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I have just reread Dr Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”.

Frankl (1905-1997), for friends who don’t know him, was a Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist from Vienna who survived Ausschwitz. He was also the founder of ‘Logotherapy’, a form of psychotherapy based on helping people to find meaning (Logos) in their lives.  The book, originally published in 1946, is his account of the psychology of the concentration camps, with particular emphasis on what enabled people to survive by continuing to find ‘something to live for’. My edition (Touchstone 1984) includes a valuable ‘Introduction to Logotherapy’ by Frankl himself.

To quote a couple of lines: ‘Any analysis (…) ties to make the patient aware of what he actually longs for in the depth of his being.’  Logotherapy deviates from psychoanalysis insofar as it considers man a being whose main concern consists of fulfilling a meaning, rather than in the mere gratification of drives and instincts, or in merely reconciling the conflicting claims of id, ego and superego, or in the mere adaptation and adjustment to society and environment.’ (p. 108)

Reading this, I was asking myself how this ‘longing for in the depth of my being’ and ‘fulfilling a meaning’ pans out for myself.  For me it has been inter-related with God, as far back as I can remember in childhood (I started Sunday school at age 3). Put a bit more accurately, inter-related with this something/someone that pushes me, needles me, often hurts me, and with which I fight in the depths of my being, which I know that I have to ‘get right’, come what may, which seems more or less co-terminous with the God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) of the Christian Scriptures, which I am able to relate to within the theological language and structures of the Christian church, and my experience with which seems to have quite a lot in common with the experience of certain people the Christian Church calls saints

That being said, I have never been a good churchman and never will. An awful lot of which I find in a church service seems fairly irrelevant to this search, like the wine counter in a supermarket for a tea-totaller, and often what I do need I have to go looking hard for in specialist stores. I hesitate, à la Billy Graham, to serve God as the answer to all man’s existential woes: certainly not in the form (Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant) in which He is often packaged. A lot of the ‘comfort’ which people went to church for when I was a boy you can get elsewhere. Whether God is the ultimate answer for everyone, I don’t know, all I know is that, for some reason, I cannot track through the depths of my own being without engaging with Him.


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October 2015

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