The toughest mysteries for the great fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, required three pipe sessions. This didn’t mean that three pipes were employed. No, only one pipe was held by Holmes, but it did have to be filled three times with his favorite brand of tobacco. Puffing away allowed Holmes to drift into his thoughts.
It would be easy to assume that Holmes was using analytical reasoning of the sort we would use for scientific experiments or math or accounting. He has been so often portrayed that way. But if he limited himself to the analytical state of mind only, he never would have invoked brilliant insights. He had to puff his way into his imagination where he could see in his mind’s eye all manner of possibilities.
Pipe #1 – Ease into the dreamy interior and take the first look
Packing the pipe’s bowl carefully, Holmes’ unconscious would know that he would soon be entering the imaginal world. With years of practice, his unconscious would then down regulate his nervous system which in turn would quiet his body. The rest would be up to his conscious mind: letting go of the exterior and investing his attention upon his inner landscape. Holmes would need to slow down his typical busy day-mind to move into a twilight state, that slowly builds towards favoring a dreamy landscape. He could increase his immersion of this landscape by bring up something familiar such as the location of the crime under investigation. Using the power of visualization, he could take what is served up by his memory as fact, as being the actual facts and figures of that location. Exploring each detail, he would find himself switching from awareness of the outer world into the inner world of his crime scene visualization.
Pipe #2 – Poke and Prod Visualizations
Imagination is the perfect blank stage upon which to lay out actions, props, players, and plots. All can be combined, recombined, and combined again. Freeze the action if you want to, eliminate a prop while adding something new to the inner stage. Slow the action down, speed up the action. Zoom in on something or step way back and see the big picture. Add characters, subtract characters. Test how one part of the visualization might be related to another (i.e. the victim’s scuffed shoe and the butler’s knife). Here lies the freedom to do countless “thought experiments” in the laboratory of the imagination.
Pipe #3 – Step Out of the Way and Let the Unconscious Show What It Knows
Fill another bowl and then slowly run through one of the combinations that appeared promising during Pipe #2. This time, “Don’t think”, Holmes would tell himself. No, thinking is not what is needed here. Instead, the focus should be upon the body for the body will speak if only we have the imaginal ears to hear. Some great inner knowing will speak with a tension in the body, or a gut feel, or a change of breathing, or an unexpected movement. Watching and following the body’s lead we ask questions of it and listen for its answers that can come in: more body tension/movement/changes, words, phrases, sounds, intuitive knowing, or images.
……”ah, Watson, I’ve got it. It is so clear now. Come, we must be going. A game is a foot.”