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Mere Christianity - Book Three - Morality and Psychoanalysis

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Spirit/e—Mere Christianity

2009. 9. 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Three

 

CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOUR

 

 

 

 

    4. Morality and Psychoanalysis



     I have said that we should never get a Christian society unless most of
us became Christian individuals. That does  not mean, of course, that we can
put  off  doing anything about society until some imaginary  date in the far
future. It means  that we must begin both jobs at once-(1) the job of seeing
how "Do as you would be done by" can be applied in detail to modern society,
and (2) the job of becoming the sort of people who  really would apply it if
we saw  how.  I now want to  begin considering  what the Christian idea of a
good man is-the Christian specification for the human machine.


     Before  I  come  down  to details  there are  two more general points I
should like to make.  First of all,  since Christian morality claims to be a
technique for putting the human  machine  right, I  think you would  like to
know how it is  related  to  another technique which seems to make a similar
claim-namely, psychoanalysis.


     Now you want to distinguish very  clearly  between two  things: between
the  actual medical  theories and  technique of the psychoanalysts,  and the
general  philosophical  view  of the world which Freud and some others  have
gone on  to  add to this.  The second  thing-the philosophy  of Freud-is  in
direct  contradiction  to  Christianity: and also in direct contradiction to
the other great  psychologist, Jung. And  furthermore, when Freud is talking
about  how to  cure  neurotics  he is speaking as  a specialist  on his  own
subject, but when he goes on to talk general philosophy he is speaking as an
amateur. It is therefore quite sensible to attend to him with respect in the
one case and not in the other-and that is what I do. I am all the readier to
do it because I have found that when  he  is talking off his own subject and
on  a  subject I  do know  something  about (namely,  languages) he  is very
ignorant.  But  psychoanalysis  itself,  apart from  all  the  philosophical
additions  that Freud  and  others  have  made to it, is not  in  the  least
contradictory  to  Christianity.  Its  technique  overlaps   with  Christian
morality at some points and it would not be a bad thing if every parson knew
something about it: but it does not run the same course all the way, for the
two techniques are doing rather different things.


     When a man makes a moral choice two things are involved. one is the act
of choosing. The other is the various feelings, impulses and so on which his
psychological  outfit presents him with, and which  are the raw material  of
his choice. Now this raw material may be of two kinds. Either it may be what
we would call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings that are common
to all men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things
that have  gone  wrong  in his subconscious.  Thus fear of  things that  are
really dangerous would be an example of the  first kind:  an irrational fear
of cats or spiders would be an  example  of the second kind. The desire of a
man for a woman  would  be of the first kind: the perverted  desire of a man
for a man would be of  the second. Now what psychoanalysis  undertakes to do
is to remove the  abnormal  feelings, that is, to give  the  man better  raw
material for  his acts of  choice: morality is  concerned with the  acts  of
choice themselves.


     Put it this  way. Imagine three men who go to war. one has the ordinary
natural fear of danger that  any man has  and he subdues it by  moral effort
and becomes a brave man. Let us suppose that the other two have, as a result
of things in  their sub-consciousness, exaggerated, irrational  fears, which
no amount  of  moral  effort  can  do anything  about.  Now  suppose that  a
psychoanalyst comes  along  and cures these two:  that is, he puts them both
back in the  position  of the  first man. Well  it  is just  then  that  the
psychoanalytical problem is over and the moral problem begins.  Because, now
that they are  cured, these two  men  might  take quite different lines. The
first might  say, "Thank goodness I've  got rid of all those doodahs. Now at
last I can do what I always wanted to do-my duty  to the cause  of freedom."
But  the  other might say, "Well, I'm very glad that  I now feel  moderately
cool under fire, but, of course, that doesn't alter the fact that  I'm still
jolly well determined to look after Number one and let the other chap do the
dangerous job  whenever I can. Indeed  one of the good things about  feeling
less frightened is that  I can now  look  after myself much more efficiently
and can  be  much cleverer  at hiding  the fact from the  others."  Now this
difference is a purely moral one and psychoanalysis cannot do anything about
it.  However  much you improve the man's raw material, you  have  still  got
something else: the real, free choice of the man, on  the material presented
to him,  either to put his own advantage first or  to  put it last And this$
free choice is the only thing that morality is concerned with.


     The bad psychological material is not a sin but a disease.  It does not
need  to  be  repented  of, but to  be cured. And  by the way, that is  very
important.  Human beings judge one another  by their  external  actions. God
judges them by their moral choices. When a neurotic who  has  a pathological
horror of cats  forces himself  to pick up a cat for some good reason, it is
quite possible that in God's eyes he  has shown more courage than  a healthy
man may have shown in  winning the  V.C. When  a man who has  been perverted
from his youth and  taught that  cruelty is the right thing, does some  tiny
little kindness, or refrains from some cruelty he  might have committed, and
thereby, perhaps, risks being sneered at by his companions, he may, in God's
eyes, be doing more than you and I would do if we gave up life itself for  a
friend.


     It is as  well  to put this  the  other way round. Some of us  who seem
quite nice people may, in fact, have made so little  use of  a good heredity
and  a good upbringing that we are really worse than those whom we regard as
fiends. Can  we be  quite certain how we should have behaved if we had  been
saddled with the psychological outfit, and then with the bad upbringing, and
then with the power, say, of Himmler? That is why Christians are told not to
judge.


     We see  only  the results which a  man's choices  make  out of his  raw
material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what
he has done with it. Most of the man's psychological make-up is probably due
to his body:  when  his body dies all  that will fall off  him, and the real
central  man.  the thing that chose,  that made the best or the worst out of
this material, will  stand naked. All sorts of nice  things which we thought
our own, but  which were  really due to a good digestion, will fall off some
of  us: all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or  bad health
will fall off others. We shall then, for the first tune, see every one as he
really was. There will be surprises.


     And that  leads on to my second  point. People often think of Christian
morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, "If you keep a lot of rules
I'll reward  you, and if you don't I'll do the other thing."  I do not think
that is the best way of looking at  it. I would much rather say  that  every
time you make a choice you are  turning the central part of you, the part of
you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.
And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your
life long you are slowly turning this central thing either  into  a heavenly
creature  or into a  hellish creature:  either into  a  creature that  is in
harmony with God, and  with other  creatures, and  with itself, or else into
one  that  is  in  a  state  of  war and  hatred  with  God,  and  with  its
fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven:
that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and  power. To be the other means
madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us
at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.


     That  explains what always used to  puzzle me  about Christian writers;
they  seem to be so  very strict at one moment and so very free  and easy at
another. They  talk about  mere sins  of thought as if  they were  immensely
important:  and  then  they  talk  about  the  most  frightful  murders  and
treacheries as if you had only got to repent and all  would be forgiven. But
I have come to see that they are right. What they are  always thinking of is
the mark which the action leaves on that tiny central self which no one sees
in this life but which each of us will have to endure-or enjoy-for ever. one
man may  be  so  placed  that  his anger sheds  the blood of  thousands, and
another so placed that however angry he gets he will only be laughed at. But
the  little mark on the soul  may be much the  same in both. Each  has  done
something to himself  which,  unless he repents, will make it harder for him
to  keep  out  of the rage  next time he is  tempted, and will make the rage
worse when he does fall into it. Each of them, if he seriously turns to God,
can have  that twist in the central  man straightened out again: each is, in
the long run, doomed if he will not. The  bigness or smallness of the thing,
seen from the outside, is not what really matters.


     one last point. Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not
only  to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands
more  and  more clearly the evil  that is still left in him.  When a  man is
getting  worse, he understands his own badness  less and less. A  moderately
bad  man knows he  is not very good: a  thoroughly bad man thinks he is  all
right. This  is  common sense,  really. You understand  sleep  when you  are
awake, not while you are sleeping.  You  can see mistakes in arithmetic when
your mind  is working  properly: while you are  making  them you cannot  see
them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness  when you are  sober, not
when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do
not know about either.

 

 

 

 

 

The Christian specification for the human machine

  1. According to Lewis, psychoanalysis and Christianity are not in contradiction. How does psychoanalysis affect a persons ability to make moral choices?
  1. How is a man who is in a position (due to anger) to kill thousands similar to a man who's anger only causes laughter?

 

 

 

 

 

I have said that we should never get a Christian society unless most of us became Christian individuals. That does not mean, of course, that we can put off doing anything about society until some imaginary date in the far future. It means that we must begin both jobs at once --(1) the job of seeing how 'Do as you would be done by' can be applied in detail to modern society, and (2) the job of becoming the sort of people who really would apply it if we saw how. I now want to begin considering what the Christian idea of a good man is--the Christian specification for the human machine.

Christian morality claims it is able to '[put] the human machine right.' Advocates of psychoanalysis also make this claim.

psychoanalysis
1. The method of psychological therapy originated by Sigmund Freud in which free association, dream interpretation, and analysis of resistance and transference are used to explore repressed or unconscious impulses, anxieties, and internal conflicts, in order to free psychic energy for mature love and work.
2. The theory of personality developed by Freud that focuses on repression and unconscious forces and includes the concepts of infantile sexuality, resistance, transference, and division of the psyche into the id, ego, and superego.

We need to take care to distinguish between the medical theories of psychoanalysis and Freud's ideas. The medical theories are good and useful. Freud often misapplied them. When a man makes a moral choice two things are involved: the act, and the feelings and impulses inside him

  • The act of choosing
  • The individual's 'psychological outfit,' or 'raw material
    • The person could have a normal, healthy makeup, or
    • He could be interally 'broken,' with unnatural fears, or damaging history.
      • overblown fears of natural dangers
      • perversions of desire, fear or whatever

Now what psychoanalysis undertakes to do is to remove the abnormal feelings, that is, to give the man better raw material for his acts of choice; morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves.

Example: Three men go to war.

  • The first man is afraid, but healthy, overcomes his fears, and goes on.
  • The other two are unable to grapple with their fears, and so a psychoanalyst 'fixes' them. At this point, the psychoanalytical problem is over, and the moral problem begins. These men might now act in one of two ways:
    • The first goes to war, and faces his natural fears in a normal, healthy way.
    • The second might take his new ability to face fears rationally, but use it selfishly to take advantage of others, and avoid his moral obligations.

Now this difference is a purely moral one and psychoanalysis cannot do anything about it. However much you improve the man's raw material, you have still got something else: the real, free choice of the man, on the material presented to him, either to put his own advantage first or to put it last. And this free choice is the only thing that morality is concerned with.

The bad psychological material is not a sin but a disease. It does not need to be repented of, but to be cured. And by the way, that is very important. Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges there by their moral choices. When a neurotic who has a pathological horror of cats forces himself to pick up a cat for some good reason, it is quite possible that in God's eyes he has shown more courage than a healthy man may have shown in winning the V.C. (Victorian Cross... similar to a Congressional Medal of Honor.) When a man who has been perverted from his youth and taught that cruelty is the right thing, does some tiny little kindness, or refrains from some cruelty he might have committed, and thereby, perhaps, risks being sneered at by his companions, he may, in God's eyes, be doing more than you and I would do if we gave up life itself for a friend.

Lewis points out that if we are emotionally and mentally healthy, the beneficiaries of good homes and upbringings, but do nothing with it, we could be worse than people we consider fiends.

That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man's choices make out of his raw material. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it. Most of the man's psychological makeup is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst out of this material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things which we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us : all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises.

Good and evil are not marks on a scale, but the action of choosing toward God or away from him. Each choice moves us in the direction we choose. Each choice makes us a little more or less godly. Throughout our lives, we are shaping our 'inner man' into something by the choices we make.

One last point. Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://lib.ru/LEWISCL/mere_engl.txt 

http://www.opendiscipleship.org/Mere_Christianity_leaders_notes

http://www.gordy-stith.com/Mere%20Christianity/mere_christianity_study_guide.htm