“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.”–Henry Louis Mencken
It would be foolish to assume that conscience can do its job — without its FIRST being the voice of a high dream.
In coaching, a high dream is “alert awareness” recognizing itself. A high dream IS our capacity to stand in the present and recognize what we want in the current moment … because it arises from who we know ourselves to be. We select what we perceive based on our desire for self-recognition.
The Physicist Fred Wheeler drew the following picture on a cocktail napkin which he showed to Albert Einstein.
It depicts the universe as a giant fish-like creature looking back at itself in a self-reflective way. The universe first started as a small creature at the tail end of the diagram (“eons ago”), and now its mind is here (“today”) looking back on the history which has since passed.
If we want to be participative in what ever happens now, then we must FIRST take up a context that can make sense of what ever is happening now. Conscience is the participative context that we bring to what ever is happening now; it is the high dream of how we see ourselves. And our past does NOT determine our participation; but it DOES establish a context for it. The dream always acts upon the context that we offer up. It allows us to be present.
So the high dream of conscience is the individual and collective “context” that fills us with hope, and purpose, and desire. It is the context that shapes how we participate in the world. And it is always a longing for fulfillment; it makes of our hopes and desires something we can identify and select.
And, while the high dream is a wish, it is always a wish for WHAT CAN BE. The context created possesses energy from the past and reconstellates it as “the possible.” And, in contrast, the low dream is the high dream’s mirror image; it is the reconstellation of fear and anxiety for what can be taken away. So conscience always wrestles with a sense of duality – desiring what can be and fearing for what can be taken away.
So, I want to summarize my series of blogs about conscience with a circle image.
Imagine a fire in the center of a circle. The high dream is the fire; it is the hopes and desires for what we want — individually and collectively. Now, imagine all of us in a circle around that fire. We are drawing warmth and light from the fire. The mirror image of darkness and fear is behind us, pressing against our backs. And we occasionally turn away from the fire – but always – we are drawn back to the fire itself. We know joy only when we face into the fire. “Eons ago” becomes tangible only when we face the fire. “Eons ago” is the collectively home none of us can separate from.
The topics which I introduced in this series are the issues which, I believe, concern us most. We are drawn to share and participate with these topics because they create the context and from which we imaginatively build the fire’s high dream. The issues discussed are summarized below.
- …the doorway to our depths… (“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”)
- …an enclosing circle around the other… (“He drew a circle that shut me out — Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. | But Love and I had the wit to win: | We drew a circle that took him in!”)
- …the horsemen of the disappointed dream… (“We carry a future orientation, a continuing belief in something more … and along with that belief comes disappointment.”)
- …the folly of self-determination… (“Being smart about life leads us down a superior but narrow road of self-deception.”)
- …necessary forgiveness… (“Complete possession is proved only by
giving. All you are unable to give possesses you.”)
- …trust’s intangible possession… (“Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark.”)
- …a landslide… (“And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills / ‘Till Landslide brought me down.”)
- …life loving life… (“Sacrifice still exists everywhere, and everywhere the elect of each generation suffers for the salvation of the rest.”)
- …a desire for confirmation… (“Did you forget that men prefer peace and even death to having to choose between good and evil?”)
And, of course, the fire continues to burn and we continue to learn.
And sometimes we wonder: …Conscience for the sake of what?… (“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”) Leadership is the conscientious voice that aligns us with:
- the voice of personal life experience,
- the voice consensus reality, and
- the voice of objective reality.
The high dream holds many voices. We would do well to listen to all of them.
As Henry Louis Mencken tells us “the inner voice” is our warning. The fire within is always watching.
Thanks for listening!