Conscience

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Fourth Way
Fourth Way

From the dictionary, we have the following definition of conscience:

The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one's conduct together with the urge to prefer right over wrong: "Let your conscience be your guide."

A source of moral or ethical judgment or pronouncement: a document that serves as the nation's conscience.

Conformity to one's own sense of right conduct: a person of unflagging conscience.

The part of the superego in psychoanalysis that judges the ethical nature of one's actions and thoughts and then transmits such determinations to the ego for consideration.

In In Search of the Miraculous, P. D. Ouspensky describes conscience as follows:

In ordinary life the concept 'conscience' is taken too simply. As if we had a conscience. Actually the concept 'conscience' in the sphere of the emotions is equivalent to the concept 'consciousness' in the sphere of the intellect. And as we have no consciousness we have no conscience.

Consciousness is a state in which a man knows all at once everything that he in general knows and in which he can see how little he does know and how many contradictions there are in what he knows.

Conscience is a state in which a man feels all at once everything that he in general feels, or can feel. And as everyone has within him thousands of contradictory feelings which vary from a deeply hidden realization of his own nothingness and fears of all kinds to the most stupid kind of self-conceit, self-confidence, self-satisfaction, and self-praise, to feel all this together would not only be painful but literally unbearable.

If a man whose entire inner world is composed of contradictions were suddenly to feel all these contradictions simultaneously within himself, if he were to feel all at once that he loves everything he hates and hates everything he loves; that he lies when he tells the truth and that he tells the truth when he lies; and if he could feel the shame and horror of it all, this would be the state which is called 'conscience'. A man cannot live in this state; he must either destroy contradictions or destroy conscience. He cannot destroy conscience, but if he cannot destroy it he can put it to sleep, that is, he can separate by impenetrable barriers one feeling of self from another, never see them together, never feel their incompatibility, the absurdity of one existing alongside another.

Almost all discourse about the human being speaks as if the human being were a unit. The Fourth Way recognizes that this is only very seldom the case. TS Elliott once said the "man cannot face too much reality". This is so also as regards conscience. Even if all buffers could be immediately dissolved, this would not leave man as a functioning whole. The real I must be strengthened and built up before this makes sense. All these processes of development are gradual and take place concurrently.

In Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, George Gurdjieff discusses conscience in many places. The following excerpt deals with the League of Nations and man's perpetually unsuccessful attempts at stopping war:

In the course of observations during my last sojourn there I cleared up, among other things, that the beings with objective Reason do not happen to be in these societies for the following reasons:

The point is that in order to participate in any society whatsoever, a being must always of necessity be important and such a being there among them, thanks once again to the abnormally established conditions of being-existence, can only be one who either has a great deal of money or who becomes what is called 'famous' among the other beings there.

And since especially during recent times only those beings can become famous and important among them in whom the mentioned sacred function, namely 'being conscience,' is entirely absent, then in consequence of the fact that this sacred function in the presences of beings is in general always associated with everything that represents and is Objective Reason, then, of course, those three-brained beings with Objective Reason always have conscience as well, and consequently such a being with conscience, will never be 'important' among the other beings.

That is why the beings with Pure Reason there never have had and never will have the possibility of taking part in the societies of beings who are formed of important and power-possessing beings.

See also