422 PSYCHOTHERAPY : SCIENTIFIC AND RELIGIOUS chap.
' Saint Joan', is in large part due to the truth and poignancy of his characterization, in which the tragedy of ill-instructed conscience could hardly be more vividly expressed.
Again, rational reflection on moral choices not only fails to ensure that an act recognized as good is carried out in practice ; it is no more an infallible guide than conscience. It is only too liable to slip into rationalization or self-sophistication, the finding of bad reasons for what our desires lead us to do. Yet no man can reasonably doubt that conscience and rational reflection are supremely good and precious powers.
Social conventions are no better as a guide. Though they are the necessary fly-wheel of common life, they are confessedly variable and uncertain as a moral force. One culture revolts indignantly against what another culture regards with indifference or even approval. Slavery, infanticide, and torture have been recognized institutions in highly civilized communities.
Thus, if we are to take seriously the moral aspirations of mankind, we are bound to seek a more ultimate criterion and a profounder motive for the wholesome life. They must be found, if at all, in the ultimate structure and constitution of the universe. Psychologists, sociologists and moralists all agree that the present disintegration of values, and the scepticism and living for the moment that follows from this, is socially disastrous ; and that it has contributed to the production in the community of the present great incidence of neurotic disorders, which are the outcome of this way of living. No one can bear for any length of time living only in the present without security, continuity and allegiance to any scheme of values. The latter implies a more serene, timeless and spaceless attitude to existence.
Now a religious philosophy does present us with this