Whenever Theosophists discuss the so-called sub-conscious mind, they are well aware that their ideas differ greatly from those held by modern psychologists. The states or conditions of the mind are too often considered to be the mind itself, and we hear of man being composed of complexes throughout; also that the soul of man exists as a speculation only. In fact, man is held to be the result of circumstances, some of which tend to develop characteristics, and others of which develop inhibitions. Because too many factors are overlooked, we have at best a hazy idea of what man really is, and none whatever as to what he was before coming to earth, nor what he will be after he leaves it.
You will sometimes hear a Theosophist say that the term "subconscious" is a convenient name for something about which almost nothing is known. This statement will be borne out in due course of time, though we agree that two other terms used today, the "subliminal" and the "super-liminal" give one to understand at least that there are states of consciousness above as well as below that of the normal waking state, centered in what we call the mind.
But what has Theosophy to say concerning the "sub-conscious" mind? It says nothing without first laying a foundation of knowledge as to the origin of man, and further, as to his true nature, the full understanding of which may be had only when his origin and destiny are known. Then the way is clear for teachings about any particular, as, in this instance, the sub-conscious mind.
To begin at the beginning, then, man must be understood as being a cosmic pilgrim who originated in (and never left) the Boundless. In the beginning of his evolution he was a life-atom, of which there are at all times uncounted millions filling the spaces. These life-atoms are thoughts, divine thoughts, if you will, and are the building blocks of which the framework of the universe is built. Such a building block was man, with an unspeakably grand future before him. If you would form a mental picture of a life-atom, you are to think of it not so much as something composed of matter, like the atom of science, but as a focus of exhaustless energy, altogether without size, shape, or fixed position. But within it are potentialities galore, and its whole growth from then on depends upon its ability to turn its potential energies into kinetic spiritual energies. This is the work of evolution, and it slowly learns how to use its natural powers, and in manifesting them, to "build more stately mansions," until at last you have that wonder of wonders, man. But the story is not yet told. It is impossible in a paper like this to trace his evolutionary course through the various stages of cosmic life, but it should be borne in mind that at all times he was potentially a god, and the human stage in which he now finds himself is but one of the means he employs whereby he may realize and make use of his god-like powers. How could he be a potential god unless gods were a reality? He could not, and in this fact you have the keynote of this thesis. In order to understand man, the gods themselves must be studied. They are Divine Beings who are such because they have succeeded with relative fulness in bringing forth into play and active use that exhaustless fountain of spiritual energy of which the life-atom was once the focus.
Now, there are two kinds of gods, inner gods, and outer gods. The fountain of energy locked up within the heart of a life-atom, a plant, a beast, or a man is an inner god. As these same energies pass from the inner or unmanifested realms into the manifested, they become the objective manifestation of a god, and you have an outer god. Obviously the puny body of a man is insufficient to enshrine the holy flame of a god; a body more appropriate must be found, and the gods are equal to the task. They build shining bodies of solar energy, they are the suns. But even this is not the end. There are still unawakened powers within themselves, inner super-gods, if you like the phrase; and when these inner super-gods become outer super-gods, their bodies are the galaxies themselves. Actually, there can be no hard and fast delineation between that which is inner and that which is outer. Both are relative, as we shall find shortly.
There is no such thing as an entity existing on one plane alone. Because all things are composite, the various elements or substances forming things are derivative of the various planes of consciousness. For instance, my physical atoms are derived from this physical earth, the astral atoms forming my astral body are derived from the astral plane, else they would not be astral atoms; the spiritual atoms forming in their aggregate the vehicle of my spiritual forces, or Buddhic principle, originated in the spiritual plane, and so on through the entire constitution. Moreover, from my viewpoint, my spiritual and divine "principles" are the inner part of my constitution, and my vital-astral-physical nature is the outer part of myself. That portion of my constitution wherein my consciousness is centered, in other words my mind, is neither inner nor outer. If I were able to center my consciousness in the spiritual portion of my being, my mind, as well as all that I now recognise as outer would be exterior to me, and my spiritual nature would be neither inner nor outer, though my Divine Self would still be inner. So, this question of the inner and outer is a matter of relativity, as are all so-called opposites. It seems quite reasonable to consider the "sub-conscious" as being the inner, as contrasted with the outer. And because the powers and faculties manifested in the outer part of our constitution are well-nigh insignificant compared with those latent or partially active in the inner reaches of ourselves, we find that, much to our astonishment, people who through unusual circumstances go into trances sometimes give evidence of having knowledge that far transcends anything they have learned in books, for they have temporarily tapped the reservoirs of the "sub-conscious." When we realize that this is in reality the inner Self, we see at once how utterly inappropriate is this term "sub-conscious," for it tells us nothing.
Let us now apply this philosophy on a grand scale. It was observed that the atoms of which our constitutions are composed are derived from the various planes of consciousness. Let us not get the erroneous idea, however, that the universe exists for nothing more than the building of the principles of man. Important as this process undoubtedly is, it is merely incidental to the real activities that go on on these inner planes. Actually, these planes of consciousness are the principles forming the constitution, inner and outer, of a cosmic being, so ineffably grand that it is utterly beyond our feeble powers to define it. And all the hosts of beings who draw their life from the life of the Cosmos are merely atoms, building-blocks if you like, of which these cosmic principles are composed. Think of it! As you sit at your desk, a fully conscious man, using your physical and intellectual powers, thinking your thoughts, uttering your words, you are actually in the core of your being a part of the inner constitution — or possibly outer — of some divine being. Similarly, a portion of your inner nature may be the outer universe from the standpoint of the infinitesimal lives composing your inner Self.
Why is it that we are unable to define the nature of this Cosmic Being? In part because it is so grandiose, so supernal in essence, that words would utterly fail us, even if we did intuitively catch some adumbration as to its true nature. A more complete answer would be that there are departments of its life that do not lie within the sphere of our understanding. All beings have two aspects of their lives, the voluntary and the involuntary, or automatic. The most obvious portion of our own lives is the voluntary, and it is only by study and observation that we may follow the intricate workings of our automatic life-processes, such as breathing, heart-beat, and digestion. Just the reverse is the case, however, with the universe, and particularly with the Solar System. The aspect that we contact is the automatic, and we find it utterly impossible to receive even the remotest impressions of the volitional will of the Cosmic Being of whose inner nature we are a part. In other words, what we see as the phenomena of nature, the motions of the heavenly bodies, weather and climatic changes and the like, are simply manifestations of the automatic will of the Cosmic Being whose imbodiment is the universe. It is not to be thought that we are speaking of" a personal God, for if we consider it as personal, we merely invent attributes and attach them to a being which confessedly we are unable to understand. Moreover, we are safe from the limited view when we reflect that Theosophy postulates no god so high that there is none higher. This Cosmic Being of which we are speaking is but one of many, each manifesting as a universe, and these are legion. Now the natural laws which prevail in any given universe are merely the workings of the automatic aspect of that universal consciousness.
A master of life is one who is able, not only to draw upon his own resources, inner and outer, but who can, through the medium of his own inner constitution, contact the inner planes and draw upon the resources of the Divine Being whose "principles" are these "planes of consciousness." And these resources are exhaustless. The idea is not untenable that sooner or later, with constant effort and growth, the powers of the initiate can become so great that at last he attracts the attention of the Divine Being, and then new and supreme initiations are in store for him. He then passes out of the realms of illusion, into the unmanifested, or subjective realms, which, when entered upon, prove to be reality itself, for he has contacted the volitional aspect of the life of the Divine Being.
If we derive nothing else from the Cosmic Philosophy that is today called Theosophy, we are at least assured that all that of which we are aware is practically nil as contrasted with that of which we are entirely unaware; and if we require long scientific phrases in order to formulate the known and observed laws of nature, to try to cover the unknown by one simple word, sub-conscious, is simply evading the issue. The great plea of the Wisdom-Religion is "Man, Know Thyself." Unlimited are the fields to be explored, endless the inspiration to be derived from the study of the wisdom that is as old as the ages, yet so new to this modern world.