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The CONSCIENCE-CONSCIOUSNESS-FREEDOM GROUP
Glory, Vainglory and Goodness
(consciousness, phrases for phases of creation's aspects!);
Christ's Ineffable Peace 1 (conscience).
With this, we have SMR pp. 349Bff., 582ff.,
Repent or Perish Ch. 7
(man as he is, not denuded by philosophic dope);
It Bubbles, It Howls, Christ Calls
Little Things Ch. 5 , Beauty of Holiness Ch. 1 (all providing heightened awareness within the fields involved) and
Grand Biblical Perspectives Ch. 7 with its emphasis on freedom.
Licence for Liberty, the volume:
Here we are
seeing man in his conscious competence in the realm of divine allotments,
allocations and limitations as created and applied, with the juncture of
jubilant opportunity and divine charter as the pre-condition of human life.
With this, see Christ, the Wisdom and the Power of God Ch. 7
with Calibrating Myths, Machining Dreams and Keeping Faith Epilogue and
It Bubbles, It Howls, He Calls Ch. 9, which a provide a backdrop to some of the dynamics. .
Christ Incomparable Ch. 2 ( in this, there are strictures on structure in man, intimations logically empirically on conscience, and consideration is given to the realms and spheres of action in man, in their integrity, rather than as illicit appendages to lordly designs on the part of ideational Hitlers, who want to crush meaninglessly, all into one 'nation' of reference),
Downfall from Defamation Chs. 1, 2 (this provides a background for relevant ruminations in this field, a place for perspective and a site for discovery).
What is the Chaff to the Wheat Chs. 3, 4 .
These two chapters apply to the issues of practical apologetics, and in particular therefore to the fields of the meaning and nature of beauty, freedom, morals, responsibility, guilt, law and love, folly and arbitrariness, good and evil, meaning and 'Nature', and many others that arise on this site and in the mind of man, and have done so for millenia. They also provide further references apposite.
Conscience is one of the many attributes of the spirit of man*1. It is not conditioned, though in some it may largely be so; it is not vapid, though in many, it is reduced to this pathological condition. It is an arena of warfare, a token of truth, a guide to goodness, capable of being invaded, inveighed against, but always there, asserting cultural conventions or their opposite, or some variation, or novelty or innovation as that which is RIGHT and GOOD and to be done by all means.
Just as feet may not walk, but should do so if the bearer is in good condition, so conscience may mislead, but is sounder if the heart of man is in good condition. It is an organ not incapable of abstraction, of attack and counter-attack, as you see so dramatically indicated in Shakespeare's Hamlet, where the weighing of war-waging opposites at the ethical level, in short to murder or not the one who has offended, becomes obsessive. In neurosis, such may indeed be the case. As feet may swell, so may conscience, into some disordered inflation of some things rather than others, and as eyes may be blinded, so may conscience, to its right and duty; but like the feet, like the eye, it is still there!
Were it not that there is in man a facility for such guidance, the deceptions of political and philosophic tricksters would fall and fail, for man is not endemically insane, to listen to mere imposition without awareness of what his race is; but man has such a facility, however often it may be deceived, and it is as clear to the observer as are his feet.
It cannot be reduced to this or that substitute, for the goodness man seeks is not only a concept of rule, of law, but of rightness and inspiration, of ideal and ruler by which to assess others and himself. It cannot be broken in many, and is insidiously loose in others, who may, like Lady Macbeth, lament their harsh over-rule, even in the acrid depths of mania, in hallucination or pitiable brokenness of spirit.
So is the case with consciousness. It is capable of being considered at the purely phenomenal level, like conscience, but it is quite incapable, like its brother conscience, of being reduced into this or that electronic signal. Signals sign something, and in conscience and consciousness alike, man finds in what these realms present, in that to which they sensitise, induce or from which repel, nothing less than a world of necessary relationship.
Why and how are these things, and what are these signs ? Inexplicable as mere material actions, they symbolise, induce and produce realms for understanding which, taken together and in tandem with all else to which man is subject, and which is his gift, enable him to be a mover of mounds, a builder of bridges, an artist in architecture, a writer of poems appealing to the thoughts, heart and spirit of many, a noble deliverer in sympathy with ardour or an activist who will dash this or that folly, or goodness IN folly, or rise above some other challenge, and stricken or convinced, take the guns that spew the bullets and point them, or the funds that minister comfort, and use them.
The reason why conscience comes is simple. When one omits the materialistic bent which is an irrational discharge of man's spirit in rebellion as shown in Repent or Perish Ch. 7 and SMR Chs. 1-3 especially, and realises that his mind is the pre-condition of any theory about matter, and its validity a necessity before the latter may be believed and his chatter heeded, and that the coherence of truth about all things has a basis which alone answers all questions in a scope and perspective which is incomparable and never fails (cf. SMR, TMR, Reason, Revelation and the Redeemer, The gods of naturalism have no go!), then there is no problem.
Consulting the Bible on the one hand, and the functionalities of man's spirit on the other, these two great consonant complexes of information, what does one find as pressing to the ultimate, there is no stay but there ? Then on the one hand, there is acute awareness of consciousness as the facility of spirit which, using the designed designations of brain, and its accomplices in sense organs, and its assigned logic 'chip' or inherent facility, with its soaring spree facility, by which it may overview and investigate anything, and think critically, and with this, there comes realisation that this is the reason for, and the immediate operator over man's body. Then one finds consciousness as the condition of thought and the medium of spirit, very much like the radio valves of old, which allow communication, but do not in themselves provide it, being mere assignments for transmission of what is not at all themselves!
For that, there must be a listener who knows how to use them, an architecture of the radio which enables the whole to be available for transmission, and a mind which is able to respond intelligently to the intelligible sounds coming from the box.
These pre-conditions are similar to the constraints of the brain and body. These instruments, including sensory perception, are equipment for the spirit of man and his mind; they do not in themselves obliterate man's power to use his mind on this earth, but though capable of amazing self-healings and reconstructions to a startling degree in some cases, as in brain damage, they are organs for use. Consciousness is not provided by them, but in them. As equipment, they do not produce logic, dreams or ideals, but merely proceed as made. As equipment for man with his spirit and mind, however, they are as real as the tape-recorder for the opera singer whose voice is transmitted by that recording equipment, but not made by it; whose thought and sensitivities are, in this technical way, unfolded at a distance in time and space from her performance, but by no means created by it.
These, they are equipment for the works of spirit, and having their own domain, contribute that transportability of effects which is there demonstrable office, just as WHAT they enable to act in this way, is wholly different!
Thus consciousness, so far from being an insoluble mystery, as it ever must be for the reductionism of materialism, is simply an expression of the mode in use of the equipment provided for man, when his spirit, correlative to an intimate degree, employs and later deploys it, as he effects his thoughts and stores them. It is so with the computer, where memory banks may store the thoughts of brilliance, the codes of secrecy or the data of billions, but of course have no more to do with the creation of the facts involved, and the spheres of their operation, than does a rubbish bin with its contents.
Consciousness for man is immersed in rationality, not as a necessity, but as a modus operandi, like a car, which is not conditioned to motion, but is suited for it, if rightly used. It is a processor for the occurrence dreams, a recipient for the strivings of spirit and the desires of mind. It is the concourse of involvement, but not the creator of what is involved. Similarly, conscience does not require awareness of goodness, rightness and the beauty of truth, but it is a fitting concourse of spirit, for the occurrence of these impingements. Their source as with consciousness is spirit, and its source is the God who, having power to use and also to MAKE mind and spirit, is the basis eternal of all, for nothing itself at no stage can be all, since it would have no future, such as you and me.
What then is the office of conscience, as it moves in consciousness in man ? It is multiple. Firstly, it occasions awareness of goodness, of things apt and inept for the equipment called body, the mind that thinks of it and the spirit which wills concerning it. It is not infallible. It is a given resource which after hundreds of generations, having been used and misused, suppressed, repressed and expressed, taken over by idols, sunk in the mire of passion and will, is still viable but not always reliable.
Secondly, it points to God, as the source of all creation, so that its dictates or preferences may be tested. This in itself is a good result since without his Designer, man is derelict and merely continues like an unserviced car, going, but where and when! This pointing, very often apparent in the child before vested interests of non-virtue corrupt, and again in the maturing adolescent, as life beckons and reality is not yet compromised fatally, is not incapable of being smashed like a sign post. Empirically, this was well attested by one who, being asked why he had at just such an age, or shortly thereafter, left the church of his forefathers, and whether in particular he had been offended by something, replied in the negative. No, it was not anything like that; it was just that the church was NOT CONVENIENT. Many in fact have found truth inconvenient, and this becomes not only a basis for lying in particular episodes but for what Paul calls THE LIE (II Thessalonians 2:11 cf. I John 2:22), that severance as of a vine branch from its stock, which leaves life mysterious because it is cut. .
Thirdly, it sensitises to effects, not merely in quantity, but in quality. This is far from being merely a negative attribute. Thus, conscience, like a well-fed, groomed horse, rested in its proper paddock and keen on its master, may glide with joy, gallop with felicity, amble with content when it is both in the hands of its Maker, freely with fealty, and at peace with its own doings. Moreover, there is, as with a horse, a certain guidance through it which comes when, unlike the mule or the intemperate horse, it responds to His eye (cf. Psalm 32:8-10), is aware of His leaning (as is a horse that is in sympathetic mode with the rider), of the direction of his flight and even at times, of the meaning of His movements towards the target or goal of the ride.
In such a condition, conscience is like the zephyr which blows gently, or the pleasant wave which rises just in the right place, for the appealing surf to the sea-shore. It confirms its course by being used aright, as a car which purrs in sensitive responsiveness, being unstressed and acting within its competence of speed and acceleration, being oiled and serviced aright. So does right function enjoy felicity, and even when, as epitomised in Gethsemane, the most horrendous obligations face it, yet it may be strengthened in the right: in Christ's own life, it was by angels that He was comforted in the midst of this appalling confrontation which was, after all, the very one embraced with the enthusiasm of love (Psalm 40), and achieved with the purposes of mercy: namely the redemption of His people, and the offering of Himself as the Lamb to everyone who believes.
Such is a third work of conscience. In this, of course, it is not alone, for the spirit of man is capable by its amazing creation and construction, of direct communion with God, direct intimation from the Lord, Jesus Christ as you often see in Acts, whether directly (as in 18:9-10) or indirectly (as in 16:9), in direction or correction (cf. II Corinthians 12:6-10). Conscience meanwhile, like a faithful retriever, continues at one's heels, and if they are clean, does so with relish.
Fourthly, conscience secures attention, even for the most wayward, whether in strong revulsion, startling attraction, uneasy queasiness or settled uneasiness, or visionary force, and hence distinguishes man from a merely dithering creature of functionalities unknown, meaningless and mutant. It may be educated, but may well be dissident to such invasion!
It may rove back thousands of years to some model, and insist, using reason, on its source and course, or impassioned, kill millions on wrong misconceptions, like aircraft, ABLE to hone in on aerodrome signals, but liable to be mistaken with a bad pilot, on which ones to use. Such is the present pathology of man (cf. Ephesians 4:17-19; 2:1-12).
It must be calibrated with Christ, from the uniquely valid Bible, as seen in Ch. 8 below and its references at the end. Then it must be treated sensitively, lest in harshness and intemperance of temper, one should wound, or distort, disorder or misdirect its inclinations. It should be realised with reason, and reason needs to find its own validity*2 and source in the rationalities conferred, within the fellowship with God and the functionalities of His wisdom in His word, so that like a healthy leg, conscience goes WHERE it should and HOW it should, in which usage it does exceedingly well.
At that, conscience has a fifth usage. It can convince of error even when the mind has not caught up with the grounds, and so assist like a walking cane, when one might stumble*1A. The more one is versed in the Handbook of holiness, the Bible, the more conscience, being in its native source and the concourse of value in its Origin, and Ground, its Maker and Creator, relishes its opportunities of service, like the legs of an athlete; but since man is sinner, the more he relishes his abilities, the more he is inclined to fall, since pride blinds and self-approval tends to diminish reality, as if one were some kind of little god. Such a thing being rationally abhorrent, it can produce painful results, like any other fall, when the madness of self-centredness arises like a plague, a virus, an AIDS of the spirit.
Consciousness, with this conscience facility as one of the dynamics of operation of the spirit of man which reaches functionality by this means, is recipient for all of these things, the beholder of the operations relevant to the testability and versatility, the rationality and the ambitions, the aims and the ideals of man.
In this Chapter, such matters are given fuller attention, and their grounds examined with the relish which is the joy for what fits, works, confirms itself and is occasioned by patient, persevering reason, and conclusive, assured revelation.
On spirit in man, see:
SMR pp. 348ff., 1-70, 611ff., 620ff., Ch. 4, Sections 1-2,
Christ Jesus: the Wisdom and the Power of God 7, Scaling the Heights Ch. 6 (the nature of spirit, in man, and the work of the Spirit of God in both Testaments);
Little Things Ch. 5;
Barbs... Appendix 1;
Overflight in Christ Ch. 2, *1, ;
Joyful Jottings 25-26 (man as encapsulated spirit ),
Licence for Liberty Ch. 4, 1,
6, (in the scope of its use and the pageantry of its performance, for good and for evil),
News 111, 122, 153,
Great Execrations Ch. 6 (man and autonomy, alone, in the nations),
Let God be God! Ch. 2;
The W 2 .
The Wit and Wisdom of the Word of God: the Bible True to Test Ch. 2 .
Features of this kind are brought to focus in Christ Incomparable, Lord Indomitable Ch. 2, from which a relevant excerpt is taken below.
Empirically, each domain, each phase of life has to be considered where it is and for what it does and can do; and this, if truth is to exist in the matter, has to be subject to two criteria. Firstly, one must avoid blaming what is merely circumstantial when it is clear that resolve can and could readily overcome it; but the preference may be otherwise, the matter being duly weighed, and desires accorded status by evaluation.
What is the source of the evaluation ? There are many influences, but what needs to be recalled is this, that reason and reality are one of these. Even when consciously there is an impediment for wilful reasons, to receiving truth, this is far from the end of the matter.
One may be afflicted by conscience, summoned by known deletion of relevant elements, however hard rationalisation may try to deliver one, and immersed in remorse, or its counterpart, exhibit swaggering disregard (cf. SMR Ch. 3). Much is simply FACT, however imperfectly known, versus will.
Thus whether one has access to truth itself, or by will misused, does not, yet there are facts and what to do with them is not merely irrational, though a sufficiently slavish mind may find it so, but rational and evaluative; and this may relate not least to facts (I DID do that, and THIS DOES happen in such a case, and so forth). It varies in mood, in mentality, in aspiration, in influence by truth in various domains, on attitude to THE TRUTH, in God. The human heart is by nature now desperately wicked, even trying to deny its own responsibility and debauching reason in the process, as noted above.
The Bible is by no means wrong in this, and few are they more morbidly determined to avoid it than those who nobly pretend to be treating the facts, while ignoring the only source in which to find them, finally. Justice may be the conscious criterion of conduct, or truth, or goodness, or mercy, or all of them, or these things may lie slain in the aspirations of the subject. It is not the bones which determine the love for these things, but a yielding to the nature of the case; for without justice, there is mere force, which is far below the capacities of man, in creation and co-operation; and without mercy, there is loss, through hard-nosed pretence, for all men fail in some things; and without goodness, there is evil, the marring and the marching that seeks what is desired, and not to complement what is produced with ingenuity and understanding.
To desire these things, while short of knowing God, is a derivative of being derived from God, and thus a second derivative in status. The imprint of eternity is disposed into the temporal by its truth. It does not require; but it does attest what reason confirms and indeed requires. It is this which is the basis of much differentiation, as rationalisation and self-defence induce towards further errors. Refusal of this dual attestation is a result of liberty plus truth, a peculiar specialty found in, but not confined to man.
The lust for power, control, mastery, glory are all involved, and much else besides. It is not the peculiar parts of the dynamics of self-destruction through desired delusion, masquerading as truth, which are crucial here; it is the type of procedure. It is attested in scripture in Ephesians 4:17-19.
But what of the love of truth, mercy, goodness and justice ?
Loving these things is no more determined by quality of your nervous energy, than is a horse's temperament by the quality of its legs. Hating them is indeed a diseased condition of the spirit, but it is one accessible by will. The will for truth is not subject to the shape of the brain, which serves in ideational facilitation, or the pockets of its planning. If it were, then capacity would equal direction, what is would equal what should be, and what is enablement would equal purpose. Such identities are no more acceptable re persons, than are inadequate identities in trigonometry.
The place of purpose in the design called man is obvious in what is found in him: the integrality and unity, the inimitable intimacies of the correlative qualities and components and the capacity to transcend what is ordered or programmed, by making programs and making the scenarios for which made programs are adapted, by deciding on what OUGHT to be done. Nothing that is, makes what ought to be so much as exist ... except God.
He however is not part of man's equipment, nor are His powers those of man. He is in fact the sina qua non of truth (cf. Barbs ... 6 -7, It Bubbles ... Ch. 9), the rational ground of justice and the personal source of mercy and goodness.
The reason why the existence of God makes for what OUGHT to be, is simple. Since man is a design (cf. Chs. 1 - 2 in Dip Deeper, Higher Soar...), the WILL and purpose of the designer becomes what is right for him. Without this, he does not exist. By it, he has the right way to exist. If it were put that the Designer was evil, then this is impossible, as we have seen in detail in such sites as Sparkling Life ... Ch. 4; for being contained by nothing, delimited by none, having all things, needing nothing, giving all that it might be, lacking all pre-determined controls, with the inhibitions of time merely His own invention for His creation, He has nothing but to give, to create, to enable and of course, to judge, since He is not only the truth, but what constitutes it.
What He wills is wrought; and if He makes freedom, that is wrought; and if man misuses it, that is man's error, and man's response should be, as it sometimes is, repentance. When He designs, moreover, He does not use what lacks the requisite potencies, or potential, in the work, but what has them. In all creation, it is so. Thus even a hat-designer can take materials and by imagination and enterprise CREATE a chapeau to dazzle. It is however a HAT still, with whatever appeal to the imagination, which shares the vision behind it, perhaps, in the mind of the designer. It is not a thinking object, but a stimulus to thought in those who possess the powers of thought.
If, similarly, you make a tape-recorder, and store there the EFFECTS acoustically, or a video and store the visual and acoustic effects in its receptacle-prone potential, you do not create a thinking or imagining or performing object out of matter: in matter you store it, in DESIGNED matter, you are ABLE to store it. It has however nil in creativity, merely possessing transmissibility through code, precisely as in DNA.
The confusion of
means in matter with
an end, what uses them, and
the end itself, design
prescriptions, with the originating thought of design, or
for that matter,
design prescriptions with the inner thought of
that very resultant, man,
For thought you need not merely its results - code can be a result of thought, just as can originality makers such as man. Thought is put into each; but it is put into different receptacles. What is potent for thought is one thing; what is a mere transmitter of it, that is another. You see this highlighted with brilliantly discerning and dully, near automated students: the latter follow, the former may even lead.
A conscious evaluator, critic, originator of thought, assessor of means, institutor of priorities, exponent of imagination, whether rebel against his or her own construction, or in sympathy with it may by arrogance imagine itself a god (as in Ezekiel 28:9, where the transcendent beauty and brilliance of one of God's creation leads him to act the god-part, and to be asked: "Will you still say I am a god, when I slay you!").
This is the extent to which the amazing licence for liberty accorded to man can go. It is however of course just as much a work of folly to extrapolate liberty and imagination into all-power and control of creation (including one's very self), as to imagine that what is manifestly occurring before one's eyes, does not exist. Thus some may seek to imagine that they are without the qualities which matter lacks, and cannot be contrived to possess; and this while they even engage in conscious thought and critically evaluation, for which matter is not the domain, though the results of this, as of many other things, can be stored in it, or exhibited by it.
All of this however is as far from the programmatic, it is as far from the hard-wired in, what is merely settled in the electronic media, instilled in directive or inanimate process by the experiences that come with the mere passage of time, as can be! It is simply a different domain, with different meaning, facilities, laws and ways. To confuse the two is to confuse what CANNOT err because it is programmed - and even a determinist failure to follow a program is NOT an error, but a failure in the programmer - the mere enactment from the thing made, on the one hand, and on the other, what can err, because it is personal and liable to do so.
That is one of the summits of creation, that a person can construe, err, repent or revile, love truth or hate it, sell it consciously for prevailing reasons, or buy it where it may be found, for whatever it may cost, if anything, and even know why. The deliberations are personal, not programmatic, may even err in their assessments by confusion in certain aspects, and this by the thrust of desire or the lapses of laziness. Indeed, we as persons discuss this; and it is not our brain capacities nor is it yet our physical criteria which make the discussion; it is our capacities to deploy these capacities with purpose against or for the nature of our construction. If we elect to hate the construction, or life, or the creator of it, or to so despise Him as to imagine that nothing did the job, and created causation while it was at it, even though for that reason it would not exist in order to be caused, and so end in endless antinomies: so be it. That is a product of freedom which is a function of personality, which CAN and DOES err repeatedly.
Not only would mankind be insane to imagine guilt when matter drives thought, though it cannot think, or to argue as if truth were even available, when natural and thoughtless dynamics are the criteria of understanding, or to ponder career because of spiritual reasons, such as love, when this is known by a model which despises facts, to be a heartless code throbbing: the case for determinism is yet more vaguely vain and confused even than that. He would, for the model's sake, have to try to work out how a person with consciousness and contemplative facilities for evaluation and rational analysis is sited in what is merely the programmatically impersonal. It is precisely the same as trying to work out how an aircraft, whose career one is following, being gifted with many kinds of automation and control, sensor and global positioning devices, programs for contingencies and so forth, yet does things not contemplated by the maker, and invents actions and chooses directions in no way even possible for program.
The answer as in all such contusions of thought, is simple. It is this. Cease trying to force on domain of reality into another, to seek one model for all things, divorcing here powers that yet manifest themselves, and adding there powers that deny all such attribution empirically. Cease dreaming. Become a realist. Attribute function where it is to be found, and use theory to account for what is found, not to deny it. Cease to be rationalist and irrational, trying by simplistic thought to dragoon facts into your impatient maw, and in the process leaving only antinomy and unanswered because unanswerable questions, when the rational, empirical and scientific mode brings you to the exact opposite, a sensitive perception of multi-functional domains of reality, conjoined by what is definably design, and inhabited by the functionalities which design so often brings, from diverse sources (cf. Dip Deeper, Higher Soar Chs. 1 - 2, cf. Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Ch. 9, History, Review and Overview Ch. 5).
To be sure, if a man sees his fallacies and returns to rationality, he may still hate God, with a studied impudence, seeking to outdo Him, much as a prisoner might seek to overturn the gaoler; but God is not limited, so that it cannot be done. It is not in the stars but in ourselves that the error lies; and when it is consciously escalated, then so much of the truth at last begins to appear, as when an employe, hating the boss, subservient in appearance but not in spirit, chooses his moment for betrayal, in public. With God it cannot work more than ruin, since the book cannot run or ruin the author.
However, it is tried; and in the fury of the folly of failure, there are the wars, often seemingly without much real cause; and sometimes with abundant cause, since man without God, having no inbuilt purpose, but a reasonable trend to note and consider justice and truth (as distinct from lie), and co-operation and productivity and performance, can directionally go anywhere, like a misfired rocket. His power to create and endure becomes misdirected, a power to vaunt and scoff and arrogantly to seek to subdue others better than he, by guile or fraud or surprise or mere murder.
Endless tangles result, in which cries of justice and judgment may be heard, even though at this or that moment, in gross and vile error, the very topic was either forgotten or suppressed for long enough by those who cry.
See for example:
The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness Ch. 7, It Calls ...
Ch. 9, TMR Ch. 5, What is the Chaff to the Wheat Chs. 3 and 4.