If you have not read Walker Percy’s (1916-1990) clever book, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, you should - especially if you minister to people or are even remotely self-reflective. The sub-title tells you what Percy is up to through his use of satire.
In order to understand Percy’s writing you need to know that he converted to Catholicism after reading the writings of the Danish existentialist writer Søren Kierkegaard and the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. He began to question the ability of science to explain the basic mysteries of human existence. Having been influenced by the example of one of his college roommates to rise daily at dawn and go to Mass, Percy decided to convert, and he was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1947. If you would like to read more, follow this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walker_Percy
Here are some quotes from the book. The first two appear on the opening cover. The second pair appears in the book, proper.
We are unknown, we knowers, to ourselves…Of necessity we remain strangers to ourselves, we understand ourselves not, in our selves we are bound to be mistaken, for each of us holds good to all eternity the motto, “Each is the farthest away from himself”—as far as ourselves are concerned we are not knowers. Nietzsche
God, I pray you to let me know myself. St. Augustine
Can you explain why it is that there are, at last count, sixteen schools of psychotherapy with sixteen theories of the personality and its disorders and that patients treated in one school seem to do as well or as badly as patients treated in any other—while there is only one generally accepted theory of the cause and cure of pneumococcal pneumonia and only one generally accepted theory of the orbits of the planets and the gravitational attraction of our galaxy and the galaxy M31 in Andromeda? (Hint: If you answer that the human psyche is more complicated than the pneumococcus and the human white-cell response or the galaxies or Einstein's general theory of relativity, keep in mind that the burden of proof is on you. Or if you answer that the study of the human psyche is in its infancy, remember then this infancy has lasted 2,500 years and, unlike physics, we don't seem to know much more about the psyche than Plato did.)
How can you survive in the Cosmos about which you know more and more while knowing less and less about yourself, this despite 10,000 self-help books, 100,000 psychotherapists, and 100 million fundamentalist Christians….
One particular work by Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, bleeds through most of Percy’s writings. For Kierkegaard, the sickness unto death is what he calls “despair.” Despair describes the various ways a person lives in an inauthentic manner. You can see in this statement, the seeds of modern existentialism. But unlike the atheistic existentialism of Jean Paul Sartre, the only way for someone to not be in despair, according to Kierkegaard, is in a relationship with the living God.