mans-search-for-meaningFrom Marty Rathbun:

Viktor Fankl survived several Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz.

Only one out of twenty-eight so imprisoned survived the ordeal.  Frankl closely observed for the common denominator of those few who did survive. He did not find a single physical, physiological, cultural, or religious factor in common.

Instead, he discovered that those with a strong enough purpose (he calls it a meaning) to carry out were the ones who made it.  There was no common purpose shared among them all.  There was not even a  predominant commonality of purpose.  Some simply  had a purpose to see a loved one again.  Some felt work they had begun prior to incarceration was so important they found a way to endure what for others was certain death.  Frankl himself fell into the latter category, and it so happened that the work he wanted to complete paralleled the observations he wrote about.

I recommend the book for former SO members who survived long-term oppressive conditions; or those wanting to understand what they were subjected to.

Anyone who survived the Hole and other similar Miscavige tortures will appreciate this short passage demonstrating the sadistic Nazi concentration camp guard menality, and its effects:

Beatings occurred on the slightest provocation, sometimes for no reason at all…

…The most painful part of beatings is the insult which they imply…

…Then he began: “You pig, I have been watching you the whole time! I’ll teach you to work, yet! Wait till you dig dirt with your teeth — you’ll die like an animal!  In two days I’ll finish you off!  You’ve never done a stroke of work in your life. What were you, swine? A businessman?”  I was past caring. But I had to take his threat of killing me seriously, so I straightened up and looked him directly in the eye. “I was a doctor — a specialist.” 

“What?  A doctor?  I bet you got a lot of money out of people.”

“As it happens, I did most of my work for no money at all, in clinics for the poor.”  But, now I had said too much.  He threw himself on me and knocked me down, shouting like a madman. I can no longer remember  what he shouted.

Frankl even aptly answers the oft-repeated questions we hear about former senior executives, such as “why don’t they arise and revolt?”

The prisoner who had lost faith in the future — his future — was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.

I recommend the book to anyone feeling he or she lacks a driving, meaningful purpose in life.

Frankl recommends that everyone find their own meaning.  It is a life giving process that rises folk above the dwindling sprial of do-nothing boredom, monotony, and the deathly lower harmonic of apathy.   Frankl stresses that the meaning-finding process can be assisted, but not directed.  Every individual must find for himself or herself that activity which fullfills his or her destiny.

There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge there is a meaning in one’s life.  There is much wisdom in the words of Nietzsche: ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.

I could not help noting the parallels between Frankl’s observations and some fundamental prinicples L Ron Hubbard wrote of.   So much so that I would suggest any highly trained auditor could easily come to the conclusion Hubbard had to have read and incorporated Frankl, particularly when one considers Frankl’s book was  first published in 1946.

— Marty Rathbun

From Wikipedia: Liberated after three years in concentration camps, Frankl returned to Vienna. During 1945 he wrote his world-famous book titled Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen: Ein Psychologe Erlebt das Konzentrationslager (translated: "...Saying Yes to Life in Spite of Everything: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp", known in English by the title Man's Search for Meaning (1959). In this book, he described the life of an ordinary concentration camp inmate from the objective perspective of a psychiatrist.

It was due to his and others' suffering in these camps that he validated his hallmark conclusion that even in the most absurd, painful and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning and that therefore even suffering is meaningful. This conclusion served as a strong basis for his Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, which Frankl had described before WWII.

An example of Frankl's idea of finding meaning in the midst of extreme suffering is found in his account of an experience he had while working in the harsh conditions of the Nazi's concentration camps:

We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory."


Description on Amazon: Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory—known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")—holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

At the time of Frankl's death in 1997, Man's Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club that asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" found Man's Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.

Born in Vienna in 1905 Viktor E. Frankl earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. He published more than thirty books on theoretical and clinical psychology and served as a visiting professor and lecturer at Harvard, Stanford, and elsewhere. In 1977 a fellow survivor, Joseph Fabry, founded the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. Frankl died in 1997.


Amazon Review: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud. The book begins with a lengthy, austere, and deeply moving personal essay about Frankl's imprisonment in Auschwitz and other concentration camps for five years, and his struggle during this time to find reasons to live. The second part of the book, called "Logotherapy in a Nutshell," describes the psychotherapeutic method that Frankl pioneered as a result of his experiences in the concentration camps. Freud believed that sexual instincts and urges were the driving force of humanity's life; Frankl, by contrast, believes that man's deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose. Frankl's logotherapy, therefore, is much more compatible with Western religions than Freudian psychotherapy. This is a fascinating, sophisticated, and very human book. At times, Frankl's personal and professional discourses merge into a style of tremendous power. "Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is," Frankl writes. "After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Biography:  Viktor E. Frankl is Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School and Distinguished Professor of Logotherapy at the U.S. International University. He is the founder of what has come to be called the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy (after Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology) -- the school of logotherapy.

Born in 1905, Dr. Frankl received the degrees of Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Vienna. During World War II he spent three years at Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps.

Dr. Frankl first published in 1924 in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis and has since published twenty-six books, which have been translated into nineteen languages, including Japanese and Chinese. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Duquesne and Southern Methodist Universities. Honorary Degrees have been conferred upon him by Loyola University in Chicago, Edgecliff College, Rockford College and Mount Mary College, as well as by universities in Brazil and Venezuela. He has been a guest lecturer at universities throughout the world and has made fifty-one lecture tours throughout the United States alone. He is President of the Austrian Medical Society of Psychotherapy.

Buy it now on Amazon






Puppy Eyes
# Puppy Eyes 2012-10-15 07:16
Frankl's main concepts are wonderful. I think I have read every article and book he published. I have written a summary of his ideas that might help anyone get the big picture before they read all the details. I just wish Frankl had not violated the rights of another being by ordering a lobotomy on that person. He admits he did this in his book.
# Ian 2014-08-30 23:35
I love this book!

Also another question that very recently occurred to me I have yet to find an answer to: WHY is it that one thing is meaningful to one person but not another? Is it simply based on our personal character and identity?

Inherently, things have no meaning besides what we give them as individuals, and yet we need to create a personal meaning to make life fulfilling (in terms of fulfilling our self-defined destiny/goals), purposeful and to thrive instead of merely existing.

The best answer I can think of at this time is *understanding* - due to affinity for a subject, person, thing or idea as it "speaks and calls to one" (communication) and seems very real in their mind, not just an abstract or an obligation.

Yet I think there is something missing to this as well. Interested in more thoughts on this.
+1 # Thoughtful 2014-08-31 10:32
I think the reason one thing is meaningful to one person and not another, is due to the games people are playing. I don't mean "games" a derogatory sense, but in the sense that life is a game. Games break down to freedoms, barriers and purposes. It is one's chosen purposes that define what game a person is playing: to build a house, to restore a muscle car, to learn ballroom dancing, to maximize personal awareness — whatever it is a person wants to do.
In my experience, I normally have at least 10 or 12 various purposes all going at the same time in various stages of execution. I think of each purpose area as my pet "project." When I make progress on any of these various projects I feel good, happy and my morale is high. I feel alive — and that's no accident.
LRH said that life could be defined as "Having and following a purpose." Really, it should have been "purposes" — plural, for no person just as one purpose. You have 8 dynamics and things you want to have or do or be on any of those dynamics.
So if something occurs which advances you along one those particular projects, then it brings meaning to you. But maybe not to someone else.
"Living" is simply a matter of mocking up whatever it is you'd like to do (purposes) and then doing something along that purpose line. As Frankl explains in the book, when something bad happens that we cannot control, what we can control is how we react or act in response to that event. By integrating that event into our purposes that event can take on meaning. An example is using one's past bad experience in the Church of Scientology to help others avoid the same kind of disasters.
# Ian 2014-09-07 12:04
Thanks, this helps fill in the blanks a lot more and I believe "games" & "ARC/Understanding" are parts of it, however, I am still not sure it fully answers why a person picks a particular chosen purpose in the first place. I think the answer lies deeper somewhere in the identity (or role or personality or character or whatever we want to call it) that one has picked for their lifetime. *Might be delving into GPMs here*

In other words, what I am really asking is what is it that is particularly moving or meaningful to a person initially that makes them decide to play a game, or learn more about it and work towards achieving it? (Sociopaths/SPs excluded, I'm talking about normal people here who care) It could be curiosity perhaps, or a sense of doing right and good, or to do what others haven't, to "win", etc. - OK but still, why does *that* call out to them at a certain time in life, but not to others who may look at the same thing, shrug and then move on?

Part of me wonders about why it is that there are some people who are deeply committed to a cause (i.e. caring for animals, ending homelessness/war/AIDS/hunger/pollut ion/national debt, etc.)...All of which are definitely worthwhile and good social causes to endeavor towards, and yet there are only a few people taking responsibility and actually doing anything about these things at all, which really should concern all of us as the human race. And then those people working on the causes wonder what is wrong with these other people who don't get involved? (Apathy? Cynicism? It's not "real" or "understood" to them? Fear of commitment or failure? Not enough money or time? Feeling they don't matter or make a difference?) I mean, if it was a matter of accomplishment across the dynamics, then one would know that objectively any of the above examples are beneficial for dynamics 1-5 at the very least, if not all 8.

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