What is Conscience?
Guilt and Innocence
Conscience is experienced through the feeling of guilt and innocence. With bad conscience comes the feeling of guilt and with good conscience the sense of innocence. That pull to stay in good conscience keeps us entangled. To follow our own path requires us to endure the bad conscience or guilt. Eventually we find good conscience in this new way of being.
Bert Hellinger describes 3 consciences – the personal conscience, collective conscience (also called e the systemic conscience) and spiritual conscience. They do not operate independently of each other. They complement one another, and to solve a problem and to bring about resolution we see that they are all related to one another.
The Personal Conscience
The Personal Conscience is first experienced in our family of origin. It governs what is acceptable behaviour in order to remain a member of our family system. It decides what is right and what is wrong. As a child, our survival is dependent on remaining part of our family so we do what is needed and avoid any behaviour that would be deemed unacceptable. It is narrow in its scope.
Each group has its own Personal Conscience. Who is included and who is excluded is determined by what is acceptable behaviour for this family or group. When we deviate from acceptable behaviour (which could be considered unethical and immoral by others) we feel bad conscience and guilt. We are held by the fear of being excluded, and no longer belonging. We have good conscience when we do what is needed to stay with the family or group.
Members of the family who behave differently from what is acceptable in the Personal Conscience are excluded.
This conscience may lead us to discard some of the Orders of Love.
In order to belong we may step out of the hierarchy, making ourselves bigger than our parents, out of the need for survival. For example, a child looking after an alcoholic or depressed parent. Again here is a sense of innocence as the child, from a space of love, is caring for the parent. The order of balance is also be disregarded as the child is giving and the parent is taking.
Later in life we may realise that the ‘rules’ that held us in the family system are no longer acceptable to us. Or we may belong to a new group who has different rules and values. When want to follow our new rules we feel guilt or bad conscious. It takes courage and perseverance to stay in the space of bad conscience, until it becomes good conscience.
“Through feelings of guilt, out conscience pulls in the reigns and turns us around when we endanger the relationship. Through feelings of innocence, it lets go of the reigns, and allows us to gallop ahead”.
When we deviate from our family of origin’s Personal Conscience and step on our own path we do not loose the right to belong to the family. We need to look at them kindly, with love and respect.
The Collective Conscience
In the Collective Conscience is wider in scope in that it includes those that the Personal Conscience has excluded. It can be understood as a force rather than a conscience. A force that attempts to include all those that were excluded in our personal conscience. It is not so interested in the individual but rather the whole group. Its love extends beyond the Personal Conscience.
Those included are limited to including those excluded from the family or group of the Personal Conscience. Or to carry the fate of those on the Personal Conscience and the other Morphic Fields.
Jane Peterson describes it as the Systemic Conscience.
Its seen as the archaic force that balances the wrongdoings or misfortunes of one generation by enrolling the assistance of a later generation to atone or to remember the fate of those who have gone before. It binds us to our family system through deep unconscious bonds and ‘blind love’. A blind love that creates entanglements for later generations rather than resolves issues.
The only way to resolve the entanglements created by the force of the Collective Conscience is through love. It is a felt love. Seeing the excluded one and through love including them.
The Spiritual Conscience is all-encompassing. It does not have the limitation of the Personal and Collective Consciences. It is equally concerned with everyone – giving the same loving attention to all as it is. It guides us beyond the other consciences because of its love for all.
“This love knows no boundaries: it overcomes the distinctions between “better” and “worse”, between “good” and “bad”. Therefore, this conscience transcends the boundaries both of the personal and collective conscience. The spiritual conscience turns to everyone equally”.
We feel this conscience by being in harmony with the movement of spirit and surrendering to it. It is a loving movement towards everything as it is. We feel it, we don’t think it. It is a uniting force of the spirit of love.