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1. How to Create False Hope
2. Sentimentality, Sex and Lust

"It is wonderful to meditate on the fact
that God has not despised our animal nature,
but has transformed it."

How to Create False Hope

A friend once told me that almost all his adult life his work had been harried by financial difficulties and that he had dreamed of the bliss that would come of solvency and a well-ordered financial life. Then it finally came about. "Do you know what it feels like?" he said. "Like nothing. It is the absence of feeling."

Herein lies an important truth. It is men who are sick who pin their hopes on health, men who are hungry who dream of food, men who are bitterly cold who are ready to worship fire, men who are crippled who dream of walking, men thirsting who appreciate water, men suffocating who discover the rare value of air.

Chesterton said that we ought not to take for granted the wonder of having legs or the miracle of speech, and this is true in a certain sense. But it is also true that these things are part of the normal equipment of men and that men are made to know, love and serve God, not to sit around glorying in ankles or ozone. Not that Chesterton meant that they should. But today the evil genius behind what is happening to the world has found that by depriving masses of men of the simplest necessities of life (then bringing to their concentrated attention what they would ordinarily take for granted), men can be made to forget about their eternal destiny and even their intellectual and aesthetic ambitions, and will pin their hopes on something materialistic.

Men could never have been brought to look for their redemption in the material order, unless there had first been great material disorder and deprivation. This is the secret of the Communist success during hard times. This is, in fact, why the communists create hard times where they do not already exist. Since the secular heaven is a this-world beatitude, it is important to diminish man's universe. But man is made for God and yearns for Him. Take away, therefore, some normal part of a man's equipment, a roof over his head, or a job, or his daily bread, so that he will be acutely aware of what's missing, and he will forget about the higher things.

But food in your belly feels like nothing. It makes you forget your stomach. Health is a state of not noticing the body. The absence of a house is painful, but the presence of a house makes you forget about houses. Once a man has these basic necessities, he again feels unhappy. They have not made him happy. They have just relieved a pain which shouldn't have been there in the first place.

The Fallacy in American Benevolence. Americans could learn a lesson from this in various fields. We spend billions of dollars helping starving and ill-clothed people in order to seduce them away from the Communist ideology. Then we are surprised that we have not bought their loyalty for American ideals. But food and clothing will only take away a certain pain. They do not give meaning to life, and American ideals are so nebulous at the moment, that they amount to saying this: "A certain material standard of living will give meaning to life." But it doesn't, and the Communists have a more dynamic, even if erroneous, ideology to offer.

Or again, the laboring classes were discontent and economically exploited. We have made the mistake of thinking that higher wages and other purely material concessions would satisfy the workers. On the contrary, it has made them more dissatisfied, because they no longer have to waste time thinking how they will eat and whether they will keep their jobs. In short, you cannot satisfy a spiritual hunger with material food.

Sentimentality, Sex and Lust

Love is basic to all the other passions. Ultimately all human action springs from love. This accounts for the plausibility of the Freudian theory. Freud could not have explained so much by, for instance, hope, and he did by sex, because sex is the most vehement form of this basic passion of love.

Besides the love which is a passion, there is also a rational love seated in our will. It is with this rational love that we love God, and other men for God's sake. We also with this love cherish people in that love of friendship which seeks to give itself and not to possess. When love which belongs on this rational level because of its object, drops to the sense level, you have a disorder known as sentimentality. We Americans are maudlin in our sentimentality. (weakly and effusively sentimental).

This dropping of love from the rational to the sense level has happened often in religion. It comes from an overemphasis on devotional matters. It is characteristic of the "love is my only dogma" type of liberal Protestantism, which tries to solve all its problems by "love," in the absence of principles. What else can this love be but feeling, and chiefly, as it has turned out, the feeling of pity. Pity is a good enough feeling, but needs the guidance of reason. Sentimental pity (more often than malice) is back of the enthusiasm for birth control and euthanasia. Sentimentalists lose full control of their reason. They are fuzzy thinkers of the "how heartless you are to let this poor woman suffer so from cancer" school. They shudder at the mention of hell. Naturally it does not fit in with their doctrine of love, because it doesn't appeal to their feelings.

All of us are infected with fuzzy thinking and sentimentality to some degree. It is at least a remote cause of mental disorder, and it makes the cure of neurotics enormously more difficult than it would be otherwise. There is nothing left for it but patiently to instruct and discipline the sloppy modern mind.

Sex is the most vehement form of passionate love, since it has to insure, from the natural point of view, that we carry on the race. Although sex is on the sense level, it is capable of being caught up with the love of friendship on the rational level, and even divinized through the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is in this way that Christianity has exalted sex (i.e., inside marriage). It is wonderful to meditate on the fact that God has not despised our animal nature, but has transformed it. He has done the same thing with eating, which is a rather ludicrous procedure considered in itself. On the human level, however, it is a social as well as a biological function. And since the Eucharistic Banquet was initiated, (Holy Communion), eating itself has been elevated to something of a ceremony.

During the decline of the Roman Empire, the primary passions were grossly disordered, with lust and gluttony especially prevalent. Pagan rites included revolting obscenities and sex symbols were everywhere. It took centuries of Christian austerity to restore simple goodness to simple natural phenomena, and to purify the minds of men.

It seems as though the Freudians are bent on making everything obscene again. Freud even has a whole set of sex symbols for the interpretation of dreams. Many people's minds are already so diseased, that they cannot see a tall building or a vegetable stand without sex associations.

Instead of lifting sex up to holy familial love, our age is ruthlessly pulling it down to sheer lust, which is sex from which as much reason as possible has been eliminated.

Nothing so distorts the intellect as lust. The imagination keeps feeding the intellect images calculated to distort the judgment. And it is no easy matter to purify a mind of lust, once it has been saturated; in fact it is very difficult to get such a person to want to rise out of his mire (deep mud, difficult situation). Where there is any will to recover, the Church's method is the emergency treatment: constant and continuous attendance at the Sacraments, penance as often as one falls, and daily Communion. When a man is beyond self-help, God will lift him up, so long as he merely consents. The world's methods are quite other. The world invites the mind to the consideration of lust, now everywhere in books, magazines, advertisements, and even radio jokes. Some psychiatrists do the worst possible thing. They urge as a remedy for preoccupation with sex, still more preoccupation with it.

Another reason for sex disorders lies in the fact that people confined by their philosophies to the physical level, the materialists, sometimes have messianic expectations in regard to sex. It's like having a deep yearning which is really for a college education and a house in the country, but which you hope to satisfy with chocolate pecan sundaes (because everyone assures you that houses in the country and college educations don't really exist, and that chocolate pecan sundaes are the highest good). Under these circumstances your appetite for chocolate pecan sundaes is insatiable. Maybe nymphomaniacs and other sex-addicts can be accounted for here.

Religion and Disordered Passions

Some indication has been given in this paper of the continual interweaving of religious considerations with those of mental health. We have barely touched on the stabilizing effect of objective "authoritarian" moral standards. We have discussed the matter of a troubled conscience and the therapeutic effects of absolution. We have mentioned the unbalancing propensities of sins of the flesh, and the mental torment of moral uncertainty.

We usually think of mystical theology in connection with devout people well advanced in the spiritual life, and not in connection with neurotics and dipsomaniacs. Unconsciously we assume that progress toward God lies through the acquisition of natural virtue, forgetting that supernatural life is gratuitous and forever beyond our deserts, and forgetting also that the only disposing condition is humility.

It is the dipsomaniacs (alcoholics) who have rediscovered in practice the approach to God through humility alone, although they don't know quite what to do with it. Natural despair is fertile ground for supernatural hope. Alcoholics Anonymous, who are drawn mostly from the spiritually underprivileged classes, work on this theory. They don't try the old tack of urging the drunk to make a man of himself. Instead they approach him at him humblest (just recovering from a disastrous bout) and urge him to admit his own impotence to reform, and beg God to do for him, what he cannot do for himself. It works, even among people who can't seem to go on from there theologically.

Why should it work, apart from the explanation that God is good? It works, because those in a state of grace can, if they will allow it, shift over from a natural to a supernatural economy of operation. The supernatural gifts and virtues operate as habits paralleling our natural psychological equipment for human operation. Take a single example. Our control of the passions is accomplished partly through the natural virtue of temperance, which is markedly absent in habitual drunks, and others overcome by the sins of the flesh. Through humble and complete abandonment one predisposes oneself for a shift to the supernatural economy, where virtues, including the virtue of temperance, operate in us through no direct effort on our part. It is rather as though a man were a puppet lying twisted in a heap, who consenting to be lifted up by God, is therefore raised up and untwisted in one process. Actually supernatural grace carries natural perfection in its wake. A neurotic who was converted to the Church and started going to daily Communion would feel the sanctifying and healing effects of grace at the same time, as though he were being at once lifted up and straightened out. He would feel as though he were being drawn upward to God for a long time in a spiral motion, before proceeding in a straight line.

The shift from the natural to the supernatural economy is the only way out of bad breakdowns, personal and social. It is the "reaching for the stars in order to get out of the mire" technique. We usually preoccupy neurotics with their own mediocrity. Instead, they need to lose themselves in a great cause, and complete dependence on God.


Prayers (EWTN)

The Holy Bible

New Testament: The second part of the Christian Bible,
comprising the Gospels and Epistles, and also the book of Acts and book of Revelation.

The New American Bible

The Gospel of Luke

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