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Written by Biancamaria Puma   

Emilio Servadio was born on the 14th August, 1904 in Sestri Levante, a small municipality which later became part of Genoa. His parents were jewish, his father, Cesare from Marche, was a director of an important Company - "La Navigazione Generale Italiana," and his mother, Faustina Finzi came from a family of Florentine Jewellers. From a young age he showed great interest in music and had a good ear. He studied the piano, harmony and composition for a number of years and was able to take advantage of Genoa developing greatly in the field of music during that time. Although he was still a student, he rose quickly under the wing of Teatro Paganini, where he became interested in Wagner. He was however quoted as saying after having participated in a rendition of Tristan and Isolde that he had a terrible headache. The Teatro Carlo Felice was also active during the same period and Emilio Servadio attended every concert. He continued to learn music, acquiring a notable competence and his favorite composers were Mozart and Wagner. Over the years he visited Beyreuth often and became an intimate friend of the Wagner family. Music and poetry were his great interests outside scientific spheres.

He was a model student, always gaining high marks and he matriculated from the prestigious classic school - D'Oria in 1922. At the age of 18 he published his first article in "Il Lavoro," a daily newspaper in Genoa with which he was to collaborate on various writings. A lover of literature, Emilio Servadio was attracted by the avant-garde, obscure and futuristic style of the French poets belonging to the decadent and symbolist movement. At that time in Genoa The "Società di Lettura e Conversazione Scientifiche" (Literary and Scientific Conversation Society) was attended by numerous intellectuals, including Eugenio Montale, who wrote "Ossi di Seppia" in 1925, with an affectionate dedication to the young Emilio Servadio who was making his debut with a book of verse, Licheni, issued in a small numbered edition of 175 (1).

The academic psychology of the 1920"s - the experimental psychology of the laboratory did not stimulate him greatly, nor did it answer all the questions the young Emilio Servadio had regarding hypnosis and it's precursors dating back to the 1700's - that is the so called period of "animal magnetism." Fascinated by French literature and "The Introduction to Psychoanalysis" of Freud, who realized it dealt with a deeper and more perceptive psychology than he had come across to date. He continued to read Freud and his followers, mostly in French and English as at the time there was little translated into Italian (2). After reading "Traite` de Metapsychique" by Charles Richet and "The Introduction to Psychoanalysis," by Freud, Emilio Servadio wrote a scientific article "La suggestione a termine," that marked the beginning of his interest in psychoanalysis and parapsychology. At 22 he graduated in Law, obtaining Maximum marks, which enabled him to become a journalist. For his thesis he chose a topic in Legal Medicine on hypnosis with some 235 bibliographic references. An entire chapter was dedicated to the psychoanalytic interpretation of the relationship between the hypnotist and the hypnotized as had been outlined by Sandor Ferenczi, student of Freud.

In 1930, at 26 years of age, already possessing notable competence in the field, he published a book entitled "Psychic Research" (3)in which Professor Charles Richet, one of the most illustrious academics in the field of parapsychology (and Nobel Prize Winner for physiology) wrote the preface. In the 1920's the philosopher Julius Evola, who had showed no signs of anti-semitic tendencies to that point (4), became interested in the Dadaist movement becoming an active member and he published Dadaist writings and painted Dadaist pictures. Focusing on a magical conception of existence, he founded a small group (12-15 people maximum) of educated people who held both cultural meetings and ceremonies and magical rituals. In 1927 Evola founded the magazine Ur (from the Greek word which means fire), which after 2 years, with the collaboration of Kremmerz (Ciro Farmisano) the magazine was called Kur (5). When the first edition of Ur came out, Emilio Servadio, who at the time was in Switzerland to improve his German, wrote to Evola, whom he was already in correspondence with, to offer his collaboration on his return to Rome. In fact he wrote a number of works under the pseudonym ES. The activities of the group, such as the magical rituals and ceremonies did not interest Emilio Servadio although he knew of them. He was attracted by Evola's orientation to the oriental esoteric traditions and of the journey towards perfection and interior transformation.

Meanwhile Emilio Servadio was contacted by Calogero Tumminelli, one of the editors of the Italian Treccani Encyclopedia and he moved to Rome, where he became editor of the publication and signed forty or so sets (other hundred weren't signed). As director of "Psicoanalisi", Emilio Servadio wrote to Edoardo Weiss (6), then resident in Trieste, to work with him on the matter and he relocated to Rome in 1931. Emilio Servadio's interest in psychoanalysis increased constantly and he underwent 2 years' didactic analysis (of five sessions a week) at the Weiss home in Rome, firstly in Via dei Gracchi and then in Via Bellini. In 1932 with Weiss and a few others, he founded the Italian Psychoanalytical Society (7), which four years later at Marienbad, was admitted to the International Psychoanalytical Association. Also in 1932 Emilio Servadio met Anna Freud with whom he establishes a deep friendship nurtured by the intense mail sessions. The same year he became involved with the magazine "Rivista Italiana di Psicoanalisi" which was short-lived as the fascists suppressed it's publication after only two years. It should be underlined that Emilio Servadio and his colleagues fought a constant battle against the hostility of the dominant culture: fascism; A certain Marxist-Leninist vision, which redirected the human unease of the time to matters of economical order, the official psychology and psychiatry which pursued a positive and organic outlook; the catholic orthodoxy that considered psychoanalysis a materialistic and pans- sexual doctrine; a philosophy inspired prevalently by the idealism of Benedetto Croce and Giovanni Gentile (8). Also in 1932 the academic attended the Psychoanalytical Conference in Wiesbaden, and in 1934 he presented a paper (in German)"Psychoanalysis and Telepathy" (10) at the International Conference of Psychoanalysis at Lucerne (9), which was published the following year by "Imago", a magazine produced by Freud. By then it could be seen how Emilio Servadio addressed matters of parapsychology in psychoanalytical magazines, and, at the same time wrote psychoanalytical works on parapsychology. Thereby combining the psychic aspects of man with those ultra psychic and metaphysical. In fact, throughout his life, Emilio Servadio would work towards the study of man as a global being, as a complete unit, gifted with a body, a psyche and a spirit; "Man that raises his arms towards the sky, mirror of what is celestial and eternal in him" (11).

In 1937 Emilio Servadio, Giovanni Schepis, Fernando Cazzamalli and Luigi Romolo Sanguineti founded the "Società di Metapsichica" which became the "Società Italiana di Parapsicologia" after the war. In 1938 the Fascist regime enacted racial laws. In the Italian Psychoanalytical Society there were a number of Jews and Emilio Servadio was the first to emigrate. He decided to go to India, as he had already been following the Indian spirituality of the "Vedanta monistico" for reasons of both a cultural and philosophical nature. Amongst the aspects of Indian culture that interested Emilio Servadio most was Yoga, that he continued to investigate, recognising the parallels with psychoanalysis (12). Already possessing a Diploma from an Indian University, it was not difficult for him to obtain a visa. He went to Zurich to the British Consulate, passing through Genoa to visit his family, then crossed France and departed for India. In India too, Emilio Servadio's work was as a pioneer in the field of psychoanalysis. In truth, in the first decades of the century, work in this field was not lacking, in fact, there were two military doctors from the English army, Daly and Berkeley-Hill and Doctor Girindrasekhar Bose, in Calcutta, that from 1921 in correspondence with Freud (13) started an Indian Psychoanalytical Society. In Bombay, where Emilio Servadio intended to stay, there was no analyst, such that, before departing the President of the International Psychoanalytical Association, Ernest Jones, warned him that his activity would be avant-garde. However, he had already been in contact with Bose and told that once he was in India he would be nominated as didactic analyst of the Indian Psychoanalytical Association. In Bombay, while working as a psychoanalyst, Emilio Servadio came into contact with people of various races and religious creeds, accumulating great experience in comparison to other colleagues. He had in analysis Hindus, Muslims, Shiites etc, individuals who had some common processes amongst them, but who also had decidedly different interior worlds as different symbolism. As he was already recognized at an international level for his works on psychoanalysis and parapsychology, Emilio Servadio was esteemed in Indian University circles and was nominated as Honorary Professor of the Andhra Research University (Madras College). He heard of the death of Freud ( who had fled from Vienna to London in 1938) on the 23rd September, 1939 writes a long commemorative article in the "Times of India".

In Italy the situation was becoming critical: Mussolini trusting in Hitler's Blitzkrieg, took the country into the conflict at Germany's side. As India was a British protectorate, the Italians were placed in English internment camps. It was ironical that Emilio Servadio, taking refuge from racial persecution in India, had found himself imprisoned anyway.

In January, 1946 he returned to Italy and discovered that his parents and his brother Mario had managed to hide during the war but that his sister Letizia and brother-in-law (whom he had tried to convince to go to India) had been deported firstly in Italy, in Fossoli, and then in Germany, to Auschwitz. He took up contact with his Italian colleagues again and with them founded the magazine "Rivista di Psicoanalisi" under the Directorship of J. Flescher(14). The following October (22nd-23rd) he was amongst those who organized the first "Italian Congress of Psychoanalysis" which had notable success, even internationally. In April 1947 he reconstituted officially the "Società Psicoanalitica Italiana". Gifted with intelligence and clarity of exposing his thoughts, Emilio Servadio showed a particular flair for using mass media (magazines, newspapers, radio, reunions, public meetings and later even television) as a means of presenting psychoanalysis. At the same time he worked to rebuild "La Società di Metapsichica" that he had contributed to in 1937.

Whilst staying in Rome in 1946 he formed a friendship with Eileen J. Garrett who would become the President of Parapsychology Foundation in 1952. From this came important developments for the progress of parapsychology. In 1953 on the occasion of the nomination of Doctor Tenhaeff as Professor of Parapsychology at the University of Utrecht, The Parapsychology Foundation organized a conference in that city which was attended by Emilio Servadio and various psychiatrists and psychoanalysts among which was Jule Eisenbud (15).

After the second Congress of Psychoanalysis which took place in 1950 in the Faculty of Literature at the University of Rome, in 1953 Emilio Servadio published "La psicoanalisi"(16) and presented it at a meeting of the psychoanalysts of romance languages. The paper was "The function of pre Oedipus complexes". In 1955 he published "Il Sogno" ("the dream") (17) and during the 50's he participated regularly in "Il convegno dei cinque" ("meeting of the 5"), a radio transmission which was very popular at the time and which he used to sensitise public opinion regarding psychoanalysis. In the meantime the Italian Psychoanalytical Society structured itself so that between 1954-55 it was composed of two honorary members, fourteen ordinary members, eight of which were teaching members (amongst these was Emilio Servadio) and nine members. In 1962 disagreements amongst the teaching analysts regarding educational training of students brought about the formation of two groups in Rome and a third in Milan that prepared students of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society separately. The group presided over by Emilio Servadio (in Via di Villa Emiliani 4), the other group in Rome presided over by Perrotti (in Via Salaria 237b) and the Milanese group conducted by Musatti (Via Sabbatici 4) were recognized by the International Psychoanalytical Association (I.P.A) as autonomous institutes, which together made up the Società Psicoanalitica Italiana ( S.P.I.). From 1963 the S.P.I. would have a President (Emilio Servadio up to 1969) and two Vice Presidents - representing the three institutes. Collecting newspaper articles in alphabetical order from his vast number of works, in 1961 Emilio Servadio published "La Psicologia dell' Attualità," (Current Psychology) in which he addressed diverse psychological ideas and interpreted, according to Freud's vision, various events and personalities of the time. The language was clear and simple - accessible to everyone. In this way Emilio Servadio displayed his ability to communicate at a simple level in lay terms as well as at an academic level adopting a complex "turn of phrase" to express his ideas. Three years later he was nominated as Honorary Professor of the Royal Society of Medicine.

From the time of his stay in India, Emilio Servadio, who practiced meditation daily (as had been suggested to him by Aldous Huxley), maintained that to meditate was like going home - meaning that such a practice favored contact with ones inner self. With Huxley (1894-1963) he had much in common - both had a real interest in scientific progress, they had both spent time in India and had both experimented with psychedelic substances. The studies and experiments on hallucinogens that Emilio Servadio carried out were notable (18). To understand psychotic states better he experimented on himself, studying the effects of LSD and he kept a careful watch on the experiences of some of his students, with the assistance of a doctor, "I experimented with LSD and psilocibina, a substance found in American Hallucinogenic mushrooms, under medical supervision. I passed hours in a memorable psychological state of chaos. Today, when a patient talks about depersonalization, neurosis of abandon or persecution fantasies I know what it means" (19). While supervising the experience of some of his patients at the end of the analytic therapy, when they had already assimilated certain data, he discovered that they had more control over their inner selves after a small amount of LSD had been administered. The most important example of this was that of Federico Fellini who went to him. Emilio Servadio attempted in vane to help him through psychoanalysis, but he was only able to make the producer understand his internal ghosts after a small dose of LSD(20), so that "Juliet of the Spirits" (1965) represented Fellini's farewell to his belief in the spirits and a greater knowledge of his own interior world.

The will for knowledge, that already in the past made him study oriental traditions, pushed Emilio Servadio, in 1964, to desire to become a freemasonry member. So said he enrolled in the “Grande Oriente d’Italia”, more precisely into Loggia “Propaganda 2” of Rome, much before starting to talk about, (in good or bad),  “piduisti” as a subversive group of people and as well  of Loggia “P2” as  an “undercover” Loggia, meaning it as  a secret order, with the aim at destabilizing the political-institutional asset of the State.

Even thou the Loggia “Propaganda”  was founded in 1877, among its members were deputies,senators,bankers and the major personalities of the newly formed Italian Reign. After fascist laws, which were forbidding the freedom to form any kind of society or order as well as press freedom, freemasonry became “out of law” and so for repressed not only  with the available medias of those days but also with devastation of Temples, persecutions, tortures and killings of many of its members. The “Gran Maestro”, the leader of the movement,  Domizio Torrigiani, was arrested and constrained to dismantle “Loggia Propaganda”. The fall of fascism and consequently the “liberation” made re-born the Loggia, this time under American influence, with the name of “Propaganda 2”, as per numeration of Italian “loggie”, the “P2” actually.

After two years from becoming a member, Emilio Servadio had already left the “P2” (16/12/1966) in order to become an affiliate of  R.L. “Hermes” N.594 at the Oriente di Roma. Three years later, as the “Grande Oriente” was allowing double affiliations, he became a member also in the “Monte Sion Har Tzion” N. 705 at the Oriente di Roma, where he had the opportunity to further study on the jewish-cabalistic tradition.

The end of his double affiliation was dated November 14 1975, until December 18 1976 was still a member of R.L. “Hermes”, in that date was sentenced, with many others, and expulsed from the Order appointing  them with futile reasons, and so for in March 21 1980 he was pardon and reintegrated in his past rankings.

“In the 90’s Emilio Servadio decides to withdrawn from being an active freemason therefore upon his request he obtained to be put  “asleep” (a freemasonry term which meaning is to temporarily pull out from any kind of masonry practice).

In November 1968, in the Aula Magna of the University of Trieste, a prestigious National Conference on Psychoanalysis was held to honor Doctor Weiss and presided over by Emilio Servadio. It was he, himself who presented the paper "Edoardo Weiss and Italian Psychoanalysis.

Emilio Servadio's competence touched many fields. His interest in sexology started at an early age and showed itself during the 1970's and his work brought him recognition also in this sector. In 1970 he published "Sex Education" (21), in 1972 "Psyche and Sexuality (22) and in 1979 "Sex and Psyche" (23). He wrote articles on the topic for various newspapers and magazines, both national and foreign (as usual fluently in English, German, French and Spanish), which gave him international acclaim. He was one of the first to support the theory regarding the usefulness and necessity of sex education in schools; he spoke explicitly about homo- sexuality, not reducing it necessarily to psycho- pathology: he also dealt with the topic of feminine sexuality opposing Freud's theories.

By the 1970's the "Società Psicoanalitica Italiana" was already composed of three institutes: L'istituto Romano di Psicoanalisi, Il Centro Psicoanalitico di Roma and L'istituto Milanese di Psicoanalisi. In 1974 it became necessary to modify the old Statute and Regulations and formulate new ones. The number of Italian psychoanalysts increased progressively and Emilio Servadio, while continuing his activities as mentor analyst and supervisor, saw with satisfaction many of his students become analysts, mentors and reach important positions within the Italian Psychoanalytical Society. In "Passi sulla via iniziatica" published in 1977, the maestro showed his profound knowledge of various esoteric subjects and in the preface he expressed his willingness to demonstrate, as much as possible, how, despite everything, clear distinctions between profane science and sacred science can operate. The great experiences that he had in the Orient and in the West had convinced him of the existence of plains of being that no scientific instrument could measure, which can, no must, be places under the insignia of the sacred or if one prefers, the metaphysic.

In 1982, on the occasion of 50th Anniversary of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society, Emilio Servadio and Musatti were nominated Honorary Presidents of the S.P.I. The same year the Head of State nominated Emilio Servadio Grand Official of the Order - to the merit of the Italian Republic. In 1984, at the venerable age of eighty, solicited by friends and acquaintances, Emilio Servadio, who had never abandoned his interest literature and poetry, published a second book of verse "Poesie d'amore e di Pena"(poems of love and sorrow) that brought him the same year the Donatello Prize and the nomination "Academic of Merit" from the Setaccio Academy(24). Stimulated by such success, he published "Poesie del Sogno e dell'estasi"(Poems of Dreams and ecstasy)(25) in 1988 and in 1989 "Poesie del Cuore e del Cielo" (Poems of the heart and heaven) (26), works recognized with various prizes, amongst which the Diploma of Honor of the Montesacro Prize (28th May, 1989). His work proceeded, in 1991 with "Poesie dell'aria e del Fuoco" (Poems of Air and Fire) (27), in1993 with "Poesie della Spada e della Rosa" (Poems of the Sword and the Rose)(28), and at ninety years of age with "Poesie del Vento e della Luce" (Poems of the Wind and Light) (29).

Constituted in 1992, with a small group of colleagues, the Italian Association of Psychoanalysis (A.I.P.S.I.) was recognized by the Executive Council of the International Psychoanalytical Association. In Amsterdam on the 9th August, 1994 Emilio Servadio received the "Career Achievement Award", the maximum recognition for a person in the field of Parapsychology, from the Parapsychological Association which was the most authorative organization in the world in the sector. He was the first Italian to receive it and the seventh in the world, together with his colleague Jule Eisenbud. In the summer of 1994 Emilio Servadio became ill with an intestinal infection and died in a Rome clinic on the 18th January, 1995 aged 90.

Biancamaria Puma


(1) Emilio Servadio, Licheni, Turin, Ribet Brothers, 1929.
(2) Emilo Servadio, Steps of the Memory in the Fathers of Psychoanalysis in Italy (documentary/interview by the Institute of Light, Rome in the 1980's).
(3) Emilio Servadio, Physical Research, Rome, Cremonese, 1930.
(4) Emilio Servadio on his return to Italy from India never met Evola again due to Evola's racist views, but he never ceased to hold him in great esteem for his work and orientalism.
(5) The magazines Ur and Kur were republished in 3 volumes by Mediterranean Editions, Rome with the title "Introduction to Magic".
(6) Weiss had carried out analysis with a direct pupil of Freud, Federn, and from 1913 was already a member of the Viennese Psychoanalytical Society and of the International Psychoanalytical Association.
(7) An attempt to found an Italian Psychoanalytical Society had already been made in 1925 by the neuro- psychiatrist, Marco Levi Bianchini who worked at the Hospital of Nocera Inferiore. Not having had any mentoring, his attempt failed.
(8) In the Magazine of Benedetto Croce, "La Critica", Guido De Ruggiero wrote that psychoanalysis made him nauseous.
(9) During this conference Wilhelm Reich was fired from the International Psychoanalytical Association as he stated that psychoanalysis was either communist or didn't have reason to exist.
(10) Emilio Servadio, Psychoanalysis and Telepathy, in ":Imago", No. 4, 1935.
(11) Emilio Servadio, Parapsychology and Transcendence (6th Day of Parapsychology, Bologna, 1-2/10/1988).
(12) Emilio Servadio, Psychoanalysis and Oriental Thought, in sufferance and Healing, Assisi, Cittadella, 1993.
(13) The Epistle between Bose and Freud is preserved in the Sigmund Freud Archives in New York.
(14) The magazine ceased to exist in 1947 when Flescher moved to the United States.
(15) In the years to come, Both Emilio Servadio and Eisenbud, well known psychoanalysts, would be busy in constant research in the field of parapsychology, so much that they both received the Career Achievement Award, the prestigious prize that the Psychoanalytical Association confers for distinct contributions to the develop- ment of Parapsychology.
(16) Emilio Servadio - Carlo Bo, Psychoanalysis - Surrealism, Turin, Italian Radio Editions, 1953.
(17) Emilio Servadio, The Dream, Milan, Garzanti, 1955.
(18) Emilio Servadio, The Truth about LSD, in Rassegna Italiana di Ricerca Psichica No 1-2, 1967.
(19) F. Pansa, Voyage around Dreams, Milan, Camunia 1993, p. 131.
(20) G. Errera, Emilio Servadio, From Hypnosis to Psychoanalysis, Florence, Nardini 1990.
(21) Emilio Servadio, Sex Education, Naples, Guida, 1970.
(22) Emilio Servadio, Psyche and Sexuality, Rome, Astrolabio, 1972.
(23) Emilio Servadio Sex and Psyche, Milan, Armenia, 1979.
(24) Monecatini, Terme, 1/12/1984.
(25) Emilio Servadio, Poems of Dreams and Ecstasy, Florence, Nardini,1988.
(26) Emilio Servadio, Poems of the Heart and Heaven, Florence, Nardini, 1989.
(27) Emilio Servadio, Poems of Air and Fire, Florence, Nardini, 1991.
(28) Emilio Servadio, Poems of The Sword and the Rose, Florence, Nardini, 1993.
(29) Emilio Servadio, Poems of the Wind and Light, Florence, Il Fauno, 1994.