The Instinctive Mind

This plane of mentation we share in connection with the lower animals, in, at least, its lower forms. It is the first plane of mentation reached in the scale of evolution. Its lowest phases are along lines in which consciousness is scarcely evident, and it extends from this lowly place in the scale until it manifests a very high degree of consciousness in comparison with its lowest phases; in fact, when it begins to shade into the fifth principle, it is difficult to distinguish it from the lowest forms of the latter.

The first dawn of the instinctive mind may be seen even in the mineral kingdom, more particularly in crystals, etc. Then in the plant kingdom it grows more distinct and higher in the scale, some of the higher families of plants showing even a rudimentary form of consciousness. Then in the world of the lower animals are seen increasing manifestations of the instinctive mind, from the almost plant like intelligence of the lower forms until we reach a degree almost equal to that of the lowest form of human life.

Then, among men, we see it shading gradually into the fifth principle, the intellect, until in the highest form of man today we see the fifth principle, intellect, in control to a certain extent, and subordinating the fourth principle to it, either wisely or unwisely. But, remember this, that even the highest form of man carries about with him the fourth principle, the instinctive mind, and in varying degrees uses it, or is used by it.

The instinctive mind is most useful to man in this stage of his development – he could not exist as a physical being without it, in fact – and he may make a most valuable servant of it if he understands it; but woe to him if he allows it to remain in control or to usurp prerogatives belonging to its higher brother. Now, right here we must call your attention to the fact that man is still a growing creature – he is not a finished product by any means. He has reached his present stage of growth after a toilsome journey; but it is merely sunrise yet, and the full day is far off. The fifth principle, the intellect, has unfolded to a certain degree, particularly in the more advanced men of today, but the unfoldment is merely beginning with many.

Many men are but little more than animals, and their minds function almost entirely upon the instinctive plane. And all men of today, with the exceptions of a few very highly developed individuals, have need to be on guard lest the instinctive mind does not occasionally unduly assert its power over them, when they are off their guard.

The lowest phase of the work of the instinctive mind is akin to the same work manifesting in the plant kingdom. The work of our bodies is performed by this part of the mind. The constant work of repair, replacement, change, digestion, assimilation, elimination, etc., is being performed by this part of the mind, all below the plane of consciousness. The wondrous work of the body, in health and sickness, is faithfully carried on by this part of our minds, all without our conscious knowledge. The intelligent work of every organ, part, and cell of the body is under the superintendence of this part of the mind. Read in “Science of Breath” of the marvelous process of the circulation of the blood, its purification, etc., and realize, faintly, what a wonderful work is even this lowest phase of the instinctive mind. We will show more of its workings in our forthcoming work “Hatha Yoga,” but any school physiology will give you a clear idea of what it does, although its writer does not tell the cause behind it. This part of the work of the instinctive mind is well performed in the lower animals, plants, and in man, until the latter begins to unfold a little intellect, when he often begins to meddle with the work properly belonging to this plane of the mind, and sends to it adverse suggestions, fear thoughts, etc. However, this trouble is but temporary, as, when the intellect unfolds a little farther, it sees the error into which it has fallen and proceeds to rectify the trouble and to prevent its recurrence.

But this is only a part of the province of the instinctive mind. As the animal progressed along the scale of evolution, certain things became necessary for its protection and well-being. It could not reason on these things, so that wonderful intelligence dwelling, subconsciously, in the instinctive mind unfolded until it was able to grasp the situation and meet it. It aroused the “fighting instinct” in the brute for its preservation, and this action of the instinctive mind, very good for its purpose and essential to the preservation of the life of the animal, is still with us and occasionally projects itself into our mentality with a surprising degree of strength.

There is a great deal of the old animal fighting spirit in us yet, although we have managed to control it and to hold it in restraint, thanks to the light obtained from our unfolding higher faculties. The instinctive mind also taught the animal how to build its nests, how to migrate before approaching winter, how to hibernate, and thousands of other things well known to students of natural history. And it teaches us how to do the many things which we perform instinctively, as it also assumes tasks which we learn how to perform by means of our intellect, and which we pass on to the instinctive mind, which afterward performs them automatically or nearly so. It is astonishing how many of our daily tasks are performed under the direction of our instinctive mind, subject merely to a casual supervision of the Intellect.

When we learn to do things “by heart,” we have really mastered them on the intellectual plane, and then passed them on to the instinctive plane of mentation. The woman with her sewing machine, the man who runs his engine, the painter with his brush, all find the instinctive mind a good friend, in fact the intellect would soon tire if it had these every – day tasks to perform. Note the difference between learning to do a thing, and then doing it after it has been learned. These manifestations of the instinctive mind are of course among its higher phases, and are due largely to its contact with and blending with the unfolding intellect.

The instinctive mind is also the “habit” mind. The intellect (either that of the owner of the instinctive mind, or of some other man) passes on ideas to it, which it afterward faithfully carries out to the letter, unless corrected or given better instructions, or worse ones, by the intellect of some one.

The instinctive mind is a queer storehouse. It is full of things received from a variety of sources. It contains many things which it has received through heredity; other things which have unfolded within it, the seeds of which were sown at the time of the primal impulse which started life along the path; other things which it has received from the intellect, including suggestions from others, as well as thought-waves sent out from the minds of others, which have taken lodgment within its corridors. All sorts of foolishness as well as wisdom is there. We will deal with this phase of the subject in future lessons, under the head of Suggestion and Auto Suggestion, Thought Power, etc.

Instinctive mind manifests varying degrees of consciousness, varying from almost absolute sub-consciousness to the simple consciousness of the highest of the lower animals and the lower forms of man. Self-consciousness comes to man with the unfoldment of the intellect, and will be spoken of in its proper place. Cosmic or universal consciousness comes with the unfoldment of the spiritual mind and will be touched upon later on. This gradual growth of consciousness is a most interesting and important branch of the subject before us, and will be referred to, and spoken of, at different points in this course.

Before we pass on to the next principle, we must call your attention to the fact that the instinctive mind is the seat of the appetites, passions, desires, instincts, sensations, feelings, and emotions of the lower order, manifested in man as well as in the lower animals. There are of course higher ideas, emotions, aspirations, and desires, reaching the advanced man from the unfolding spiritual mind, but the animal desires, and the ordinary feelings, emotions, etc., belong to the instinctive mind. All the “feelings” belonging to our passional and emotional nature belong to this plane. All animal desires, such as hunger and thirst, sexual desires (on the physical plane); all passions, such as physical love, hatred, envy, malice, jealousy, revenge, are a part of it. The desire for the physical (unless as a means of reaching higher things), the longing for the material, all belong to this plane.

The “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life,” are on this plane. This principle is the most material of the three mental principles, and is the one which is apt to bind us the closest to the earth and earthly things. Remember, that we are not condemning material or “earthly” things – they are all right in their place; but man in his unfoldment grows to see these things as only a means to an end – only a step in the spiritual evolution. And with clearer vision he ceases to be bound too tightly to the material side of life, and, instead of regarding it as the end and aim of all things, sees that it is, at the best, only a means to a higher end.

Many of the “brute” instincts are still with us, and are much in evidence in undeveloped people. Occultists learn to curb and control these lower instincts, and to subordinate them to the higher mental ideals which open up to them. Be not discouraged, dear student, if you find much of the animal still within you. It is no sign of “badness,” or evil; in fact the recognition of it by one is a sign that his unfoldment has begun, for, before, the same thing was there and not recognized for what it is, whereas now it is both seen and recognized. Knowledge is power; learn to know the remnants of the brute nature within you and become a tamer of wild beasts. The higher principles will always obtain the mastery, but patience, perseverance, and faith are required for the task. These “brute” things were all right in their time – the animal had need of them they were “good” for the purpose intended, but now that man is reaching higher points on the path, he sees clearer and learns to subordinate the lower parts of himself to the higher.

The lower instincts were not implanted in your nature by “the devil”; you came by them honestly. They came in the process of evolution as a proper and right thing, but have been largely outgrown and can now be left behind. So do not fear these inheritances from the past; you can put them aside or subordinate them to higher things as you journey along the path. Do not despise them, though you tread them under foot – they are the steps upon which you have reached your present high estate, and upon which you will attain still greater heights.