Spiritual awakening brings with it some scary and unusual side effects. The growth of consciousness and conscience create new opportunities and challenges. 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. With each new level of perception, comes new challenges.
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 the changes it will make.
The Growth of Consciousness
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.
Growth of consciousnesses and conscience are linked. (1) The mechanisms of the mind on which they operate are complex, but how they manifest is practical.
If you are unconscious, you have zero awareness. If you are conscious and awake, you perceive the details of your environment. Consciousness, awareness, and conscience grow and decrease at roughly the same rates.
When you are more aware, you see and experience a greater range of input. Thankfully, in most cases, they all grow at the same rate, giving you better control over the emotional impact. If they don’t, then you become out of balance, resulting in mental distress and unhealthy mental condition.
If you have a conscience, you will show kindness and compassion without regard for what is involved, people, animals, or the environment. Your actions are free of harmful prejudice. If you don’t have a conscience, you are narcissistic and self-centered. Your actions are ruled by negative bias and prejudice.
What’s scary and unusual is that people without conscience often seek positions of authority where they can control the lives of others.
“The finest thing under the sun and moon is the human soul. I marvel at the small miracles of kindness that pass between humans. I marvel at the growth of conscience, at the persistence of reason in the face of all superstition or despair. I marvel at human endurance.” — Anne Rice
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 pretty shocking. 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. Some early philosophers call it the dark night of the soul. We can trace the origins of this term to 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.
Scary and Unusual Choices for Growth of Conscience
When we think about the road of enlightenment, we picture positive fabulous things, and to be sure, there are many benefits. However, the universe has a way of combining more benefits with more responsibility. It’s a fair transaction; we just need to be ready to pay the price for expanding awareness.
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. 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 about them. Guess what? Being aware of an issue doesn’t make it go away; it magnifies them, making them harder to ignore.
The internal issues related to this thing we call our paradigm (2) 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 instincts and personality. There are two options for dealing with the side effects of these 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 persist even if you decide not to deal with them. The scary and unusual thing is that many people opt for this choice end up with chronic mental and physical ailments.
If you decide to numb your awareness, perhaps you can watch more TV or play more video games? Unfortunately, the growth of consciousness is stubborn. Once you see something, it’s hard to forget.
“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 you’ve come this far, we don’t recommend trying to numb out or forget what your heart tells you you need to do. If you try it, you will be in constant internal conflict psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.”
Cognitive dissonance is mental and physical discomfort resulting from resolving the internal conflict between different facts or beliefs. If you can’t or won’t modify your paradigm to account for the new information, it causes an internal conflict resulting in real pain. 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. The Enneagram of Personality Profile is a system that reveals your Ego’s default mechanisms through a scientifically verified quantitative questionnaire. 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 you like or dislike certain things or situations. One of the main things you’ll learn is that you are not your personality; it is only a default setting. Once you learn this, you can move beyond the confines of your personality and access other gifts.
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 affects your thinking and values.
When we grow internally, we see what’s going on inside. The result is a growth of our outward, external social, and environmental awareness.
The first and the least favorable option is to ignore the insight we’ve gained. We can pretend that what we know we should do is someone else’s responsibility. This option leaves us to deal with the guilt of an awakened conscience. It will lead us back to the additional consequences of cognitive dissonance.
“Just as the education of nerve and sinew is vital to the excellent athlete and education of the mind is vital to the scholar, education of the conscience is vital to the truly proactive, highly effective person. Training and educating the conscience, however, requires even greater concentration, more balanced discipline, more consistently honest living. It requires regular feasting on inspiring literature, thinking noble thoughts and, above all, living in harmony with its still small voice.” — Stephen Covey
Option two is the better, healthier choice. We allow our newly awakened conscience to guide us to the good cause where we can help. We can always find a way to do something within our sphere of influence and resources. So, if you pick this option, congratulations on making the world a better place! 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. Remember, the path of enlightenment is not for the faint-hearted; with the growth of consciousness comes the growth of conscience.
(1) Conscience and Consciousness: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956087/
(2) Paradigm: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradigm