The Unfoldment of Consciousness

We have thought it well to make a slight change in the arrangement of these lessons–that is, in the order in which they should appear. We had contemplated making this Seventh Lesson a series of Mental Drills, intended to develop certain of the mental faculties, but we have decided to postpone the same until a later lesson, believing that by so doing a more logical sequence or order of arrangement will be preserved. In this lesson we will tell you of the unfoldment of consciousness in Man, and in the next lesson, and probably in the one following it, we shall present to you a clear statement regarding the states of mind, below and over consciousness–a most wonderful region, we assure you, and one that has been greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted.

This will lead up to the subject of the cultivation of the various faculties–both conscious and outside of consciousness, and the series will be concluded by three lessons going right to the heart of this part of the subject, and giving certain rules and instruction calculated to develop Man’s wonderful “thought-machine” that will be of the greatest interest and importance to all of our students. When the lessons are concluded you will see that the present arrangement is most logical and proper.

In this lesson we take up the subject of “The Unfoldment of Consciousness”–a most interesting subject. Many of us have been in the habit of identifying “consciousness” with mind, but as we proceed with this series of lessons we will see that that which is called “consciousness” is but a small portion of the mind of the individual, and even that small part is constantly changing its states, and unfolding new states undreamed of.

“Consciousness” is a word we use very often in considering the science of the Mind. Let us see what it means. Webster defines it as one’s “knowledge of sensations and mental operations, or of what passes in one’s own mind.” Halleck defines it as “that undefinable characteristic of mental states which causes one to be aware of them.” But, as Halleck states, “Consciousness is incapable of definition. To define anything we are obliged to describe it in terms of something else. And there is nothing else in the world like consciousness, hence we can define it only in terms of itself, and that is very much like trying to lift one’s self by one’s own boot straps. Consciousness is one of the greatest mysteries that confronts us.”

Before we can understand what Consciousness really is, we must know just what “Mind” really is–and that knowledge is lacking, notwithstanding the many injenious theories evolved in order to explain the mystery. The metaphysicians do not throw much light on the subject, and as for materialistic science, listen to what Huxley says: “How it comes about that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about by the result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the genie when Aladdin rubbed his lamp.”

To many persons the words “consciousness” and “mental process,” or “thought” are regarded as synonymous. And, in fact, psychologists so held until quite recently. But now it is generally accepted as a fact that mental processes are not limited to the field of consciousness, and it is now generally taught that the field of sub-consciousness (that is, “under” conscious) mentation, is of a much greater extent than that of conscious mentation.

Not only is it true that the mind can hold in consciousness but one fact at any one instant, and that, consequently, only a very small fraction of our knowledge can be in consciousness at any one moment, but it is also true that the consciousness plays but a very small part in the totality of mental processes, or mentation. The mind is not conscious of the greater portion of its own activities–Maudsley says that only ten per cent comes into the field of consciousness. Taine has stated it in these words: “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.”

But it is not our intention to speak of this great subconscious region of the mind at this point, for we shall have much to do with it later on. It is mentioned here in order to show that the enlargement or development of consciousness is not so much a matter of “growth” as it is an “unfoldment”–not a new creation or enlargement from outside, but rather an unfoldment outward from within.