Translated by Katja Schütt and Alan Schmukler
A patient with a destructive (syphilitic) diathesis is often associated with negative aspects – carcinoma and other severe diseases at the physical level and compulsion violence, psychosis etc. on the psychic level. In this article I want to demonstrate that a person with a destructive diathesis, can have positive effects for the society, namely in terms of upheavals and other positive revolutionary changes. At the same time it can’t be overlooked that the person standing behind the work, is isolated as an individual and remains tragically in their destiny.
The destructive person – discontent with themselves and others – tends to make their own and other’s lives difficult or even unbearable. Contrary to the lymphatic person, he has a problematic relationship with his social environment and cannot really connect with others. His emotional reactions are extreme and fear can cause panic, joy or instability. He is easily irritated, becomes quarrelsome and fiercely criticizes others for minor issues. These people become frantic, have abrupt attacks of rage and cannot control these impulses. They openly or covertly resort to violence in the family and at work – either by means of words or deeds. Often there is a tendency to extreme suspiciousness and hostility, and they can be full of hatred and contempt for themselves and others. The individual is unable to forget supposed slights and becomes resentful, unrelenting, unpitying, and revengeful.
Following his impulses, the destructive personality – who often has a lot of energy – is stubborn or even fanatical. Moreover, he is calculating, considering only his own desires, not those of others. He tends to destructive reactions if he can’t realize his goals. He engages in denigrating others, even acts of terror, in which he increasingly becomes more spiteful, fanatic, stubborn and obsessive, until he exhausts himself. Such personalities are to be found throughout history, and include the likes of Hitler and Stalin, who engulfed whole nations in the abyss.
These destructive energies can also be directed inwardly and cause severe compulsions, psychosis, depression, suicidal thoughts, suicide or organic damage like carcinoma, nephrosis, cirrhosis of the liver etc. Otherwise, the destructive person can be passionate and give much love, although this often goes with a certain exclusiveness and restriction. The destructive artist’s poor or inability to relate to others, his vast ignorance of other’s needs, his intransigence and unconformity with everything, enables him to fully mobilize his creative powers and free him for unconditionally living out his passions (to which he subordinates himself, others.) His passion knows no boundaries, as he lives only for his ideas, his work, even to the point of self-destruction. It is of primary importance that he can create this work, and that he can reduce the inner tension. The acknowledgement of his environment is desirable or expected, but only secondary. He doesn’t want to be successful by means of creating works which appeal to the public. He gives them his works and they must accept this work and himself as the artist. Only in this way is it possible for the destructive artist to express his trend-setting impulses or initiate cultural revolutions, as Beethoven did by introducing a change in music and creating his own language. His music isn’t smoothed or complaisant, it is a protest against the traditional form. “Based on Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven developed the traditional forms of sonata, symphony and chamber music into expressions of passionate inner feelings by means of the wealth and daringness of his thematic conversons and the power of rhythmic movement” (Brockhaus).
When listening to Mozart’s and Beethoven’s music, Mozart’s music rather appears to me to be light, playful and warm, whereas Beethoven’s music rather appears to be heavy, powerful, stirring and grand. After hearing Beethoven, the young composer Wenzel Tomaschek said in 1796: “Beethoven’s magnificent performance and especially the bold realization of his fantasy unsettled my mind in a very unfamiliar way. When comparing both, I consider Mozart’s mind to be a sun which warms and gleams, without leaving her legitimate orbit. Beethoven I consider to be a comet moving boldly on the path without subordinating to a system.”
Mozart is described as being easygoing and companionable by his contemporaries, but he was easily discouraged and not very disciplined. He postponed everything from one day to the other, wasted money, enjoyed to be beguiled by flattery and always needed “a person who leads him”. Here, in a few words a man is characterized as representing the lymphatic diathesis. The lymphatic person is open to the world, is in relationship with her and wants to please and appeal with his work. He is rather conservative and needs reassurance from his environment because of his insecurities. His art develops out of his relationship with and in interplay with the world.
Beethoven is described as a Titan in biographies but there are also reports and “stories” from contemporaries and friends which make the human visible. The notes written in his “conversation booklets”, which he used to communicate his ideas during the time of his deafness, give another impression about his daily life and “usual” worries. With reservations, I’m now attempting to take a “homeopathic anamnesis” of Beethoven. We find a lot of destructive characteristics, also lithaemic and lymphatic features, as we always find a mixture of different diatheses in all our patients. But the destructive diathesis surely stands in the foreground. I am most interested in the “human” aspects of Beethoven. I don’t want to go into detail with regard to music, but maybe understanding the human and knowing his environmental circumstances can provide a different understanding of his music, and also give a deeper insight into the destructive diathesis.
The timetable at the end of the article gives a short overview of the most important events in Beethoven’s life, the date of origin of important works and important diseases and problems in different periods of his life.
Ill with nerves, alcoholic
Tendency to melancholy, tuberculous phthisis (died at age 40)
In his youth Beethoven is described as a man with a “strong, almost coarse figure, short and plump, with a short throat and broad shoulders,…with a thick head, and a strong and broadly rounded forehead, a round nose and black-brown facial color. He used to walk bent forward and has been called a “spangol” due to his dark facial color.” As a young man (in the first Viennese years) the pianist von Bernhard described him as follows: “He was small and unimpressive, and had an ugly red face full of pockmarks. His hair was very dark and hung down shaggily around his face. His suit was very usual. He spoke with a Rhenish dialect but did not express himself with much elocution. Overall, his appearance did not reveal any education but he was rather mannerless in his behavior and gestures. He was very awkward in his movements and attitude.” Therefor he never learned to dance and often overthrew things, and he used to spit around.
As an old man he is described by a visitor as follows: “If I hadn’t been prepared, his appearance would have disturbed me too. It was not his neglected, almost wild outward appearance, not the thick, black hair that hung down shaggily around his head, but the whole of his appearance. Think of a man of about fifty years, more of a short than of a middle figure, but very strong and stout, plump, and with a heavy bone structure – almost like Fichte but more fleshy and especially with a fuller and more round face; red healthy color; restless, blazing almost piercing eyes when fixing them; no or hasty movements…”
The condition of clothes and wardrobe was bedraggled according to his housekeeper. “He hasn’t even had a good skirt neither a shirt.” Once he had been arrested by the police as they thought him to be a vagabond because of his appearance.
The engraver Blasius Höfel reports the following story: “In the year 1820 I had been sitting with colleagues and the police inspector in the garden of a hostelry on the edge of the town. It was autumn and already dark outside when a police servant came and reported to the commissar: ”Commissar, we have arrested someone who doesn’t keep quiet and is screaming all the time that he was Beethoven. But he is a lump, he doesn’t have a hat, and an old skirt etc.” … On the next evening the commissar said that the police servant woke him up at about 11p.m. and reported that the prisoner did not keep quiet and requires to call for the musical director of Vienna Neustadt to identify him… and as soon as he saw the man he declared: “This is Beethoven”, and took him home… It turned out that Beethoven had gone out in the early morning for a short walk. Absorbed in his thoughts he had lost his direction, and hadn’t had anything to eat and finally arrived at the canal bassin in Vienna Neustadt. Here, he was observed looking into the windows of the houses as he didn’t know where he was. As he looked like a beggar, so the people called for the police who arrested him. When being arrested he said: “I’m Beethoven” , but was answered “Why not? You are a lump, Beethoven doesn’t look like you!”
On the other hand, Grillparzer described him during his first Viennese years as being “carefully and even elegantly dressed. Only later did he neglect himself until uncleanness.”
Beethoven as a child and adolescent
Beethoven was the second of seven children of whom only three survived – Ludwig and his two younger brothers, wherefore he had to accept the role of the eldest. With regard to diseases, it is only known that he had had the pox. As a child Beethoven was often left to his own devices. Although being up for jokes he was most often serious, shy and thoughtful, even morose and taciturn – an introverted loner. Leaning with his head in his hands he often looked out of the window, so much absorbed in his thoughts that he did not react when being spoken to.
His father – a court musician in Bonn – had probably always been an alcoholic. He was extremely demanding, sometimes even cruel to his son and only wanted to exploit his son’s talents. At the age of four or five Ludwig was often awakened by his father in the middle for the night and he had to practice musical rules and playing the piano and violin for several hours until dawn. Nothing is known about his feelings for his father, but it is known that Ludwig felt attached to his mother and with much fondness.
Ludwig attended school until the age of eleven. His orthography was miserable all his life. He never learned to calculate, as he never grasped addition, so he had problems when counting the tact’s and notations all his life. In later books of household accounts his problems become obvious, as there are entries of his housekeeper and angry cancellation’s and despairing attempts of Beethoven to recalculate the listed amounts.
His career as a child prodigy began early. At the age of seven he gave several piano concerts. At twelve he was a harpsichordist in the orchestra of the electoral chapel in Bonn. A year later he became the regular second court organist. At the time he had already written three piano sonatas and was already compared with Mozart. Having these accomplishments he already lead the life of an adult, at an early age. He had to be available for the royal court well into the night.
When Ludwig was seventeen his mother, aged forty, died from tuberculosis. Thereupon he became very anxious that his distressing “tightness of chest” could develop into phthisis. Probably the tightness of chest was due to bronchitis from which he suffered repeatedly during his life. In 1817 (30 years later) Beethoven commented that his suffering “has eventually been declared for lung disease” by a physician. Several documents reveal his tendency to hypochondria. Moreover, he suffered from “melancholia” which was “almost as bad for him as his disease”. After his mother died his father’s alcoholism worsened so that the seventeen year old, being the eldest, was forced to take on the responsibility for the family and care for their livelihood. He convinced the sovereign to leave him the half of his father’s salary so that, at least this part could be used for the family and not everything was spent in the hostelry. The sovereign’s opinion about Beethoven’s father becomes obvious by his sharp comment about his death (Beethoven was already in Vienna at this time): “Beethoven’s death will result in a decrease of the beverage taxes”.
The young Beethoven found care and attention in the Bonn noble family Breuning, where he had been received like their own child. According to reports of contemporaries “He felt free and moved with easiness there. This all provoked his cheerfulness and supported the development of his mind.” The son of the house became his lifelong friend, and in this house he met important Bonn personalities who gave him essential mental impulses for his further development.
The Adult Beethoven
In 1792 Beethoven came to Vienna to study composition with Haydn, Albrechtsberger and Salieri. Soon he met his main supporter, the sovereign Lichnovsky. During the first Viennese years he was in high spirits. He had a riding horse and largely adapted his clothes and life style to his noble environment. Within a short time he was a celebrated pianist due to his virtuosity. His audiences rose from their seats and he moved them to tears. When he ended an improvisation of this kind he could burst into laughter and taunt his listeners for the emotions he caused in them to have. “You are fools” he said.
Unlike Mozart, who played in a smooth and flowing manner, Beethoven hammered the keys so hard in his endeavor for orchestral sonority, that the strings snapped. To achieve a more powerful sound he asked the piano maker to build a better instrument than the Viennese grand piano, which sounded like a harp to him.
In 1795 he presented his Opus no.1. Beethoven soon became dissatisfied with his teacher Haydn, and also with Albrechtsberger, who called him “an eccentric musical freethinker who would never make something useful”. He overrode the recognized harmonics of the time and went his own path with compositions. He refused to adapt with regard to music, and in his daily life he never considered any conventions.
Until that time artists (also Mozart) had understood themselves as artificers who provided a service, but the idea of making art for the sake of themselves was alien to them. Beethoven, however, emphasized his artistry. He felt himself an artist and creative person, and as such, superior to the crowned noblemen and heads of state. Unusual for the time, he was required to sit at the table of his noble hosts. On the occasion of an argument Beethoven wrote to the sovereign Lichnovsky: “Sovereign, What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; but there is only one Beethoven.”
He also refused to play for the entertainment of the guests of his main supporter, sovereign Lichnovsky, which was a clear affront. Once, there almost a violent fight when the sovereign wanted to kick the door of the room open in which Beethoven had secured himself. Beethoven had already raised the chair “to shatter him on the sovereign’s head in his own house”. Beethoven immediately left, and the day after, when joining a party, he pretended not to know the sovereign whom he had to thank for everything in Vienna.
He never adapted to any area of his environment, and never appeared as an applicant but rather expected others to act in accordance with him. He felt that his favorers accorded him financial aid to enable him a life dedicated to music which has nobody had produced before. When the financial aids weren’t granted he went to court to demand them. This anecdote illustrates Beethoven’s attitude: In 1812 he was in a health resort in Teplitz for treatment of his headaches. While on a walk with Goethe in Teplitz the empress and dukes with the whole royal suite approached. Beethoven now said to Teplitz, “Just remain hanging in my arms, they have to make way, not us.” Goethe didn’t agree and felt unpleasant; he uncoupled from Beethoven’s arm and stepped aside, taking off his hat whereas Beethoven went through the dukes, his arms crossed and adjusting his hat slightly. To make room the others split to both sides and greeted him in a friendly manner. On the other side he stopped, waiting for Goethe who had left the others walking, whilst bowing low. Now told Goethe, “I’ve been waiting for you because I respect and honor you as you deserve it, but to those others, you have shown too much respect.” Later Goethe remarked “… I have never seen another artist in this snatched up, forceful, inner way. I surely understand how queer he must stand towards the world.”
“He was very proud. One day I saw the eccentric countess Thun kneeling before him and asking him to play the piano…” Beethoven did not comply with her request. (pianist von Bernhard)
In the company of others he was impatient, cross, impolite, rude, uncompromising, violent, fierce, sensitive, suspicious and convinced that everybody wanted to betray him. He was known for his extreme fits of temper. We can find these explosions for example in different comments: “He is not to come to me again. He is a treacherous dog and may the flayer get all such treacherous dogs..” On the next day he was conciliable again” Herzens Natzerl, You are an honest fellow and I now see you were right… A kiss fromYour Beethoven. [Also called Mehlschöberl [‘Mehlschöberl, said to be Viennese dialect for a sort of soup dumpling, but Specht gives ‘a person who stacks flour.’]
Ries reported the following: “… Sometimes Beethoven was extremely violent. One day we were eating lunch in the hostelry To the Swan; the waiter brought him a wrong dish. As soon as Beethoven had said some words about it which were answered by the waiter immodestly, he caught the dish and threw it on the waiter’s head. The poor fellow still had several other dishes in his arm … and could not help himself; the broth was running over his face. He and Beethoven were screaming and ranting whereas all the other guests laughed out loud. Finally also Beethoven laughed because of the waiters look. He was licking the sauce up which was running over his face, and could not rant because he had to lick and made the most ridiculous faces…”
On the other hand it is often mentioned how efficient and calculating Beethoven could be to preserve his interests, whilst holding his hand open to needy others. He supported the reformatory and the factory of the poor Ursulinen in Graz by dedicating his compositions. “No one of my friends shall live in want as long as I have something.”
His restlessness is demonstrated by his almost morbid tendency to move. In the course of time he lived in about thirty places in Vienna, and often had several habitations at the same time. He was a very restless and unpleasant tenant. He felt disturbed by everything and disturbed all the others. He played the piano loudly and at inappropriate times. He used to march while composing, grumbled, howled and stamped with his feet. He caused overflows which leached into other rooms because he used to stay before the wash-bowl and wash his hands with large of amounts of water. He often poured water over himself when composing.
This caused arguments with his hosts with whom he frequently quarreled about rent money and the manner of allocating it, as well as the poor clarity of the windows and the quality and costs of lighting. At one time he had four habitations at the same time because of all the trouble. He forgot some of them or to pay the rent because of his absent-mindedness. Although friends helped him with the unpleasantness of daily life he made them responsible for his misery, which made waves, understandably. The following episode illustrates him being a difficult tenant. He felt disturbed that he could not see directly to the green of the prater without having to lean out of the window. He decided to let a mason break a hole in the wall to get a direct view to the prater. When the renter made allegations against Beethoven, he moved out.
Often he did something out of spite towards his hosts, such as the Baron Pronay, who made him four rooms in his villa and made the park available to him. He was just asked not to make noise in the garden room, because the baron used to sleep below this. However, Beethoven used this room most often after having been angry about his host, pacing around in the room, and drumming with his fists on the table.
There was chaos most of the time, wherever Beethoven lived. The chapel master, Seyfried, described one situation as follows, “… There dominated a truly admirable confusion in his household. Books and music supplies were scattered in all corners – there the small rest of a cold snack – here, sealed or half empty bottles of wine – there, on the standing desk the hasty draft of a new Quattuor – here the Rudera de Dejeuners – there, at the piano, on scribbled pages, the material for a symphony – here a correction – amicable and business letters covering the floor – between the windows a respectable loaf of Stracchino [Italian cheese], ad latus remains of a real Veronese salami – and despite this mess the master used to point out his accurateness and orderliness whenever possible, contrary to reality. Only when something was looked for hours, days or often weeks and his efforts were fruitless, his tone changed, and he miserably moaned. That is a disaster! Nothing can remain at its place, everything is displaced; everything happens to monkey about with me!”
Beethoven constantly complained about two things: the costs – although his financial condition was good in most times – and about his staff. His deafness made him even more suspicious towards his environment; he constantly assumed conspiracies against him. When he did not find something (his forgetfulness is also described) he blamed his servants. He scolded them or lashed out so that his friends repeatedly advised him: “Don’t hit them, this could cause trouble with the police!” When removing the dust took too much time he just knocked the water tub over.If he get a bold sounding answer the other got a slap in the face.When the eggs were bad they were thrown out of the window on the alleyway or after the housekeeper who was always ready to flee. No wonder, that housekeeper, scullery-maids and parlor maids were constantly changing. Often they were discharged within a week. Often, they left because of Beethoven’s mood, fits of rages and suspicions. He got very angry when the meal was not prepared to his satisfaction. His favorite dishes were macaroni and Parmesan cheese, fish dishes. He especially liked oysters, blood sausage, and the “veal”. He loved to drink fresh well water, but was fond of alcohol all his life, preferring false wine, of which he drank a bottle each day. He also loved coffee, daily counting the number of beans for his morning coffee by himself – it had to be exactly 60 beans for a cup of coffee.
When Beethoven did not work he used to be in coffee houses and pubs where he told jokes. Most of his leisure time he used for walks, preferably in untouched nature. But not only his desire for recuperation drew him to nature: “My unfortunate ear doesn’t bother me there. It is as if every tree would talk to me in the countryside, sacred, sacred!”
In nature also his pent up emotions could dissolve: “Just a few days in this divine Briel – longing or desire – liberation or fulfillment!” (1818 during a summer stay in Mödling)
Unlike Mozart, Beethoven did not travel far from his health resorts in Teplitz and Karlsbad and beyond his journeys across Prag and Dresden to Berlin; he spent his vacation in the environment of Vienna, mostly in Baden or Mödling.
During the first Viennese years Beethoven was described as flattering the women effortlessly. He “enjoyed seeing women, especially the beautiful, youthful faces, and he used to turn around when walking by lovely girls. He watched them sharply with his glass and laughed or grinned when being noticed. He frequently fell in love but often only for a short time. Once I teased him because of the conquest of a beautiful lady who had fascinated him the most and for the longest – for a full seven months.” (F.Ries)
On the other hand it was reported that the singer Magdalena Willmann refused his proposal at that time “because he was so ugly, and half crazy “. As verified from letters to his friends he used to satisfy his sexual needs by visiting prostitutes. He had an ambivalent attitude about this: “Sensual pleasure without a unification of the souls is and remains brutish: after this one doesn’t feel noble but rather remorse.” He frequently fell in love with unreachable women of society whom he did not truly win, the social differences always being a hindrance.
Beethoven’s depressive mood, as demonstrated in his Heiligenstadt Testament in 1802, was caused by the certainty of his deafness, but also by the refused proposal on the part of the seventeen year old Comtesse Giulietta Guicciardi, for whom he wrote the “Moonlight sonata” in 1801. “Only love – only love can give you a more happy life – my God – let me find her – the one which strengthens my virtues – and which is allowed to be mine.”
He dedicated his “Album papers for Elise” to Therese Malfatti who he adored very much. He was cut to the quick when she refused his proposal in 1810.
In July 1812 he wrote to his “immortal beloved”: “Can you change that you are not entirely mine, and that I’m not entirely yours? … Love requires everything and lawfully; so it is with me for you, and for me with you. Now you easily forget that I have to live for me and for you. If we were united entirely you would feel the pain as little as me.” The letter was never sent as the woman of his heart was not free (the letter was found in his inheritance). Abandoning his personal bliss of love caused a similar crisis situation in 1802. Beethoven suffered from severe depression with suicidal thoughts until 1813.
Beethoven as a “father”
In 1815 Ludwig’s brother died and wrote in his will that his wife and Ludwig shall receive the custodianship for his nine year old son Karl. However, Ludwig did not want his brother’s wife to be involved as he did not value her. He went to the court, ranting and making nasty comments about her, and accusing her publicly of having a weakness of character and immorality. He was very attached to Karl and concerned about his education. At times he was rigorous towards him, at other times he was yielding. Karl connected with doubtful company and tried to escape to his mother due to the felt pressure to perform. He told the court that he feared his uncle’s maltreatment and that his uncle had once had threatened to strangle him. In 1818 Beethoven lost the custodianship but regained it after a long seesawing in 1820. In 1826 Karl attempted suicide and declared to the police that he felt “too much annoyed and bothered” by his uncle, and that “they shall keep his uncle away from him”. During the time of caring excessively for his nephew and fighting pathologically for the custodianship Beethoven wasn’t very productive and he fell ill 1816 -17.
Around 1796 Beethoven’s hearing difficulties began to aggravate and he assumed typhus to be the cause. However at this time, the rather cheerful piano sonata op.10 and the almost hilarious piano trio in B-Dur op.11 (“Gassenhauer Trio”) were written. During this period he got more and more depressed because of his increasing deafness. In 1801 the threatening deafness became a certainty. He spoke about it to a friend with the request to keep it secret. “My ears continue to hum and buzz day and night. I must confess that I lead a miserable life. For almost two years I have ceased to attend any social gathering, just because I find it impossible to say to people “I am deaf.” If I had any other profession I might be able to cope with my infirmity; but in my profession it is a terrible handicap. And if my enemies, of whom I have a fair number, were to hear about it, what would they say! … In conversation, I wonder why people do not notice it; however, since I have always been considered to be somewhat distracted, they take it for that; sometimes I have cursed the creator and my existence. Plutarch has taught me resignation, if possible, otherwise I will defy my fate, although there will be moments in my life in which I will consider myself to be the most unhappy of God’s creatures… Resignation: what a wretched refuge, and yet, it is the only one that is left to me.”
In 1801 he wrote in a letter: ” You can scarcely believe how desolate, how sad my life has been for two years; my defective hearing has haunted me like a specter and I have fled from people, have had to appear a misanthrope when I am so little like one…. For me there is no greater pleasure than to practice and to display my art…”
He accounts his deafness for his misanthropy, however the misanthropy already appeared much earlier, even if losing his hearing also contributed to his increasing distrust, his abnormal sensitivity and quarrelsomeness.
He continued playing the piano despite his deafness, conducted his works and could widely replace his ear with his eye. From 1814 he had problems with playing the piano and did not appear in public anymore. In 1817 he became completely deaf and could only communicate in written form, wherefore there are many comments in his conversation booklets.
Beesthoven had been repeatedly treated for his deafness, and he also knew of homeopathy. However, it is unknown whether he was treated homeopathically. In 1825 his nephew Karl wrote in the conversation booklet: “The homeopathic method more and more dominates. It consists in extremely small portions of medicines, and mainly in a strong diet. The officer with whom I am, suffers from hearing impairment for ten years. Some time ago he consulted a Hahnemannian practitioner who applied a power in incredibly small doses and described a diet which is so strict that he is not allowed to eat anything that is usually cooked but has to be especially prepared for him…”
“His mood was often very melancholic” (Breuning), he had severe bouts of depression in 1802 and 1812. In 1802 he suffered from deep despair and suicidal thoughts because of his deafness and probably also due to his refused proposal. At the peak of his crisis he wrote the Heiligenstadt Testament which only became known after his death.
“For my brothers Karl and [Johan] Beethoven, O ye men who think or declare that I am hostile, stubborn or Misanthropic, how you wrong me you do not know the secret motive of what seems thus to you, from Childhood my Heart and Mind were inclined to the Gentle Feeling of goodwill, indeed I was ever disposed to accomplish great Feats, but only reflect that for the last 6 years an incurable condition has seized me, worsened by senseless physicians, cheated from year to year in the Hope of improvement, finally compelled to the prospect of a lasting Ailment (whose Curing may perhaps take years or indeed be impossible). Born with a fiery Lively Temperament susceptible even to the Diversions of Society, I soon had to keep myself, pass my life in solitude, if I attempted from time to time to rise above all this, o how harshly then was I repulsed by the doubly sad Experience of my bad Hearing, yet I could not say to People: speak louder, shout, for I am deaf,…
And so it is done I hasten with joy towards my Death should it come before I have had an Opportunity to disclose all my Artistic Capacities, then it shall still have come too soon despite my Hard Destiny, and I should indeed wish it came later yet even then am I content. Does it not free me from an endless Suffering State? Come when you will, I’ll meet you bravely farewell and do not wholly forget me in Death. I have deserved it of you, for in Life I thought of you often, in order to make you happy, so may you be ”
Ludwig van Beethoven
Sometime later he wrote: “ A little more and I would have ended my life. Only my art held me back…”
This deep despondency comes along with a tremendous creative power. At the time of the Heiligenstadt Testament Beethoven wrote his cheerful 2nd symphony and at the end of the year he fully resumed his artistic occupation. Between 1801 and 1805, 36 primary publications appeared. At this time he worked at the “Eroica” with which he introduced the musical turn to the 19th century. This symphony was longer than usual, the harmonic structure was complex, with dissonances, and was not understood at first. A critic wrote: “I belong to Herr van Beethoven’s sincerest admirers, but in this composition I must confess I find too much that is glaring and bizarre, which hinders greatly one’s grasp of the whole, and a sense of unity is almost completely lost”. Until 1811 he continued his flush of creativeness. Leonore, Fidelio, the Waldstein sonata, and Appassionata etc. were composed, then his productivity diminished and he withdrew himself more and more into his own world due to his increasing hearing loss. “My ears are, unfortunately, a bridge wall preventing any friendly communication with other people”. At the same time he complains that “this entirely absurd world can’t be opened to the ears by no stretch of the imagination”. Thus, communication with the world is not only impossible but also not necessary as disappointing from the first.
His tendency to isolation aggravated after the death of three old benefactors, and the social and friendly contact with ladies lost their implicitness. In 1812 Beethoven suffered from a second severe crisis of depression and suicidal thoughts. At this time he wrote the letter to his “Immortal Beloved”. In another letter he wrote: “Devotion, dearly devotion to your destiny, only this can give you the sacrifice – to your service – oh what a difficult fight!… You are not allowed to be human, not for yourself, only for others; for you there is no joy more than that is inside you in your art – oh God! Give me the strength to defeat myself, nothing is allowed to bond myself onto life.” (1812) His strong tendency to hypochondria, especially fearing phthisis, is found in many comments and letters.
In 1795 his intestinal trouble is mentioned for the first time. It probably began already in 1790 in Bonn. All is life he suffered from chronic diarrhea accompanied by “colicky pain – my usual disease” and severe debility.
His “chest tightness” is mentioned for the first time after his mother died; and was probably due to a long lasting bronchitis. Until the end he repeatedly suffered from an “abnormal chest condition”, probably from chronic bronchitis.
From 1804 “remittent fevers” are frequently described, which might be linked to this also.
Starting in 1807 Beethoven reports his “terrible headaches” which precluded him from work at times. From 1811 he more frequently complaints about headache, fever or “intestinal inflammation”. The year 1816 to1817 was a low-point of his health. His intestinal troubles and fear of phthisis made him irritable and unwilling to work. The feverish diseases and frequent bouts of bronchitis, which often lasted for a month and were often accompanied by an aggravation of his intestinal troubles, temporarily caused such a severe weakness, that he couldn’t leave his bed for long.
Early in his life Beethoven suffered from severe nearsightedness. In 1823 he had severe ailments caused by his intestinal troubles and a long running painful eye inflammation: “I have to bandage my eyes at night and to favor them.” (iridocyclitis?)
In 1821 he first suffered from “rheumatic accidents”, then jaundice which lasted for three months. During all his life he never rejected alcohol and drank a bottle of wine each day. In 1825, symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver appeared and the bleeding of esophageal varices became noticeable. Afterwards, his health became worse but he continued to work.
The old Beethoven
His tendency to isolation increased from 1811. The years 1816 and 1817 were the low point of his health, then his creative power seemed to renew. Despite continuing health problems he worked consistently and created the Missa solemnis (since 1818, finished in 1823), the ninth symphony (1822-1824), and the later piano sonata and string quartettes which had almost mystical traits.
After Karl’s suicidal attempt (1826) they both visited Ludwigs’s brother Joann in Gneixendorf (Lower Austria) for a rest. He stayed there for a longer time, and also composed there again (string quartet in F-Dur op.135). His belly became larger and larger, his legs swelled, and at times he was bedridden. After a quarrel with his brother he went on his return trip to Vienna when it was cold and he only had light clothing. On the way he started to have a temperature. Being at home again, pneumonia was diagnosed, shortly followed by jaundice, diarrhea with vomiting, and the increasing swelling of his legs. The physician palpated hard knots in the liver. He suffered from choking fits which made a “stitch in the belly” necessary and the doctor emptied 14 liters of ascites. The puncture had to be repeated three times on subsequent occasions.
After long suffering Beethoven died on March 27th,1827 under dramatic circumstances: “…when a storm rose the room was suddenly filled with light and thunder. Beethoven opened his eyes and raised his right fist for several seconds, whilst his face took a serious and threatening expression. When his hand fell down, he closed his eyes and died.”
Many of the anamnestic symptoms which catch our eye are found in the materia medica of Syphilinum. However, it wouldn’t be legitimate to claim this would have been Beethoven’s remedy. For a complete picture the symptoms of Syphilinum are listed below with repertory grades.
Symptoms of Syphilinum
Alcoholism – hereditary (1)
Abusive, cursing, scolding
Mistakes, makes, calculating, in
Fear, disease, of, contagious (2)
Fear, disease, of, incurable, of being
Insanity, madness, megalomania
Company, aversion to
Company, desire for
Lamenting, bemoaning, wailing
Concentration, difficult, calculating, while
Mathematics, calculating, inapt for
Sadness, disease about
Confusion of mind, calculating when
Washing, desire for, hands,
Contradiction, intolerant of
Bathing, washing, amel., cold
Motion, amel., continued
Food and drinks, alcohol, desires
Inflammation, iris, iritis
Inflammation, iris, iritis, rheumatic
Pain, light, from
Thirst, large quantities, for, and often
Desires, alcoholic drinks
Impressive for me are the many traits of a destructive character in the biography of this man. Assigning a certain diathesis is not primarily a medical diagnosis but it helps to recognize the way the patient reacts to stresses and challenges of life (either too much, too little, or in the wrong way), and the susceptibility towards diseases of certain organ systems and the way one suffers from disease.
In practice, recognizing the diathesis a patient belongs to, be it the lymphatic, lithaemic or destructive diathesis, is useful for me as this determines how to best meet the patient (the necessary closeness or distance), and of course their prognosis and possible endangerments. For me, it was important to demonstrate that a person with the destructive diathesis must not only be viewed with regard to the negative aspects, but that he can also develop an incredible potential for the good and for the progress of mankind… music in this case.
The tendency to destruction in all areas of the individual (body, mind, soul) with destructive diathesis can lead to destruction of oneself (carcinoma, psychosis etc.), the destruction of the environment and even whole countries. However, it can also, as seen with Beethoven, lead to the development of something positive and creative.
Homeopathy especially offers the possibility, with properly chosen remedies, to channel the inherent forces of the destructive patient (especially children) towards a positive direction, and to help him live a fulfilled life.
If one only read Beethoven’s biography without knowing about his wonderful creation, one would have to comment what a “lamentable human” he was, as Dorcsi did. But if one hears Beethoven’s music….
|1781||End of school attendance|
|1783||2nd court organist in Bonn|
|1787||Death of his mother|
|1792||Arrival in Wien|
|1795||Opus 1, piano trio|
|1796||Journey to Prag, Dresden, Berlin||Piano sonata op.10, piano trio in B-Dur op.11 (“popular song” trio)||Beginning deafness|
|1801||“Moonlight Sonata”||For the first time B. makes comments about his deafness to his friends|
|1802||G.Guicciardi’s denial of his proposal||“The Kreutzer Sonata” (1802/03), 2nd symphony||Depression, suicidal thoughts, “Heiligenstadt testament”|
|1803||No.3 Es-Dur “Eroica” (performance 1805)“Waldstein Sonata” (1803/04)|
|1804||“Appassionata” (1804/05) No.5 c-moll,“Fate Symphony” (until 1808) “Fidelio” (1804/05, 1806, 1814||Beginning “ague”|
|1806||Violin concert D-Dur, piano concert in G-Dur, 4th symphony|
|1807||No.6 F-Dur, “Pastorale” (1807/08)||“Only love can give a happy life…” Beginning of the “horrific headache”|
|1810||Therese Malfatti’s denial of his proposal||“Album for Elise”|
|1812||Stay at a health resort in Teplitz, meeting with Goethe||7th and 8th symphony||Increasing isolation, letter to the “immortal beloved”, depression, suicidal thoughts, “resignedness to destiny…”|
|1814||Last official piano concert||Problems when playing the piano, death of prince Lichnovsky|
|1815||Death of his brother Karl who died from “galloping consumption”, fight for his nephew Karl (until 1820)|
|1816||Hit the rock bottom of health (intestinal troubles, bronchitis, fear of consumptiveness). Almost unable to work until 1818|
|1817||Missa solemnis (until 1823), Hammer piano sonata op.106||Complete deafness, conversational booklets|
|1818||Loss of the guardianship for Karl|
|1820||B. again receives the guardianship for Karl|
|1821||“Rheumatic attacks”, jaundice|
|1822||Symphony no.9 d-Moll with final chorus “Ode to Joy” (until 1824)||Gouty ailments|
|1823||Inflammation of the eyes (iridocyclitis?)|
|1825||Cirrhosis of the liver, bleeding esophageal varices|
|1826||Suicide attempt of his nephew Karl||String quartette in F-Dur op.135|
|1827||Death||Pneumonia, jaundice, ascites, punction four times|
Bankl, Hans: Woran sie wirklich starben. Krankheiten und Tod historischer Persönlichkeiten. Verlag W.Maudrich, wien 1989
Dumont, Cedric: Ludwig van Beethoven. Die Geschichte eines unglücklichen glücklichen Lebens. Georg Westermann Verlag, Braunschweig 1978
Ley, Stephan: Beethoven. Sein Leben in Selbstzeugnissen, Briefen und Berichten. Paul Neff Verlag, Wien 1954.
Köhler, Karl-Heinz und Herre, Gritta: Ludwig van Beethovens Konversationshefte. Band 8. Hefte 91-103. Herausgegeben im Auftrag der Deutschen Staatsbibliothek Berlin. VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1981
Radar-Computerprogramm der Fa. Archibel S.A., Namur (Belgien)
Wallner, Viktor: Ludwig van Beethoven und Baden (Ein schwieriger Zeitgenosse in Niederösterreich). Neue Badener Blätter, 9.Jahrgang, Nummer II (2.Auflage v.5.Jg./III), Verlag der Gesellschaft der Freunde Badens und Städtische Sammlungen – Archiv/Rolletmusuem der Stadtgemeinde Baden, 2500 Baden, Hauptplatz 1
Zobely, Fritz: Ludwig van Beethoven. Rowohlts Monographien. Reinbek bei Hamburg, März 1965, 22.Auflage Mai 1992
This article was first published in “Documenta Homoeopathica”, Vol.20, Verlag W.Maudrich, Wien, 2000, and is republished with permission of the author, Dr.Franz Swoboda, the Österreichische Gesellschaft für Homöopathische Medizin (publisher) and the Facultas Verlags- und Buchhandels AG (Wien)
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