According to modem theory, the amount of information the human brain can hold is more than is held in all the books in the Library of the British Museum. Gradually it is becoming recognised that information gathered is not simply what we ‘learn’ from vocal communication, or read, or set out to leam. In fact an unimaginable amount of information gathering has gone on prior to speech, and goes on at an unimaginable speed prior to school years. Consider a small preschool child walking into the garden It has learnt gradually to relate to muscular movement, balance and its own motivations and feeling reactions in a way enabling it to walk. It has already grasped thousands of bits of ‘information’ about such things as plants in the garden, the neighbour’s cat, the road outside, possible dangers, safe areas. Stupendous amounts have already been absorbed about interrelationships.
An idea of ‘reality’ in the sense of what is probable, and what would be dangerously out of norm, has been formed. We gather information in ways little recognised. How our parents relate to their environment and to other people is all recorded and leamt from, bringing about enormous ‘programming’ affecting how we act in similar circumstances.
As explained in the entry on the dream as spiritual guide, we have great ability in ‘reading’ symbols, ritual, an, music, body language, architecture, drama, and extracting ‘meaning’ from them. So we have immense stores of information from these sources. Work done with people exploring their dreams over a long period suggests that some of these information resources are never focused on enough to make conscious what we have actually learnt. Sometimes it is enough simply to ask oneself a question to begin to focus some of these resources. Such questions as what social attitude and response to authority did I learn at school? What feeling reaction do I get when I am in the presence of someone I know well? These may help to bring to awareness aspects of information gathered but remaining unconscious. These unfocused, or unconscious, areas of information can explain why we have apparently irrational feeling responses to some people or situations.
the body A lot of what we call the unconscious are basic physiological and psychological functions.
For instance in a modern house, when we flush the toilet, we do not have to bring a bucket of water and fill the cistern again.
A self regulating mechanism allows water to flow in and switches it off when full. This is a clever built-in function that had to be done manually at one time. Nowadays we have built into some dwellings fire sprinklers or burglar alarms. Through repeated actions over thousands or millions of years, many basic functions, or functions only switched on in emergencies, have been built into our being. We do not need to think about them, just as we do not have to give awareness to the fire sprinkling system or toilet each time we walk through a room or flush the toilet. They are therefore unconscious.
Research with animals in connection with rewards and conditioned reflexes has shown that by gradually leading an animal towards a certain performance by rewarding it each time it gets nearer to the goal, it can do the most amazing things. It can increase the circulation of blood to its ear, slow its heart, and in fact influence body functions which were thought to be completely involuntary. Where human beings have learnt to use some of these techniques—such as raising the temperature of an arm at will, or helping to increase the efficiency of the immune system—the actual processes still remain unconscious. In general, however, the body’s functions are thought to be outside our awareness, and so are one of the areas of the unconscious.