My favorite anarchic comedians are the Marx brothers. Of all their movies, I liked 1933’s Duck Soup, the crazed, anti-war political satire, the best. All of their movies were really excuses to present comic bits. Some of the bits were recreations of movie skits created by Buster Keaton; he even helped them, without credit, perform them well. Other bits seem to have been taken from vaudeville scenes.

A year earlier, in 1932, the Marx madness was seen in Horse Feathers, the studio’s (Paramount) highest-grossing film of the year. In the film there is a scene set at the door to a speakeasy. From 1920–1933, it was illegal to manufacture or sell alcohol in the U.S. During this time, known simply as Prohibition, people found ways to get alcohol and drink. Private clubs popped up known as speakeasies. They offered illegal alcohol along with other illegal by popular activities. They did no advertising and didn’t indicate they were such clubs outside the doors. In order to prevent law enforcement from getting it, the protective doors might have small slots or panels that could be opened so a guard could look outside and see who was there. To get in you might have to prove you were okay or knew someone who was okay. This could be accomplished by giving the guard a password.

In Horse Feathers, there is a brief, crazed scene where Groucho is trying to get into a speakeasy, but doesn’t know that the password is “swordfish.” You can see the scene here: LINK

[Professor Wagstaff (Groucho) knocks again. Baravelli (Chico) opens peephole again.] Baravelli: Hey, what’s-a matter, you no understand English? You can’t come in here unless you say,
…………….. “Swordfish.” Now I’ll give you one more guess.
Professor Wagstaff:…swordfish, swordfish…I think I got it. Is it “swordfish?”
Baravelli: Hah. That’s-a it. I guess it.
Professor Wagstaff: Pretty good, eh?

The Swordfish of the Mind

To me, this scene is a metaphor for the way the mind works. Groucho, on the outside, is like the conscious mind. He’s trying to get inside in order to get the benefits that are there. The speakeasy itself is like the unconscious mind, holding all sorts of amazing and desirable secrets. Chico, the guard, is like a block between the conscious and unconscious minds. Unless you know the password, you’re not going to have access to the unconscious.

So why is this image of value? To understand requires a brief explanation of important differences between the conscious and unconscious (or subconscious) mind.

For this discussion, the unconscious mind can be considered the “decision maker.” Information comes into the unconscious through six sources: visual, aural, touch and feelings, taste, smell, and self-talk. There is so much information coming into the unconscious that it gets filtered with deletions, distortions, and generalizations, so the unconscious only receives what you consider important. From this information, it makes up its…or your…mind to do something. As a side note, all decisions made by the unconscious are instantaneous. It may take a while to lead up to a decision made by the unconscious, but when it’s ready, it instantly makes a decision. It sends the decision to the conscious mind.

For this discussion, the conscious mind can be considered the “decision manifester.” Whatever the unconscious wants, the conscious makes happen. Here is the structure of this pattern:

Information —> Filter —> Unconscious Considers, Makes Decision —> Conscious Manifests It

However, if the conscious mind gets involved at the beginning and determines it wants something, that filter section is a bit different. Rather than simply deleting, distorting and generalizing, it considers what it should pass on to the unconscious. This consideration critically assesses what you consciously want based on previous knowledge and experience. This “part” of you is called the Critical Factor. Now the pattern looks like this:

Conscious Decision —> C. F. —> Unconscious Decision —> Conscious Manifests It

Let’s look at a real-world situation and see how this works:

Conscious Decision: I want to quit smoking.
Critical Factor: The Surgeon General says quitting smoking is harder than getting off heroin!
…………………….You’re not that strong. You can’t do it!
Unconscious Mind: Okay. I can’t quit smoking.
Conscious Manifestation: No matter how hard I try I can’t stop smoking!

Coué’s Solution

Émile Coué (1857–1926) was a French psychologist who popularized an easy, do-it-yourself, home solution, the Coué Method of Optimistic Autosuggestion. If you want to improve your life, just look in the mirror and say repeatedly, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” Today, the repetition of positive affirmations is popular among occultists and New Agers. Say it and you’ll get it. It’s used by many as part of the so-called “Law of Attraction.” And in most situations, it’s overly time consuming to a point of being worthless.

The second pattern above shows why. No matter what you consciously say, the Critical Factor will change it before it gets to the Decision Maker, the unconscious mind.

It’s like knocking on the door of a speakeasy. The guard is going to keep you out no matter what you say. However, if you keep coming back enough times, eventually the guard may let you through. The guard gets to know and trust you. How long that will take is unknown. Weeks? Months? Years? Most people will lose interest before then. And that’s why, for most people, positive affirmations simply don’t work.

There are ways to speed up the process. If you use all of your senses and emotions to try and convince the Critical Factor guard to let you through, it might work. Patience and endurance will work. But there is another way.

Bypassing the Critical Factor

There is a simple and safe way to get around the Critical Factor. The unconscious mind actually functions like an eager six-year-old. It wants to do what you tell it. Get the information you want to the unconscious and it will make the decision you want, resulting in your conscious acting on the decision. The pattern now looks like this:

Conscious Decision —>  Unconscious Decision —> Conscious Manifests It

So what amazing power do we all have that will let us bypass the Critical Factor? It’s the ability to go into a hypnotic trance. In spite of what you may have read, everyone reading this post is capable of easily going into hypnosis. It’s safe and efficient and powerful. The keys to using hypnosis to bypass the Critical Factor and achieve consciously desired goals consist of learning how to go into hypnosis and learning how to effectively talk to the unconscious mind.

Unfortunately, these two techniques are a bit too complex to describe here. Luckily, there are some great books you can use:

Hypnosis for Beginners by William W. Hewitt

Self Hypnosis for a Better Life by William W. Hewitt

New Age Hypnosis by Dr. Bruce Goldberg

Self Empowerment Through Self Hypnosis by
Carl Llewellyn Weschcke and Joe H. Slate

Self Empowerment Through Self Hypnosis CD Companion
by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke and Joe H. Slate





Written by Donald Michael Kraig
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy. He has also studied public speaking and music (traditional and experimental) on the university level. After a decade of personal study and practice, he began ten years of teaching courses in the Southern California area on such ...