Bad-conscience, Superego, Freedom: how much are these three things intertwined? Our Superego gives us a bad conscience, a sense of what should be done that we are not doing – it inspires an action. Freedom is to be moved to act – either because we want to or because we need to – and in the choice of either consummating or not that act. Only if we are inspired to act can we be free, and we will only ever be inspired to act if we have a sense of an action that needs to be carried out, of something that has not yet been started or finished. And this sense of duty is mainly generated by our bad conscience or our Superego.
When will humanity start to see itself as humanity? When will we start to judge the value of our lives according to what humanity has done? Not as a race, or nation; not as a competing thing – and all nations, classes, religions are competing things – but as Humanity.
When humanity does do this, if it ever can, it will have to fall into a depression caused by the guilt of a terrible conscience. That guilt which will be the realisation of how much has been wasted; how much history of non-progress, of movement away from the humanity that has never ever been realised. Humanity is that which we are but have never been. Humanity: our great family that we have always been avoiding; that we have never been able to embrace.
If we look at history, the creation of the polis and its politics, the creation of the Nation State, and the empires of trade and religions, we must see a steady process of division rather than any unification. This should weigh on our consciences. What kind of guilt gnaws at us for that loss, not of innocence, but of unity and the potential civilisation that could have been born out of that unity? What kind of guilt for all our crimes against those of our own species? What kind of perverse diversion from reality made human beings the objects of fear and hate and the exploitation of one another?
But is this guilt, this bad-conscience for doing so badly at fulfilling our true human potential a bad thing? Doesn’t the guilt not remind us of a duty? Does it not evoke a direction for all of us? Knowing what one’s duty is liberates one from having to search for it. Duty anchors and liberates at the same time. Anchored we become free to float without fear of being carried away into waters we cannot possibly get back from.
Has there ever been a more depressing age than our own nihilistic one? What is worse, nihilism has submerged guilt to far deeper subconscious levels than the religions ever did. Guilt and duty can only be positive forces if they are conscious ones. In Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment Marmeladov is healthier than Raskolnikov, but only because he is aware of a duty, albeit a phantasmagorical one. Both Raskolnikov and Marmeladov are disillusioned by the duties they think they must follow, because both of them ignore their most real duty, which is the duty towards humanity. Both become afflicted by the fantasy of sin, and become incapable of comprehending the real humanity they are told they should love. They are incapable of finding love for humanity because it is overshadowed by a love of the fantasy figure of the monotheistic God. Raskolnikov’s guilt is tripled by turning his back on Christianity to embrace nihilism, which unsatisfactorily maintains him and he finds himself struggling for the anchor of guilt. A guilt which is of such a nature that punishment cannot absolve him from it. The nature of guilt is in the non-fulfilment or in the losing of one’s way. It seems it can only be remedied by putting one on the tracks toward a real purpose and aim.
And the only real aim for humanity can be the aim to be human and to recognise all other humans as human beings the same as we are. The only real aim can be the non-competitive aims of creativity and invention, not for personal gain, but for the satisfaction for having contributed in the furthering of human fulfilment as a knowing creature, as Sapiens.