Castaneda And Frankl: A Bridge Between Esoterics And Psychology

Carlos Castaneda and Viktor Frankl are undoubtedly some of the greatest thinkers (and practitioners!) humanity has ever produced.

While they took different approaches in their lives – i.e esoterics and psychology – quite many connections can be made between the two.

One obvious common thing is the idea of responsibility that is a cornerstone for both authors.

Castaneda says that in order to be efficient you need to take on responsibility for your own life and accept the fate as it is. This is the difference between a warrior and an average man.

Frankl in essence tells the same. Responsibility, together with freedom and spirituality, is a pillar of human existence.

No matter which approach or tradition we may prefer, both of them share the same profound point. We are the ones who are responsible for our lives. And if we want to have things we’ve never had, we must do things we’ve never done.

Other posts on Viktor Frank’s Man’s Search for Meaning:

The Pillars Of Human Existence: Spirituality, Freedom and Responsibility
Three Types of Values That Make Life Meaningful
Where Space for Growth Lies
Death Makes Life Meaningful
Heredity And Environment Vs. Will and Action
Knowledge Vs. Wisdom

Death Makes Life Meaningful

Quotation-Viktor-E-Frankl-life-meaning-Meetville-Quotes-194854The book Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl is a plentiful source of inspiration and optimism for every single day.

One of my favourite excerpts is the author’s reflections on the meaning of death.

Just as a reminder, the whole book is dedicated to the meaning of life. In this regard, V. Frankl argues that nothing can make life meaningless, even death.

Below is the Russian translation of the author’s quote.

Can the time limits of human life, that is the fact that man is mortal, make life meaningless?

How often we hear arguments that death makes life completely useless after all. That eventually all man’s creations are useless as long as they are destroyed by death. So does death really take away the sense of meaning from our life?

On the contrary!

For what would our life be if it were eternal? If we were immortal, we could easily postpone our every action for as long as we wanted. And it wouldn’t matter if we take the action now or not, as it can be equally done tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, or in a year, or in ten years.

In contrast, in the teeth of death – as our absolute and inevitable end in future, and as the limit of our capabilities – we ought to use the time available to us as effective as possible. We have no right to miss a single opportunity, the sum of which makes our life really full of meaning.

Thus it is not necessary to draw a distinction between life and death, for death is rather an integral part of life.

The passage above echoes with Carlos Castaneda’s “death as the only advisor that we have.”

Indeed, death itself is not scary.

What is really intimidating is facing your death empty-handed.

road

Other posts on Viktor Frank’s Man’s Search for Meaning:

Knowledge Vs. Wisdom
Heredity And Environment Vs. Will and Action

Heredity And Environment Vs. Will and Action

viktor_franklI am continuing to absorb Viktor Frankl’s wisdom through his powerful work Man’s Search for Meaning.

One of the book’s chapters is the authors’ critique of pan-determinism, an approach according to which man is nothing but a product of his heredity and environment.

In other words, genes and circumstances are the only factors that define our actions. This means our lives are biologically and socially pre-determined, and change is not possible.

In contrast, V. Frankl argues that while these factors have a strong impact, man has always the freedom of will and choice. Although many life conditions are unchangeable, a person can always transcend his environment and change his own self.

Man is, and always remains, capable and resisting and braving even the worst conditions.

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

A good illustration of this is Professor Lange’s famous study of twin brothers one of which became an inventive criminal and the other one an inventive criminologist. Inventiveness could have been inherited. Yet whether become a criminal or a criminologist was a question of attitude.

This means heredity is nothing but a material man uses to build himself from. This is nothing but stones that can be accepted or rejected by a builder.

The builder himself, however, is not from stones.

So ultimately there is space both for fate and free will in our lives. It’s up to us whether we understand this and use to our advantage, i.e. construct a building we want to see.

A Recipe For a Decent Life, or How To Die Without Regret

Too early to speak about death with life in full blossom, but…

As noted by many, Death is the ultimate counselor.

So this time for my Quote Of the Day section I picked a thought from Ralph Emerson, a great mystic of the modern time. In truth, this one is also attributed to the Hindu poet Kalidasa.

In any case, this is an amazingly profound idea and a guiding principle at the same time.

If

When I was 15 years old and attended the 9th grade in high school, I participated in the municipal English language contest. These kind of school contests, or ‘Olympiads’  as they are called, are very popular throughout the post-soviet territory, and are held in nearly every subject.

As part of preparation for the contest my English teacher – a great person and a great pedagogue – suggested that I should learn by heart the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. I remember how my teacher was excited about the poem. Even more excited was she when reciting it to me.

I also remember being puzzled. By that time my only image of Kipling was that of the author of ‘Maugli’. I simply could not understand how a poem would be useful during the English language contest. However, as I started reading and learning the poem itself, I got more and more hooked. Moreover, somehow I was dead sure I could make use of it during the contest.

The last exercise of the contest, as it was announced beforehand, was a free discussion on a random topic. I don’t remember now what that topic was. I do remember though that I could nicely connect it with the Poem recited passionately in front of the jury.

I won that contest and became “number one” in town among twenty schools represented.

As time passed by, I turned back to the poem over and over again. This seems to be one of those few pieces that bring inspiration literally forever. Today, its lines resonate even more vividly inside of me when when back in my teens.

If I were asked to leave the only literary piece of work on Earth, I would select If without a doubt.

I hope it can inspire and guide others like it does for me.

Namaste.

Need for speed, or Faster! Faster!

There is famous episode in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass known as the Red Queen’s race. This incident is a perfect illustration of the ever-accelerating world we’re living in:

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Interestingly enough, what Lewis Carroll captured from an artistic approach as a writer, found its reflection in the academic world too. Thus, Hartmut Rosa, a professor of sociology and political science, distinguishes three categories of change in the tempo of modern social life. These are technological acceleration, evident in transportation, communication, and production; the acceleration of social change, reflected in cultural knowledge, social institutions, and personal relationships; and acceleration in the pace of life, which happens despite the expectation that technological change should increase an individual’s free time.

Indeed, the acceleration of time appears to be a characteristic feature of the post-modern world, with the “fast food” and “speed dating” becoming more and more common. Yes there is a paradox out there. While mechanical acceleration intended to create more time for an individual, a constant time shortage is growing. So the question is: how do we handle the inevitable change?

Well, the Red Queen does have the answer: “Run at least twice as fast”. One must constantly “move in order to move” or, as they say it: “Move it or lose it!”. This is neither good nor bad, but rather an embedded feature of our time that needs to be dealt with in order to grow and move forward. Another solution, of course, is to ignore the challenge and remain inert and passive. In the long run, however, this causes a high risk to be left behind.

So to be able not only to keep up the pace, but progress, some of the things we CAN do are:

– be open to learning new things

– “learn how to learn” quickly in the changing  environment

– use self-discipline as your personal tool to achieve success

On a final word, there is another paradox in human life that is worth mentioning. The more things we have to do, the more time we have. This applies only to those things that your REALLY want to do and consider as priorities. The Universe is wise and will always provide additional resources (time) when there is a burning need for that.