Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Mind's Ground Floor

I just had a realization about how my mind works, and I want to share it with all of you. And I'm going to do it by using a parable.
There once was a house with two stories. I lived on the top floor, along with my friends, who adored and supported me. However, thieves and murderers lived on the bottom floor. For what seemed like an eternity, I lived happily on the top story of the house, but the peace was an illusion. For though I had happiness on the second floor, I could only ever get out into the world by descending to the ground level. I sometimes did this, but the thieves and murderers would inevitably get out with me. And when I realized the evil I let out into the world, I got discouraged; the thought that I was evil even crossed my mind. However, I had missed the point. Murderers and thieves live on the ground floor, and though they can never go up the stairs to the second story, my good friends there can go downstairs. They can fight the thieves and murderers, and they can accompany me out into the world instead of the evil.

As I mentioned above, this parable concerns my mind. The human mind has at least two levels: an inner or "upper" level and an outer or "lower" level. Each of us can go between them. However, good impulses come from the upper/inner level, and evil impulses come from the lower/outer level. This is why we call bad people "superficial," "shallow," or "base." The evil in our mind's "externals" can't go up into the internals of our mind, but it does work in reverse: the good upstairs in our "internals" can invade the externals downstairs.
Speaking practically, the good on the internal level is less clear to the conscious mind, like a feeling or a vague thought. This is the "still, small voice" or the voice that comes "as a whisper." However, the evil on the outer level comes loudly If you aren't quiet and you don't make an effort to listen, you'll ignore the inner, good impulses and let your attention get consumed by the brash voice of your external levels. This "external" is the natural man--people as they naturally are, without reflection or effort of conscience. You need to silence the external natural man so you can listen to the "inner man," as Moses 6:65 puts it.
That's the first step. However, once you know that the inner man is there, once you realize that there are good impulses living like friends at the top level of your mind, you're only half done. As I explained in my parable, the evil in the lower parts of your mind will run rampant in you if you don't let those friends on the top floor come down. This means that you need to make the faint impulses of goodness in your inner self clear and concrete; you need to turn the "still, small voice" into a shout from the rooftops. I never did this, and I suffered as a result. I thought I could live only in the top of my mind and never deal with details or the concrete. But because you have to deal with the concrete externals of life if you live in the world, I decided to make the effort of bringing good impulses "downstairs."
This isn't mere thought, and you can't do it just by wishing. To bring the good in the inner self out into the outer self takes effort and action. You need to be willing to do good deeds and refrain from doing evil, even if it's true that the evil you do comes from those "thieves and murderers" on the bottom floor. The more you fight against the evil on the bottom floor, the more the good impulses on the top floor come down.
I wrote in a recent post called Meditative Brainstorming (link) that the more internal parts of the human mind think in pictures. This is true, although I'd revise that thought just a bit. If you think in pictures, you should make sure that you make those pictures as clear and distinct as possible if you want to make real change on the mind's bottom floor. And words are even more useful for change on the outer level; that's why we have words in the first place. The more clear the thought appears to your mind's eye or ear, the "farther down" the thought has come. When people tell you to use self-talk or visualization techniques, that's what they mean: the more clear you make a thought, the more of an effect it has on the outer levels of your mind. And the outer levels are where the trouble is.
So I'm going to make an effort to really use self-talk, even if thought in words doesn't come naturally to me. In fact, I've realized that when I have negative thoughts, they only come in words, so I think it's high time something in my mind stopped the bullying rampage that often goes on there. I also plan to use concrete visualizations to build my skill set and improve my behavior, since that will help my desire to reach that goal move from "still, small voice" to "shout." And I advise all of you to do the same thing.

Oh, and these thoughts were brought to you by Swedenborg's immense writings. If you're curious about them, check out his writings on the "inner self" and the "outer self."

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