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- .... I must say at once that I do not mean what is called in modern psychology 'the subconscious' or the 'subconscious mind.' These are simply wrong expressions, wrong terms, which mean nothing and do not refer to any real facts. There is nothing permanently subconscious in us because there is nothing permanently conscious; and there is no 'subconscious mind' for the very simple reason that there is no 'conscious mind’. ....
.... At this point, it must be understood that the first obstacle in the way of the development of self-consciousness in man, is his conviction that he already possesses self-consciousness or at any rate, that he can have it at any time he likes. It is very difficult to persuade a man that he is not conscious and cannot be conscious at will. It is particularly difficult because here nature plays a very funny trick.
If you ask a man if he is conscious or if you say to him that he is not conscious, he will answer that he is conscious and that it is absurd to say that he is not, because he hears and understands you.
And he will be quite right, although at the same time quite wrong.
This is nature's trick. He will be right because your question or your remark has made him vaguely conscious for a moment. Next moment consciousness will disappear. But he will remember what you said and what he answered, and he will certainly consider himself conscious.
In reality, acquiring self-consciousness means long and hard work. How can a man agree to this work if he thinks he already possesses the very thing which is promised him as the result of long and hard work? Naturally a man will not begin this work and will not consider it necessary until he becomes convinced that he possesses neither self-consciousness nor all that is connected with it, that is, unity or individuality, permanent 'I' and will.
P. D. Ouspenky
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