Thursday, October 21, 2010

Paul and Hannah Tillich: Their relationship, sexual affair, and personality

Hannah Tillich, the wife of eminent systematic theologian Paul Tillich, had published a book titled From Time to Time' (Stein & Day, 1973) that has upset some of Paul's colleagues. I don't have the book, but here is a glimpse of what one can find inside:
"[Paul Tillich] had had a philandering side that others preferred not to talk about. In [From Time to Time], interspersed between allegorical dialogues and poetry, his widow speaks of her intense feelings and the many joys in her life, but also of her jealousies and humiliations, some of them at the hands of Dr. Tillich. [...]

The book recounts some of his many affairs, but also her own sexual encounters, with both men and women, in plain talk about the sexual experimentation in her past. Nonetheless, the couple remained together and, with advancing age, moved toward each other."
(Wolfgang Saxon, "Hannah Tillich, 92, Christian Theologian's Widow," in The New York Times, 30 October 1988, (accessed 20 October 2010).
And here is an extract quoted on (The Sexes: Paul Tillich, Lover Monday, 8 October 1973 [accessed 20 October 2010]):

"He had left me often, flirting with other women, leaving each one of them in turn for another at the succeeding dinner party. I had to take care of the spurned one, who came to me shamelessly complaining about Paulus' faithlessness, which amused me ... [Paulus] had a studio away from our ground-floor apartment, on the third floor under the roof. One evening he called the maid, a very attractive brunette, to bring some wine. Later, I found them standing before my bedroom in the middle of the night, talking in dark tones, she in a kimono of mine that I had given her."
On 24th April 1998, the Tillichs' son Rene, a psychotherapist in Hawaii, delivered the Paul Tillich Lecture at Harvard University. The lecture titled 'Paul Tillich, My Father', and was subsequently published as an essay in 'Spurensuche: Lebens- und Denkwege Paul Tillichs' (LIT Verlag, 2001).

Here are some of the interesting stories concerning both Paul and Hannah:
On the relationship between Paul and Hannah:
"I loved Paul and he loved me. Paul loved Hannah, Hannah loved Paul in the beginning, I believe, [...] I am not sure Hannah loved Paul toward the end of her life. But she continued to be obsessed with him and announced imperiously that she did not want to go to heaven if he were there." (p.10)

"I remember sitting through a discussion of divorce between Hannah and Paul--I was about 13. I remember the coldness with which Hannah made the arrangement. "We will wait until Rene is at Exeter...," she said. I remember Paul's silence. [...] They agreed not to divorce. [...] Why didn't Hannah and Paul divorce? I think there were many reasons. I believe Hannah was a profoundly disturbed woman in a new country with no work skills. [...] I understand from my sister that people say he did not divorce her out of fear of what it would do to his career. The man who opposed Hitler would cave in to a few bigots in this country? I hope not. Anyway, he had alienated anyone who would care through his theological thinking. I believed he stayed in the marriage because he loved Hannah and because he was a practitioner of the European art of Realpolitic, a skill he thought the American lacked." (p.12)

"I believe Paul made the best and most humane decision for all of us involved, including Hannah, when he resisted getting a divorce. Also, I believed he loved her. On our European trip he told me he loved Hannah for her mystical side and described her having an ecstatic experience when they were on top of a mountain they climbed together in Europe. This was very meaningful for him." (p13)

"The third volume of his Systematic is dedicated to "Hannah, the Companion of my Life." Hannah once told me that Paul said marriage was an act of will." (p.13)

"As [Paul] got older, [...] he would then sit at home and listen to music and be happy to have Hannah pop in on him to check that he was there, or he would pop in on her and, to some degree, the two of them seemed to have a fairly pleasant old age." (p.21)

On Paul's death:
"...on the morning of the day [Paul] died he woke up and said, "Today is dying day." (p.13)

"...[Hannah] felt betrayed by him and claimed that even he was dying his women friends came and sneaked in to see him." (p.21)

On the sexual affair and different personality between Paul and Hannah:
"Paul's sexuality was far more forced on me by Hannah than in any way experienced with Paul. But Hannah saw almost everything through the lens of sex. The first sexual fact to note about my parents is that they had separate bedrooms. They probably hugged us more than they did each other. Paul hugged warm and good as though he was there. Hannah hugged stiff and cold as though she feared her body might break." (p.13)

"Paul never behaved inappropriately with me. [...] the picture of Paul's sexual life was basically described to me by Hannah, who began talking to me about sex from the time I was five years old." (p.13)

"I believed Hannah was what is called an AMAC, an adult molested as a child--physically, emotionally and sexually abused. I asked her once if she had been sexually molested by her father, an alcoholic, and she said she had. All through her life she showed symptoms of such abuse, as well as borderline personality disorder and paranoia. These symptoms were an underlying distrust which impaired her capacity to love, a pathological jealousy, a tendency to sexualize her experience, and distort reality, particularly in the sexual realm--seeing sex where it wasn't--and a tendency to "split," a technical word from psychoanalytic language meaning to overvalue and undervalue, which is what she did regularly with my father." (p.14)

""[Paul] is not the real genius in the family, I Hannah Tillich, am." These kinds of extreme statements came out of her mouth." (p.14)

"I am not saying that what she describes in her book is completely untrue nor am I saying Paul did not have his sexual episodes. What I am saying is that to understand Paul, one must not rely on her. She distorts too much. And I am saying that at the beginning they agreed sexual involvement with others was permitted and that this arrangement got out of hand. He wouldn't stop and she didn't like it anymore, perhaps after the trauma of emigration and adjusting to a new world and a new child." (p.14)

"[Hannah] sent me pornographic books like The Story of O, and talked about how prostitutes were wonderful because they kept themselves clean and smelled good. But she had a negative attitude toward feminism, which she rejected with contempt." (p.14)

" adolescence, I asked Paul directly how he could reconcile his position as a minister and his adultery. He said he had never spoken against adultery and that ended the discussion." (p.14)

1 comment:

Dymphna said...

Just found this...I read Tillich's work and his wife's book, "From Time to Time". Had I continued on to a doctorate I'd planned to write a thesis on the twinned (twined) roots of spirituality and sexuality: they both arise from the need to transcend the gift and the burden of our separateness and our consciousness of this.