Unification News for January, 1997

Original Mind and Conscience

by Peter Steeghs-Center Point, TX

Recently there has been much talk in our church about conscience; and it is proposed that conscience and Original Mind are basically the same. I believe that a lack of distinction between the two is contributing to confusion and to an unbalanced perspective. I would therefore like to propose that the original distinction, as outlined in the Divine Principle, between Original Mind and conscience be maintained.

Conscience cannot be related to a universal standard, at least not automatically. In the English language, conscience is defined as "conformity in behavior to one's personal standard of right and wrong." Simply, then, conscience is a personal sense of right and wrong. Since this sense of right versus wrong is individually based, conscience is neither experienced nor expressed in a uniform manner. What may be unconscionable to one person may be very acceptable to another. For some people it may be conscionable to keep a wallet they find in a public place ("finders keepers"), rather than feeling obligated by their conscience to return it to its rightful owner. For some people it may be unconscionable to take human life in any circumstance, while for others it may be quite honorable to take their own life, assist someone in suicide, or assassinate someone for particular reasons.

The formation of individual conscience is based on the way values and attitudes in a person have been formed. Varying sociological and cultural factors in the environment will play a major role in both the formation and expression of conscience. For instance, in terms of what constitutes "truth": in some cultures loyalty may be seen as a much more important function of conscience than, perhaps, honesty. For these reasons, responses in regard to conscience will vary from person to person, and culture to culture; and at least on their most basic (formation) level, are not uniform in all people.

Original Mind, on the other hand, however, does pertain to a universal standard of ethical principles on the basis of which behavior is guided. Behavior based on these ethical principles is focused on the fundamental, common good of all people, and is not just limited to the benefit of the person, family, group or nation.

In fact, at least four different levels of cognitive reference can be distinguished, based upon which, people tend to make their decisions, and act. In a sense, these levels represent a progression of moral development, and also represent an ascending progression of internal responsibility and freedom.

Level 4: behavior based on the directions of another person(s) Level 3: behavior based on the standards of the group Level 2: behavior based on individual conscience Level 1: behavior based on universal principles/ethics (Original Mind)

To explain what I mean, I will give a more detailed description of the four levels, and match them with examples of corresponding reasons which persons might give as an explanation for behavior, depending on the point of reference from which they operate.

LEVEL 4 (The directions of others)

Behavior is based on obedience to the directions of others. In following directions and rules of others, the person is primarily motivated by avoiding disapproval, dislike, punishment; and/or by trying to gain approval and rewards (Good Boy/Good Girl).


a. My father told me to do that. b. My boss directed me to shred all the evidence. c. My gang leader told me to break into that house. d. My master ordered me to throw poison gas onto the subway. e. A voice in my head told me to do that.

LEVEL 3 (The standards of the group)

Behavior is essentially determined by the rules and standards which are in force in the general social surroundings (or sub-group). Standards are followed in response to expectations of the environment. The person is essentially motivated by maintaining respect and acceptance, and by avoiding social condemnation.


a. Everybody has always done it that way. b. They all threatened me into doing it. c. We are all supposed to do that. d. Everybody was doing it, too. e. My friends would look at me strange if I didn't go along.

LEVEL 2 (Individual conscience)

Behavior is based on specific values which have been internalized subconsciously from upbringing and the environment, as well as by conscious choice. The person tries to avoid self-condemnation by living in accordance with his own standards, and is primarily motivated by a personal sense of right and wrong (individual conscience). Convictions are not primarily contingent upon the opinions of others.


a. It does not feel right for me to do this. b. To me it really feels proper to do that. c. I would not be able to live with myself if I had not spoken out. d. I must do this, no matter what they say. e. I call it the way I see it, not how they want me to.

LEVEL 1 (Cosmic perspective/Original Mind)

The person acts from transcendent beliefs which are grounded in universal ethical principles, self-evident truth, and the belief in a higher power. Operates from a sense of internal unity of self, and a sense of unity with others. Perceives reality from a unified cosmic perspective which encompasses the common good of all people. Appraises religious beliefs from a viewpoint of universality, rather than particularity (i.e., dogma), and is in his/her beliefs and actions guided more by spirituality than by religiosity.


a. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
b. Love your enemy.
c. We hold this truth self-evident: that all men are created equal.
d. One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.
e. I have a dream: that one day all men will live as brothers.
f. He continued to fast until all violence between the factions had ceased.
g. Though he was a Hindu, he raised the child in the Muslim tradition of the child's deceased parents.
h. His entire life was a day-after-day sacrifice to lay conditions for the restoration of the world.

It should be noted that, based on psychological research, most people generally appear to operate from a Level 3 base of reference. Furthermore, only Level 1 can be seen as the Original Mind level, since it is the only reference level which is solidly based on transcendent, self-evident ethical principles which are consistently, uniformly and universally applied.

In summary, I believe that the distinction between conscience and Original Mind, as originally stated in the Divine Principle, should be maintained-or at very least, a distinction be made between conscience and "Original Conscience." 

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