Unconscious And Subconscious
(Posted on November 24, 2016 by David McMillin)
[NOTE: While serving as mentor for an online version of "A Search For God" study group and working on the Knowledge lesson, a group member asked for help in understanding the distinction between the subconscious and unconscious discussed in the ASFG text: "We must not confuse the unconscious mind with the subconscious. The unconscious is but a deeper portion of our conscious thinking, through which the subconscious operates in the physical and acts upon and affects the conscious mind." Here is my reply. – David McMillin]
Those excerpts are from the section “Interpretation of Self.” For the purposes of your basic question, let's consider the "self" that is to be interpreted as consisting of three aspects (which for “convenience” may be associated with levels of mind).
The conscious mind (of the physical self) typically focuses on daily activities (pertaining to family, work, and so forth). But if we concentrate we can access deeper information (personal memories, health data “like heartbeats and breathing”). While that information is normally unconscious (simply NOT conscious) most of the time, we do have conscious access to it if we choose to focus the conscious mind in that direction. Essentially, the information is at the same physical level of consciousness.
The subconscious mind (of the inner self) is a higher level of mind that may manifest through the deeper levels of the conscious mind (the unconscious), especially during dreams or deep meditation.
The superconscious mind (of the spiritual self) provides access to the highest levels of Knowledge – experiential Knowledge of God.
The caution in the ASFG text (“We must not confuse the unconscious mind with the subconscious”) is warning us about mistaking information that is strictly from the unconscious level (of the physical conscious mind) for spiritual knowledge from higher levels. Higher Knowledge may pass through the unconscious from the subconscious and use unconscious content symbolically to convey the information, but that is not its source. Sometimes we focus on our own unconscious stuff (such as doubt and fear) believing that we are tapped into higher consciousness. The ASFG text for this lesson provides guidelines for recognizing and applying the Higher (“true”) Knowledge of God.
“If we would know God, we must experience God; and as we experience Him, we become a guide to someone else. This should be to us the answer to every problem.” (ASFG)
The group member thanked me for the explanation, but acknowledged: "This is pretty heavy stuff … I think I need to study it more thoroughly to understand it properly. To which I replied:
Yes, study AND application. And yes, the text from this lesson that you have chosen to focus on is about as "heavy" (for the "rational faculty" of mind) as you will find in the ASFG material.
It is known and may be experienced by the entity that not mere knowledge makes for understanding, but the application of what may be given that it, the experience, becomes a portion of the entity, of the soul, IN application, makes for the growth. For the knowledge of the Creative Forces, the knowledge of God, is a growth. For ye grow in grace, in knowledge, in understanding, in the application of that thou hast experienced and dost experience in thy relationships to thy fellow man. (884-1)
Subsequently another group member shared her experience on the "Unknowing" exercise, which overlapped somewhat with the previous exchange on the subconscious and unconscious. She commented: "I am amazed at how some of Mr. Cayce's statements just seem leap off the page at me with crystal clarity, summing up exactly some profound pearl of Knowledge that I feel like I finally "got"… And then I focus on some other parts of the teachings that just feel like a muddled mess… like the circular sentences on states of consciousness [subconscious and unconscious] …" I replied:
Thanks for sharing your experience of this lesson (the insights and questions, for that is the nature of the quest we have undertaken).
Education is only the manner or the way. Do not confuse the manner or the way with that of doing what ye DO know! Not when there is a more convenient season, or "When I have attained unto a greater understanding I will do this or that." Knowledge, understanding, is using, then, that thou hast in hand. Not to thine own knowledge but that all hope, power, trust, faith, knowledge and understanding are in Him. Do that thou knowest to do TODAY, as He would have thee do it, IN THINE UNDERSTANDING! Then tomorrow will be shown thee for that day! For as He has given, TODAY ye may know the Lord! NOW, if ye will but open thine heart, thine mind, the understanding and knowledge will come! (262-89)
That excerpt reminds me of this one:
That that is Truth is growth! For what is truth today may be tomorrow only partially so, to a developing soul! (1297-1)
By applying the Knowledge that we have in hand (as best we can at the moment in the midst of life), more is given. Thus we clean up the “muddled mess” in our understanding of true Knowledge.
The explanation I provided [on the distinction between subconscious and unconscious] was “For the purposes of [his] basic question” about the distinction between the subconscious and unconscious levels of mind. It was a simple teaching tool intended to help him to explore the levels of consciousness and the meaning of his question through his own EXPERIENCE (as in the ASFG quote that I cited for him). As he has his own EXPERIENCE (through APPLICATION of the knowledge that he currently has and more is given from Spirit), he can develop his own explanation based on his own EXPERIENCE (and alter what I provided or dispense with it entirely). It is a growth process that involves emptying self of what we think we know, and relying on our EXPERIENCE of Spirit as the standard for Knowledge.
It's very interesting that you have chosen to focus on the “Unknowing” exercise as it relates your family. In my EXPERIENCE, this connects directly to … the basic question [subconscious vs unconscious] in a practical way.
My family upbringing included considerable “indoctrination” in certain “man-made” beliefs (theological “dogmas”) that became part of the content of my conscious/unconscious level of mind. For example, the doctrine taught that human beings were wretched, sinful creatures deserving to burn in hell for eternity. Such was the conscious programming of my childhood which became part of my unconscious mind as I developed. This relates to the caution in the ASFG text – unconscious doubts and fears that make us “afraid to 'let go' and be absolutely happy.”
In my development, at a certain point, I “emptied” my conscious/unconscious mind of that dogma (“unknowing”) in a very deliberate and extreme manner (perhaps “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”). It was only some years later when I had some powerful psychic/mystical EXPERIENCES, that I gained a different understanding of spirituality and Knowledge of God based on my own direct EXPERIENCE – most often via the subconscious/superconscious levels of my mind (in dreams and mystical states). So the Knowledge of the levels of mind (The Interpretation of Self) is a very real and practical EXPERIENCE for me. It is a growth process, and I am still open to Spirit and willing to change my mind as needed in my search for God. That is a humbling thought indeed (as you so well know).
We each must make the journey and gain the Knowledge of God in our own EXPERIENCE through APPLICATION. It may begin with study (which is APPLICATION within the mind), but we must live the truth that we know (as inadequate as it may seem at times), in order to become that truth – living truth – true Knowledge of God.
PS – I like your use of the term “muddled mess.” We can all relate to that! 🙂
A follow-up comment by this group member provided clarifcation of her experience with the lesson text: "Your example helps to clarify what I do really already know (-: Sometimes with the Cayce material I can stumble on the words and get hung up on the minute similarities or differences in the same wording used slightly differently in other teachings that I have studied." To which I replied:
You've raised an important point about wording and language in the Cayce material. I think that is the reason the writers of ASFG used the qualifier “for convenience” when defining mind in this lesson. They were aware that they were simply setting “metes and bounds” —
… for names are setting metes and bounds – and to this edge and to that edge, which DOES NOT exist! any more than time, space or all – WHEN you consider that the SOUL is OF and THROUGH and part and portion of the all, see? (826-8)
For names, of course, give the metes and bounds. And that which is universal, you will soon find as you analyze self, has no metes and bounds. (2995-3)
Hence the great injunction to find in self first the ideals – spiritual, mental, material … Put names to them. For in names we give limitations, to set metes and bounds. And as ye grow, these limitations must be expanded. (3409-1)
So as we explore the ASFG material (and other information via comparative studies) and at times feel frustrated with the variations in terminology or concepts used – it is usually helpful to focus on the EXPERIENCE of the reality that the words and concepts point to and symbolize, recognizing the inherent limitations of human language and concepts in such matters. Thus we can find common ground and emphasize the universality of the EXPERIENCE of God. We can be flexible and kind (to ourselves and others), having Faith that even with the limitations of our naming, our efforts are sufficient to the task as we APPLY what we know consistently (and then more is given).
The concept of “metes and bounds” has been very helpful for me in many of these lessons, especially with the “Concept Of God” exercise (God's Manifestation) that addresses the diverse designations used in the readings when naming God.
“The knowledge of God does not bind us to dogmas, or man-made beliefs [or rigid wording or names]; rather it sets us free.” (ASFG)