(Part 13 of the Cleansing of the Sanctuary Series)
We can only use our minds or think because we have a brain. Thinking is based on the firing of neural circuits. That’s why a dead person cannot think – the neural circuits are no longer functional. Scripture says:
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” (Eccl 9:5)
The dead do not know anything because the hardware is no longer working and the mind, the memory etc (the software) needs the hardware in order to function. It can be very helpful to consider the computer metaphor:
Here is a verse that uses all three terms:
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit [pneuma] and soul [psyche] and body [soma] be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 5:23)
We know that we are tripartite beings – we have three “parts:” body, soul and spirit as shown in this verse:
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen 2:7)
While man is a soul (Hebrew nephesh, H5315) the existence of a soul results from the combination of the body and the breath. So living people are often referred to as souls:
“And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls <05315> that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.” (Gen 12:5)
Since our thinking is so dependent on our brains – the hardware – let’s take a look at it. The structure and function (anatomy and physiology) of our brain (the hardware) is genetically determined. Our mind (thoughts, feelings, character etc) is largely determined by our environment, all the influences that come to us via our senses, the choices we make and, of course, the physical condition of the brain itself. Any defect in the brain’s hardware will certainly affect its function as would be the case with a computer. This points to the importance of keeping our “hardware” – the brain (and the body that it depends so much upon) in the best working order we can. If we are going to have any success in cleansing the sanctuary of our mind/heart we should have an idea how it works and how to keep it working well.
Note that the Bible sometimes uses the term “reins” to refer to the mind:
“I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer 17:10)
This is because, anciently, the reins (kidneys, inner man) were considered the location of human emotions.
The human brain is the most complex thing we have direct knowledge of.
- There are 85 – 120 billion neurons.
- Connections between them are estimated at from 100 trillion to 1 quadrillion.
- The human brain does 10 quadrillion operations/second.
- The brain composes 2% of body weight but uses 20% of its energy.
In understanding the function of the brain, how it gets “dirty” and how the cleansing process works it is fundamental to recognize the major division of the brain into the conscious and subconscious minds.
The Software – The Conscious Mind
The Bible uses the “mind” to refer to the conscious thoughts. The prefrontal cortex is where we reason, plan, organize, focus, concentrate, exercise self-restraint and worship. It is the area of the conscience. A part of it, called the anterior cingulate cortex is our neurological “heart” where we experience emotions such as love, compassion, empathy, sympathy, benevolence. It is also the location of the will where we choose right from wrong.
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.” (Pro 23:7)
The proverb, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he …” (Pro 23:7) is referring to the anterior cingulate cortex. This is all part of the conscious mind. Here is a significant verse connected to the pre-frontal cortex:
“Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” (Rev 7:3)
This is not talking about a seal on the exterior of the forehead but to something that happens in the conscious mind of God’s servants, something in their thinking.
The Operating System – The Subconscious Mind
What does it mean to be double-minded or to be of two minds? This refers to a state of indecision; to not be able to choose between two options. As in “I’m of two minds about where to go.” The Bible refers to this state:
“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8)
Being double-minded does not sound good but we actually could be said to have two minds at all times – our conscious mind (our thinking mind), discussed above and our subconscious mind. Various estimates say our conscious mind represents 10% or less of brain function. The subconscious mind involves a much larger proportion of brain activity including bodily functions and more.
So 90% or more is controlled by the subconscious and some estimates say as high as 95-99.5%. Note that the unconscious mind refers to the conscious mind in a state of inactivity. When a person is unconscious, their subconscious mind is still functioning as it controls heartbeat, breathing and many other bodily functions.
The subconscious mind includes the limbic system where we experience aggression, anger, irritability, insecurity, lust, envy, jealousy, arrogance, selfishness and the me-first instinct of survival-of-the-fittest. Many people would call it the “reptilian brain” thinking it first developed in some reptilian ancestor of man. Of course, we know that is not true but, considering all the negative traits associated with it, we could link it to one particular reptile – that serpent in the tree.
One part of the limbic system is the amygdala, (the “alarm” or fear center) where we experience fear, anxiety, panic, the classic adrenalin rush, as well as worry, insecurity, and dread. Many relaxation techniques are meant to “calm” or reduce the activity of the amygdala.
But don’t think the subconscious mind is all bad. There are many important and very necessary things happening there. Here are some features of the subconscious mind worth knowing about. The subconscious mind:
- holds in storage everything that is not in your conscious mind – your beliefs, memories, learned skills.
- only thinks in the present; does not distinguish between past, present and future.
- only “sees” in pictures.
- doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined.
- accepts anything whether it makes sense or not.
- is illogical, irrational and non-analytical, That does not mean it is stupid – it just does not use the processes of logic, rationalization and analysis – those are functions of the conscious mind.
- does not understand negative.
- is the source of the majority of thoughts.
- controls most of your habitual behaviors – eg driving.
- triggers feelings and emotions in various situations.
- controls bodily functions – breathing, pulse etc – very important, obviously for life itself.
Some of these points can be quite important to the process of cleansing the mind.
The Power of the Subconscious Mind
Is getting into the subconscious mind important for cleansing us? Look at this quote:
“Your subconscious mind is far more powerful than your conscious mind. By learning how to train and use your subconscious mind you will be able to control your behavior, break bad habits, get rid of unwanted emotions and fix your belief system.” (From this site which explains more about the subconscious mind).
Let’s try, with our conscious minds, to better understand the subconscious mind by looking at some of its features as listed above.
When learning to drive, you are using conscious effort. I remember very consciously looking back and forth at the edges of the road and thinking of how far to turn the wheel in each direction to keep the car in the middle of the lane. Now, peripheral vision seems to be connected directly to my hands with nothing going on in between as far as thinking about that. But is that true? No, the process is being handled automatically by the subconscious so I don’t have to think about it.
Experiences are transferred to the subconscious for long-term storage while you sleep. You want the skill to be in the subconscious mind along with other learned behaviors so that you can use consciousness for other purposes. Thus, it is better to learn to drive in a lesson a day for a week or more rather than all in one day. Each day it gets easier as you build on the basics of the skills which were stored in the subconscious the night before.
Sensing the Environment
The cells in your body cannot tell what is happening outside of the body but they receive chemical messages secreted from the brain which is responsible for interpreting the outside environment and any threat of danger.
If you are walking in a field and out of the corner of your eye you see something long and thin in the grass, your brain, specifically the amygdala – the fear center – senses that and pumps adrenalin into your blood stream and the message gets to the body’s cells very quickly. Then your eyes distinguish that it is not a rattlesnake and your brain sends a different signal (via chemical messengers) to the cells of your body. So your subconscious mind interprets the outside environment.
It also interprets what is happening within your body. For example, you can, even if in a rotten mood, choose to put a smile on your face. Sensors (proprioceptors) will pick that up and send a message that things are good, the brain will secrete the appropriate chemistry and you will start to feel better.
When Logic Doesn’t Work
Trying to get through to your subconscious mind using logic may not work. For example, when you experience anxiety before giving a speech you won’t be able to logically (because the subconscious is illogical) convince yourself that there is no need to be afraid.
The subconscious mind reads all your sensory input. So, rather than logic, controlled, relaxed breathing can help as it will be interpreted as a more-relaxed state and therefore anxiety can be reduced.
Our emotions are subconscious. We can’t control them directly, but we can often hide them quite effectively through conscious effort. We can’t tell our subconscious to turn off the fear. However, we can focus on love and that will help to shut down the fear.
“There is no fear in love; but perfectlove casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
Someone has determined that the Bible tells us 365 times not to fear. (Excuse me, I have to chuckle for a moment because today, as I am writing this, is February 29, 2020.) We can choose not to fear. See the Biblical definition of fear.
The Computer Comparison
We could think of the conscious mind in computer terms as what is in active memory; perhaps more simply what is showing on the computer’s monitor. The subconscious mind is all of the stored information on the hard disk and the operating system that works in the background to run everything including what to actually display on the screen.
The subconscious mind learns by repetition and not by logic. That is why you can convince people to believe in something by repeating your argument again and again. Think of advertising and political campaigns which get their messages across often without much logic.
However, logic is a conscious process. It does not happen in the subconscious mind. If a new logical point is contrary to a long-held belief, you would need to repeat and reinforce it over time to reprogram the subconscious mind.
Positive Works Better
Remember, the subconscious does not understand negative. Rather than thinking “I have to give up ice cream that I love so much” – a negative association – it is better to think “I love good health etc” a positive association.
The subconscious mind will work to fulfill the input you provide to it. That is the power of positive affirmations. What you expect tends to be realized. If you are sure that you are going to fail an exam then you may indeed fail even if you have all what it takes to succeed. Your beliefs and expectations serve as the master plan for your subconscious mind. So whenever you think of something your subconscious mind will do its best to make it come true. A belief (“I’m stupid”) held in the subconscious will result in the subconscious mind attempting to fulfill that belief.
The Subconscious Usually Wins
If you are afraid of the dark and go into a dark room you will definitely feel afraid even if you consciously tell yourself there is nothing to fear. This happens because, as we saw earlier, the subconscious mind is more powerful than the conscious mind.
The subconscious mind has a great impact on the decisions we make and therefor, if the subconscious includes the unholy, it can easily cause one to succumb to temptation. Thus lies accepted as fact by the subconscious (not first filtered consciously) affect the brain’s wiring and easily lead to sinful thoughts and actions.
In what are called “knee-jerk reactions” (a response without thinking) what is in the heart often is manifested.
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45)
“Fixing” the Subconscious Mind
We think 30,000 thoughts per day (and many more by some estimates) and most of those come from the subconscious. And it can be hard to shut off its voice. Unfortunately, we can’t just directly edit the contents of our subconscious minds. However, it can be “edited” indirectly by overriding it with other content (even changing brain circuitry) – we will look at that more closely in later parts of this series.
God created the subconscious to be the place He could “reside” (His contact point) in each person. But Satan is doing all he can to get a foothold in there in any way he can. By renewal of the mind we can make it more hospitable for the Divine presence and less so for the satanic. The key is to understand how the process works and provide some direction.
We want to claim God’s promises to cleanse us:
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly [both the conscious mind and the subconscious]; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (1 Thess 5:23-24)
At the same time, we need to recognize that it is a cooperative process. The good news is that negative traits in the subconscious mind (even the very automatic ones) can be overcome. That is what we are working to understand and achieve through this series.
This is Part 13 of the Cleansing of the Sanctuary Series
Return to Daniel 8:14 (the master page of the series) to continue