Thought Is A Force

Autosuggestion is not a pseudo-religion like Christian Science or "New

Thought." It is a scientific method based on the discoveries of

psychology. The traditional psychology was regarded by the layman, not

without some cause, as a dull and seemingly useless classification of

our conscious faculties. But within the past twenty-five years the

science has undergone a great change. A revolution has taken place in

it wh
ch seems likely to provoke a revolution equally profound in the

wider limits of our common life. From a preoccupation with the

conscious it has turned to the Unconscious (or subconscious), to the

vast area of mental activity which exists outside the circle of our

awareness. In doing so it has grasped at the very roots of life

itself, has groped down to the depths where the "life-force," the elan

vital, touches our individual being. What this may entail in the

future we can only dimly guess. Just as the discovery of America

altered the balance of the Old World, shifting it westward to the

shores of the Atlantic, so the discovery and investigation of the

Unconscious seems destined to shift the balance of human life.

Obviously, this is no place to embark on the discussion of a subject of

such extreme complexity. The investigation of the Unconscious is a

science in itself, in which different schools of thought are seeking to

disengage a basis of fact from conflicting and daily changing theories.

But there is a certain body of fact, experimentally proven, on which

the authorities agree, and of this we quote a few features which

directly interest us as students of autosuggestion.

The Unconscious is the storehouse of memory, where every impression we

receive from earliest infancy to the last hour of life is recorded with

the minutest accuracy. These memories, however, are not inert and

quiescent, like the marks on the vulcanite records of a gramophone;

they are vitally active, each one forming a thread in the texture of

our personality. The sum of all these impressions is the man himself,

the ego, the form through which the general life is individualised.

The outer man is but a mask; the real self dwells behind the veil of

the Unconscious.

The Unconscious is also a power-house. It is dominated by feeling, and

feeling is the force which impels our lives. It provides the energy

for conscious thought and action, and for the performance of the vital

processes of the body.

Finally the Unconscious plays the part of supervisor over our physical

processes. Digestion, assimilation, the circulation of the blood, the

action of the lungs, the kidneys and all the vital organs are

controlled by its agency. Our organism is not a clockwork machine

which once wound up will run of itself. Its processes in all their

complexity are supervised by mind. It is not the intellect, however,

which does this work, but the Unconscious. The intellect still stands

aghast before the problem of the human body, lost like Pascal in the

profundities of analysis, each discovery only revealing new depths of

mystery. But the Unconscious seems to be familiar with it in every


It may be added that the Unconscious never sleeps; during the sleep of

the conscious it seems to be more vigilant than during our waking hours.

In comparison with these, the powers of the conscious mind seem almost

insignificant. Derived from the Unconscious during the process of

evolution, the conscious is, as it were, the antechamber where the

crude energies of the Unconscious are selected and adapted for action

on the world outside us. In the past we have unduly exaggerated the

importance of the conscious intellect. To claim for it the discoveries

of civilisation is to confuse the instrument with the agent, to

attribute sight to the field-glass instead of to the eye behind it.

The value of the conscious mind must not be underrated, however. It is

a machine of the greatest value, the seat of reason, the social

instincts and moral concepts. But it is a machine and not the

engine, nor yet the engineer. It provides neither material nor power.

These are furnished by the Unconscious.

These two strata of mental life are in perpetual interaction one with

the other. Just as everything conscious has its preliminary step in

the Unconscious, so every conscious thought passes down into the lower

stratum and there becomes an element in our being, partaking of the

Unconscious energy, and playing its part in supervising and determining

our mental and bodily states. If it is a healthful thought we are so

much the better; if it is a diseased one we are so much the worse. It

is this transformation of a thought into an element of our life that we

call Autosuggestion. Since this is a normal part of the mind's action

we shall have no difficulty in finding evidence of it in our daily


Walking down the street in a gloomy frame of mind you meet a buoyant,

cheery acquaintance. The mere sight of his genial smile acts on you

like a tonic, and when you have chatted with him for a few minutes your

gloom has disappeared, giving place to cheerfulness and confidence.

What has effected this change?--Nothing other than the idea in your own

mind. As you watched his face, listened to his good-natured voice,

noticed the play of his smile, your conscious mind was occupied by the

idea of cheerfulness. This idea on being transferred to the

Unconscious became a reality, so that without any logical grounds you

became cheerful.

Few people, especially young people, are unacquainted with the effects

produced by hearing or reading ghost-stories. You have spent the

evening, let us say, at a friend's house, listening to terrifying tales

of apparitions. At a late hour you leave the fireside circle to make

your way home. The states of fear imaged before your mind have

realised themselves in your Unconscious. You tread gingerly in the

dark places, hurry past the churchyard and feel a distinct relief when

the lights of home come into view. It is the old road you have so

often traversed with perfect equanimity, but its cheerful associations

are overlooked and the commonest objects tinged with the colour of your

subjective states. Autosuggestion cannot change a post into a spectre,

but if you are very impressionable it will so distort your sensory

impressions that common sounds seem charged with supernatural

significance and every-day objects take on terrifying shapes.

In each of the above examples the idea of a mental state--cheerfulness

or fear--was presented to the mind. The idea on reaching the

Unconscious became a reality; that is to say, you actually became

cheerful or frightened.

The same process is much easier to recognise where the resultant is not

a mental but a bodily state.

One often meets people who take a delight in describing with a wealth

of detail the disorders with which they or their friends are afflicted.

A sensitive person is condemned by social usage to listen to a

harrowing account of some grave malady. As detail succeeds detail the

listener feels a chilly discomfort stealing over him. He turns pale,

breaks into a cold perspiration, and is aware of an unpleasant

sensation at the pit of the stomach. Sometimes, generally where the

listener is a child, actual vomiting or a fainting fit may ensue.

These effects are undeniably physical; to produce them the organic

processes must have been sensibly disturbed. Yet their cause lies

entirely in the idea of illness, which, ruthlessly impressed upon the

mind, realises itself in the Unconscious.

This effect may be so precise as to reproduce the actual symptoms of

the disease described. Medical students engaged in the study of some

particular malady frequently develop its characteristic symptoms.

Everyone is acquainted with the experience known as "stage fright."

The victim may be a normal person, healthy both in mind and body. He

may possess in private life a good voice, a mind fertile in ideas and a

gift of fluent expression. He may know quite surely that his audience

is friendly and sympathetic to the ideas he wishes to unfold. But let

him mount the steps of a platform. Immediately his knees begin to

tremble and his heart to palpitate; his mind becomes a blank or a

chaos, his tongue and lips refuse to frame coherent sounds, and after a

few stammerings he is forced to make a ludicrous withdrawal. The cause

of this baffling experience lay in the thoughts which occupied the

subject's mind before his public appearance. He was afraid of making

himself ridiculous. He expected to feel uncomfortable, feared that he

would forget his speech or be unable to express himself. These

negative ideas, penetrating to the Unconscious, realised themselves and

precisely what he feared took place.

If you live in a town you have probably seen people who, in carelessly

crossing the street, find themselves in danger of being run down by a

vehicle. In this position they sometimes stand for an appreciable time

"rooted," as we say, "to the spot." This is because the danger seems

so close that they imagine themselves powerless to elude it. As soon

as this idea gives place to that of escape they get out of the way as

fast as they can. If their first idea persisted, however, the actual

powerlessness resulting from it would likewise persist, and unless the

vehicle stopped or turned aside they would infallibly be run over.

One occasionally meets people suffering from a nervous complaint known

as St. Vitus' Dance. They have a disconcerting habit of contorting

their faces, screwing round their necks or twitching their shoulders.

It is a well known fact that those who come into close contact with

them, living in the same house or working in the same office, are

liable to contract the same habit, often performing the action without

themselves being aware of it. This is due to the operation of the same

law. The idea of the habit, being repeatedly presented to their minds,

realises itself, and they begin to perform a similar movement in their

own persons.

Examples of this law present themselves at every turn. Have you ever

asked yourself why some people faint at the sight of blood, or why most

of us turn giddy when we look down from a great height?

If we turn to the sufferers from neurosis we find some who have lost

their powers of speech or of vision; some, like the blacksmith we saw

in Coue's clinic, who have lost the use of their limbs; others

suffering from a functional disturbance of one of the vital organs.

The cause in each case is nothing more tangible than an idea which has

become realised in the Unconscious mind.

These instances show clearly enough that the thoughts we think do

actually become realities in the Unconscious. But is this a universal

law, operating in every life, or merely something contingent and

occasional? Sometimes irrelevant cheerfulness seems only to make

despondency more deep. Certain types of individual are only irritated

by the performance of a stage comedy. Physicians listen to the

circumstantial accounts of their patients' ailments without being in

the least upset. These facts seem at first sight at variance with the

rule. But they are only apparent exceptions which serve to test and

verify it. The physical or mental effect invariably corresponds with

the idea present in the mind, but this need not be identical with the

thought communicated from without. Sometimes a judgment interposes

itself, or it may be that the idea calls up an associated idea which

possesses greater vitality and therefore dislodges it. A gloomy person

who meets a cheerful acquaintance may mentally contrast himself with

the latter, setting his own troubles beside the other's good fortune,

his own grounds for sadness beside the other's grounds for

satisfaction. Thus the idea of his own unhappiness is strengthened and

sinking into the Unconscious makes still deeper the despondency he

experienced before. In the same way the doctor, listening to the

symptoms of a patient, does not allow these distressful ideas to dwell

in his conscious mind. His thought passes on immediately to the

remedy, to the idea of the help he must give. Not only does he

manifest this helpfulness in reasoned action, but also, by Unconscious

realisation, in his very bearing and manner. Or his mind may be

concentrated on the scientific bearings of the case, so that he will

involuntarily treat the patient as a specimen on which to pursue his

researches. The steeplejack experiences no giddiness or fear in

scaling a church spire because the thought of danger is immediately

replaced by the knowledge of his own clear head and sure foot.

This brings us to a point which is of great practical importance in the

performance of curative autosuggestion. No idea presented to the mind

can realise itself unless the mind accepts it.

Most of the errors made hitherto in this field have been due to the

neglect of this fundamental fact. If a patient is suffering from

severe toothache it is not of the slightest use to say to him: "You

have no pain." The statement is so grossly opposed to the fact that

"acceptation" is impossible. The patient will reject the suggestion,

affirm the fact of his suffering, and so, by allowing his conscious

mind to dwell on it, probably make it more intense.

We are now in a position to formulate the basic law of autosuggestion

as follows:--

Every idea which enters the conscious mind, if it is accepted by the

Unconscious, is transformed by it into a reality and forms henceforth a

permanent element in our life.

This is the process called "Spontaneous Autosuggestion." It is a law

by which the mind of man has always worked, and by which all our minds

are working daily.

The reader will see from the examples cited and from others which he

will constantly meet that the thoughts we think determine not only our

mental states, our sentiments and emotions, but the delicate actions

and adjustments of our physical bodies. Trembling, palpitation,

stammering, blushing--not to speak of the pathological states which

occur in neurosis--are due to modifications and changes in the

blood-flow, in muscular action and in the working of the vital organs.

These changes are not voluntary and conscious ones, they are determined

by the Unconscious and come to us often with a shock of surprise.

It must be evident that if we fill our conscious minds with ideas of

health, joy, goodness, efficiency, and can ensure their acceptation by

the Unconscious, these ideas too will become realities, capable of

lifting us on to a new plane of being. The difficulty which has

hitherto so frequently brought these hopes to naught is that of

ensuring acceptation. This will be treated in the next chapter.

To sum up, the whole process of Autosuggestion consists of two steps:

(1) The acceptation of an idea. (2) Its transformation into a reality.

Both these operations are performed by the Unconscious. Whether the

idea is originated in the mind of the subject or is presented from

without by the agency of another person is a matter of indifference.

In both cases it undergoes the same process: it is submitted to the

Unconscious, accepted or rejected, and so either realised or ignored.

Thus the distinction between Autosuggestion and Heterosuggestion is

seen to be both arbitrary and superficial. In essentials all

suggestion is Autosuggestion. The only distinction we need make is

between Spontaneous Autosuggestion, which takes place independently of

our will and choice, and Induced Autosuggestion, in which we

consciously select the ideas we wish to realise and purposely convey

them to the Unconscious.