Transforming the Mind
Transforming the Mind
by Peter Shepherd
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Copyright © Peter Shepherd 1994-2007 (This edition January 2016)u2029 x002
An evolutionary jump
You may, at some time, have had a ‘peak’ experience, an ecstatic moment or a moment
of greater understanding, when your consciousness expanded - and you knew it. When
this occurs, the integration between left brain (logical thinking) and right brain
(intuitive feelings and emotions) is manifested in increased energy-flow between the
two sides. This is thinking and feeling in an holistic and balanced way. It is a foretaste
of an evolutionary jump for humanity - and in essence, what the so-called New Age is
all about - a new level of maturity in mental development, an awakening.
By learning how to arouse the whole brain, selectively and at will, the mode of
consciousness may be freely altered, appropriate to the task or situation - whether a
crisis, making music, relaxing, mental arithmetic, brainstorming, or contemplating
In this new wide-awake consciousness, the world seems to be full of possibilities - it
possesses a strong sense of rediscovered meaning. This is nothing mystical, it is
essentially ordinary consciousness, operating for once at its proper efficiency.
“When we pull back and get, for a moment, the ‘bird’s eye’ view of life, it reveals
meanings that are ungraspable by the narrow focus
of our usual worm’s eye view”
Research tells us that one side of the brain is usually dominant to the other, and that
most of the time, very little of the potential capacity of the brain is in use. Brain studies
have shown that people who are functioning optimally have a high level of inter-
hemispheric communication and that the two sides are working in synchrony and
balance, as described above. Also overall arousal is higher and under conscious control
- this is the skill of sustained concentration.
What is Personal Development?
When you feel angry or depressed, in a self-defeating way, this is the result of negative
or irrational inner-speech that you may not even be aware of, as it is often very fleeting
or below the threshold of consciousness, or simply not recognized as such.
These evaluations are linked to earlier times, when they were instilled by force of
painful experience. When such an experience was too uncomfortable to remember, the Transforming the Mind Chapter One: Introduction x003
feelings (in the right brain) were repressed and made unconscious.
Considerable mental energy is locked-up by continuing to repress feelings and
emotions, and this is justified by irrational and over-generalized conclusions about self
The techniques presented in this book will enable you to look again at your beliefs with
a fresh viewpoint. This will help you to release the effects of held-back trauma and
have fuller access to your potential for intuitive, creative and holistic thinking. With a
more flexible outlook and greater freedom of emotional expression, new horizons may
appear, and goals approached that before seemed out of reach. Problems and difficulties
now become opportunities for creative choice and valuable learning, stepping-stones
towards what you really want to achieve.
When, as with most people, 90% of the brain’s capacity has been closed down due to
neurotic repression, the remaining 10% is apt to fall into a robotic state. The individual
acts out imprinted behavior patterns that are predictable from day to day and only
responds semi-consciously when something attracts his attention. The unused 90% is
susceptible to hypnotic influences and the individual is driven by his environment and
circumstances; this is far from the self-determined state he probably considers himself
to be in. For most of us, a radical program of reawakening is urgently needed!
We affirm that man’s nature is essentially spiritual but that it is no good seeking for
spiritual things until we can distinguish the spiritual from the mundane. To attain the
higher mind of spiritual awareness and psychic ability we must be released from the
thrall of the lower cognitive mind. This cannot occur with any stability (other than
‘peak experiences’) until work on the lower mind is complete. While large areas of our
brain lay unused because of their repressed content, there is a potential Achilles heel to
any postulated state of satori.
What is required of you?
An open mind and a genuine desire to learn and expand. A major goal of personal
development is to facilitate the development of self-determined people taking full
responsibility in their lives. Indeed, we need to explore the unmapped territory of our
minds and develop it to the full, if we are each to have the insight to be able to
effectively cut through the blinkered thinking in our environments, and make an impact
on what is happening to our world’s social, economic and ecological systems.
Resolving the chaos of fixed ideas which nearly everyone has to some extent, is a
gradient process of analysis, of re-discovering objective reality and the honest truth
about ourselves. Transforming the Mind x004
Before beginning practical work on self-development, an overview of the human
personality will help to provide a context.
The evolution of man
Psychology, the study of the mind and how it works, is sometimes considered a new
science, but this is quite mistaken. It is possibly the oldest science and in its most
essential features even a forgotten science. Perhaps this misconception arises because,
except in modern times, psychology was incorporated into philosophic or religious
In India all forms of yoga are essentially psychology. Sufi teachings, which again are
chiefly psychological, are regarded as partly religious and partly metaphysical. Almost
every religion developed psychological teachings, often connected with a certain
practice. In Europe, even in the last decades of the nineteenth century, many works on
psychology were referred to as philosophy.
When modern psychology emerged as a discipline at the end of the nineteenth century,
it was based on an analytic, biological view: interest was in the component parts
particularly in the biological ‘realities’ of brain, memory and so on, that could be
empirically studied. When psychoanalysis was developed during the early part of the
twentieth century, as an application of psychology to treat mental conditions, it
produced the notion of ‘personality’, about the reality of someone’s individual and
subjective presence in the world. As the century has progressed, ‘personality’ as a
notion has changed and modified with every new school.
Each personality is that complex combination of drives, defenses, roles, learned
adaptations, potentials and consciousness, that lives in the world and is a unique being.
In some quite remarkable way each person is unlike any other being that exists,
qualitatively different, and yet is subject to universal laws, social and biological causes,
and learned behavior that is common to all, and which makes for cultural patterns of
action, describable and analyzable difficulties and illnesses, and similarities of behavior
across cultures that are discernibly ‘human’.
Here it is necessary to note that all psychological systems and doctrines, those that exist
or existed openly and those that were hidden or disguised, can be divided into two chief
Firstly, systems which study man as they find him, or such as they suppose or imagine Transforming the Mind Chapter Two: Background Psychology x005
him to be. Modern ‘scientific’ psychology belongs to this category.
Secondly, the systems which study man from the point of view of what he may become,
i.e., his possible evolution. These last systems are in reality the original ones or in any
case the oldest and only they can explain the forgotten origin and meaning of
psychology: the study of the principles, laws and facts of man’s possible evolution.
The ‘evolution’ of man in this sense means the development of certain inner qualities
and features which usually remain undeveloped, and cannot develop by themselves. If
man does not want it, or does not want it strongly enough and does not make the
necessary efforts, and get the necessary help, he will never develop.
The irony is, that before acquiring any new faculties that man does not now possess, he
must first acquire qualities that he thinks he already possesses but about which he
The following experiment will show how consciousness may be studied. Take a watch
and look at the second hand, trying to be aware of yourself and concentrating on the
thought, ‘I am (your name)’ and ‘I am now here’. Try not to think about anything else,
simply follow the movement of the second hand and be aware of yourself, your name,
your existence and the place where you are.
Most people soon find themselves drifting into imagination and thought associations,
demonstrating that man is not conscious of himself for most of the time. The illusion of
his being conscious is created by memory. We actually remember only moments of
consciousness, although we do not realize that this is so. In retrospect we remember
those moments and assume we were fully awake the whole time.
If we want to have more prolonged periods of awake consciousness and not merely
glimpses, we must understand that this will depend upon the command we have over
ourselves, and that this requires long and hard work.
Man does not know himself. He does not know his own limitations and possibilities. He
does not even know to how great an extent he does not know himself. So he assumes
his mental state to be ‘conscious’, fully aware and self-determined, when in fact he is
acting to a very great extent on automatic responses and continuously dramatizing all
the influences of his past.
Most psychologies and psychotherapies are interested just in the personality. It is only
in recent years that a variety known as ‘transpersonal psychology’ has emerged, which
combines, or perhaps re-integrates, psychology and the personality, with theology and
the soul - two disciplines and two concepts that have been firmly separated in our
materialistic Western world, but which used to go hand in hand. For instance in early Transforming the Mind Chapter Two: Background Psychology x006
Christianity there was a collection of books by different authors under the general name
of Philokalia, describing the psychology of mystical enlightenment, and this knowledge
was the basis of Gnosis, itself the source of many of Gurdjieff’s ideas. (Freud himself
actually wrote about the psyche in terms of the ‘soul’, but his German was misguidedly
translated into medical ‘scientific’ terms for the Anglo-American audience).
In psychosynthesis, which Assagioli developed in the 1930s, it is said that a person has
a personality and is a soul. However, personalities in the world are obvious to us all;
souls are only present for those with eyes to see. Assagioli's view of synthesis is of
becoming more and more aware of soul, not only in oneself but also in others. His
view, and the view of most spiritual disciplines, is that soul is basic and enduring, and
that personality, though necessary for being in the world , is relatively superficial and
The soul is the context, the home, the ‘unmoved mover’, the uncreated source of life;
the personality is full of content, learned responses, and is dynamic. The soul may in
many people never be recognized in any explicit way, and the nature of this barrier and
how to remove it, to become ‘enlightened or to ‘awaken’, is an area we will be
examining later in this book.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, before Freud, and with the values of the
Enlightenment and the idea of progress, it was assumed that the human being was
becoming more and more rational and fully civilized. It was this assumption that Freud
questioned, with his ability to discern the unconscious processes in people. He saw the
significance of dreams as a communication of the unconscious to the conscious; slips of
the tongue, mistakes, irrational emotion, inappropriate behavior and illnesses
manifested in ordinary living began to be acknowledged as effects of processes going
on beyond our consciousness. Many hitherto unexplained phenomena came to be seen
as symptoms of the conflict between the strong ‘libido’ (sexual) forces of the ‘id’ (the
drive or life force of the core Self) and the ‘super-ego’ (the acquired conscience), as
perceived by the ‘ego’ (that part of the id that detaches early in development to form an
independent personality - the ‘face to the world’).
There are five main parts of our total psyche: Higher consciousness - that which is
aware of being aware; Normal consciousness - awareness in the everyday world -
being, perceiving, relating; and of the inner world - of thoughts, concepts, attitudes,
decisions, images, memories emotions, sensations and feelings. And the domains which
lie below normal consciousness: the Pre-conscious - an interface of the conscious mind
which, when it is evoked by interest and emotional commitment, goes searching for
relevant data in the sub-conscious; the Sub-conscious - contains the powerful drives of
love and fear, and the programs by which motives are decided and actions are carried
out; and the Unconscious - the core Self which contains a record of everything one has
felt and sensed since conception and of the evolutionary genetic-line before that. It also
consists of genetic programming, which empowers the deepest drives for survival, Transforming the Mind Chapter Two: Background Psychology x007
attachment and expression common to mankind, which transmits the energy of
emotions, which controls the stream of libido energies and the efforts involved in
moving and perceiving with the physical body.
Higher consciousness is the essential self, the Higher Self. It is our personal center of
awareness, which is developed through self-knowledge. The Higher Self is the
‘awareness of awareness’ of which the mental (ego) ‘I’ is a pale reflection. There has
been an acknowledgement throughout human history that a higher awareness, beyond
the normal conscious experience, is possible for the individual, recognized through
dreams, religious and psychic experience, insights and creativity of every kind. It is
usually frustratingly brief and infrequent but it is clear that with appropriate efforts and
study, people can change and grow in awareness, whereby the field of consciousness
becomes more and more observed by the Higher Self who is no longer asleep; then
behavior is no longer determined only by conditioning. The Being is aware of the
difference between his own motivation and that which is learned, acquired or installed
in him, genetically or by conditioning; he knows what he is doing as he does it. The
energy and attention tied up in the knots of unconsciousness becomes conscious and
freely available, as truth is validated and the false discarded.
This second aspect of the psyche, Normal consciousness, is our everyday reality,
internally and externally - the incessant flow of sensations, images, thoughts, feelings,
desires and impulses which we can observe, analyze and judge. The less aware a
person is, the smaller this field of awareness will be and the more automatic his
functioning. The majority of people drift on the surface of this ‘mind stream’ and
identify themselves with its successive waves, with the changing contents of their
consciousness. So consciousness is often unreflective, not consciously noticed,
determined by the many personal and social forces which have formed us, the cultural
programming that moulds us into a ‘consensus trance’ of automatic, robotized behavior.
In this hypnotized, half-asleep state, possessed by the conditioning of our background,
we seem almost entirely the product of our genetic heritage, our personal environment
and the society we live in - in the grip of forces stronger than ourselves and which we
don’t understand, be they biological, psychological or social.
The conscious mind contains all that one knows that is readily accessible. This
information is well organized and interconnected on a logical basis. The characteristics
of this ‘analytical’ mind are invaluable for learning, putting things in order and testing
ideas. On the other hand the conscious mind tends to be inhibited by the very quality
that make it so powerfully useful: it seeks to be right.
This part of the personality, the subject of cognitive and behavioral psychology, could
easily, without reflection, be regarded as the whole, but the development of depth-
psychology and the rediscovery of transpersonal psychology in this century has made it
clear that this level of consciousness is only a part of the whole. Transforming the Mind Chapter Two: Background Psychology x008
The third part, the Pre-conscious, is the ante-room of consciousness, where our various
experiences are assimilated, our mental and imaginative activities are elaborated and
developed in a sort of psychological gestation and interaction, before their birth into the
light of consciousness. If consciousness is likened to a spotlight, the pre-conscious is
everything within its range, but not illuminated at this moment. It is real to the person
and accessible. It includes material from the sub-conscious that has been reactivated
(stimulated and made active due to a similarity or relevance of present circumstances or
thoughts). The pre-conscious mind is like a problem-oriented and independent file-
clerk. It looks over the shoulder of the conscious mind: when a problem is being
considered, it conducts a search into the sub-conscious mind for clues that it considers
Its criteria for relevance do not always seem logical to the conscious mind, and
therefore the ‘file-clerk’ learns to censor certain kinds of information from the sub-
conscious, preventing them from rising higher into full consciousness. This ‘censor’ is
below consciousness; consequently you cannot open-up your mind to the sub-conscious
simply by resolving not to block its signals; the defenses have first to be recognized, the
reasons for them discovered and the pre-conscious censor re-programmed, before this is
possible. This requires a procedure of concentrated introspection.
Interest, emotional commitment and the desire to solve a problem, cause the pre-
conscious to work with the contents of the sub-conscious (and also through the sub-
conscious to the unconscious) and the results eventually filter back into consciousness,
if they are not censored. Intuition is an early recognition, below the conscious level,
that one is on the right track - this causes a felt signal or increase of arousal which
causes the conscious mind to pay attention to its periphery of consciousness, to dig a
little and pull out the information. Because of the energy of this signal, it may also be
registered on biofeedback devices such as a held pendulum or skin resistance
galvanometer, which can be used to help the person recognize his intuition.
The Sub-conscious, is that part of his mind a person is unaware of, or which is out of
his control, what Jung called the Shadow. The subconscious functions include vital
background psychological activities such as the integration of new data and re-
programming where necessary - a function which dreaming reflects - and it coordinates
the carrying out of set patterns of behavior which can be safely left ‘on automatic’ by
the conscious mind, freeing it to concentrate on the task in hand.
The sub-conscious contains all of the emotional and cognitive experience of a lifetime,
whether pleasurable, ordinary or traumatic. Its contents are drawn upon by the pre-
conscious when they seem relevant. It is a reservoir of information so vast and rich that
it seems quite incredible to the conscious mind. Its contents are nevertheless
consciously reachable by methods of psychological analysis (especially with the aid of
biofeedback devices) which serves to resolve the defensive censorship of the
preconscious. Transforming the Mind Chapter Two: Background Psychology x009
The ‘Shadow’ aspect of the sub-conscious mind includes the roots of phobias,
obsessions, compulsions and delusions and many complexes charged with intense
emotion. These are developed in response to circumstances in the past and used in
present time when re-stimulated by a similarity of circumstances; this occurs without
conscious control, irrationally and without inspection - a ‘reactive’ mental process.
Memory of the original, often dramatic circumstance and the accompanying fears and
decisions is normally repressed, as it is unconfrontable and too painful to re-examine.
The Unconscious contains the fundamental survival drives and primitive urges
(including genetic and race memories) that empower the functioning of the mind as a
whole. It contains the entire kinesthetic recordings of the body (all of its feelings,
sensations and pains) and is integrally linked with the body (which it coordinates and
controls) - it is the ‘body-mind’. It also contains the deepest level of Self: the
fundamental (primal) experiences, imprints and decisions of this lifetime, from the
womb onwards. These only normally surface consciously in symbolic form, in the
context of dreams and behavior patterns recognized in retrospect. The deepest forms of
psycho-analytic work aim to uncover their content to the light of consciousness. Jung’s
work on dreams and mythological symbology was instrumental in opening up the
incredible world of the unconscious, and the existence of ‘archetypes’ - ways of being
that are inherently programmed in the unconscious, making up the substance of the core
Self - all the aspects of living that the individual works throughout his life to
‘actualize,’ or bring into existence at their fullest potential. His work also exposed the
transpersonal dimension which lays beyond the racial stereotypes, but also the necessity
of working through the primal and archetypal material, to differentiate and individuate
the Higher Self - the spiritual, non-genetic, meta-self.
Both the primary-trauma of the unconscious and the secondary-trauma of the sub-
conscious are connected with the ‘body-mind’, whereby defensive ‘armor’ in the form
of chronic muscular tension, holds the bodily stress-reaction of ‘fight or flight’,
continually in place. This occurs when an experience becomes too painful to view or is
too uncomfortably repeated and then awareness of it is repressed - thoughts, emotions
and bodily tensions. Unviewed, it then festers and persists. Though the tension may
once have been appropriate, it is now a hindrance, and its perpetual nature holds the
original trauma in re-stimulation (though the feeling or awareness of it may be
repressed). And though the repressed cognitive and emotional reactions may have been
rational in the past circumstance (in the effort to survive or overcome), if they are
reactively enacted in the present situation, and if they are not accompanied by a fresh
appraisal of the current reality, they are the underlying cause of irrational or
inappropriate behavior, negative emotion and illness, and therefore have been a primary
target of psychotherapy.
Because the body-mind functions inter-actively, work in Transpersonal Psychology
may sometimes require a range of techniques to handle the problems. Physical Transforming the Mind Chapter Two: Background Psychology x0010
symptoms (high blood pressure, ulcers, lack of energy, etc.) arise from stress, muscular
tension, reactivated trauma, over-work, anxiety about social competence, threat or
insecurity at work, rigid attitudes of perfectionism and fears of failure - based on low
self-esteem, due to not having been ‘good enough’ for parents and other dominant
figures. Such neurotic dependencies on others conflict with the drive for independency
and self-fulfillment. Psychotherapeutic massage may be prescribed, to develop
awareness of faulty attitudes and repressed feelings, and to help relax and de-traumatize
The above diagram illustrates the structure of the mind in terms of levels of
consciousness. Help directed at one level will affect the other levels of functioning - the
powerful fears and drives of the sub-conscious affect physical health, feelings, beliefs
and behaviors - an holistic approach is therefore most effective. The Transpersonal
Psychology System takes account of this structure; the techniques progressively cut
deeper and deeper through to the core Self, and into the Transpersonal realm that is the
essence of Mankind. The gradient has to be right in order to ensure a secure and
effective route through. Like the layers of an onion, the appropriate behavior becomes
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