The Subliminal Self

[Taken from Charles G. Leland's The Mystic Will.]


While the previous pages of this work were in the press, I received and read a very interesting and able Book, entitled, "Telepathy and the Subliminal Self, or an account of recent investigations regarding Hypnotism, Automatism, Dreams, Phantoms, and related phenomena," by R. OSGOOD MASON, A.M., Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine. Dr. MASON, on the whole, may be said to follow HARTMANN, since he places Thaumaturgy, or working what have been considered as wonders, miracles, and the deeds of spiritualists, on the evolutionary or material basis. He is also far less superstitious or prone to seek the miraculous and mysterious for its own sake, than his predecessors in occulta, and limits his beliefs to proofs sustained by good authority. He recognizes a second, or what he calls a subliminal Self, the Spirit of our Soul, acting independently of Waking Conscious Judgment, a mysterious alter ego, which has marvelous power.

This second or inner self I have also through this work of mine recognized as a reality, though it is, like the self-conscious soul, rather an aggregate than a distinct unity. Thus we may for convenience sake speak of the Memory, when there are in fact millions of memories, since every image stored away in the brain is one, and the faculty of revising them for the use of the waking soul, is certainly apart from the action of bringing them into play in dreams. In fact if we regard the action of all known faculties, we might assume with the Egyptians that man had not merely eight distinct souls, but eighty, or even a countless number. And as the ancients, knowing very little about mental action, classed it all as one soul, so we may call that which is partially investigated and mysterious, a second or inner "soul," spirit, or subliminal self that is to say provisionally, till more familiar with its nature and relations.

DR. MASON, to his credit be it said, has not accepted for Gospel, as certain French writers have done, the tricks of self-confessed humbugs. He has only given us the cream of the most strictly attested cases, as related by French scientists and people of unquestioned veracity. And yet admitting that in every instance the witness sincerely believed that he or she spoke the truth, the aggregate is so far from confirming the tales told, that consideration and comparison would induce very grave doubt. Thus, who could have been more sincere, purely honest or pious than JUSTINUS KERNER, whom I knew personally, SWEDENBORG, ESCHENMAYER and all of their school? Yet how utterly irreconciliable are all their revelations!

Therefore, while I have cited illustration and example as affording unproved or hearsay evidence, I, in fact, decidedly reject not only all tradition, as proof on occult subjects, but all assertion from any quarter, however trustworthy, asking the reader to believe in nothing which he cannot execute and make sure unto himself. Tradition and testimony are very useful to supply ideas or theories, but to actually believe in anything beyond his experience a man should take sufficient interest in it to prove it by personal experiment. And, therefore, as I have already declared, I not only ask, but hope that no reader will put faith in anything which I have alleged or declared, until he has fully and fairly proved it to be true in his own person.

The history of true culture, truth, or progress has been that of doubt or disbelief in all which cannot be scientifically proved or made manifest to sensation and reflection, and even in this the most scrupulous care must be exercised, since our senses often deceive us. Therefore, in dealing with subjects which have undeniably been made the means of deceit and delusion thousands of times to one authentic instance, it is not well to accept testimony, or any kind of evidence, or proof, save that which we can establish for ourself. The day is not yet, but it is coming, when self-evidence will be claimed, and granted, as to all human knowledge, and the sooner it comes the better will it be for the world.

But I would be clearly understood as declaring that it is only as regards making up our minds to absolute faith in what involves what may be called our mental welfare, which includes the most serious conduct of life, that I would limit belief to scientific proof. As an example, I will cite the very interesting case of the hypnotic treatment of a patient by DR. VOISIN, and as given by MASON.

"In the summer of 1884, there was at the Salpètrière a young woman of a deplorable type, Jeanne S , who was a criminal lunatic, filthy, violent, and with a life history of impurity and crime. M. Auguste Voisin, one of the physicians of the staff, undertook to hypnotize her, May 31. At that time she was so violent that she could only be kept quiet by a straight-jacket and the constant cold douche to her head. She would not look at M. Voisin, but raved and spat at him. He persisted, kept his face near and opposite to hers, and his eyes following hers constantly. In ten minutes she was in a sound sleep, and soon passed into a somnambulistic condition. The process was repeated many days, and she gradually became sane while in the hypnotic condition, but still raved when she woke.

"Gradually then she began to accept hypnotic suggestion, and would obey trivial orders given her while asleep, such as to sweep her room, then suggestions regarding her general behavior; then, in her hypnotic condition, she began to express regret for her past life, and form resolutions of amendment to which she finally adhered when she awoke. Two years later she was a nurse in one of the Paris hospitals, and her conduct was irreproachable. M. Voisin has followed up this case by others equally striking."

This is not only an unusually well authenticated instance, but one which seems to carry conviction from the manner of narration. Yet it would be absurd to declare that the subject neither deceived herself nor others, or that the doctor made no mistakes either in fact or involuntarily. The whole is, however, extremely valuable from its probability, and still more from its suggesting experiment in a much more useful direction than that followed in the majority of cases recorded in most books, which, especially in France, seem chiefly to have been conducted from a melodramatic or merely medical point of view. Very few indeed seem to have ever dreamed that a hypnotized subject was anything but a being to be cured of some disorder, operated on without pain, or made to undergo and perform various tricks, often extremely cruel, silly, and wicked the main object of all being to advertise the skill of the operator. In fact, if it were to be accepted that the main object of hypnotism is to repeat such experiments as are described in most of the French works on the subject, humanity and decency would join in prohibiting the practice of the art altogether. These books point out and make clear in the minutest manner, how every kind of crime can be committed, and the mind brought to regard all that is evil as a matter of course. The making an innocent person attempt to commit a murder or steal is among the most usual experiments; while, on the contrary, any case like that of the reform of Jeanne S  is either very rare, or else is treated simply as a proof of the skill of some medico. The fact that if the successes which are recorded are true, there exists a stupendous power by means of which the average morality and happiness of mankind can be incredibly advanced and sustained, and Education, Art in every branch, and, in a word, all Culture be marvelously developed on a far more secure basis than in the old systems, does not seem to have occurred to any of those who possessed, as it were, gold, without having the least idea of its value or even its qualities.

Happiness in the main is a pleasant, contented condition of the mind, that is to say, "a state of mind." To be perfect, as appears from an enlarged study of all things or phenomena in their relations (since every part must harmonize with the whole), this happiness implies duty and altruism, every whit as much as self-enjoyment. This agrees with and results from scientific experience. Under the old a priori psychologic system, selfishness (which meant that every soul was to be chiefly or solely concerned in saving itself, guided by hope of reward and fear of punishment), it was naturally the basis of morality.

Now, accepting the definition of Happiness as a state of mind under certain conditions, it follows that it can be realized to a great degree, and in all cases to some degree, firstly by forethought or carefully defining what it is or what we desire, and secondly by making a fixed idea by simple, well-nigh mechanical means, without any resource to les grands môyens. According to the old and now rapidly vanishing philosophy, this was to be effected by sublime morality, prayer, or adjuration of supernatural beings and noble heroism, but what is here proposed is much humbler, albeit more practical. Reading immortal poetry or prose is indeed a splendid power, but to learn the letters of the alphabet, and to spell, is very simple and unpoetic, yet far more practical. What I have described has been the mere dull rudiments. It is most remarkable that the world has always known that the art of RAFFAELLE, MICHAEL ANGELO, and ALBERT DURER was based, like that of the greatest musicians, on extensive rudimentary study, and yet has never dreamed that what far surpasses all art in every way, and even includes the desire for it, may all proceed from, or be developed by, a process which is even easier than those required for the lesser branches.

He who can control his own mind by an iron will, and say to the Thoughts which he would banish, "Be ye my slaves and begone into outer darkness," or to Peace "Dwell with me forever, come what may," and be obeyed, that man is a mighty magician who has attained what is worth more than all that Earth possesses. Absolute self-control under the conditions before defined since our happiness to be true must agree with that of others is absolutely essential to happiness. There can be no greater hero than the man who can conquer himself and think exactly as he pleases. That which annoys, tempts, stirs us to being irritable, wicked, or mean, is an aggregate of evil thoughts or images received by chance or otherwise into the memory, developed there into vile unions, and new forms like coalescing animalcule, and so powerful and vivid or objective do they become that men in all ages have given them a real existence as evil spirits.

Every sane man living, can if he really desires it, obtain complete absolute command of himself, exorcise these vile demons and bring in peace instead, by developing with determination the simple process which I have described. I have found in my own experience a fierce pleasure in considering obnoxious and pernicious Thoughts as imps or demons to be conquered, in which case Pride and even Arrogance become virtues, even as poisons in their place are wholesome medicines. Thus, he who is haunted with the fixed idea, even well nigh to monomania, that he will never give way to ill temper, that nothing shall disturb his equanimity, need not fear evil results any more than the being haunted by angels. Now we can all have fixed or haunting ideas, on any subject which we please to entertain but the idea to create good and beneficent haunting has not, that I am aware, been suggested by philosophers.

That mental influence can be exerted hypnotically most directly and certainly by one person upon another is undeniable, but this requires, firstly, a susceptible subject, or only one person in three or four, and to a degree a specially gifted operator, and very often "heaven-sent moments."

    "However greatly mortals may require it,
    All cannot go to Corinth who desire it."

But forethought, self-suggestion, and the bringing the mind to dwell continuously on a subject are absolutely within the reach of all who have any strength of mind whatever, without any aid. Those of feebler ability yield, however, all the more readily (as in the case of children) to the influence of others or of hypnotism by a master. Therefore, either subjectively or with assistance, most human beings can be morally benefited to a limitless degree, "morally" including intellectually.

We often hear it said of a person that he or she would do well or succeed if that individual had "application." Now, as Application, or "sticking to it," or perseverance in earnest faith, is the main condition for success in all that I have discussed, I trust that it will be borne in mind that the process indicated provides from the first lesson or experiment for this chief requisite. For the fore-thinking and hypnotizing our minds to be in a certain state or condition all the next day, by what some writers, such as HARTMANN, treat as magical process but which is just so much magical as the use of an electrical machine is simply a beginning in Attention and Perseverance.

    "So, like a snowball rolled in falling snow,
    It gathers size as it doth onward go."

When we make a wish or will, or determine that in future after awaking we shall be in a given state of mind, we also include Perseverance for the given time, and as success supposes repetition in all minds, it follows that Perseverance will be induced gradually and easily.

And here I may remark that while all writers on ethics, duty or morals, cry continually "Be persevering, be honest, be enterprising, exert your will!" and so on, and waste thousands of books in illustrating the advantages of all these fine things, there is not one who tells us how to practically execute or do them. To follow the hint of a quaint Sunday School picture, they show us a swarm of Bees, with hive and honey, but do not tell us how to catch one. And yet a man may be anything he pleases if he will by easy and simple practice as I have shown, make the conception habitual. I do not tell you as these good folk do, how to go about it nobly, or heroically, or piously; in fact, I prescribe a method as humble as making a fire, or a pair of shoes, and yet in very truth and honor I have profited far more by it than I ever did from all the exhortations which I ever have read.

Now there are many men who are not so bad in themselves in reality, but who are so haunted by evil thoughts, impulses, and desires, that they, being taught by the absurd old heathenish psychology that the "soul" is all one spiritual entity, believe themselves to be as wicked as Beelzebub could wish, when, in fact, these sins are nothing but evil weeds which came into the mind as neglected seeds, and grew apace from sheer carelessness. Regarding them in the light, as one may say, of bodily and material nuisances, or a kind of vermin, they can be extirpated by the strong hand of Will, much more easily than under the old system, whereby they were treated with respect and awe as MILTON hath done (and most immorally too), DANTE being no better; and they would both have exerted their gigantic intellects to better purpose by showing man how to conquer the devil, instead of exalting and exaggerating his stupendous power and showing how, as regards Humanity (for which expressly the Universe, including countless millions of solar systems, was created), Satan has by far the victory, since he secures the majority of souls. For saying which thing a holy bishop once got himself into no end of trouble.

I say that he who uses his will can crush and drive out vile haunting thoughts, and the more rudely and harshly he does it the better. In all the old systems, without exception, they are treated with far too much respect and reverence, and no great wonder either, since they were regarded as a great innate portion of the soul. Whether to be cleared out by the allopathic exorcism, or the gentler homeopathic prayer, the patient never relied on himself. There is a fine Italian proverb in the collection of GUILLO VARRINO, Venice 1656, which declares that Buona volontà supplice à facolta "strong will ekes out ability" and before the Will (which the Church has ever weakened or crushed) no evil instincts can hold. The same author tells us that "The greatest man in the world is he who can govern his own will," also, "To him who wills naught is impossible." To which I would add that "Whoever chooses to have a will may do so by culture," or by ever so little to begin with. Nay, I have no doubt that in time there will be societies, schools, churches, or circles, in which the Will shall be taught and applied to all moral and mental culture.

He who wills it sincerely can govern his Will, and he who can govern his Will is a thousand times more fortunate than if he could govern the world. For to govern the Will is to be without fear, superior and indifferent to all earthly follies and shams, idols, cants and delusions, it is to be lord of a thousand isles in the sea of life, and absolutely greater than any living mortal, as men exist. Small need has that man to heed what his birth or station in society may be who has mastered himself with the iron will; for he who has conquered death and the devil need fear no shadows.

He who masters himself by Will has attained to all that is best and noblest in Stoicism, Epicureanism, Christianity, and Agnosticism; if the latter be understood not as doubt, but free Inquiry, and could men be made to feel what all this means and what power it bestows, and how easily it really is to master it, we should forthwith see all humanity engaged in the work.

It has been declared by many in the past in regard to schooling their minds to moral and practical ends that, leading busy lives, they had not time to think of such matters. But I earnestly protest that it is these very men of all others who most require the discipline which I have taught, and it is as easy for them as for anybody; as it, indeed, ought to be easier, yes, and far more profitable. For the one who leads by fortune a quiet life of leisure can often school himself without a system, while he who toils amid anxious thoughts and with every mental power severely taxed, will find that he can do his work far more easily if he determines that he will master it. The amount of mental action which lies dormant in us all is illimitable and it can all be realized by the hypnotism of Will.



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