Many people think many things when they encounter the word ‘subconscious.’ Some conjure thoughts and images of mysterious supernatural forces while others dismiss it as psychological and medical quackery. But while each at an extreme, both observations connote the idea that the subconscious is separate and apart from what can be deemed the conscious, which is unequivocally acknowledged by both as the world of reality. Merriam-Websters dictionary defines both conscious and subconscious as such:
Conscious (adj.) –
Etymology: Latin conscius, from com- + scire to know
1 : perceiving, apprehending, or noticing with a degree of controlled thought or observation (was conscious that someone was watching)
2 archaic : sharing another's knowledge or awareness of an inward state or outward fact
3 : personally felt (conscious guilt)
4 : capable of or marked by thought, will, design, or perception
5 : self-conscious
6 : having mental faculties undulled by sleep, faintness, or stupor : awake (was conscious during the surgery)
7 : done or acting with critical awareness (a conscious effort to do better)
8 a : likely to notice, consider, or appraise (a bargain-conscious shopper) b : being concerned or interested (weight-conscious models) c : marked by strong feelings or notions (a race-conscious society)
Subconscious (adj.) –
Date: circa 1834
: existing in the mind but not immediately available to consciousness (a subconscious motive)
As the conscious is deemed to be the world of reality, much more effort is given in the way of defining exactly what it is whereas the definition for ‘subconscious’ is short and concise, while even referencing ‘conscious’ for its contrasting against it. Also implicit in the definitions is the fact that the notion of the subconscious is a fairly new concept in comparison to the conscious. Though conventionally deemed as ancillary in everyday society, in this treatise I will attempt to show that it is actually by far the more important of the two, and that it is instead the conscious which is ancillary to the subconscious.
Innate Abilities of the subconscious
The human body is a remarkable piece of work, and can be argued as the most complex of organic structures in all of existence. A living body is contingent upon many vital processes for its operation, and though some of these may be consciously observed, many are not. For example, the Nervous System of the human body is responsible for submitting and receiving electrochemical information between the brain and the various nerves cells throughout the body. Another vital system of the body is the Circulatory System, which through a continuously beating heart, channels blood through the lungs and the various blood vessels that extend throughout every inch of the body. The Digestive System is responsible for the digestion of the food we eat via its production of saliva in the mouth upon anticipation and receipt of food, its subsequent acidifying of the stomach, and ultimately catalyzes the various machinations of the intestines before the food is finally disposed of as waste.
From a conscious aspect, the functions of the body are made known to the individual via sensory perception. The nerves throughout the body, for instance, can detect changes in temperature that the conscious mind perceives as a sensation of either increasing or decreasing heat. Or as is the case with saliva in the mouth, increased salivation will occur upon the mouth’s receiving of victuals, but this will likely not occur upon the entry of a foreign object, such as a piece of paper or metal, inserted in the mouth not meat which is not fit for digestion.
Consciously, it appears that we know these things because we are able to sense them. But this begs the question of how exactly does one know how to sense. For instance, how exactly does a newly born infant know how to suck a pap and swallow milk? No one has shown the infant anything, and what experiences has it drawn from to develop the ability to know? A more concessionary example may be the case of an adult, who from a distance may see a tree with his eyes: how exactly does the individual know how to see the tree? Can his eyes consciously perceive that the tree is in reality a skyscraper? He may wish that it were so, but his eyes will sense and detect a tree as long as the individual does not consciously close his eyelids. It should be apparent that though the individual can consciously see the tree, the actual ability to see the tree is in fact a function of the subconscious. For if this ability was a conscious function, he would be able to regulate its power, or functioning capability, by turning it on or off at will. Though the individual can avoid the tree as undesirable to look at, this will never substitute for his eyes detection of such as long as they are directly exposed to the stimuli projected from the tree.
And so we see that this innate knowledge of knowing anything extends from the subconscious, for if not that, then what? The heart of a man beats all the days of his existence, but who or what is responsible for the continual occurrence of this phenomenon? It isn’t the conscious which is responsible for this, for one doesn’t actively think or feel for his heart to beat every waking second of the day; but yet and still the heart keeps going. And if it is the subconscious that rests at the heart of all things conscious, then it must be that the subconscious is the more dominant of the two. The subconscious may render the heart no longer fit to beat and cause to cease its doing so, in turn eliminating the conscious of an individual. But the conscious cannot perform the inverse to the subconscious in a power struggle. For example, if the individual decides that he will hold his breath to restrict oxygen to the heart, this oxygen will be restricted only for a short time, after upon which the more dominant subconscious will step in to override this conscious act by rendering the conscious as unconscious, upon which breathing will again resume in the new state of unconsciousness induced by the conscious will of the individual. If, in a fit of madness an individual decides to shoot himself in the heart, this may very well stop it, but often it does not, but if so, usually the stoppage occurs at some point in the future while the individual is unconscious; which again means that it is the subconscious which has the last and overriding say.
The thoughts of the individual represent the conscious mind, as these are a function of the active process of thinking that is done by him. In the sense that thoughts may exist outside of reality, as perceived by the conscious mind, an individual is free to think about whatever his mind fancies. He can envision himself as being or doing whatever he desires. This is also the case for objects in reality perceived by him; i.e., in his mind he may cause objects to exhibit properties in accordance to whatever it is his mind fancies. An individual can switch between differing sets of thoughts at his conscious will, and thus it appears that the thought process is very much in the control of the conscious mind. But thoughts necessarily follow from the individual’s perception of reality, and because, as stated above, perception is fueled and influenced by the subconscious, then the thoughts of an individual cannot exist outside of the subconscious. When a man thinks, he is doing either one of two things: 1) recollecting on events that he has perceived in the past, or 2) projecting for events that he will eventually perceive. In other words, the thoughts of an individual are concerned with either the past or the future, but never the present, for the present is where the individual actually resides, and where he actually resides he can only perceive because he is constantly receiving input from his environment which needs to be consciously processed in real time.
The individual’s concept of time may be referred to as ‘temporal perception.’ One does not experience time in the same manner that one experiences night and day, the changes in the seasons, or the growth and decay of organic life, including people on this planet. The concept of time serves as an overlay type of perception, one in which a person cannot sense directly, but yet in still he knows that it serves as the driver for all things existing in reality, as determined by perception. In this sense, the concept of time serves as a mental construct of the conscious mind in an attempt to explain what it cannot perceive; to wit, the phenomenon of both animate and inanimate objects constantly changing form in one way or another. Because an individual can only be consciously aware of what an object was, or will be, because as we have said he perceives in the present, it follows thus that the present in a temporal sense, exists only as an instant immeasurable to the conscious mind.
Because the thoughts of an individual exist in the present; i.e., the here and now or the current moment in time, said thoughts exist outside the realm of time as perceived by the conscious mind. And because the individual perceives in the present, his thoughts and perceptions can never exist simultaneously. Furthermore, because his thoughts exist in the present, then like his perception, the very substance of a thought is too a creature of the subconscious. A thought itself is of the subconscious, as well as the very perceptions consciously analyzed which exist within the thought.
The subconscious as a store of knowledge
Though knowledge is obtain by the conscious mind by way of its perception, this knowledge or information is ultimately stored into the subconscious, with the conscious mind having no awareness that this is being done by the subconscious. The conscious mind serves as a conduit for the subconscious to obtain information from the environment. One may posit that it is however the conscious mind which actively chooses the information, thus dictating ultimately what is to be stored. But this would be incorrect, for all future perceiving to be done by the conscious mind directly stems from its processing of past and current perceptions; the past perceptions existing in the form of ‘thought’ as we have stated earlier. And so in this regard, it is the subconscious which is ultimately responsible for the information it receives, by directing the conscious mind to where in reality it wants it to perceive via the form of conscious thought, which we have said is of the subconscious. It is the subconscious that has a vision of what it requires for sustenance, and uses the conscious as a tool in providing it. The knowledge obtained via perception extends to adventures experienced firsthand in nature, as well as adventures experienced secondhand via the erudition from books, plays, or neighborly gossip.
When the subconscious obtains information from the conscious mind, it is forever retained within the realms of itself. Knowledge is never lost, but rather amended as new information comes in; and this body of knowledge, in its totality is unavailable to the conscious. The subconscious, again by way of thought and perception, makes available to the conscious mind what it deems relevant at a particular moment of time, and in response to a particular form of stimuli. Certain situations trigger thoughts and insights in the individual, which are often unavailable to the conscious mind in other differing contexts. The frequency of knowledge obtained from within, or rather accessed by the conscious mind, is a function of what is deemed more useful by the subconscious. Knowledge essential for everyday survival will be readily accessed by the conscious with much more ease than that which is unessential and merely trivial in nature.
In addition to knowledge gained by the perception of the conscious mind, an innate store of knowledge is available to each individual upon the moment of his conception as a living soul. This is because he is endowed with the same vital substance which will blossom into the vital systems spoken above, which are regulated in full by the subconscious. And we have asked how it is possible for the newborn infant to know how to breath, suck and swallow upon the first instant of his cracking the womb. It is the subconscious which is responsible for providing the knowledge necessary for these things; with breathing being a less or non-existent conscious function than that of sucking and swallowing. And what adult can recall the knowledge to give a firsthand account of his nine-month experience in his mother’s womb, or even that very first day she held him and provided him with succor? The subconscious does not make this information available to the conscious mind, presumably because it deems this knowledge irrelevant or outside the scope of its mandate given to the conscious mind to obtain more relevant knowledge for it. But whatever the reason, the information resides in the subconscious, to be accessed at some moment in time, perhaps only when the conscious ceases to be.
The subconscious and dreams
The state of dreaming is a state of reduced consciousness. When an individual is induced by sleep, his conscious mind makes the transition from a state of active to passive perception. As such, the subconscious plays a more direct and dominant role in the function of an individual’s perception than is the case when the individual is awake, which may be the reason why vital processes operated by the subconscious come to a reduced state with sleep. While in a state of passive consciousness, the sleeping individual experiences reality in a totally different way than is the case when he is awake. As opposed to responding to primarily external stimuli, in the sleeping state he responds primarily to internal stimuli provided by the subconscious. This inverted perceptive experience is what we know as dreaming, where the individual journeys through the vast knowledge of the subconscious. In this passive state of consciousness, in which the individual is consciously unaware that he is dreaming, the line between reality and fantasy often becomes blurred. This is because previous consciously conceived thoughts and conceptions are more readily available from the subconscious while dreaming. Thus, if an individual was to actively envision a hybrid of an apple and orange while awake, he may very well encounter such a hybrid while in the dream state, and accordingly perceive it as reality. Or an individual may relive the past with a long since dead relative, fraternizing with him as if he were still alive in reality.
While sleeping, the individual still being responsive to external stimuli, but at a much reduced rate, can awaken from the dream state from such sensations as loud noises, such as the buzzing of an insect by the ear, or a loud alarm clock, or from sensations tactile in nature. Many times, however, these sensations are infused into the dream state and merge easily into that reality; i.e., the dream being currently experienced. The body awakens naturally when the subconscious has sufficiently rested its vital organs and processes. Just prior to awakening, the conscious mind is less passive than soon after the individual is induced by sleep, thus he becomes easily awakened by even the lightest of external stimuli, such as sunlight shining on his face. And when awake, the conscious mind is sometimes able to reflect on the experiences of the previous night while asleep, but only if this knowledge is made available to it, and brought to the surface of the conscious mind by the subconscious. Many times an individual cannot recall his dreams of the previous night, which can only mean that the subconscious deems them irrelevant at the present time. When dreams are in fact recollected, it must be because the subconscious is trying to direct the conscious, as is the case with the thought process, to some sort of stimuli which will serve to increase the knowledge bank of the subconscious.
As what is hopefully seen to be evident from this exposition, it has been determined that the conscious mind exists as a subset of the subconscious; and in all of its aspects, it works indirectly to support the total and complete will of the subconscious. Existing as a subset of the subconscious, the conscious can never ascertain nor comprehend the complete majesty of the subconscious. It is allowed to know certain things at distinct times, and when engaged in distinct circumstances, to pursue the end of adding to the glory of the subconscious via the acquisition of more knowledge which is used to amend that which is already existent within its realms. The conscious mind serves as a vitally important conduit of the subconscious, and is ultimately an extension of it.
Being a subset of the subconscious, the conscious is behooved to it for its own edification or destruction. The conscious mind is responsible for updating the subconscious, and information resulting from perceptions fed to it which are destructive in nature will only serve to weaken it, but vice versa for those that are constructive in nature. From the standpoint of the body’s vital systems and processes, proper nutritional inputs; i.e., clean air, water, and mineral rich foods will serve to make these run more efficiently. This in turn has a reinforcing effect, with the subconscious indirectly sending the conscious out to obtain more of these inputs for it. The same holds true for morality concerns, as certain behavior deemed undesirable should be kept from the subconscious so as to not pollute and corrupt it.
When the subconscious is thriving in a healthy state, so too will the body, and likewise the conscious mind, which will be the beneficiary of greater knowledge and understanding made available from the subconscious than otherwise would be the case. The conscious mind, being a servant of the subconscious, will act in a manner consistent with, and reflective of the pristine state of the subconscious. When the converse is true, and the active conscious mind is working contrary to the health of the subconscious (or paradoxically the subconscious working against the health of itself), it becomes increasingly duller as the subconscious it reflects is being made dull by it. This power of suggestion and the nature of the subconscious should be taken seriously by all, and especially of parents who are the stewards of their children’s impressionable young minds.
When the subconscious mind fails to obtain that which is vital for its functioning from the conscious, then it must draw from its reserves, which have been present since the conception of the individual as a living soul. From a strictly physical standpoint, when these reserves are completely exhausted, the body dies; that is, the vital processes controlled by the subconscious which serve to induce consciousness are no longer maintained by the subconscious. The mental reserves are never exhausted prior to physical death, and the conscious mind cannot know what happens when, if ever, the non-physical reserves of the subconscious are exhausted. At the moment of death, the conscious becomes totally consumed by the subconscious, becoming one with it. The individual no longer consciously and actively perceives anything, and life as he knows it becomes an uninhibited experience; resembling the dream state but with greater intensity it must be assumed. And again, the conscious mind cannot know what secret knowledge will be revealed to it upon the fulfillment of its subsumption into the subconscious.
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