Responsibility to conscience, love, suffering -- these are the three principal arenas in which we can find our life's meaning. And finding life's meaning is the key to psychological health -- indeed, to survival. This lesson, which became the basis of Frankl's whole theory and practice of ''logotherapy,'' was brought home to him with unmistakable clarity during his three years' imprisonment in Auschwitz. There, prisoners who had a meaning in life could survive indescribable hardship; those who lost it dwindled and perished. For Frankl, the image of his beloved wife gave him the will to live, and taught him that 'love is the highest goal to which man can aspire...that 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...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.'''At one point during his slave labor, when almost ready to succumb to despair, he movingly relates that 'I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious 'Yes' in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, which stood on the horizon as if painted there, in the midst of the miserable grey of a dawning morning in Bavaria. ''Et lux in tenebris lucet'' -- and the light shineth in the darkness.' Frankl was always shy of naming the transcendent source of ''ultimate purpose,'' but what he learned at Auschwitz caused him to separate himself and his life's work from the reductionist Freudian theories that ruled his field during the first half of the century. Those lessons have also evoked the intuitive affirmation of at least three million readers in the last fifty years. Frankl's humanity, honesty, and moral integrity will continue to appeal when other psychologies have long since disappeared.
An Eighth Day View:
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 others he treated later 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 for the Library of Congress 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.
Beacon Press, the original English-language publisher of "Man's Search for Meaning, " is issuing this new paperback edition with a new Foreword, biographical Afterword, jacket, price, and classroom materials to reach new generations of readers.