QA115 QUESTION: Could you talk about the difference between our conscience and our guilt feelings?
ANSWER: Yes. I will come back to a lecture I gave quite a long time ago [Lecture #83 Idealized Self-Image] which some of you may remember. And the newer friends might do well to read this lecture, for man has two consciences. The one is, as my older friends may recall, the real self, the innermost being, that knows perfectly well what for him is right, constructive and furthering, and what is not.
This conscience does not have a rigid code of right versus wrong – the right in the self-righteous, moralistic way. It is very flexible, free, and may or may not be in accordance with the laws of society. It sometimes is and it sometimes is not. In this conscience are embedded the original spiritual laws in all their beauty, generosity, wisdom and also scope. They are always constructive. They are always, in the basic common denominator, for the good, and yet they often vary according to the individual. In other words, what may be right for one individual may not be right for the other individual.
On the other hand, the other conscience – what I call the superimposed conscience – is a conglomerate of influences of civilization, society, public opinion, ready-made rules, fear and dependency. This is sometimes exceedingly strong. Unfortunately, mankind has ignored these two different kinds of conscience. That is a very harmful thing because often the superimposed conscience is confused with the spiritual conscience.
Even if both – the real, original, individual spiritual conscience which is free, and the superimposed society conscience, which is not free – pursue the same action, the feeling and the spirit in which the act is perpetuated or followed through is a completely different one, even though the act may be identical.
The same act may one way leave you free, make you expanding and make you richer. And the same act if it has been followed through as a dictate of the superimposed conscience will cripple you, squeeze you, make you unfree and create fear in you – or because of the freedom you infringe, make you rebellious and resentful and therefore guilty.
Now, the lecture I gave much, much later, rather recently, on the two kinds of guilt, of course, referred to these two kinds of conscience [Lecture #109 Spiritual and Emotional Health Through Restitution for Real Guilt]. The real conscience will have the real guilt, and the superimposed conscience will have the false guilt.
It is very important to distinguish this, because, for many a person, the superimposed conscience is one of the hardest and cruelest taskmasters. There is a battle between this superimposed conscience and the person, with all its instincts. These include the childish, primitive instincts, as well as the constructive, creative impulses that in one’s blindness are often thought of as horrible and bad – one can no longer distinguish – as the selfishness that is imbedded in each child.
The way one looks at this childish selfishness depends also on from what vantage point you look at it. If you look at it from the superimposed false conscience, this childish selfishness seems unforgivable and horrible, and it will bow you down and cripple your growth and unfoldment. But if you look at it from the point of view of reality, it will be something you can easily accept. But thereby, just because you accept it, you genuinely grow out of it. For then there will no longer be any need for this childish selfishness.
So growth is stunted by the superimposed, false conscience. Often it is confused with the spiritual conscience because spiritual laws are used as a shield for the false conscience. There is no question of real spirituality, because real spirituality does not act out of fear. It acts out of freedom and a genuine desire. But it is not good because it fears not to be good.
So this false conscience is of the greatest possible harm, and it is in direct opposition to the real unfoldment and growth of the personality. Human religion ignored this and has dictated this conscience, and in this way hinders real spirituality.
On the other hand, the newest findings in the last half-century of psychology, have found this conscience – the false conscience – but ignored that this is not the only conscience that exists and thought it is necessary, to some degree at least, in order to prohibit the lowest instincts from being destructive. This, again, is not truth. The truth is: no one has to fear letting go of this false conscience, because then and then only can the real conscience be heard and give you a safe guidance.
Now, with this I return to the question asked about the doubts about oneself. As long as you are only dimly and half-consciously aware of this false superimposed conscience, you must find yourself with a terrible struggle. For then, it seems to you, you only have a choice between it and very selfish instincts you fear. You do not know there’s anything else. So how can you let go of these superimposed laws you hold on to, if you think all that exists are the instincts and impulses you fear most?
And yet the real conscience cannot possibly manifest as long as you do not relinquish the false conscience and give yourself a chance to let what you fear simmer on the surface of your consciousness, of your awareness, because you are not forced to act upon it if you do not like it. But you can certainly afford to be aware of it.
Then you can come to terms with it. And then only will your real spiritual conscience unfold. That is the only thing that will give you well-founded self-trust and self-confidence. How can you have confidence in yourself if your real self does not dare to come out? And your real self cannot come out as long as you need to lean on outer, superimposed rules.
116 QUESTION: Is it true that we try not only to squeeze ourselves into our own idealized self-images but we actually try to live up to the idealized selves of our parents as well? Is this correct?
ANSWER: It is absolutely correct. The child’s helplessness and insecurity makes him strive desperately for acceptance by his parents. In doing so, he believes he has to adopt the standards of the parents. As I said before, it does not matter whether these standards actually are those of the parents or the child merely believes that. So the child begins a process of false, pretended, superficial adherence to certain standards without inner conviction.
Doing so alienates him from his real self, which thereby becomes weaker. He becomes doubly resentful and feels cheated when this mode of living and being does not bring the hoped-for results, as certainly it cannot. As you all know, there is in all of you, to a greater or lesser degree, a desire not to give up being a child, despite the equally strong wish to grow up.
The insistence on remaining a cared-for child necessitates your holding on to the superimposed standards and thus to the superimposed conscience. With it, you hope to appease, coerce and force, as it were, your parents or the parent-substitutes to belatedly give you what you missed. Thus you perpetuate the process until and unless you fully recognize it in all its intensity and various side effects.