The basic view of conscience is manipulation by outside events, but the whole concept of conscience has far deeper meanings.
There is a trip-out device that masquerades under the name of conscience; different things for different levels. It only works as well as the level that you are at. If you consider yourself to be reasonably well-developed spiritual and reasonably sophisticated, so is your conscience. Conscience is the thing that should prevent you from performing a certain act, in the first place spiritual, in the second place physical, which upsets too much of the equilibrium that governs everything and everyone.
Conscience is not an invention of religion to keep the people in line; forget the stuff about angels. It goes with the over-developed being. It is a cop-out device. If you ignore it, nearly always someone else as well as yourself will pay for it. Conscience changes like the weather, it changes with the period.
Conscience is there to protect the balance, the equilibrium of everything. Right and wrong can be totally reversed in a comparatively short time. For instance, what happened to Oscar Wilde would not happen nowadays. The way he was treated was not a decision of conscience. Conscience is a matter of daring to use it. In that case, prison governors and doctors, all supposed to be educated, articulate men, refused to listen to their conscience, what they actually did was not merely to make an individual’s imprisonment particularly horrific, it was to perpetuate (a) a case in particular and (b) the penal system which left by a long way the limits of punishment and rehabilitation and leapt straight into the area of persecution. It is because no-one listened to their conscience that such an unbalanced system lasted for so long.
The question of crime and punishment is not really concerned with the individual action, it is about the damage to society. It has got nothing to do with being good or bad. It is a totally separate issue. Not everyone can add to society, but everyone has the potential to make sure that they do not detract from it. No-one asked ‘how much has this man damaged society?’ He was not judged on that. If damage or otherwise to society is too big a canvas on which to paint the actions of one man or a small group of men, ask yourself and allow this question to be answered by your conscience: ‘has the quality of anyone’s life suffered?’
Anonymous article taken from the Dark Lily Journal No 5, Society of Dark Lily (London 1988).