You know you're in purgatory when you feel the presence of the conscience, which is the interior grumpass that always reveals true north.
The conscience -- which is nonlocal and universal -- must be distinguished from the culture-bound superego, which Freud mistakenly conflated with it.
The latter is mere adaptation to a particular world, whereas genuine morality struggles to make the world reflect its standards, which are both timeless and universal. One of the characteristics of hell is that the people there have a superego that sanctions evil. Is there any doubt that the idealistic Hitler thought he was performing a service to mankind?
For just as truth cannot be relative and still call itself truth, nor can virtue be a matter of mere cultural conformity. As Burke said, custom reconciles us to everything, no matter how immoral -- human sacrifice, genital mutilation, the designated hitter.
One might say that conscience is vertical, while secular law should be a horizontal prolongation of this. Laws that intrinsically violate the conscience are not laws at all; to the contrary, the good man is obliged to underlook such laws.
Schuon writes that it is incumbent upon us to recognize this distinction "between what is good according to the law and what is good according to virtue," for "a base man can obey the law, be it only through simple constraint, while a noble man may be obliged, exceptionally, to transgress a law out of virtue." But The fool, seeing that customs change, says that morality varies (Don Colacho).
Pope Benedict discusses this in terms of apodictic vs. casuistic law; the former involves "metanorms" such as the Ten Commandments, which come straight from God, whereas the latter are more conditional instantiations of the Law, analogous to the distinction between principles and rules.
So long as we fall short of perfection, the conscience is there to remind us of it. To put it another way, Perfection is the point where what we can do and what we want to do coincide with what we ought to do; or, Ethics culminates where the rule appears to be an expression of the person (Don Colacho's Aphorisms).
One might say that "manners" or "politeness" or "ethics" must pass from mere outward action to interior being; or that being must increasingly infuse action. I don't want my son to merely do good but to be good -- which is to say, happy.
Until that point, it is as if we are inhabited by an Other who does not rest until it is either assimilated -- i.e., it becomes one with our own substance -- or we kill it.
But one cannot actually kill the conscience. In this regard, it's a little like the Terminator, who can be smashed into bits, but the bits have a tendency to want to come back together. Therefore, you have to keep shooting and shooting, just to keep him dead. Or, you have to run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place. The hellhound is always on your trail.
As Bion describes the process, "In so far as the destruction is successful, the patient experiences a failure in his capacity for perception.... [The] sense of imprisonment is intensified by the menacing presence of the expelled fragments within whose planetary movements he is contained."
Note that one of the most dreadful characteristics of the left is to externalize the conscience in the form of their endless proliferation of law. A fool or knave imagines that if he obeys "the law," this makes him a good citizen. But We can never count on a man who does not look upon himself with the look of an entomologist (Don Colacho).
I would say Adamologist. For if one doesn't get the gist of Adam, one's moral philosophy will be a jest.
In reality, the externalization of conscience leads to a situation in which the soul is bereft of interior guidance. It is reminiscent of the income tax system that is designed to compel us to be "charitable," but in practical terms forces us to find any way possible to avoid being charitable, through loopholes, tax shelters, deductions, and what not.
Note that the free market has a way of converting man's faults into virtues. Conversely, leftism has a way of turning our virtues into faults.
The "invisible hand" of the left -- the left hand -- externalizes energy from the conscience that should properly be directed at the self. This not only gives the self a free pass, but can even result in a kind of secular sainthood, a la Al Gore or Jimmy Carter -- both of whom are bad men (the former because he is a liar, the latter because he is a hater) who are magically "cleansed" of their faults by systematically blaming others.
More generally, you can be fairly certain that anyone who accuses the wealthy of "greed" has never exhumined his own buried motivations, and for this reason has a warped view of mankind.
For to suggest that a man is "greedy" should be a banality of the first rank. The question is, what are you going to do about your greed? Make it go away by confiscating from those who have more than you? Envy, like evil, cannot be appeased. Rather, appeasing it fuels it.
The above considerations explain how and why there is no one more aware of his faults and failings than the saint, for his conscience is the most developed. Charity begins at home, by modestly ridding the world of a single assoul. "The first act of charity is to rid the soul of illusions and passions and thus rid the world of a maleficent being; it is to make a void so that God may fill it and, by this fullness, give Himself. A saint is a void open for the passage of God" (Schuon).
Also, to give materially with no spiritual strings attached is not an act of charity. As Pope Benedict explains, "When God is regarded as a secondary matter that can be set aside temporarily or permanently on account of more important things, it is precisely those supposedly more important things that come to nothing."
The nightmare of Marxism of course proves this, but so too does the lootmore of the left, which adds insult to injury by making its beneficiaries worse people, or maleficiaries. In this pathological dance, the left wing politician gets to indulge in pride, while the recipient gets to feel entitled to his envy. It's a win-win for the Crafty One!
Damn conscience! Must you follow me everywhere!