This concept of spiritual freedom is prevalent throughout Viktor Frankl’s novel, Man’s Search for Meaning, which depicts true life experience of enduring the Nazi concentration camp in the early twentieth century. His emphasis on spiritual freedom serves as a lesson in overcoming even the most cruel of conditions.
“Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress” (p. 65)
Despite enduring the most barbaric and bleak conditions of the Nazi concentration camp, Frankl rises above his hardships and turns it into an inspiring lesson for us all. Throughout his experience he cultivated a wealth of psychological and spiritual lessons to teach others how to face and endure any sort of suffering they may experience in life.
“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way…It is this spiritual freedom-which cannot be taken away-that makes life meaningful and purposeful” (pg 66, 67)
Frankl comes to the conclusion that surviving hardship and enduring suffering comes down to awakening the spiritual powers within the mind and soul. To activate the mental and spiritual forces that override any seemingly miserable and life threatening circumstance. It is the freedom of man to decide to tap into these powers to become a person of strength and courage even when all seems hopeless.
“Every man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him-mentally and spiritually”
Lessons from Man’s Search for Meaning
It is our own responsibility to make decisions toward’s life.
“Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become a plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate” (66).
We must look to the future to endure hard times.
“It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future…the prisoner who had lost faith in the future-his future-was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold…he simply gave up…(pg 73, 74).
They key to coping with life is a change in attitude.
“What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life” (pg 76)
Finding a why to live will give you the strength to persevere.
Any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had to first succeed in showing him some future goal. Nietzsche’s words, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”…whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give [the prisoners] a why-an aim-for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible how of their existence. (pg 76)