Viktor Frankl on the Past

Psychiatrist and philosopher, Viktor Frankl, was one of the most significant thinkers of the Twentieth Century, for many reasons. Here, I want to mention just one concept that is arresting: his view of the past. Frankl was the great philosopher and psychiatrist of meaning, what grounds human beings in reality. He was, sadly, not a Christian, but a Jew who took life seriously. He, like so many others of his influence then, was not a nihilist nor an atheistic Existentialist.

Here, I want to mention just one concept that is arresting: his view of the past. Frankl lived through humanity at its worst in the concentration campus in World War II. He found meaning in madness and evil. Life asks to respond responsibly, to keep our dignity, and to serve others. Part of this meaning is realizing that the past is safe; it is fixed; it cannot be changed. We can look back and be thankful for the good that we did. We can own up to the bad choice that we made. Frankle emphasizes that the past is secure, whereas the present and the future still have potentialities to be realized and is, as such, insecure. No so the past.

This is an intriguing perspective that stays with me. We too often think that “living in the past” is wrong. It is not. We remember, and we ought to remember–as best we can what God has done and what it means for today.

Author: Douglas Groothuis

Author of Christian Apologetics, Truth Decay, On Jesus, On Pascal, and others. Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary since 1993. Head of The Apologetics and Ethics Masters Degree Program and Co-Director of The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture. Senior Fellow for Apologetics.com.

2 thoughts

  1. Actually the past remains in us whether we want to acknowledge it or not. I have learned this through many actual body memories where an event manifested itself in my psyche and wasn’t recalled till much later. I have learned that the good and the bad have value. God uses both-“all things work together for good”.

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