Veil of the Psyche

Mere Christianity

One of the dangers we face today is mistaking the spirit for the mind. We can get in the habit of thinking that logic takes the place of our spirit man. The Bible clearly tells us there is a difference between the soul and spirit. Sometimes that may be hard to determine, but there is a difference. When the mind or soul becomes the only source of insight, then basically we are ignoring the spirit. In this respect the mind can veil deep spiritual truths simply because we have failed to acknowledge the spirit. We tend to group soul and spirit together, when they are totally different. But don’t take my word for it. C.S. Lewis is his famous book, Mere Christianity, addresses this very thing. He calls it the difference between morality and psychoanalysis, and he shows the limits of psychology. In chapter 4 of Mere Christianity, Lewis gives an example of two men who go to war, but have extraordinary fear. Along comes a psychoanalyst that “cures” the two men of their fear, yet there is another problem. The problem of moral choice. It does not really matter if the men no longer have fear if they make the wrong moral choice. The absence of fear makes the choice easier, but it has nothing to do with what choice they will make. The work of psychology is all about changing the way people feel. The men felt fear, so the psychoanalyst helped them feel less fear. You do this by helping people change their thinking. Once the mind is altered, the feelings usually follow. But this a superficial fix. It only solves an external problem; it does nothing to solve the internal problems of man.

When I was in school, I studied what is called Behavior Modification, basically how to change someone’s behavior. The irony of this is that when I got to the end of the course, I realized, and even the professor admitted, the vast limitations of this process. The fact is behavior modification is a way to externally change behavior. And yes, it does work. However, once you remove the “deterrents” or things that change the behavior, the person or animal returns to the previous state. What good is that? That is the whole problem. Psychological change is of some use, but is does not change the person, it only puts things in place to change external behavior. Once these “things” are removed, there is nothing to keep the behavior in place. I remember thinking after studying these ideas, “how does one really change?” The irony of this is that I already had the answer, but the psychology was blinding me to that answer. Lewis at the end of his chapter on psychoanalysis and morality says this:

the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.

The dangers of the psyche are very real. Using psychology to solve spiritual problems is a great deception. It misleads us into thinking that we are actually solving these problems ourselves. When in reality we have just hidden the real spiritual problems we face. We have changed externally, but done nothing about the real internal problems of man. We have hidden the problem and been lulled into thinking we have become our own masters. This is humanistic thinking and leads to a very fake, pharisaical life. There is no greater danger to our culture today than the veil of the psyche. It plagues us because we have been falsely led into believing psychology can solve all our problems, when in reality it has the potential to put us in a worse state both mentally and spiritually.

 

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