Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 3A

Chapter 3 contains “an eyewitness account of the disappearance of sin”.

Psychiatry is an art.  An analyst can be both right and wrong at the same time.  Menninger was correct in presenting an incorrect interpretation.  He “heard” a pattern in popular and intellectual discourse and guessed what it indicated.

What was that pattern?  The word “sin” had disappeared in current “prophetic” discourse (such as the editorial page of the New Yorker).

For example, Menninger described the horrible – over the top – village massacre by Lt. William Calley during the Vietnam War.  None of the “prophetic” Progressives called it a “sin”, even though they dramatically condemned the massacre.

What did the disappearance indicate?

Perhaps, the “prophets” forgot or misplaced their definitions of “sin”.

Menninger offered this definition: Sin is a transgression of the law of God; disobedience of the divine will; moral failure.  Withdrawal, supererogation, and self-absorption are characteristics of “sin”.  Sin has many implications: guilt, answerability, responsibility, confession, attrition, reparation, repentance, forgiveness, atonement and many more.

Many psychological “scientists”, such as Behavioralists and Psychiatrists, rejected the concept of “sin”, plus all its implications, because the idea was not “scientific”.

Perhaps, they rejected it for other reasons.

“Sin” did not belong to the emerging symbolic order.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 2D

Menninger’s dreamy confusion serves as an exemplar for why Progressives could not be stopped.

Progressives criticized Christians for failing to live up to their own ideals.   At the same time, they redefined those ideals.

Progressives proclaimed themselves “not-religious” (and therefore, technically, not subject to the first amendment).  At the same time, they re-interpreted Constitutional provisions designed to limit the scope of the central government.  They pursued sovereign power.

In short, they claimed dominion over what the Founding Documents had set aside, and when the Constitution complained, they raped her then gave her a little office with a nice title, “Living Document” (in service to the Union god).

How could anyone figure out what was happening?  The Progressives followed a script as unwritten and ancient as Civilization itself.  The hero in the script is primitive, archaic, creative, like a wind blowing between the waters above and the waters below, grasping sovereign power, and confident that the fault for every horror lies not in the hero, but in the image in the mirror.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 2C

What about “the Master sowing his own fields with weeds” in Menninger’s re-telling of the parable in Matthews?

Menninger ignored the many brave people of faith who resisted various manifestations of Progressivism and converted its path from direct takeover (through revolution, as in Soviet Communism, or through military coup or ballot box, as in various Fascisms) to the less direct methods of institutional infiltration and capture.

Only in 2008 did the Public Cult directly takeover of all branches of the central government through the ballot box.

Was Menninger projecting himself onto others with his account of “the Master sowing his own fields while asleep”?   Certainly, he confounded Progressive Post-Religious Global Intellectuals (PORGIs) – the proverbial weeds – and the Prophets of Ancient Israel – the wheat.  What was he doing?  Was he not awake?


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 2B

We can compare this chapter on “what is wrong?” to elements in An Archaeology of the Fall.

The litany of complaints, the implication of a malaise, and the self-serving diagnoses parallel the image of a Union-god separating the heaven-god of Christianity and the earth-goddess of the Founding Documents & Marketplace.

The Progressive Movement re-enacted the denudation of An (the waters-above god) and the rape of Ki (the waters-below goddess) by Enlil (the air god).  This claim highlights the archaic features of the rise and establishment of the Public Cult.  We are not experiencing “progress”.  We are experiencing a Sumerian drama.

In 2012, American discourse is saturated with fear and loathing.  Christianity stands “naked” in the “public square”.  The Constitution lies raped by lawyer’s tongues.

Progressive complaints often follow the logic of “projection”.  The French Protestant complaint actually describes society after the success of the Progressive agenda.  The “strong” include “the central government, conformist media, self-anointed academia, government unions, crony capitalist bankers and lawyers, and so forth”.   The “Weak” include “small businesses, churches, two parent families, non-governmental non-union workers, and so forth”.

The roles have changed 40 years after this now-forgotten Projection – er – Declaration, revealing a lesson that should have been apparent long ago: Progressive complaints tell the world their unconscious, denied intentions.

Progressives see the world through the mirror of projection and denial, just like the now-forgotten (another projection) Public Cults of Communism and Fascism.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 2A

The second chapter of Menninger’s book layers further echoes Progressive complaints.  An editor asks: “What ails the American Spirit?”  Answers come from professors of government, history and humanities.  Menninger calls them “prophets”.

Menninger recounted the French Protestant’s Declaration (1972) of the unacceptability of the present economic and political system.  “The Strong dominate and manipulate the Weak in socioeconomic activities radically incompatible with the gospel”.

Then, Menninger asked: Who is to blame?  He suggested a re-reading of the parable in Matthew where the Master’s fields were sown with weeds after the grain was coming up.  In Menninger’s re-telling, the Master himself, unconscious, in his sleep, went out and sowed weeds into his own fields.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 1B

What to make of Menninger’s “brief and biased view of moral history”?  Consider chapter 1 in An Archaeology of the Fall, written in a similar stream of consciousness, 40 years later.  Both

-Identify that “something is wrong”

-Note the spiritually disfiguring growth of the United States of America

-Identify Lincoln’s death as a turning point (In Whatever: A cryptotheological formula – an immortal leader martyred: In An Archaeology: the Union was born)

-Envision a movement that results in self-serving and incomprehensible people who are resistant to prophets (In Whatever: the movement is towards affluence: In An Archaeology: the movement is a social construction in service to the Union god)

What is a difference between these two works?  An Archaeology of the Fall (2012) was written after the Progressive Movement has consolidated. Whatever Became of Sin? (1973) was written in the process of that consolidation.

In 2012, one cannot be both a Christian and a Progressive.

In 1973, Menninger was both a believer and a Progressive.

In 2012, the Progressive does not care about Menninger.  He served his purpose.  The Progressive has moved on.  The Christian, however, can look back – almost in amazement – at this hybrid Christian Psychoanalyst whose book went through at least 7 reprints.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 1A

The first four chapters of this book are devoted to picturing a change in the American (also, Western) civilization during the third quarter of the twentieth century.

In the first chapter, Menninger wrote – in almost free association – his impression of the ancient Jewish prophets.  The Jewish prophets spoke to uncomprehending prosperous folk.

Then Menninger considered how America came to be.  America was settled (by Europeans) through betrayal (of the Natives) and conflict (with each other and the crown).  At some point, they turned on each other in bloody warfare.  An “immortal leader” was martyred.  Territorial expansion resumed, bringing human misery and ecological devastation.  Now, America is full of uncomprehending prosperous folk.  And, just like in ancient Israel, prophets have appeared to affluent America, raising their voices: “Something is wrong”.

And, amazingly, Menninger’s “prophets” includes Professors of Government.



Thoughts on Whatever Became to Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 0D

Menninger’s prescient ironic “almost hitting the nail on the head” pays tribute to the difficulty of figuring out “what is going on” during the emergence of a new symbolic order.  Key features to look for are:

Certain words disappear (with no apparent replacement) or change meaning.

New institutions are formed. Established institutions are “captured” by “like-minded people”.

Individuals within institutions undergoing “capture” lose nerve.  They do not know how to “dissent”.

David Gelennter in American Lite (2012: Encounter Books) independently attests to the consolidation of the Public Cult of Progressivism during this period (from the 1960s on).   Gelennter calls this consolidation “the rise of the PORGI” (Post-Religious Global Intellectual).


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 0C

The rise of the Public Cult of Progressivism (along with the private cults of the New Age Movement) accounts for the expansion of career opportunities for psychoanalysts (approximately, 1955-1965) and mental health workers (1960 on) plus the loss of nerve of seminarians at Princeton Theological Seminary (between 1965 and 1972).

Menninger did not know this.  However, as a psychoanalyst, he was trained to “listen”.  He chastised members of his own discipline for “sins of omission” (219), but that is the hazard of the profession.  Psychotherapy is difficult because the analyst does not know how to “label” what he is “hearing”.  Her interpretations must always be provisional.

Ironically, Menninger’s book came out precisely at the time when an answer to the “morality gap” (that he identified) appeared within the Progressive consolidation itself.

Menninger “heard” – with his “analytical ears” – that the word “sin” was disappearing.  This indicated that “something” was missing (hence, “the morality gap”).  He did not realize that the “something” was already being constructed, in various guises, without label.  Twenty years later, the replacement to the word “sin” was popularly referred to as “political incorrectness”.

The question in 1973: Whatever became of “sin”?

The answer by 1993: It was replaced by “political incorrectness”.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 0B

In my view, 40 years after Menninger published, a single phenomenon accounts for both observations: the social construction of the Public Cult of Progressivism.

Even though Menninger could not name the social construction, he picked up on key features.  That explains the eerie title.

Notably, Ted Peters, on the West Coast, writing in 1994 (20 years after Menninger), appeared completely unaware that the private cults of the New Age Movement complemented the Public Cult of Progressivism (or Secular Fundamentalism, the label is still yet to be fixed).  Both private and Public cults belong to the same emerging symbolic order.  Peters “saw” only one side of a Janus-faced phenomenon.

What does this indicate?  Individuals immersed in the historic social construction of the Public Cult of Progressivism did not recognize what was happening.