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Notes on Morality



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Morality is tied to Immorality

Spirituality is not the same as religiosity. I am attracted to spirituality but not to any religion. Spirituality has a one-way direction. It can enfold religious and secular practices – even the atheistic scientist can admire the beauty of creation. But religion and humanism are encased in ideologies and so do not necessarily lead to spirituality: their histories are proof enough of that. 

I make use of ideas from religion and humanism, but I use these ideas in my own way, independently of the ideologies from which they came. The currency of my mind is ideas, not ideologies. [¹].

Sub - Headings
Sensitive Child
Jealousy or Narcissism
Morality of a Nation
References

I am an idealist and follow my own path, wherever it leads me. And it leads me into the customary solitude and aloneness of the solitary explorer, as I attempt to understand the origins of conflict and sorrow.

For me, morality is an obstacle to be transcended. Morality is always intertwined with immorality. By defining some aspects of life as being moral so their opposites become labelled as being immoral. In order to rise above the attractions of immorality, so morality itself has to be transcended as well.

Morality is instilled in the person when he is a child. This process is fraught with difficulties, and can produce quite a peculiar phenomenon in the adult. One night in my 40s, as I lay in bed, I experienced the primal scream. In a dream I went back to my childhood relations with my parents. As I came out of the dream I suddenly realised that they were not happy relations but negative ones. Then quite spontaneously arose an involuntary welling up of a deep scream. It poured out of me. I muted it so that it did not wake up mother in the next room, but I was still astonished at the phenomenon. The sensitive idealist usually goes through a period of soul-searching sometime in his adult years. This is his second time in the wilderness. Childhood is the first !

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The Sensitive Child

I consider the problems created by morality, starting with the time of childhood. Morality becomes a part of the ego through that ego’s social conditioning as a child. This conditioning is not always accepted voluntarily, and so it may instil destructive and violent tendencies in the child. This is the problem that is created by a ‘resentment-based’ morality (that is, a morality that is derived from social abreaction). [²]

At incarnation (or birth) a child brings with it its conflicts from previous lives and its standards and virtues (or lack of them). This poses a problem for the upbringing of children. Some children lack self-control and need to be given firm guidance. An introverted child has some degree of self-control built into him and so requires less parental discipline. Unfortunately it is not always obvious on which side a young child’s character will fall. The standard of firmness needed to control an irresponsible child is likely to be disastrous when applied to a sensitive child. [³]

My psychological investigations focused on the difficulties experienced by more evolved children: it is the issue of  sensitivity  that I am concerned with. It is from this viewpoint that I criticise morality. I use psychology to discern the limitations of morality.


The sensitive child has its own problems. The parents have their own problems. The emerging relationship between the young child and the parents is more likely to be one of conflict than of harmony. It has usually been considered that trial and error is quite adequate for learning how to bring up a child ; it is assumed that the child can overcome the obstacles produced by poor parenting skills. This viewpoint has serious implications for the child, the worse consequence being the production of madness (this is likely to remain dormant in the child but flower sometime during adolescence or adulthood). That is, the experience of adult madness usually indicates that the person suffered some form of psychological trauma in childhood. [4]

The average consequence that a sensitive child suffers from is an insufficiency of love from the parents. Discipline plus an insufficient supply of love is yet worse. Discipline (or moral conditioning) is the attempt to impart a sense of responsibility onto the impulsive child. The child learns to introject the parental attitudes. Ideally, discipline should only be given when the child is old enough to understand the reasons for it. When used prematurely, discipline creates a new problem, that of subconscious destructiveness : the child learns to resent the parent or authority figure.

Morality is made a compulsory part of the immature ego. Therefore, in psycho-therapy, the ego (or the values that create it) cannot be changed without a corresponding change in the ego’s morality.


A psycho-analysis develops and strengthens the person’s virtues. Virtues develop by the person becoming resistant to the loss of self-respect. Virtues become the means whereby the person’s pride in himself is maintained and developed, no matter what social situations the person finds himself in. Self-respect cannot come from the parents. By definition it is an attitude of the ego to itself. Conflict arises if the ego, in its self-respect, either disputes or rejects the introjected parental attitudes.

Virtues produce self-reliance, and this is tested by the capacity of the individual to bear constant sorrow. During times when I was in an extremity of despair I recognised that I am my sole support. When the world collapses around myself, I can survive only by relying on my own virtues. In such times I sink or swim solely through my own efforts – I do not depend upon support given to me by others.

The traditional exposition of this attitude comes from the ancient Greek Stoics – to survive the misery of the world the person should cultivate an indifference to desire, and disregard pleasure and pain as being guides to action. Virtue is to be practised for its own sake alone. The defect of the Stoic method of developing virtue is that it is founded on despair (hence it complements morality, which is founded on resentment).

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Jealousy or Narcissism

Christian morality often centres on the values of community and social togetherness ; egoism is decried as being selfish and narcissistic. The assumption is that social attitudes reflect the spiritual basis of mankind. This is an illusion. The social attitudes are derived from jealousy. Neither narcissism nor jealousy are spiritual emotions ; the attitudes derived from them are not necessarily spiritual ones. The socially-orientated person (centred on jealousy) is not necessarily better or worse than the subjective individual (centred on narcissism). Both emotions have their strengths and drawbacks, as do their associated attitudes. [5]

Both jealousy and narcissism are compound emotions, each consisting of two simpler emotions. Jealousy is the combination of self-pity and love, whilst narcissism is the combination of vanity and love. Whichever of the simpler emotions is currently being emphasised, I call that a mode of jealousy or narcissism.


Consider jealousy.
In the absence of anxiety the love mode leads to a caring attitude to other people. But combined with anxiety it deteriorates into possessiveness and the desire to control others ; it can lead to the persecution of individuals who possess a different set of values – this is jealousy plus fear of the individual. The self-pity mode produces both the need for social approval and the desire for sex. Without self-awareness, the person will find it hard to separate morality from sexual desire – this confusion was a major driving force of the German Reformation in the sixteenth century. The reformers wanted both a new morality and a means of fulfilling sexual desire, so priests opted to become free to marry. [6]

Consider narcissism.
In the absence of anxiety the love mode generates the joy of living. It is only anxiety that makes it degenerate into egoism ; as such it can lead to indifference to the problems and suffering of other people who have less survival ability than oneself – this is narcissism plus fear of society.


The best way to ameliorate the ‘side-effects’ of either narcissism or jealousy is to use them in a way that combines idealism with some ethical values. Idealism alone can produce social conflict. The person who centres on narcissism needs some compensating social ethics such as compassion or egalitarianism. The person who is jealousy-based needs some virtues of individuality such as toleration, the ability to share or delegate power, or an integrity which can offset dependency.

Traditionally, Christian thinkers and moralists have only seen narcissistic attitudes that were lived under the influence of anxiety, and rejected them. Whereas they have eulogised social attitudes (based on jealousy) without being aware of the way that anxiety warps them. It is only by developing psychological awareness that all this self-deception can be identified. Traditional ethical theories contain patterns of delusion. Western ethics needs to be re-thought and re-formulated.

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Morality of a Nation

A critique of morality can also be extended to a critique of a nation’s morality.

During my self-analysis I read a biography of Richard Meinertzhagen, a brilliant but erratic staff officer in the British army in the early years of the twentieth century. As a child he was harshly treated at one of his schools ; as an adult he was quite authoritarian. This consequence leads to the idea that any child who is savagely subdued is likely (if his will is not broken) to become authoritarian in his turn when he is an adult, if the occasion is suitable for it. Being treated harshly, and treating others harshly, are two sides of one problem. The subconscious emotional dynamic here is that of anger.

[ The complementary response is to become totally antagonistic and rebellious to authority figures ; however, I am not considering this response in this article. Both these responses may be present in a person : he may be authoritarian in some situations and rebellious in others, though usually one response is preferred over the other.]


This problem applies to societies as well as to individuals.

For example, take the modern Jewish experience. There are two major components to it: the Holocaust, and the brutality directed at the Arabs in Israel and the surrounding territories (I am writing in 1995). These two components are connected. Meinertzhagen absorbed his teachers’ sadism into his character. So too the Holocaust brutalised the Jewish unconsciousness, and they enacted out that brutality in their relations to the Arabs. Meinertzhagen is an example of individual absorption of transference ; the Holocaust and its influence on the Israeli-Arab conflict is an example of race absorption of transference.

Why did Nazi Germany produce such brutality ? As one writer suggested, it was due, in part, to the brutalising effect on the German unconsciousness of a tragic fact: their states were the regular battleground of European nations from the Reformation to Bismarck.

Hence all the major European powers have some degree of responsibility for the Holocaust, not just Germany alone.



References

The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it.  For the addresses of my websites, see the Links page.

[¹]. There are two articles on ideology on my website A Modern Thinker. The articles are Paradigm and Ideology, and Structure and Ideology. The first article focuses on the nature of scientific thought, and the second one on the nature of language. [1]

[²]. Social abreaction is described in the fourth article on Abreaction : Resentment and Bitterness. [2]

[³]. There is an article on Sensitivity and Effects of Fear on my website Discover Your Mind. [3]

[4]. Infancy trauma is my name for psychological trauma that occurs in the first years of childhood. An article on Bonding focuses on some problems of a sensitive child and explains an unintentional source of infancy trauma.

In more detail, infancy trauma is explained in two articles. The first article, Vulnerability of the Ego, focuses on the origins of violence. And the second one, Guilt and Meaning - part 2, centres on why trauma can occur unintentionally. These are on my website Patterns of Confusion.[4]

[5]. My definitions, descriptions, and analysis of emotions are given in the three articles on Emotion. See home page. [5]

[6]. Confusion arises because sexual desire represents jealousy in self-pity mode, whilst morality is the sublimation of jealousy in self-pity mode. See the article Sublimation. [6]


Books

Cocker, Mark. Richard Meinertzhagen. Mandarin Paperbacks, 1990.



Home List of  Articles Links Top of Page

The articles in this section are :

Notes on Morality - problems of childhood conditioning.

Notes on Social Change - primacy of moral influences ; revolutions.




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Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath
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Ian Heath
London, UK

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