We shall understand the mysterious nature of conscience only if we understand its twofold character. What we commonly experience as the inward voice of conscience is simply the distilled result of accumulated past experience, and this includes the experience of many, many earth lives also. This voice is usually a negative one, inasmuch as it more often warns, admonishes, and hinders us from wrong conduct. There is a rarer experience of conscience, however, which is the voice of our own Overself, that divine consciousness which transcends our personal self. This voice is usually a positive one, inasmuch as it more often directs, guides, and explains with a wisdom which comes from beyond the fears and hopes, the suggestions and customs, that organized society and patriarchal convention have implanted in our subconscious mind. Its external development of a so-called evil course of conduct may or may not coincide with the disapproval arising from ancient experience or divine wisdom, for it is merely a matter of social convenience, cultural development, or geographical custom. It may indeed be defective, false, or even quite immoral guidance, for mob passion often masquerades as social conscience. This is the kind of conscience which has a history. It changes with changing circumstances and evolves with evolving grades of culture. The trial and death of Socrates is a classic case illustrating the conflict between genuine and pseudo-conscience.
When I was in India I learnt that to commit suicide under any circumstance was the worst of human sins whereas when I was in Japan I learnt that the failure to commit suicide under certain circumstances was itself one of the worst sins. In both countries the individual pseudo-conscience tenders its counsel to commit or not to commit suicide according to the suggestions implanted from outside in the individual mind by collective society. We may sum up by saying that the voice of outer convention is conscience in its commonest form, that the voice of personal experience is the wisdom of the human personality and the distillate of many incarnations, and that the serene monition of the Overself is conscience in its purest form, the true innermost voice of divine wisdom.
-- Notebooks Category 6: Emotions and Ethics > Chapter 1: Uplift Character > # 340