s own hand—the nearly unreadable script used in both Germany and Austria before World War II—notes on the progress of his clients on their path to better mental health.

Kölb used code names for those who had come to heal at Walden. One of them he called Endymion.

“A few figs from thistles…”

by Howard A. Tabor

Endymion

Endymion

“Endymion” by George Frederick Watts, c1872

Endymion was the son of Zeus from his daliance with a human; he was a handsome lad who attracted the attention of Selene, goddess of the Moon. So smitten had she become with him that Selene asked Zeus to make the boy immortal. But it was Endymion asleep that had captured Selene’s love, so she sought both eternal youth for him and eternal sleep! Zeus met her halfway: Endymion would sleep while Selene ruled the night, but he would wake during the day. In that sleeping state, Endymion fathered fifty daughters, the Menae, who ruled the lunar months of the Greek calendar. Sweet dreams!

Endymion is also the code name of a patient at the Walden Retreat, which I wrote about several weeks ago.

Repairing a leaky pipe at the retirement home that occupied Walden’s former buildings revealed two dozen paintings from the clinic’s art therapy program. But the water-damaged box also included a small leather-bound notebook filled with crabbed penmanship that proved difficult to read, until we realized it was German and written in a graphic style developed by Ludwig Sütterlin, a 19th century Berlin typographer. Once a part of traditional German education, Sütterlin’s calligraphy was abandoned following WWII for several reasons, not the least of which was its association with National Socialism. Reinhold  Kölb was a product of that educational system.

Suetterlin

Here is what his journal reveals about one of Walden’s residents:

“ENDYMION / #67 / Male / married with two children / aged 53 years businessman / admitted 17 February 1930 // Patient believes he possesses the body of another; that he impersonates the other being while the body is awake. Consciousness alternates between the sleeping <name obliterated> and the waking Endymion.” Notes follow on diet and exercise, as well as cryptic, perhaps coded comments on diagnosis and therapy, only some of which can be translated. Endymion left in October 1930, returned to his family and work, fully functioning. It speaks to Kölb’s professional ethics that he made follow-through inquiries six months and one year after release.

Kölb’s notebook, preserved at the Fennimore County History Center, has recently been released from its “Restricted” status and opened for research, since his patients are now presumed to be deceased. Access to such documents has been controversial. But the glimpse it gives into that period of our community’s history seems worth the risk.

I’m curious what Dr Bob has put in my file.

 


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