Keep Your Kids Safe: Ask Women for Help, Not Men

At the risk of making global, alarmist statements, I believe that there is a simple measure parents can take to ratchet up the safety of their children: turn to women for help with children, not men.

The reason is simple: 95% of pedophiles are men. The odds of finding a woman with that personality disorder are simply far slimmer.

A story that broke today in several media organs is the sentencing and incarceration of Adam Croote, someone who was a registered sex offender in upstate New York and was previously the poster child for missing children. To view the details of the story, click here. In any case, the family who hired him knew he was a sex offender, and out of the goodness of their hearts, gave this man all sorts of odd jobs to help him out. Tragically, their daughter was choked and raped by Croote while he babysat her. The oversight of these parents is obvious. Thankfully the daughter is alive, but she will require a tremendous amount of help in order to live a normal life. And thankfully, Croote, whose own life story is horrendous, is behind bars.

Very few people would be willing to take such a risk as to hire a registered sex offender to babysit their children. I hope that nobody will ever make a decision like that again. But, when it comes to making a decision as to who should watch your children, you don’t need to know if a potential babysitter is on the offenders’ registry. Go with the stats. 95% of pedophiles are male.

And teach your children accordingly. Need help crossing the street? Ask a mommy.

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New Sexual Abuse Prevention Guide from YU

The Yeshiva University-School Partnership has sent out an excellent guide to the prevention of sexual abuse.  It is a PowerPoint presentation that can be accessed by clicking here.  I will also list the presentation in the Resources section of the website.

May we remain vigilant and committed to the eradication of this devastating phenomenon.

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Conscience Versus Superego, Continued

A while ago, I authored a piece entitled “Frankl’s Conscience Versus Freud’s Superego”, which, for whatever reason, has been the most read post on this blog.  I left off with the following thought/question:

But then, the question, which appears in my mentor Dr. Teria Shantall’s book The Quest for Destiny (Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2003) is: how do you differentiate between an experience of true conscience (i.e. according to Frankl’s model) and superego-type pressures? In other words, how do you know that you are not simply acting out of guilt or because of demands, but are responding to a call to meaning where your desire to do what is right is authentic?

It seems to me that if we are to be able to answer this question, we would have to subvert some basic paradigm assumptions that we customarily make about life. Also, the difficulty in answering this question on highlights just how deeply embedded Freud’s model is in the subconscious of the average Westerner.

I want to suggest that there is a litmus test for a “conscience” versus “superego” experience.  I have found, in my study of Torah, that there are many concepts I have learned therein that are simply anti-intuitive.  Take the commandments of shaatnez and kashrus, for example.  The first is a prohibition against wearing garments comprised of an admixture of wool and linen, as well as deriving benefit from other products with this combination.  Manufacturers today and for many centuries past have made fabrics out of wool and linen, because the addition of linen makes the product feel lighter, while the wool’s weight enables linen to lay better.  Why on earth would one forgo the luxury or convenience that can come from such an alloy of materials?

The second consists of many laws that render certain types of animals unfit for consumption, but with no reason given.  The fact that a Jew may not eat pork is not because at one point refrigeration did not exist and therefore people had to contend with the problem of trichinosis; the prohibition against pork is not a public health mitzvah.  In fact, there were methods used to preserve meat in the ancient world, such as salting (which is why hard salami keeps for extended periods of time); why not just salt the pork, if the problem is trichinosis?  Rather, the reason why these animals are prohibited is because the Torah designates them as such.   But why?

Both of these aforementioned mitzvos fall under the category of chukim, statutes for which there is no rationale other than “that is the law”.  These are laws that must be followed without knowing G-d’s reason for them.  Furthermore, the tension between a person’s desires and the Torah’s parameters ought to be experienced and even preserved, according to some authorities.  Rambam, for example, states that a person should not say that he does not desire something forbidden to him by the Torah; rather, he should say that, in fact, he does desire the forbidden item, but desists because the Torah forbids it to him.  Does this imply that the Torah is supposed to operate upon us from the realm of the superego, like another–although divine–moral message?

To be continued…

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Q&A with Raffi Bilek from Project S.A.R.A.H.: Fighting the Good Fight Against Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community

Raffi Bilek is the Outreach Coordinator for Project S.A.R.A.H., an organization based in New Jersey, and dedicated to ending domestic abuse, specifically within the Jewish community, where, although we would all like to believe it doesn’t exists, it does.  Raffi has therefore taken on a critical role, one that requires broad shoulders.  A graduate of Brown and Yeshiva Universities, as well as Machon Shlomo and Yeshiva Atlanta, Raffi has been a practicing therapist in Israel and the United States, and currently resides in Passaic, New Jersey.  Raffi has been generous with his time in answering my questions about the “slings and arrows” as well as the successes he has experienced in his work:

Please describe Project S.A.R.A.H. in terms of its mission and purpose, constituent base and area of operation, variety of services offered.

Project S.A.R.A.H. (Stop Abusive Relationships At Home) was created 15 years ago specifically to serve the needs of victims of domestic violence in the Orthodox community. We are a statewide program and field calls from all parts of New Jersey, although most of our clients come from North Jersey, which is where we are located. While we serve the entire Jewish community, and, really, anyone who walks through our doors, our target population is the Orthodox community, which has a specific set of needs and cultural/religious barriers to accessing other general services. In the past few years we have expanded into the area of sexual abuse as well and have begun serving clients who have been victimized in this way, as well as offering educational prevention programs to parents and schools.

Among the services we offer are the following: direct counseling, including free individual counseling for victims, art therapy and play therapy for children, a women’s group and a men’s group; a hotline, in conjunction with New York’s Shalom Task Force; Kosher Kits for local shelters (which contain enough kosher food for a woman and three children for 24 hours); and education to a wide range of groups, including law enforcement, physicians, rabbis, mikveh attendants, school administration, parents, and students.

Our mission is that no Jewish victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse should remain a victim because s/he is unaware of the resources available to him/her.

What is your role at Project S.A.R.A.H.?

I am the outreach coordinator. I was brought on by a federal grant to expand the services of Project S.A.R.A.H. Thus, I coordinate and deliver many of the trainings and other initiatives that we do, maintain contacts with rabbis across the state, seek further relationship-building opportunities, and dabble in social media.

How well-integrated is the organization within the community?

Project S.A.R.A.H., as part of the local Jewish Family Service, is an accepted and supported cause in the Clifton-Passaic community and much of North Jersey. The Clifton-Passaic community runs a yearly community appeal that brings in a lot of support from local residents; we also have an annual breakfast in Bergen County that was particularly well-attended this year. The Frisch High School in Paramus adopts us from time to time as a designated charity for the students’ charity competition – the students have in the past raised upwards of $10,000 on our behalf!

Many people have heard of us and know what we’re about, though it’s not everyone – it still is a sensitive topic and not something people are accustomed to go talking about in casual conversation.

Has there been success raising awareness of–and combatting–domestic and sexual abuse within the community?

There certainly has been a lot of success. We’ve come to a point where it is no longer common to suggest that these problems don’t exist in the Jewish community. There is still a lot of education that needs to be done, but the cause has come a long way. There are still people who would rather not discuss these issues, apparently on an out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach. Similarly, parents often ask us why they should agree to send their children to our safety workshops and “ruin their innocence.” The truth, in fact, is that children do not lose their innocence as a result of these workshops (which are in fact quite fun and light-hearted), and research shows that education is the best way to keep kids safe. Much in the same way that we teach kids to call 911 in case of emergency, we need to teach them what to do in case they find themselves in a sexually dangerous situation.

Still, things are better than they were. Thank G-d, there are places for Jewish victims to turn for help. There is an awareness among rabbis out there that this is a problem and that resources exist to help them deal with it. And there is a slow move away from the stigmatized view of victims towards acceptance and help.

What have been significant challenges facing the organization? How has this been handled?

There is still some resistance out there that we struggle with from time to time, such as a rabbi who “doesn’t get it” and who inadvertently makes life harder for a victim. And there are communities out there that one might call more “right-wing” that still take a hush-hush approach to dealing with these issues, which harms victims and abets perpetrators. These kinds of situations pain us, but at the same time strengthen us to keep fighting the good fight.

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Death and the Other Side of Death

Judaism includes a belief in the afterlife, a “day that is entirely long”, i.e. eternal. Though no one living can claim to have seen the reward of the righteous in the World to Come, for “no eye has seen it”, our sources affirm that in fact this is a reality. In the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin, the process of law and judgement are described in detail, as well as the full complement of penalties and punishments carried out by the court–monetary, corporal and capital. The eleventh chapter of the tractate, which follows the discussion of capital punishment, concerns the item that the sages felt was most relevant as a continuation of the topic, namely, who merits a portion in the world to come. What I am pointing out here is that it is clear from the arrangement of subjects in the Talmud, that the afterlife is the next step beyond death, and it is assumed.

Death, then, in Judaism does not represent the end of life in the total sense, but a transitional stage between life as we know it in Olam HaZeh (this world) and Olam HaBa (the next world). What we learn as a caveat regarding the next world is that the quality of our experience of it is directly affected by our behavior and accomplishments in this world.  This means that Olam HaBa is more of a deadline for physical man than death itself, since the ramifications of his use of self in this world will play themselves out there, on the other side of death.  I should mention that Olam HaBa also includes a complete physical resurrection and purification of the body and a re-installing of the soul within that body–a perfect marriage of the two aspects that comprise man, in a manner that was intended before the sin of Adam and Eve.

The Chassidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov advised his followers to remind themselves of the World to Come immediately upon awakening, and to remember that it is the ultimate destination and goal.  Without a thorough treatment of his statement, it would be difficult to plumb its depths appropriately, but suffice it to say that this type of consciousness can accomplish two things: one, a transcendent orientation towards the vicissitudes of life in This World including all of the tools to do that (like humor, broad-mindedness, orderly priorities), and two, a concrete sense of the obligations that have been placed upon oneself–not by society, but by G-d Himself.

This second item adds to the life of the Jew a layer of meaning that goes far beyond standard meaning, reaching into the realm of ultimate meaning.  What critics of Judaism (Jews and non-Jews alike)  have struggled with through the centuries is the seeming dichotomy between a quest for meaning, which appears at first glance to be up to the individual seeker, and a religion that claims to represent the gateway to ultimate meaning and contains laws that govern virtually all areas of human behavior.  How can one reconcile the individual freedom and personal space to quest after one’s meaning on the one hand with a precise checklist of behaviors on the other?

More thoughts to follow…

Do it Now!–The Meaning of Death

What is the meaning of death?

The finite quality of  life is disturbing for many people, not only because they are forced to consider their own lives as temporary, but because there is a commonly held notion that, since it will all end anyway, a person’s efforts in life are futile.  There was once a humorous poster of a woman standing over her husband’s grave.  On the headstone, there was a list of vices that the man successfully overcame, along with the respective year he gave each one up.  At the bottom of the list was the final inscription, “DIED ANYWAY”.  The use of the word “anyway” reveals a certain implication that, although one may succeed in this or that endeavor, for a certain amount of time, one will not succeed in overcoming the ultimate hampering of man’s striving–death–and that, by extension, death represent a type of immanent failure which then strips all events before it of meaning.  This notion seems to pit life against death.  Interestingly, I myself have also come across an attitude, when working with people who have very self-destructive habits such as drug addiction or promiscuity, of, “why should I give this up if I am going to die anyway?”

This concept of death is opposed by Logotherapy.  Frankl dubbed it “neurotic fatalism”, whereby one gives up one’s responsibility for one’s life by claiming helplessness in the face of inevitable factors, such as death.  In fact, says Frankl, the fact that life is temporary is precisely what bestows meaning upon it.  With a deadline as it were (pun intended), a person knows that he or she must accomplish now, that he or she ought not to let opportunities pass, that he or she should invest all of his or her efforts in realizing his or her values.  If life were eternal, that would indeed rob all endeavors in life of meaning.  There would be nothing negative about procrastination and nothing inherently meaningful about getting things done on time.

The inevitability of death enables a person to ask him or herself, “what can I/should I contribute to others, to the world, to life?”, “what can I/should I experience in the world, with others?”, “what stand should I take vis-a-vis what life is presenting me with?”   And he or she is encouraged by the finiteness of life to respond to these questions in the here and now, to rise to the occasion of life–which is here and now!  Life’s temporariness allows for the fullest expression of human consciousness and responsibility.  The person who is aware of the meaning of the moment is able to harvest this meaning through positively engaging in it, and is then able to store what has been reaped in the “full granaries of  the past”, preserved forever.  Death, then, can serve as a glorious monument to a life lived to the fullest.

I will leave this post with a question that I will attempt to answer next time.  How does the imperative to act now in this life according to Frankl, accord with our belief in the afterlife, where, in fact, life IS eternal?  What implications does a concept of Olam HaBa (the World to Come) have for our sense of mission in the here and now?


The Nihilism of Nir Barkat

This week, a bomb was detonated near Binyanei HaUma, a large convention center in Jerusalem.  The bomb killed one woman, Mary Jean Gardner from England, and injured many others.  The explosive went off near bus number 74, which is a bus line that serves my neighborhood.  Not only that, but all of the buses that pick up passengers at that bus stop come to and from my neighborhood.  Later that evening, I received an email from a neighbor reporting that a little girl from the neighborhood was undergoing surgery on her head as a result of injuries she sustained at the bomb site.  After that, another message landed in my inbox with a quote from Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat that really took me aback.  I did some research, and discovered that its source was an interview with Neil Cavuto from FoxNews. I suggest that you click on the link and read the interview, but here is a quote that I believe gives the basic gist of Barkat’s position:

Mayor, what’s the latest there?

NIR BARKAT, MAYOR OF JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: well, the latest is that, in Jerusalem, we’re going back to normal life.

And, naturally, the Israeli security forces are, I believe, will hunt the person and the find the root of the terrorists and pursue the maximum under law. And it’s very imperative and important for Jerusalem to go back to normal life as fast as possible, which we’re doing.

CAVUTO: Well, you guys are very good at that. And you have been sadly used to these kind of things, but lately not. And maybe since the building of that wall, these incidents have dramatically been curtailed. What now? What do you do if this is a sign of maybe more increased violence to come?

BARKAT: Well, I think terrorism is a global problem. And if anybody, here in Israel and in Jerusalem, we know how to deal with it.

It’s a local incident. And I believe that when we find the terrorists that is putting death in the — as — as — is the most important thing in a city that promotes life, I believe we’ll find the roots of it and get things back on track.

Israel and the world needs quiet. And we mustn’t get the terror to have any gains, zero gains for terrorists, and go back to normal life. It’s the best way to deal with terror.

Whether or not Barkat carefully crafted these statements just to sound good for the American media, while he secretly felt the gravity of the situation is irrelevant for the simple reason that everyone is responsible for what he or she says, no matter what the motivating factor.  Therefore, I reserve the right to take these statements at face value.

If I was the mayor of Jerusalem, I would have issued a completely different type of message, not only to the world but to the people whom I had been privileged to govern, the residents of Jerusalem.  I would have described the situation for what it was: a tragedy.  I would have made it clear that their pain was my pain and that their loss was my loss.  I would not glibly suggest that the best way to deal with terror is “to go back to normal life”, and then go on to talk about the upcoming Jerusalem marathon.

You don’t have to be religious, a rabbi, or even Jewish to have that kind of sensitivity.

You see, those people are not going to return to normal life.  When the media describes people as “hurt” or “injured”, that can mean anything from scratches and bruises to 3rd-degree burns and having one’s limbs blown off, G-d forbid.  Some people who are “only” injured live the rest of their lives in a vegetative state as a result of “mere” injuries.  Even those among the injured who will hopefully be restored to a state of perfect health will not return to normal life as it was before the bombing.  Nor will their respective families and loved ones.  Nor will the people who were in the vicinity who heard the blast, saw the glass shatter and witnessed the throng of ambulances and paramedics whisking the victims away to the city hospitals.  There are many, many people whose lives have been changed forever by that “local incident”, as Barkat describes it.

And when there is a directive to simply return to normal life, victims are turned into pariahs, because they stand as living reminders of that which we would like to ignore on our rush to resume our everyday affairs.  These are people who have been horribly traumatized, who need support and sympathy, and who will suffer terribly if their needs are perceived–and resented–as an imposition on others’ normal lives.  This is precisely what happened to the residents of Gush Katif, many of whom till this day have not been able to resume normal life.  And nobody wants to hear about it anymore.

I am an American living in Israel, and I have observed that a defense mechanism employed by many people here is lo kara klum, “nothing happened”.  Because of the intense pace of living here, and the often chaotic, sometimes explosive interpersonal reality of this culture, people develop an incredible amount of body armor; they go to great lengths to demonstrate how they are totally unaffected by things: unfortunate events, criticism, outrageous behavior, and in Barkat’s case, terrorist attacks.  But to brush these things aside in order to maintain the increasingly canned image of Israeli toughness is a form of existential neurosis.  Because tragedies are meaning moments, opportunities to take a stand towards inescapable fate, to reflect upon life, upon values, and to decide how to suffer without losing one’s human stature.

Frankl said, regarding the prisoners of the concentration camps, that, “the best of us did not return”.  I had trouble understanding this statement; did Frankl mean that those who did survive were of lesser caliber than those who did not?  If it was the strongest who  survived, whether through their physical endowments or their ability to psychologically adapt to their insane circumstances (i.e. choose to react to the stimulus in a way that affirmed life), is one to conclude that a Divine injustice was done, or that the world we live in now is populated by stronger, worse people?

I have concluded that what Frankl meant was, survival is not the litmus test of human victory; upholding one’s human stature, adhering to one’s values even under the most adverse of conditions is.  Thus, there were people who perished in the camps, but whose righteousness exceeded that of others who survived but were not able to maintain their values or character traits at the highest level.  The former were the true victors.

Similarly here, I do not believe that denying terrorists victory is the highest value, nor is displaying one’s toughness by simply resuming normal life.  Rather, trying to understand how we are being commissioned by this tragedy, seeing which values we can realize through this event, at the very least coming together to support and nurture the victims of the attacks and their families in the most empathetic way–this is a proper response to a very meaningful happening.  And I believe that it is the human response.  We do not need quiet; we need meaning.

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Let’s Get Honest About the “At Risk” Thing

We in the Orthodox Jewish world have become accustomed to using the term “at risk” to describe teenagers who, because of unmet needs and resulting negative feelings, go about trying to satisfy their needs in ways we find tragic, one of which is to cease their observance of Torah and mitzvos. This “off the derech” type has become a familiar personality in the cast of frum characters, like the water carrier or dairyman of the shtetl. The question is, when does this person become “at risk”? Is it only when he or she stops davening? When he or she begins to experiment with drugs? When he or she stops keeping Shabbos?

Logically speaking, anyone who is exposed to conditions that endanger him or her is to be considered “at risk”. And, if you noticed, I loaded this question earlier when I placed “at risk” within the framework of Non-Violent Communication (NVC).  People have needs and feelings. When their needs are met, they have good feelings. When their needs are unmet, they have bad feelings. But they continue to attempt to satisfy their needs.  The problem is, trying to satisfy one’s needs amidst bad feelings tends to lead a person down some very dysfunctional detours.

This basic needs/feelings formula may be an oversimplification in some regards, but I believe that (in combination with other factors) lies at the heart of the aggressive and self-destructive behaviors that are the hallmarks of the “at risk” kid. Recently, a client of mine told me that I should know, at the outset of the therapy, that he “self-medicates” by using marijuana. Listen to the language; “self-medicating” with drugs implies that the drug is being used as a way to deal with a problem–as opposed to simply being a risky form of escapism or hedonism. What is he medicating away? This, of course, becomes the first order of business in the therapy, since it is clear that there remains a meaning for the client that has not been tapped, that is being obscured by the pot–but because it is ensconced in the client’s pain, he does not want to deal with it.

Any therapist will tell you that much of a client’s pain is linked to early life experiences. You don’t have to be a Freudian analyst to say that. Taking the Logotherapeutic perspective as man as an open system, we see that people, from their first few moments in the world, reach out beyond themselves, first and foremost to explore the world.  And there is a basic need that exists in every human being to receive a response from that world that is affirming, one that tells us that, not only is the world a meaningful place, but also that our presence within it adds value, that we matter, that our arrival in this world is something to be celebrated.  Somewhere within the first few years of a person’s life, he or she will receive this message or something that contradicts this message.  If the latter, then here begins a painful saga: the frustration of the person’s most basic concern–meaning.  To have one’s path towards meaning obstructed is representative of the ultimate unmet need, and has far more impact than not receiving a tricycle for one’s birthday.

It is easy to blame the internet or “Western culture” as the wolf that ran off with our sheep, but if you work in the helping professions, you know that people generally turn towards destructive, hedonistic vices in an attempt to numb their existential pain–to “self-medicate”, to fill the void (or in Logotherapeutic terms, their existential vacuum).  But needing to fill a void implies that the void was created in their lives much earlier, before they encountered the internet and “Western culture”.

I believe if those of us in the Jewish community would like to understand and help our young people make healthy choices and lead happy, fulfilled, meaningful lives, we will have to ask very honest questions about the way we have set up our world.  We will have to strengthen those aspects of Jewish life that affirm, that promote a sense of meaning, fulfillment and belonging–and we will also have to take a stand against those elements of our own “system” that promote the opposite of these, elements that destroy meaning and ostracize those who seek it.


Seasons in Therapy: Take Heart, Shrinks!

Cow abducted by aliensHave you ever had a time your career in practice where a good portion of your client load just disappeared? No, I do not mean that they were abducted by aliens or just happened to all get caught in the Imperial tractor beam at the same time. I mean, they seemed to all come to the conclusion–simultaneously–that the time had come to end therapy? Well, at the risk of sounding like a therapist who is incompetent but unaware of it, this is an experience I’ve had.

It’s easy at a time like that to lose perspective entirely and wonder why you had the nerve to step into this profession to begin with. It’s all too tempting to doubt your own abilities and to go scrambling for the next continuing education opportunity, or to concern yourself with the impact this will have on your bank account.

Slow down.  I have a few words of encouragement to offer you.

First of all, we should never forget that we do what we do–primarily–to help others.  If you didn’t become a therapist with this at the forefront of your mind, perhaps you should consider sales.  I know that sounds a bit aggressive, but really, we cannot look at people as income.  This is true even though we do this professionally.  That’s what makes being a therapist by profession unique: on the one hand, this is your vocation, the way you make money.  On the other, until you can put aside all of the financial aspects of this career when dealing with clients, you will not be able to do therapy with them.  There cannot be another concern other than doing this work and helping that person.

This is really no different than the challenge facing artists: how to set aside all other items that can preoccupy the mind, such as the worth or creative value of the work being developed, the potential for fame and critical acclaim, wanting to be the famous artist, etc., in order to do the art, do what you’ve been blessed with the talent to do.  Many people in the creative arts can attest to the fact that only when they buckled down and just painted paintings, just made music, just wrote the novel, did they do something genuine that was then able to resonate with others.

The same is true of therapy.

Second, you have to try to evaluate why a particular client chooses to end therapy at a specific time.  Sometimes, the concern is purely financial. Other times, it is because you did not manage together to build the type of relationship that is necessary for good therapy.  And sometimes it just isn’t the right fit, or the client feels he or she is getting nowhere.

But, there is another type of situation, one that any therapist should consider to be a triumph and a gift.  That is when a client turns to  the therapist and says, “I think I’m OK.  I think it’s really up to me now.”  The life cycle of the therapy will end, perhaps, but then again, this was a client who came in however long ago thinking that he or she was not OK and not capable of facing his or her problems.  Sometimes this happens before the sun rises again in the client’s life, before the house is reorganized and refurbished, and you don’t get to see the client in his or her full glory.  He or she is simply leaving with gratitude and the hopeful assertion that he or she is able to fly again.  If this is why your client is leaving, please tune in and appreciate the great honor you are being given.  You did it!

How Many Consciences Can One Have?

Conscience, as I’ve written about many times in this blog, is a basic element in Logotherapy: the mechanism that detects meaning and conveys it to the possessor of conscience. Yet, there are at least two types of meaning as Frankl stated it: meaning and ultimate meaning. Meaning is accessible to all humans who attune their consciences towards it, whether religious or secular. Ultimate meaning is, essentially, the realm of the G-dly, the spiritual, and the absolutely moral.

Then there are the three dimensions of the human being: the biological, the psychological and the noological (the human dimension). The noological dimension is the locus of conscience and meaning within the human personality, because it is with these two endowments that man is able to transcend the limitations that his biological and psychological places upon him. In addition, it is these two endowments that makes it possible for a person to be judged according to the ethical value of his or her actions; the excuse of being “only human”, or “society’s child” is done away with by the noological capacity for transcendence (and by extension, greatness).

Now, I have wrestled with the question as to whether or not there exists a dimension above the noological, a second level of conscience, one that enables people to perceive ultimate meaning as opposed the standard meaning available to all. Because, let’s face it: what exists as spiritual truth to one person is often viewed as hogwash by another. How can this be possible? If ultimate meaning is an objective reality, how is it seemingly perceivable only to a select few, and rejected by others?

After much opposition from others within my training group to my initial foray into two consciences, and more reflection on the matter, my newest conclusion is: rather than there being two types of conscience, there are two types of meaning. Frankl’s own words serve to substantiate this, as in a number of places, he defines the noological dimension as the human or anthropological dimension of man (which he calls spiritual but not religious). The second type of meaning he left undefined, I believe, for two reasons. First, because of his contention that religion, if it is to be meaningful, has to be a uniquely personal experience. Second, because he felt that the realm of ultimate meaning was the domain of the clergyman, as opposed to being the domain of the psychotherapist.

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