by Endre Voros – Seattle Area Director
“It is insanity to preach sanity to madmen.” ~ AR Orage
The thought occurs to me, what if I am one of the madmen referred to in the above quote. How would I have the courage to recognize my own madness? Could I see it in the ways I treat others? In the beliefs, I have and hold on to – about politics, country, society, education? Could I see the madness in how I objectify others and manipulate them, even in the name of leadership?
Would I have the courage to stay with this question if I saw that indeed, I was one of these madmen? Could I see how closed my feelings for others are most of the time?
In ancient times, humanity had an idea that sheds some light on these musings – Objective Conscience. By Objective, I believe the ancients meant: impartial, pure, non-sentimental truth. Conscience, on the other hand, is defined as: “an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.” The concatenation of these two ideas is Objective Conscience – the ability to follow an innate sense of knowing that supersedes bias, cultural expectations, social restriction and many of our other failings.
As a society, we tend to equate conscience with a measure of how close we are aligned to socially accepted behavior. Laws are, perhaps, a measure of or an indicator towards what is acceptable and not acceptable. Laws, however, and even culturally determined morality, have nothing to do with conscience.
If laws and morality were important to the idea of conscience, it would indicate that Conscience is extrinsic to us and must be enforced from outside to be maintained. A true Conscience is an intrinsic aspect of our being; it needs no reinforcement. I think that a true Conscience, in a sense, has its own life. That is, it appears as needed, organically, in the moment. It can appear as the butterflies in your stomach, the skip in your pulse, the inner sense of knowing.
Integral to the development of Objective Conscience is empathy. However, empathy seems to be a misunderstood idea. I feel that most of our understanding is too rooted in the ego and personality to be real empathy. True empathy comes from outside the ego/personality. And, it’s hard.
Empathy is not a tool used to sell something to another. It, in its real form, cannot be used for product or service creation or innovation or strategy. But oddly, real empathy can drive business and revenue growth. But not when it is applied with some goal in mind. Empathy cannot be cheapened into a transactional tool.
Real empathy would be to take a value, person, cause or politician you absolutely do not agree with and to try your best to understand them. Not through your lens, but through theirs. Empathy takes intelligence and it takes heart. When there is empathy there is also understanding. And caring. Empathy removes division.
In this idea of Conscience, we can say that without empathy there is no Conscience. Without an intuitive, empathy, welling up from your heart, the voice of your intrinsic Conscience will grow weary and hoarse and weak.
If we truly have empathy and Conscience, we can, in a very caring way, help others, lead others, develop others, and help the world. We can even help people grow beyond their fears and defenses. Without empathy, or conscience – that is, without understanding, caring and even a type of courage – we cannot be of help, support or service.
Another question comes to me: maybe empathy applied to the self is a form of Conscience? Maybe The first act of Conscience is to courageously look – and See – my own madness?