In the 60’s and 70’s, when I grew up, adults were experimenting with a lot of things. If you were angry, you needed to express it. Guilt and Shame were bad and wrong. Recently the idea about guilt and shame is being revisited. At the core of this is conscience, the ability and concern to discern right and wrong, and then to do the right thing.
George Simons has written two books that have changed the way I see guilt and shame, and also how I understand many people. These are In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance. On one side, is neurotic guilt and shame, the kind that psychologists like Sigmund Freud dealt with in a world quite different than the one we live in now, before the first world war. Many of the women Freud was treating were neurotic people who were far too concerned about right and wrong in a stifled hypocritical European society where the true spirituality of Religion had mostly disappeared.
Fast forward to the year 2020, the social mores of society have been turned on their heads. Phrases that characterize this difference are “just do it” and “if it feels good do it”. Personally, I think the first and second war, along with materialism, have had a huge impact on society and what people believe and value. This came to a head in the 1960’s with the hedonistic wild ways of a young baby boomer generation.
In 2020, the problem is not too much conscience as with neuroticism, but with too little conscience, as with people who have character disorder. George Simons explains this in his two books, most fully in his book Character Disturbance. Now many people don’t have enough shame or guilt, or sometimes little or none at all, as with narcissists, psychopaths, and people with anti-social personality disorder. What is needed is a healthy balance somewhere in the middle.
“Verily I say: The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined to but a few; all have not possessed, and do not possess,” (Baha’u’llah)
“No wonder, therefore, that when, as a result of Human perversity, the light of religion is quenched in men’s hearts, and the divinely appointed Robe, designed to adorn the human temple, is deliberately discarded, a deplorable decline in the fortunes of humanity immediately sets in, bringing in its wake all the evils which a wayward soul is capable of revealing. The perversion of human nature, the degradation of human conduct, the corruption and dissolution of human institutions, reveal themselves, under such circumstances, in their worst and most revolting aspects. Human character is debased, confidence is shaken, the nerves of discipline are relaxed, the voice of human conscience is stilled, the sense of decency and shame is obscured, conceptions of duty, of solidarity, of reciprocity and loyalty are distorted, and the very feeling of peacefulness, of joy and of hope is gradually extinguished.” (Shoghi Effendi)
“In truth, religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world, for the fear of God impelleth man to hold fast to that which is good, and shun all evil. Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness and justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine. Unto this will bear witness every man of true understanding”. (Baha’u’llah)
Society has been screwed up for a long time. Power, dominance of men over women, prejudice, injustice, slavery, wars, etc. have been orders of the day since the beginning of civilization, as detailed in Steve Taylor’s book The Fall. Anyone who has read the Old Testament of The Bible can attest to this as well. The BBC’s TV mini-series The Century of Self is a fascinating look at how business and government has encouraged selfishness for profit.
“However, until material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues are reinforced by spiritual perfections, luminous qualities and characteristics of mercy, no fruit or result shall issue therefrom, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained. For although, on the one hand, material achievements and the development of the physical world produce prosperity, which exquisitely manifests its intended aims, on the other hand dangers, severe calamities and violent afflictions are imminent… Progress and barbarism go hand in hand, unless material civilization be confirmed by Divine Guidance, by the revelations of the All-Merciful and by godly virtues, and be reinforced by spiritual conduct, by the ideals of the Kingdom and by the outpourings of the Realm of Might.” (Abdu’l-Baha)
“Now, all questions of morality contained in the spiritual, immutable law of every religion are logically right. If religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a religion and be merely a tradition. Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism. All religions of the present day have fallen into superstitious practices, out of harmony alike with the true principles of the teaching they represent and with the scientific discoveries of the time. Many religious leaders have grown to think that the importance of religion lies mainly in the adherence to a collection of certain dogmas and the practice of rites and ceremonies! Those whose souls they profess to cure are taught to believe likewise, and these cling tenaciously to the outward forms, confusing them with the inward truth.” (Abdu’l-Baha)
“In this present age the world of humanity is afflicted with severe sicknesses and grave disorders which threaten death. Therefore, Bahá’u’lláh has appeared. He is the real Physician, bringing divine remedy and healing to the world of man. He has brought teachings for all ailments—the Hidden Words, Ishráqát, Tarazát, Tajallíyát, Words of Paradise, Glad Tidings, etc. These Holy Words and teachings are the remedy for the body politic, the divine prescription and real cure for the disorders which afflict the world. Therefore, we must accept and partake of this healing remedy in order that complete recovery may be assured. Every soul who lives according to the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is free from the ailments and indispositions which prevail throughout the world of humanity; otherwise, selfish disorders, intellectual maladies, spiritual sicknesses, imperfections and vices will surround him, and he will not receive the life-giving bounties of God.” (Abdu’l-Baha)
“O SON OF SPIRIT! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.” (Baha’u’llah)
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