The old psychology held that mind and the ordinary consciousness were practically identical. All mind was supposed to lie in the open field of consciousness, and everything outside of that field was supposed to dwell outside of the realm of mind. Memory was thought to be explained by some vague and non-understandable properties of the brain-cells, by means of which impressions were made upon the brain-matter, and afterward returned to the mind under pressure of the will, or otherwise. This conception was recognized as faulty and unsatisfactory, but it was adopted and held tentatively for a long time simply because nothing more satisfactory presented itself.
But the old idea has now passed into the "scrap heap" of psychology, and is held at the present time only by a few antiquated and stubborn adherents of the old school, whose minds are apparently incapable of acquiring any new impressions, and who desperately try to hold on to the shadows of the old, discarded theories, refusing to accept the later and well fortified theories of the modern school of psychology.
The newer conception of psychology holds that a large share of the mental processes of the individual are performed in some fields, or on some planes, of mentality under or above the ordinary plane of consciousness. This idea, once suggested and supported by eminent authorities, has spread rapidly over the thinking world, and at the present time is the accepted teaching of the best schools of psychological thought. In it is found the long sought for explanation of Memory, Imagination, and the so-called Unconscious Cerebration of the older psychologists.
The following statement of the accepted teaching on the subject is reproduced from my work on Memory Training, and is offered here chiefly because of its conciseness:
"Briefly stated the best teaching of today holds that instead of the ordinary consciousness being all there is of mind, it really is but a very small (though highly important) field of the mind's work. The greater part of the mental activities of the individual is performed outside of this narrow field, and only its results are presented to the ordinary consciousness when called for. The ordinary field of consciousness has been well compared to the field of a microscope or telescope, which covers and takes in only that which is presented to it from the great area surrounding it. On the other planes of mind, or other fields of its operations—use which ever term you prefer—are performed great quantities of mental work, classification, analysis, synthesis, adjustment, combination, etc. These subconscious planes or fields of mind may be said to grind, digest, and assimilate the facts impressed upon it through the medium of the senses, or ideas from the conscious field itself. And, moreover, this subconscious plane or field of mind is the great record storehouse of the memory. In it are contained all the records of past impressions, and from it everything that is remembered, recalled, or recollected must come and be re-presented to the conscious mind.
"There is no need of dragging in here the many theories concerning the quality of mind, or the idea that man has two minds. The best thought on the subject is that instead of man having 'two minds,' he really has but one mind, and this one mind has many planes or fields of activity, of which the ordinary consciousness is but one field, and a small one at that. I will go still further, and say that the so-called 'sub-conscious' or 'unconscious' planes of mind are not unconscious, but are really conscious in various degrees of consciousness peculiar to themselves. The term 'sub-conscious' is used simply to indicate that the processes and activities of these particular planes of mind are outside of the field of the ordinary consciousness. When I speak of the passing of impressions, ideas, or records in and out of consciousness, I am not trying to convey the idea of passing these mental images from one mind to another, but rather of passing them in and out of the narrow field of the ordinary consciousness, just as the tiny living creatures in a drop of stagnant water, under a microscope, pass in and out of the field of vision of the apparatus; or as the stars pass in and out of the field of a stationery telescope, as the earth revolves."
The following quotations from eminent authorities in modern psychology will give the reader an idea of the general principle held to be correct by the modern school of that branch of science:
"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. Outside a little luminous circle lies a 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." "Examine closely, and without bias, the ordinary mental operations of daily life, and you will surely discover that consciousness has not one-tenth part of the functions which it's commonly assumed to have. In every conscious state there are at work conscious, subconscious, and infraconscious energies, the last as indispensable as the first."
"It must not be supposed that the mind is at any time conscious of all its materials and powers. At any moment we are not conscious of a thousandth part of what we know. It is well that such is the case; for when we are studying a subject, or an object, we should not want all we know to rush into our minds at the same time. If they did so, our mental confusion would be indescribable. Between the perception and the recall, the treasures of memory are, metaphorically speaking, away from the eye of consciousness. How these facts are preserved, before they are recalled by the call of memory, consciousness can never tell us. An event may not be thought of for fifty years, and then it may suddenly appear in consciousness. As we grow older, the subconscious field increases.
"Where are our images in memory when they are not present in consciousness? The theory is that the full fledged idea is in the mind, but slumbering beneath the stream of consciousness, just as a person is alive when sound asleep, without being aware of the fact. When we are not conscious of an idea, it is believed to disappear just as a diver does beneath the surface of the water; and the one is held to keep its form as intact as the other, during this disappearance."
"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 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 visible 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 called 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 at times vaguely conscious, but which always exist, and link us on to eternal verities, on the one side, as surely as the subconscious mind links us to the body on the other."
The processes and activities of the Subconscious Planes of Mentality—at least those of such as have a practical bearing on the subject of the present book—may be classified as follows: (1) Processes of Memory; (2) Processes of Imagination; (3) Processes of Subconscious Thought. Let us consider each of these briefly, in the above order of classification:
The Processes of Memory.
We have considered the general subject of the memory in extensive detail in our previous work entitled "Memory Training," and cannot hope to present more than a brief outline here. The student is referred to our above-mentioned work if he desires to make a thorough study of this branch of the subject. In the following condensed presentation of the subject, however, the reader should find sufficient to set him upon the right track in the Mastery of Memory.
Memory is: "The faculty of the mind by which it retains the knowledge of previous thoughts, impressions, or events.'' There are several other terms which are usually regarded as being symptoms with that of Memory, but which really have distinctive shades of special meaning. For instance: Memory is the general term indicating the power of retaining and reproducing past impressions or perception; Remembrance is that exercise of the power of Memory by which the representation of past impressions occurs more or less spontaneously, and without conscious effort of will; Recollection is that exercise of the power of Memory in which there is a more or less conscious and active exercise of the will in the direction of calling back, or bringing to the surface, certain impressions which we are vaguely aware of have previously experienced—in such case there is present a general remembrance of the fact and general nature of such previous experience, and the desire and will to bring them to light in further detail. Reminiscence is that exercise of the power of Memory in which there is a blending of resemblance and recollection, and in which there is a conscious representation and re-assembling of a series of previous experiences, but without that close degree of attention to clearness and detail which distinguishes instances of true recollection—this phase of Memory, in fact, may be said to occupy a middle ground between the extremes of recollection and resemblance, respectively.
The processes of Memory may be said to consist of three more or less distinct activities, viz., (1) the securing of records of impressions; (2) the intelligent storing- away of the records of impressions (including the "indexing and cross-indexing" of such records); and (3) the finding and bringing into consciousness such filed-away stored records. This classification is important, for by an understanding of it one may greatly increase his power of Memory. We shall presently consider each of these several processes in detail, but before doing so we wish to offer for your consideration the following interesting description of the part played by the Subconscious Mentality in the processes of Memory, as noted by a writer on the subject. This writer says:
"The work of the subconscious faculties of the mind in the processes of Memory seems to consist in the presentation of plastic mind-stuff to receive thereon the impressions of the senses, of the imagination, and of the ideas evolved by thought.
"We may best understand the working of these faculties of mind if we will but indulge in the fanciful idea of tiny mental workers in charge of the memory records. Of course there are no such entities, but the memory works as if there were; and we may understand its processes by indulging in this fanciful style of presentation of the facts.
"In the first place, let us imagine these tiny workers as having to hand an unfailing support of tiny plastic records upon which to receive the impressions passed on by the report of our senses, our imagination, and our ideas. Each sensation, thought, or idea make an impression on one of these records, varying in depth and clearness according to the degree of attention bestowed upon it. If the sensation, thought, or idea is repeated, the same record receives it and the impression is deepened. The impression may also be deepened by having the workers bring the record into the field of consciousness, and then allowing the imagination to make repeated impressions upon it. But this last practice sometimes works in an unexpected manner, for the imagination may indulge itself in enlarging, and extending its character, and if this be done several times the record will be changed and it will be almost impossible to distinguish the original impression from those added by the imagination. Common experience shows us the truth of this last statement, for who does not know of cases where people have added to a true tale repeatedly told, until at last it become entirely different from the original facts, and yet the teller of the tale imagines that he is telling the exact truth.
"But these little workers have many other tasks besides that of taking the impressions. They realize that they are continually being called upon to furnish the Ego with these records, in order that it may avail itself of its stored away facts. In order to do this they must have a perfect system of storing and indexing the records, with countless cross-indexes, cross-references, etc. They must arrange each recorded thought, sensation, or idea so that it may be associated with others of its kind, so that when a record is examined it may bring with it its associations in time, space, and classification, that the Ego may be able to think continuously, intelligently, and orderly. What would be the use of remembering a single fact, or idea, if the associated idea or facts were not to be had? Intelligent thought would be impossible under such circumstances. So important is this Law of Association in Memory, that the entire value of Memory depends upon it. Teachers of Memory Culture lay great stress upon this fact.
They teach their students that in cases where they are unable to recall a desired fact or idea, the next best thing is to think of some associated fact, scene, or idea, and lo! once having laid hold upon a link in the chain, it is merely a matter of time before the missing record is found. It is like a great system of cross-indexing. If you cannot remember a thing, find something associated with it, and then run down the index and you will find what you want."
With the above helpful figurative illustration of the "little helpers" in mind, you are now asked to consider the several various steps in the several Processes of Memory, to which we have previously alluded:
(1) Securing Memory Impressions. It is a self-evident fact that in order to remember or recollect an impression previous experienced, the impression must have left some record of its original presence. We cannot hope to bring to light a letter previously received, unless that letter has been placed on record; if it has been destroyed, it cannot be found, and there is no use looking for it. No argument is needed here.
While it is true that psychology holds that every impression experienced in consciousness is recorded somewhere in the Memory, it is likewise true that most impressions received by us are so shallow and so indistinct that the record thereof scarcely exists, and could not well be clearly reproduced even if found. Let us use the illustration of the wax phonographic cylinder, in our consideration of the subject of the records of Memory. The impressions received on the wax cylinder of Memory must be clearly registered, else we obtain only a faint and blurred presentation when we place the record on the phonographic machine for reproduction.
And here is an important point: The degree of clearness of the memory impression depends upon the degree of Attention which we have given to the original impression. Adhering to our figure of the phonograph, we may say that Attention is the recording needle which makes the record on the wax cylinder of Memory. If the needle-point of Attention is dulled, or encrusted with wax, then there is no clear record—and consequently no possibility of a clear reproduction. If, on the other hand, the needle point of Attention is sharp and clean, then we have a clean, clear, deep record—and consequently a clear, strong reproduction at a later time.
Most persons complaining of a "poor memory" are really suffering from poor Attention. Their first step in Memory Culture should be that of cleaning and sharpening the needle-point of Attention. This may be done by practicing the exercises in Attention previously given in this book, and by following the rules concerning the development of Attention and Concentration given therein.
(2) Storing Away Memory Records. After obtaining a good, clean, clear record on the wax cylinder of the Memory phonograph, the next step is that of filing away and storing away such record in such a way that it may easily be found. It is true that Nature has done much for us in this way, in the direction of furnishing us with subconscious helpers who do the best they can for us. But in our complex modern life we pour into the subconscious storehouse of Memory such a heterogeneous mass and mixture of records that it is no wonder that the powers of the subconscious filing clerks are overtaxed. We can do much to help them, if we will but take the trouble. The process of intelligent storing away and filing of Memory records is greatly aided by an understanding of a very important principle of law of Memory, i.e., the principle of Mental Association. This principle, briefly stated, is this: that every mental impression, sensation, thought, or complex derivatives of these, is bound by associative links to other mental impressions. These associate links are practically "cross-indexes" in the filing-room of Memory. The more cross-index references that an impression or idea has in the filing-room, the more easily it is located, and the more quickly is it recollected. The remembrance of an associated idea, thought, or sensation, will result in a quick and sure recollection of every other mental impression associated with, or connected with it. If you have ever consulted a cross-indexed encyclopedia, or card index system having cross-indexes, you will appreciate the value of this illustration.
Many a time have you failed to recollect a desired impression or idea. You gave it up in despair, and then after a greater or less space of time out popped the forgotten thing into your field of consciousness. "What happened to cause this? Simply this: the subconscious faculties hunted around until they found a "cross-index" of the thing sought for—that is to say, they found a record or some other thing connected or associated with the original impression in some way or other, probably by association is space, time, or resemblance—and that started up a process of intelligent further search that ended in success. If the thing had been better cross-indexed by you, you could have recalled it in a moment or two, as you always do in such cases. The Rule of Association is: Associate each thing that you wish to remember, with as many other things as possible which will be likely to suggest the thing to you. Use natural (not artificial) associative links in this way. You know from experience that if you recall or remember the circumstances of the occurrence of a thing—the surrounding scene, incidents, etc.—then you find it comparatively easy to recall to consciousness the thing itself.
Do not waste your money or your time in purchasing or studying artificial Memory System embodying methods of artificial association which are harder to remember and recall than the thing itself that you wish to recall. Instead, when you need it, you should link and associate that particular thing to and with as many other suggestive things as possible. Attach to it this memory of the circumstances under which you first heard the thing the people present; the scene; what led up to the thing, and what followed it; and what it reminded you of, and so on, and so on. Not only will this help you to easily recall the thing itself, but it will also develop your general memory, and general fund of knowledge.
(3) Recollection. The final active process of Memory is that of recollection, bringing to light, in short finding the stored away records of Memory and bringing them into the field of consciousness—finding them and placing them into the phonograph for reproduction, so to speak. Providing that you have (a) originally obtained good, clear records; and (b) filed them away properly and intelligently; there then remains simply (c) the effort of desire or will to bring them to light and consciousness—then to place them once more on the mental phonograph so as to hear them reproduced for you.
Recollection, however, like every other mental or physical activity, depends largely for its efficiency upon Exercise. Therefore, if you will practice a few simple exercises in "recollection" every day, you will find that your "Memory" will rapidly and greatly improve. Most persons take Recollection for granted, and use it only when they need it very much. That is as foolish as to expect that your arm-muscles will be able to perform occasional strenuous tasks without you having previously given them exercise and use. Training, mental and physical, means simply Intelligent Exercise. And there is but one fundamental rule of Exercise, and that is, simply, DO IT!
Once in a while, when you have a little spare time after work hours, sit down and try to recall the occurrences and happenings of the day. You will find that by a little practice you will be able to recall far more of these happenings than you will be able to do at the first trial. Then try to make a mental synopsis of the happenings of the past week, at the end thereof. This sounds easy, but it really is difficult; but you will make wonderful progress if you will persevere. It is related of an eminent American statesman of the last century, that by this simple practice (enlarged upon and varied from time to time) he cured himself of a notoriously "poor Memory," and in its place developed an extraordinarily efficient Memory in all of its phases.
If you will picture to yourself the developing and evolving efficiency of a new filing- clerk in the great Memory of storehouse of records, you will get the right idea. You know very well if you were to be given such a task you would develop efficiency each and every day of your employment, until at last you would be regarded as a "wonder" or a "wizard" at this particular work, do you not? You know that in due time, by reason of practice and experience, you would be able to go directly to the proper file, and then pull out the proper record—just as experienced and practiced filing-clerks do every one of their working days. Then, knowing this, there is no reason for your remaining a "poor recollector." Here is the method—use it!
The Processes of Imagination
Imagination, the second class of the processes of the Subconscious Mentality, very closely resembles its brother, the Memory, but there is an important distinction between the two, as follows: Memory reproduces only the original impressions placed within its realm, while Imagination reproduces the recorded impressions of Memory, not in their original condition, but in new groupings, arrangements, and forms.
Memory is the storehouse of impressions, but Imagination is the artist working with these stored up impressions, and making new and wonderful things with the same. Imagination takes these stored-away impressions, and creates new forms of things from them, but always uses the materials it finds in the Memory storehouse—it makes new combinations, new arrangements, new forms, but it never makes new materials.
Some persons think that there are no limits to the power of the Imagination—but this is wrong. There are practically no limits to the new arrangements and new combinations possible to Imagination; but this is about the limit of its powers. For, always, under the manifold and diverse forms of the creations of Imagination there will always be found the "stuff" or "material" which it has obtained from the storehouse of Memory, and which Memory has obtained through Sensation and Perception as we have seen in preceding portions of this book. Imagination, like Memory, has only the "raw materials" of Perception to work with, to build with, and to fashion into new forms, and shapes, and combinations.
You may doubt this. You may say that you can imagine an elephant with the wings of an eagle, the tail of an alligator, the horns of a bull-moose, and the legs of a giraffe— the kind of creature, in fact, that some persons actually do imagine (in dreams, after partaking too freely of the Welsh Rarebit, or the cold Mince Pie). You say, "I have imagined these things, very clearly and distinctly—but I certainly have never seen such a creature, for such does not exist!" But wait a moment, good critic. You have never actually perceived such a creature, of course; but you have perceived (either in real life or in pictured form) each and every one of the characteristics of this impossible animal! You have seen an elephant, an eagle, an alligator, a bull-moose, and a giraffe—and you have abstracted from each of these animals certain characteristics, and then have built up these several characteristics into a new creature which is a product of your imagination. But you haven't created a single new material or part—you have simply re-combined and re-arranged these original perceptions, that's all! And that is all that you, or anyone else, ever has done, or ever can do, by the processes of Imagination.
Imagination is subject to misuse as well as use—in fact, the word is frequently employed to indicate the misuse of it, in the form of idle day dreams and vain fanciful flights of the imagination. This misuse arises from the involuntary exercise of the Imagination—allowing this subconscious faculty to indulge in purposeless and useless activity. This is like mere day-dreaming, and is a habit which often obtains quite a hold over persons if too freely indulged in, and often leading them away from the actualities of life. It is a mild form of mental intoxication, the effects are undesirable, for they often manifest in a weakening of the will, and rendering infirm the voluntary purpositive faculties of the mind.
The most harmful effects of this idle exercise of the imagination is that it usurps the place rightfully belonging to action. It is so much easier and so much more pleasant to dream of accomplishments, than to attempt to make them come true in actual life The habitual day-dreamer gradually loses the desire to participate in the activities of life, and slowly sinks into a mere passive existence, doing as little actual work as possible, and always longing for his hours of dream-life as the morphine victim longs for his drug, or the liquor victim for his glass.
The best modern psychology recognizes this danger of the misuse of the Imagination, and lays great stress upon the necessity of transmuting the energies of the Imagination into the images of things connected with the life work of the individual, character- building, self-mastery, and general creative work along the lines of the Constructive Imagination. Modern psychology holds that the positive use of the Imagination along creative and constructive lines is worthy of cultivation and development by scientific methods, for the reason that by its intelligent and purpositive application it leads to all progress and advancement, attainment and realization. Creative and constructive imagination furnishes the pattern, design, or mold of future action or material manifestation. The imagination is the architect of deeds, actions and accomplishments. A well-known American woman once made the remark that she prayed that her sons might be given the active power of creative and constructive Imagination— and her wish was a wise one, for from that power are derived the plans of future accomplishment.
A leading scientist once said: "Physical investigation, more than anything besides, helps to teach us the actual value and right use of the Imagination—of that wondrous faculty, which, when left to ramble uncontrolled, leads us astray in a wilderness of perplexities and errors, a land of mists and shadows, but, which, properly controlled by experience and reflection, becomes the noblest attribute of man, the source of poetic genius, the instrument of discovery in science, without the aid of which Newton would never have invented fluxions nor Davy have decomposed the earths and alkalis, nor would Columbus have found another continent." Another great scientist has said: "We are gifted with the power of imagination, and by this power we can lighten the darkness which surrounds the world of our senses. There are some, even in science, who regard Imagination as a faculty to be feared and avoided rather than employed. They have observed its action in weak vessels, and are unduly impressed by its disasters. But they might with equal truth point to exploded boilers as an argument against the use of steam. Bounded and conditioned by co-operant reason, Imagination becomes the mightiest instrument of the physical discoverer. Newton's passage from a falling apple to a falling moon was, at the outset, a leap of the Imagination.''
In this constructive and creative work of the Imagination we have but another example of what has been so positively insisted upon, and repeated, in the foregoing chapters of this book, namely, the principle of the Ego using its instruments of expression, instead of allowing the later to use the Ego. The Ego uses its imaginative faculties along creative and constructive lines, instead of allowing them to run away with the chariot of the Ego. It is the positive use of the faculties, instead of the negative. It is another illustration of the power of the Master Mind in its work of the Mastery of Mind.
Here follow a few carefully selected rules for the cultivation of the right habits of using the Imagination effectively and efficiently. It will be worth your while to carefully acquaint yourself with the same.
The Supply of Material. Before the Imagination can build, construct, and create, it must be supplied with the proper materials. The materials with which the Imagination works is to be had only in the subconscious storehouse of Memory. Therefore, the Memory must be supplied with a stock of information concerning the particular subject or object which the Imagination is to develop by means of its creative power. And the impressions stored away in this manner should be clear, distinct, and strong.
Develop by Exercise. The Imagination should be developed, cultivated, and strengthened by voluntary and directed exercise and use. Acquire the habit of mapping out the work you have to do in advance, and allowing the creative Imagination to fill in the details of the map after you have made the general outlines. Turn your attention upon the tasks before, and you will find that, providing you have the strong desire for improvement well kindled, the Imagination will set to work suggesting improvements.
Avoid Idle Day-Dreaming. Avoid the habit of idle day-dreaming, for such only dissipates and wastes the energies of the Imagination. Instead, strive to acquire the habit of the purposeful, voluntary use of the Imagination.
Hold to the Central Idea. In the work of Constructive Imagination, always hold firmly to the central idea and central purpose of your thought. Build up, tear down, alter and change the details as much as you see fit, but always with the idea of improving and creating—but never allow yourself to be sidetracked. Let the central idea and its purpose be the skeleton framework upon which you build your structure.
Discard Useless Material. Acquire the habit of discarding all ideas and mental images that are not conducive to your creative work. Hold your mind "one pointed" while engaged in your imaginative work. Subject all your ideas and mental images to the test: "Is this conducive to the task in view? Does this tend to efficiency?" Hold fast to the Positives, and reject the Negatives.
See the Result as You Desire It to Be. Always hold before your mental eye the picture of yourself accomplishing the thing you have set out to do, and also the picture of the result taking on the proper form and power.
The following quotations from eminent authorities will serve to illustrate the principles embodied in the above rules, and will probably give additional inspiration to the reader who wishes to effectively and efficiently use his faculties of Imagination. By viewing the subject from the different angles of vision of these several authorities, you will get a wider and fuller vision of it than from the ideas of any one writer.
"In this age there is no mental power that stands more in need of cultivation than the Imagination. So practical are its results that a man without it cannot possibly be a good plumber. He must image short cuts for placing his pipe. The image of the direction to take to elude an obstacle must precede the actual laying of the pipe. If he fixes it before traversing the way with his Imagination, he frequently gets into trouble and has to tear down his work. Someone has said that the more imagination a blacksmith has, the better will he shoe a horse. Every time he strikes the red-hot iron, he makes it approximate to the image in his mind. Nor is that image a literal copy of the horse's foot. If there is a depression in that, the Imagination must build out a corresponding elevation in the image, and the blows must make the iron fit the image.''
"It is certain that in order to execute consciously a voluntary act we must have in the mind a conception of the aim and purpose of the act." "It is as serving to guide and direct our various activities that mental images derive their chief value and importance. In anything that we purpose or intend to do, we must first of all have an idea or image of it in the mind, and the more clear and correct the image, the more accurately and efficiently will the purpose be carried out. We cannot exert an act of volition without having in mind an idea or image of what we will to effect."
"By aiming at a new construction, we must clearly conceive what is aimed at. Where we have a very distinct and intelligible model before us, we are in a fair way to succeed; in proportion as the ideal is dim and wavering we stagger and miscarry."
"When one is engaged in seeking for a thing, if he keep the image of it clearly before the mind he will be likely to find it, and that too, probably where it would otherwise have escaped his notice."
"No one ever found the walking fern who did not have the walking fern in his mind. A person whose eye is full of Indian relics picks them up in every field he walks through. They are quickly recognized because the eye has been commissioned to find them."
So, here too, we find that the Imagination, instead of doing as it likes, when it likes, and how it likes, as many suppose it must be allowed to do, is really as readily amenable to the control, direction, and mastery of the Ego as is any other of the mental processes. The Master Mind is the Master of Imagination, as it is the Master of the rest of the Mental Realm.
The Processes of Subconscious Thought.
The third of the great classes of processes of the Subconscious Mentality is that which be called that of Subconscious Thought. While most persons accept readily the fact of the subconscious nature of the processes of Memory and Imagination, respectively, they are somewhat skeptical at first concerning the statement that the mind performs a large portion of its thought-processes on those planes of mentality below the plane of the ordinary consciousness.
The subconscious processes of thought are well illustrated by the following statements of eminent authorities:
"At least ninety percent, of our mental life is subconscious, if you will analyze your mental operation you will find that conscious thinking is never a continuous line of consciousness, but a series of conscious data with great intervals of subconsciousness. We sit and try to solve a problem, and fail. Suddenly an idea dawns that leads to a solution of the problem. The subconscious processes were at work."
"Carpenter calls attention to the common experience of subconscious meditation, and illustrates it by the experience of a friend who stated that at one time he had laboriously sought for the solution of a difficult problem, but without success. Then suddenly the solution flashed across his mind, and so complete was the answer, and so unexpected was its appearance, that he trembled as if in the presence of another being who had communicated a secret to him."
"A close attention to our internal operations, along with induction, gives us this result, that we exercise ratiocination of which we have no consciousness, and generally it furnishes us with this marvelous law, that every operation whatsoever of our minds is unknown to us until a second operation reveals it to us."
"The unconscious logical processes are carried out with a certainty and regularity which would be impossible where there exists the possibility of error. Our mind is so happily designed that it prepares for us the most important foundations of cognition, while we have not the slightest apprehension of the modus operandi. This unconscious mentality, like a benevolent stranger, works and makes provision for our benefit, pouring only the mature fruits into, our laps."
"It is inexplicable how premises which lie below consciousness can sustain conclusions in consciousness; how the mind can wittingly take up a mental movement at an advanced stage, having missed its primary steps."
"It is surprising how uncomfortable a person may be made by the obscure idea of something which he ought to have said or done, and which he cannot for the life of him remember. There is an effort of the lost idea to get into consciousness, which is relieved directly the idea bursts into consciousness."
"There are thoughts that never emerge into consciousness, which yet make their influence felt among the perceptive currents, just as the unseen planets sway the movements of the known ones. I was told of a business man in Boston who had given up thinking of an important question as too much for him. But he continued so uneasy in his brain that he feared that he was threatened with palsy. After some hours the natural solution of the question came to him, worked out, it is believed, in that troubled interval."
"We are constantly aware that feelings emerge unsolicited by any previous mental state, directly from the dark womb of unconsciousness. Indeed all our most vivid feelings are thus derived. Suddenly a new irrelevant, unwilled, and unlocked for presence intrudes itself into consciousness. Some inscrutable power causes it to rise and enter the mental presence as a sensorial constituent. If this vivid dependence on unconscious forces has to be conjectured with the most vivid mental occurrences, how much more such a sustaining foundation must be postulated for those faint revivals of previous sensations that so largely assist us in making up our complex mental presence."
"It has often happened to me to have accumulated a store of facts, but to have been able to proceed no further. Then, after an interval of time, I have found the obscurity and confusion to have cleared away, the facts to have settled in their right places, though I have not been sensible of having made any effort for that purpose."
"After days, weeks, or months we often find to our great astonishment that the old opinions we had up to that moment have been entirely rearranged, and that new ones have already become lodged there. This unconscious mental process of digestion and assimilation I have several times experienced in my own case."
"The mind receives from experience certain data, and elaborates them unconsciously by laws peculiar to itself, and the result merges into consciousness."
"Berthelot, the great French chemist, and founder of Synthetic Chemistry, told his intimates that the experiments which led to many of his wonderful discoveries were not the result of carefully followed trains of thought, or of pure reasoning processes, but, on the contrary, they 'came of themselves, so to speak,' as if from the clear sky above."
"At times I have had the feeling of the uselessness of all voluntary effort, and also that the matter was working itself clear in my mind. It has many times seemed to me that I was really a passive instrument in the hands of a person not myself. In view of having to wait for the results of these unconscious processes, I have proved the value of getting together material in advance, and then leaving the mass to digest itself till I am ready to write about it. I delayed for a month the writing of my book, 'System of Psychology,' but continued reading the authorities. I would not try to think about the book. I would watch with interest the people passing the windows. One evening when reading the paper the substance of the missing part of the book flashed upon my mind, and I began to write. This is only a sample of many such experiences."
"My Brownies! God bless them! who do one-half of my work for me when I am fast asleep, and in all human likelihood do the rest for me as well when I am wide awake and foolishly suppose that I do it for myself. I had long been wanting to write a book on man's double being. For two days I went about racking my brains for a plot of any sort, and on the second night I dreamt the scene in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the window; and a scene, afterward split in two, in which Hyde, pursued, took the powder and underwent the change in the presence of his pursuer. In Otalla, the Count, the mother, Otalla's chamber, the meeting on the stairs, the broken window, were all given me in bulk and details, as I have tried to write them."
Many pages could be filled with similar testimony to the reality of the processes of Subconscious Thought, to which has been given the names "automatic thinking," "unconscious rumination," or even the picturesque term "the helpful Brownies" of Stevenson; but the principle has been clearly illustrated in the above quotations, and further testimony would only be in the nature of repetition. The facts are admitted by all advanced modern psychologists, and many eminent persons have testified as to the manifestation of similar phenomena in their own experience. Many persons have acquired special efficiency in directing their subconscious faculties to perform similar work for them.
Perhaps the most concise and practical directions for manifesting this form of mental process is the following, quoted from an American writer who has made a special study of the subject. This authority says:
"In the Inner Consciousness of each of us there are forces which act much the same as would countless tiny mental brownies or helpers who are anxious and willing to assist us in our mental work, if we will but have confidence and trust in them. This is a psychological truth expressed in the terms of the old fairy tales. The process of calling into service these Inner Consciousness helpers is similar to that by which we constantly employ to recall some forgotten fact or name. We find that we cannot recollect some desired fact, date, or name, and instead of racking our brains with an increased effort, we (if we have learned the secret) pass on the matter to the Inner Consciousness with a silent command, 'Recollect this name for me,' and then go on with our ordinary work. After a few minutes—or it may be hours—all of a sudden, pop! will come the missing name of fact before us—flashed from the planes of the Inner Consciousness, by the help of the kindly workers or 'brownies' of those planes. The experience is so common that we have ceased to wonder at it, and yet it is a wonderful manifestation of the Inner Consciousness workings of the mind. Stop and think a moment, and you will see that the missing word does not present itself accidentally, or 'just because.' There are mental processes at work for your benefit, and when they have worked out the problem for you they gleefully push it up from their plane on to the plane of the outer consciousness where you may use it.
"We know of no better way of illustrating the matter than by this fanciful figure of the 'mental brownies,' in connection with the illustration of the 'subconscious storehouse.' If you would learn to take advantage of the work of these Subconscious Brownies, we advise you to form a mental picture of the Subconscious Storehouse in which is stored all sorts of knowledge that you have placed there during your lifetime, as well as the impressions that you have acquired by race inheritance—racial memory, in fact. The information stored away has often been placed in the storage rooms without any regard for systematic storing, or arrangement, and when you wish to find something that has been stored away there a long time ago, the exact place being forgotten, you are compelled to call to your assistance the little brownies of the mind, which perform faithfully your mental command, 'Recollect this for me!' These brownies are the same little chaps that you charge with the task of waking you at four o'clock tomorrow morning when you wish to catch an early train—and they obey you well in this work of the mental alarm-clock. These same little chaps will also flash into your consciousness the report, 'I have an engagement at two o'clock with Jones'—when looking at your watch you will see that it is just a quarter before the hour of two, the time of your engagement.
"Well then, if you will examine carefully into a subject which you wish to master, and will pass along the results of your observations to these Subconscious Brownies, you will find that they will work the raw materials of thought into shape for you in a comparatively short time. They will arrange, analyze, systematize, collate, and arrange in consecutive order the various details of information which you have passed on to them, and will add thereto the various articles of similar information that they will find stored away in the various recesses of your memory. In this way they will group together various scattered bits of knowledge that you have forgotten. And, right here, let us say to you that you never absolutely forget anything that you have placed in your mind. You may be unable to recollect certain things, but they are not lost— sometime later some associative connection will be made with some other fact, and lo! the missing idea will be found fitted nicely into its place in the larger idea—the work of our little brownies. Read the examples given of the eminent persons who have had experiences of this kind. These; experiences can be reproduced by you when you have acquired the 'knack of it.'
Remember Thompson's statement: 'In view of having to wait for the results of these unconscious processes, I have proved the habit of getting together material in advance, and then leaving the mass to digest itself until I am ready to write about it.' This subconscious 'digestion' is really the work of our little mental brownies.
"There are many ways of setting the brownies to work. Nearly everyone has had some experience, more or less, in the matter, although often it is produced almost unconsciously, and without purpose and intent. Perhaps the best way for the average person—or rather the majority of persons—to get the desired results is for one to get as clear an idea of what one really wants to know—as clear an idea or mental image of the question you wish answered. Then after rolling it around in your mind— mentally chewing it, as it were—giving it a high degree of voluntary attention, you can pass it on to your Subconscious Mentality with the mental command: 'Attend to this for me—work out the answer!' or some similar order. This command may be given silently, or else spoken aloud—either will do. Speak to the Subconscious Mentality—or its little workers—just as you would speak to persons in your employ, kindly but firmly. Talk to the little workers, and firmly command them to do your work. And then forget all about the matter—throw it off your conscious mind, and attend to your other tasks. Then in due time will come your answer—flashed into your consciousness—perhaps not until the very minute that you must decide upon the matter, or need the information. You may give your brownies orders to report at such and such a time—just as you do when you tell them to awaken you at a certain time in the morning so as to catch the early train, or just as they remind you of the hour of your appointment, if you have them well trained."
The above instruction, though conveyed in a fanciful style in order to catch the attention and to be easily remembered, really contains the essence and substance of the most approved methods of making use of the faculties of the subconscious mentality in the process of Subconscious Thought. The reader should carefully study this method, and begin to practice it as he wishes to make use of this wonderful power of the mind. He will find that after a little practice his mental powers will be enormously increased, and his general efficiency likewise added to.
Here, as elsewhere, we have the fact set forth that the Ego is the Master Mind, ruling, controlling, directing and managing his subjects, the mental faculties. The Ego—the Master Mind—has a large realm over which to rule, and many subjects to govern; but it has the power to govern them properly and efficiently, providing that it will awaken to its own reality and power, and will grasp firmly the scepter of authority which rightfully belongs to it, but which it may have allowed to drop from its relaxed fingers while it slept.