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MAN'S SEARCH FOR ULTIMATE MEANING by Viktor E. Frankl

MAN'S SEARCH FOR ULTIMATE MEANING

By Viktor E. Frankl

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1997
ISBN: 0-306-45620-6

 These nine essays comprise a kind of sequel to the author's famous foundation work of ``logotherapy,'' Man's Search for Meaning, with a focus on a person's spiritual rather than existential striving. Vienna-based psychiatrist and neurologist Frankl, the author of 31 books, makes some profound observations about the nature of religiosity, awareness of which he believes must be incorporated into psychology. For example, he says that humans have a ``spiritual unconscious,'' that each person has a latent intuition and yearning for the transcendent, and that this is often activated when a person must deal with the ``tragic triad--pain, guilt and death.'' Unfortunately, Frankl's prose never quite brings his important subject to life; it's too academic, with a dearth of vivid anecdotal material or case studies. And it sometimes lapses into Latinisms and abstruse formulations, as in his reference to ``pre-reflective ontological self-understanding,'' when what Frankl really means is ``the wisdom of the heart.'' As important, the author's notion of the transcendent is so broad as to be almost meaningless; thus, he defines God as ``the partner of our most intimate soliloquies,'' a definition that seems to involve a kind of theological sophistry which has little if anything to say about a person's responsibility to others. At the same time, Frankl's notion of faith is black and white; he states, ``I personally think that either belief in God is unconditional or is not belief at all. If it is unconditional, it will stand and face the fact that six million died in the Nazi holocaust,'' as if belief could never coexist with doubt, as if any theology could ``stand and face'' the shattering reality of mechanistic mass murder. Frankl's question about ultimate meaning and a few of his observations are profound, yet much else in this sometimes rambling book disappointingly stops at the surface.