I want to share a couple of email exchanges I had with Dr. Teria Shantall relating to this idea that logos is deeper than logic (See yesterday’s blogpost).
Batya: I noticed from your comments to me that clients always seem to be speaking in codes. For example if a client talks in a general way about wanting connection to the world she is actually wanting connection to me, the therapist. There are times I have also seen this very clearly and other times less so. Is this always the case? Do they know they are doing it or is it subconscious?
Teria: Yes, meaning is to be found behind the words but, unlike psychoanalytic “interpretation” of unconscious material from the psychic unconscious, the spiritual unconscious: the unconscious awareness of meaning or subconscious awareness of the voice of the Transcendent speaking through the event, the happening, the reality of the moment, is to be illuminated, brought to the conscious awareness of the client. It is experienced by the client, even subconsciously, as: “What is it I am to do or to understand or to experience right now? What is being required of me?” Missing the connection, the real meaning of the moment, not responding in the right or perceptive way by “barking up the wrong tree” or by focusing on psychic material which is always distorted material, or by trying to force some other meaning on the moment, will leave the client feeling restless and frustrated. (Frankl: “The heart is restless until it has found and realized meaning” – also the meaning of the moment in a therapeutic situation!)
To put it in another way: the client subconsciously “picks” up the clues, perceives how and where what is needed to break through into meaning in conscious awareness and transmits it to the therapist who, also, should be listening with a spiritual ear, that is, “what is the client trying to convey to me? What is the real meaning seeking to break through or to manifest or be presented to both of us right now?
So, to answer your question, yes, it is always the case: meaning is not something concrete but it is to be found in a very concrete, that is, real situation in the here and now life of the client. Meaning is always perceived, grasped, experienced, that is, it always has spiritual content. That is why it is not directly experienced by the client in ordinary chit chat or intellectual talk (Frankl: “Logos is deeper than logic”).
Meaning must be searched out. This implies that it is always just beyond conscious grasp. If, however, the client and the therapist search for it in a receptive, existentially open way, meaning comes to them, or is realizedby them: it floodstheir understanding, that is, it becomes very real to them both in an experiential or spiritual way.
The task, the aim and object of our lives is to find, experience and give expression to the meaning of life. This awareness of life’s incredible worth as a gift of love from the Divine, is part of what Frank called “man’s pre-reflective self-understanding”, a fundamental grasp even if buried in the deep regions of our spiritual unconscious or unconscious awareness of the Divine.
This logos is deeper than logic, Frankl contended, and is not available to the scrutinizing analysis of mere rationality. It escapes the cold eye of reason. It cannot be “explained” nor “possessed” (as a package of knowledge that can be used at will). It knows of no cause and effect because it simply is so. “Reality is to be realized”, the philosopher Max Scheler (1972) contended, “it has to be brought to self-given-ness in immediate intuitive evidence”. It is a Truth we can never “have” and “keep” and “expound” since it can only be grasped, experienced and witnessed.
We can only speak of the Truth since we do not “have” it. In our very essence as creatures of God, we are related to the Divine. We search for meaning and seek to understand our fundamental connection to the Divine, but we are not divine ourselves. We only partake of the Divine. Therefore Frankl warns that in speaking of the Unconscious God within us, this in no way implies that our unconscious is divine (that we are all-knowing creatures, little gods in ourselves). We are only godly to the extent that we fill our lives with godliness with our connection to and awed subservience to the Divine. That is why Frankl contended that response-ability is the essence of human existence.
In the next exchange I unfortunately cannot find my letter but only Teria’s answer to me:
You are so spot on in highlighting the one difference between religious instruction and logotherapy – the very thought that dawned upon me too: the difference between being instructed what to do and in experiencing the truth of what you are to do. Logos is deeper than logic, that is, instructions we grasp and agree to with our minds but that stay “unreal” to us, that somehow still remain outside our hearts or disconnected from what should become an inner conviction that spurs us on to personal commitment and not merely dutiful obedience.
A religion of the mind cannot escape the doubts of the heart and so it is possible for devoutly observant Jews to be still assailed by depression, anxiety, deep psychological conflict and anguished feelings of self-doubt. A profoundly personalized conviction of the truth of religious laws for living is no more or no less than a personal connection (breakthrough) to the Divine Lawgiver, “speaking” to us in the very unique and highly personal situations of our lives. Then something else happens. We become an only child before Him. Our whole lives take on a very different and higherdimension of meaning. We become aware of our uniqueness, our own ordained and personal destiny in life. And hereis the total healing that Frankl speaks about, the healing through meaning.
We are not just another member of a particular group of other members pretty much the same as we are. We emerge in our uniqueness. Our lives become an irreplaceablepart of the whole. We have a very special place to fill, one that can onlybe filled by us, nobody else, however highly moral and law-abiding another person may be. He or she cannot take my place.
It is this profound awareness of our total uniqueness before our Creator that makes every event in our lives something very personal and real. It contains something just for us. We are now instructed by life itself in a highly personal way. The histories we are recording are our own stories, not a replica of anyone elses story. We develop highly personal skills and understanding. We follow our own peculiar callings in life.
When this happens we also truly begin to harmonize with one another: we complementeach other. Can you do without me or I do without you? Then the excitement of true brotherhood and sisterhood start operating. We become onenation with one heart (we reflect the ONE AND ONLY).
Here exactly is the problem that Laurie (name was changed) experienced when she said: What can logotherapy offer that a rabbi cannot offer? This is what we have to spell out without treading on anyone’s toes! A question that also needs to be addressed is this: How can the same realizations, the same truths, the same connection to the Divine be experienced by a non-Jew? After all, I have seen how logotherapy has changed the lives of Christians, Africans, religious and non-religious and how very diverse people can start finding each other in ways that remove the barriers and prejudices of differences, distrust of the unfamiliar.
The only answer can be that the Divine addresses, confronts, teaches and invites the whosoever in the whatsoever circumstances or contexts in the same way. As creatures of the One Creator, we share common values, common needs, common searches for the true meanings of our lives. This shows up the truth of the teachings of Judaism: it works, and it works in the life of everyone. But it says this also: that an inner hearing of the “voice” or the instructions of the Divine is the factor of supreme importance and significance.
What does this make of Logotherapy? Simply that it assists the whosoever in listening and responding to the inner voice of their own conscience as a spark of the Divine…
As to answering the question you posed: Logotherapy explores the real experiential facts of life. It is also called: existential analysis, that is, the analysis of human existence. Judaism expounds the laws for living a meaningful life. Indeed, Logotherapy is nothing more than the applied psychology of Judaism. One could just as well ask: How does Judaism work in real life? Why then Logotherapy? Why not go to a Rabbi, why to a Logotherapist?
Let me say this: one shouldbe able to find every answer to life’s perplexities with a life-sensitive rabbi. But religion is often first of all a rational understanding, an exercise of the mind instructing the heart: what to do to experience meaning.
For too many it remains on that level with the result that intimately personal issues and problems are not really touched or addressed. These personal doubts, fears and insecurities therefore becomes guiltily hidden behind a front of piety (submissive obedience). Reason is a cold taskmaster. It is strict, even judgmental and harsh in its demand that you must love, be kind, worship God, be good etc. So, what happens? The Rabbi becomes much too formidable a figure to approach and, as Frankl testified, people are turning more and more to the medical doctor, the psychiatrist and the psychologist. They are seen to be more in touch with real things.
What does Logotherapy do? It simply awakens faith from the heart, not from the mind. “Logos is deeper than logic.” It evokes the personal search for meaning or will to meaning and opens awareness to the real Presence of God in each and every life event, to life itself, on the part of the person seeking help. The result is the emergence of the authentic person, the full and real self of the one looking for personal meaning in his or her life. MEANING IS EXPERIENCED IN REALITY in the observant and secular, in the religious and so-called “non-religious” alike. For everyone the meaning of life has become deeply personal, hence Frankl’s saying: “For religion to survive (or become real) it must become PROFOUNDLY PERSONALIZED!