The Astral SensesThe student of occultism usually is quite familiar with the crass individual who assumes the cheap skeptical attitude toward occult matters, which attitude he expresses in his would-be "smart" remark that he "believes only in what his senses perceive." He seems to think that his cheap wit has finally disposed of the matter, the implication being that the occultist is a credulous, "easy" person who believes in the existence of things contrary to the evidence of the senses. While the opinion or views of persons of this class are, of course, beneath the serious concern of any true student of occultism, nevertheless the mental attitude of such persons are worthy of our passing consideration, inasmuch as it serves to give us an object lesson regarding the childlike attitude of the average so-called "practical" persons regarding the matter of the evidence of the senses. These so-called practical persons have much to say regarding their senses.
They are fond of speaking of "the evidence of my senses." They also have much to say about the possession of "good sense" on their part; of having "sound common sense"; and often they make the strange boast that they have "horse sense," seeming to consider this a great possession. Alas, for the pretensions of this class of persons. They are usually found quite credulous regarding matters beyond their everyday field of work and thought, and accept without question the most ridiculous teachings and dogmas reaching them from the voice of some claimed authority, while they sneer at some advanced teaching which their minds are incapable of comprehending. Anything which seems unusual to them is deemed "flighty," and lacking in appeal to their much prized "horse sense." But, it is not my intention to spend time in discussing these insignificant half-penny intellects. I have merely alluded to them in order to bring to your mind the fact that to many persons the idea of "sense" and that of "senses" is very closely allied. They consider all knowledge and wisdom as "sense;" and all such sense as being derived directly from their ordinary five senses. They ignore almost completely the intuitional phases of the mind, and are unaware of many of the higher processes of reasoning. Such persons accept as undoubted anything that their senses report to them. They consider it heresy to question a report of the senses.
One of their favorite remarks is that "it almost makes me doubt my senses." They fail to perceive that their senses, at the best, are very imperfect instruments, and that the mind is constantly employed in correcting the mistaken report of the ordinary five senses. Not to speak of the common phenomenon of color-blindness, in which one color seems to be another, our senses are far from being exact. We may, by suggestion, be made to imagine that we smell or taste certain things which do not exist, and hypnotic subjects may be caused to see things that have no existence save in the imagination of the person. The familiar experiment of the person crossing his first two fingers, and placing them on a small object, such as a pea or the top of a lead-pencil, shows us how "mixed" the sense of feeling becomes at times. The many familiar instances of optical delusions show us that even our sharp eyes may deceive us—every conjuror knows how easy it is to deceive the eye by suggestion and false movements. Perhaps the most familiar example of mistaken sense-reports is that of the movement of the earth.
The senses of every person report to him that the earth is a fixed, immovable body, and that the sun, moon, planets, and stars move around the earth every twenty-four hours. It is only when one accepts the reports of the reasoning faculties, that he knows that the earth not only whirls around on its axis every twenty-four hours, but that it circles around the sun every three hundred and sixty-five days; and that even the sun itself, carrying with it the earth and the other planets, really moves along in space, moving toward or around some unknown point far distant from it. If there is any one particular report of the senses which would seem to be beyond doubt or question, it certainly would be this elementary sense report of the fixedness of the earth beneath our feet, and the movements of the heavenly bodies around it—and yet we know that this is merely an illusion, and that the facts of the case are totally different. Again, how few persons really realize that the eye perceives things up-side-down, and that the mind only gradually acquires the trick of adjusting the impression? I am not trying to make any of you doubt the report of his or her five senses.
That would be most foolish, for all of us must needs depend upon these five senses in our everyday affairs, and would soon come to grief were we to neglect their reports. Instead, I am trying to acquaint you with the real nature of these five senses, that you may realize what they are not, as well as what they are; and also that you may realize that there is no absurdity in believing that there are more channels of information open to the ego, or soul of the person, than these much used five senses. When you once get a correct scientific conception of the real nature of the five ordinary senses, you will be able to intelligently grasp the nature of the higher psychic faculties or senses, and thus be better fitted to use them. So, let us take a few moments time in order to get this fundamental knowledge well fixed in our minds. What are the five senses, anyway. Your first answer will be: "Feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling." But that is merely a recital of the different forms of sensing. What is a "sense," when you get right down to it? Well, you will find that the dictionary tells us that a sense is a "faculty, possessed by animals, of perceiving external objects by means of impressions made upon certain organs of the body." Getting right down to the roots of the matter, we find that the five senses of man are the channels through which he becomes aware or conscious of information concerning objects outside of himself.
But, these senses are not the sense-organs alone. Back of the organs there is a peculiar arrangement of the nervous system, or brain centres, which take up the messages received through the organs; and back of this, again, is the ego, or soul, or mind, which, at the last, is the real KNOWER. The eye is merely a camera; the ear, merely a receiver of sound-waves; the nose, merely an arrangement of sensitive mucous membrane; the mouth and tongue, simply a container of taste-buds; the nervous system, merely a sensitive apparatus designed to transmit messages to the brain and other centres—all being but part of the physical machinery, and liable to impairment or destruction. Back of all this apparatus is the real Knower who makes use of it. Science tells us that of all the five senses, that of Touch or Feeling was the original—the fundamental sense. All the rest are held to be but modifications of, and specialized forms of, this original sense of feeling. I am telling you this not merely in the way of interesting and instructive scientific information, but also because an understanding of this fact will enable you to more clearly comprehend that which I shall have to say to you about the higher faculties or senses. Many of the very lowly and simple forms of animal life have this one sense only, and that but poorly developed. The elementary life form "feels" the touch of its food, or of other objects which may touch it.
The plants also have something akin to this sense, which in some cases, like that of the Sensitive Plant, for instance, is quite well developed. Long before the sense of sight, or the sensitiveness to light appeared in animal-life, we find evidences of taste, and something like rudimentary hearing or sensitiveness to sounds. Smell gradually developed from the sense of taste, with which even now it is closely connected. In some forms of lower animal life the sense of smell is much more highly developed than in mankind. Hearing evolved in due time from the rudimentary feeling of vibrations. Sight, the highest of the senses, came last, and was an evolution of the elementary sensitiveness to light. But, you see, all these senses are but modifications of the original sense of feeling or touch. The eye records the touch or feeling of the light-waves which strike upon it. The ear records the touch or feeling of the sound-waves or vibrations of the air, which reach it. The tongue and other seats of taste record the chemical touch of the particles of food, or other substances, coming in contact with the taste-buds. The nose records the chemical touch of the gases or fine particles of material which touch its mucous membrane. The sensory-nerves record the presence of outer objects coming in contact with the nerve ends in various parts of the skin of the body. You see that all of these senses merely record the contact or "touch" of outside objects.
But the sense organs, themselves, do not do the knowing of the presence of the objects. They are but pieces of delicate apparatus serving to record or to receive primary impressions from outside. Wonderful as they are, they have their counterparts in the works of man, as for instance: the camera, or artificial eye; the phonograph, or, artificial ear; the delicate chemical apparatus, or artificial taster and smeller; the telegraph, or artificial nerves. Not only this, but there are always to be found nerve telegraph wires conveying the messages of the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue, to the brain—telling the something in the brain of what has been felt at the other end of the line. Sever the nerves leading to the eye, and though the eye will continue to register perfectly, still no message will reach the brain. And render the brain unconscious, and no message will reach it from the nerves connecting with eye, ear, nose, tongue, or surface of the body. There is much more to the receiving of sense messages than you would think at first, you see.
Now all this means that the ego, or soul, or mind, if you prefer the term—is the real Knower who becomes aware of the outside world by means of the messages of the senses. Cut off from these messages the mind would be almost a blank, so far as outside objects are concerned. Every one of the senses so cut off would mean a diminishing or cutting-off of a part of the world of the ego. And, likewise, each new sense added to the list tends to widen and increase the world of the ego. We do not realize this, as a rule. Instead, we are in the habit of thinking that the world consists of just so many things and facts, and that we know every possible one of them. This is the reasoning of a child. Think how very much smaller than the world of the average person is the world of the person born blind, or the person born deaf! Likewise, think how very much greater and wider, and more wonderful this world of ours would seem were each of us to find ourselves suddenly endowed with a new sense! How much more we would perceive. How much more we would feel. How much more we would know. How much more we would have to talk about. Why, we are really in about the same position as the poor girl, born blind, who said that she thought that the color of scarlet must be something like the sound of a trumpet. Poor thing, she could form no conception of color, never having seen a ray of light—she could think and speak only in the terms of touch, sound, taste and smell. Had she also been deaf, she would have been robbed of a still greater share of her world. Think over these things a little.
Suppose, on the contrary, that we had a new sense which would enable us to sense the waves of electricity. In that case we would be able to "feel" what was going on at another place—perhaps on the other side of the world, or maybe, on one of the other planets. Or, suppose that we had an X Ray sense—we could then see through a stone wall, inside the rooms of a house. If our vision were improved by the addition of a telescopic adjustment, we could see what is going on in Mars, and could send and receive communications with those living there. Or, if with a microscopic adjustment, we could see all the secrets of a drop of water—maybe it is well that we cannot do this. On the other hand, if we had a well-developed telepathic sense, we would be aware of the thought-waves of others to such an extent that there would be no secrets left hidden to anyone—wouldn't that alter life and human intercourse a great deal? These things would really be no more wonderful than is the evolution of the senses we have. We can do some of these things by apparatus designed by the brain of man—and man really is but an imitator and adaptor of Nature. Perhaps, on some other world or planet there may be beings having seven, nine or fifteen senses, instead of the poor little five known to us. Who knows!
But it is not necessary to exercise the imagination in the direction of picturing beings on other planets endowed with more senses than have the people of earth. While, as the occult teachings positively state, there are beings on other planets whose senses are as much higher than the earth-man's as the latter's are higher than those of the oyster, still we do not have to go so far to find instances of the possession of much higher and more active faculties than those employed by the ordinary man. We have but to consider the higher psychical faculties of man, right here and now, in order to see what new worlds are open to him. When you reach a scientific understanding of these things, you will see that there really is nothing at all supernatural about much of the great body of wonderful experiences of men in all times which the "horse sense" man sneeringly dismisses as "queer" and "contrary to sense." You will see that these experiences are quite as natural as are those in which the ordinary five senses are employed—though they are super-physical. There is the greatest difference between supernatural and super-physical, you must realize.
All occultists know that man has other senses than the ordinary five, although but few men have developed them sufficiently well to use them effectively. These super-physical senses are known to the occultists as "the astral senses." The term "Astral," used so frequently by all occultists, ancient and modern, is derived from the Greek word "astra," meaning "star." It is used to indicate those planes of being immediately above the physical plane. The astral senses are really the counterparts of the physical senses of man, and are connected with the astral body of the person just as the physical senses are connected with the physical body. The office of these astral senses is to enable the person to receive impressions on the astral plane, just as his physical senses enable him to receive impressions on the physical plane. On the physical plane the mind of man receives only the sense impressions of the physical organs of sense; but when the mind functions and vibrates on the astral plane, it requires astral senses in order to receive the impressions of that plane, and these, as we shall see, are present.
Each one of the physical senses of man has its astral counterpart. Thus man has, in latency, the power of seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling, and hearing, on the astral plane, by means of his five astral senses. More than this, the best occultists know that man really has seven physical senses instead of but five, though these two additional senses are not unfolded in the case of the average person (though occultists who have reached a certain stage are able to use them effectively). Even these two extra physical senses have their counterparts on the astral plane. Persons who have developed the use of their astral senses are able to receive the sense impressions of the astral plane just as clearly as they receive those of the physical plane by means of the physical senses. For instance, the person is thus able to perceive things occurring on the astral plane; to read the Akashic Records of the past; to perceive things that are happening in other parts of the world; to see past happenings as well; and in cases of peculiar development, to catch glimpses of the future, though this is far rarer than the other forms of astral sight.
Again, by means of clairaudience, the person may hear the things of the astral world, past as well as present, and in rare cases, the future. The explanation is the same in each case—merely the receiving of vibrations on the astral plane instead of on the physical plane. In the same way, the astral senses of smelling, tasting, and feeling operate. But though we have occasional instances of astral feeling, in certain phases of psychic phenomena, we have practically no manifestation of astral smelling or tasting, although the astral senses are there ready for use. It is only in instances of traveling in the astral body that the last two mentioned astral senses, viz., smell and taste, are manifested. The phenomena of telepathy, or thought transference, occurs on both the physical and the mental plane. On the physical plane it is more or less spontaneous and erratic in manifestation; while on the astral plane it is as clear, reliable and responsive to demand as is astral sight, etc.The ordinary person has but occasional flashes of astral sensing, and as a rule is not able to experience the phenomenon at will. The trained occultist, on the contrary, is able to shift from one set of senses to the other, by a simple act or effort of will, whenever he may wish to do so. Advanced occultists are often able to function on both physical and astral planes at the same time, though they do not often desire to do so. To vision astrally, the trained occultist merely shifts his sensory mechanism from physical to astral, or vice versa, just as the typewriter operator shifts from the small-letter type to the capitals, by simply touching the shift-key of his machine.
Many persons suppose that it is necessary to travel on the astral plane, in the astral body, in order to use the astral senses. This is a mistake. In instances of clairvoyance, astral visioning, psychometry, etc., the occultist remains in his physical body, and senses the phenomena of the astral plane quite readily, by means of the astral senses, just as he is able to sense the phenomena of the physical plane when he uses the physical organs—quite more easily, in fact, in many instances. It is not even necessary for the occultist to enter into the trance condition, in the majority of cases. Travel in the astral body is quite another phase of occult phenomena, and is far more difficult to manifest. The student should never attempt to travel in the astral body except under the instruction of some competent instructor. In Crystal Gazing, the occultist merely employs the crystal in order to concentrate his power, and to bring to a focus his astral vision. There is no supernatural virtue in the crystal itself—it is merely a means to an end; a piece of useful apparatus to aid in the production of certain phenomena. In Psychometry some object is used in order to bring the occulist "en rapport" with the person or thing associated with it. But it is the astral senses which are employed in describing either the past environment of the thing, or else the present or past doings of the person in question, etc. In short, the object is merely the loose end of the psychic ball of twine which the psychometrist proceeds to wind or unwind at will. Psychometry is merely one form of astral seeing; just as is crystal gazing.
In what is known as Telekinesis, or movement at a distance, there is found the employment of both astral sensing, and astral will action accompanied in many cases by actual projection of a portion of the substance of the astral body.In the case of Clairvoyance, we have an instance of the simplest form of astral seeing, without the necessity of the "associated object" of psychometry, or the focal point of the crystal in crystal gazing. This is true not only of the ordinary form of clairvoyance, in which the occultist sees astrally the happenings and doings at some distant point, at the moment of observation; it is also true of what is known as past clairvoyance, or astral seeing of past events; and in the seeing of future events, as in prophetic vision, etc. These are all simply different forms of one and the same thing.
Surely, some of you may say, "These things are supernatural, far above the realm of natural law—and yet this man would have us believe otherwise." Softly, softly, dear reader, do not jump at conclusions so readily. What do you know about the limits of natural law and phenomena? What right have you to assert that all beyond your customary range of sense experience is outside of Nature? Do you not realize that you are attempting to place a limit upon Nature, which in reality is illimitable? The man of a generation back of the present one would have been equally justified in asserting that the marvels of wireless telegraphy were supernatural, had he been told of the possibility of their manifestation. Going back a little further, the father of that man would have said the same thing regarding the telephone, had anyone been so bold as to have prophesied it. Going back still another generation, imagine the opinion of some of the old men of that time regarding the telegraph. And yet these things are simply the discovery and application of certain of Nature's wonderful powers and forces.
Is it any more unreasonable to suppose that Nature has still a mine of undiscovered treasure in the mind and constitution of man, as well as in inorganic nature? No, friends, these things are as natural as the physical senses, and not a whit more of a miracle. It is only that we are accustomed to one, and not to the other, that makes the astral senses seem more wonderful than the physical. Nature's workings are all wonderful—none more so than the other. All are beyond our absolute conception, when we get down to their real essence. So let us keep an open mind!