There is another plane of the mind which is often called the “Instinct,” but which is but a part of the plane of the Intellect, although its operations are largely below the field of consciousness. We allude to what may be called the “Habit Mind,” in order to distinguish it from the Instinctive Plane.
The difference is this: The Instinctive plane of mind is made up of the ordinary operations of the mind below the plane of the Intellect, and yet above the plane of the Vegetative mind–and also of the acquired experiences of the race, which have been transmitted by heredity, etc. But the “Habit Mind” contains only that which has been placed there by the person himself and which he has acquired by experience, habit, and observation, repeated so often until the mind knows it so well that it is carried below the field of consciousness and becomes “second nature,” and akin to Instinct.
The text books upon psychology are filled with illustrations and examples of the habit phase or plane of the mental operations, and we do not think it necessary to repeat instances of the same kind here. Everyone is familiar with the fact that tasks which at first are learned only by considerable work and time soon become fixed in some part of the mind until their repetition calls for little or no exercise of conscious mental operation. In fact, some writers have claimed that no one really “learns” how to perform a task until he can perform it almost automatically.
The pupil who in the early stages of piano playing finds it most difficult to control and manage his fingers, after a time is able to forget all about his fingering and devote his entire attention to the pages of his music, and after this he is able to apparently let his fingers play the entire piece of music by themselves without a thought on his part.
The best performers have told us that in the moments of their highest efforts they are aware that the out-of-conscious portion of their mind is doing the work for them, and they are practically standing aside and witnessing the work being done. So true is this that in some cases it is related that if the performer’s conscious mind attempts to take up the work the quality is impaired and the musician and the audience notice the difference.
The same thing is true in the case of the woman learning to operate the sewing machine. It is quite difficult at first, but gradually it grows to “run itself.” Those who have mastered the typewriter have had the same experience. At first each letter had to be picked out with care and effort. After a gradual improvement the operator is enabled to devote her entire attention to the “copy” and let the fingers pick out the keys for themselves.
Many operators learn rapid typewriting by so training the habit mind that it picks out the letter-keys by reason of their position, the letters being covered over in order to force the mind to adapt itself to the new requirements. A similar state of affairs exists wherever men or women have to use tools of any kind. The tool soon is recognized by the mind and used as if it were a part of the body, and no more conscious thought is devoted to the manipulation than we devote to the operation of walking, which, by the way, is learned by the child only by the expenditure of time and labor. It is astonishing how many things we do “automatically” in this way. Writers have called our attention to the fact that the average man cannot consciously inform you how he puts on his coat in the morning–which arm goes in first, how the coat is held, etc. But the habit mind knows–knows very well.
Let the student stand up and put on his coat in the regular way, following the leadings of the habit mind. Then, after removing it, let him attempt to put it on by inserting the other arm first, for instance. He will be surprised to find out how awkward it will be for him, and how completely he has been depending upon the habit mind. And tomorrow morning let him find out which shoe the habit mind has been putting on him first and then try to reverse the order and notice how flurried and disturbed the habit mind will become, and how frantically it will signal to the conscious mind: “Something wrong up there!” Or try to button on your collar, reversing the order in which the tabs are placed over the button–right before left, or left before right, as the case may be, and notice the involuntary protest. Or, try to reverse the customary habit in walking and attempt to swing your right arm with the movement of your right leg, and so on, and you will find it will require the exercise of great will power. Or, try to “change hands” and use your knife and fork. But we must stop giving examples and illustrations. Their number is countless.
Not only does the habit mind attend to physical actions, etc., but it also takes a hand in our mental operations. We soon acquire the habit of ceasing to consciously consider certain things, and the habit mind takes the matter for granted, and thereafter we will think automatically on those particular questions, unless we are shaken out of the habit by a rude jolt from the mind of someone else, or from the presentation of some conflicting idea occasioned by our own experience or reasoning processes. And the habit mind hates to be disturbed and compelled to revise its ideas. It fights against it, and rebels, and the result is that many of us are slaves to old outgrown ideas that we realize are false and untrue, but which we find that we “cannot exactly get rid of.” In our future lessons we will give methods to get rid of these old outgrown ideas.
There are other planes of mind which have to do with the phenomena known as “psychic,” by which is meant the phases of psychic phenomena known as clairvoyance, psychometry, telepathy, etc., but we shall not consider them in this lesson, for they belong to another part of the general subject. We have spoken of them in a general way in our “Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy, etc.”