"The unconscious (call it subconscious if you will, though they're not completely identical) is much older evolutionarily, and it thinks in terms of emotion, memory, intuition and instinct. The much newer conscious apparatus housed in the neocortex is essentially a double-check mechanism, built to analyze and evaluate the immediate unconscious decisions. This is the basis of science and logic. And in comparison it's incredibly slow and unwieldy. So our immediate responses to things tend to be primitive - emotional, superstitious, fear-based etc. It's only with an effort that we then apply the filter of logic or science. And as Kev suggested - unconscious = synthesis / conscious = analysis. This is why dream 'logic' and waking logic are so incompatible. The funny thing about it though - the dream logic is really the more fundamental of the 2, being more ancient and more immediate. Its the way the innermost mind really works. In experiential terms, dreams and fantasies are every bit as real as waking life events - actually more so since waking events must be filtered in through the senses and processed and often contain much that is incomprehensible.
I'm not suggesting science and logic are irrelevant or that unconscious thought is somehow superior - they're two great tastes that taste great together, but it's important to understand how each functions in their symbiosis. Without logic and science we'd be lost in an endless dark age of superstitious dread and religious mind control. And on the other side of the coin, science and logic actually grow from the shifting sand of the unconscious, but do function as a bullshit detector."
Plus the bonus weird material I ended up not posting:
"Adding a bit more (and some will feel it's getting increasingly irrelevant I'm sure) - I did an extensive study into story, and wading through the depths of Theater of the Absurd I ran across this nugget - "The story can be completely meaningless and incomprehensible as long as there's a strong emotional through-line" This immediately clicked with what I know of dreams and the unconscious, but I would add conceptual to emotional. What's important in dreams (and thus a good indicator of what's important in the unconscious) is mood, atmosphere, and the emotional or conceptual through-line. The rest of it - order and meaning and historical accuracy etc - is all just set dressing."
.. And the response:
"Actually, I think there is a more important and fundamental principle at work, which is that knowledge isn't a singularity, it can't be. There is no core to the onion of understanding. Knowledge is always relational. And if we understand what it means to be relational, and all the different kind of relational structures, we realize that that is exactly how the brain is set up structurally... from the various regions of the brain down to the neurons and synapses. So even our most logical and critical "double check" thoughts are still going to be relational-sensual in nature. It can't be any other way.
Another consequence of this is that all thoughts, in order to be a relation, must be a movement of some signal, electrical or chemical, along some route through the brain. There are no static thoughts. Which means that everything we imagine, everything we think, no matter how inert or still, no matter if it is a fact or an object, is understood through a sensual movement of signal.
And what this means is that there are no aesthetic nouns. That isn't how we digest information. There are only aesthetic verbs... only sensual movements of signal. Which leads to the idea that, internally, everything, even nouns and letters and the idea of nothingness, is understood via aesthetic verbs. Which, I would posit, means that we don't understand a pot on the floor, for example, except by how it is translated into aesthetic verbs.... in other words, by what it is doing or what it can do or what it has done. Which is to say, we only understand things according to their potentials and their prior and current actions."