Spiritual awakening brings with it some unexpected side effects. The growth of our conscience is one of these. What will we do with this greater awareness? What choices will you make?
Awakening has some unintended consequences. It’s an expansion of internal and external line-of-sight, making it possible for us to see and understand more.
The Growth of Consciousness
When we are children, we want to be grown-ups. We think it will be better. Then, when we grow up, we realize we should have enjoyed our childhood innocence more. It’s much the same way with spiritual development. We want to develop our full potential, and we want to explore other realms of consciousness. But, we don’t expect all of the changes it will make.
We learn that with increased growth comes increased responsibility. So, it’s good to have some idea of what we can expect to happen if we progress on our spiritual journey.
The Side Effects of Spiritual Awakening
“At precisely the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with society.” ― James Baldwin
If we can see more, that’s good. Yes, and no. If we see the world as it is, it can be quite a shock. Thankfully, we see the beauty we may have missed, but we also see things we would rather not. When we can see more of what is going on, we are more aware of bias, injustice, and prejudice.
As we awaken, greater awareness also brings the growth of conscience. It is an exciting development for many people, and this growth is one of the unexpected side effects of spiritual awakening.
“A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.” ― Mark Twain
Now, we can no longer ignore the misuse of the planet. Our conscience involves our heart, and the natural response is empathy for all living things. In other words, the growth of consciousness results in the growth of conscience. Therefore, we must align with our conscience, which is just one of the unexpected side effects of spiritual awakening.
This expansion of awareness brings up what we know as our existential fear. It is what some early philosophers call the “dark night of the soul.” We can trace the origins of this term from the 16th-century and the poem entitled “The Dark Night” by mystic poet, Roman Catholic St. Paul of the Cross. He was a Carmelite friar and a priest of Spanish origin.
Our existential fear forces us to face the implications of our physical demise. When you investigate this fear, it opens up your personality and instincts’ default settings. It is important to realize things change when we see the mechanisms of our personality and society.
Additional information allows us to identify and remove roadblocks to our development. If we act on this new data, we can positively impact ourselves and the world. Each of us has our sphere of influence.
Growth of Conscience
If we keep going and allow our personality to integrate, we open up the gifts some call “the virtues of the spirit.” These aren’t philosophical points but the higher qualities of our soul. It all depends on what you decide to do. The growth of consciousness for the Ego is scary because it means a loss of control.
We are choice makers. Everything we do is a choice. The more options we have, the greater the number of choices we have. The expansion of awareness shows both internal and external spheres in which we can make choices. It’s a side effect that many weren’t expecting. It forces us to see, and that forces us to make choices.
When our conscience grows, it will illuminate any internal issues. Unfortunately, this is one of the primary side effects of spiritual awakening. These issues have always been there; now, you can see them more clearly. We didn’t have the insight to know of them. Guess what? Just being aware of the issues doesn’t eliminate them.
The internal issues related to this thing we call our paradigm (1) are with us always. Our paradigm is the worldview, and it contains the filter through which you see reality. It is the blueprint of your thoughts, beliefs, and values. It also relates to the default settings of your personality and instincts. There are two options in dealing with the side effects of greater awareness of these inner mechanisms.
The first option is to ignore the insight of our growth. Ignoring the growth of conscience won’t make your increased perception go away. The issues will keep coming up, but you decide not to deal with them. Perhaps you can watch more TV, or play more video games?
“A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me, there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.” ― George Bernard Shaw
If this is your option, you will attempt to suppress the information provided by the new insight from our conscience. We don’t recommend this approach; it puts you in a constant state of conflict psychologists call cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive Dissonance is mental and physical discomfort resulting when you reconcile contradictory views, beliefs, ideas, or values. If you can’t modify your paradigm to account for the new information, it causes an internal conflict. If you have an adverse emotional reaction to opposing ideas, this needs some attention.
The second option is much better. It means you will do something with your increased awareness and conscience. Good for you if you pick this option, the world needs more people like you.
Start by learning about the programming of your personality and instincts. One of the best tools we’ve found is the Enneagram of Personality Profile. This system uses a questionnaire to reveal your Ego’s default mechanisms. It’s only the first step, but it’s a big one.
Learning about these default these settings will help you understand how your mind works. It will explain how and why it has drawn you to specific likes/dislikes and how you function socially. The main takeaway here is finding out you are not your personality. You can learn to access and operate from different vantage points, which is the essence of inner learning.
The next aspect of your programming is the influence of the cultural narrative. These aren’t hard-wired, but this programming is compelling; it’s what we get from religion and politics. It can override the decision-making abilities of reason and common sense. So, it’s a good practice to question everything in the cultural narrative. This daily exercise will reveal the cultural bias and prejudice that affect your thinking and values.
Now, for the external choices.
Here, again, the first option is to ignore our conscience. Pretend it is someone else’s responsibility. Then we must deal with the guilt resulting from having a conscience. See also Cognitive Dissonance above. We don’t recommend this option.
The second option is similar to the second internal option. Likewise, we accept the consequences of our awareness of the issues. Then we can do something about it within our sphere of influence; if you chose this option, congratulations on helping! The world needs more people like you to put actions behind your thoughts.
So, now you have decisions to make. Are you going to ignore or accept the challenges that conscience’s growth brings? The side effects of spiritual awakening can be surprising, but it is worth the effort.
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(1) Paradigm, Wikipedia
(2) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia