10 episodes

You may never have heard of the Austro-Jewish polymath Robert Eisler, but you should have. Eisler knew everybody, went everywhere and made significant contributions to the study of mythology, comparative religion, the Gospels, monetary policy, art history, history of science, psychoanalysis, politics, astrology, history of currency, and value theory. Eisler did it all. This nine-part series will give you all the fascinating and strange detail.

A Very Square Peg: The Strange and Remarkable Life the Polymath Robert Eisler Brian Collins

    • History
    • 4.9 • 9 Ratings

You may never have heard of the Austro-Jewish polymath Robert Eisler, but you should have. Eisler knew everybody, went everywhere and made significant contributions to the study of mythology, comparative religion, the Gospels, monetary policy, art history, history of science, psychoanalysis, politics, astrology, history of currency, and value theory. Eisler did it all. This nine-part series will give you all the fascinating and strange detail.

    Episode 1: Man into Wolf

    Episode 1: Man into Wolf

    In this episode, we discuss how I discovered Robert Eisler’s Man into Wolf: An Anthropological Interpretation of Sadism, Masochism, and Lycanthropy and unpack the book’s argument that modern humans are descended from primates who imitated the hunting practices and pack hierarchies of wolves during the scarcity of the ice age. We also hear from a crime novelist and a sociologist who were inspired by Man into Wolf in their own work and examine Eisler’s take on evolution. This episode contains brief descriptions of sexual violence.
    Voice of Robert Eisler: Logan Crum.
    Additional voices: Julie Ciotola and Logan Marshall.
    Editing and engineering: Logan Marshall.
    Music: “Shibbolet Baseda,” recorded by Elyakum Shapirra and his Israeli Orchestra.
    Guests: David Dawson, H.C. Greisman, Marcello de Martino, Kristy Montee, Myrna Sheldon, Kristen Tobey, Steven Wasserstrom.
    Funding provided by Ohio University Humanities Research Fund and Ohio University Honors Tutorial College Internship Program.
    Special thanks to the Warburg Institute.
    Bibliography and further reading:
    Eisler, Robert. Man into Wolf: An Anthropological Interpretation of Sadism, Masochism, and Lycanthropy. Santa Barbara, CA: Ross-Erickson, Inc. Publishers, 1978 [1951].
    Greisman, H. C. “Social Structure, Psychoanalysis, and Collective Aggression.” History of European Ideas Vol. 2, No. 1 (1981), pp. 35-48.
    I Was a Teenage Werewolf. Dir, Gene Fowler, Jr. 1957.
    Parrish, P. J. Island of Bones (Louis Kincaid Mysteries). Traverse City, MI: Our Noir Press, 2018 [2006].
    Associate Professor Brian Collins is the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at Ohio University. He can be reached at collinb1@ohio,edu.
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    • 51 min
    Episode 2: Value Theory

    Episode 2: Value Theory

    In this episode (# 2), we discuss Eisler’s early years as a member of the Jewish bourgeoisie in turn-of-the-century Vienna with historian Steven Beller. We also hear from the closest living relative of Robert Eisler, his grand-nephew Richard Regen. Philosopher Tom Hurka provides some background for understanding the arguments Eisler is making in Studies in Value Theory, especially his critiques of hedonism and aesthetic philosophy. Finally, we look at the events surrounding Eisler’s dramatic arrest and trial for attempted art theft in Udine in 1907 and discuss its short- and long-term consequences.
    Voice of Robert Eisler: Caleb Crawford
    Additional voices: Brian Evans
    Editing and engineering: March Washelesky
    Music: “Shibbolet Baseda,” recorded by Elyakum Shapirra and his Israeli Orchestra.
    Guests: Steven Beller (independent scholar), Tom Hurka (Chancellor Henry N. R. Jackman Distinguished Professor of Philosophical Studies at the University of Toronto), Richard Regen (grand-nephew of Robert and Lili Eisler).
    Funding provided by the Ohio University Humanities Research Fund and the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College Internship Program.
    Special thanks to the Warburg Institute, the Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford, and to the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College.
    Bibliography and further reading:
    -Beller, Steven, ed. Rethinking Vienna 1900. New York: Berghahn Books, 2012.
    -Beller, Steven. Vienna and the Jews, 1867–1938: A Cultural History. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1989.
    -Eisler, Robert. “The Empiric Basis of Moral Obligation.” Ethics, Vol. 59, No. 2, Part 1 (Jan., 1949), pp. 77-94.
    -Eisler, Robert. “Der Wille zum Schmerz, Ein psychologisches Paradox.” Jahresbericht der Philosophischen Gesellschaft an der Universitat zu Wien (1904), pp. 63-79.
    -Eisler, Robert. Studien zur Werttheorie. Leipzig: Verlag von Duncker & Humblot, 1902.
    -Fabian, Reinhard and Peter M. Simons. “The Second Austrian School of Value Theory.” In Austrian Economics: Historical and Philosophical Background, ed. by Wolfgang Grassl and Barry Smith, pp. 29-78. Washington Square, NY: New York University Press, 1986.
    -Frondzi, Risieri. What Is Value? An Introduction to Axiology. Second edition. La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company, 1971.
    -Grassl, Wolfgang. “Toward a Unified Theory of Value: From Austrian Economics to Austrian Philosophy.” Paper presented at 19th-20th Century Austrian Thought and its Legacy, November 1-3, 2012, University of Texas at Arlington.
    Associate Professor Brian Collins is the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at Ohio University. He can be reached at collinb1@ohio.edu.
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    • 50 min
    Episode 3: Eisler vs. the Flat Earth

    Episode 3: Eisler vs. the Flat Earth

    In this episode, we talk with Michael Gubser about the pioneering art historian Alois Riegl, one of Eisler’s teachers in Vienna and a major influence on his thought. Then we look at Eisler’s first work on the history of religions, World Mantle and Heavenly Canopy, a massive two-volume study of ancient cosmology published in 1910. In the second half, we turn to Orpheus the Fisher: Comparative Studies in Orphic and Early Christian Cult Symbolism, larger questions about the figure of Orpheus and the idea of a widespread cult devoted to his worship in the ancient world, and even larger questions about what we can learn from “outdated” scholarship.
    Voice of Robert Eisler: Caleb Crawford
    Additional voices: Brian Evans
    Music: “Shibbolet Baseda,” recorded by Elyakum Shapirra and His Israeli Orchestra.
    Guests: Michael Gubser (James Madison University) Vladimir Marchenkov (Ohio University School of Interdisciplinary Arts) and Radcliffe G. Edmonds, III (Paul Shorey Professor of Greek and Chair of the Department of Greek, Latin, and Classical Studies at Bryn Mawr College)
    Funding provided by the Ohio University Humanities Research Fund and the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College Internship Program.
    Special thanks to the Warburg Institute and the Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford.
    Bibliography and Further Reading
    --Edmonds, Radcliffe G. Redefining Ancient Orphism: A Study in Greek Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
    --Eisler, Robert. Orpheus the Fisher: Comparative Studies in Orphic and Early Christian Cult Symbolism. London: J. M. Watkins, 1921.
    ———. Weltenmantel und Himmelszelt: Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen zur
    Urgeschichte des antiken Weltbildes. [World Cloak and Heavenly Canopy: Investigations into the Ancient Worldview through the History of Religions].Two Volumes. Munich: Oscar Beck, 1910.
     --Gubser, Michael. Time’s Visible Surface: Alois Riegl and the Discourse on History and Temporality in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna. Detroit: Wayne State Press, 2006.
    --Marchenkov, Vladimir. The Orpheus Myth and the Powers of Music. Hillsdale, NY : Pendragon Press, 2009.
    Follow us on Twitter: @averysquarepeg
    Associate Professor Brian Collins is the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at Ohio University. He can be reached at collinb1@ohio,edu.
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    • 55 min
    Episode 4: Women’s Coats and Beach Cabanas

    Episode 4: Women’s Coats and Beach Cabanas

    In this episode, we examine the rivalry/friendship between Eisler and the great scholar of Jewish mysticism Gershom Scholem and reassess Eisler’s infamous meeting with Scholem and Walter Benjamin in Paris in 1926. We try to unravel the mystery of why Eisler was disavowed by his government after he was appointed to The International Institute of Intellectual Cooperation. Finally, we take a look at the ambivalent reception of Eisler’s 1922 Orpheus lecture in Hamburg (he gets a spontaneous ovation but his attempted art theft comes back to haunt him) and his strained relationships with the pioneering German intellectual historians Aby Warburg and Fritz Saxl. One question remains: how did Eisler’s frock coat get stolen?
    Voice of Robert Eisler: Caleb Crawford
    Additional voices: Brian Evans and Chiara Ridpath
    Guests: Amir Engel (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Steven Wasserstrom (Reed College), and Claudia Wedepohl (The Warburg Institute).
    Funding provided by the Ohio University Humanities Research Fund and the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College Internship Program.
    Special thanks to the Warburg Institute and the Griffith Institute at the University of Oxford.
    Bibliography and Further Reading
    -Eisler, Robert. Orpheus the Fisher: Comparative Studies in Orphic and Early Christian Cult Symbolism. London: J. M. Watkins, 1921.
    -Eliade, Mircea. Journal I, 1945-1955. Trans. by Mac Linscott Ricketts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.
    -Engel, Amir. Gershom Scholem: An Intellectual Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019.
    -Gombrich, Ernst. Aby Warburg: An Intellectual Biography.  Leiden: Brill, 1970.
    -Gopnik, Adam. “In the Memory Ward.” The New Yorker, March 16, 2015.
    -Levine, Emily J. Dreamland of Humanists: Warburg, Cassirer, Panofsky, and the Hamburg School. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013.
    -Scholem, Gershom. Walter Benjamin: The Story of a Friendship. New York: New York Review of Books, 2003.
    -Scholem, Gershom, ed. The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem. New York: Schocken Books, 1989.
    -Scholem, Gershom. From Berlin to Jerusalem: Memories of My Youth. New York: Schocken Books, 1980.
    Follow us on Twitter: @averysquarepeg
    Associate Professor Brian Collins is the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at Ohio University. He can be reached at collinb1@ohio.edu.
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    • 46 min
    Episode 5: The Slavonic Josephus

    Episode 5: The Slavonic Josephus

    In this episode, we focus on one of Eisler’s most controversial works, a reconstruction of the 1st-century Roman Jewish historian Josephus’ account of the events surrounding the death of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist, including a new physical description of Jesus that apparently prompted the Christ to appear to followers in America to prove he did not look like Eisler said he did. Also, Eisler gets into a bitter back-and-forth with Solomon Zeitlin in the pages of the Jewish Quarterly Review and one Christian scholar dedicates an entire book to discrediting the methods of Eisler and other “learned Jews."
    Voice of Robert Eisler: Caleb Crawford
    Additional voices: Brian Evans
    Music: “Shibbolet Baseda,” recorded by Elyakum Shapirra and His Israeli Orchestra.
    Funding provided by the Ohio University Humanities Research Fund and the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College Internship Program.
    Special thanks to the Warburg Institute.
    Bibliography and Further Reading
    --Eisler, Robert. The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist According to Flavius Josephus’ Recently Rediscovered ‘Capture of Jerusalem’ and Other Jewish and Christian Sources. London: Methuen & Co., 1931.
    --Freud, Sigmund, and Joseph Sandler. On Freud's “Analysis Terminable and Interminable.” London: Karnac, 2013.
    --Goodman, Martin. Josephus’s The Jewish War: A Biography. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019.
    --Hoenig, Sidney B. 1971. Solomon Zeitlin: Scholar Laureate: An Annotated Bibliography, 1915-1970, with Appreciations of His Writings. New York: Bitzaron, 1971.
    --Jacks, J. W. The Historic Christ: An Examination of Dr. Robert Eisler’s Theory According to the Slavonic Version of Josephus and Other Sources. Clarke, 1933.
    --Josephus, Flavius, Henry Leeming, Katherine Leeming, and Nikita Aleksandrovič Meščerskij, Josephus' Jewish War and Its Slavonic Version: A Synoptic Comparison of the English Translation by H. St. J. Thackeray with the Critical Edition by N. A. Meščerskij of the Slavonic Version in the Vilna Manuscript Translated into English by H. Leeming and L. Osinkina. Leiden: Brill, 2003.
    --Ruderman, David B. “Three Reviewers and the Academic Style of the Jewish Quarterly Reviewat Midcentury.” The Jewish Quarterly Review 100, no. 4 (2010): 556-71. Accessed July 6, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/25781004.
    Follow us on Twitter: @averysquarepeg
    Associate Professor Brian Collins is the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at Ohio University. He can be reached at collinb1@ohio.edu.
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    • 40 min
    Episode 6: Negative Interest

    Episode 6: Negative Interest

    Warning: Economics. In this episode, we begin with Eisler’s testimony before the skeptical Senators of the Committee on Banking and Currency in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 1934, in which he proposed that the nation adopt a dual currency system to control inflation and end the Great Depression. I (a non-economist) talk about what this means with noted economist Miles Kimball, who has recently brought renewed attention to Eisler’s plan in his own work. We also learn about Eisler’s theory of who actually wrote what we call the Gospel of John, talk with Steven Wasserstrom about Eisler’s brief involvement with Carl Jung and the Eranos Conference, and interpret a “dream poem” that Eisler recorded at his mother’s house in 1936.
    Guests: Guests: Miles Kimball (The University of Colorado-Boulder), Steven Wasserstrom (Reed College).
    Voice of Robert Eisler: Caleb Crawford
    Additional voices: Brian Evans
    Music: “Shibbolet Baseda,” recorded by Elyakum Shapirra and His Israeli Orchestra.
    Funding provided by the Ohio University Humanities Research Fund and the Ohio University Honors Tutorial College Internship Program.
    Special thanks to the Warburg Institute.

    Bibliography and Further Reading
    Buiter, Willem H. “Is Numérairology the Future of Monetary Economics? Unbundling Numéraire and Medium of Exchange Through a Virtual Currency and a Shadow Exchange Rate.” NBER Working Papers 12839. National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., 2007. DOI:10.3386/w12839.
    Buiter, Willem H. and Panigirtzoglou, Nikolaos. “Overcoming the Zero Bound: Gesell vs. Eisler. Discussion of Mitsuhiro Fukao’s “The Effects of ‘Gesell’ (Currency) Taxes in Promoting Japan’s Economic Recovery.” International Economics and Economic Policy 2, no. 2/3 (2005): 189-200.
    Eisler, Robert. The Enigma of the Fourth Gospel. London: Methuen & Co., 1938.
    ———. Stable Money: The Remedy for the Economic World Crisis: A Programme of Financial Reconstruction for the International Conference. London: The Search Publishing Co., Ltd., 1932.
    ———. This Money Maze: A Way Out of the Economic World Crisis. London: The Search Publishing Co., Ltd., 1931.
    ———. Das Geld: Seine geschichtliche Entstehung und gesellschaftliche Bedeutung. Munich: Diatypie, 1924.
    Eisler, Robert and Alec Wilson. The Money Machine: A Simple Introduction to the Eisler Plan. London: The Search Publishing Co., Ltd., 1933.
    Gold Reserve Act of 1934: Hearings Before the Committee on Banking and Currency, United States Senate, Seventy-Third Congress, Second Session on S. 2366: A Bill to Protect the Currency System of the United States, to Provide for the Better Use of the Monetary Gold Stock of the United States, and for Other Purposes, Revised January 19-23, 1934. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1934
    Hakl, Hans Thomas. Eranos: An Alternative Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013.
    Keynes, John Maynard, Paul R. Krugman, and Robert Jacob Alexander Skidelsky. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
    Kimball, Miles. “Pro Gauti Eggertsson.” Confessions of a Supply Side Liberal. June 27, 2016. Last Accessed July 7, 2020.
    Wasserstrom, Steven M. Religion after Religion: Gershom Scholem, Mircea Eliade, and Henry Corbin at Eranos. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.
    Follow us on Twitter: @averysquarepeg
    Associate Professor Brian Collins is the Drs. Ram and Sushila Gawande Chair in Indian Religion and Philosophy at Ohio University. He can be reached at collinb1@ohio.edu.
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    • 47 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
9 Ratings

9 Ratings

Mattbucher ,

Forgotten Gem

This thorough examination of a forgotten but important polymath makes for an excellent audio narrative. Collins has helped resurrect one of the most interesting thinkers of the 20th Century. Highly recommended.

6r00m ,

Brilliant

Truth is stranger than fiction.

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