It is acknowledged by most students of human behaviour that the idea of guilt is closely connected with that of man’s freedom and responsibility. It is a theme of law-court and pulpit, a concern of psychoanalysis and probation officers, a growing pre-occupation of the novelist. Our era has even been described as a ‘guilt-consciousness age’. It comes as a surprise, therefore, to discover that there are so few modern books in which the meaning of guilt is thoroughly explored.
In the present volume, originally published in 1962, Dr J.G. McKenzie makes an admirable attempt to fill the gap. He begins by describing and analysing the various senses in which the word ‘guilt’ is used and by making a number of important distinctions. There follows a close psychological study of the origin and development of guilty feelings which is illumined by Dr McKenzie’s interpretation of ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ conscience. The author then turns to the legal, ethical and religious concepts of guilt and examines each with care and insight, always raising and facing the deepest issues for both theory and practice. In the concluding section of the book he deals with the question ‘How can the sense of guilt be dissipated?’ Against the backdrop of depth-psychology and theology he offers a penetrating and provocative understanding of divine forgiveness which plumbs the deeps both of man’s sin and of God’s love.
Dr McKenzie writes out of a long lifetime of teaching and of clinical work in psychotherapy. The range of his reading and interests is extraordinarily wide. Through all his writing there shines not only his profound concern for people but his lively and indeed infectious conviction that man is still in the making and that his one true Maker is God.