I want to make note of a brief thought that would require a treatise or a thesis to write. I have been reading about the influence of various existential philosophers, most notably Max Scheler, on Frankl’s thought from Marshall Lewis’ internet course in logotherapy. Dr. Lewis describes how one particular philosopher or another influenced Frankl’s conceptual model.
When looking at the history of ideas we can see how in certain ways one person takes an idea and diverges from it or further develops it. This is what happens when the influence is conscious. In Frankl’s case we know for a fact which philosophers Frankl personally knew and whose works he read. We can read opinions he expressed concerning them and about Logotherapeutic concepts that can be traced back to kernels of earlier philosophical concepts.
The reflections that go through my mind about Jewish teachings when I read logotherapy books are of a different kind. Although Frankl does quote an occasional Biblical verse or rabbinic statement (such as the clouds of glory that he mentions in Will to Meaning or Hillel’s statement “If I am not for myself who am I, and if I am only for myself what am I and if not now-when?”), for the most part the connections are amorphous. Not only are the connections indirect. They are unconscious.
Frankl was raised in a traditional Jewish home. He must have absorbed certain values and perceptions from the very air he breathed. Even if he did not peruse Jewish texts in a scholarly fashion or consult and study from the masters, I believe that one can find in logotherapy extremely strong hints to influence that took place on an unconscious level.
Furthermore as important as these “atmospheric” influences are, they are paltry in comparison to the influence of divine revelation at mount Sinai or the knowledge at birth before the angel touched our upper lip and we forgot it all.
When I think about embedded Jewish meanings in Frankl’s thought as indications of influence I am borrowing from Frankl’s term to say that this too can be called an aspect of spiritual unconscious – teachings passed on to us from our mother’s milk, so to speak that have been stored deep in our consciousness. That which we pick up by osmosis tends to be much stronger than that which we pick up by instruction. Unconscious teachings sink in on a deeper level peek out unexpectedly. Logotherapeutic ideas resonate and awaken my spirit like a musical note or like a thunderous resounding of truth or intensity of love.
This requires a very different type of analysis from a simple exploration into the history of ideas, as fascinating as that is. In contrast to drawing lines of comparison to something Scheler has said, for example and how Frankl has translated the idea through the prism of his own mind, I would like someday to write about the lines of influence that Frankl did not necessarily even read about and of which he was not consciously aware but that I believe where there. Like anything spiritual, it cannot be measured by scientific measure or proof-texts.
As for the Franklinian definition of meaning as “what is meant” it does not even matter if a particular line of comparison is what Frankl had in mind. In the history of ideas one idea stimulates another. Or in Frankl’s terms the question demands an answer.