Every professional musician who performs publicly utilizes the two compartments of their mind in perhaps a more unique way than any other profession. Were it not for the amazing capabilities of this mind that the Creator has formed, no performing artist could go onstage and play with almost flawless precision for an hour or more without having a note of music before them. Consider, for example, a pianist who wants to do a piano concert. To prepare for that concert, they will have to spend many hours each day, consciously learning all the notes with their time values, dynamics, and nuances of expression and interpretation. All the myriad moves involving the two hands on the keyboard as well as the feet on the piano pedals make playing a very complicated mental process.
Music and Mind
But what is happening in their mind as they are doing that? As they are consciously practicing their pieces, a wonderful and mysterious process is taking place. All the tens of thousands of notes, with their varied time values and dynamic qualities, are being recorded in the subconscious part of the mind, along with their personal interpretation and expression. The more frequently the pieces are played, the stronger the mental recording becomes. Eventually the recording in their subconscious mind becomes so firmly imprinted that they can play the whole repertoire without consciously thinking about the mechanics of notes and time values. Their conscious mind will just reflect the general outlines and flow of the music. They might even be able to carry on a brief conversation as they play. That is because their subconscious mind has taken over in the performance of the music, leaving their conscious mind to engage in some other activity such as responding to a question or making a comment. That is a marvelous mental feat that helps us understand and appreciate what the psalmist meant when he exclaimed: “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14).
If the pianist is doing a Chopin concert, they might include Chopin’s “Fantaisie-Impromptu.” This piece has approximately 3,000 notes that they will store in their memory. But they also have multiple other mental notations that need to be stored there, such as the time values for each note, the volume, the touch, either staccato or legato, the fingering, and the pedaling. That means that there are five mental notations for each note played besides playing the right note. That adds up to about 15,000 mental notations that will be stored in their subconscious mind for just that piece. They might also decide to play Chopin’s Ballade in A-flat. It has about 5,400 notes, resulting in about 27,000 notations in the subconscious mind. To do an hour’s concert, they would probably have a total of approximately 210,000 mental notations in their subconscious mind, ready for recall when needed.
Truly the Creator has endowed human beings with a living computer that is infinitely more elaborate and complex than the most sophisticated computer we have in our modern world of technology. Ellen White notes that “it was a wonderful thing for God to create man, to make mind.”1 It is the mind that sets humanity above all the other order of beings and makes humans the crowning work of God’s creation. God has given us a simple diagram that will help us understand how this living computer actually works. In 2 Corinthians 6:16 we are told that human beings are a temple in which God wants to dwell by His Spirit. This passage quotes from Exodus 25:8, where God told Moses to “make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” In the layout of the sanctuary we can learn something about ourselves that is simple yet profound.
The sanctuary was laid out with an outer court that surrounded the inner sanctuary with its two apartments. Likewise, the human temple also has an outer court and an inner sanctuary with its two compartments. Paul referred to this in 2 Corinthians 4:16 when he stated: “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” The outer court represents the outer being, the physical body, which can be seen and touched. The bones, the nerves, the muscles, the brain and organs of the body, are all part of the outer human. The inner court with its two apartments represents the conscious and subconscious mind, the intellect, the inner “you” that projects your individuality and personality. This is the spiritual part of human nature that cannot be seen or touched. Yet it is very real and powerful in its influence. The Bible uses a number of synonyms to describe the mind. Such terms as heart, soul, and spirit are commonly used when referring to the mind and its functions.2
Brain, Mind, and Character
There is a difference between the physical brain and the mind. Note the following quote: “The brain is the organ and instrument of the mind and controls the whole body.”3 Here the brain is likened to an organ and the mind is like the organist. An organ cannot make any sound without an organist; neither can an organist play one note without an organ. They are interdependent. “The mind controls the whole man. All our actions, good or bad, have their source in the mind. . . . All the physical organs are the servants of the mind, and the nerves are the messengers that transmit its orders to every part of the body, guiding the motions of the living machinery. ”4 So when the pianist does a piano performance, the subconscious mind sends the musical notations stored there to the brain, which in turn transmits the signals to the nerves, and they guide the motions of the hand and fingers to act on the keyboard with amazing accuracy to produce the inspiring sounds we love to hear. That truly is a complicated mental process that we normally take for granted.
There is a deep spiritual lesson in this. If a pianist is careless about the way they learn the pieces they want to perform, if they don’t get all the notes right or miss the timing of some passages, it will be reproduced in their performance on the concert stage. Likewise, if we are careless in our thinking, if we harbor bitter or impure thoughts, they will be reflected in our character and personality as we perform in our daily lives. As the pianist expresses their personality and individuality of character in their performance, so we also will reflect our character and personality in our daily lives. The importance of making a good recording in our subconscious mind is prioritized when we realize that our character, our individuality, is the only thing that we can take from this life into the next. There the mind will continue to develop and grow in the attainment of knowledge and wisdom. All the talents and abilities developed while on earth will in the hereafter find limitless development and expand to new heights of attainment. Without the inhibiting, limiting effects of sin, the mind that God created as His masterpiece will there find its truest and fullest expression.