Cultivation of Perception

Man gains his knowledge of the outside world through his senses. And, consequently, many of us are in the habit of thinking of these senses as if they did the sensing, instead of being merely carriers of the vibrations coming from the outside world, which are then presented to the Mind for examination. We shall speak of this at greater length a little later on in this lesson. Just now we wish to impress upon you the fact that it is the Mind that perceives, not the senses. And, consequently, a development of Perception is really a development of the Mind.

The Yogis put their students through a very arduous course of practice and exercises designed to develop their powers of perception. To many this would appear to be merely a development of the Senses, which might appear odd in view of the fact that the Yogis are constantly preaching the folly of being governed and ruled by the senses. But there is nothing paradoxical about all this, for the Yogis, while preaching the folly of sense life, and manifesting the teaching in their lives, nevertheless believe in any and all exercises calculated to “sharpen” the Mind, and develop it to a keen state and condition.

They see a great difference between having a sharpened perception, on the one hand, and being a slave to the senses on the other. For instance, what would be thought of a man who objected to acquiring a keen eyesight, for fear it would lead him away from higher things, by reason of his becoming attached to the beautiful things he might see. To realize the folly of this idea, one may look at its logical conclusion, which would be that one would then be much better off if all their senses were destroyed. The absurdity, not to say wickedness, of such an idea will be apparent to everyone, after a minute’s consideration.

The secret of the Yogi theory and teachings regarding the development of the Mental powers, lies in the word “Mastery.” The Yoga student accomplishes and attains this mastery in two ways. The first way is by subordinating all the feelings, sense-impressions, etc., to the Mastery of the “I,” or Will, the Mastery being obtained in this way by the assertion of the dominancy of the “I” over the faculties and emotions, etc. The second step, or way, lies in the Yogi, once having asserted the mastery, beginning to develop and perfect the Mental instrument, so as to get better work and returns from it. In this way he increases his kingdom and is Master over a much larger territory.

In order for one to gain knowledge, it is necessary to use to the best advantage the mental instruments and tools that he finds at his disposal. And again, one must develop and improve such tools–put a keen edge upon them, etc. Not only does one gain a great benefit from a development of the faculties of perception, but he also acquires an additional benefit from the training of the whole mind arising from the mental discipline and training resulting from the former exercises, etc. In our previous lessons we have pointed out some of the means by which these faculties might be greatly improved, and their efficiency increased.

In this lesson we shall point out certain directions in which the Perceptive faculties may be trained. We trust that the simplicity of the idea may not cause any of our students to lose interest in the work. If they only knew just what such development would lead to they would gladly follow our suggestions in the matter. Every one of the ideas and exercises given by us are intended to lead up to the strengthening of the Mind, and the attainment of powers and the unfoldment of faculties. There is no royal road to Raja Yoga, but the student will be well repaid for the work of climbing the hill of Attainment.

In view of the above, let us examine the question of The Senses. Through the doors of the senses Man receives all his information regarding the outside world. If he keeps these doors but half open, or crowded up with obstacles and rubbish, he may expect to receive but few messages from outside. But if he keeps his doorways clear, and clean, he will obtain the best that is passing his way.

If one were born without sense-organs–no matter how good a Mind he might have–he would be compelled to live his life in a dreamy plant-life stage of existence, with little or no consciousness. The Mind would be like a seed in the earth, that for some reason was prevented from growing.

One may object that the highest ideas do not come to us through the senses, but the reply is that the things obtained through the senses are the “raw material” upon which the mind works, and fashions the beautiful things that it is able to produce in its highest stages. Just as is the body dependent for growth upon the nourishment taken into it, so is the mind dependent for growth upon the impressions received from the Universe–and these impressions come largely through the senses.

It may be objected to that we know many things that we have not received through our senses. But, does the objector include the impressions that came through his senses in some previous existence, and which have been impressed upon his instinctive mind, or soul-memory? It is true that there are higher senses than those usually recognized, but Nature insists upon one learning the lessons of the lower grades before attempting those of the higher.

Do not forget that all that we know we have “worked for.” There is nothing that comes to the idler, or shirker. What we know is merely the result of “stored-up accumulations of previous experience,” as Lewes has so well said.

So it will be seen that the Yogi idea that one should develop all parts of the Mind is strictly correct, if one will take the trouble to examine into the matter. A man sees and knows but very little of what is going on about him. His limitations are great. His powers of vision report only a few vibrations of light, while below and above the scale lie an infinity of vibrations unknown to him. The same is true of the powers of hearing, for only a comparatively small portion of the sound-waves reach the Mind of Man–even some of the animals hear more than he does. If a man had only one sense he would obtain but a one-sense idea of the outside world. If another sense is added his knowledge is doubled. And so on.

The best proof of the relation between increased sense perception and development is had in the study of the evolution of animal forms. In the early stages of life the organism has only the sense of feeling–and very dim at that–and a faint sense of taste. Then developed smell, hearing and sight, each marking a distinct advance in the scale of life, for a new world has been opened out to the advancing forms of life. And, when man develops new senses–and this is before the race–he will be a much wiser and greater being.

Carpenter, many years ago, voiced a thought that will be familiar to those who are acquainted with the Yogi teachings regarding the unfoldment of new senses. He said: “It does not seem at all improbable that there are properties of matter of which none of our senses can take immediate cognizance, and which other beings might be formed to perceive in the same manner as we are sensible to light, sound, etc.”

And Isaac Taylor said: “It may be that within the field observed by the visible and ponderable universe there is existing and moving another element fraught with another species of life–corporeal, indeed, and various in its orders, but not open to cognizance of those who are confined to the conditions of animal organization. Is it to be thought that the eye of man is the measure of the Creator’s power?–and that He created nothing but that which he has exposed to our present senses? The contrary seems much more than barely possible; ought we not to think it almost certain?”

Another writer. Prof. Masson, has said: “If a new sense or two were added to the present normal number, in man, that which is now the phenomenal world for all of us might, for all that we know, burst into something amazingly different and wider, in consequence of the additional revelations of these new senses.”

But not only is this true, but Man may increase his powers of knowledge and experience if he will but develop the senses he has to a higher degree of efficiency, instead of allowing them to remain comparatively atrophied. And toward this end, this lesson is written.