A term formerly used in psychical research to denote that
part of the personality is normally beneath the threshold
(limen) separating consciousness from unconsciousness. The
phrase owed its popularity largely to pioneer researcher F. W.
H. Myers, who made use of it to explain the psychic phenomena
he had observed. The view of Myers was that only a fraction
of the human personality, or soul, finds adequate expression
through the ordinary cerebral processes, because the brain and
physical organism have not yet reached a very advanced stage
of evolution. The soul, in short, is like an iceberg, with a fraction
of its bulk above water but with a much greater part submerged.
The subliminal self, according to Myers, is in touch with a
reservoir of psychical energy, from which it draws forces that
influence the physical organism. Thus the inspiration of genius,
the exaltation of the perceptive and intellectual faculties
in hypnosis, and such exercises as automatic writing and talking
and table turning are caused by great influxes of these psychical
forces rather than by any spirit influences.
These hypotheses have been advanced to explain telepathy
and communication between the living and the dead, as well as
hallucination, automatism, and all the phenomena of hypnotism.
But the two former, even if they could be demonstrated,
would have to be explained on other grounds, while the others,
whose existence is undisputed, are more generally regarded as
resulting from cerebral dissociation (i.e., the temporary dislocation
of the connecting links between the various neural systems).
(See also Subconscious)