Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of January 13, 2014

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Being Your Conscience

(Being Yourself: Part 9)

We have in us an impulse to do the right thing. The source of that impulse is our conscience, in the core of our will. Conscience comes through our I, so that we intuitively recognize the right action to take. Although conscience generally accords with and is informed by our childhood training and the moral norms and laws of our society, it does not depend on childhood training, norms, rules, or laws. We know what is right and what is wrong and thereby we also obey the law.

Still, we sometimes confront situations where it is not clear what is right and what is wrong. Here we tread carefully. This lack of clarity can be due to our unwillingness to accept what we know to be true, driving us to put up a fog of self-obfuscation, dissembling, and justification. Whenever we notice our mind raising arguments that a certain course of action really is OK, that is usually a sign that it is really not OK and we are just trying to convince ourselves otherwise. We take care in such cases not to allow our preferences to cloud our judgment and obscure our conscience.

But it does happen that there are gray situations, where none of our options seems clearly superior in terms of right and wrong. Then we can look at other criteria like congruence with our life goals and effects on other people and the environment.

Conscience is the basis of integrity. We all know and respect people of integrity. We also know that integrity is perhaps the most valuable quality a person can have. The value of integrity is clear in our day-to-day life. We trust a person of integrity and tend to treat them well. Yet it is just as crucial in our spiritual life.

A clear conscience helps enable our contact with the spirit, whereas actions that go against our conscience and weigh on our heart put up barriers to that contact. Access to the deeper realms of the spirit require purity of motivation and a clear conscience. Without that we get bounced out of heaven.

But we have all done things that violate our conscience. Is there any hope? Some of those things stand out, causing us to feel remorse. Those actions we redress where possible by trying to make amends, such as apologies and/or compensation for the wrong we have done to others. Then we may be able to forgive ourselves. If not, the fires of remorse may gradually purify us. And most importantly, we resolve, going forward, to listen to our conscience and act accordingly. If we aspire to the spiritual heart of the world, we cannot afford to bury our conscience by ignoring it or acting against it. We can liberate ourselves from the burden of acts we know to be wrong. Conscience helps us toward freedom from our egoistic self-centeredness.

For some, the notion of karma, or as you sow so shall you reap, provides the extra motivation needed to do the right thing, knowing that if we do the wrong thing, undesirable results inevitably rebound on us. For others, love and compassion provide the needed motivation, knowing that harming others is like harming ourselves, and harming ourselves is off the table because our love and compassion also extend to ourselves.

Our transformation depends upon allowing our conscience to play a larger and larger role in our life. Conscience is not alien to who we are: it is who we are. Conscience is right here, just behind the core of our will, coming as our I. Obeying our conscience is not like obeying some other person or even society. It is obeying the truth, obeying ourselves, our higher self, informed by love. Sometimes this is difficult. We have some strong desire and our conscience weighs in against acting on that desire. What we choose to do in that case shows how well we are meeting the ongoing test of life and spirit. This is where the work of conscience becomes very practical and concrete. This is the work that truly can set us free.

The more we pay attention to and act in accord with our conscience, the more readily it comes to us. It becomes natural to us to be a person of conscience, to do the right thing. Even then though, it sometimes happens that a dilemma confronts us and a strong part of us wants to go against our conscience. But we do not. We find we cannot. And our work continues.

For this week, notice the promptings of your conscience and act accordingly. Imagine how different our world would be, if all people strove to live by conscience.


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