Monthly Archives: February 2011

How Many Consciences Can One Have?

Conscience, as I’ve written about many times in this blog, is a basic element in Logotherapy: the mechanism that detects meaning and conveys it to the possessor of conscience. Yet, there are at least two types of meaning as Frankl stated it: meaning and ultimate meaning. Meaning is accessible to all humans who attune their consciences towards it, whether religious or secular. Ultimate meaning is, essentially, the realm of the G-dly, the spiritual, and the absolutely moral.

Then there are the three dimensions of the human being: the biological, the psychological and the noological (the human dimension). The noological dimension is the locus of conscience and meaning within the human personality, because it is with these two endowments that man is able to transcend the limitations that his biological and psychological places upon him. In addition, it is these two endowments that makes it possible for a person to be judged according to the ethical value of his or her actions; the excuse of being “only human”, or “society’s child” is done away with by the noological capacity for transcendence (and by extension, greatness).

Now, I have wrestled with the question as to whether or not there exists a dimension above the noological, a second level of conscience, one that enables people to perceive ultimate meaning as opposed the standard meaning available to all. Because, let’s face it: what exists as spiritual truth to one person is often viewed as hogwash by another. How can this be possible? If ultimate meaning is an objective reality, how is it seemingly perceivable only to a select few, and rejected by others?

After much opposition from others within my training group to my initial foray into two consciences, and more reflection on the matter, my newest conclusion is: rather than there being two types of conscience, there are two types of meaning. Frankl’s own words serve to substantiate this, as in a number of places, he defines the noological dimension as the human or anthropological dimension of man (which he calls spiritual but not religious). The second type of meaning he left undefined, I believe, for two reasons. First, because of his contention that religion, if it is to be meaningful, has to be a uniquely personal experience. Second, because he felt that the realm of ultimate meaning was the domain of the clergyman, as opposed to being the domain of the psychotherapist.

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