For most of the book, I felt as dumbfounded as I would have been if I were browsing through a psychiatric journal. Filled with references and technical terms and statistics, it was mostly a book-long affirmation of the then innovative technique called ‘logo-therapy’. I do not understand how this book is still relevant and found in most popular book stores. It might have been that the book was popular in the sixties and seventies as it offered a powerful and logical argument against the reductionist approach that leads inevitably to existential nihilism, but is that still relevant today? It also attempts to free psychiatry from the belief that ‘eros’ was the cause of all neurosis and turns the flashlight on repressed ‘logos’ – which forms the premise of the book and the title.
But, while the basic premises are powerful and moving, the breadth and scale of repetition of the same ideas and the technical jargon and the constant Freud-bashing ensured that I did not enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. Furthermore, the whole chapter dedicated to the theory that ultimately our basic necessity of ‘search for logos’ can also be explained as a ‘repressed religious drive’ and his exhortation to religious people to not look down on irreligious ones (read atheists and agnostics) just because they have achieved a stage that the atheists/agnostics are still aspiring (unconsciously of course) towards rang patently false and too much in line with his argument of psychiatry being a sister to theology.
I wish Frankl had stuck to his original title of ‘The Unconscious God’ – it would have been more representative of the book as his ‘logos’ argument directly derives from his postulation of a transcendent unconscious super-ego that trumps Freud’s ‘Super Ego’ and a spiritual cum instinctual subconscious that trumps Freud’s ‘id’.
Unless you are looking for a historical perspective on the technical aspects of psychiatry and about the origins of ‘logo-therapy’, I would not recommend this book, especially for general reading. If you pick up this book, like I did, in the hope that it is about Frankl’s personal quest for meaning amidst the horrors of Auschwitz with a strong scientific perspective, you will be disappointed to find that you have picked up a medical journal that is pedantic and repetitive, with hardly any reference to Frankl’s personal journey or about how he evolved his theory and practices (that did transform many lives) based on his experiences.