Saul B. Newton

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Saul B. Newton (June 25, 1906 – December 21, 1991) was a controversial psychotherapist who led an unorthodox commune in New York City. It had no formal name, but outsiders referred to them as "Sullivanians".


Newton's original family name was Cohen. He grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick, and attended the University of Wisconsin. He later went on to Chicago where he associated with radical circles at the University of Chicago, becoming a unionist, communist and anti-fascist. He served with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War and with the U.S. Army in World War II, going on to study psychotherapy after the war. Newton retained a dual focus on politics and psychology throughout his life, apparently seeing himself as a visionary unifying these two disciplines.

In 1957 Newton and his wife, Dr. Jane Pearce, founded the Sullivan Institute for Research in Psychoanalysis in 1957 in New York. They had previously worked at the William Alanson White Institute, but had left several years after the death of Harry Stack Sullivan, one of the Institute's founders. Although Newton and Pearce's institute was named after Sullivan, it was widely seen as offering a distorted version of Sullivan's teaching.

At its peak in the 1970s, the therapeutic community founded by Newton and Pearce had several hundred members living on the Upper West Side. The group's teachings held that traditional family ties were the root cause of mental illness, and espoused a communal, non-monogamous lifestyle. A major group project (1976–1991) was the Fourth Wall Repertory Company (a.k.a. 'Fourth Wall Political Theater'), based in New York's East Village; Newton was a board member, and performed in several productions.

Membership declined in the late 1980s when the group was subject to unfavorable publicity, investigations into alleged professional misconduct by its therapists, high-profile child custody cases and organized opposition by disaffected former members who described the group as a manipulative "psychotherapy cult".

Newton was married and divorced six times and had ten children, among them cultural anthropologist Esther Newton. He died in 1991 from septicemia, following the onset of Alzheimer's disease.



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