The Astral Senses
The 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 travelling 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
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
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
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
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