Home > Knowing and Being > Three Forms of Conscience

Three Forms of Conscience

April 17, 2015

Despite the careless use of the word in common speech, there is more than one type of “conscience”.

True Conscience is a matter of direct perception of the Design of Life. The development of this is the goal of the esoteric alchemystical arts.

Spurious conscience is a matter of derived doctrine. Exoteric religious doctrine fosters the development of this, which often manifests as a hope of heaven and/or the fear of hell. The person of spurious conscience most often shows a genuine desire to do good and not to do wrong. In common language, when people speak of “conscience” this is often what they mean, but it is important to realise that this is far from the highest form of conscience.

False conscience is also a matter of fear and hope. But here the hope is of earthly reward and the fear that of earthly deprivation. In other words, the person of false conscience fears pain or loss (subtle or gross) and/or hopes for pleasure or reward (subtle or gross). This type of person will have a desire to do good if something can be gained from it, but is most often satisfied with not getting caught doing wrong.

With True Conscience the psyche of the individual has begun the switching process toward inner sensitization and motivation. It is not a matter of hope of gain, nor fear of loss. True Conscience manifests as immediate and pro-active inner guidance involving creative response to a given event-horizon.

In both spurious and false conscience the psyche of the individual remains subject to outer sensitization and motivation, and manifests as a mediated or after-the-fact guilt-response regarding intentions, words, or actions that are already manifest.

We can perhaps see that the person of False Conscience cannot be left alone and expected to do good or refrain from evil. The person of Spurious Conscience can be trusted to try to do good and/or try to refrain from evil to the degree that they are able to Will what they Desire, to the degree that they Desire to act according to their derived doctrine, and to the extent that such doctrine is sound.

In terms of the vertical-horizontal axis (discussed in a comment dated March 17, 2015, under “Context and Guidance“): True Conscience is related to Freedom from Choice and is a vertical element.

Spurious Conscience is related to Freedom of Choice and is a horizontal element moving toward the center and away from the circumference.

False Conscience is related to the Illusion of Choice and is a horizontal element moving toward the circumference and away from the center. The person of False Conscience is ‘corrected’ through contact with the exoteric religious law.

The person of Spurious Conscience is corrected through contact with the Tariqa (esoteric spiritual practice).

Every human being has each of these three forms of conscience within him/her. Can you recall the experiential feel of each of these forms of conscience so that you may be able to distinguish what form is active at any given moment?

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  1. brkkuroi
    April 20, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    If I understand correctly, what keeps people “spinning” on the axis, as opposed to reaching the ‘still point” around which the axis spins and being able to orient oneself towards the vertical is “aversion” and “attraction.” People are attracted to certain ideas, people, places or thing and are equally averse other ideas, people, places or things. This causes a great deal of “leakage” of energy in the sense that aversions and attractions are not questioned so much as they are indulged in. “I am attracted by this so it must be good!” “I am averse to this so it must be bad.” But it does seem to be possible to “circulate” the energy within as with the “turning the light around” exercise and stop the leakage and build up the energy that allows the focus to change from the circumference to the center. It also seems to me that the “freedom from choice” to which you refer would refer to the magnetic attraction which created by focusing on the One Thing Needful( the center) as opposed to the “attraction” and “aversion” connected to the” multiple” (but of course, the circumference itself come from the center of the axis!)”likes” or “dislikes” of the circumference. The danger of following the spurious conscience is, it seems to me, connected to early childhood in the sense that although we all remember hearing moral lectures from our elders, our own perception of the way these “moral lectures” were “mixed” with other various ugly and sometimes hypocritical emotions of our elders ,and oftentimes children are subtly confused by this dichotomy and this dichotomy can last for years into “adulthood.” It reminds me of the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Only by returning to that unified perception that we still had in childhood, is it possible, it seems to me, to have true conscience.

  2. brkkuroi
    April 22, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    There is,however, another aspect of conscience that may be important….and it may be known as “social conscience”. People often take their “cues” from their behavior from other people on “what to do” and “what not to do”. Increasingly,in many parts of the world, peoples thoughts, feelings, attitudes are subject to subtle forms of social coercion which are oftentimes more effective, in the long run, than dictatorships, for example. Many people who are proud of the fact that they are immune to various forms of “spurious conscience” and the religious dogma which acts to prop “spurious conscience” up will not respond to appeals to “exoteric religious law” but will almost certainly respond to subtle forms of coercion…especially when those forms of coercion are too subtle to be identified. In Patrick McGoohan’s landmark television series the Prisoner( which deals with many of theses themes, the worst thing an individual can do in the Village is to be “unmutual”. Another story which is more important from an alchemical point of view would be “When the Waters were Changed.” found in Idries Shah’s Tales of the Dervishes.

  3. James Raedan
    May 2, 2015 at 4:08 am

    A ‘social conscience’ such as you mention is most commonly found within and between false and spurious conscience. Only very rarely is it found between spurious and true conscience and then only by accident.

    Contact with exoteric religious law has the salutary benefit of putting one in the stream of baraka associated with a given revealed religion whereas contact with a merely social morality or with an ad hoc religion or system of ethics has no corresponding salutary effect. Less still do social pressure or mob rules have any value. Those of us with even the most profound and well-meaning aversions to exoteric religious law due to exposure to the many and various distortions seen so often these days will need to become mature enough to see past the non-sense to the sense—we must at some point move through and beyond those limitations.

    I am taking the opportunity to reply personally because I can relate, having experienced the evils of fundamentalism and hypocrisy first-hand, close-to-home and at an early age I found it impossible to see past the distortions to the reality for quite a long time.

    Social conscience is not and cannot be ‘effective’ in any true and lasting sense, since it has no true basis, no actual fundament upon which to rest. While slavery to the self is a horrible form of slavery indeed, slavery to the opinions of the masses and the leaders who control them is worse still. It is a particularly dangerous form of pick and choose derived from a completely external source. It is every bit as likely to lead one to kill and to destroy as to promote life and constructive activity. Look to Baltimore, Maryland to see how social mores fail utterly.

    And yes, fundamentalism can hijack a religion and lead it in very similar directions, but each and every religion has its own correctives to that if one looks for them. Fundamentalism is false on the face of it and one can point to scripture(s) and prove the falsity of all the fundamentalist distortions. Fundamentalism is in fact nothing but a parasitic form of social conscience where an individual and/or collective ego appropriates religion to and for itself in order to use it to bolster individual and/or collective hopes and fears. Genuine religious experience, on the other hand, arises when a person allows their ego to dissolve in the current of baraka of a revealed religion by submitting to religious discipline, not merely the ‘discipline’ touted by those claiming to be religious.

    If one cannot engage in that alchemical separation of the true from the false WITHOUT falling into the error of engaging of pick-and-choose or submitting to a social conscience then one is NOT ready for the alchemystical path which requires even greater discernment.

    And while it is baraka that allows one to develop, do be very careful not to over-reify what we have said on this site about baraka, to do so brings in other dangers. Words are not reality. We move beyond them to reality via practice.

    Addendum:

    The views and functions of the Traditionalist school and the Shah School rather than being simply antagonistic are actually mutually informing – one without the other can lead to serious aberrations. The Traditionalist perspective can lead to traditionary, dogmatic and even in some cases sentimental excesses and tends to generate a backward-looking vision (spiritual nostalgia, romanticism) if not checked. The perspective of the Shah school can lead to a dry epistemology, an agnostic or even atheistic phenomenology, and/or actional immobility if not checked. Each school can be used to check the over-emphasis fostered by the other. Both of these schools inadvertently promote a certain amount of hero-worship / authority-adulation.

  4. brkkuroi
    May 5, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    James, I was intrigued by your comments regarding the “mutually informing” relationship between the Shah School and the traditionalists. I have been reading the traditionalists for 30 years in tandem with Shah’s work. Unfortunately, I am afraid that until recently I received very little benefit from that reading due to the fact that I did not understand WHY I was attracted to Shah and the traditionalist school in the first place. In other words, although I could find intellectual points of comparison and contrast between the two schools, there was no recognition on my part of the personal internal dynamic that would have made the cross pollination between my reading of those two schools fruitful. It was only recently, due to my reading of a book which is referred to on this site, that I remembered the specific succession of experiences that led me to become fixated on Shah and then on the traditionalist school. It is that memory of the personal impact of a series of experiences that in a sense allowed me to begin to use rather than simply venerate or worship materials that came from the Shah and traditionalist school.From my own personal experience I can verify the truth of this remark( which can be applied to both the Shah school, the traditionalist school or even the two schools when read in tandem:”Information accumulation may change your mind (or pattern of ideation) but it will not transform your desire, imagination or will and so cannot prevent or even ameliorate or mitigate against the development of faulty belief systems, cognitive dissonance, depression, obsession, prejudice, selfishness, magical thinking, fear or despair. In short, such ‘knowledge’ will not transform you alchemystically. “

  5. May 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Hopefully this question runs with the grain and not against. Is this the same vertical and horizontal axis related to the ones mentioned in the comments to both questions 16 and 41, where firstly James describes a cross within a circle?

    ‘The cross itself is indicative of the four elements and their relations (as antinomial pairs). The circle is indicative of the womb (void) wherein the seeds are sown. The specific qualities of the four elements (applied in sequence) serve to turn the wheel (the circle) of the elements. This cause and effect rotation is conceived of as creating a centrifugal force, which serves to expel the digested seed outward (into manifestation).’

    And then the extract in 41:

    ‘And should this [Love] but once fail or recede, there could no longer be either Vegetation (vegetable soul) or Animation (animal soul) upon it [Earth]; yea, the very Pillars (antinomial pairs I guess) of it would be quite overthrown, and the Bond of Union, which is that of Attraction or Magnetism, called the Centripetal Power, being broken and dissolved, all must thence run into the utmost Disorder, and falling away as into Shivers, would be dispersed as loose Dust before the Wind.
    … Whosoever finds it [Love], finds All Things; there is nothing can be more true than this Assertion. It hath been the Beginning of All Things; and it ruleth All Things. It is also the End of All Things; and will thence comprehend All Things within its Circle. All Things are from it, and in it, and by it. If thou findest it, thou comest into that Ground from whence All Things are proceeded, and wherein they subsist; and thou art in it a King over all the Works of God.’

    Combining the other offerings presented by this lineage with your explanation above Xiaoyao; the Symbol of the Cross, seems to be the leitmotif we need to manifestly understand in order to later develop the direct perception of the Design of Life.

    Thanks again for a well advice on Basic Trust, Otove

  6. brkkuroi
    May 7, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I hope I am not breaking any rules of conduct (adab) by mentioning this to you, Otove, but I was very interested in what you have written. The cross can also, in some representations, be folded into a cube. The Kaaba is also referred to as a “cube” by at least one Sufi I have read. The centrifugal movement, it would seem to me, would represent the process of creation, and the centripetal movement would represent creation returning to its Source. It would seem to me that what is “exterior” in the case of the cross would become “interior” in the case of the cube. The Kaaba (the name literally means cube) is also used as a symbol of the Heart. The Heart is the meeting place of the soul and the Spirit, and in some representations the Seal of Solomon is also used as a symbol of the Heart with the triangle pointing upwards representing fire (conscious knowledge) and water pointing down (real knowledge). Martin Lings also has some interesting reflections on the nature of the Seal of Solomon and its relationship to the Heart in his book What is Sufism? Thank you very much for your post. It was very interesting to me, and right in line with some of my own thoughts. Thank you for sharing what you did. I tried to “return the favor” by sharing these materials with you.
    cube-it.webs.com/chapter56.htm

  7. May 8, 2015 at 4:49 am

    “The centrifugal movement, it would seem to me, would represent the process of creation, and the centripetal movement would represent creation returning to its Source.”

    Brkkuroi, thank you kindly for the information and taking the initiative to offer needed support…

    May I add that the horizontal and vertical notion of the cross is causing some confusion, the cross after all is ‘spinning’, but in relation to what, and ‘at rest’ but again in relation to what? Is there perhaps really no cross but rather a center and a circumference? As Hermes Trismegistus says, “God is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.” (Book of the 24 Philosophers.). Perhaps the cross is more acrossing – a movement rather than a form.

    Again here is the phrase that suggests that the cross is a sort of nexus of forces, more movements between states than the states themselves;

    ‘The cross itself is INDICATIVE of the four elements and their relations (as antinomial pairs). The circle is INDICATIVE of the womb (void) wherein the seeds are sown. The specific QUALITIES of the four elements (applied in sequence) SERVE to turn the wheel (the circle) of the elements. This cause and effect rotation is CONCEIVED of as creating a centrifugal force, which SERVES to expel the digested seed outward (into manifestation).’

    The phrase, ‘Applied in sequence’ implies that this ‘turning’ is a necessary part of the alchemystical process. It also suggests that by manifesting all 4 states (elemental qualities or approximate postures) in ordered succession controls the direction that the seed moves.

    Otove

    P.s) Maintaining a posture of open inquiry when hypothesising like this, is proving quite challenging. It is also understandable that my ‘what i know’ statements (statements of unexamined opinion) are met with silence, even though they appear to at first to be genuine inquiry. Silence is just as good an answer sometimes 🙂

  8. May 9, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    By suggesting a cross I was aiming at a very simple visual metaphor that could function as a compass of intent: is being oriented vertically (that is, a being-orientation in regard to the absolute) or horizontally (that is, a being-relation in regard to manifestation)? There was no intention to suggest spinning, centrifugal or centripetal motion, much less cubes or the Seal of Solomon.

    One must be careful of over-reification (making a description into something “real” above and beyond its usefulness as a tool). Reification often leads into an either/or mentality which is a major detriment for one pursuing the alchemystical art/science; symbols as expedient means are more often mutually informing than mutually exclusive.

    brkkuroi, your predilection is to collect expedient means and compare them. Perhaps you have been encouraged in this in other places where they are not so much working as having ‘interesting’ discussions. But it is easy to see that if one is given tools to use to build something, and one instead simply tries to gather more and more tools and compare each to the other, it may be fascinating, but nothing will get built. If you will forgive me for saying so, this is a habit you will have to work hard to overcome, for it seems to me to be deep set.

    In any case, both of you are trying to do the work backwards. This can only lead to confusion. The confusion itself should indicate that the “dosage” is off: more practice and less theory is required, less ratiocination and assertion and more humility and gratitude.

    NOT gratitude to the owners of this site, I hasten to say; rather gratitude for having a relationship to the source to be confused about 🙂

  9. brkkuroi
    May 11, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Xiaoyao, I agree with most of your criticisms of my character. We have discussed these before, and I have appreciated your input. That being said the last section of your post, I found both disturbing and border line offensive:
    “The confusion itself should indicate that the “dosage” is off: more practice and less theory is required, less ratiocination and assertion and more humility and gratitude.

    NOT gratitude to the owners of this site, I hasten to say; rather gratitude for having a relationship to the source to be confused about ”
    The reason I find this offensive is because it sounds as if you are privy to God’s knowledge, and you can determine what my exact relationship to God is and (more importantly) what God’s relationship is to me. It also reminds me of responses which I have received in the past from christian pastors in which if you question the pastor in any way or the theological foundations of the church, you are declared to be ‘arrogant and lacking in humility.” A good many cults(including but not restricted to islamic, buddhist, gurdjieffian hindu etc.0 use the same gambit.While, on the one hand, you state “NOT gratitude to the owners of the site” which sounds as if you are giving credit where credit is due, but it is contradicted, to my mind by your previous statement “less ratiocination and assertion and more humility and gratitude.” Various forms of spiritual abuse use this same framework. Would you care to elaborate? I have appreciated and learned from our interchanges. BUT if ,in fact, you DO know my exact relationship to God, I will stand corrected! In other words, can we restrict ourselves to the practical and the workable and avoid the kind of language and frameworks that have led to so many abuses(and continue to lead to abuses) in the past and the present.?

  10. brkkuroi
    May 11, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    It seems to me( I cannot speak ex cathedra) that gratitude, ratioination, AND assertion are ALL required, but it also seems to me that the “dosages” have to exact and specific.

  11. brkkuroi
    May 11, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    and of course, humility.

  12. James Raedan
    May 11, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Hello again!

    Please forgive my impertinence in responding to your comment, but I had asked Xiaoyao to post that for me since I was busy, so the responsibility is mine.

    In the words above there is no pretense to know your relation to God, at least not per se. Nevertheless the diagnosis remains. Why? Because you would not be confused were the diagnosis incorrect. And it was a general diagnosis, not one specific to you.

    When I am confused about something, this is precisely the advice I give to myself, and I have never had cause to regret taking it. If you felt that advice stems from any disagreement, I am afraid that is a projection, but you are free to make your own judgement.

    I have given that advice to those I most love and I would give it to those I least like. If I assert my self by trying to rely solely on my ratiocinative intellect to calculate some meaning from a symbol, I will always be wrong and I would never pass off such nonsense as legitimate teaching. The teaching must come from realization, otherwise it is simply opinion.

    Ratiocination and assertion can be appropriate for what they are appropriate, when they are appropriate, in the manner they are appropriate, for the duration they are appropriate. But that does not make them appropriate for this, here and now, for you, in the manner they are being used for as long as you have been using them in this manner.

    So, again, I ask you, for your sake (whether or not you ever post here again), to take a step back. Breathe. Loosen the bonds of the false gold of intellect and individuality (ratiocination and assertion), and assume a posture of humility and gratitude (true gold). And then, maybe, one will find one’s confusion dissolving; then again maybe not. It may not your place to ‘understand’ this particular matter at this particular time. If so, again assume the posture of humility and gratitude and continue to monitor your state – assay your mettle again and again!

    If you are sure this site has indications of cultic activity, please, do yourself a favor and abandon it post-haste. Be assured, again, such is the advice I would give myself.

  13. James Raedan
    May 11, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    Now, for anyone who’s state may yet permit learning and development, that is, for one who has adopted a state of humility and gratitude to the Spirit that gave life to the Tradition in the first place – adopting a passive attitude in relation to the current teaching and the teaching current:

    All equilateral crosses also have a center and circumference like a circle, or in three dimensions, like a sphere. And a cross can be a cross-section of two congruent and perpendicular circles.

    The spatio-temporal symbolism becomes untenable when we realize that vertical and horizontal are relative and only exist in arbitrary relationship to one another in space, but in REALITY, vertical is a being-orientation in regard to the absolute, while horizontal is a being-relation in regard to manifestation.

    May I add that the horizontal and vertical notion of the cross is causing some confusion, the cross after all is ‘spinning’, but in relation to what, and ‘at rest’ but again in relation to what? Is there perhaps really no cross but rather a center and a circumference? As Hermes Trismegistus says, “God is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.”

    These symbols are mutually informing rather than mutually exclusive. Apply the dictum of Hermes to a cross as a cross-section of two congruent and perpendicular circles (which circles would form a sphere since they must share a center and a circumference).

    One is ‘at rest’ in relation to Muhandis – the still point at the center, and one is in movement also in relation to that center. Like a wheel, the Hub is the center, the spokes (in two or three dimensions) are the rays that proceed from center to circumference (any two perpendicular spokes form a cross). The further away from the hub one goes the more movement there is. (See ‘Dot’ in the ‘Annotations’ section at the end of The Sufis)

    But, again, be careful with over-reification. Also, do not look for the Aha! moment … we dissolve the matrix of false gold (the first fruits of ratiocination, the sense of self, the sense that the self can do something Good and True of and from itself) to reveal the True Gold that has always been – Absolute Reality – the essence of God, the formless noumenon. But we must not forget focused remembrance and gratitude of and for the relative absolute, that effective affective fulcrum. The Alchemystical art is both sapiential and devotional. Be careful that the development of one does not interfere with the development of the other.

    We go from active investigation of things using what faculties we have, to being passive in the presence, remembering from whence all things come (the Source). If we fail to complete the circuit and stay active all the time, we are lost (confused).

    The previously mentioned Dot, Muhandis, the still point at the center of the circle, is also QNT–the qanat–signifying the current of baraka that springs from that center to irrigate the parched land.

  14. May 11, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    Greetings dear James,

    Thank you for this commentary. I would like to ask if there is anything more that you could add to the “cross as a cross-section of two congruent and perpendicular circles” in relationship to the “acrossing” which Otove has a notion of? Is there another movement that you are familiar with within this configuration which might indicate something akin to night turning into day in various degrees? I would also have questions regarding other essential forms within the configuration you’ve described if it is permissible.

  15. brkkuroi
    May 12, 2015 at 10:01 am

    James, thank you for your commentary. You have answered all of my questions ( including a few specific unspoken questions as well). You showed respect for my inquiry, and you were in no way dismissive of my concerns. That was all that I asked for. I am truly grateful to you (and to the “current”) for your attention. I will read and re-read the post above and consider deeply this whole question of reification of the self, and thus reification of the symbols. That being said, that consideration will take a great deal of time…I also recognize my own role in the series of misunderstandings that have developed.i.e.

    “If I assert my self by trying to rely solely on my ratiocinative intellect to calculate some meaning from a symbol, I will always be wrong and I would never pass off such nonsense as legitimate teaching. The teaching must come from realization, otherwise it is simply opinion.

    In any case, thank you very much for your commentary.

  16. James Raedan
    May 13, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Quickly, as a parting gift of sorts in relation to – circles, crosses, revolutions, turnings, day into night, rotation of the elements … this has been answered exhaustively on this site. The material which answered this has been removed for various reasons which I will not go into here. Be that as it may, the answer lies in the relationships between active and passive, within and without, solve et coagula, volatizing a fixed and fixing a volatile. But any of this theory without the corresponding practice is just like boiling sand … one never gets cooked rice. Be well.

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