A term first used by A. H. Pierce of Harvard University for sensations beneath the threshold of consciousness, too vague to be individually recognized. F. W. H. Myers extended the meaning to cover all that takes place beneath the consciousness threshold—sensations, thoughts, and emotions that seldom emerge but form a consciousness quite as complex and coherent as the supraliminal one, since they demonstrate processes of mentation and exhibit a continuous chain of memory.
Nevertheless, Myers did not consider the subliminal consciousness a separate self but, together with the supraliminal (normal consciousness) one, a fragment of the larger self revealed through an organism that cannot afford it full manifestation. In this concept he came close to the Hindu Vedanta concepts of jiva (individual soul) as part of atman (collective soul).
Myers attributed most supernormal psychical phenomena to the subliminal self, but not as a complete explanation or exclusion of the spirit hypothesis. On the contrary, his inference was that if our incarnate selves may act in telepathy in at least apparent independence of the fleshly body, the presumption is strong that other spirits may exist independently of the body and may affect us in a similar manner.
Myers divided the influence of the subliminal on the supraliminal into three main areas: (1) When the subliminal mentation cooperates with and supplements the supraliminal, without changing the apparent phase of personality, we have genius. (2) When subliminal operations change the apparent phase of personality from the state of waking toward the direction of trance, we have hypnotism. (3) When the subliminal mentation forces itself up through the supraliminal, without amalgamation, as in crystal vision, automatic writing, and so forth, we have sensory or motor automatism.
sub·lim·i·nal / səˈblimənl/ • adj. Psychol. (of a stimulus or mental process) below the threshold of sensation or consciousness; perceived by or affecting someone's mind without their being aware of it. DERIVATIVES: sub·lim·i·nal·ly adv.