Is there such thing as a collective conscience?
Answer: Here I am
equating “conscience” with consciousness. The forms of unity that exist
in the world all reflect various degrees of collective conscience. For
example, a political party is based on a partisan collective
conscience. Collective conscience may be clannish or tribal.
Nationality is based on the collective conscience that is confined to
the borders of any particular country. Race identity is based on
collective conscience in so far as it extends to members of that race.
The workforce of any corporation is based on a corporate collective
conscience. Clubs, societies and associations are likewise all based on
forms of collective conscience which serve to form a temporary
identity. In sum, collective conscience may be motivated by political,
economic, patriotic, familial or racial considerations. They are all
expressions of various degrees of love and solidarity.
But from a Bahá’í point of view, all these forms of collective
conscience are limited and tend to be self-serving. For example, one
may love one’s clan or tribe but hate others (tribalism); one may love
one’s race to the exclusion of other races (racism); one may love one’s
nation above all others (nationalism); members of the same family may
end up hating, even killing one another (fratricide); partisan politics
engenders a multitude of adversarial behaviours; corporations may seek
to dominate and exploit.
So the question becomes: what is the most universal, unlimited form of
collective conscience? The cornerstone of Bahá’í belief is that the
oneness of mankind, the love of the whole human race, is at the present
stage of humanity’s evolution, the most perfect expression of
‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the eldest son and authorized interpreter of
Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings, explains: “All these ties of love are
imperfect. It is clear that limited material ties are insufficient to
adequately express the universal love. The great unselfish love for
humanity is bounded by none of these imperfect, semi-selfish bonds;
this is the one perfect love, possible to all mankind, and can only be
achieved by the power of the Divine Spirit. No worldly power can
accomplish the universal love”(Paris Talks, p. 36). His father
Bahá’u’lláh revealed: “It is not his to boast who loveth his country,
but it is his who loveth the world.” - Jack