Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Conscience: the Perception of Wisdom

How is it that despite our ongoing accumulation and occasional contemplation of experience, wisdom continues to elude us? True wisdom cannot be developed or acquired, rather we open to it through the purity and unity of our will. The ultimate source of wisdom lies in the Divine realms. It devolves to us to discover our own direct intuition of the Divine wisdom. Our one tool for this purpose is a certain inner sensitivity, a mode of perception that we can call conscience. Ordinarily we think of conscience as the moral sensibility instilled in us by our parents, teachers, and others. But conscience holds the potential to extend far beyond anything taught or experienced. The knowledge of right and wrong that we learn as children often fails before the moral ambiguities of life. However, wisdom-based conscience can serve us as a reliable moral compass in any situation.

But knowing right from wrong will not carry us far enough. How can we fulfill our destiny, realize our highest potential? How can we best help another person? What opportunities should we create and embark upon? Should we marry the person we’ve been dating? A moral compass alone cannot address such questions, but conscience can. Conscience enables us to perceive wisdom as it applies to our own circumstances, with our own particular set of possibilities. But to hear the voice of conscience, we must be prepared to serve, for conscience does not pander to an egocentric view of the world.

How can we open to our conscience? How can we distinguish between the voice of our conscience and the voice of our egoism? We find a way to gradually develop an intuitive sensitivity to our inner perception of rightness. The instability of our emotions and the clutter of our minds present problems in this regard. So many urges and thoughts vie for our inner spotlight that to hear the voice of conscience amid the cacophony sorely challenges our intuition and discrimination. But spiritual practice quiets our mind, pacifies our heart, and supports the emergence of conscience out of the noise.

Conscience sees. It sees our own behavior, inner and outer, from an objective viewpoint. When our thoughts, feelings, or actions fall into the unseemly, conscience sees the truth and causes us embarrassment at having been seen, at having caught ourselves in manifestations we would rather keep hidden, even from ourselves. But if we can open to this seeing of our behavior, conscience becomes our hope and lifeline to purification and freedom. This is how our higher nature speaks to us, by seeing us as we are, and showing us the way toward cleaning up our inner world. Conscience reveals our attachments and illumines areas for letting go.

Openness to conscience also requires a readiness to follow its promptings; otherwise conscience withdraws. After checking to ensure that a particular intuition of what we deem conscience does not violate our ordinary moral and practical sensibilities, we need to act on it. A further test comes in hindsight: do we consider our action to have been the right one? The process of listening to our innermost intuition of rightness and applying the reality test to where it takes us gradually refines our ability to perceive conscience, to discern and “hear” the voice of truth within us.

Our conscience is nothing less than our truest self, our own deeper will, and our connection to the Divine. The more we follow our own unique conscience, the more intimately and fully we become ourselves. This is not easy. Conscience, as we well know, often conflicts with our desires and appetites. In the path toward the sacred, we face an ongoing series of choices, sometimes hard choices that challenge us to let go of our egocentric attachments. Conscience, if we can accept its promptings, will guide us through. Living in conscience is like inviting God to see everything we do, inwardly as well as outwardly.

The next few sections explore several aspects of the path of conscience.

What is Our Responsibility?

Do the Right Thing

Excellence

Tikkun Olam: Perfecting the World

See Also:

The Way of Conscience 1: Discerning

The Way of Conscience 2: Acting in Accord

The Way of Conscience 3: Merging

 


        

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