Out of the Depths: An Autobiographical Study of Mental Disorder and Religious Experience, by Anton T. Boisen

Our Ordained Chaplains scripture verse for today is Matthew 5:16 which reads, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Our Ordained Chaplains quote for today is from Emil Kapaun who said this about his experience as a military chaplain, “When I was ordained, I was determined to ‘spend myself ’ for God. I was determined to do that cheerfully, no matter in what circumstances I would be placed or how hard a life I would be asked to lead. This is why I volunteered for the army and that is why today I would a thousand times rather be working, deprived of all ordinary comforts, being a true ‘Father’ to all my people, then to be living in a nice, comfortable place but with my conscience telling me that I am an obstacle to many.”

In this podcast, we are going to discuss the book “Out of the Depths” by Anton T. Boisen.

He writes in chapter 1, “Ancestry and Social Background”:

So far as I can discover, our family record is relatively free from abnormalities such as those with which this study deals. Nonetheless, the social background is important in any attempt to understand a person. I shall therefore begin with a brief consideration of my ancestors and their social setting.

Concerning the family of my father, Hermann B. Boisen, I know only a little. His father, Johannes P. O. Boisen, belonged to a German-speaking family in the province of Schleswig. His father’s father was an organist and music teacher. In the difficulties between Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark in the 1860s, Grandfather Boisen favored German intervention. He was apparently a man of standing and influence. Following German occupation, he was appointed Amtsrichter in the Island of Alsen. Before that time the family lived in Flensburg. About the time my father was approaching the completion of his work for the doctorate at the University of Wuerzburg his father met with serious financial reverses. He died when past seventy. He was a tall, heavy-set man, some six feet four inches in height and weighing about two hundred and fifty pounds.

My father’s mother, Marie Andersen Boisen, also belonged to a German-speaking family in Schleswig. She was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor. My father always spoke of her with the greatest respect and tenderness as a wise and devoted mother and a capable manager. She lived to be past eighty. Besides my father there were four other children who lived to maturity. Three of these died of tuberculosis. This was probably owing to the fact that they had lived in an old stone castle on the Island of Alsen, a building with massive, damp walls. The only surviving members of the family are now living in the city of Oldenburg, having been compelled to leave Schleswig after that province reverted to Denmark. I have never seen any of my German relatives, but we keep in touch with each other by correspondence.

My father came to this country in April, 1869. Unable to complete his doctorate because of his father’s financial situation, he felt that there would be less red tape to contend with in the New World. He went first to the home of some relatives in St. Paul. From there he went to Belleville, Indiana. There his genius as a teacher attracted instant attention, and in the late fall of 1870, on the recommendation of some members of the De Pauw University faculty and after a visit by Professor Richard Owen, he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the chair of modern languages at Indiana University.

In our next broadcast, we will continue with “Ancestry and Social Background.”