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Perception (from the Latin perceptio, percipio) is defined as the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information, in order to represent and understand the environment.

General description

Mme. Blavatsky described the perception of stimuli in terms of the different principles that compose human beings:

In the normal or natural state, the sensations are transmitted from the lowest physical to the highest spiritual body, i.e., from the first to the 6th principle (the 7th being no organized or conditioned body, but an infinite, hence unconditioned principle or state), the faculties of each body having to awaken the faculties of the next higher one, to transmit the message in succession, until they reach the last, when, having received the impression, the latter (the spiritual soul) sends it back in an inverse order to the body. Hence, the faculties of some of the “bodies” (we use this word for want of a better term) being less developed, they fail to transmit the message correctly to the highest principle, and thus also fail to produce the right impression upon the physical senses, as a telegram may have started for the place of its destination faultless, and have been bungled up and misinterpreted by the telegraph operator at some intermediate station. This is why some people, otherwise endowed with great intellectual powers and perceptive faculties, are often utterly unable to appreciate—say, the beauties of nature, or some particular moral quality; as, however perfect their physical intellect—unless the original, material or rough physical impression conveyed has passed in a circuit through the sieve of every “principle”—(from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, up to 7, and down again from 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, to No. 1)—and that every “sieve” is in good order—the spiritual perception will always be imperfect. The Yogi, who, by a constant training and incessant watchfulness, keeps his septenary instrument in good tune and whose spirit has obtained a perfect control over all, can, at will, and by paralysing the functions of the four intermediate principles, communicate from body to spirit and vice versa—direct.[1]

Dr. Annie Besant described this process as follows:

This process of perceiving objects is a complex one. It must be remembered that objects contact the body in various ways, and the body receives some of their vibrations by the parts differentiated to receive such vibrations. The eye, the ear, the skin, the tongue, the nose, receive various vibratory waves, and certain cells in the organs affected vibrate similarly in response. The waves set up pass to the sense-centres in the brain, and thence to the knowledge-senses in the astral sheath; there the changes in consciousness take place which corres­pond with them, as explained in Chapter II., and they are sent on as these changes, the sensations of colour, out­line, sound, form, taste, smell, etc., still as separate sensations, to consciousness working in the mental sheath, and are there combined by it into a single image, unified into a single perception of an object. This blending of the various streams into one, this synthesis of sensa­tions, is a specialty of the mind. Hence, in Indian psychology, the mind is often called “the sixth sense”, “the senses, of which mind is the sixth”. When we consider the five organs of action in relation to the mind, we find a reverse process going on; the mind pictures a certain act as a whole, and thereby brings about a corresponding set of vibrations in the mental sheath; these vibrations are reproduced in the motor senses in the astral sheath; they break it up, analyse it into its constituent parts, and these are accompanied with vibrations in the matter of the motor centres; these, in turn, are repeated in the motor centres in the brain as separate waves; the motor centres distribute these waves through the ner­vous system to the various muscles that must co-operate to produce the action. Regarded in this double relation the mind becomes the eleventh sense, “the ten senses and the one”.[2]


  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IV (Wheaton, Ill: Theosophical Publishing House, 1991), 101-102.
  2. Annie Besant, A Study in Cosnciousness (Adyar, Chennai: Theosophical Publishing House, ??), ???.