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Everyday experience shows that we seem to function as thought we have two different minds: one that deals with the ordinary affairs of life in this world, and one that deals with what goes on within. I call them the outer mind and the inner mind.
The outer mind is at home in the physical, social, interactive environment of our lives. Working ceaselessly to make things happen, to accomplish what it wants to accomplish, to relate to others as it wishes to relate, to handle life's situations as it chooses, the outer mind is a true citizen of the world, and, like it or not, the outer mind cannot escape this involvement. The world is its home, its theatre of operations, the place where it lives, and the job of the outer mind is to find the best way to deal with worldly affairs.
The outer mind's reality is not just the physical world and its occupants, but also the expectations, rules, and protocols that operate there. In the next chapter I will discuss these factors as they emanate from our group mind involvements. For now let me just say that the outer mind is very concerned about fitting in with these demands. And why not? If it is going to negotiate this complex world successfully, it has to know what works and what does not.
The hallmarks of the outer mind are rationality and determination. Reason dominates every outer-mind experience and willpower provides the force to get things done. When reason or willpower break down, it is because something else has entered the picture--the inner mind.
The inner mind operates in a world of interior impressions. Its meaningful reality consists of the ideas and images of that world. Everything there seems immediate and self-evident. The inner world is populated by our everyday dreams, fantasies and memories. It may also be the arena of telepathic awareness and spiritual vision, and the place where we may encounter past life memories or near-death experiences.
The inner mind is fully aware of the outer world. It is affected by what goes on there and reacts. But the outer world is not really its sphere. The goals and values of the inner mind may be quite different from those of the outer mind and at odds with outer-world culture. In our culture many things that the inner mind experiences as real are dismissed as unreal. Being a law-abiding citizen of my culture, my outer mind speaks up and rejects those inner-mind experiences--often with irrational fury. The outer mind is our most vocal protector of cultural trance.
The inner mind can sense things not noticed by the outer. It picks up cues, feelings, Avibrations from other people that the outer mind misses. A whole world of communication occurs between the inner minds of people that escapes conscious awareness. I may be overwhelmed by the feelings of silent anger in a friend sitting next to me. I may know Atelepathically what my partner is thinking. I may sense that a certain person is about to phone me. However one might explain these experiences, they do occur, and the inner mind feels very much at home in this intuitive realm.
The inner mind is the font of all creativity and genius. It is the author of artistic productions, the inventor of original ideas, and the source of spontaneous solutions to problems. When it comes to creativity, the outer mind is subordinate to the inner. The outer mind does the Joe-jobs--corrects the grammar, checks the measurements, and smoothes the outer surface of the creative product--but the product itself comes from the inner mind.
The inner mind is where the heart is. It is there that we discover our deepest passions and our most subtle desires. Affection and love arise from the inner mind, as do anger and hatred. When we want to understand the mysterious doings of our emotions, it is the inner mind that we must explore.
Inner-mind reality is completely subjective. It can never be adequately grasped by objective knowledge or directly observed by another individual. We can try to communicate our subjective knowledge. We can describe the inner experience to others or allow our bodies to be hooked up to machines that measure physiological changes as we have our experience, but we cannot pass on the subjective experience itself. In that sense, our inner-mind reality remains totally personal and incommunicable, and when we die, our inner-mind reality dies with us.
Nevertheless, the inner mind's world is very real. Inner-mind realities have a quality of presence and vividness that is every bit as insistent as that of the physical objects and people of the outer world. In fact the inner mind's reality often seems more real than that of the outer mind.
We are always dealing with inner-mind realities and usually don't reflect much on them because they have been incorporated as an ordinary part of life. However, some of our inner-mind realities may strike us as unusual--even odd. They involve experiences that our culture does not identify as Anormal, and so when we have them, we are taken aback. I am talking here about paranormal experiences (such as telepathy and precognition), spiritualistic experiences (such as channelling, possession, and communication with the dead), alien-encounter experiences (such as UFO sightings and alien abductions), extraordinary multiple identity experiences (multiple personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder), and unusual spiritual experiences (such as past-life memories and near-death experiences). What these inner-mind experiences have in common is that they are considered bizarre by our society, for we do not have any acceptable cultural category that they fit. Other cultures may readily accept some of these phenomena, but ours does not. This is important: the problem we have with these experiences and the reason we feel odd about them is not that they are a priori impossible, but that they do not fit into our cultural categories. People who have these inner-mind experiences may for that reason feel alienated from other people and society at large. Because these odd experiences are not assimilated into our North American culture, I am going to call them Aanomalous inner-mind experiences.
In calling your attention to anomalous inner-mind experiences, I do not mean to pass a judgment one way or the other as to their Aobjective truth. These phenomena have a personal truth--at least as ways of explaining the world to those who have them. They are certainly experienced as genuine, and one might say that in a way the experiencer has no choice but to have them.
There are those who believe that anomalous inner-mind experiences can be Aproven to be objectively real. They attempt to show that they correspond to outer-mind happenings or that inner-mind phenomena may leave palpable traces in the communally accessible outer world. Perhaps they are right. Personally, I find that research of this kind leaves me unmoved. I believe that much of this kind of investigation, usually done under a banner labelled Ascientific, is carried out in order to lessen that sense of alienation from the broader community that inevitably accompanies anomalous inner-mind experiences. While that may be a laudable motive, research of this kind sidesteps the problem of inner-mind/outer-mind duality that is an intrinsic part of human existence. We have to deal with anomalous inner-mind experiences on their own ground and place them in the broader context of inner-mind realities of every kind. We must better understand the inner mind itself and realize that all of human life--every minute of every day--is lived under its influence. We need to realize that any notion that we are essentially outer-mind beings subject to occasional twinges from the dark inner world is a gross distortion of what it means to be human.
As I mentioned above, when a person experiences anomalous inner-mind phenomena, a tension between outer and inner mind frequently occurs. The inner mind has the experience and simply accepts it as reality. Just as we accept our dreams as real while we are dreaming, so also when the inner mind has a past-life memory, for instance, it experiences it as real. But, unlike when we dream, with anomalous inner-mind experiences, our outer mind is not completely out of the picture. Rather, it is present as an observer, offering its opinion about what the inner mind is experiencing, and usually that opinion involves scepticism and doubt.
The outer mind is, after all, a denizen of the outer world with its values and criteria for truth. Because the outer mind is geared to make do in this world, it must conform to reality as determined by its culture. If the outer mind's culture were India, for instance, it would not be inclined to introduce doubt about a past life memory. But in our North American culture the idea that we have lived before and are reborn into various lifetimes is not acceptable to our thinking. Even though one out of four among us believes in past lives, our society as a whole rejects the notion and the scientific community in particular, which is such a dominant force in determining orthodox beliefs, makes it a point to dismiss such ideas as superstition.
Since the beliefs of this culture are so frequently and so forcefully inculcated from every side, and since it has to live and relate in this culture, the outer mind becomes a mouthpiece for cultural orthodoxy, opposing unacceptable ideas emanating from the inner mind.
The outer-mind/inner-mind conflict can make itself felt on the occasion of the experience or it can arise later. One of the criticisms frequently levelled against the validity of anomalous inner-mind experiences is that in many cases people begin with an ordinary experience and, over time, embellish and elaborate it into something extraordinary. It is said, for example, that a person might see an unexplained glow in the sky one night, and by the next day believe he saw a spaceship of some kind. Then, as he describes his experience to friends, he elaborates it further and now believes he saw little creatures alight from an opening in its side. Soon it turns into an alien-abduction incident.
Although I am sure that this kind of imaginative elaboration can occur with certain personality types, I believe that the experience of most people is pretty much the opposite. On a number of occasions people have told me about an anomalous experience of some kind that was so vivid and shocking at the time that they could hardly admit to themselves that it was happening. Then as time passes, they invent all kinds of reasons why it must not have occurred, since it is just too bizarre. Still later, the originally extraordinary experience is reduced to the ordinary and is thus relieved of its disturbing quality. By now the judgment is: "I must have been imagining things." This happens not because of any new insights into the matter, but simply because, when it comes to anomalous inner-mind realities, the outer mind must retain its domination over the inner mind if it is to function unperturbed in our culture.
I believe that because there is such great tension between our outer minds--so steadfastly reflecting the scepticism of our culture--and our inner minds, it will be a long time before we will be able to give anomalous inner-mind realities the impartial attention they require if we are to develop a truly comprehensive understanding of them. As long as there is so much cultural censorship, we will not even be able to acknowledge the inner-mind data, much less learn what it means.
Our culture needs to lose its fear of the inner mind. That fear seems to be based on a conviction that if we ever listen seriously to accounts of anomalous inner-mind experiences that people are having all the time, we will be seduced back into the dark ages of primitive superstition. I think the opposite is the case: unless we pay attention to these data, we will secretly harbour the fear that they are, after all, true.
I believe that the fear of recognizing anomalous inner-mind experiences as psychological data worthy of study is itself the manifestation of a hidden superstitious attitude in our present society. Our culture, so heavily invested in a blind faith in science, secretly feels the fragility of that faith. It secretly fears that the demons banished by science over the past two hundred years will rise again if not fought off at every turn. Our culture is not confident that science has disposed of the occult and the spiritual as thoroughly as it had hoped. It may claim to fear the demons of superstition in people's minds, but I believe that the taboo it imposes on looking at the data of the inner mind shows that on an unconscious level, it harbors a real fear of real demons. In a neat projective defence, it has repressed its belief in their existence and attributed that belief to others. The result is that, in the culturally accepted view, anyone who pays attention to anomalous experiences is a dangerous true believer in blind superstition, whereas anyone who prejudges the case and flees from these data is a hard-nosed realist.
So as it turns out, the problem of the outer-mind/inner-mind conflict is in the last analysis a cultural problem. It revolves around the conditioning imposed on the outer mind by cultural trances that operate everywhere in our lives.