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Self Control of Thought Processes


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I have a question on thought processes.


I include here an excert of Augustine of Hippo in regards to how one is culpable of sins of thought. I wish to do further research on his work and would appreciate any constructive input on the matter.


I am interested in the scientific accuracy of this writing in general, and in particular the former of the statement outlined in bold.


I am also curious as to how control of the thought is accomplished, and how it differs pathologically from the latter.


"On the contrary, Augustine adds after a few words: "Man will be altogether lost unless, through the grace of the Mediator, he be forgiven those things which are deemed mere sins of thought, since without the will to do them, he desires nevertheless to enjoy them." But no man is lost except through mortal sin. Therefore consent to delectation is a mortal sin.

I answer that, There have been various opinions on this point, for some have held that consent to delectation is not a mortal sin, but only a venial sin, while others have held it to be a mortal sin, and this opinion is more common and more probable. For we must take note that since every delectation results from some action, as stated in Ethica Nicomachea x,4, and again, that since every delectation may be compared to two things, viz. to the operation from which it results, and to the object in which a person takes delight. Now it happens that an action, just as a thing, is an object of delectation, because the action itself can be considered as a good and an end, in which the person who delights in it, rests. Sometimes the action itself, which results in delectation, is the object of delectation, in so far as the appetitive power, to which it belongs to take delight in anything, is brought to bear on the action itself as a good: for instance, when a man thinks and delights in his thought, in so far as his thought pleases him; while at other times the delight consequent to an action, e.g. a thought, has for its object another action, as being the object of his thought; and then his thought proceeds from the inclination of the appetite, not indeed to the thought, but to the action thought of. Accordingly a man who is thinking of fornication, may delight in either of two things: first, in the thought itself, secondly, in the fornication thought of. Now the delectation in the thought itself results from the inclination of the appetite to the thought; and the thought itself is not in itself a mortal sin; sometimes indeed it is only a venial sin, as when a man thinks of such a thing for no purpose; and sometimes it is no sin at all, as when a man has a purpose in thinking of it; for instance, he may wish to preach or dispute about it. Consequently such affection or delectation in respect of the thought of fornication is not a mortal sin in virtue of its genus, but is sometimes a venial sin and sometimes no sin at all: wherefore neither is it a mortal sin to consent to such a thought. In this sense the first opinion is true.

But that a man in thinking of fornication takes pleasure in the act thought of, is due to his desire being inclined to this act. Wherefore the fact that a man consents to such a delectation, amounts to nothing less than a consent to the inclination of his appetite to fornication: for no man takes pleasure except in that which is in conformity with his appetite. Now it is a mortal sin, if a man deliberately chooses that his appetite be conformed to what is in itself a mortal sin. Wherefore such a consent to delectation in a mortal sin, is itself a mortal sin, as the second opinion maintains. Q74,A8"






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Thought processing has two aspects. One aspect has an emotional valence the second is the thought itself. These are connected due to the formation of cerebral memory being connected to an aspect of the limbic system, which controls emotional valence. One can think of fornication and begin to induce the parallel feelings. Or one can see a beautiful woman who may induce the feelings causing a related fantasy or spontaneous thought processing. The though processing can then reinforce the feelings so that with the stimulus gone, one can still feel the feelings, and drift off further in the inagination, etc. I think what is being discribed is the two ways one can induce thoughts. One can think and then feel, or feel and then think. Both can create the loop.


The idea of mortal and venial sin has to do with the direction of the fantasy loop. The ego has some control over where the fantasy is going. It goes to an end that is in contradiction to basic moral value or it can go in contraction to temporal moral value; two types of violation. The sin aspect was an attempt to not let fantasy loops control reality. If one sees a beautiful female and begins to feel for her, the feelings can cause one to drifts off to a happy ending. This might put one out of touch with reality at the very least, or make one try to act out the fanatasy, leading to the violation of another. The purpose of the sin is to force one to question free association. During times of repression, various emotions will pop to the surface to be made conscious or whole again. This can set up the loops. If this is paralled with reality data, projection can take over the objectivity of the ego causing an improper reaction to reality.

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