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Editor's 1-Minute Essay:
return to "Guilt" main-page
Editor's note, a dedication:
I wrote this article to clarify my own thinking concerning this most vexing subject, the poisonous, guilt-inducing teachings of cultish organizations; however, it is also written for the liberation of all; but, especially, one person who once confided her difficulty in escaping the lifelong psychological oppressive burden, the chains-of-guilt, bestowed by Dear Mother Church.
finding freedom from church-inculcated guilt
The subject of "guilt," complex and multi-faceted, defies easy definition. Along with forgiveness and fear of death, this topic troubles people as does few others.
guilt and conscience
We speak of "violating one's conscience," as if a moral law were written upon it. Infractions produce what we call a sense of guilt.
Strange, though - people feel guilty about different things. The very word "conscience" literally means, "with knowledge"; that is, the conscience might be instructed, informed, concerning what is right and wrong.
written on wax
A moral law might be written upon the conscience -- but it's "written on wax"; the content can be changed with better information.
- Sigmund Freud: “Conscience is the internal perception of the rejection of a particular wish operating in us.”
But our wishes give way to new ones, as we grow and see more.
the family prejudice
Conscience seems to have little intrinsic wisdom to draw upon but will accept as "God's truth" whatever is fed into it: "garbage in, garbage out."
Will Durant's Story Of Civilization offers anthropological studies revealing a vast array of definition concerning morality, much of which would offend modern sensibilities. Cannibalism, ritualistic killing, infant sacrifices, slavery, child marriages, harems, body-mutilation, and the like can seem perfectly normal if one's communal group bestows "divine numen" to bless these barbarities as fine-and-dandy.
If the moral law is written upon conscience, then each person seems to serve as one's own legislative agency in the crafting of private laws.
Elsewhere, we've discussed how people...
believe all sorts of things. And mainly, they believe what they were taught since early childhood. This kind of credulity is often culturally determined; in most cases, the basis of what we believe is just a family prejudice.
If you were born in the Far East, you might call yourself a Hindu or a Buddhist; if your parents lived in the Middle East, you might be Islamic; in other parts of the world, your heritage will have been Christian. Typically, belief-systems, carefully inculcated since the time a grandmother dandled a child on her knee, are defended as "right" and "good," with other viewpoints, by default, seen as "wrong" and "bad." In times past - but still today in some parts of the world - people of contrary belief-systems were considered to be so "wrong" and "bad" that they needed to be killed.
Within this egocentric worldview, each person imagines him or herself to be sole repository of the "one true" religion, the "one true" sacred book, the "one true" set of doctrines - and even The Almighty suffers diminution as private property, now given billing as "my" God, the "true" God, as opposed to infidels who worship a "false" God.
a positive aspect of guilt
The human capacity to experience guilt suggests that we were designed to know the difference between good and bad. When we slip over the line into something not-so-good -- in terms of definition supplied by the malleable conscience -- red warning lights go off within the deeper person. People without this internal guidance system we call sociopaths.
preprogrammed disquietude, an example of individualized conscience: a farm boy's methodically-instilled unease at 5 o'clock
I am 10 years old, and I've spent this Sunday afternoon on the adjacent farm, just down the lane, playing with the neighbor kids. No matter how engrossed I am in play, however, I never forget to leave at 5 o'clock for milking time. It's not that I'm so dedicated to the work, or so diligent, but that Dad has no sense of humor about my being late for assigned tasks. How I hate to stop playing and having fun; how I dislike the 5 o'clock hour!
Fast forward 8 years. I'm now at university. I've been here for some time and have just returned from class. Suddenly, a certain unease creeps over me. It's 5 o'clock, and warning buzzers go off in my head. Though the farm is far away, and I don't see it much anymore, conscience has yet to modify itself to my new life. It will be many years before it does so.
for most, the big issue is religious guilt
The subject of guilt in its myriad forms cannot be addressed here; most people, however, will be concerned about one aspect, that of, religious guilt.
religious trauma syndrome (RTS): a church-inspired sense of pervasive guilt
On the "Guilt" main-page, you will find postings from many who suffer from RTS; if you've not read these testimonies, I would encourage you to do so before proceeding here.
An internet search of this subject will bring up a great number of references to "Catholic guilt." The RCC is a big organization and a big target, and so we should not be surprised to find it mentioned in any RTS study. But this is unfair.
To suggest that RTS resides in the domain of one, single church-organization grossly distorts and trivializes the issue, one of pandemic proportion.
The testimonies refer to RTS sufferers from many churches, and, I venture to say, if we spoke long enough and invited enough participants, nearly every church in the country would be called to task.
- Oppressive church leadership and their cultish ways are everywhere -- anywhere there's opportunity for power-and-control you will find these Small-Ego led individuals merchandizing the fearful.
psychologists categorize 'guilt' in many ways but, for our RTS purposes, I see two primary forms of guilt
(1) specific-infraction guilt: We did something wrong; or, we thought about it and wished for the forbidden fruit. We broke a rule, stepped over the line, we're in the wrong; at least, we think so. Our internal guidance system flashes "warning, danger, trouble ahead." We feel guilty about the trespass. In time, we forgive ourselves, the internal guidance system sinks back into quietude, and we're done with it, but for the lesson, which becomes assimilated as an aspect of our wisdom.
(2) generalized existential guilt: We didn't do anything wrong, and we live a pretty decent life; but we're often told directly, or implicitly via anti-humanistic doctrines, that we're "worthless sinners, deserving of God's wrath." Every night before bed we mentally check ourselves for sin, but can't really come up with much; yes, ok, there was that incident in the parking lot recently when somebody nipped into the space we'd been waiting for, and we did lose our cool for a bit, but other than that, and similar small things, we try hard to live a good life. Even so, at church every Sunday we're reminded, in sermons or by the innuendo of official teaching, how rotten and depraved we are; how we "were conceived and born in sin"; how we're so bad that God couldn't just forgive us, like normal people do, but that a lot of blood had to be spilled by his son just to get us back to zero. In fact, we've been hearing this demoralizing gloom-and-doom message since we were old enough to remember anything at church. Little wonder then, we feel guilty, pretty much all the time; and when there's a quiet moment, we imagine ourselves falling below some standard somewhere, never quite making the grade, never measuring up, never altogether pleasing God -- no matter how hard we try. This generalized floating sense of guilt doesn't end. It's part of the air we breathe and the Cheerios we eat in the morning. It consumes our vitality, drains our spirit, and robs us of the joy of living. This is "existential guilt."
psychological child abuse
Many of the posted testimonies speak of RTS as child abuse:
"From a psychological standpoint, [existential] guilt makes a great deal of sense. It’s no surprise that a child who is repeatedly reminded of their inadequacy, dirtiness, and worthlessness will most likely become an adult who struggles with feelings of guilt and shame, one who never feels clean, worthy, valuable, adequate, or forgiven. One who is never at peace."
This should be obvious truth to any thinking person. Little children, sweetly gullible as they are, view parents and teachers as unimpeachable god-figures - and, in the main, will believe, as unquestioned gospel truth, whatever is presented to them. If a big imposing figure in a black robe fulminates from a lofty pulpit that they are wretched and vile, of course, they will cringe and believe this god-figure.
And to take advantage of these open-eyed, impressionable, little creatures, by teaching them absolute rubbish concerning innate depravity, how wicked they are, and how God could never love them for their own sakes, unless a lot of blood is spilled, is nothing short of the most vile and offensive child abuse.
a dinning into
because he said it and his word is true
“I thought then of catechism classes [of literal indoctrination], about chanting the answer to a question, an answer that was [based upon] ‘because he has said it and his word is true.’ I could not remember the question.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus
Editor's note: In those ancient days, we had no idea what the word "catechism" meant, nor did a request for definition ever enter our little trusting, absorbent heads. The process of catechizing derives from the Greek katechein, "to teach," literally, "to resound, to din into"; the root-word is also found in echo, "a repetition of sound."
like training a parrot
If programs and policies cannot withstand scrutiny on their own merits, oppressive collective-ego institutions resort to a child-abuse practice of “dinning into,” a "brain-washing," of cultish indoctrination: teaching, not based on reason and understanding, not of careful consideration and weighing of the facts, but by making repetitive sounds, like a moronic ad's jingle that you can't forget, like training a parrot, such that, impressionable little minds learn answers to forgotten or inscrutable questions.
And why should little minds learn the "approved" answer: because he said it and his word is true.
how cultish organizations justify their psychological child abuse
In all of history no Small-Ego led power-structure of this world has ever voluntarily, without threat of some retaliation, laid down its claim to lord it over others. Not one example. Therefore, we should not expect cultish church leadership to admit to wrong-doing in this regard, nor to speak openly and cogently on the matter.
In the "Clear Thinking" article I outline many examples of sophistical, dishonest argumentation. We see them come to life in the official responses of church hierarchy to charges of psychological child abuse (not to be confused with charges of pedophiliacal child abuse; so many forms of child abuse to keep track of with these, "God's servants").
Let's bring to mind the aforementioned forms of guilt:
(1) specific-infraction guilt
(2) generalized existential guilt
Here's how Dear Leaders attempt to absolve themselves: a line of reasoning appropriate to Guilt #1 is unwarrantedly tied to Guilt #2. It's a sleight-of-hand switcheroo.
Allow me to paraphrase what they say:
"The whole issue of burdensome guilt is overblown. Guilt is a good thing. It's a blessing from God, and we should be happy to experience it. We are moral creatures, made in the image, and when we do something wrong our conscience is just a form of God's voice, the moral law within, warning us to get back to the straight-and-narrow. But this world lives far from God's will and moral precepts. All of this talk about overburdening guilt is from people who do not want to obey God's laws. They are rebels and sinners at heart and resist the call of the inner moral code. The Church, as God's agent on Earth, stands ready to help these wayward souls, but many people do not want to draw near to God."
Do you see how the game is played? It's pseudo-pious justification, empty god-talk, cloaking malfeasance. These church-politicians are slippery and will oil their way across the room to meet you.
Their response might fit somewhat well for "specific-infraction guilt"; as we discussed above, guilt in this sense has a positive aspect to it. But that's not the issue here at all. Cult leaders will never mention "existential guilt," a result of their own dark-spirited teachings. Their disingenuous answer completely side-steps the real problem and is a "snowballs in July" defense designed to protect the power-structure hierarchy, while doing what they do best - blame the victim!
great sailing ships, safe at harbor
In my perusals of the debate concerning church-inspired guilt, I noted a particular comment which might be representative of church members who, in Patty-Hearst syndrome, would defend their abusers. The line of reasoning went something like this:
"It's not so bad, really. We need a little guilt in our lives to keep us honest. Moreover, Mother Church provides structure and meaning to our lives. All of it gives me a sense of safety."
This lady's comment reminded me of a quote somewhere in my collection, to the effect:
"Great ships at anchor, securely tied to harbor, will never suffer risk of loss at sea and will always know safety. But, this is not why great ships are made."
In my core articles (see below) I often make reference to research from the noted psychologists of history, as they help us understand why people join and stay with cultish organizations.
The "little child within" seeks for a "strong father-figure," for an "oceanic sense of safety," by which to negotiate the terrors of mortality and living in an uncertain world. But a perpetual clinging to perceived safety from an external authority, a peter-pan refusal to grow up, is not why we were made.
finding freedom from church-inculcated guilt
It is not easy to psychologically extricate oneself from the mind-control practices of cultish organizations - they've had lots of experience on how to "pull the strings" of people. Not easy, because mental habit-patterns of victims have been developed over many years, often, since early childhood, and these will not surrender to the shimmering sunlight of sweet reason in a day.
However, the good news is this: many have, in fact, found freedom for their lives and spirits, myself included, and you will be able to enjoy this liberty, as well.
no formulaic way
While ultimate emancipation is assured, there is no immediate "royal road" to redemption here, no "seven magic steps" to rebuild the pillaged conscience. It will need to be re-programmed, re-instructed, having been violated by those seeking to keep you dependent and servile. A little time will be required to effect the desired healing.
I would say, essentially, the primary task is to learn to love and respect oneself. Meditation practices will displace the destructive bad "movies" and "scripts" that have long played in one's head, all of which clamor for self-condemnation. But these will be neutered. Tolle explains how (see below). It has to do with "shining an inner-light" of awareness on the diseased aspects of the mind, thereby extracting power from them. When we no longer nourish these guilt-hued psychic abnormalities with affirmation and identification, they will begin to shrivel, like an unwatered plant.
access your real self
The ultimate and lasting solution lies in accessing the deepest inner person, the "true self," made in the image. At that level of being, we find our sacred perfection, perceptions of wholeness and peace, in our oneness with God.
Typically, during one's immaturity, the conscience will have been educated and led by the Small Ego, the false self; but as we come into our spiritual maturity it will now be informed by the true self.
In my opinion, the best advisor to help us in terms of accessing the inner person is Eckhart Tolle. Over the coming years, you will want to regularly study and meditate upon the information in his books:
get the facts, submit everything to reason, "test the spirits," reject all superstition-dogma masquerading as knowledge; accept nothing, from any source, unless you verify it as truth by way of resonance with the energies of your deepest person, the sacred soul
We live in a world of fake news, fake doctrine, fake spirituality, fake history, fake authority. It's The Lying Teacher in all of his guises.
Be very careful what you accept as true. In the New Testament document of Galatians, Paul, essentially, says that he had to start over again, had to reject everything, doubt everything, he once thought he knew to be real and solid. For him, he had to set aside Jewish tradition going back thousands of years to Abraham. This was not easy for him, the loyal son of Jewish law.
Rene Descartes: "If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."
Francis Bacon: "If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties."
I submit to you that this episode of soul-searching, of investigating everything, of casting away the dross of authoritarian cultish teaching, will be part of the path forward for every thinking person.
- Editor's note: As you enter a process of reclaiming yourself from cultish psychological devices, you will find that your "head" might know more than your "heart." For a while, you will have to override the dictates of the old conscience, with its ready sense of existential guilt, and allow it to catch up to the "head's" objective powers of reason. But, to make sure you won't be flying blind, there is still another guidance system, beyond conscience, which most have not yet discovered: trust yourself; that is, your deeper self, which is enabled with greater wisdom than that of the conscience or the mind's reasoning powers. This "true self" is linked to Universal Intelligence, and it will guide you through the illusions and mirages of a transition-period, and beyond. Do not worry. The purposes of the sacred soul will not be thwarted, it will have its way, and you will be set free.
We've discussed how typical church doctrines encourage a sense of self-loathing resulting in perpetual guilt. The essential sum-and-substance of these teachings has found its way into most churches of the world.
I will make a statement that will seem extreme; that is, until you look into the matter for as many decades as I have. I assert that almost everything that the churches of this world teach is either patently wrong or sufficiently tainted with error, such that, any normally-resulting benefit has been severely compromised and mitigated. It's like this: some of it might be whole-wheat bread, but if it's all laced with arsenic, it's best to just say no.
My core articles serve both as warning of error and guide to better perceptions of spirituality:
self-love and knowledge
These two friends will serve you well and will not be unfaithful to your highest and best interests. They will strengthen and nourish you on your reclamation-journey to peace of mind and enhanced well-being. You will soon, in due time, with rising confidence daily, assuredly find your way out of the mental trammelings of existential guilt imposed upon you these many years.
All the very best to you.
let us never condemn ourselves for anything
David R. Hawkins: "Guilt is really self-condemnation and self-invalidation of our worth and value as a human being."
Take note to understand: there is a vast difference between acknowledging one's wrong-doing and condemning oneself.
It will take some time to extricate ourselves from the psychological crowd-control devices of cultish organizations - they have their well-honed ways of making you feel no good.
Do not think less of yourself nor condemn yourself for any lingering negative emotions. In fact, do not ever condemn yourself for anything. Be a friend to yourself and grant yourself as much compassion as you do toward any suffering creature.
As you strive for excellence and competence in your life, allow yourself to stumble and make mistakes without any stern judgmental eye. This policy of self-acceptance is so vital to understand; it must become the default method by which we view and deal with ourselves - not just in this world, but for the unending future.
Anyone dedicated to success and improvement will have times of set-back and days of less-than-ideal performance. This is normal, how life is, and shall ever be. All advancing persons come to view mistake as temporary failure, as learning-lessons.
There is no true failure except in no longer trying. No one in all the universe will ever condemn us, so why should we submit ourselves to this self-torture? Let us never condemn ourselves for anything.
Editor's last word:
Allow me to remind us once again - "the afterlife changes everything."
There are no religions, no churches, no Dear Leaders, no cults, no "one true doctrines" and "one, true churches" in Summerland; that is, not in the better neighborhoods. The Dark Realms are well-populated by former clergy, now de-throned and exposed, who will not repent.
Some of you worry about confronting the Nice Young Man at Church, telling him that you disagree, and disrupting your well-ordered life. Do not be intimidated. We must resist this short-term thinking: we are but one missed heartbeat away from the "real world"; so it is, too, for the Nice Young Man at Church, when he will be confronted with what he's done and the debt he must now work to repay:
"As a former priest of the Church, I regret deeply that I ever gave tongue to such misguided teaching... humiliating... absolutely crushing... And there are hosts of others like me!"
This is a statement by Father Benson who now serves on a "cult de-programming" team helping new arrivals to Summerland overcome their fear-and-guilt attachments concerning this world's religions.
- Editor's personal note: My religious father, communicating from the other side via psychic-medium, expressed deep consternation, and confusion, as he remarked (paraphrased): "Nothing here is as I thought it would be, as I was told it would be."
But our liberation need not wait for life in Summerland. Let us begin to live authentically today. Cast far from oneself anything that does not "ring true" - which would include, most especially, the guilt-inducing pronouncements of cultish organizations.
Do not be afraid of their sickly sanctimonious, pious prevarication, the empty god-talk, bolstered by power-posturing, all designed to play upon and manipulate peoples' fear of death and judgment, both of which are illusions.
They have no authority over you, at all -- at all -- other than that which the misinformed conscience might give to them.