The Sub-Conscious Mind
Every unit is made up of unlike elements. The mentality of each individual, therefore, though a unified entity, contains factors which are quite dissimilar in their offices and modes of operation. It is only through an intelligent discrimination of these various phases of mental activity that phenomena can be correctly resolved and their modus operandi discerned and utilized.
In the present brief study of the sub-conscious realm, it is not proposed to dwell upon its more speculative and technical aspects, but rather to note a few evident tendencies and sequences which are of practical import.
Any radical misapprehension of the normal relations of the great silent or submerged mentality to its more active counterpart must be fraught with serious results to human welfare and progress.
The realm in question is largely an unknown one, having been yet but scantily explored. A better appreciation of its scope, control, and use is most desirable, not only to students of psychology, but to every human being.
But the views of psychologists are quite unlike. Some give this department little attention, while others broaden its range to cover nearly all phenomena. By some writers the two phases or different activities of mind are termed the objective and subjective, but we suggest that conscious and subconscious seem more fitting.
In attempting to define concisely what we believe to be the functions of the submerged mentality, we may first negatively suggest that, though in close connection, it is by no means identical with the intuitive faculty. The latter—often called the spiritual perception—is that clear-cut vision which the developed ego possesses to discern truth at sight, or without the employment of a logical process. It is a quick discerner of the grade and value of principles and things, and by exact measurement is able to gauge and compare them with the normal Universal Good. None are without it; but with the great majority it is yet only rudimentary. It is the supremest sense belonging to humanity, while both the conscious and sub-conscious domains are included in the changeable and growing personality. The sub-conscious mind, therefore, while hidden, is quite differentiated from the spiritual or divine selfhood. It is rather a growing storehouse or depository of thought, emotion, and everyday experience. It is susceptible to discipline and improvement, in proportion as the laws of its operation are understood. It is a kind of sum-total of past states of consciousness, laid away, but not lost. Like any other accumulation of slow growth, its quality is only subject to gradual change. In many respects it seems like an independent personality. It reasons, hopes, fears, loves, hates, and wills all below the surface of conscious mind, the latter being often entirely unaware of its operations and conclusions.
Another most important fact: It acts automatically upon the physical organism. It cognizes external facts, conditions, limitations, and even contagions, quite independent of its active counterpart. One may, therefore, "take” a disease and be unaware of any exposure. The sub-consciousness has been unwittingly trained to fear, accept, and expect it; and it is this quality, rather than the mere inert matter of the body, that succumbs. Matter is never the actor, but always acted upon.
If we look upon a lake, we see only that insignificant portion which is upon the surface. Below is perhaps ninety-nine hundredths of its volume, beyond observation. In like manner the sub-conscious mentality contains layer upon layer, and deep below deep. As occasion offers, memory is able to plunge in and bring some things to the surface; but these, all included, comprise but a mere fraction of the contents of this great hidden storehouse. On rare occasions, however, some great emergency—perhaps most often observed in a drowning experience—draws back the sub-conscious curtain, and the ego gains a quick panoramic view of the thoughts and transactions of a lifetime. This phenomenon, though rare, is exceedingly significant. It proves that no mental picture, or even thought, has been obliterated. They are only temporarily out of sight.
As before noted, this silent mental partner, in operation seems to be a living, thinking personality, conducting affairs on his own account. It is a compound of almost unimaginable variety, including wisdom and foolishness, logic and nonsense, and yet having a working unitary economy. It is a hidden force to be dealt with and educated, for it is often found insubordinate and unruly. It refuses co-operation with its lesser but more active and wiser counterpart. It is very "set” in its views, and only changes its quality and opinions by slow degrees. But, like a pair of horses, not until these two mental factors can be trained to pull together can there be harmony and efficiency.
The submerged personality may be compared to a reservoir, or cistern, into which there is constantly flowing a small stream of conscious thinking. If the mass be turbid, it is to be inferred that the past inflow has been of that prevailing quality. Only a changed influx can gradually reform its character. No thought is lost. Each mental creation not only goes out in objective vibrations, but also registers itself in its subjective repository. As in a chemical combination, each ingredient adds something of its own quality and shading.
In the light of these principles, what a tremendous responsibility is involved in every action of the creative imaging faculty! Nothing has been so lightly regarded as a thought, and yet objectively we are thinking to the world, and subjectively into an indestructible habitation of our own. The "every idle word,” for which men shall be judged, when rightly interpreted, is a scientific statement, but the judgment is inherent and continuous. But sequential penalty is not less serious than that which has been supposed to be arbitrary.
The immense utility of auto-suggestion is seen in the intelligent exercise of the conscious mentality in projecting installments of its quality into the sub-conscious domain. This is a process through which every wholesome and grand ideal, mental and physical, may not only be accumulated, but put upon compound interest. Additions may be made to the capital stock "in season and out of season,” for the law is immutable. Even to think good thoughts mechanically is excellent, for the process soon grows to be spontaneous, and thereby a most vital creative mental habit is formed.
The cumulative energy and quality of the sub-consciousness, while automatically exact, is almost universally unappreciated. To lay one brick or set one stone is not to build a house; but continue the process with intelligent design, and at length the structure towers up in beautiful proportion. With scientific exactitude one may make himself what he will, by thinking his thoughts into the right form, and continuing the process until they solidify. But careless and lawless thinking sets in motion forces which pull in opposite directions, and rending and confusion are the result.
The thought material which is created for deposit should always be better and higher than that of past attainment and accumulation. The power of accomplishment is thereby invigorated and increased. The supernal aim should be, receptivity to the Universal Spirit of Wholeness (theologically called the Holy Spirit), and this has a positive transforming influence.
The intellect, will, memory, and even the physical organism, gradually articulate the pent-up forces of the inner realm. Thus the "Word is made flesh” by coming into ultimation and visibility.