Conscience and intuition are two of the highest faculties commonly or frequently active in the average normal man. Their nature and function are quite different and act in two widely separate phases of our lives. Conscience has to do with right action in our daily lives. Intuition is the enlightener of our minds in regard to fundamental principles, truths, realities. Most of the discoveries of the truths of nature which scientists make are the work of intuition. The fundamental idea or principle or truth is first perceived intuitively and then worked out in detail by the mind. The eternal realities which form the basis of all religions are perceived intuitively by great Teachers and then formulated by the mind of the Teacher according to the requirements of the people to whom the Teacher is sent. The creeds and dogmas are mere mental forms which perhaps reveal but more often conceal the fundamental realities.
The a priori or deductive philosophies are those in which the fundamental truths are first conceived by intuition and thence formulated by the mind. These philosophies are the more spiritual ones. This method is often called the Platonic method while the a posteriori or Inductive or common scientific method is called the Aristotelian method. It tries to establish laws or principles by reasoning from a multitude of facts or discoveries to the general principles or laws. The trouble with this method of reasoning is that the discovery of a new fact may upset the whole philosophy like a house of cards.
The principles of Theosophy are usually grasped intuitively. We feel that we know the truth. Then we work out the details by thought and study.
But the word intuition is too often loosely and erroneously used for mere impressions or impulses, or for things perceived psychically or for the results of psycho-physical-sensitivity. These impressions or perceptions may be quite correct but are more often very imperfect or may be altogether erroneous.
Intuition is the voice of the Monad within us. It comes from Atma-Buddhi-Manas. Being from Atman it is cosmic. It is an infallible perception of Reality. It is the cosmic spirit acting through its vehicle, Buddhi, upon or within the mind, Manas. It is a direct ray of the divine spirit enlightening our minds and hearts.
The still small voice of conscience is from Buddhi-Manas and therefore pertains to our own individuality. It is the ethical wisdom gathered through many lives and stored in the immortal individuality — Buddhi-Manas. Practically speaking it is an almost infallible guide to conduct — at least it is the best we have. Any fallibility comes not from conscience but from the imperfection of our brain-minds which refuse to listen, or listening, pervert the message. Conscience is often spoken of as troublesome or even painful. Quite so to the headstrong animal-man which brooks no restraint. The elemental nature within us objects to restraint, but the success and happiness of our lives depends upon such restraint.
Conscience is that within us which takes note of the laws of right and wrong. These laws are as fundamental in Nature as is the law of gravity. If you lose your hold on the steering wheel of your auto you end up in the hospital or the morgue. If you lose control of your animal nature disaster is equally certain. Most of the mistakes and sufferings of our lives are the direct result of this lack of self-control. The animal has only sense enough to strive for its own wants. It has not the intelligence to rule the complicated affairs of human life. The truth is that even the animal part of us is far happier when it is doing the right thing. It is then at peace and is content. Properly controlled, the personal nature within us is the greatest servant in the world. It is the conscience which is the rein restraining and guiding the personal self away from wrong and into right action. Therefore it is man's best friend. It is a better friend than his mother because it is still with him where she cannot go. It might be aptly called a protective radar-beam that, observed, will save one's ship of life from a crash landing.
It would be a matter of simple common sense to cultivate a more intimate relation to so helpful and faithful a friend. If listened to attentively and followed conscientiously it might work wonders, a spiritual magic, in our lives and characters by cleaning up our minds and hearts to such an extent that the spiritual light of intuition might illuminate our minds, to such a degree as to make geniuses of us. Let's try it.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE