"The repeated rendering of an oral tradition over many generations inevitably leads to errors in transmission and the gradual loss of the original content, a degradation of information that occurs more slowly with the successive reprinting of written accounts." -- Carl Sagan, "The Dragons of Eden".
To those of us who have had the privilege of learning Individual Psychology from Alfred Adler himself, before his death on May 28th, 1937 in Aberdeen, and who have worked together with his closest followers afterwards, it is very satisfying that Individual Psychology has become known as an important discipline in psychology. However, there is also a concern that certain aspects of what goes under the name of Individual Psychology would not readily be recognized by its originator.
There was a time when music meant compositions by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and the like. There also was "entertainment" music. Nowadays, anyone who can put his finger on an instrument and at the same time abuse his vocal chords, makes music. Creating art by means of painting was done by people like Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Renoir, etc. Today, four-years-olds do "art" work in finger-painting. Popularization can have its drawbacks.
When I introduced Adler for the last lecture to his audience in Holland before he left for England, his topic was "responsibility." To this day I recall his penetrating look, when he finished his talk with: "Those of you who really understand Individual Psychology and have learned to apply it, carry a heavy responsibility." In the following years we experienced this and still do. For that reason I have presented Adler's original Individual Psychology the way he taught it himself, and have added translations of some lectures and articles by Adler as published in the "Internationale Zeitschrift für Individualpsychologie."
There have been composers who used another composer's theme, calling it "variations on a theme" by the other's name. Others just used the theme and published the composition under their own name. Painters have copied great masters and called it a copy, while some have copied the style of the master, putting the master's name on the fraud. Art and science can be interpreted in different ways, except when the originator has been explicit in his interpretation. Toscanini interpreted Beethoven the way Beethoven had written his music. Alfred Adler was an originator who was outspoken in his interpretations, if one only listened and made an effort to comprehend.
The reader should not forget that Adler still got a lot of flack from the existing (early) group of Freudians. In some articles he clearly denounces his opponents. In others he warns his own followers who did not understand him or thought they could do better. Most of these passages have been included, because they will always remain valid.
During World War II Individual Psychology was dormant. Hitler had decreed that Adler's and Freud's theories should not be learned, as both men were born Jewish. Only Jung's psychology could openly be practiced. Practicing Adlerians had to be extremely cautious. Many got out of Austria, Germany, and the occupied countries.
In Holland Individual Psychology owes the rebirth of Individual Psychology in a large part to Dr. Alexander Müller, who had been a close co-worker of Adler, Dr. Ronge, and others. Later Müller established himself in Zürich, Switzerland, where his name is still mentioned in the Individual Psychology group he helped to form. During his years in Holland, we had worked closely together and later I visited him in Zürich. On my last visit, before his death in July, 1960, we discussed the inroads Individual Psychology had made. Müller's conclusion was: "Adler has not yet been fully understood. He has to be rediscovered from the roots up."