Consciousness Is Complex

The one fact we want at this stage of our inquiry is simply this: that

consciousness, awaking at birth, very soon becomes complex. However

single and simple in content immediate consciousness may be, it is so

intimately linked with all preceding experience that a pure sensation is

probably never known after the first second of life. As the sensation is

registered it becomes a basis for comparison. That first sensation,

perhaps, was just a feeling of something. The next is a feeling of

something that is the same, or is not the same, as the first. So

immediately perception is established. The baby consciousness recognizes

that the vague feeling is, or is not, that same thing. And from

perception to a complex consciousness of perceptions, of ideas, of

memories and relations, and judgments, is so short a step that we cannot

use our measuring rods to span it.

Thus through the various stages of life, from infancy to maturity, the

conscious is passing into the unconscious, only to help form later a new

conscious thought. Hence the conscious thought is determined by the

great mass of the unconscious, plus the external world.

But every thought, relegated to the unconscious, through its association

there--for it is plastic by nature--comes back to consciousness never

quite the same, and meets never quite the same stimulus. And as a result

a repeated mental experience is never twice exactly the same. So the

conscious becomes the unconscious and the unconscious the conscious, and

neither can be without the other.

Our problem is to understand the workings of the mind as it exists

today, and to try to find some of its most constructive uses; and on

that we shall focus attention. To that end we must first examine the

various ways in which consciousness expresses itself.

We have recognized two distinct mental states--the conscious and the

unconscious--and have found them constantly pressing each on the other's

domain. Our study of consciousness reveals the normal in the aspects of

sleeping and waking, also various abnormal states. Consciousness may

become excited, depressed, confused, delirious, or insane. We shall

consider later some of the mental workings that account for these

abnormal expressions. At present let us examine the mind's activities in

sleep and in delirium.