Robert Waldl (Vienna, Austria)
   with comments by Adam Blatner

Robert Waldl,  below:

Posted, February 2010. (Presentation at the 62nd Annual conference of the American Society for Group Psychotherapy & Psychodrama (ASGPP), in April 2004 and also at the 63rd conference in Miami, April, 2005).

Also published as: Waldl, Robert. (2005). J. L. Morenos Einfluss on Martin Bubers Ich und Du. (J. L. Moreno’s influence on Martin Buber’s I and Thou). Zeitschrift für Psychodrama und Soziometrie, 1, 169-173. German. English abstract.  Also on internet in German as:   http://www.waldl.com/downloads/Waldl_Morenos_Einfluss_auf_Bubers_Ich_und_Du.pdf

Before showing and discussing my findings, I would like to introduce myself and give you a short description of the way of my work. I am a person-centered psychotherapist in Vienna (i.e., mainly influenced by the pioneering work of Carl Rogers.). Five years ago I went back to the University of Vienna to study philosophy, and in 2002 I wrote my Master’s thesis titled The Therapeutic Aspects of Martin Buber’s Philosophy. The last chapter of my thesis was focused on Buber’s influence on the different schools of psychotherapy. With regards to this topic I read books about J.L. Moreno and

psychodrama. At first sight things seemed to be clear: In a number of papers and books in the professional literature, Moreno is viewed as influenced by Buber—or so it seemed. For example, Ferdinand Buer, the author of Moreno’s Therapeutische Philosophie (1999, page 26), wrote, “First of all Martin Buber, who worked from 1916 to 1923 partly in Vienna on his Philosophy of ‘I and Thou’... has influenced Moreno strongly.”
But Moreno said that it was he who influenced Buber! Who was right?

Others have said that Buber’s philosophy influenced other founders of psychotherapeutic schools such as Laura and Fritz Perls and Victor Frankl. However, in one of the textbooks I found a quotation by Moreno about encounter from 1914, (quoted in a textbook for modern Methods of Psychotherapy 1994 (Hilarion Petzold (HG.), Wege zum Menschen, Methoden und Personlichkeiten ), and this puzzled me strongly. This poem is published by Moreno several times, it plays a central role. Please let me translate it to you later. Prof. Dr. Petzold interpreted this poem (roughly translated):  We can easily see that these lines of Moreno are corresponding with Buber's concept of “I and Thou.” And in fact the connection from these lines to Buber cannot be denied. However, what absolutely does not fit here is the year 1914.

Because I was very familiar with Buber’s writings due to my studies, and I remember very well my thoughts when I was reading this words from Morenos early poems for the first time: "If Moreno was influenced by Buber already in 1914, then he must have seen texts by Buber which I have not seen yet!" (In other words, I knew of no writings by Buber about encounter before 1920.)

At that point, by coincidence someone else gave me an interesting lead: Because my thesis was funded by a Victor Frankl scholarship, I had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Eleonore Frankl, Viktor Frankl's widow. She found and gave me copies of letters from Moreno, Pfuetze and Buber. When I saw this poem from 1914 for the first time, these  copies where lying yet unread on my table. In this widely unknown collection of letters published in the journal, Pastoral Psychology ( which I started re-reading), Moreno wrote 1958 what sounded to me at the same time absolutely amazing and however very logical: He wrote that it was he who influenced Buber’s writing of I and Thou with his early writings which were published nine years before Bubers main work!
I went to my Thesis-Professor Dr. Klaus Dethloff to show him my findings. I still remember him turning the copies and the books around and around saying, “This is very exciting; you have to stay on that.” And so I did. The problem was that in 2002, it was not possible to find all the early writings of Moreno in the Austrian Libraries. I couldn’t believe that Moreno should not have left more copies of his writings in the big Libraries of Vienna and I started searching deeper. It turned out that six copies of Moreno’s Writings had been lost in the Library of University of Vienna.

The problem was that Moreno’s name at that time was Jacob Levy—he added the “Moreno” later! Here you see the first page of a booklet of Moreno from 1914 and you see that a librarian missed a few things on it. So someone added the name of the publisher

by handwriting and the “J” is correctly completed to Jacob”—but then a mistake occurred and this booklet and five others got lost in the system of the library for a long time. The librarian could not read the name “Levy” properly, saw the “L” as a “G,” and so these booklets were categorized under the name “Gevy” until I found them! I found them by checking thousands and thousands of books under the keyword “Begegnung” which means encounter. (Hooray for computers!)

Found 2002 in the Library of the University of Vienna: “Gevy” is Moreno!

No unknown writings, but 6 unknown copies of three different booklets published by Jakob Levy 1914 -1915. Shown here is the list of the search-result from 2002 from the Library of the University of Vienna. The Computer listed six books from the unknown author Gevy, who in fact is Moreno. By this way I did not find unknown writings by Moreno, but I found six copies of three early publications which had not been available for scientists for many years.

The German word “Begegnung” means encounter or meeting and it is not only the right keyword to find Morenos books, it is the keyword to the whole Moreno-Buber issue!
The main question for eventual influences in either one or the other direction, then, is what did Moreno write and what did Buber write and when?  In 1914 and 1915 Moreno wrote expressionistic poems, short texts and published them in small booklets all under the same title: “Einladung zu einer Begegnung,” meaning “Invitation to an Encounter.” For differentiation he gave his texts different subtitles.

These Invitations to an Encounter were not only meant as literature, it was in fact meant as an invitation to meet people. In the first booklet Moreno published, he announces an address where he could be contacted and letters and invitations could be sent to. In the next booklet Moreno got more concrete and writes, he only will consider letters which intend a direct encounter face to face.  (AB: Nowadays we use a webpage!)

The central- the main- and over all issue, which dominates every page of his booklets is the living Encounter: Moreno writes about encounter by talking. He describes encounter by meeting in silence face to face. He writes about encounter by glances. Moreno formulated in an expressionistic style. His poems are written in archaic, powerful, strong words. Some lines are almost hurting and others are sensitive moving. Not all poems are easy to understand. For Moreno these booklets have been very important. As we know from advertisements he sold them in Vienna for at least six years.

The poem I showed you in the beginning is published in these first booklets and he will repeat these lines a few times almost like a credo.  These five lines are a mystery - they stay in the centre of the Moreno-Buber issue. Till now these lines have seemed to be proof that Moreno was influenced by Buber. These lines are so much concentrated. If someone would get the job somehow to formulate “I and Thou” in a poem, these lines would do that very much. These lines will appear later again when we have a look at Buber’s writings.

1918 when Moreno was working as a doctor in Bad Voslau, a little town close to Vienna, he had obviously better financial possibilities, he started to publish the magazine Daimon, which was one year later called the New Daimon and another year later Die Gefuhrten. This journal, with its various titles, became the magazine of the Austrian Expressionists and Moreno gathered the most important writers of this literature-style.

Here Moreno publishes his poems and texts from 1914 and 1915 again. But he also started to publish longer texts, and plays on new topics.  In the dialogue of these plays he starts asking very consequently under which conditions living encounter can take place and what are the conditions which avoid the direct encounter.

Moreno is reflecting the role of scientists, of authors, of speakers, of theatre-people in relation to a possible living encounter. He wrights in vivid words writes about love, about healing, about relationship.

When did Martin Buber develop his Dialogical Philosophy?

Buber made different statements on the genesis of I and Thou. In the 1920s he mentioned several times an early plan for I and Thou, claiming the seeds had begun in 1916. In the 1950s Buber wrote on two occasions, “I report that the idea of ‘I and Thou’ has already been expressed, in the same terms, in my early writings ... 1907.” Buber himself gave us two different versions about when he wrote ‘I and Thou.’ He mentioned several times that he had an early plan for the book  in the year 1916. This is actually the official version and the so called early plan is referred to in every Buber Biography till today.

 My research shows that, yes, there are plans, but mostly they are from the early 1920s, as Rivka Horwitz, an outstanding Buber-specialist could show in her work Buber’s way to I and Thou. The earliest sketch, which could count as plan for I and Thou is from the year 1918.

1918: earliest dialogical lines from Buber ( out of Rivka Horwitz, äBubers Way to I and Thou”, 1978)  The important terms “Iö, “Thouö and  “encounterö are still missing in Bubers thinking at February 1918. But here Buber still does not use the highly important terms “Iö, “Thouö or “Encounterö. Of course someone could think now, maybe there was a plan from 1916, which just was not found. So let us shortly have a look what was Bubers thinking and writing about - in the time before 1918.

Buber was 14 years older than Moreno. Beside his new interpretations of the Hasidic Legends Buber wrote culture-historical essays. Here his point of view was mystic and not dialogical. Buber thought in a mystic way that the crisis of the society could only be solved by a mental revival in our inner self. Buber was occupied by the inner mystic experience of the single person and did not have the perspective of encounter and dialogue.  The writer Buber produced highly aesthetic essays about the crisis of the culture and his thinking was non-political and non-social. This attitude of Buber culminated in a very delicate position about World-War I, which he welcomed as magic and powerful for a long time. In dark and weird words Buber writes about the war. He defends the right of Germany to invade and occupy other European countries. In his mystical understanding the war would lead to a better society and he brings similarities with wars mentioned in the Torah.

1916 Gustav Landauer a German Anarchist and an important friend of Buber, prohibited him any more public statement to the continuing World-War. Buber came in a real crisis. Later in his life Buber himself describes this time as a “Self-Correctionö, but the real background is not mentioned in the Buber-Biographies. I mention this, to show that there was no dialogical thinking and no dialogical terms at all during that time in Bubers writing.

After 1916 Buber changes. Influenced by Landauer he formulates anarchistic and other social romantic ideas himself. In May 1918 Buber hold a speech in Vienna, where he describes Jesus as an Anarchist who fights against Rome. This speech from Buber was announced months before. During this visit in Vienna he most probably met Moreno for the first time, because then a publishing cooperation began which lasted for a long time.

DAIMON, No. 3, June 1918 : The long continuing cooperation from Moreno and Buber is here documented the first  time. Bubers Advertisement is right below the announcement of Morenos äEinladung
zu einer Begegnung”   

Buber never mentioned that he met Moreno. Moreno writes in his biography that they met in the famous coffeehouse Cafe Museum in Vienna. A man like Buber surely had a very close look at the magazine where his writings were published. However, Bubers books were advertised from now on in Moreno’s magazine and a publication is announced. By the way, the advertising for Bubers book is right under the advertising for Morenos booklets “Einladung zu einer Begegnungö.


Martin Buber published a Hasidic legend in DER NEUE DAIMON, January 1919 which ended on the same page where Morenos äEinladung zu einer Begegnung” begun. The inter-personal relationship appears in Buber’s thinking 1918, when he was somehow in contact with Moreno. Only once before that - in the year 1906, when Buber was writing a foreword for a sociological publication he used the term das Zwischenmenschliche what means interpersonal, but he did not come to any dialogical meaning of this word. After this isolated use of this word the interpersonal  relationship disappeared in Bubers thinking for thirteen years.

I am not the first one who saw the sudden emerging of the topic "encounter" in Bubers writings in the year 1918. Paul R. Mendes-Flohr, an outstanding Buber¡scientist writes that 1918 something must have reminded Buber on his foreword from 1906 and he realized the importance of encounter and inter-personal relationship. I think it is possible to see now how Buber was reminded and made it possible for him to break through to his dialogical thinking.  Considering that all, we can say there can't have been a plan for I and Thou in 1916 because there was a complete different thinking then, and Buber absolutely did not have the terms to formulate something we could call such a plan.

But than of course the second later version about the genesis of I and Thou also is doubtful. In the essay about the history of the dialogical philosophy, Buber writes 1954 that he formulated the idea of I and Thou already in the same terms 1907. This statement can only be seen a legend. It is apparent to me that Buber formulated his dialogical thinking in all his terms in the year 1922, when he wrote his famous book I and Thou and not one year earlier.  

1958 Buber was confronted with the statement of Moreno, which I showed you in the beginning. Here Moreno writes very detailed and in clear words, that he can't be seen as influenced by Buber because his booklets were published 9 years before Bubers I and Thou. Dr. Pfuetze a Professor for Philosophy in Georgia sent this statement to Buber the Professor in Jerusalem. As far as I know, this was the only situation when Buber was asked how it really was. Buber answered to Pfuetze very shortly, that he did not know Moreno's writings, and that he only read one text by Moreno, which he didn't understand. Then Buber repeats his own legend and claims again that he had formulated his ideas for I and Thou already 1907.  

So, as a preliminary summary, the interpersonal relationship appears in Martin Bubers thinking 1918 (1906 there was an isolated use of the term “das Zwischenmenschliche," without a dialogical meaning) ; and there is no dialogical work before I and Thou, which was written 1922 and published January 1923
        - - - -
Let me now summarize the time course of Bubers way to dialogical philosophy and then show further details.
What Buber received from Moreno:  In I and Thou we find four different kinds of influence by J.L. Moreno: that will be explained in greater detail further on: 1.  influence in important ideas; (2) Buber used some of Moreno's phrases and significant terms; (3) the architecture (of the first two chapters) of I and Thou; and (4) Bubers unpublished motto of I and Thou. We can find 4 different kinds of influence from Moreno in Bubers book “I and Thouö, which I will detail now.  There is an influence in central ideas. In a few points we will see that Buber took over whole phrases from Morenos early writings and we can see parallels in the significant use of terms. Then we can see similarities in what I call the architecture of “I and Thouö. At last I will show Bubers motto of “I and Thouö, which he decided not to publish.
What Buber received from Moreno:
Central Ideas:
   - living encounter/unmittelbare Begegnung
   - encounter is limited in the time
   - healing by encounter
   - here and now
   - presence and past

To the first point: Buber received from Moreno central ideas for his “I and Thouö. The main topic Buber found in Morenos early texts and poems is the living encounter. Buber did not only find the term living encounter with an excellent formulation. He took from Morenos writings also a few significant contexts of encounter.  Moreno wrote that encounter is limited in time, the same we find in Bubers “I and Thou. Moreno writes about healing by encounter, same does Buber in his book.  Moreno writes about responsibility, which someone has who invites to an encounter. We find similarities in Bubers book. Moreno shows his preference to the here and now, which we can also find in I and Thou.

In June 1918 the papers in the earlier edition were mentioned again as avaliable as books.

The principle in all this points is the same: Buber found these thoughts in Morenos poems and plays and formulated it far more detailed in his book. Some of this ideas Buber found in very a significant formulation in Morenos writings. Buber took some phrases from Moreno almost word by word:
     Es gibt kein Mittel zwischen äDie Beziehung zum Du ist mir und anderen / Ich bin unmittelbar. ... Alles Mittel ist unmittelbar: in der Hindernis. Nur wo alles Mittel  Begegnung” zerfallen ist, geschieht

MORENO 1914, MORENO 1915, MORENO 1918 BUBER 1923, I and Thou”
     These words Moreno repeated This text from Buber is quoted like his credo. very often in the German textbooks for psychotherapy. Here we have the lines again, which we saw twice before now. Remember that these line till now are the proof for influence the other way round. The young Moreno was a gifted writer and came to such a genius phrase, that Buber could not avoid to take it over almost word by word. It is nearly unbelievable ironic but true, that one of the best known Buber-quotations in the German language must be seen as a Moreno-quotation in fact.
Unfortunately the genius of Morenos poem will get lost in a translation, but I will try: Word by word it says: There are no means between me and others / I am actual in the encounter.
    It could mean:    There is nothing between me and you / I am real in the encounter.

Moreno used a double meaning of the word “unmittelbarö in such accurate way, that Buber could simply not resist to take it over. “Unmittelbarö means today immediate and direct. In an etymologic much older meaning the word “unmittelbarö means there is nothing in the middle so it says there is nothing between two people if they meet “unmittelbarö. Moreno let this term corresponded with the word “Mittelö, which means methods or means, so “unmittelbarö gets the meaning without methods. Buber rearranges the words and makes the sentence longer, but he uses the same, very significant meaning.
This significance is the reason why this Buber-quotation got so attractive for psychotherapists. These sentences from Buber are famous and used quite often in German textbooks. Actually this quotation was one of the reasons why I started to work about Bubers dialogical philosophy. 

There are even more phrases with a significant use of terms Buber took from Morenos early writings.
     äIch bin nicht einzig: blo▀ in äGute und B÷se, Kluge und
der Begegnung / ob ich ein T÷richte, Sch÷ne und
Gott, ein Narr oder ein HΣssliche, einer um den andern
Dummer / Ich bin geweiht, wird ihm wirklich und zum Du,
geheilt, gel÷st in der ... einzig und gegenⁿber
Begegnung” wesend, ... und so kann er wirken, kann helfen, heilen,
    -- MORENO 1914, MORENO erziehen, erheben, erl÷sen.”
1915, MORENO 1918

BUBER äI and Thou”, 1923 :

I try to translate what Moreno wrote:
   I am not unique: only by encounter /  If I am a god or a fool  / I am consecrated, healed, freed by encounter.

I try to translate Buber:
Good and bad, wise and fools, beauties and beasts  / one after an other becomes real and a Thou, / unique and opposing  / and so he can help, heal, educate, increase and free.

The significant words which are identical are: single, fool, healing and freeing. In the German language Bubers text appears like a resonance. For me it feels like
this gets lost in the translation. We see the same system. Buber formulates the sentences longer by making a more detailed prose from the short accurate poem.
    - - -
more phrases in Bubers “I and Thouö inspired by Morenos early writings:  Moreno describes encounter:  Buber describes encounter:  
  "Wo ich aufgehe, dort ist dein Himmel”  ä... nachbarlos und fugenlos ist er Du und fⁿllt den  Himmelskreis.”  -- MORENO 1915  BUBER äI and Thou”, 1923 

more phrases in Bubers “I and  Thouö inspired by Morenos early  writings:
         "Wir sollen uns nicht wollen, ä... da gebe es kein eigenes sondern finden.” Wollen,”  --BUBER äI and Thou”, 1923   MORENO 1914, MORENO 1915, MORENO 1918

  -Das Du begegnet mir von Gnaden û durch Suchen wird es nicht gefunden.”    BUBER   I and Thou, 1923
For time reasons I will not get too detailed with the next examples. And I must say that these examples are not so spectacular like the first one I outlined, but we can not miss that there is more than one significant parallel. The parallels are not always the words themselves the parallel is the significant use of the words. Both describe the direct encounter between people in unusual similar words. The point is Morenos booklets were published nine years earlier.

So what does this mean now? Of course Buber did not find the whole “I and Thouö formulated in Morenos early writings. Encounter is essential for dialogical philosophy, but it is only a part of it. The issues which Buber found in Morenos writings, are much more detailed in his book. It looks like Moreno was the initial encounter for Buber to break through to his dialogical thinking.
When we look at Bubers dialogical philosophy as a building we can see some very important stones in this building, which Buber received from Moreno. Without these significant elements from Moreno, Bubers building of the dialogical philosophy might look very different. However, there are not only single elements Buber received from Moreno. When we make a step back and look at “I and Thouö we may see that the whole architecture of Bubers main-work is influenced by Moreno.

In his texts published in DAIMON Moreno writes about the conditions of living encounter. In his plays he invents dialogues where authors are accused by others, that they donÆt want to get in real touch with people. Moreno calls for persecution of all authors in order to really meet them.  The same happens to speakers and theatre-people. The young radical Moreno demands to encounter the whole person in the here and now and not only to call for ears or eyes of an audience. Moreno describes on one side the conditions which lead to a living encounter and on the other side the conditions which hinder people meet each other. And this duality of encounter and non-encounter the book “I and Thouö is all about. Buber starts with the words:öTo man the world is twofold, in accordance with his twofold attitude.ö and actually he does not leave this issue till the last page.  

Last but not least there is a significant point even in motto of “I and Thouö which shows the dimensions of the influence of Moreno on Bubers thinking: As we have seen before, the young Moreno was very strict upon book-authors and said they can not come in contact with their readers via books. He says the only legitimation for writing only may be a report from an encounter or an invitation to an encounter. He strictly differentiated between living encounter and writing about encounter. Buber did realize although he was writing about living encounter that he wrote just a book. He tried to get out of this trap by writing a short foreword, which he called the motto of “I and Thou.” Here he tried to talk to the readers in the second person singular and started with following words:      You, who is reading here, what you will read here, is spoken to you. I don’t know you, how may I call you?

The words he used in the motto suggest the writing ideas of Moreno. Buber didn’t publish this motto. It was found in the unpublished manuscripts of I and Thou.  I think Moreno did not know this motto. However if you put Morenos comment to “I and Thouö beside Bubers writing, an imaginary dialogue between Buber and Moreno occurs.

A Final Word:

Let me use Morenos comments from 1959 as a final word:  “The author Buber does not talk with his “I" to a “Thou" of the reader. Buber's “I does not come out from the book to encounter this “Thou." Buber and the encounter are stuck in the book. The book is abstract and in the third person. It is an abstraction of the living encounter and not the encounter itself".
Thank you for your attention.
     - - - -
Ladies and Gentleman, In the beginning I want to thank the ASGPP for giving me the opportunity for this presentation about J.L. Morenos Influence on Martin Bubers Dialogical Philosophy.  Furthermore, I thank Mrs. Zerka Moreno very much for encouraging me to give this talk. Dr. Walld's website is:  www.apg-forum.at

Return to top