Thursday, September 20, 2012

Morality and Psychoanalysis—Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

"Since Christian morality claims to be a technique for putting the human machine right," says C.S. Lewis, "I think you would like to know how it is related to another technique which seems to make a similar claimnamely, psychoanalysis.... 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 what are the raw materials of his choice. Now this raw material may be of two kinds ... normal ... or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings.... 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 remove the abnormal feelings ... to give the man better raw material for his acts of choice; morality is concerned with the acts of choice themselves.... Human beings judge one another by their external actions. God judges them by their moral choices."

"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.... Most of a 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.... We shall then, for the first time, see everyone as he really was. There will be surprises."
"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.... 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 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 that the action leaves on that tiny central self that no one sees in this life but each of us will have to endure—or enjoy—forever. One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, an another so placed that however angry he gets 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 the 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 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.... 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.

Highlights from chapter 4: Morality and Psychoanalysis, book 3: Christian Behaviour in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  Click here for a clear view of how this chapter relates to the whole book.

No comments:

Post a Comment