Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 5E

Menninger, like all moderns, tried to express himself solely with words.  His claims about “crime” and “sin” depend precisely on his definitions.

What is the advantage of the nested form over Menninger’s defining perspective?

Allow me to illustrate by zooming from 1973 to 2012.

Consider the implications of substituting “political incorrectness” for “sin”.

Crime(political incorrectness()) is integral to the Public Cult of Progressivism.

Accusations of “political incorrectness” serve the same function as accusations of “sin” in the now-supplanted Christian culture.  They deter (political) resistance to Progressive structures of regulating virtue.

At some point, political disagreement will become criminalized as this Public Cult consolidates power.  The tipping point may have been 2008.

Like “sin”, “political incorrectness” labels actual acts, persons or situations.  “Sin” is a Christian theological term.  “Political incorrectness” stands for a wide variety of Progressive cryptotheological terms.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 5D

Menninger never considered that “crime” and “sin” could be related through nestedness.  To me, it seems that …

The “judgment of crime (with state punishment)” puts “particular acts of sin” into a “normal” context.

Also, “sin” is “the situation where the normal context of ‘crimes’ appears real”.

This may be written as “crime(sin())”, corresponding to the general categorical nested form of “normal context(actuality(possibility))”.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 5C

Menninger considered “crime” as “a state take-over of items formerly described as ‘sin’”.   He argued that traditional pre-modern social deterrents to sin should increase the effectiveness of the state regulation of “crimes”.

The classical social deterrents that come from being raised by disciplining parents, belonging to a church, living in community ,and training for a career, increase the effectiveness of state regulations of crimes.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 5B

Menninger described one set of social constructions that belongs to the Public Cult of Progressivism.  The state regulates virtue, hence, justice.

He concluded with a warning by Oliver Goldsmith.

Goldsmith’s warning may characterize Public Cults in general.

The Tao offers a similar warning: “The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be.  The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be.  The more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be.” (Stephen Mitchell, Tao Te Ching: A New English Version. HarperPerenniel:NY. 1992 (orig. 1988))

Menninger argued that classic social deterrents to “sin” would be much more effective than the state regulation of “crimes”.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 5A

I now turn to Chapter 5.

How did “sin” become “crime”?  Menninger’s storyline applies only to Western Civilization (formerly known as “Christendom”).

Early on, states were only concerned about their own property.  “Crime” was so defined.

What about the other transgressions, offenses and similar matters?  Either a state-appointed magistrate or a religion-appointed priest could rule on claims by non-royalty over one another.

This, ironically, is what we are returning to in some European jurisdictions, where state-appointed judges and Islamic clerics rule over identical persons based on entirely different sets of “laws”.

Over time, “the clergy was increasingly willing to relinquish their responsibilities for dealing with these ugly matters (50)”.  Transgressions of morality split into the merely “sinful” and the “criminal”.

Apparatuses of the state developed to handle these “crimes”.  They grew into proud, mighty, monstrous, slow, cruel, destructive, ineffective and tremendously expensive structures.

Menninger went into great detail about several of these structures (53-66), concluding that the new custom was to legislate “morality” and coerce “virtue” by law.

Menninger disapproved, quoting Oliver Goldsmith, “Nothing can be more certain than that numerous written laws are a sign of a degenerate community, and are frequently not the consequences of vicious morals in a state, but the causes.”


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 4A

In Chapter 4, Menninger explored the “new social philosophy” and new moral code that seemed to manifest itself everywhere since the start of the 20th century.  He saw a trend away from controlling behavior through shame, humiliation, confession, spanking children, and pain-filled indentured labor (otherwise known as “training”).  Punishment was to be neutral, passionless, objective, and rational.

Scientific discoveries and attitudes supported the trend (38-44).  New kinds of child rearing and teaching arose.  The notion of “sin” no longer applied.  In the “new psychology”, many self-destructive, offensive and “deviant” behaviors became “symptoms” that could be “cured”.

Menninger objected, noting that words such as “crime”, “disease”, “delinquency”, and “deviancy” did not completely cover all the referents of the word “sin” (46).

He then spent several pages (47-49) defending himself against those who questioned his failure to disown the word “sin”.

Menninger’s self-defense is revealing.  His ideas stirred the academic lemmings.

The Public Cult of Progressivism has many demands. Menninger did not conform.  Therefore, he was guilty of “deviancy”.


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

All this writing about deterrents brought Menninger to the topic of masturbation.  The history of attitudes towards masturbation parallels the disappearance of “sin” and the criminalization of “sin”.

The 1716 book, Onania, or The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, went through 80 editions.  Publications decrying masturbation were published all the way to Tissot in 1901.  Freud viewed it as an addiction, second only to “smoking”.  Ok, maybe “smoking” was the second (31-36).

Yet, after the turn of the 20th century, this ancient taboo – “the sin of youth” – suddenly seemed no longer sinful, no longer dangerous, and no longer a vice.

“This sudden metamorphosis in an almost universal social attitude is more significant of the changed temper, philosophy, and morality of the twentieth century than all other phenomenon that comes to mind (36).”

Menninger wondered (36) whether the fall of this taboo was the “cause” for the upcoming disregard for all “sin”, asking “Can all sin have been repudiated as such because one behavior once considered evil is now no longer condemned? (37).


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

Menninger spent the last half of his eyewitness account of the disappearance of sin (Chapter 3) on the displacement of “sin” by “crime”.  He presented his own history of the convoluted process.

Originally, “sin” was not a “crime” (a behavior to be punished by the state).  There were good reasons for this.  Parents, churches, communities and workplaces served as effective deterrents.

For the family, one deterrent was parental intervention, as in “spare the rod and spoil the child”.

(Native American Indians were shocked at the way the Puritans beat their children.  Ironically, North American Indians were far closer to the Lebenswelt of the Paleolithic than the Lebenswelt of the Puritans.  They were not ultra-civilized beings looking down at the barely civilized barbarians.  They lived in a world where they did not know any different, until these Europeans arrived.  They had no idea that Civilization was coming and what that meant.)

For the churches, public confession and condemnations originally served as very effective deterrents against sin.  The Celtic church changed that by developing a tradition of private confession.

The community had other deterrents, such as citizen participation, police, courts and prisons.

For the workplace, training in almost any discipline also served to deter sin.  This “training” was not “what you learn in college”.  This was “on the job training”.  Skinner called it “aversive conditioning”.  Practitioners called it “getting the job done”.


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

The twist for Psychoanalysts, however, came from superego incorporation of “descriptive” and “neutral” Progressive tautologies by their clients.

Surely, the word “polluter” denotes a polarity that appears to be “descriptive” and “objective”.  At the same time, “the person accusing the polluter” is “better (morally superior)” than “the polluter”.  But the stance of the accuser does not establish personal responsibility.   The accuser does not hold herself responsible for anything.  She holds the “polluter” responsible for “pollution”.

Is that not clever?  The accuser is morally superior and – at the same time – is not personally responsible for the consequences of her accusation.

So, how does a Psychoanalyst ask the “better person who is making accusations” about her own “self-destructive behaviors” without falling into the same stance that the client held in relation to the “polluter”?  Her question commits the analyst to the patient’s superego polarities.  Her question imposes a psychoanalytic value judgment on the patient in the same fashion that the patient imposes an “environmental” value judgment on the “polluter”.

Consequently, the patient responds in the same way as a Christian would if the Psychoanalyst asked “Isn’t that sinful?”.

The analyst’s question validates the client’s superego structures.

In short, for Progressives, the patient’s superego structures anticipate analytic methods of psychiatry.  The talking cure will not work on Progressives because the Psychoanalyst cannot distance herself from the patient’s own superego.   Transference becomes a box that the analyst cannot escape.

My guess is that Menninger was feeling this, along with other patterns that made clinical work difficult.  Perhaps, he sensed that – if the client had some notion of personal responsibility – then Psychoanalysis would work better.  Maybe, everything in the mental clinics (and prisons) would work better.

Instead, Psychoanalysis has fallen out of vogue during the past 40 years.

In 2012, Menninger would ask: Whatever became of Psychoanalysis?