Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 8K

Substitute “political incorrectness” in for “the sins of sensuality” (in the previous blog) to get a flavor of one of the many atrocities that Menninger was unconsciously hoping to avoid: Sexual injustice is a crime only if it is politically incorrect – or worse – involves a person deemed “politically incorrect”.

Perhaps, Portnoy (of Portnoy’s Complaint) was not the poster-child of modernism in this regard.

Can you imagine who might be?


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 8I

How would Menninger’s mandala apply to lust, fornication, adultery and pornography?

With modernism, the horizontal axis, “crime(sin(symptom))” could be “crimes of sexual injustice(the sins of sensuality(the psychology of the sex drive))”.

Note how the term “crimes of sexual injustice” encompass more than anything that would be in the books of modern law.  They include breaking hearts.

The vertical axis of “thinkgroup(sin(consciencelacking))” might be the “denial of the intrinsic sinfulness of anything connected with sex(sins of sensuality(the capacity to violate trust and integrity))”.

Three of the four poles are theoretically “liberating”: “the psychology of the sex drive”, “the capacity to violate trust and integrity”, and “denial of any intrinsic sinfulness to sex”.

These liberations are countered by “crimes of sexual injustice”.

The liberations are “social”.  The injustice is “cosmic”.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 8H

Now, let us consider the next section of Chapter 8: “The Sins of Sensuality – Lust, Fornication, Adultery and Pornography”.

Before modern awareness, portrayals of sex were considered immoral, reprehensible, and anathema.

OK, it was bigger than that.

Even thoughts about sex (totally imaginary private portrayals, so to speak) were considered immoral, reprehensible, and anathema.  St. Anthony struggled.  So did Augustinian monks and nuns.

For centuries, “being good” meant sexual restraint, denial and suppression – with certain caveats depending on one’s elite status.

But somehow, the sexual act survived.  Otherwise, we would not be here.

In the modern era, psychoanalysts attacked the hypocrisy of “denouncing sexual expression” while at the same time practicing the act, including adultery and masturbation”.

Today, the trend is to deny any intrinsic sinfulness in regards to sex, despite the fact that modern sex games may be intentionally hurtful, destructive or predatory.

Better perhaps, to have an unbroken heart, like the companion to Christian, the hero of Pilgrim’s Progress.  Her name was Faithful.  She had integrity.  She could be trusted.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 8G

Ironically, Menninger, a Freudian Psychoanalyst, appears to have constructed a mandala, which exemplifies the logic of Carl Jung, Freud’s greatest disappointment.

One axis – the horizontal axis – of the mandala is crime(sin(symptom)).

The other axis – the vertical axis – appears to be a union of exclusive opposites: thinkgroup(sin(consciencelacking) and thinkdivine (virtue(consciencefree)).


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 8C

In Chapters 7 and 8, Menninger argued this: A “sin” may also be regarded as a “crime” or a “symptom”, but that does not mean that “sin” is no longer important.

The nested form, crime(sin(symptom)) preserves this substance and adds another layer of sophistication.  Every “sin” is contextualized as “crime” and made possible by “symptoms”.

If narcissism is defined as “what makes sins of pride possible”, then the basic nested form of crime(sin(symptom)) becomes crime(sins of pride(narcissism)).

So far so good, now let us go to the other axis.

Menninger mentions both “moral dereliction” and “self-deification” (137) as possible labels for what makes “the sins of pride” possible along this axis.  Thus making the nested form “groupthink(sins of pride(self-deification))”.

“Moral dereliction” and “self-deification” belong to “lack of conscience”.


Thoughts on Whatever Became of Sin? By Karl Menninger MD (1973) 8B1

The first section is “sin manifested as pride”.

After listing various manifestations of pride, Menninger raised the issue of narcissism.

Narcissism is a “clinical term”, defined as “a disability that could respond to medical mending”.  But this does not preclude the view that narcissism is moral dereliction; that is, a “sin”.

Menninger’s conclusion:  Character correction should not belong to the private domain of any single professional discipline (137).

Consider this claim in terms of nestedness.  Sin belongs to the realm of actuality.  We have seen from previous blogs that “the possibility that underlies sin” is “symptom” (which would correspond to a clinical axis) and (from chapter 7) and “lack of conscience” (which would correspond to the group-think axis) – or perhaps – “free will” (which would correspond to a virtuous axis that seems to be an alternative to the group-think axis).

Now, apply this to the “sins of pride”. “Narcissism” belongs to the “symptom”. The two attitudes of “moral dereliction” (137) and “personal self-deification” (137) belong to the alternatives of  “lack of conscience” and perhaps, “free will”.

OK.  How about “free conscience”?