The Inner Consciousness:
Your Greater Self
by William Walker Atkinson
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This includes a course of lessons on the unexplored regions of the mind, the subliminal self, the superconscious mind, the subconscious mind automatic mentation, intuition, instinct, psychic forethought and other wonderful phases of the great within. Contents: Inner Consciousness; The Planes of Consciousness; The Basements of the Mind; The Mental Storehouse; Making-over Oneself; Automatic Thinking; Inner-conscious Helpers; Forethought; The Leland Method; Intuition and Beyond.
IT was formerly taught in the schools that all of the Mind of an individual was comprised within the limits of ordinary Con-sciousness, but for many years this old idea has been gradually superseded by more advanced conceptions. Leibnitz was one of the first to advance the newer idea, and to promulgate the doctrine that there were mental energies and activities manifesting on a plane of mind outside of the field of ordinary consciousness. From his time psychologists have taught, more and more forcibly, that much of our mental work is performed outside of the ordinary field of consciousness. And, at the present time, the idea of an “Inner Consciousness” is generally accepted among psychologists.<>Lewes says: “The teaching of most modern psychologists is that consciousness forms but a small item in the total of physical processes. Unconscious sensations, ideas and judgments are made to play a great part in their explanations. It is very certain that in every conscious volition—every act that is so characterized—the larger part of it is quite unconscious. It is equally certain that in every perception there are unconscious processes of reproduction and inference—there is a middle distance of sub-consciousness, and, a background of unconsciousness.” And Sir William Hamilton states: “I do not hesitate to affirm that what we are conscious of is constructed out of what we are not conscious of—that our whole knowledge in fact is made up of the unknown and in cognizable. The sphere of our consciousness is only a small circle in the centre of a far wider sphere of action and passion, of which we are only conscious through its effects.” And Taine has said in connection with the same thought: “Mental events imperceptible to consciousness are far more numerous than the others, and of the world which makes up our being we only perceive the highest points—the lighted-up peaks of a continent whose lower levels remain in the shade. Beneath ordinary sensations are their components, that is to say, the elementary sensations, which must be combined into groups to reach our consciousness. Outside a little luminous circle lies a great large ring of twilight, and beyond this an indefinite night; but the events of this twilight and this night are as real as those within the luminous circle.” To this, Maudsley adds his testimony, as follows: “Examine closely and without bias the ordinary mental operations of life, and you will surely discover that consciousness has not one-tenth part of the function therein which it is commonly assumed to have. In every conscious state there are at work conscious, sub-conscious and infra-conscious energies, the last as indispensable as the first.”
It is now known that “Inner-Conscious” ideas, impressions and thoughts play a most important part in the thought-world of every individual. Beyond every outer-conscious action there may be found a vast inner-conscious background. It is held that of our entire mental processes, less than ten per cent are performed in the field of outer-consciousness. As a well known writer has so well expressed it: “Our self is greater than we know; it has peaks above and lowlands below the plateau of our conscious experience.” Prof. Elmer Gates has forcibly put it; “At least ninety per cent of our mental life is sub-conscious. If you will analyze your mental operations you will find that conscious thinking is never a continuous line of consciousness, but a series of conscious data with great intervals of sub-consciousness. We sit and try to solve a problem and fail. We walk around, try again and fail. Suddenly an idea dawns that leads to a solution of the problem. The sub-conscious processes were at work. We do not volitionally create our own thinking. It takes place in us. We are more or less passive recipients. We cannot change the nature of a thought, or of a truth, but we can, as it were, guide the ship by a moving of the helm.”
But, perhaps, the most beautiful expression of this underlying truth, is that of Sir Oliver Lodge, who says in his consideration of the subject: “Imagine an iceberg glorying in its crisp solidity, and sparkling pinnacles, resenting attention paid to its submerged self, or supporting region, or to the saline liquid out of which it arose, and into which in due course it will some day return. Or, reversing the metaphor, we may liken our present state to that of the hull of a ship submerged in a dim ocean among strange monsters, propelled in a blind manner through space; proud perhaps of accumulating many barnacles of decoration; only recognizing our destination by bumping against the dock-wall; and with no cognizance of the deck and cabins above us, or the spars and sails—no thought of the sextant, and the compass, and the captain—no perception of the look-out on the mast—of the distant horizon. With no vision of objects far ahead—dangers to be avoided—destinations to be reached—other ships to be spoken to by means other than by bodily contact—a region of sunshine and cloud, of space, or perception, and of intelligence utterly inaccessible below the water-line.”
Dr. Schofield has cleverly and beautifully illustrated the idea in the following words: “Our conscious mind, as compared with the unconscious mind, has been likened to the visible spectrum of the sun’s rays, as compared to the invisible part which stretches indefinitely on either side. We know now that the chief part of heat comes from the ultra-red rays that show no light; and the main part of the chemical changes in the vegetable world are the results of the ultra-violet rays at the other end of the spectrum, which are equally invisible to the eye, and are recognized only by their potent effects. Indeed as these invisible rays extend indefinitely on both sides of the visible spectrum, so we may say that the mind includes not only the visible or conscious part, and what we have termed the sub-conscious, that which lies below the red line, but also the supra-conscious mind that lies at the other end—all those regions of higher soul and spirit life, of which we are only at times vaguely conscious, but which always exist, and link us on to eternal verities, on the one side, as surely as the sub-conscious mind links us to the body on the other.”
The late Frederic W. H. Myers, after years of careful study and research along the lines of the “out-of-consciousness” states, formulated a hypothesis of a “secondary self,” or as he called it a “Subliminal Self,” which “self” he held possessed certain powers which it exercised in a measure independent of the ordinary conscious “self.” Perhaps the best explanation of his hypothesis has been stated by Mr. Myers, himself, in his book entitled “Human Personality,” in which he states: “The idea of a threshold of consciousness—of a level above which sensation or thought must rise before it can enter into our conscious life—is a simple and familiar one. The word Subliminal—meaning ‘beneath the threshold’—has already been used to define those sensations which are too feeble to be individually recognized. I propose to extend the meaning of the term, so as to make it cover all that takes place beneath the ordinary threshold, or say, if preferred, the ordinary margin of consciousness—not only those faint stimulations, whose very faintness must keep them submerged, but much else which psychology as yet scarcely recognizes; sensations, thoughts, emotions, which may be strong definite, and independent, but which, by the original constitution of our being, seldom merge into that Supraliminal current of consciousness which we habitually identify with ourselves. Perceiving that these submerged thoughts and emotions possess the characteristics which we associate with conscious life, I feel bound to speak of a Subliminal, or Ultra-marginal, Consciousness—a consciousness which we shall see, for instance, uttering or writing sentences quite as complex and coherent as the supraliminal consciousness could make them. Perceiving further that this conscious life beneath the threshold or beyond the margin seems to be no discontinuous or intermittent thing; that not only are these isolated subliminal processes comparable with isolated supraliminal processes (as when a problem is solved by some unknown procedure in a dream) but that there also is a continuous subliminal chain of memory (or more chains than one) involving just that kind of individual and persistent revival of old impressions and response to new ones, which we commonly call a Self—I find it permissible to speak of subliminal Selves, or more briefly a subliminal self. I do not indeed by using this term assume that there are two correlative and parallel selves existing always within each of us. Rather I mean by the Subliminal Self that part of the Self which is commonly subliminal; and I conceive that there may be—not only many cooperations between these quasi-independent trains of thought—but also upheavals and alternations of personality of many kinds, so that what was once below the surface may for a time, or permanently, rise above it. And I conceive also that no Self of which we can here have cognizance is in reality more than a fragment of a larger self—revealed in a fashion at once shifting and limited through an organism not so framed as to afford it full manifestation.”
We have given you the different views of these respective authorities not that we purpose adopting exclusively any of the various theories or hypotheses advanced, but merely that you may see that this question of an “Inner Consciousness” is not a mere vague theory of certain mystics and metaphysicians, but on the contrary is one that has attracted the earnest attention and consideration of scientific men and careful investigators along psychological lines. We shall have but very little to do with theories in this book—the Facts of the subject concern us more earnestly.
THE PLANES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
WE have seen, in the preceding chapter, that many leading minds have recognized the existence, and phenomena of, certain Planes of Consciousness lying outside of (below or above) the ordinary plane or field of ordinary consciousness. Brushing aside as unimportant the various names and terms that have been applied to these planes or fields of “inner consciousness,” we easily find a common ground of agreement between all of the authorities. It is true that the subject has become somewhat clouded by the insistence of certain details of theory on the part of the several investigators, but they all practically agree upon the fundamental and basic facts and phenomena—and it is upon these basic and fundamental facts and phenomena that we shall rest our case as presented in this little book.
The student of psychology has heard much during the past decade regarding the many theories, some of them quite fantastic, designed to account for and explain the phenomena which science finds to exist and which it has classified as belonging to the inner-conscious plane of mental activity. Some of the theories advanced to account for the known facts and observed phenomena, have attracted to their support many followers, the respective schools holding animated and sometimes fierce contest regarding the validity and superior qualities of their respective schools and their founders. But with these theories, and the schools which have been built up upon them, this work will have little to do or say. Enough for us is the fact of the existence of the phenomena, and the fact that there is certainly in manifestation an area of mental activity, which for reasons that we shall state we have called “The Inner Consciousness.” Recognizing the fact of the phenomena and accepting it as proven truth, we shall proceed to consider its manifestations, and apparent laws, and also the methods whereby one may use this mental activity to advantage. But we shall leave the theories to the theorists, and the discussions regarding the same to those who are fond of such exercises of the mind—for ourselves, we are tired of such things, and prefer to deal with observed facts, and the “how to get results” part of the question. We are apt to regard as a truth the observation of the writer who said: “Theories are but mighty soap-bubbles, with which the grown up children of science amuse themselves.” And we also view with favor the lines of the poet in which he says:
“The nearer to the practical men keep—
The less they deal in vague and abstract things—
The less they deal in huge, mysterious words––
The mightier is their power.
The simple peasant who observes a truth.
And from the fact deduces principle,
Adds solid treasure to the public wealth.
The theorist who dreams a rainbow dream,
And calls hypothesis philosophy,
At best is but a paper financier
Who palms his specious promises for gold.
FACTS are the basis of philosophy;
Philosophy the harmony of facts,
Seen in their right relation.”
As a matter of fact, in order to account for the phenomena of the Inner Consciousness, it is not necessary to believe in, or assume, the hypothesis of any kind of a “dual-mind” at all. One mind may contain within itself sufficient to account for the facts, without postulating a “two-mind” theory. One mind may contain within itself two, or many more than two, planes or fields of activity or consciousness, upon which and in which the varied mental phenomena may be manifested. In order to understand the phenomena of the Inner Consciousness, all that it is necessary for us to do is to start with the idea that in the mind of every person there are areas, fields, or planes of mental activity above and below the field, area, or plane that we know as “The Outer Consciousness.” In other words, to assume (1) that there are basements, or cellars, vaults and sub-vaults of mind, below the level of the mental first floor in which we consider the results of our mental processes ; and (2) is this true that also there are several mental stories above (as well as below) the one on which we do our “considering.” And it is with these several stories of mind—these planes or areas of mental activity—that we shall now have to do in this work.
As we have seen from the authorities quoted, the fields or areas of mind, outside of the circle of the Outer Consciousness, are many and varied. Careful investigators have divided the mental activities of these several planes or areas into two general classes, namely (1) those “below” the plane of outer consciousness, and which have the nature of automatic action; and (2) those “above” the plane of outer consciousness, and which have the nature of intuitive action, etc.
Some investigators have given to these two general planes or fields of mentation, the names of “the sub-conscious,” and the “super-conscious,” respectively—the term “sub” meaning “under, beneath, etc.,” and the term “super” meaning “above, over, etc.,” The trouble with this classification is that It places the “conscious mind,” or that portion of our mentality the actions of which we may call “the outer,” in the center of a scale, the extremes of which represent the higher and lower phases of “inner” mentation, respectively. This is not correct, for the so-called “conscious” mind is merely a “field of observation” before which passes the results of mental activity on the other planes, which when evolved pass into the field of consciousness, just as a star passes into the field of observation of a telescope, or a tiny object into the field of observation of the microscope, and is then perceived by the watching organ of vision. These objects passing into the “field of observation” of the outer consciousness, may come from the higher or lower planes of the Inner Mind. In fact the best observers know there can be no hard and fast line drawn between the activities and manifestations of the two respective groups of planes known as the “sub-conscious” and “super-conscious” minds. These activities shade into each other, and are like the degrees on a scale which are merely symbols which record the comparative and relative stages of manifestation of a thing, but which do not divide the thing into absolute divisions or classes.
In fact, the very best occult authorities inform us that there are very many degrees or “planes” of mental activity, higher and lower, outside of the field of observation of the Outer Consciousness. On the lower planes of consciousness are to be found the consciousness of the various cells, and cell-groups, in our bodies, which constitute the “organ minds” which occultists know to exist. Then there are many planes of mentation concerned with directing the bodily activities. Then there are many planes of “thought” below the ordinary field of outer consciousness—and many planes of “awareness” and “knowing” above that of the ordinary intellectual operations of the average mind. These planes are merely the many degrees in the grand scale of Mind. We shall learn something of certain of them, as we proceed with these lessons.
Following the illustration of the upper and lower stories, basements, cellars, sub-cellars, etc., we may say that it will help the student to think of the ordinary “Field of Observation” known as the Outer Consciousness of the Everyday Mind, as akin to the “Main Floor” of a warehouse, on which is received merchandise arriving from the outside business world; and on which are started, packed and expressed the various goods, wares and merchandise reaching that department from the upper stories, basement, cellars and other storehouses of the mental warehouse and place of business, in pursuance to orders from “The Office.” The Outer Consciousness, or Field of Observation and Consideration, is not a separate “Mind” as some claim, or the “Real Mind” as the masses of people consider it, but instead is merely a “department” of the whole mental business, in which the goods, stored articles, and manufactured goods from the other departments and workshops are sorted, selected, packed and expressed to the outer world. If you will fix this illustration in your mind, you will be able to easily assimilate and consider the facts to which we shall call your attention in the following lessons:
And, now, you see why we have adopted the term “The Inner Consciousness” as applicable to both the higher and lower planes of the “extra-conscious” mental activities. The term “inner” means “further in; interior; internal; not outer, etc.” The word “Consciousness” is one difficult to correctly define. In general sense it means “mental awareness,” but we have adhered to the closer meaning of the term which is used in the sense of “awareness of mental action and energy,” or the quality by which Mind in activity is “aware” of its own activities. There can be no mental activity without consciousness on some plane, and the use of the word “unconscious” in connection with mental activity is an absurdity. There is consciousness, in some degree and on some plane, in everything, from the atom, and electron to the highest manifestation of super-human mind. And that which we call our “Outer Consciousness,” is merely one of the many planes of the manifestation of the quality.
And, now let us proceed to our consideration of the phenomena and principles of manifestation of the “Inner Consciousness.”
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