Friday, September 2, 2016

Guilt, part IV—Spiritual scrubbing

 As so often happens, one subject gradually segues into another, so perhaps it seems like we are veering off the question of guilt — yet it is the anchor that began this conversation, and one will see that it binds it as we go forward.

 In terms of the inward practice which "goes against guilt," as I would put it, de Salzmann says:

There is in us naturally a permanent conflict between the psyche and the organic body. They have different natures—one wishes, the other does not wish. There is a confrontation that we must reinforce voluntarily by our work, by our will, so that a new possibility of being can be born.

The Reality of Being, page 242

If we examine this closely, we may see that guilt, in the overall sense, arises in the context of this permanent conflict. It's a snapshot of the struggle between the spiritual and the natural, the soul and the body — which is, indeed, what the text this quote is drawn from —  conscious struggle — is all about.

She speaks here, let us note, about a confrontation — which is a different word than conflict, where she opens the commentary. Conflict means a clash; confrontation means bringing face to face. The first word implies the struggle; but the second one brings us to a higher piece of spiritual territory, where what is emphasized is not the clash, but the seeing of our two natures.

That seeing needs to become objective — unattached — not pejorative, that is, guilt-ridden. Yet we dwell perpetually and powerfully within the pejorative and guilt-ridden perception of our lower nature, which is an animal that really can't help the way it is.

It deserves compassion, rather than contempt and condemnation; yet we so rarely turn our love towards our lower nature, bound as it is to impulses that do not belong to heaven or to God. We ought to have a little more sympathy, so to speak, for this particular devil; even the devil, after all, has a vital role to play.

Perhaps I can ponder the idea of seeing my guilt, like all the other parts of my lower nature, objectively: there it is. I can't cleanse myself of it, because its properties are deeply rooted in all the parts of my lower nature. Spiritual scrubbing, no matter how much practical antiseptic I apply, isn't going to relieve me of that burden.

Only the entry of a higher energy, and the Glory, Grace, and Mercy of God, can relieve me of my sin — which is a concept also interestingly linked to this question of guilt.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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