Karlfried Graf Dürckheim bigraphy, stories - Philosophers

Karlfried Graf Dürckheim : biography

October 24, 1896 - December 28, 1988

Karl Friedrich Alfred Heinrich Ferdinand Maria Graf Eckbrecht von Dürckheim-Montmartin (October 24, 1896 – December 28, 1988) was a German diplomat, psychotherapist and Zen Master.

Introduction to Buddhism

In 1919, as a twenty-three year old officer on his return after the war, he refused to fight in defense of the Bavarian Socialist Republic, but instead joined the Freikorps under Franz Ritter von Epp (under whom he had served during World War I) and became involved in anti-Bolshevik activities, for which he was briefly imprisoned. Afterwards he worked for a time as a journalist for several small anti-communist publications. He also rejected his inheritance of the family estate at Steingaden, to which he had a right as eldest son.

He then met his first wife Enja von Hattinberg (1888-1939), who introduced him to the Tao Te Ching of Lao-Tzu:

Meister Eckhart became very important for him. "I recognize in Eckhart my master, the master. But we can only approach him if we eliminate the conceptual consciousness."Goettmann 1998, p. 7.

Terminology note

  • Regarding personal names, Graf is a German title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The feminine form is Gräfin.


  • Zen and Us. Arkana Publishing, 1991. English. 144 pp. ASIN: B00072HEP0
  • The Way of Transformation: Daily Life as Spiritual Exercise (London: Allen & Unwin, 1988)
  • The Japanese cult of tranquility. Rider, 1960. English. 106 pp. ASIN: B0006AXFRE.
  • Our Two-Fold Origin, Allen & Unwin; (January 6, 1983); ISBN 004291017X, 183 pages
  • Wunderbare Katze, Otto Wilhelm Barth (February 1, 2011); ISBN 3426291150 (in German)

Theory of therapeutic self-transformation

Dürckheim did not practice psychotherapy in the traditional sense, rather, he tried to teach his clients a process by which they could move towards spiritual self-understanding. He viewed the therapist as a spiritual guide: "A therapy which does not take into account the spiritual dimension of man is doomed to failure...The therapist is not the one who heals, that is, who intervenes with his own skills; he is a therapist in the original meaning of the word: a companion on the way."Goettmann 1998, p. 58.

Concept of the self

Dürckheim's initiation therapy deals with the encounter between the profane, mundane, "little" self (the ego) and the true Self:

"Man evolves through three kinds of "self": first, the "little self" who only sees power, security, prestige, knowledge. Then the "existential self" which goes much further: it wants to give itself to a cause, to a task, to a community, to a person. It can go beyond egocentrism and that is where it becomes, in my opinion, a human being. Finally what I call the "essential self," the true "I" of the individual and of humanity."Karlfried Graf Dürckheim, (1991 (1960)). The Japanese cult of tranquility. York Beach, Maine, Samuel Weiser; p. 32.

The Wheel of Metamorphosis

An integral concept in this self-understanding is referred to as "The Wheel of Metamorphosis". Dürckheim viewed transformation not as the sudden achievement of enlightenment, but rather as a continuous and cyclical evolution, akin to the motion of a wheel. He posited three stages and five steps in each cycle:

  • Stage 1: All that is contrary to essential being must be relinquished.
  • Step 1: Practice "critical watchfulness" (analytical awareness of one's own thoughts and behavior).
  • Step 2: Let go of all that stands in the way of becoming.
  • Stage 2: That which has been relinquished must be dissolved in transcendent Being which absorbs and recreates us.
  • Step 3: Union with transcendent Being.
  • Step 4: New becoming in accordance with the inner image which has arisen from transcendent Being.
  • Stage 3: The newly-formed core must be recognized and personal responsibility taken for its growth.
  • Step 5: Practicing this new form on a daily basis through critical watchfulness, which leads us back to Step 1.Quoted in Theordore J. Nottingham, "The Wheel of Metamorphosis," in Alphonse and Rachel Goettmann, Becoming Real: Essays on the Teachings of a Master, Theosis Books, November 23, 2009; pp. 183-84. ISBN 978-0966496079
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