Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers. 15. Claude Eatherly. Hiroshima Bomb Pilot. Anthony Stadlen conducts Inner Circle Seminar 260 (9 August 2020)

Locked Up: ‘Patients’ and their Gaolers
15. Claude Eatherly
2 October 1918 – 1 July 1978
Repentant Hiroshima Bomb Pilot
An investigation into his alleged insanity
75 years after Nagasaki (9 August 1945)
and into Bertrand Russell’s and Martin Heidegger’s
responses to the threat of thermonuclear war

Anthony Stadlen
Inner Circle Seminar No. 260
Sunday 9 August 2020
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Günther Anders
Claude Eatherly
Bertrand Russell
Today is the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Major Claude Eatherly, Commander of the bomber group responsible for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks on 6 and 9 August 1945 respectively, personally guided and led the aircraft carrying the Hiroshima bomb.

Robert Jungk wrote:

It is said that after the shattering experience of Hiroshima Major Eatherly spoke to no one for days on end.’ 

In striking contrast to the other servicemen involved, who were feted as heroes, he could not reconcile his conscience with what he had done. He was, as a result, certified and incarcerated as ‘mentally ill’.

In his own words, in a letter of 22 April 1960, Eatherly wrote:

I was the pilot that led the Hiroshima A-Bomb Mission in World war II, and since that time I have been conscience stricken about it. I have done antisocial acts while in a confused state seeking punishment for myself. After each act I have been placed in a mental hospital.

The philosopher Günther Anders, former student of Martin Heidegger and former husband of Hannah Arendt, initiated a correspondence with Eatherly in his asylum, published in 1961 as a book, Burning Conscience, with a Preface by the philosopher Bertrand Russell, who wrote:

No unbiased person, after reading Eatherly’s letters, can honestly doubt his sanity. [...] The world was prepared to honour him for his part in the massacre, but, when he repented, it turned against him, seeing in his act of repentance its own condemnation.

Lord Russell also wrote that, if the man who wrote these letters is considered mad, then:

I shall not be surprised if my last years are spent in a lunatic asylum – where I shall enjoy the company of all who are capable of feelings of humanity.

Russell did, in fact, commit carefully considered civil disobedience later that year, 1961, at the age of 89, by sitting down in Trafalgar Square; he was not arrested on that occasion, but not long afterwards spent seven days in Brixton Gaol (where he had already spent six months for pacifist activity during the First World War) for refusing to be of good behaviour by refraining from inciting further civil disobedience.

Heidegger, who had a position as preeminent philosopher in West Germany comparable to Russells in the United Kingdom, did not become involved in his former student Anderss collaboration with Eatherly. Heidegger signed a petition against a nuclear power station, but otherwise limited himself to observing that the atomic bomb was merely the last emission of the atomisation effected centuries earler by Descartes. In other words, insisted Heidegger,

 The Dreadful has already happened.

If the atomic bombs did not go off and destroy all life on earth, he warned, a far worse danger would threaten humanity. Men and women were in danger of losing their essential nature as meditative rather than merely calculative beings.

We shall explore Claude Eatherlys case as a paradigm of a procedure of locking up ‘inconvenient people that is still prevalent in our society today. We shall also compare and contrast the very different, but complementary, responses to the nuclear arms race of the philosophers Bertrand Russell and Martin Heidegger.

This will be an online seminar, using ZOOM.

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £132, others £165, some bursaries; payment must be made in advance by bank transfer; a ZOOM invitation and instructions will then be sent; no refunds or transfers unless seminar cancelled
Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra AvenueLondon N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857  iPhone: 07809 433 250
E-mail:  or:
For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and universities.

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