Guilt Management and the Unity of Body and Soul

A human being is a unity of body and soul, not a soul imprisoned in the body and not a soul that is a ghost in a machine. Human nature consists of a soul dwelling in a body that St. Paul compares to a temple or tabernacle. Because of this indissoluble unity, the state of body affects the condition of the soul, and the state of the soul influences the body. For example, if a person lives an immoral life and lets the body be ruled by gluttony, avarice, or lechery, these vices produce “a darkened intellect”. This disordered mind, then, resists the truth and uses intelligence to justify or rationalize evil rather than see and submit to the truth. The business of the darkened intellect becomes the management of guilt.

When a tortured soul denies evil and does not confess, it harms the body and produces other disorders or psychological problems. Shakespeare’s Macbeth cannot rest after he murders King Duncan and Banquo (“Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep”), and Macbeth’s wife is always washing her hands to remove all the stains of blood for the murder she plotted with her husband: “Out, out damned spot! Out I say!”). Macbeth’s hallucinations and sleeplessness and Lady Macbeth’s strange sleepwalking and nervous washing of hands manifest a guilty conscience horrified by the act of murder: “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood/ Clean from my hand?” Macbeth asks. The Macbeths, rejecting the moral law that enjoins “Thou shalt not murder,” find their guilt unmanageable. They struggle to remove all traces of guilt, but neither all the water in the ocean nor all the hand washing can cleanse the stain of blood. Post-abortion-stress syndrome illustrates the same psychology, the desperate need to moderate guilt to combat the pernicious effects that wound the soul: anger, despair, nightmares, alcoholism, or drug use.

damnedspotJust as every person bleeds from a wound, every human being also suffers guilt from violating the natural law and the Ten Commandments. Neither Macbeth nor Lady Macbeth can kill without the trauma of shock. One can no more suffer a knife wound without shedding blood than commit murder without revulsion. Because man is a unity of body and soul, every moral or immoral action has consequences that affect both the mind and the body. Unless a person acknowledges the sin, calls evil by its name, repents, and says like King David, referring to his adultery with Bathsheba, “I have sinned against the Lord,” the guilt remains and the conscience seeks some balm to numb the pain and mitigate the suffering—some form of therapeutic guilt management either by way of an appeal to “reproductive freedom,” a human decision legalized by the law of the land, the right to privacy, the misery of poverty or the psychological health of the mother.

Because no one wants to be haunted by a guilty conscience, guilt management appeals to legalism, invents excuses for the sin, denies the evil of the act, or pretends that no harm happens. For example, abortion is “choice,” not killing. Same-sex unions are a matter of “equality under the law,” not disordered acts.  A prideful person does not commit a deadly sin but pursues ambition or aspires to greatness, fulfilling the desire to do memorable and famous things. The envious person is not livid with jealousy, “the green-eyed monster” (Shakespeare) or deformed by “love perverted” (Dante).  Even though the envious rejoice when someone is miserable or grieve when others are fortunate, they pretend that envy is merely the desire for justice: “It’s not fair!” Defenders of abortion, like Milton’s Satan who triumphs, “Evil, be thou my good,” also must resort to all the wiles of sophistry and the manipulation of language in order to keep guilt at bay.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth act as if they do not have souls or consciences–as if they are animals ruled by their bodily passions and appetites and unaffected by the bitter fruits of sin. Lady Macbeth brashly boasts that she would “dash the brains out” of a suckling child to gain her worldly ambitions. Husband and wife reject the moral wisdom of Aristotle and St. Thomas on the hierarchical relationship between soul and body: The soul governs the body as a charioteer manages the horses. Because man is a unity of body and soul, their division produces harm and leads to evil. The body divorced from the soul presumes to do as it pleases like the horses driving the chariot without the reins of the charioteer. The soul or mind divorced from the body loses contact with material reality as it denies the fact of blood or the child in the womb. The body without the soul loses sight of moral truth: A woman carrying a living, breathing, growing human being does not have the right to shed blood. The soul or mind without the body also evades the truth when it calls the pre-born child a non-person, a non-viable entity, or biological material. Guilt management attempts to fix this division between body and soul by suppressing the truth they both convey in different ways.

The guilt management that the culture of death requires for legalized abortion attempts to allay this conflict between the soul and body. When the soul excludes the mother’s body (the child in the womb), the person who aborts appeals to the law, to human rights, to the privacy between a physician and a woman, and to financial exigency to justify evil and hide “the will to power” that underlies all these choices. When the body excludes the soul (the commandment not to kill), the person that cohabits, fornicates, contracepts, or aborts subverts all nature’s laws and purposes: pregnancy, birth, and procreation. The body presumes an absolute, unlimited freedom for its gratification without subservience to natural or divine law or any trace of disapproval or illegality. This management of guilt not only requires legalization, tolerance, indoctrination, political correctness, and pseudo-scientific “studies” and surveys designed to produce the desired results, but also expects the prevention of “hate crimes”, the punishment of dissent, and universal tax-funded health care that will accommodate all the desires of the flesh with universal approval.

Guilt management, then, also takes the form of a political and legal crusade to silence or marginalize every person, institution, or organization that objects to legalized killing as intrinsically evil. Because many persistent voices continuously decry abortion, appeal to moral traditions, or exercise conscience to defend life, they awaken the same sense of guilt that haunted Macbeth when he saw Banquo’s ghost at night. The blood on the hands must be made spotless. While the entire structure of guilt management strives to emancipate man from the authority of God, the soul, the mind of reason, or the voice of conscience, guilt cannot be washed away by oceans or hand washing but only by confession, contrition, reparation, and absolution— the sobering truth that the culture of death never confronts.

Mitchell Kalpakgian, Ph.D. has completed fifty years of teaching beginning as a teaching assistant at the University of Kansas, continuing as a professor of English at Simpson College in Iowa for thirty-one years, and recently teaching part-time at various schools and college in New Hampshire. As well as contributing to a number of publications, he has published seven books: The Marvelous in Fielding’s Novels, The Mysteries of Life in Children’s Literature, The Lost Arts of Modern Civilization, An Armenian Family Reunion (a collection of short stories), Modern Manners: The Poetry of Conduct and The Virtue of Civility, and The Virtues We Need Again. He has designed homeschooling literature courses for Seton Home School, and he also teaches online courses for Queen of Heaven Academy and part-time for Northeast Catholic College.
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