“The Christian doctrine of “original sin” was no doubt intended as an expression of this idea. [That we exist between two evils…the evil outside and the evil within.] As such, it was perhaps intended to help men and women confront the degraded state of their being and by so doing support in them – in us – the healing action of remorse. Instead, it has had the effect of inducing a quite opposite response within ourselves, namely guilt, a response which masquerades as remorse, but which has become one of the main obstacles to the confrontation with oneself that is necessary in order for man to receive the reconciling force of what is called in Christianity the Holy Spirit (or ‘the Comforter’), and the idea of which exists in all the great traditions, under other names –that same Holy Spirit symbolized by the image of the white dove. 

    Metaphysically and psychologically, guilt is the opposite of remorse. Guilt is founded on the illusory premise that we should have and could have acted differently in this or that situation, with this or that person or in the light of this or that ideal. Remorse, on the other hand, is rooted in the objective perception that it is the state of our being that has been revealed, that this is what we are — contrary to what we have believed about our moral capacities. In guilt we may vow to do better — which is often a way the ego has of ‘quarantining’ the momentary impression of deep-seated moral incapacity and preventing it from entering into us as truth. Remorse, on the other hand, brings with it no external or internal promises to do anything, but only the profoundly sorrowful acceptance of what we are.”


 

–Jacob Needleman

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