Subconsciousness and Superconsciousness


It has been suggested that a complete model of human consciousness should include its three non-physical dimensions: (1) the breadth of consciousness from deep sleep through dreams to focused activity, (2) the time of consciousness from the microseconds necessary to register an event in consciousness through the pattern of daily changes in sleep/awake patterns to life-long changes in consciousness from embryo through childhood to old age, and (3) the depth of consciousness from nonconscious feelings through mental processing just below the threshold of consciousness to active awareness.[1] Each of these three continuums must be explained to fully understand human consciousness. In the breadth of consciousness one level of activity replaces another; in the time and depth of consciousness mental processing takes place at all levels at the same time.


While the details of the proposed breadth and time of consciousness did not cause much controversy, the details of the depth of consciousness were not universally accepted. The author suggested two routes from deep feelings to awareness: one through subconscious processes and one through superconscious processes. Both paths filter, process, organize and attach emotions to the deep feelings so they can eventually be conceived, analyzed and expressed when they reach the level of awareness. The subconscious path originates from physical feeling received from ones body and its surrounds – the sources of these feelings have matured as the human species has evolved in response to its environment over the millennia. The superconscious path originates from subliminal feelings that are not necessarily required by evolution’s survival of the fittest.


The evolutionary feelings that are processed through the subconscious have been classified in a variety of ways, but generally include such feelings as: survival, food, shelter, safety and lack of pain. The subliminal feelings that are processed through the superconscious require a little more explanation. The original proposal suggested that truth, beauty and goodness were examples of subliminal feelings that do not appear to be required by our traditional concept of biological evolution. However, there are many other possibilities:


In subconscious processes we are responding to information from our senses and our environment. In our superconscious processing we are responding to goals, values and visions.


In theory, the same event can trigger both pathways from feeling to awareness. Take for example our ancient ancestor who “feels” the presence of a lion in the nearby brush. The subconscious path processes this feeling so that it reaches awareness in his “flight or fight” decision. The superconscious path realizes that his long-standing friend is standing not far away and processes this feeling in terms of saving his or his friends life. It is the subconscious that has allowed humans to survive; it is the superconscious that has allowed humans to thrive.


Thankfully most of the physical feelings that go through the subconscious are filtered out before they reach awareness – one would not want to be bothered with every sensation received about one’s body or its surrounds. The subconscious process is very selective. People vary greatly in their ability to filter out their subliminal feelings – some people live as though there is nothing other than their evolutionary instinct for immediate survival, while some monks appear to let their subliminal feelings and superconscious processing dominate their life.


Our superconscious processing probably requires the extra “brain power” that evolution has provided to humans and not other animals, but there is little evidence that the enlarged human brain alone could account for the production of our subliminal feelings. It has been noted that in the long history of attempts to explain the emergence and persistence of consciousness in terms of Darwinian principles that “none of these proposals really bear up to close scrutiny.”[4] “[F]actors, such as a simple love of life and the value of having a substantial core self, reached a plateau long before human beings and intellectual reflection came on the scene.”[5] Subliminal feelings appear to transcend cultures and time. As has been said: “Time and again, the moral sense of right…and wrong…emerges in people between three and ten months of age, far too early to attribute to learning and culture.”[6]


If our subliminal feelings set us apart from other evolutionary animals, what is the source of these feelings? A Model of Human Consciousness[1] offers several suggestions. One possibility that is explored is communication from a non-physical source that might be called God.



Robert H. Kettell

January 2015


[1] Kettell, Robert H., “A Model of Human Consciousness,” Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research, Volume 2, Issue 4, June 2011, page 584-610.

[2] Korn, Peter, “Philosopher On The Lathe,” The Pennsylvania Gazette, December 2014, page 12.

[3] Murray, Charles, “The Founding Virtues,” lecture at the National Constitution Center, December 1, 2014.

[4] Velmans, Max, review of “Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness,” Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 18, Number 11-12, 2011, page 244

[5] Humphrey, Nicholas, Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness, Princeton University Press, 2011, page 207.

[6] Shermer, Michael, “The Genesis of Justice,” Scientific American, May 2014, page 78.