By Gregory Mitchell

Firstly I would like to recap some of the basic Theosophical theory. We started in spirit and became involved in matter, and we became more and more dense sorts of matter until we became a solidity, and then having reached the maximum pole of what is called involution, we've been working our way out of it, getting out of the mire. Theosophy states that there are a number of root races that represent different levels of evolution (rather than involution) and at the moment we are considered to be in the fifth root race, which is the level that is concerned with the development of mind. It would appear from these Theosophical records that the fourth root race very nearly evolved itself out of the universe of matter but it did so without mind. Man without mind is man without ethics, so our karmic purpose in this fifth root race is to develop mind. We're moving towards the sixth root race and a more mature spirituality founded on advanced cognitive development.

To look back at the beginnings of Mind Development I have to go back about 30 years, to the insight I had in a school playground, that we were all watching a movie, and if we really duplicated what we were looking at then it wouldn't actually exist for us anymore. Release, in a sense, would be total exit from this universe. But how do you get there, to this final point of evolution? I read a great many books at that time, as a young teenager, and joined the Theosophical Society, but it didn't look like there was very much of a route out. I thought, maybe you've need to learn to walk before you can run. I looked at something more basic: is there something you can change that the scientists say you can't change? That introduced me to the issue of intelligence. I knew that people could learn to read faster. I wondered whether there was some basis of intelligence that was general - whether you were a Jehovah's Witness or an Eskimo, it didn't matter, just the question of how quick.

It was 1960, a traditional English summer, raining all the time, so we were indoors watching films during the lunchtime, and one was about auctioneers, who spoke at an incredible speed. I thought, this was interesting, that people could speak at 600 words a minute, since most people talk at up to 200 words a minute. A psychologist, Colin Cherry, stated that the maximum speed a person can follow speech is about 300 words a minute, which is linked to certain nervous system processes, and that there was nothing you could do to change this. Nevertheless I made tests and found that people could read out loud from a page as fast as 300, 400, even 500 words a minute. But what is the point in doing this? It's a bit like Zen, there isn't any point whatsoever. But now and then, when people were doing this kind of thing, they'd have moments of "no mind." In getting this great speed-up, the "talking mind" would move away and this other "seeing mind" would come into play. In that state, you could have a long column of figures and just add it up, almost instantaneously.

This was a captive audience of my school chums, but the same tests didn't seem to work for adults, such as elder members of my family. What's the difference between an adult and a child in this case? I thought maybe you could use hypnosis to help an adult make this breakthrough, but soon discovered that a man in his 50's is more hypnotized by his environment than a child of 12. He's hypnotized already.

I was stymied, until I was searching in the public library and by accident happened across a book called the "Zen Dictionary" by a man called Ernest Woods, a famous Theosophist. I read a paragraph about the state of "no mind" and he gave an example - he said, "I was putting a light bulb in a socket and it fell, and in one liquid movement I reached that light bulb before it reached the ground, brought it back up and plugged it in the socket. It was a wondrous sense of the body and mind coming together and acting as one. Furthermore, by remembering again that time I could bring about that same state of consciousness."

The mind-body split
The problem that the adult man has that the child does not is that the adult experiences himself as a mind and a body that are separate; the child does not. This mind-body split phenomena has been noted by Ken Wilber in "The Spectrum of Consciousness," in the 6 Levels of Rajah Yoga described by Patanjali, in the "Exegesis" by Swami Vivekananda, and by Fromm as the "existential neurosis," the conflict between self and the other.

How does one get out of that state of hypnosis and separation? We have found that you can attack this on two levels: either from the body end, using the manipulative bodywork therapies such as structural integration, the Gerda Boyson methods and Alexander technique; or we can deal with it at the other end, which is the blockage a person has between themselves and reality.

Whatever philosophy you may have about reality, you can say for sure that it is where your body is, it is the same level of abstraction. Guided imagery and relaxation techniques will tend to bring the body back into itself, and then in a large spectrum of people, the techniques of speeding up the mind to "no mind" will then start to work.

The body-mind split tends to stem from irrational acts we have been rewarded to do, so therefore there is a compulsion to continue doing them. See Repressive Desublimation.

Left-right brain integration
There was another aspect that we found would tend to block people. Some people find it difficult to think in pictures. Without the facility for mental imagery, most of the techniques of psychotherapy or Raja Yoga, which may integrate mind and body, don't tend to work. Here we are working at a level that Ken Wilber called the "Ego and the Shadow" which really represents at a physical level the two sides of the brain. The left side, for a right-handed person, is concerned with linear thinking, sequences of instructions and symbols; the right side of the brain is concerned with intuition, imagery and memory.

During those days of long ago I used to correspond with Ernest Wood, who had written "Mind and Memory Training." This was a bootstrap that would prove to open mind development to many, and which had a major influence on my early work.

The remaining barriers between left-right brain integration were a situation of impasse for us for some time, until we became acquainted with the work of Dr. Francis Lefebure (1916-1988), who lived in Paris and had developed techniques enhancing left-right brain integration. Francis designed equipment for brain hemispheric integration that played an important part in our early research, including the Alternaphone. He granted us a license to produce the Alternaphone in England if we changed the name to Synchrophone, since we were using it for a different application - cognitive development rather than remedial therapy.

Primal Trauma
This brings us closer to the modern epoch, in which we found that there is an irreducible minimum of people, about a fifth them, who couldn't get onto the bandwagon of what we were doing. This brings us into the area of psychologists like Adler, Freud, Jung, and Rank who describe the effects of infantile trauma. This can stop growth at a very early age, and prevent a person from achieving a perception of what is outside - he or she is not actually getting a picture fully in the camera.

The transpersonal
It was at that juncture that the book by Ken Wilber, "The Spectrum of Consciousness," actually came out and he demonstrates that of all the different psychologies and therapies that exist there are about six classifications you can stick all of them in; and that all of them are valid within their area of application. Rather like the men in the dark room with an elephant - one says I've got an ear, one describes a trunk, and the next a tail, and they're all looking at the same elephant. He shows how Sufism, for example, draws on the whole gamut of Western and Eastern psychological development. Of course an Easterner might say, "Why are you using a psychology that boosts up the Ego, we're here to transcend it?" The truth is that it is easier to transcend a healthy and integrated Ego to a Higher Self, than it is to transcend a traumatized Ego.

The psychologist who comes the nearest to this collective viewpoint is Assagioli, who developed Psychosynthesis. He used the term "unconscious" but explained that there are several of it. There is fundamental lower unconscious, the part of the mind that is concerned with management of things like digestion and heartbeat, and is a storehouse of many of those things Freud talks about that can never be made conscious but at some level govern us. Then we have the middle or near unconscious (we call this the subconscious in Mind Development); this is material that is governing us at present time but is fairly accessible, things that most therapists will work on who are using insight-directed therapies. The third type he describes is the emergent or higher unconscious - the "Superconscious." It is unconscious because it is yet to be, the oak tree that is in the acorn, a maturational program, and is the source of our higher intuition and inspiration - the seat of the Higher Self. Assagioli also specifies Jung's concept of the Collective Unconscious, the shared consciousness of humanity and its genetic programming. And then he talks of the zone of consciousness, the conscious self, that part of our personality of which we are directly aware, which is typically quite small and contains our zone of free will.

Assagioli map of consciousness

Note: Assagioli omits the Preconscious, which is is part of the Ego unconscious. The material in the Preconscious is by and large emotionally uncharged. The Preconscious contains the material in Long Term Memory that is not presently in mind, but available to recall. Some material in Long Term Memory however is not available to recall because it is emotionally charged, either repressed or suppressed.

The idea of therapy for growth, as opposed to therapy for those with mental illness, is concerned with making the conscious zone gradually bigger, so that parts of the unconscious zones become conscious. And then we can say that free will becomes larger than predestination. The astrologist Geoffrey Cornelius described this situation like a funnel, where the very immature spirit is at the tip and they have very little free movement, the system more or less keeps them on railway lines, whereas a mature spirit is near the top and has a good deal of free movement within very wide boundaries, and is very much under his own destiny.

Eric Fromm described the unconscious as all that which is potential within a society or culture, which the society or culture does not permit to be actualized. With sufficient expansion into these consciousnesses, there is a letting go of the Ego and arriving at a transcendent self that stands above it and encompassing it.

Patanjali's levels and Mind Development
Patanjali indicates 6 levels of development:

  1. The first level of development is very similar to psychotherapy, reviewing parts of one's life that are unconscious, confronting them such that catharsis occurs. This reaction discharges the emotion, so there is more space for that person to grow into.

  2. The second level is concerned with integration of the Ego and the Shadow - we get the word Yoga from "yoke," to yoke the two sides together. This is an area which historic Catholicism took hold of. Many people don't realize that part of the roots of our Christianity are in fact within Buddhism. Gnostic Christianity was expunged in the early days of the Christian church and re-emerged in the 13th century in the form of the Cathars, who were also annihilated. The early Christianity believed in reincarnation and in the idea of getting out of this universe, which was the basic idea of Gnosis: "Those who can draw the force within, they shall live; the others are hunks of meat, they are already dead." It is from the Gnostic system of Christianity that the Catholic system preserved the principles of confession. Now if you go to the Catholic church it is a very formalized procedure, whereas originally St Thomas of Aquinas outlined quite a developed system of psychotherapy, and they'd ask questions like, "I there something wicked that you have done?" "Who nearly found out about it?" and at the end the priest would say, "Have you told a half-truth?" "Have you told more than the truth?" This has all gone by the board, but originally they were concerned at this level: what holds the two sides of the brain apart is not the wickednesses that have been done to you, it's the wickednesses that you have done.

  3. The third level is the realm of inner space: to be able to make models of things in the mind. In Raja Yoga they talk at this level of the capacity to visualize, to form a universe within. In certain senses, these mental images have the same reality as the external world but they are at a different vibrational level. We have images that we hold unconsciously including negative images that cause all Man's stress diseases: asthma, arthritis, things of that nature. We can have positive images as well that have the opposite effect. A person with very intense visual imagery can cause the size of his pupils to change and other factors that are normally considered to be completely automatic. This is how the Indian fakirs could lay on their beds of nails and all kinds of amazing things, since they had this control over their body. In the West research has been done with biofeedback, with which people have been taught to control their intestines and other body systems by developing this kind of imagery.

  4. The fourth level in the system of Raja Yoga is the integration of body-mind. This is an essential and necessary step. A whole system of Yoga has been designed with that end in view: Hatha Yoga. We can go through the formality of practicing a technique without intention and we get no result; it is necessary to understand the underlying principles. To the degree to which we are a body-mind, we have access to all memory. A paraplegic, who is paralyzed from the neck down, has an extreme poverty of mental imagery and poor memory, which is the antithesis of what we are aiming for here. When a person is getting back into communication with their body, their memory improves. The things that may preclude are at that first level where somebody is deeply traumatized, which causes a big wedge to be missing from their body. They suppress all the pains of those bad experiences. A lot of yoga in this country is really a boiled-down version for a society that is hooked on instant consumption - satori in a weekend - attempting to achieve this fourth level of yoga without the three steps leading up.

  5. There is a fifth level of Yoga to do with speed. They have mantras for this, some a hundred words long, and they are chanted at ever-increasing speed, until it triggers this kind of "no mind" state. In the Tibetan Yoga the fifth level is very much dominant.

  6. This leads us to the sixth level. The big lie in this universe is time: the reality that we have persists because our thoughts have time in them, so we're not quite in present time. If we were totally in present time there would be no tension between us and reality and reality for us would cease to be. The method used is to find a particular event in time and consider what happened just before it, and what happened just after it, then what happened just after that, and before that, and so on, so your mind is being focused on smaller and smaller units of time, until you disappear.
One of the methods for resolving the first level issue is a method that Freud used. He got a person to shut his eyes and said, "When I touch your head you'll see an image." Then he'd ask certain questions such as "If you were the image, what would you say? What would you feel? What part of this image are you willing to own? What emotion in this image are you willing to take responsibility for?" This takes a person deeper and deeper into the image, which is a symbol for the traumatic memory, until the emotional core of that traumatic memory is reached and the force held within it discharged.

A technique of the second level... If you name a mental image you're actually using both sides of the brain. "Think of something and say what it is." It's almost mantric, very simple. It's an old-fashioned and long-winded way of doing it but you're actually pulling the two sides of the brain together. Or take a handful of beads, throw them on the floor, and count them as quickly as you can. One half of the brain notes the beads, the other half puts a name to them.

On the third level there is this technique from Ernest Wood... If I give you a list of objects and the names of them, a few people might be able to remember the whole list but it is probable that many would not. The trick is to use your imagination, to create memorable imagery. The first item is a table, so imagine that, a large solid oak one. Next is a metal box, so make it a very gaudy-colored metal box, with Chinese patterns on it, and you throw it in the air and it comes down and lands on top of the table with a bang. On top of that you place (with a clang) an ash tray, but it's not an ordinary ash tray, it's a great big orange ash tray, oval, about five feet wide. The next thing you're going to remember is a cow, so you look at a bright green cow about four inches high stood inside the ash tray. The next thing to remember is a fur coat, so you can have the cow wearing the fur coat. The next thing is a purse, so you have this enormous purse tied to the tail of the cow. And tumbling out of that purse are an assortment of items. A pair of glasses falls out, and the hammer you wish to remember falls off a shelf and smashes the glasses.

If a person has poor color in their mental imagery one way to make it brighten up is to deliberately think in black and white, and the imagery will jump back in more vivid color. Another way is to take an object and put it in a paper bag with your eyes shut, and feel it all around, and you'll find that after a while a quite vivid mental image of the object will form in your mind. We learn to not notice in certain areas, and in our efforts to not notice we cease to be what Gurdjieff calls the self-remembering man.

Both sides of the brain have some capacity for making pictures but they do so in a different way. If it's your right brain making pictures it seems to be big and outside of you like an hallucination. You could call the room you are sitting in from memory and point at something in that image; then if you turn your head, you'll find your finger it still pointing at the same part of the mental image as if it's outside of you. But with a left-hemisphered image it's something like matchbox sized and moves with you, when you move your head. It's rather like the two hands: when you're working on something, the right hand (controlled by the left hemisphere) is concerned with doing something with a detail, whilst the left hand (controlled by the right hemisphere) just steadies things. The two imageries are the same: one is a record of what must be there, like if you were walking from place to place, even if I don't know where it is, certain things must be there, like the ground, the sky, your heartbeat, your breathing, the temperature, and so on. Whereas the other side is concerned with what could be there or what is particular. One side has a record of all the ticking clocks that one normally ignores, the other side forgets very rapidly so that it is aware only that a clock has started to click or that it has stopped ticking.

Mind Development will help you to escape the Matrix of conditioned, consensus reality and to discover a much more liberated and empowered way of being, where mind is no longer an opaque barrier between the world of body and spirit.