The Subliminal Mind

If the word ‘subliminal’ is offensive to any of you, as smelling too much of psychical research or other aberrations, call it by any other name you pleasure, to distinguish it from the level of full sunlit consciousness. Call this latter the A-region of personality, if you care to, and call the other the B-region. The B-region, then, is obviously the larger part of each of us for it is the abode of everything that is latent and the reservoir of everything that passes recorded or unobserved. It contains, for example, such things as all our momentary inactive memories, and it harbors the springs of all our obscurely motivated passions, impulses, likes, dislikes, and prejudices. Our intuitions, hypotheses, fancies, superstitions, persuasions, convictions, and in general all our non-rational operations come from it. It is the source of our dreams, and apparently they may return to it. In it arise whatever mystical experiences we may have, and our automatisms, sensory or motor; our life in hypnotic and ‘hypnoid’ conditions; our delusions, fixed ideas, and hysterical accidents, if we are hysteric subjects; our supranormal cognitions, if such there be, and if we are telepathic subjects. It is also the fountain head of much that ffeds our religion. In persons deep in the religious life, as we have now abundantly seen, –and this is my conclusion- the door to this region seems unusually wide open; at any rate, experiences making their entrance through that door have had emphatic influence in shaping religious history.

-William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 483-4

It is easy to see where James influenced Julian Jaynes. The bicameral mind is more or less James’ subliminal mind.


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