Secular Sacredness: Applying Buber and Marcel to Psychotherapy




Squires, Matthew

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In this dissertation, I first examine the crisis in meaning facing modern society as articulated by Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, two seminal figures in the existentialist tradition. Though their assessment is heavily informed by the cultural paradigm of late Christendom in which they lived, I interpret their points of view as remaining profoundly significant to modern and post-modern subjects navigating reality in contemporary times. After this, I turn to the work of both the Christian existentialist Gabriel Marcel as well as the Jewish theologian Martin Buber to bring to light more subtle insights about human subjectivity implicit in the criticisms laid against modernity by Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Although I am drawing heavily on the work of religious thinkers, I do so without affirming nor negating the belief in the existence of God. The ultimate aim of this paper is to advocate for an approach to psychotherapy which conceptualizes the psychotherapist’s office as an intentional space to rekindle a secularized form of sacredness, one which can help human agents cultivate and realize their innate capacity for self-transcendence and authentic psychological sovereignty within the fundamentally dehumanizing culture of modernity.



existentialism, Buber, Martin, Marcel, Gabriel, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, psychotherapy, meaning crisis, sacredness, ontotheology, Honors College


Squires, M. (2021). Secular sacredness: Applying Buber and Marcel to psychotherapy (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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