General Rules of Perception

We trust that what we have said will bring the student to a realization of the importance of developing the powers of Perception. The senses have been developed by the mind during a long period of evolution and effort that surely would not have been given unless the object in view was worth it all. The “I” insists upon obtaining knowledge of the Universe, and much of this knowledge may be obtained only through the senses. The Yogi student must be “wide awake” and possessed of developed senses and powers of Perception. The senses of Sight and Hearing, the two latest in the scale of Evolutionary growth and unfoldment, must receive a particular degree of attention. The student must make himself “aware” of what is going on about and around him, so that he may “catch” the best vibrations.

It would surprise many Westerners if they could come in contact with a highly developed Yogi, and witness the marvelously finely developed senses he possesses. He is able to distinguish the finest differences in things, and his mind is so trained that, in thought, he may draw conclusions from what he has perceived, in a manner that seems almost “second-sight” to the uninitiated. In fact, a certain degree of second-sight is possible to one who develops his sense of Sight, under the urge of Attention. A new world is opened out to such a person. One must learn to master the senses, not only in the direction of being independent of and superior to their urgings, but also in the matter of developing them to a high degree. The development of the physical senses, also has much to do with the development of the “Astral Senses,” of which we have spoken in our “Fourteen Lessons,” and of which we may have more to say in the present series. The idea of Raja Yoga is to render the student the possessor of a highly developed Mind, with highly developed instruments with which the mind may work.

In our future lessons we shall give the student many illustrations, directions, and exercises calculated to develop the different faculties of the mind–not only the ordinary faculties of everyday use, but others hidden behind these familiar faculties and senses. Commencing with the next lesson, we shall present a system of exercises, drills, etc., the purpose of which will be the above mentioned development of the faculties of the Mind.

In this lesson we shall not attempt to give specific exercises, but will content ourselves with calling the attention of the student to a few general rules underlying the development of Perception.

The first thing to remember in acquiring the art of Perception is that one should not attempt to perceive the whole of a complex thing or object at the same time, or at once. One should consider the object in detail, and then, by grouping the details, he will find that he has considered the whole. Let us take the face of a person as a familiar object. If one tries to perceive a face as a whole, he will find that he will meet with a certain degree of failure, the impression being indistinct and cloudy, it following, also, that the memory of that face will correspond with the original perception.

But let the observer consider the face in detail, first the eyes, then the nose, then the mouth, then the chin, then the hair, then the outline of the face, the complexion, etc., and he will find that he will have acquired a clear and distinct impression or perception of the whole face.

The same rule may be applied to any subject or object. Let us take another familiar illustration. You wish to observe a building. If you simply get a general perception of the building as a whole, you will be able to remember very little about it, except its general outlines, shape, size, color, etc. And a description will prove to be very disappointing. But if you have noted, in detail, the material used, the shape of the doors, chimney, roof, porches, decorations, trimmings, ornamentation, size and number of the window-panes etc., etc., the shape and angles of the roof, etc., you will have an intelligent idea of the building, in the place of a mere general outline or impression of such as might be acquired by an animal in passing.

We will conclude this lesson with an anecdote of the methods of that famous naturalist Agassiz, in his training of his pupils. His pupils became renowned for their close powers of observation and perception, and their consequent ability to “think” about the things they had seen. Many of them rose to eminent positions, and claimed that this was largely by reason of their careful training.

The tale runs that a new student presented himself to Agassiz one day, asking to be set to work. The naturalist took a fish from a jar in which it had been preserved, and laying it before the young student bade him observe it carefully, and be ready to report upon what he had noticed about the fish. The student was then left alone with the fish. There was nothing especially interesting about that fish–it was like many other fishes that he had seen before. He noticed that it had fins and scales, and a mouth and eyes, yes, and a tail. In a half hour he felt certain that he had observed all about that fish that there was to be perceived. But the naturalist remained away.

The time rolled on, and the youth, having nothing else to do, began to grow restless and weary. He started out to hunt up the teacher, but he failed to find him, and so had to return and gaze again at that wearisome fish. Several hours had passed, and he knew but little more about the fish than he did in the first place.

He went out to lunch and when he returned it was still a case of watching the fish. He felt disgusted and discouraged, and wished he had never come to Agassiz, whom, it seemed, was a stupid old man after all,–one away behind the times. Then, in order to kill time, he began to count the scales. This completed he counted the spines of the fins. Then he began to draw a picture of the fish. In drawing the picture he noticed that the fish had no eyelids. He thus made the discovery that as his teacher had expressed it often, in lectures, “a pencil is the best of eyes.” Shortly after the teacher returned, and after ascertaining what the youth had observed, he left rather disappointed, telling the boy to keep on looking and maybe he would see something.

This put the boy on his mettle, and he began to work with his pencil, putting down little details that had escaped him before, but which now seemed very plain to him. He began to catch the secret of observation. Little by little he brought to light new objects of interest about the fish. But this did not suffice his teacher, who kept him at work on the same fish for three whole days. At the end of that time the student really knew something about the fish, and, better than all, had acquired the “knack” and habit of careful observation and perception in detail. Years after, the student, then attained to eminence, is reported as saying: “That was the best zoological lesson I ever had–a lesson whose influence has extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy that the professor left to me, as he left to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, and with which we cannot part.”

Apart from the value to the student of the particular information obtained, was the quickening of the perceptive faculties that enabled him to observe the important points in a subject or object, and, consequently to deduce important information from that which was observed. The Mind is hungry for knowledge, and it has by years of weary evolution and effort built up a series of sense systems in order to yield it that knowledge and it is still building. The men and women in the world who have arrived at the point of success have availed themselves of these wonderful channels of information, and by directing them under the guidance of Will and Attention, have attained wonderful results. These things are of importance, and we beg of our students not to pass by this portion of the subject as uninteresting. Cultivate a spirit of wide-awakeness and perception, and the “knowing” that will come to you will surprise you.

No only do you develop the existing senses by such practice and use, but you help in the unfoldment of the latent powers and senses that are striving for unfoldment. By using and exercising the faculties that we have, we help to unfold those for the coming of which we have been dreaming.


I am a Soul, possessed of channels of communication with the outer world. I will use these channels, and thereby acquire the information and knowledge necessary for my mental development. I will exercise and develop my organs of sense, knowing that in so doing I shall cause to unfold the higher senses, of which they are but forerunners and symbols. I will be “wide-awake” and open to the inflow of knowledge and information. The Universe is my Home–I will explore it.