The Instinctive Mind

4th Principle

We share this plane of mind in its lower forms with the lower animals. The instinctive mind is the first plane of mental processing reached in the scale of evolution. Its lowest phases are along lines in which consciousness is scarcely evident. It extends from this low place in the scale until it manifests a very high degree of consciousness in comparison with its lowest phases. In fact, when the instinctive mind begins to shade into the fifth principle, the intellect, it is difficult to distinguish it from the lowest forms of the intellect.

The first dawn of the instinctive mind may be seen even in the mineral kingdom, more particularly in crystals. Then in the plant kingdom it grows more distinct and higher in the scale. Some of the higher families of plants show a rudimentary form of consciousness. Then in the world of the lower animals are seen increasing manifestations of the instinctive mind, from the almost plant like intelligence of the lower forms until we reach a degree almost equal to that of human life.

Then, among human beings, we see it shading gradually into the fifth principle, the intellect, where it is in control to a certain extent, and subordinating the fourth principle to it, either wisely or unwisely. Even the highest mentally developed person carries about with them the fourth principle, the instinctive mind, and in varying degrees uses it, or is used by it.

Human beings could not exist as physical beings without the instinctive mind. We may make a valuable servant of it if we understand it. We hold ourselves back from growth If we allow it to remain in control or to take on the role belonging to the intellect.

Instinct is good when it protects us and assists us to function well in our physical existence but it can hold us back from taking some actions that can push us forward on our evolutionary path.

The work of our bodies is performed by this part of the mind. The constant work of repair, replacement, change, digestion, assimilation, elimination and so forth, is being performed by this part of the mind, all below the level of our consciousness. The wonderful work of the body, in health and sickness, is faithfully carried on by our instinctive minds, all without our conscious knowledge. The intelligent work of every organ, part and cell of the body is under the superintendence of this part of the mind.  

This part of the work of the instinctive mind is performed well in the lower animals, plants, and in human beings until we begin to unfold a little intellect. Then we often begin to meddle with the work that belongs to this plane of the mind by sending negative suggestions, fear thoughts and so forth, to it. However, this trouble is temporary because when the intellect unfolds a little farther it sees the error into which it has fallen and proceeds to rectify the trouble and to prevent its recurrence.

As the animal progressed along the scale of evolution, certain things became necessary for its protection and wellbeing. It could not reason on these things, so that wonderful intelligence dwelling subconsciously in the instinctive mind unfolded until it was able to grasp the situation and meet it. It aroused the “fighting instinct” in the animal for its preservation and this action of the instinctive mind, very good for its purpose and essential to the preservation of the life of the animal, is still with us. It occasionally projects itself into our mentality with a surprising degree of strength. There is a great deal of the old animal fighting spirit still in us although we have managed to control it and to restrain it thanks to the light obtained from our unfolding higher faculties.

The instinctive mind also taught the animal how to build its nests, how to migrate before approaching winter, how to hibernate, and thousands of other things well known to us. It teaches us how to do the many things which we perform instinctively, as it also assumes tasks which we learn how to perform by means of our intellect, and which we pass on to the instinctive mind, which afterward performs them automatically or nearly so. Many of our daily tasks are performed under the direction of our instinctive mind, casually supervised by our Intellect. When we learn to do things “by heart,” we have really mastered them on the intellectual plane and then passed them on to the instinctive mind. 

Note the difference between learning to do a thing, and then doing it after it has been learned. These manifestations of the instinctive mind are of course among its higher phases, and are due largely to its contact with and blending with the unfolding intellect.

The instinctive mind is also the “habit” mind. The intellect (either ours or that of some other person) passes on ideas to our instinctive mind. It then faithfully carries them out exactly, unless corrected or given better instructions, or worse ones, by our own intellect or the intellect of someone else.

The instinctive mind is a storehouse full of things received from a variety of sources. It contains:

  • Many things which it has received through heredity.

  • Other things which have unfolded within it, the seeds of which were sown at the time of the primal impulse which started life along the path.

  • Other things which it has received from the intellect, including suggestions from others, as well as thought-waves sent out from the minds of others, which have lodged within it.

  • All sorts of foolishness as well as wisdom is there.

The instinctive mind is the seat of the appetites, passions, desires, instincts, sensations, feelings, and emotions of the lower order, manifested in humankind as well as in the lower animals. There are higher ideas, emotions, aspirations, and desires, reaching the advanced human being from the unfolding spiritual mind but the animal desires, and the ordinary feelings, emotions and so forth belong to the instinctive mind. All the “feelings” belonging to our passionate and emotional nature belong to the instinctive mind. All animal desires, such as hunger and thirst, sexual desires (on the physical plane); all passions, such as physical love, hatred, envy, malice, jealousy, revenge, are a part of it. The desire for the physical (unless as a means of reaching higher things), the longing for the material, all belong to this plane of instinctive mind.

This principle is the most material of the three mental principles, and is the one which binds us the closest to the earth and earthly things. Remember, we are not condemning material or “earthly” things,. They are all right in their place but we grow to see these things as only a means to an end – only a step in our spiritual evolution. With clearer vision we cease to be bound too tightly to the material side of life and instead of regarding it as the end and aim of all things we see that it is, at best, only a means to a higher end.

The instinctive mind manifests varying degrees of consciousness, varying from almost absolute subconsciousness to the simple consciousness of the highest of the lower animals and of humankind. Self Consciousness comes to human beings with the unfoldment of the intellect. Cosmic or Universal Consciousness comes with the unfoldment of the Spiritual Mind.

The lower instincts came in the process of evolution as a proper and right thing, but have been largely outgrown and can now be left behind. We can put them aside or subordinate them to higher things as we journey along the path. They are the steps upon which we have reached our present high estate, and upon which we will attain still greater heights.

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