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February 09, 2014

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jonnybardo

Powerful piece, Jeff, well done. Among other things, I learned the word "bloviate" - love it.

As you know, I'm doing a graduate program in counseling psychology, and have been interested in psychology, philosophy and spirituality since I was a teenager. One problem I find with existential philosophy, especially as an overriding ideology, is that it often leads to nihilism, which I would say is "existentialism gone wrong" - or not gone to its natural progression. That is, it is the crystallization of something that is more of a transitional stage (as all stages are). Frankl seemed to have his own "post-existential" approach, but so often when people approach existentialism they are left adrift, in the existential morass.

Rather, I see existentialism as a necessary transition, from belief to rationalism, through the "existential dark night of the soul," into a more mystical/creative space, corresponding with Maslow's self-actualization and self-transcendence, or Hillman's daimon. Existentialism is the necessary raft to break away from the beliefs of the "old world" or paradigm, but if one holds onto the raft they end up adrift on the sea, no land in sight. The "new land" Is not like the old, it is not belief-centered and rationalistic, but creative, open, and alive. Existentialism, in a way, is the process whereby one separates from the herd; but it isn't itself the "new world" - it simply breaks down the old.

Have you ever read Alan Watts? He seems to bridge the gap, but without resorting to the belief structures of the "old world." In particular, the Wisdom of Insecurity or The Book On The Taboo of Knowing Who You Are.

It might be, though, that you haven't lived up to Frankl after 10 years NOT because there is something wrong with you, but because there is something RIGHT with you, and you're just not accepting/embracing that. You aren't Frankl, you're McMahon and your "destiny" is to craft your own meaning.

I apologize if I sound preachy!

herculodge

Thank you for the feedback, Jonny. Frankl is religious at heart so his faith impedes him from veering into nihilism. I am agnostic, so I have nihilistic inclinations but never go there because thankfully I'm not a sociopath and I do believe in benevolent social reciprocity.

jonnybardo

The third paragraph should say "From belief THROUGH rationalism," meaning existentialism is not, in my opinion, the transition from belief TO rationalism, but from rationalism to the mystical/creative/actualizing. Nihilism is, in a way, stopping at existentialism - going "sideways," if you will, and setting up shop as an "existentialist" in whatever variation. But, to quote Frank Costanza, it "stops short" of the new cognitive domain that I'm calling the mystical/creative (which may not be the best framing, but is difficult to put into words as it is "post-verbal").

You might also want to check out the work of Ken Wilber, because he puts a lot of this into a broad context.

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