He was a businessman and politician, and was very successful in both. He laughingly said that business and politics were a good combination; yet he was an earnest man in an odd and superstitious way. Whenever he had time, he would read sacred books and repeat certain words over and over. They brought peace to the soul, he said. Life had scarcely touched him, for he had very studiously guarded himself against any exposure. He had made himself invulnerable, physically as well as psychologically. Psychologically, he had refused to see himself as he was, and he could well afford to do this; but it was beginning to tell on him. When he was not watchful, there was a deep haunted look about him.
When a problem is not consciously soluble, does the unconscious take over and help solve it? What is it that we call the conscious? To understand what it is made up of, we must observe how we consciously approach a problem. Most of us try to seek an answer to the problem; we are concerned with the solution, and not with the problem. We want a conclusion, we are looking for a way out of the problem; we want to avoid the problem through an answer, through a solution. We do not observe the problem itself, but grope for a satisfactory answer. Our whole conscious concern is with the finding of a solution, a satisfying conclusion. Often, we do find an answer that gratifies us, and then we think we have solved the problem. What we have actually done is cover over the problem with a conclusion. But under the weight of the conclusion, which has temporarily smothered it, the problem is still there. The search for an answer is an evasion of the problem. When there is no satisfactory answer, the conscious or upper mind stops looking; and the deeper mind, takes over and finds an answer.
The conscious mind is obviously seeking a way out of the problem, and the way out is a satisfying conclusion. Is not the conscious mind itself made up of conclusions, whether positive or negative, and is it capable of seeking anything else? Surely, the conscious mind is made up of the past, for memory is a fabric of conclusions; and with these conclusions, the mind approaches a problem. It is incapable of looking at the problem without the screen of its conclusions; it cannot study, be silently aware of the problem itself. It knows only conclusions, pleasant or unpleasant. Any conclusion is a fixation, and the conscious mind inevitably seeks a conclusion.
When it cannot find a satisfactory conclusion, the conscious mind gives up the search, and thereby it becomes quiet; and into the quiet upper mind, the unconscious pops an answer. Is not the unconscious also made up of racial, group and social conclusions, memories? Surely, the unconscious is also the result of the past, of time, only it is submerged and waiting; and when called upon, it throws up its own hidden conclusions. If they are satisfactory, the upper mind accepts them; and if they are not, it flounders about, hoping by some miracle to find an answer. If it does not find an answer, it wearily puts up with the problem, which gradually corrodes the mind. The upper and the deeper mind are both the outcome of the past. They can supply a conclusion, but they are incapable of dissolving the problem.
The problem is dissolved only when both the upper and the deeper mind are silent, when they are not projecting positive or negative conclusions. There is freedom from the problem only when the whole mind is utterly still.
Excerpt from Commentaries on Living I