Remorse vs. sense of guilt

Possibility of Being

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Some of you are likely familiar with Jacob Needleman's writings. He was mentioned in several threads, and especially his book Lost Christianity. Some time ago and in another his book Why can't we be good, I found what I call a little pearl: Needleman's remarks on a difference between remorse and guilt and how important it is for those in the Work to know the difference.

The leading motto, if I can say so, of the book is a verse from the Bible (Romans 7:19):

"For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do."
So, in that particular chapter Needleman talks first a bit about evil - how pervasive it is in our world and how it violates "the most fundamental canon, of trust and honesty." Then he says:

The question is vast beyond imagining in its breadth and depth in human history. But it is equally vast, so to say, in its personal, individual intimacy. The force of human evil—call it by what name you will—reaches as deeply into the individual human heart as it reaches into the causal chain of human history. It is as much one's own, my own, central fact as it is a central fact of humanity, man-on-earth. The two aspects of evil, the inner and outer, the personal and the collective, reflect each other. And we cannot imagine, we cannot comprehend either aspect of the force of evil, just as we cannot imagine, cannot comprehend the greatness and goodness of what we are in our hidden essence and what we are meant to be: conscious instruments of the Absolute.

The great religious and philosophical spiritualities of the world teach that we men-on-earth exist between two infinities: the great cosmos around and above us and the cosmic world within us, each a reflection of the other. ... We might say, in this respect, that in order to know the universe, that is, in order to know reality, it is fundamentally necessary to know ourselves. ... But now we must consider another aspect of this idea that is usually left out of its expression in the familiar presentations, an aspect that is there in the wholeness of the teachings, but has been, as it were, "re-located" in a place very distant from the idea of the microcosm. And that idea is what we must now consider as we begin to ponder the work of stepping out of the theater of the mind in order to try to live according to what we know to be good. That idea is this: man exists also between two evils:
the evil without and the evil within: the sin and ignorance of mankind itself and the sin and ignorance of one's own self.
Needleman continues:

The Christian doctrine of "original sin" was no doubt intended as an expression of this idea. 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.
And now:

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, together with the physical and metaphysical relaxation of the ego's condition of tension, a relaxation that opens the heart and the body to receive a new quality of attention—an attention, or conscious energy, that in the Eastern Orthodox tradition has been called "the attention that comes from God."

It is imperative that we study this difference in ourselves, for it is such emotions as guilt and fear, with their reflexes of self-pity and anger, that arise in us with such force outside the theater of the mind, in the 'streets' of our everyday life; it is such emotions that we need to understand if there is to be any hope of manifesting in our actions the good that we discover in ourselves - even if it be only in "the theater of the mind"—when we try to touch or sustain in ourselves the power to love, which is the ultimate basis of all ethical action and principles.

Such ideas about human evil and its reconciliation in ourselves through the action of remorse may without difficulty be found in the discourses and writings of teachers and guides in all the great spiritual traditions, East and West, throughout the ages. But in this context there is one element in these teachings that is not often noticed, an element which in a strange way seems to have concealed itself even as it is expressed time and again in the literary and artistic transmissions that have come down to us. And it is safe to say that it is this that is perhaps the chief missing element in all our struggles to live according to what we know is good. It is an element that has been forgotten in most Western religions; ... And yet, without this element, ethics must ultimately remain what it has been in so much of human history and in our individual lives: little more than a grand self-deception, the dream of doing—an unrealizable ideal that at best enables society to function, but which in a deeper sense only masks our collective and individual moral impotence, to the point that now the world of nature and man is in real danger of complete destruction. ... We identify this missing element as the work of establishing a relationship between the mind and the body.
...which takes us to the field we should already know a bit of, like for example from G's, Madame de Salzmann's and Peter Levine's writings. But that's another story.
 

Thomas Alan

The Living Force
Needleman is, indeed good at getting the heart of the matter.

"Guilt is counterfeit responsibility." Don't remember where this quote comes from. We use guilt to shield us from the mirror, seeing ourselves as we really are.

Mac
 

Avi

Jedi Council Member
Mac said:
Needleman is, indeed good at getting the heart of the matter.

"Guilt is counterfeit responsibility." Don't remember where this quote comes from. We use guilt to shield us from the mirror, seeing ourselves as we really are.

Mac
I see guilt as the great castrator, keeping one stuck and in this sense, unable to learn, which is perhaps the greatest sin.

Guilt seems to feed that type of awareness that is stagnant and mechanical, turning in on itself versus open to learning, in which case blame (sibling to guilt) does not form part of the picture. (when truly learning)

Although ignorance is in some respects no excuse, can we really resort to blame of self or others for our fumbling in our learning how to come out of ignorance and into knowledge?

Remorse would seem to imply getting in touch with true empathy and therefore feeling the longing for something "lost", perhaps innocence or purity, perhaps simply the lessons one needs to learn.

The first seems like inertia, the second like one of those shocks so very necessary from time to time.

Really nice quotes from Needleman.
 

Menna

The Living Force
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Guilt or feeling Guilty - "I feel bad (Guilty) that I treated you this way" So the person believes that they feel bad because they made another feel bad. When in reality it was all them and their actions or words.

Remorse - "I did something wrong owning up to it 100%" Instead of projected what you did on another and saying you made another feel bad... remorse holds the person accountable for their wrong doings.

I think Guilt is a "Buffer" as G called it. Hiding yourslef from the shock that it is you that did something wrong - not that you made another feel bad but that what you did was wrong and it is YOU.

Guilt is not owning up to it and remorse is owning up to it.

My take on the subject :P
 

Approaching Infinity

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Menna said:
Guilt or feeling Guilty - "I feel bad (Guilty) that I treated you this way" So the person believes that they feel bad because they made another feel bad. When in reality it was all them and their actions or words.

Remorse - "I did something wrong owning up to it 100%" Instead of projected what you did on another and saying you made another feel bad... remorse holds the person accountable for their wrong doings.

I think Guilt is a "Buffer" as G called it. Hiding yourslef from the shock that it is you that did something wrong - not that you made another feel bad but that what you did was wrong and it is YOU.

Guilt is not owning up to it and remorse is owning up to it.
I don't think that's quite what Needleman was suggesting. Remorse can involve feeling bad that we hurt someone, but linked with that feeling is the fact that this act reveals who we are, our level of being. It's not that we "made a mistake" or "could have or should have done something different", but that we are not of the level of being so that our actions do not hurt others. Quite simply, we hurt others. Being aware of, and feeling, the hurt we cause others is a big part of remorse, I think. In fact, I think it's the starting point. If we just feel bad because we've "broken a rule", that's just guilt, i.e. externally determined.

Picture yourself doing the Milgram experiment. You seemingly give a person a lethal shock just because some guy in a white suit told you had to. Guilt would be feeling bad because you "did something wrong", like there was any choice involved whatsoever. But there was no choice. You reacted because of social pressures. Remorse would be feeling the hurt you caused another, and deeply realizing that this is who you are and what YOU did. You have no authenticity, no consistency. You are a machine that would kill a person just because someone told you to. And that feeling of nothingness, of insignificance, of the total nullity of your existence and every high-and-mighty ideal you had of yourself - that remorse of conscience - may prompt the desire, the impulse, the wish to be something else. Instead of empty promises, it will prompt you to wish to understand why you are the way you are, and how you can become something different.
 

Harold

Jedi Council Member
Mac said:
Needleman is, indeed good at getting the heart of the matter.

"Guilt is counterfeit responsibility." Don't remember where this quote comes from. We use guilt to shield us from the mirror, seeing ourselves as we really are.

Mac
Great quote, great thread.
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Mac said:
...
"Guilt is counterfeit responsibility." Don't remember where this quote comes from.
...
Hmmm. Only one result that I can find: _http://pages.videotron.com/drroots/Raw%20Katos.htm

I suspect, sir, that guilt is a counterfeit of responsibility. Just as punishment is a sham of correction.
- RAW, The Widow’s Son (p. 323)
I agree with Needleman's description of the guilt-remorse relationship.
 

Menna

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thank you...Well put well put

"Remorse can involve feeling bad that we hurt someone, but linked with that feeling is the fact that this act reveals who we are, our level of being."

This is what I ment by Guilt be a buffer - I read that they are put in place created by you to avoid the truth.

Is remorse then considered a big stepping stone from a spiritual sense? Help you move along on the learning curve?
 

Voyageur

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Nicely spotted and most appropriate quote from Jacob Needleman’s writings. Guilt, bumped up to a facsimile meaning of remorse, which is now used so liberally that the meaning has become interchangeable and somewhat lost from its former intent. Actions of guilt become artificially remorseful in the now, taming the initial intent for something it cannot be without deeper work. This also reminded me of one type of native healing circle i’ve read about where these matters, looked at deeply within, in front of and amongst a group of young and old, enable a perpetrator of say a moral wrong to look deeply at how this affected themselves and others, and only then, with the communities support, can the healing process begin in the embodiment of remorsefulness, osit is the meaning.

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, together with the physical and metaphysical relaxation of the ego's condition of tension, a relaxation that opens the heart and the body to receive a new quality of attention—an attention, or conscious energy, that in the Eastern Orthodox tradition has been called "the attention that comes from God."
 
Very interesting thread and closely related to a program that I've discovered in myself. My angle on this may sound a bit tangential at first but please bear with me:

Some time ago I was thinking in practical and simplistic terms about STS control and how hard and time consuming it is to actually control (or micro-manage) someone. We in this forum know that almost everyone is controlled by someone else (individually or en masse) but constantly controlling someone doesn't make logistical sense. Constant control of someone means that you are not living your own life, you are living someone else's, which actually means that you are being controlled in turn, if you get my drift.

This led logically to another thought: what if there was some kind of program which you could install in someone and then just leave them be, in effect causing them to control themselves in your name, based on the parameters you (i.e. the controlling STS entity) set. Almost like a self-regulating feed-back type of mechanism which pulls the controlled entity back when it exceeds certain levels of understanding its own state. As I wondered at what such a hypothetical mechanism could be I suddenly broke out into a cold sweat as I realised that such a mechanism was not hypothetical, it really did exist and is called 'guilt'.

If you look around and listen to and watch the people around you, you soon realise that they all (or we all) suffer from some nebulous, undefinable feeling that we are not good enough, that we actually need controlling because we are potential walking disasters, that we don't look good enough, that we hurt the planet with everything we do, that we're not good enough parents... a kind of low-level mushy noise that constantly distracts us and continually 'puts us in our place'. It's almost always a voice at the back of one's mind: your mother's voice, your teacher's voice, your priest's, your imam's, your God's... and so on.

I found this thread particularly interesting and validating because it makes the distinction between 'guilt' and 'remorse' so clear. Remorse is a 'real' feeling where you sincerely wish you hadn't done or said something. It is rooted in reality; there was a real action which resulted in a real and undesirable reaction and you wish you hadn't done (or said) the something that caused this.

Guilt however, is formless, isn't rooted in reality but in an imagined future reality where you will feel remorse because of who or what you are: you will die because you don't exercise enough or drink too much, you will hurt your kids because you aren't a good parent, you will be fired because someone will discover that you aren't as good an employee as you pretended to be, you will burn in hell because you know that within yourself you are bad... etc etc. Different strokes for different folks but with exactly the same result: all are controlled by a self-regulating program that never quits and needs almost no maintenance from STS.

In this sense remorse a very real and natural result of having made a mistake and I'd hazard that it's a feeling that only a potential STO, souled being would feel. Remorse is also a lesson, an opportunity to learn from one's mistake and getting in touch with one's conscience (or soul). Guilt is an unnatural program installed from an external source and one that constantly distracts and disables by causing you to control yourself in the name of another.

Ergo, remorse is most definitely superior to guilt and guilt is most definitely a program that one sincerely involved in the Work needs to get rid of ASAP. The entity who has cleaned it's 'lens' of the miasma of guilt has more opportunity to feel remorse and the entity who is sovereign enough to guide itself towards paths which cause it less remorse (and consequently less hurt to others) is an entity well on it's way to full STO polarisation.

Does this make sense?
 

Thomas Alan

The Living Force
It makes a lot of sense, Giray Khan. Guilt can steal our pleasures. Smoking, taking time to learn new things, being with friends, enjoying good food. Guilt can take away the joy in anything.

"I shouldn't really do this, people won't like me, I should be doing other things instead of what I enjoy."

Without joy life becomes drudgery and fear. Guilt destroys joy before it's first glow.

To not run the guilt program we must face ourselves and our actions as they really are. If I do something that is not right I can employ the moment to see my own mechanicalness, my state of being at the time I acted. If I don't the same type of action will repeat.

"I shouldn't have behaved that way but it's ok, I'm feeling guilty about it."

I hadn't thought of guilt as a program before. But, it seems, it is a very powerful program.

Mac
 
Mac said:
I hadn't thought of guilt as a program before. But, it seems, it is a very powerful program.
Exactly. Entire religions are based on this program (Catholicism is the prime example) and have scarred generations of souls so deeply that they never even had the courage to peek out of the window of their prison, let alone try and force the door... :(

But the genius of this thread that got me was the separation of two concepts which seem to be synonymous but actually aren't: guilt is an eternally present, externally imposed distraction while remorse is a personal and very accurate guide which only appears when needed.

By the way, if I've inadvertently hijacked this thread I will feel remorse but I won't beat myself up about it ;D
 

Buddy

The Living Force
Giray Khan the Brave said:
By the way, if I've inadvertently hijacked this thread I will feel remorse but I won't beat myself up about it ;D
:lol:
I agree with ya'll. I think guilt is an infection put into us to make us obedient, whereas remorse comes from the heart due to inner recognition of some undesirable something about self.
 
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