return to religion-online

The Protestant Era by Paul Tillich

Paul Tillich is generally considered one of the century's outstanding and influential thinkers. After teaching theology and philosophy at various German universities, he came to the United States in 1933. For many years he was Professor of Philosophical Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, then University Professor at Harvard University. His books include Systematic Theology; The Courage to Be; Dynamics of Faith; Love, Power and Justice; Morality and Beyond; and Theology of Culture. The Protestant Era was published by The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois in 1948. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock<

Chapter 9: The Transmoral Conscience

The famous theologian, Richard Rothe, in his Christian Ethics has made the suggestion that the word "conscience" should be excluded from all scientific treatment of ethics, since its connotations are so manifold and contradictory that the term cannot be saved for a useful definition. If we look not only at the popular use of the word, with its complete lack of clarity, but also at its confused history, this desperate advice is understandable. But, though understandable, it should not be followed, for the word "conscience" points to a definite reality which, in spite of its complexity, can and must be described adequately; and the history of the idea of conscience, in spite of the bewildering variety of interpretations that it has produced, shows some clear types and definite trends. The complexity of the phenomenon called "conscience" becomes manifest as soon as we look at the manifold problems it has given to human thought; man shows always and everywhere something like a conscience, but its contents are subject to a continuous change. What is the relation between the form and the content of conscience? Conscience points to an objective structure of demands, making themselves perceivable through it, and represents, at the same time, the most subjective self-interpretation of personal life. What is the relation between the objective and the subjective sides of conscience? Conscience is an ethical concept, but it has a basic significance for religion. What is the relation between the ethical and the religious meaning of conscience? Conscience has many different functions: it is good or bad, commanding or warning, elevating or condemning, fighting or indifferent. Which of these functions are basic, which derived? These questions refer only to the description of the phenomenon, not to its explanation or valuation. They show its complex character and the reason for its confused history.

I. The Rise of Conscience

The concept of conscience is a creation of the Greek and Roman spirit. Wherever this spirit has become influential, notably in Christianity, conscience is a significant notion. The basic Greek word, syneidenai ("knowing with," namely, with one’s self; "being witness of one’s self"), was used in the popular language long before the philosophers got hold of it. It described the act, of observing one’s self, often as judging one’s self. In philosophical terminology it received the meaning of "self-consciousness" (for instance, in Stoicism in the derived substantives syneidesis, synesis) . Philo of Alexandria, under the influence of the Old Testament, stresses the ethical self-observation in syneidesis and attributes to it the function of elenchos, that is, accusation and conviction. The Roman language, following the popular Greek usage, unites the theoretical and practical emphasis in the word conscientia, while philosophers like Cicero and Seneca admit it to the ethical sphere and interpret it as the trial of one’s self, in accusation as well as in defense. In modern languages the theoretical and the practical side are usually expressed by different words. English distinguishes consciousness from conscience, German Bewusstsein from Gewissen, French connaissance from conscience—though the latter word is also used for the theoretical side.

The development of the reality as well as of the concept of conscience is connected with the breakdown of primitive conformism in a situation in which the individual is thrown upon himself. In the sphere of an unbroken we-consciousness, no individual conscience can appear. Events like the Greek tragedy with its emphasis on personal guilt and personal purification, or like the stress upon personal responsibility before God in later Judaism, prepare for the rise of conscience by creating a definite ego-consciousness. The self, says a modern philosopher, has been discovered by sin. The merely logical self-consciousness does not have such a power. Without practical knowledge about one’s self, produced by the experience of law and guilt, no practical self-consciousness and no conscience could have developed. Predominantly theoretical types of mentality lack a mature self. Even Nietzsche, who attacks more passionately than anyone else the judging conscience, derives the birth of the "inner man" from its appearance. In pointing to the subpersonal character of guilt and punishment in primitive cultures, he praises the discovery of the conscience as the elevation of mankind to a higher level. The fact that self and conscience are dependent on the experience of personal guilt explains the prevalence of the "bad conscience" in reality, literature, and theory. It gives evidence to the assertion that the uneasy, accusing, and judging conscience is the original phenomenon; that the good conscience is only the absence of the bad conscience; and that the demanding and warning conscience is only the anticipation of it. Since ego-self and conscience grow in mutual dependence and since the self discovers itself in the experience of a split between what it is and what it ought to be, the basic character of the conscience—the consciousness of guilt—is obvious.

Shakespeare, in King Richard Ill, gives a classic expression to the connection of individual self-consciousness, guilt, and conscience:

O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!

What! do I fear myself? There’s none else by.

Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.

Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am.

Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why,

Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?

Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good

That I myself have done unto myself?

0, no! alas, I rather hate myself

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,

crying all, Guilty! guilty.

In the next moment, however, Richard immerges into the we-consciousness of the battle, dismissing self and conscience:

conscience is a word that cowards use

Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law.

March on, join bravely, let us to’t pell-mell;

If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell.( King Richard III, Act V, scene 3.)

II. Conscience in the Biblical Literature

While the Old Testament has the experience but not the notion of conscience (Adam, Cain, David, Job), the New Testament, especially Paul, has the word and the reality. Through the influence of Paul— who in this, as in other cases, introduced elements of Hellenistic ethics into Christianity—conscience has become a common concept of the Christian nations, in their religious, as well as in their secular, periods.

Conscience, in the New Testament, has religious significance only indirectly. It has a primarily ethical meaning. The acceptance of the gospel, for instance, is not a demand of the conscience. It does not give laws, but it accuses and condemns him who has not fulfilled the law. Consequently, it is considered to be not a special quality of Christians but an element of human nature generally. In Rom. 2:14-15 Paul expresses this very strongly: "When Gentiles who have no law obey instinctively the Law’s requirements, they are a law to themselves, even though they have no law; they exhibit the effect of the Law written on their hearts, their conscience bears them witness, as their moral convictions accuse or, it may be, defend them" (Moffatt). According to these words, the conscience witnesses to the law (either the Mosaic or the natural law) but it does not contain the law. Therefore its judgment can be wrong. Paul speaks of a "weak conscience," describing the narrow and timid attitude of Christians who are afraid to buy meat in the market because it might have been used for sacrifices in pagan cults. Paul criticizes such an attitude; but he emphasizes that even an erring conscience must be obeyed, and he warns those who are strong in their conscience not to induce by their example those who are weak to do things which would give them an uneasy conscience. No higher estimation of the conscience as guide is possible. Paul does not say that we must follow it because it is right but because disobedience to it means the loss of salvation (Romans, chap. 14). You can lose your salvation if you do something that is objectively right, with an uneasy conscience. The unity and consistency of the moral personality are more important than its subjection to a truth which endangers this unity. In principle, Christianity has always maintained the unconditional moral responsibility of the individual person in the Pauline doctrine of conscience. Aquinas and Luther agree on this point. Aquinas states that he must disobey the command of a superior to whom he has made a vow of obedience, if the superior asks something against his conscience. And Luther’s famous words before the emperor in Worms, insisting that it is not right to do something against the conscience—namely, to recant a theological insight—are based on the traditional Christian doctrine of conscience. But neither in Paul nor in Aquinas nor in Luther is the conscience a religious source. They all keep the authority of conscience within the ethical sphere. Luther’s refusal to recant his doctrine of justification is an expression of his conscientiousness as a doctor of theology. He declares that he would recant if he were refuted by arguments taken from Scripture or reason, the positive source and the negative criterion of theology. But he does not say—as often has been stated by liberal Protestants—that his conscience is the source of his doctrine. There is no "religion of conscience" either in the New Testament or in classical Christianity before the sectarian movements of the Reformation period.

In the New Testament the relation of the moral conscience to faith as the foundation of the religious life is dealt with in only two connections. In Heb. 9:9 the ritual religion is criticized because "gifts and sacrifices... cannot possibly make the conscience of the worshipper perfect." Therefore, the writer continues, "let us draw near with a true heart, in absolute assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from a bad conscience." Only perfect salvation can give the moral status from which a good conscience follows. But the "assurance of faith" is not a matter of conscience. The other link between faith and conscience is given in the criticism of heresy. Heresy entails an unclean conscience because it is connected with a moral distortion. In I Tim. 1:19 and 4:2 libertinists and ascetics, both representatives of pagan dualistic morals, are rejected. Against them the writer says: "Hold to faith and a good conscience. Certain individuals have scouted the good conscience and thus come to grief over their faith." They are "seared in conscience." The judgment that one cannot be a heretic with a good conscience has been accepted by the church. The moral implications of heresy were always emphasized, though not always rightly. Heresy is not an error in judgment or a difference in experience but a demonic possession, splitting the moral self and producing a bad conscience. On this basis the church waged its fight against the heretics in all periods.

III. The Interpretation of Conscience in Medieval and Sectarian Theology

Scholasticism raised the question: According to what norms does the conscience judge, and how are these norms recognized by it? The answer was given in terms of the artificial (or distorted) word, synteresis, i.e., a perfection of our reason which leads us toward the recognition of the good. It has immediate and infallible evidence, being a spark of the divine light in us: the uncreated light in the depth of the soul, as the Franciscans asserted; the created light of our intuitive intellect, as the Dominicans said. The basic principles given by the synteresis are: (1) The good must be done; the evil must be avoided. (2) Every being must live according to nature. (3) Every being strives toward happiness. Conscience is the practical judgment, which applies these principles to the concrete situation. It is syllogismus practicus. We are obliged to follow our conscience whether the syllogismus is correct or not. We are, of course, responsible for not knowing the good. But we are not allowed to act against our conscience, even if it were objectively correct to do so. Man has an infallible knowledge of the moral principles, the natural law, through synteresis; but he has a conscience, which is able to fall into error in every concrete decision. In order to prevent dangerous errors, the authorities of the church give advice to the Christian, especially in connection with the confession in the sacrament of penance. Summae de casibus conscientiae (collections concerning cases of conscience) were given to the priests. In this way the conscience became more and more dependent on the authority of the church. The immediate knowledge of the good was denied to the layman. The Jesuits removed the synteresis and with it any direct contact between God and man, replacing it by the ecclesiastical, especially the Jesuitic, adviser. But the adviser has the choice from among different authorities, since the opinion of each of them is equally probable. Heteronomy and probabilism destroy the autonomous, self-assured conscience.

In spite of these distortions, the medieval development has performed a tremendous task in educating and refining the conscience of the European people generally and the monastic and half-monastic groups especially. The depth and breadth of the bad conscience in the later Middle Ages is the result of this education and the soil for new interpretations of the meaning and functions of conscience.

Turning to the "sectarian" understanding of conscience, we find the Franciscan idea of the immediate knowledge of the natural law in the depth of the human soul. But two new elements supported and transformed this tradition—the so-called "German mysticism," with its emphasis on the divine spark in the human soul, and the "spiritual enthusiasm" awakened by the Reformation, with its emphasis on the individual possession of the Spirit. Thomas Muenzer and all his sectarian followers taught that the divine Spirit speaks to us out of the depth of our own soul. Not we are speaking to ourselves, but God within us. "Out of the abyss of the heart which is from the living God" (Muenzer) we receive the truth if we are opened to it by suffering. Since the enthusiasts understood this divine voice within us in a very concrete sense, they identified it with the conscience. In this way conscience became a source of religious insight and not simply a judge of moral actions. The conscience as the expression of the inner light has a revealing character.

But the question arose immediately: What is the content of such a revelation through conscience? Luther asked Muenzer, and Cromwell asked Fox: What is the difference between practical reason and the inner light? Both of them could answer: the ecstatic character of the divine Spirit! But they could be asked again: What bearing has the ecstatic form of revelation on its content? And then the answer was difficult. Muenzer refers to practical decisions in his daily life, made under the inspiration of the Spirit; and Fox develops an ethics of unconditional honesty, bourgeois righteousness, and pacifism. It was easy to ask again whether reasonableness and obedience to the natural moral law could not produce the same results. The "revealing conscience" is a union of mysticism with moral rationality. But it does not reveal anything beyond biblical and genuine Christian tradition. An important result arising from this transformation of the concept of conscience is the idea of tolerance and its victory in the liberal era. The quest for "freedom of conscience" does not refer to the concrete ethical decision, but it refers to the religious authority of the "inner light" which expresses itself through the individual conscience. And since the inner light could hardly be distinguished from practical reason, freedom of conscience meant, actually, the freedom to follow one’s autonomous reason, not only in ethics, but also in religion. The "religion of conscience" and the consequent idea of tolerance are not a result of the Reformation but of sectarian spiritualism and mysticism.

IV. Modern Philosophical Doctrines of the Conscience

The modern philosophical interpretation of conscience follows three main lines: an emotional-aesthetic line, an abstract-formalistic line, and a rational-idealistic line. Secularizing the sectarian belief in the revealing power of conscience, Shaftesbury interprets it as the emotional reaction to the harmony between self-relatedness and relatedness to others, in all beings and in the universe as a whole. The principle of ethical action is the balance between the effects of benevolence and the effects of selfishness as indicated by conscience. The conscience works better and more accurately, the more the taste for the universe and its harmony is developed. The educated conscience has a perfect ethical taste. Not harmony with the universe but sympathy with the other man is the basis of conscience, according to Hume and Adam Smith; we identify ourselves with the other one and receive his approval or disapproval of our action as our own judgment. This, of course, presupposes a hidden harmony between the individuals and the possibility of a mutual feeling of identification. It presupposes a universal principle of harmony in which the individuals participate and which reveals itself to the conscience.

The emotional-harmonistic interpretation of conscience has often led to a replacement of ethical by aesthetic principles. The attitude of late aristocracy, high bourgeoisie, and bohemianism at the end of the last century was characterized by the elevation of good taste to be the ultimate judge in moral affairs, corresponding to the replacement of religion by the arts in these groups. It was an attempt to reach a transmoral conscience, but it did not reach even a moral one, and it was swept away by the revolutionary morality and immorality of the twentieth century.

The second method of interpreting conscience philosophically is the abstract-formalistic one. It was most clearly stated by Kant, and it was introduced into theology by Ritschl. Kant wanted to maintain the unconditional character of the moral demand against all emotional relativism, against fear and pleasure motives, as well as against divine and human authorities. But in doing so he was driven to a complete formalism. Conscience is the consciousness of the "categorical (unconditional) imperative," but it is not the consciousness of a special content of this imperative. "Conscience is a consciousness which itself is a duty." It is a duty to have a conscience, to be conscientious. The content, according to Ritschl, is dependent on the special vocation, a special historical time and space. Only conscientiousness is always demanded. This corresponds to the Protestant, especially the Lutheran, valuation of work. It is the expression of the activistic element of the bourgeoisie and is identical with bourgeois adaptation to the technical and psychological demands of the economic system. Duty is what serves bourgeois production. This is the hidden meaning even of the philosophy of the "absolute ego" in Fichte, who describes conscience as the certainty of the pure duty which is independent of anything besides its transcendent freedom. In the moment in which the transcendent freedom comes down to action it is transformed into obedience to a well-calculated system of economic services. It is understandable that this loss of a concrete direction of conscientiousness paved the way for very immoral contents in the moment in which they were ordered, for instance, by a totalitarian state.

Against the aesthetic-emotional as well as the authoritarian form of determining the conscience, attempts were made in modern philosophy to have rationality and contents united. The most influential of these attempts is the common-sense theory of Thomas Reid and the Scottish school, i.e., the moral sense is common to everybody, being a natural endowment of human nature (like the synteresis of the scholastics). Decisive for practical ethics is the sense of benevolence toward others (Hutcheson). This theory expresses adequately the reality of the British (and to a degree, American) conformism and the natural benevolence in a society in which the converging tendencies still prevail over the diverging ones, and in which a secularized Christian morality is still dominant. Another attempt to find rational contents for the conscience has been made by Hegel. He distinguishes the formal and the true conscience. About the first he says: "Conscience is the infinite formal certainty of oneself—it expresses the absolute right of the subjective self-consciousness, namely, to know within and out of itself what law and duty are, and to acknowledge nothing except what it knows in this way as the good." But this subjectivity is fallible and may turn into error and guilt. Therefore, it needs content, in order to become the true conscience. This content is the reality of family, society, and state. With the state (as the organization of historical reason) the formal conscience is transformed into the true conscience. It is a historical misjudgment to link these ideas to the totalitarian use of the state and the pagan distortion of conscience by national socialism. Hegel was a rationalist, not a positivist. His idea of the state unites Christian-conservative and bourgeois-liberal elements. His famous, though rarely understood, idea of the state as the "god on earth" is based on the identification of the state with the church as the "body of Christ," expressed in secular terms. The conscience which is determined by the state in this sense is determined not by bureaucratic orders but by the life of a half-religious, half-secular organism—the counterpart to the Christian-rationalistic common sense of the Anglo-Saxon society. While the Scottish solution is largely dependent on the social attitude of Western Christianity and Hegel’s solution on Lutheran Protestantism, the spirit of Catholicism has received a new philosophical expression in recent philosophical developments of which I take Max Scheler as a representative. In his doctrine of conscience Scheler opposes the popular conception of conscience as the "voice of God." He calls this, as well as the quest for "freedom of conscience," a principle of chaos. Instead of freedom of conscience, he demands subjection to authority as the only way of experiencing the intuitive evidence of the moral principles. It is impossible to reach such evidence without personal experience, and it is impossible to have such an experience without acting under the guidance of an authority which is based on former experience. In this respect, ethical (we could say "existential") experience is different from theoretical (i.e., "detached") experience. Although this fits completely the situation of the Catholic, it is not meant as the establishment of external authority. "All authority is concerned only with the good which is universally evident, never with that which is individually evident." Ethical authority is based on general ethical evidence. But does such a general ethical evidence exist? Or is philosophical ethics bound to be either general and abstract or to be concrete and dependent on changing historical conditions? And if this is the alternative, can the problem of conscience be answered at all in terms of moral conscience?

V. The Idea of a Transmoral Conscience

A conscience may be called "transmoral" which judges not in obedience to a moral law but according to the participation in a reality which transcends the sphere of moral commands. A transmoral conscience does not deny the moral realm, but it is driven beyond it by the unbearable tensions of the sphere of law.

It is Luther who derives a new concept of conscience from the experience of justification through faith; neither Paul nor Augustine did so. Luther’s experience grew out of the monastic scrutiny of conscience and the threat of the ultimate judgment, which he felt in its full depth and horror. Experiences like these he called Anfechtungen, that is, "tempting attacks," stemming from Satan as the tool of the divine wrath. These attacks are the most terrible thing a human being may experience. They create an incredible Angst ("dread"), a feeling of being inclosed in a narrow place from which there is no escape. (Angst, he rightly points out, is derived from angustiae, "narrows.") "Thou drivest me from the surface of the earth," he says to God in despair and even hate. Luther describes this situation in many different ways. He compares the horrified conscience, which tries to flee and cannot escape, with a goose which, pursued by the wolf, does not use its wings, as ordinarily, but its feet and is caught. Or he tells us how the moving of dry leaves frightens him as the expression of the wrath of God. His conscience confirms the divine wrath and judgment. God says to him: "Thou canst not judge differently about thyself." Such experiences are not dependent on special sins. The self, as such, is sinful before any act; it is separated from God, unwilling to love him.

If in this way the bad conscience is deepened into a state of absolute despair, it can be conquered only by the acceptance of God’s self-sacrificing love as visible in the picture of Jesus as the Christ. God, so to speak, subjects himself to the consequences of his wrath, taking them upon himself, thus re-establishing unity with us. The sinner is accepted as just in spite of his sinfulness. The wrath of God does not frighten us any longer; a joyful conscience arises as much above the moral realm as the desperate conscience was below the moral realm. "Justification by grace," in Luther’s sense, means the creation of a "transmoral" conscience. While God is the accuser in the Anfechtung and our heart tries to excuse itself, in the "justification" our heart accuses us and God defends us against ourselves. In psychological terms this means: in so far as we look at ourselves, we must get a desperate conscience; in so far as we look at the power of a new creation beyond ourselves we can reach a joyful conscience. Not because of our moral perfection but in spite of our moral imperfection we are fighting and triumphing on the side of God, as in the famous picture of Duerer, "Knight, Death, and Devil," the knight goes through the narrows in the attitude of a victorious defiance of dread and temptation.

An analogy to this "triumphant conscience," as developed by Luther personally as well as theologically, has appeared in the enthusiastic philosophy of Giordano Bruno. The moral conscience is overcome by the "heroic affect" toward the universe and the surrender to its infinity and inexhaustible creativity. Participation in the creativity of life universal liberates from the moral conscience, the bad as well as the good. Man, standing in the center of being, is bound to transform life as it is into higher life. He takes upon himself the tragic consequences, connected with the destructive side of finite creativity, and must not try to escape them for the sake of a good moral conscience.

While in Bruno the transmoral conscience is based on a mystical naturalism, Nietzsche’s transmoralism is a consequence of his dramatic-tragic naturalism. Nietzsche belongs to those empiricists who have tried to analyze the genesis of the moral conscience in such a way that its autonomy is destroyed: Hobbes and Helvetius, on the ground of a materialistic metaphysics; Mandeville and Bentham, on the ground of a utilitarian psychology; Darwin and Freud, on the ground of an evolutionary naturalism—all have denied any objective validity to the voice of conscience, according to their rejection of any universal natural (rational) law. Nietzsche has carried these ideas further, as the title and the content of his Genealogy of Morals show. He says: "The bad conscience is a sickness, but it is a sickness as pregnancy is one." It is a creative sickness. Mankind had to be domesticated, and this has been done by its conquerors and ruling classes. It was in the interest of these classes to suppress by severe punishments the natural instincts of aggressiveness, will to power, destruction, cruelty, revolution. They succeeded in suppressing these trends. But they did not succeed in eradicating them. So the aggressive instincts became internalized and transformed into self-destructive tendencies. Man has turned against himself in self-punishment; he is separated from his animal past from which he had derived strength, joy, and creativity. But he cannot prevent his instincts from remaining alive. They require permanent acts of suppression, the result of which is the bad conscience, a great thing in man’s evolution, an ugly thing if compared with man’s real aim. Nietzsche describes this aim in terms which remind one of Luther’s descriptions of the transmoral conscience: "Once in a stronger period than our morbid, desperate present, he must appear, the man of the great love and the great contempt, the creative spirit who does not allow his driving strength to be turned to a transcendent world." Nietzsche calls him the man "who is strong through wars and victories, who needs conquest, adventure, danger, even pain." This man is "beyond good and evil" in the moral sense. At the same time, he is good in the metaphysical (or mystical) sense that he is in unity with life universal. He has a transmoral conscience, not on the basis of a paradoxical unity with God (such as Luther has), but on the basis of an enthusiastic unity with life in its creative and destructive power.

Recent "existential" philosophy has developed a doctrine of the transmoral conscience which follows the general lines of Luther, Bruno, and Nietzsche. Heidegger, the main representative of existential philosophy, says: "The call of conscience has the character of the demand that man in his finitude actualize his genuine potentialities, and this means an appeal to become guilty." Conscience summons us to ourselves, calling us back from the talk of the market and the conventional behavior of the masses. It has no special demands; it speaks to us in the "mode of silence." It tells us only to act and to become guilty by acting, for every action is unscrupulous. He who acts experiences the call of conscience and—at the same time—has the experience of contradicting his conscience, of being guilty. "Existence as such is guilty." Only self-deception can give a good moral conscience, since it is impossible not to act and since every action implies guilt. We must act, and the attitude in which we can act is "resoluteness." Resoluteness transcends the moral conscience, its arguments and prohibitions. It determines a situation instead of being determined by it. The good, transmoral conscience consists in the acceptance of the bad, moral conscience, which is unavoidable wherever decisions are made and acts are performed. The way from Luther’s to Heidegger’s idea of a transmoral conscience was a dangerous one. "Transmoral" can mean the re-establishment of morality from a point above morality, or it can mean the destruction of morality from a point below morality. The empiricists from Hobbes to Freud have analyzed the moral conscience, but they have not destroyed it. Either they were dependent in their concrete ethics on Anglo-Saxon common sense; or they identified utility with the social conventions of a well-established bourgeoisie; or they cultivated a high sense of conscientiousness, in scientific honesty as well as in the fulfillment of duties; or they did not dare, unconsciously or consciously, to draw the radical moral consequences of their dissolution of the conscience. In Nietzsche and Heidegger none of these inhibitions is left. But it is not without some justification that these names are connected with the antimoral movements of fascism or national socialism. Even Luther has been linked with them, as have Machiavelli and Bruno. This raises the question: Is the idea of a transmoral conscience tenable? Or is it so dangerous that it cannot be maintained? But if the idea had to be dismissed, religion as well as analytic psychotherapy would have to be dismissed also; for in both of them the moral conscience is transcendent—in religion by the acceptance of the divine grace which breaks through the realm of law and creates a joyful conscience; in depth psychology by the acceptance of one’s own conflicts when looking at them and suffering under their ugliness without an attempt to suppress them and to hide them from one’s self. Indeed, it is impossible not to transcend the moral conscience because it is impossible to unite a sensitive and a good conscience. Those who have a sensitive conscience cannot escape the question of the transmoral conscience. The moral conscience drives beyond the sphere in which it is valid to the sphere from which it must receive its conditional validity.

Viewed 176734 times.