A psychological analysis of Martin Luther and his ideas: Part 1

Martin Luther: Portrait

Martin Luther's childhood and youth came at a time when the entire continent of Europe was obsessed with the ideas of the end of the world. There was a general fear in Catholic Europe that some people might go to hell. For this reason, they prayed constantly and tried to "please the Lord" in every way possible. Unfortunately, the obsession with this idea led to mass executions of innocent people. In addition to innocent people, criminals suffered, and were executed for clearly disproportionate crimes. All this was a kind of way to please the overlord and reaffirm adherence to his rules.

This whole panic atmosphere increased manifold after the plague pandemic in the middle of the fourteenth century. There is a consensus on the number of victims. It is about 50% of the entire population of Europe. At the same time, the wars in Europe did not lead to anything. The population perceived all this as a punishment of heaven for their sins. The Catholic Church also took advantage of this situation to regain its prestige and power, which it had lost over the last century due to paid indulgences, debauchery and the exorbitant luxury in which the Catholic clergy lived.

In this extremely unfavorable environment and the prevailing atmosphere of despair and guilt, Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483. Martin Luther's mother, Margaretha Zapfa, was single-minded and dedicated to raising her family after her husband's death. She paid attention to the education of her children and supported Martin on his path to faith and scholarship, which he always placed great importance on.

Martin Luther's father, Hans Luther, was a successful businessman and a member of the city council. He belonged to the middle class and strove to secure a good future for his family. Hans Luther was a man of strong convictions and actively supported his son in his studies and career. His father is described as an authoritarian man. Martin Luther originally intended to become a lawyer. Luther's father saw this as an opportunity to raise the status of his family and get rid of the image of an ordinary peasant family. At first Luther obeyed his father's demands and successfully studied at the Latin school. In 1505, he received his diploma and entered law school.

However, when he arrived home for summer vacation, he was nearly struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. Even before that, he had been seriously pondering and doubting the rightness of his chosen life path. Apparently, immediately after the lightning strike, Luther experienced great anxiety and considered it a sign from God that he was not on the right path. Many scholars interpret this episode in Luther's life in this way. Immediately afterward, Luther vowed that he would become a monk.

Luther decided to enter the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. Although it was a religious education, his parents were against the idea. In 1501, Martin Luther entered the University Seminary of Erfurt (Studium Generale). This was an important period in his life when he studied philosophy, logic, ethics, and the classical languages Latin and Greek. He was a bright and talented student, demonstrating outstanding powers of learning and analysis. During this time, Luther became more deeply interested in matters of faith and religion, which later led to his conversion to Reformed Christianity.

After a while, however, sexual abstinence took its toll. Luther, like any other man in his position, began to be overcome by sexual desires. In addition, Luther began to doubt the rightness of his path, despite the fact that from the point of view of theological doctrine it was a path pleasing to God.

According to Freud, repressed sexual desires lead to mental illness. Specifically in the case of Martin Luther, it is safe to say that he had an anxiety disorder. It is likely that Luther also developed an inferiority complex. Given his future fate, he probably set the bar very high for himself. He wanted to be a prophet and God's chosen one.

What hell looks like

Here are the observations of people who observed Luther in the theological seminary:

Sophia Freischinger, a student at Erfurt University Seminary, wrote in her diary in 1503 of her impression of Luther as a "brilliant and profound thinker" who attracts attention for his ability to analyze and discuss complex philosophical issues. Albrecht Breitenbach, one of Luther's teachers at the Erfurt Seminary, noted his outstanding ability in Latin and Greek, as well as his deep interest in theology.

In 1505, after Luther accepted monasticism, his mentor Johann von Stibitz recognized him as a gifted young man with brilliant prospects in the spiritual field. In time, his sense of worthlessness probably subsided as he rapidly advanced in his career. In 1515 Luther became vicar, and under his leadership eleven monasteries were in operation. A great success considering he was only 32 years old at the time.

Although Luther became part of the system, he disagreed with the principle that a person could only be forgiven for a piece of paper that money could buy. As a result, he began to deny the authority of church institutions and instead put forward his own teaching that all authority belonged to the Bible, not to the Catholic clergy.

Luther expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the church used indulgences as a means to fund its activities while departing from the basic principles of Christianity. He argued that true repentance required inner contrition and a change of life, not simply paying money to the church.

Theses also dealt with the authority of the pope and the idea that the basis of salvation was faith and grace, not works or money. Luther called for a deeper understanding of the Bible and criticized some church practices that he believed distorted Christian teaching. These theses marked the beginning of the Reformation, a movement that led to the split of the Christian church and the emergence of Protestantism as a distinct branch of Christianity.

Reformation of the Catholic Church

Having written 95 theses, Luther circulated them to the church's closest authorities, expecting discussion and dialog on the issues outlined in the theses. However, his theses generated an unexpectedly wide response and became a factor in spreading his ideas to a multitude of people, including intellectuals, clergy, and ordinary believers.

Luther also began to publish his writings in which he developed his ideas about the reformation of the church and the Christian faith. His translation of the Bible into German gave the masses access to the text of scripture, which also helped spread his teachings.

It is hard to say what Luther's ambitions and goals were when he wrote these 95 theses. Perhaps he really did want to sincerely change a state of affairs in the Catholic Church that he was unhappy with. Perhaps he knew that his initiative would have a bombshell effect. It is possible that he was also driven by the desire for power, which, according to the great psychologist Alfred Adler, is one of the driving motives of almost every human being. He could have foreseen the extreme irritation and fear that the Catholic clergy would experience as they saw Luther's ideas and personality gaining popularity. It is unlikely that Luther could have foreseen that he would become the founder of a new branch of Christianity and that the emergence of Protestantism would cause bloody religious wars.

In the next section, we will delve deeper into analyzing Luther and see what events in his life led to the writing of the 95 Theses.

Key Findings:

  • Martin Luther experienced a number of intrapersonal conflicts caused by his prescribed sexual abstinence and strict lifestyle. This directly affected his views and teachings.
  • Luther's parents wanted him to become a lawyer, but he chose a different path. He was quickly successful, but his parents' unreasonable expectations pressured him throughout his later life.
  • Luther possessed positive qualities. He was diligent in his studies and had a talent for learning classical languages.


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