The strange case of Masud Raza Khan

This is from a few years ago, but worth posting again (I had posted it to the Aula POV back then) not only because this character is so bizarre, but because it illustrates the rot at the heart of psychoanalysis. (A conversation with Robin Varghese reminded me of Masud Raza Khan yesterday.)

Robert S. Boynton wrote in the Boston Review:

MasudIn February 2001 the psychoanalytic world was shaken by a London Review of Books article by Wynne Godley, visiting scholar at Bard College’s Levi Economics Institute, professor emeritus of applied economics at Cambridge University, and onetime member of H.M. Treasury Panel of Independent Forecasters (the so-called Six Wise Men). “Saving Masud Khan” tells the story of Godley’s lengthy psychoanalysis with Mohammed Masud Raza Khan, the charismatic Anglo-Pakistani who—it was recently revealed—slept with and abused many of his patients. In Godley’s telling, he was essentially tortured by Khan from beginning to end. It was a “long and fruitless battle culminating in a spiral of degradation.”

“Within minutes of our first meeting, the therapeutic relationship had been totally subverted,” he writes. In later sessions Khan violated every conceivable boundary between analyst and patient…

…The article was devastating because Khan had been one of psychoanalysis’s best and brightest—a senior training analyst, a director of the Sigmund Freud Copyrights, an Anna Freud protégé, and longtime collaborator with the most famous child analyst of the twentieth century, D. W. Winnicott (Khan edited and, some speculate, may have coauthored much of his mentor’s voluminous output of books and papers). With his impeccable pedigree he was the link between the legendary first generation and some of today’s most important analysts. Indeed, Anna Freud insisted that Khan understood her father’s work better than anyone (other than herself, of course), and she defended him whenever he aroused the Society’s ire…

…Khan’s manners were no better when he kept his appointments. The director Mike Nichols, a close friend in the 1960s, remembers a dinner party at which Khan spied a man flirting with a woman at the end of the table. “You are wasting your time, sir! You are barking up the wrong tree!” bellows Nichols, imitating Khan’s clipped Pakistani accent. “Can’t you see that she is a lesbian!” On another occasion, Nichols says, Khan sent a chocolate cake to an obese man at another table at the restaurant, calling across to him as it was delivered, “So that you might die sooner!” Some suspected Khan’s mischief was designed to show off his Svengali-like powers of persuasion. Once, while drinking champagne with the French analyst Andre Green, Khan deliberately nudged the bottle off the table, sending it crashing to the floor. He then turned to the man at the adjacent table and demanded an apology, creating such a scene that the innocent diner eventually bought them a new bottle.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Khan’s behavior was that it usually went unchallenged. One reason, suggests Kermode, was Khan’s intelligence. He recalls a standing-room-only lecture by Lacan at London’s Institute Français in the mid-1960s, when the French analyst was at the height of his fame. “It was boring and went on for three hours. Finally, Masud strode up to the stage and interrupted him saying, ‘No, you’re explaining this incorrectly.’” Khan then proceeded to offer his own version of Lacanian theory while Lacan beamed with admiration. “He was obviously quite fond of Masud,” Kermode tells me.

Much more here.