Letters of the Conscience
Book 1 : The Serpent Within
From the very beginnings of Creation, the division of man from the ranks of beasts has been evident. This ‘division’ was crafted by the hands of our busy God in a divine measure to promote a more achievable harmony between the two. And in recognition of this, one must never question the true source of this separation, for on one hand its act defined man’s very essence, and more importantly it so pleased our Creator. In Genesis 1:26 God immediately after his self-approval of the “creatures” that he spawned from the Earth, He said, “Let us make humankind in our image according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle of every kind; and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.”
One that blessed fifth day of Inception, the balance of nature was henceforth commanded by the human race, and in turn his shadow was forever cast upon this kingdom. God even went further and implored mankind to “subdue” his surroundings for his singular prosperity. This, I feel, is the birth of the very basic element of life, and I find it humbling to know that this edict was given by Him with the utmost Faith; as He had meticulously created man from His own likeness. And for that favor God bestowed upon man, we shall be forever grateful.
A little later in Genesis we see this Will of God play out in the tragic tale of the Garden of Eden. In this book, specifically 2:9, our God made to “..grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of Life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In a foreboding sense of analysis of scripture, it can be strongly argued that God rose this plentiful crop with the idea of immediately rewarding man for his studious devotion. I like to imagine that God saw man genuinely fit for this inhabitance as a god was so properly fitted for the heavens, as He saw our reflection in His eyes. Yet again He showed us another example of great favor by this exercise of His faith, and in this sentiment He brought man to Eden to till the soil and to reap it’s bounties so that he can flourish from his labors and hold dominion over the nature there. In the following texts our Lord would be wrought with the regret of judging man so hastily to be fit for this ultimate test of his faith and self-control.
The Creator then told the man that he could eat out of the fruit trees in the rows, but was not to approach the center trees of the knowledge of good and evil for food or he would die. In this moment, it is clear that our dear God overestimated His creation, and also in that very instance he underestimated the different make-ups of men and gods, and also the differing laws each will naturally abide by. The main contrasts being the most simplistic of all:
Man is mortal, while a God is eternal; and man’s laws, customs, and actions, as opposed to those of immortals, will be largely dictated by the wills of survival and preservation of his life; sometimes at the cost of his own soul’s purity. And nature’s laws, as God had set them, will infinitely cause great conflict in man as he is dually burdened to balance his worldly urges with the will of his fate.
This duality is the very essence of humankind, as God had made it so when he gave us control over all nature’s inhabitants. As I previously stated, in God’s gift of dominion he also blesses his creation with the wisdom to do so. This ‘wisdom’ is as vast as it was deep in man, as it, for the first time, allowed for the variables that would naturally be associated with the herding, hunting, and killing of the game and stock; not to mention the knowledge one would initially need to till the soil for harvest without any precedence. This was, perhaps, the very first of many spiritual infusions into the minds of humans to follow, though very few of them were derived from greater necessity. I will further explore this topic of duality in further detail shortly, so I will abandon it for now.
Within Genesis 2:21, the Lord, in deciding to provide aid and companionship for man, made a woman (Eve) from the rib of the man (Adam). When God brought her to his sight, it is said that Adam was fulfilled by the fact that he finally had a relative of his very own design.
“Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled by him, but out of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.”
--Matthew Henry, English Prime Minister and Bible commentator
Inspired by, amongst other things, his worldly urges to lay with her Adam created a deep bond spiritually with this woman and they celebrated each other likeness by walking the gardens barren of stitch. This may have been the first example of overindulgence by mankind, but a greater sin was soon to follow in Genesis 3:1, when a wise serpent suddenly appeared to Eve and asked her if God had forbid her to eat from the garden. She informed then snake of the previous proclamation God had made to Adam regarding the forbidden fruit of the center tree, and to her he entreated, “You will not die; for God knows when you eat out of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God; knowing good and evil.”
Taking the serpent’s words as for fact, Eve was overcome by the temptation of becoming all-wise and thus began to eat the fruit from the forbidden center tree. And even though he was himself witness to God’s clear instructions regarding this matter, Adam partook also in the consumption. They were then enlightened and realized themselves to be wrongly bare and began making loincloths to cover themselves with.
“Oh woman, born first to believe us; Yea also born first to forget; Born first to betray and deceive us, yet first to repent and regret.”
--Joaquin Miller, American poet and author
I would imagine that now having the knowledge of good and evil, in retrospect, Adam and Eve knew exactly what their God meant when He warned them. They now knew that God only meant to protect them from sin, and the harmful contents of its bloom. And furthermore, that he had done so out of His open affinity for them. The emotions that were then displayed by the couple, were of deep regret and remorse for their actions; as they judged themselves to having acted unaccordingly to the will of the Blessed Father.
And as their guilty souls began protruding outward, their immorality was on display for all to view. Indeed, all of nature took the time to mock them as they awaited for their Creator’s return. And just as full-bellied coyote fears the shotgun, so did Adam and Eve fear the looming wrath of He who crafted the sun and carved the moon; as He had entrusted them as His favorite creations. That evening God came to them and, in shame of their betrayal of God’s trust, they hid from His sight behind the trees of the garden. God called out to Adam, “Where are you?”. And he replied that he was startled by His Father’s presence because he was naked. “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?, God furiously asked of them. Adam went on to say he had only eaten from the tree because he was deceived by the woman that God had made for him, and Eve, in turn, explained that it was the snake that had tricked her into eating the forbidden fruit. These ungodly attempts to justify themselves fell moot to God, and he passed judgment upon them; cursing the snake first, then Eve, and then Adam.
“The unwillingness to admit guilt is traced back to the Garden of Eden; Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. It is an ingrained trait because of sin.”
--Walter Lang, film director known for his masterpiece, The King and I
Less importance to the purpose of these works is the severity of the judgments here, but rather the exploration as to what moved Adam and Eve from one minute to defiantly display their mortal duality, and then, for the first time, show the reasoning abilities to act as judges of their own deeds; in an attempt to justify them as either good or evil. This internal struggle for clarity is at the forefront of what ideas and feelings drives man to action, and also what actions drive man’s feeling and ideas.
This judgmental recounting of feelings, I believe, was the very birth of the idea of the human trait known as the ‘conscience’.
“Conscience is the internal perception of the reaction of a particular wish operating within us.”
--Sigmund Freud, Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis (1856-1939)
Mankind solely owns this attribute on Earth, in that all the other animals don’t exercise the duality in the desire to adequately please both sets of laws; those of God and those of Earth. Their doctrine is solely for the purposes to please the hungers of their bellies and to escape another’s. Therefore, man cannot rightfully hold a grudge as to the extreme actions of these wild beasts, as God had made them secondary in order to man. For the power of the conscience of man is to constantly uphold the laws and edicts of our God, for we are the keepers of Earth as He is in Heaven.
Naturally, being favored by the Father for our likeness and image, we so strive to be godlike in all we do and unrivaling God in His infinite wisdom, this effort is, for the most part, pathetic. And even though this boundless will to do good is only a small miracle when compared to His infinite accomplishments, is it still not a miracle?
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
--C.S. Lewis, British author
Book II : The Voice Within
“A conscience without God is like a courtroom with no judge.”
--ALPHONES DE Lomartine, French Poet and writer (1790-1869)
I believe that God gifted every man and woman of proper function a sound voice of reason, but that voice is not as loud as the television.
Many writers, with obvious neglect due to their diligence in trying to pay proper homage to the subject of conscience, have bled upon their pages whittling their pencils down with depleted erasers. Perhaps this is because while it is true that the universal possession of this knowledge is shared by every man, it is also true that no man has ever really mastered the divine calculations of the conscience well enough to provide equity through the pen. And relatively, those who have approached to pay it’s due in so many words have done so with a premise of abandon reason, for they attempted to tread across the unstable bridge that is the human conscience. That bridge is always in danger of collapsing due to the variable changes vigorously stimulated by the unrelenting words and urgings of God, who dwells within each of us.
In my own studying of the phenomenon of conscience, I have seeked counsel in many of the great philosophers, leaders, and writers of the past, as should be standard for anyone who seeks knowledge on any such subjects, to see if the values of conscious thought had changed much from the time of the Creation covered earlier. Perhaps we may find it advantageous to shed some light on this work by comparing some famous excerpts and quotes on the subject:
“To endeavor to domineer over conscience is to invade the citadel of Heaven”
--Charles V, Holy Roman Emporer (r. 1501-1556)
“The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.”
--John Calvin, French ecclesiastical theologian (1509-1564)
“Conscience, man’s moral medicine chest.”
--Mark Twain, American Writer (1835-1910)
These, along with most other references I have found, have a strong spiritual sense and an attempt to constitute this paradox, a “conscience” has been commonly described as the ‘actual sounds of a voice within a man which never ceases to seek the majority in all his thoughts and actions.’
What the brain is to the man, the conscience is to his soul; and the soul shares equal joy with the physical body in the remembrance of the Father’s promise of salvation. The separate matters of the body and spirit, while often serving as agitators of each open rule have in this regard been co-inspired. The physical body is the engine of the spirit, and only through the perilous passage between birth and death has our Lord granted each body, of proper function, a claim to spiritual form, and furthermore, only through the constant conditioning of this spiritual form, that one shall receive favorable judgment from our God and live eternally.
The physical body at the end of it’s journey will untimely yield to it’s visible corrosions without chance of preservation and return to the dust on the ground. You see, I believe when God created man’s own body in his image He also endowed his prize creation the opportunity to one day sup with Him and raise a spirited toast in a final recollection as to the feats of valor shown by the earthly body.
And so man’s dualistic conscience cannot be a monarch, nor is it even a democracy, but more resembles a police state; with the battalions of good and the legions of evil being constantly drawn up on the heart like a battlefield, standing ready for commencement as if just a whisper of slight would raise jihads. The dark legions in this parallel, despite outnumbering their counterparts, cautiously avoid pitched battles and operate through treachery and stealthy encounters under the veils of the shadows of night. The voice of this dark force is the master of spies and the conjurers of magic, and is opposed to being seen plainly. These forces are promoters of sin and the suppressors of the voice of reason, and therefore God.
“The quiet conscience is the invention of the Devil.”
--Albert Schweitzer, German medical missionary and philosopher, 1952 Nobel Peace Prize (1875-1965)
This ‘dark side’ of man is then not to be underestimated, as its only obstruction is the eyes of the Lord; which shines like a beacon over it’s faithful band of Good. These glowering warriors shimmer unto the darkness, and light the path for the sun’s return to its rightful place; high above man’s brow. These pristine souls are defenders of the voice of reason, and upholders of the body’s sanctity.
This divine faction, representing the ‘good side’ of man in this struggle, has a battle strategy which has, over time, been crafted not to resist the incursions of just the wolf, but also the fox. This ‘white army’ has a tendency to fortify with great affordance, due to it’s disadvantage in numbers. Thus being a righteous force the need not a trebuchet to attack with, instead they build strong castles upon the stones of Truth and fill in its gaps with the mortars of Faith. And in doing so, they constantly seek the approval of the Blesses and lean upon it’s sturdy foundations when attacked.
I hope that I haven’t alienated my beloved readers with this style of illustration, but I find it very helpful to animate ideas which are difficult to convey when being shackled to mere grammar. For example, it is much simpler to paint ‘man’s good side’ as an army of Good constantly wresting with the forces of Evil, ‘man’s dark side’, than it would be through any alternate forms of analysis. Likewise, I find it much easier to draw simple comparisons of God’s works rather than try to attempt to decipher them objectively by texts, for we are limited by our human brains to fully grasp the workings of God. What I imply here is that humans are better versed when visuals are the offspring of their readings.
“To describe what you’ve read is like
explaining music in writing.”
--Peter Hoeg, Danish fiction writer, (b. 1957)
Digressing, man’s inner voice is a direct reflection of his spiritual cultivation, and, with exhaustible vigor, it seeks for truth and honor in his words and actions. And thus, the voice of Good and Evil will perpetually jostle to impose their will of influence over man’s outwardly actions.
In the fundamental belief that every man has been made for good, in turn, I then believe that his internal shouts of Good to be louder than his internal whispers of Evil. So, orderly, even when an unrefined soul becomes receptive of God’s words, he should basically be moved to do a greater good when faced with the choices of action. Also, the audible levels of one’s inner conscience will be dictated by the scale of the impending undertaking, and to whom, or what, that undertaking also may concern itself. For example:
Man’s conscience will always tend to the problems of the like species with greater discernment than to his affairs with beasts.
As we have previously discussed, God gifted us dominion over nature to impose our singular will. It is these affairs of the non-human variety that is often void of the need to justify, while most inter-human engagements are requisited by a standing jury in order to endlessly debate the many variables which will suredly arise between humans. And while it might be simpler to exonerate man from his physical harms to beasts, it is not so easy a task to minimalize the harms of man by his own kind. For it is in men’s actions towards each other that is the real measure of morality, and moreover their spiritual level.
Man is ingrained, by birth, a certain level of decency for his fellow man, but it is through spiritual graduation that his conscious thoughts will take the form of righteousness and shed it’s inadequate shell, thus allowing the lights of Truth to pervade and take up root within him.
The opening quote of this chapter best summarizes what I have hoped to make clear and legible in this work. The Lord is our only voice of reason, and if one does not walk hand in hand with Him, that person will grow increasingly orphaned to His directives and inner Spirit. You see, the conscience is God’s tool of communication through us; resembling a radio station of sorts. It is ultimately up to each man what part he shall play in life; the one dancing the jig or the flutist. In closing, it is most important those of you who truly seek to protect your consciences from Evil should diligently attempt to quiet yourself regularly, as muffled ears will often misplace the tenors of our overall good will.
"Every human being has a work to carry on within, duties to perform abroad, influence to exert which are peculiarly his, and which no conscience but his own can teach."
--William Ellery Channing, American moralist and Unitarian Clergyman and Author (1780-1842)
by Jarrod Lowrey
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