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Oesterreich, Traugott Konstantin(1880-1949)

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 Philo-sophie 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 Gegen-wart 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.


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.

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