This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
IN THE volumes that preceded this study of the subconscious we did something more than merely catalogue facts. We put forward tentatively a number of conclusions embodying some of the elements of the subconscious. What we have to do now is to marshal, systematize and arrange these conclusions and such others as we may require into workable form for everyday use. Consequently we shall first set forth briefly the conclusions arrived at in former lessons and then tell you just what the subconscious is.
First - Every human being has but one mind. Its phases and elements are many.
Second - Every human body is the abode not only of the consciousness that perceives and reacts to sense-impressions, but also of countless cellular intelligences, each of which instinctively utilizes ways and means for the performance of its special function and the reproduction of its kind. These cell intelligences under a supervisory control embodied in the sympathetic nerve system carry on without our knowledge or volition - that is to say subconsciously - the vital functions of the body.
Third - All sensory experiences, whether perceived or not, whether capable of voluntary recall or not, are somehow and somewhere mentally preserved.
Fourth - Every idea thus stored in subconsciousness possesses an inherent latent energy tending to produce some particular form of muscular activity.
Fifth - Whether we are conscious or unconscious, a certain element of the mind, which we may call "attention," is ever vigilantly awake and bars from consciousness all incoming sense-impressions and all suggested memories excepting those which it has been trained to select and admit.
Sixth - The attention is subject to control by the will.
We have stated these propositions again in order to refresh your memory concerning them. It might be well for you briefly to review the previous books at this point, to trace again the course of reasoning by which these various conclusions were arrived at. This is suggested that they may be the more firmly fixed in your mind as logical deductions from the facts.
We submit now a conception of the subconscious that fills all the requirements of practical usefulness and of conformity with scientific methods.
Subconsciousness is all there is of the individual mind not embraced in the passing momentary consciousness. As such, it includes all the primary instincts with which man comes into the world. As such, it is the sum total of all his individual cellular intelligences. It is that department of mind which directs the nourishment and repair of the body and automatically operates the vital functions. It is the repository in which are retained all sensory experiences, conscious or unconscious, remembered or forgotten.
Subconsciousness is a vast reservoir of ideas, emotions and motor impulses, from which is drawn the greater part of the elements of which consciousness is composed, for consciousness consists in part of present sensory experiences, but far the greater part of its contents is made up of "thoughts" drawn from the warehouse of the past.
The ideas, emotions and motor impulses thus retained in subconsciousness are grouped together and classified for purposes of ready reference by the associative processes of the mind into "groups" and "complexes."
All ideas stored in subconsciousness possess a latent or potential energy which becomes kinetic or circulating energy when they are drawn actively into the changing momentary consciousness. This energy is an impulse to some form of muscular activity, so that every idea in subconsciousness has associated with it the impellent energy necessary to produce a particular muscular motion.
Every idea stored in subconsciousness has associated with it not only an impellent energy, but also an emotional quality appropriate to the inherent character of the idea.
If mental images in which you are yourself triumphant, victorious, suc-cessful, are drawn into your consciousness, they tend to outwardly manifest themselves in such bodily activity as may be appropriate to your part in the picture and to beget within you at the same time feelings of health, invigora-tion, capability and power.
Conversely, if complexes or ideas constituting mental pictures of misfortune, disease and death become active in your consciousness, they bring with them impulses that tend to depress the action of your heart and other vital organs of your body and to restrain all bodily activity, while at the same time they weigh you down with feelings of self-abasement, dejection and melancholy.
The extent of the influence of any idea or group of ideas or complex of associated mental elements, once it becomes active in consciousness, depends upon the relation in which it stands to the other elements of consciousness.
If there are at the same time present in your consciousness one or more conflicting ideas or groups of ideas, the given idea will be but faintly portrayed to your mind's eye. Its emotional qualities will touch you but lightly, and its impulses to muscular activity will be more or less restrained.
If, on the other hand, the given idea holds undisputed sway in your consciousness, if no conflicting or inhibitory ideas and impulses are simultaneously present, then the mental picture is painted with bold strokes and clear perspective, with high lights and deep shadows. It stands forth as an assured reality, and you have the phenomenon commonly called "belief."
For "faith" or "belief" is nothing more nor less than the presence of an idea in consciousness freed from the restraints of contrary thoughts.
This is the subconscious as you must conceive it and the nature of the tie that binds it to the personal consciousness.
Our course of reasoning has been true and our assumptions have been well and logically made, and you will find that all future happenings in your actual experience will accord with the principles we have deduced.
We want you to observe particularly that we have here the sequence that characterizes all scientific methods: first, the collection and classification of facts, as in our collection and marshaling of subconscious mental activities in this Course; secondly, the invention of a conception to explain these facts.
All laws of physical science have been evolved in just this way. Kepler collected data concerning the changing positions of the planets and demonstrated that they moved in elliptical orbits around the sun. Newton subsequently brought forward the law of gravity with the conception of an unseen force as an explanation of Kepler's facts and as a means for foretelling the future action of the planets and other masses of matter.
Our conception of the subconscious not only accounts for the existence of all known mental phenomena, but it is expressed in terms of ultimate and abstract elements along scientific lines.: With these elements we have already framed, and will still further frame, laws intended to sum up past mental experience and enable us to predict the outcome of any future mental action.
How different this conception from the subconsciousness of the students of abnormal psychology! Applying our principles to their facts, we conclude that while normally consciousness is a unit, it may at times, through an abnormal or deranged functioning of attention or dissociation, become split up into two or more coexisting consciousnesses of different composition. Each of these consciousnesses may be systematically organized, but one of them is usually associated with a more profound system of memory than the other, and is therefore called the primary consciousness. In this way are brought about those abnormal manifestations ranging from mere loss of feeling in some part of the body to dissociated "personalities."
You can now see that our conception of the subconscious is very different from any of the prevailing doctrines of this phase of mental activity as we have outlined them. It is a conception that meets fully the standard you have set for yourself.
It is wholly a psychical as distinguished from a physiological conception. It takes into account the whole array of subconscious phenomena and reduces them to elementary terms.
In this conception you rise above the level of mere facts to the plane of pure abstractions. Have you ever seen or heard or felt a "subconscious complex"? Have you ever seen or heard or felt or in any way been conscious of a system of associated ideas, emotions and impulses which were not at the time in consciousness? The very proposition is absurdly self-contradictory.
But neither has any man ever seen an "electron" nor the infinitely small
"particle" of matter, nor had sensory experience of the weightless, friction-less ether. If the subconscious is something that it would be impossible for anyone to perceive through the medium of the senses, so is the infinitely small "particle" of matter something that it would be impossible for anyone to perceive through the senses.
Do not suppose for a moment that the acceptance of this theory of the mind precludes any particular form of religious belief. On the contrary, it is in perfect harmony with the most highly idealized conception of the spiritual quality of man.
It is the author's individual belief that there is an Inner Spirit more directly at one with the Deity than any mere mental function. It may even be that the subconscious phases of the mind bring us into a more intimate communion with God than any phase of consciousness, and that subconsciousness is the actual instrument of communication between the Infinite and man. It may be that in sleep and in moments of profound reflectiveness, before the life of consciousness intervenes, the Divine Father is nearest to his children. It may be that this stream of thought that flows upward through us from subconsciousness into consciousness, may find its origin in the Divine Mind and Heart. Who can tell? We know not. These things may be true, but they cannot be verified. They cannot be put to the acid test of reason. And, as you learned in an earlier book, it is unnecessary to the scientific pursuit of self-conscious ends that we should determine "first" causes.