Theology: Conscience Vs Superego
MEANING OF CONCIENCE: Etiologically the word CONSCIENCE is derive from the Latin word Conscientia, meaning “Privity of knowledge” or with knowledge. Conscience in English implies internal awareness of a moral standard in the mind concerning the quality of one’s motives as well as consciousness of our action.
Psychologist refers to conscience as leading to feelings of remorse which turn to be blame or praise. In philosophy is considered to be “guilt feeling” or vague sense of guilt after an action had been carried out without properly examined.
Thomas A. Kempis in his book (the Imitation of Christ Ca. 148) states that glory of a good man is the witness of a good science.
In Catholic Theology, CONSCIENCE is seen as the last practical Judgment of reasoning which makes a person to do good and avoid evil at appropriate moment. In all, conscience is the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the true voice of God. It is the inner place of our relationship with God which helps us to discern and understand the path we ought to take. It is the Judgment about what is right, wrong, good or bad, perfect or imperfect. Conscience is a practical moral judgment.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, Conscience is the application of moral knowledge to a particular case (S. T. I. Q. 79, a.13).
MEANING OF SUPER EGO: This is the early child’s psyche development and automatic censor, the conduct is regulated from without, from the pressure of reality, reflecting social standard learned from parents and teachers. When a mother will tell a child don’t touch something, the child will come very near to do so but at last withdraw, saying to make the prohibition effective.
Through this a child acquires the model of behaviour that is acceptable or not acceptable to the society. From here the children develops an instinctive response to various behavioural patterns, this unconscious mechanism is call “Superego”.
Superego belongs to the “Pre-Conscience”. Superego is without form, it results from blind incorporation of environmental values, customs and demands. Based on the brought up, there can be “Criminal Superego” if brought up by criminal parents or of criminal environment or “Virtuous Superego” which if too rigid, can result to merciless task master, hatred of self or Sadism, hatred of others.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONSIENCE AND SUPEREGO
The voice of a true conscience moves us to do something because we have come to personally see the truth of some value like the value of community worship. True conscience is value oriented. Through a process of prayer, study, reflection, dialogue with others coupled with one’s own experience, one then comes to recognize a particular truth to embrace it. While Superego is authority oriented. One has to do something because some external authority or laws say he should.
Conscience is a law written in the core of our being by God telling us to do good and avoid evil. While Superego is external authority telling us what is right and wrong.
According to John Glaser, Superego is static, does not grow, and does not learn, cannot function creatively in a new situation-merely repeat a basic command. It is past-oriented. While conscience is “dynamic; an awareness and sensitivity value which develops and grows; a mind-set which can precisely function in a new situation. It is future- oriented and creative.
Superego produces automatic guilt feeling whenever sin is committed while conscience deepens itself to know if sin is deliberately Committed against God and neighbor and if founds so recognizes contrition as a new experience of God’s loving mercy which bring about a radical change of heart.
True conscience is a source of effective motivation while Superego is infallible as a tormentor of failure.
The noticeable difference between not influence by personal feelings of the Superego and the personal call of God in the depth of conscience is important to authentic religious life. While the tyrannical rule of the Superego calling to prevent punishment can easily be transferred to God, causing a grave false in religious upbringing.
Gregory Baum express it as the idea of God, as Judge on a throne, meting out punishment, corresponds to a self-destructive trend of the human psyche- – – – The person who is dominated by his Superego has the accuser, Judge and tormentor all wrapped in one built into his own psychic make up.
When people have been kept under the rule of Superego for a long time, through authoritarian imposition, is not easy to tell them follow your conscience. Any force applied here, will leads only to complete disorientation. A mature conscience cannot be developed in a day. Patience and progressive depending on moral values and a gradual initiation to moral autonomy is needed.
Conscience is our in born moral divine compass while Superego is the part of us that seeks to accommodate social values to fit in with the word.
Conscience is an inmate sense of what is right and by fighting it, you’re always going to be doing wrong. Superego is a nagging machine in the brain and if it is from parents then obviously it isn’t not going to be corrected.
The Id tells, gives you primal urges such as eating and sexual behaviour and the Superego talk you when and how it is acceptable to satisfy both your Id. Ego deals with all the possible solution to satisfy both part of your sub-conscious. Basically you Superego is more or less like your conscience that tells you right from wrong.
Finally Superego is a training or habit acquire through man while conscience is an imprint of God’s truth in the heart of every man, left for him man to listen before carrying out any action.
Christian Living, According to Vatican 11, Moral Theology Judge V. Lobo. Theological Publication India, 2003.
SG Answers Yahoo.Com / Question Index.
Note from Rv. Fr. Benjamin Bala.