The origin of the guilty conscience may be in mishaps, such as defeat, capture and slavery. When men from exercising mastery and even cruelty, are subjected to the rule of the stronger and more warlike, their energies are turned inward in bitterness against themselves.
Upon this gnawing of ill humor comes the suggestion from religious belief, that these uncomfortable feelings are sent by the tribal god as a warning. This is readily believed by people who already believe that defeat and misfortune are punishments for some lapse of duty to their deity. The checking of an active career and humbling of the vanquished produces a bilious temper and morbid spirit, ready for ascetic rites on misdirection, because ever ready to attribute misfortunes to something other than their simple natural causes.
The guilty conscience precedes the good conscience. The latter is nothing but the consciousness of the guilty conscience removed-by expiation, atonement or however beliefs run.
Before the guilty conscience there was the spontaneity of the free savage. After the guilty and the good conscience there is the serenity of the self-conscious, sovereign, intelligent Ego. For convenience I will hereafter speak of him simply as the Egoist. While all men are Egoists in so far as they are not visionaries or madmen, nearly all men are in fact partly blinded, ashamed of themselves, not fully possessed of themselves.
They do things for conscience sake–Egoistic method in madness;-they reject religious doctrine, but have a “sense of sin ;” they have a horror of certain acts because condemnedby a “moral standard,” and so forth. They do not even understand that they cannot be “sinners” except by admitting a religious standard of “righteousness ;” that they cannot be “immoral,” wicked, without thinking as saints and Moralists think of “guilt,” “disobedience” in natural acts. They cannot even call themselves Egoists to their satisfaction because the religious world has brande d every natural impulse as vile and “unsanctified;” consequently Egoismself- direction-as the sum of all villainy, and they are hampered by accepting their language from the religious world.
The real Egoist is not even he who has merely seen through the cheat of Moralism, but he who has outgrown its habitual sway, broken its scepter, desecrated every shrine of superstition in his heart or else been more happily born and reared than one in ten thousand of those who live today or ever lived.