The greater powers of the sense-mind (Manas)

At a certain stage of spiritual progress, when the mind acquires the ability to stay tranquil for large periods of time and the subtle body disengages itself from the bulk of the physical body and begins to extend freely in the subtle physical world, one starts having those flashes of intuition which are indicative of the working of the greater sense-mind (called Manas in Sanskrit).   The mind can see things without the aid of the senses or, as the Katha Upanishad says, mind is the real sense behind the senses. [8]  As per the Mother Mirra Alfassa, some of the esoteric traditions of antiquity recognized that man had not five but twelve senses.   The rest of this article outlines the greater powers of the sense-mind with some examples from recent history followed by a method for enhancing the action of the senses.

Powers of the sense-mind (Manas)

It is our consciousness which is contacting another form of consciousness in every case of extrasensory perception.  The exact  psychological mechanism by which this contact occurs tends to differ which is why there appear to be so many ways of acquiring occult knowledge.  Sri Aurobindo identified a specific power called prakamya, a power of the senses and the sense-mind (Manas), by which they surpass the ordinary limits of the body and become aware by sight, hearing, touch or mental sensation and awareness.   The center of the sense-mind (Manas) is located at the heart [8].  That is one reason some of our hunches appear to emerge from the heart as opposed to previsions which originate from the Ajna Chakra in the middle of the eyebrows.  These are a few different ways in which the greater sense-mind works.

1. Foresight on the material plane

The sense-mind can accurately pick up from the subtle-physical plane the “the present states of mind, feeling, sensation etc of others”, “particular thoughts which they have had in the past whose impression still remains in the chitta record” and it can also read that part of the future “whose image has been formed in the prescient parts of the chitta”. Record of Yoga – I: Sapta Chatusthaya  Regarding the knowledge of the future, certain things are known while the rest is in preparation as discussed elsewhere.

In this context, we can note an incident from the life of the Swedish mystic, scientist and philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg.  On July 29, 1759, at a dinner in Gothenburg, he excitedly told the party at six o’ clock that there was a fire in Stockholm (405 km away), that it had consumed his neighbour’s home and was threatening his own. Two hours later, he exclaimed with relief that the fire stopped three doors from his home. Two days later, reports confirmed every statement to the precise hour that Swedenborg first expressed the information [3].

2. Sensing something by proximity

Sometimes, when one comes close to an object, one can gain an inner contact and know what it is using the sense-mind rather than via physical contact.  As the Mother Mirra Alfassa points out,  “a person who is blind can become aware of an object at some distance through a kind of perception which is not touch for he does not feel it, which is not vision for he does not see, but which is a contact – something that enables him to make a contact without hearing, seeing or touching.  This is one of the most developed senses apart from those we habitually use. ” Questions and Answers (1950 – 1951): 22 March 1951

This is nowadays referred to as blindsight and was recently demonstrated by a blind man who “zigzagged down the hall, sidestepping a garbage can, a tripod, a stack of paper and several boxes as if he could see everything clearly“.  [5, 6] See the video at the bottom of this post. Neuroscientists suspect that when the visual cortex is disabled, visual signals are rerouted through some alternate channel in the brain.  This differs from the occult explanation, which sees it is a manifestation of the latent power of Manas.  Such disagreements can be resolved later.

This power of sensing things by proximity was also demonstrated a few decades ago by the Russian psychic, Rosa Kuleshova (1955-1978) who, after being blindfolded, could use her fingers to read text from an ordinary book.  When she was handed a snapshot, she would correctly identify the scene in the picture.[1]  Some scientists speculated that gifted skin readers possess special cells-rods and cones, like those in the eyes, inside their finger skin. Others leaned to a “radiant” hypothesis, thinking the ability might be caused by infrared rays or even radioactive rays from isotopes in the body caroming back objects to the palm.[2]   The occult explanation, again, is based on the power of the sense-mind.    In this context, it must be noted that the French poet and writer Jules Romain had conducted extensive experiments with paroptic vision and wrote a book titled Vision Extra-Rétinienne. [9]

3. Extended physical vision

According to the Mother, “there is another sense which can put you in touch with events at a great distance; it is a physical sense for it belongs to the physical world, it is not purely mental: there is a sensation.  One must be able to widen the physical consciousness,  project it out of oneself so as to concentrate it on a given point elsewhere in space and thus obtain sight, hearing, smell, taste and even touch at a distance.   It corresponds a little to that capacity which was developed in the Red Indians.  They used to put their ear to the earth, and they had so fine an ear that they could hear steps more than a mile away.” Questions and Answers (1954): 3 February 1954

4. Vision of the inner plane realities

It is also possible by utilizing the inner senses in their purely mental or subtle activity, as distinguished from the external physical action which is only a selection for the purposes of outward life from their total and general action, to take cognition of sense-experiences, of appearances and images of things from the inner planes which do not belong to the organisation of our material environment. The Life Divine – I: The Methods of Vedantic Knowledge

5. Ability to differentiate air or atmosphere of a place

Another power of the senses can be seen in the ability to differentiate the atmosphere which prevails in different places.   According to the Mother,

The air you breathe is not always the same, that there are different vibrations in the air of one country and in the air of another, in the air of one place and in the air of another. If indeed you are accustomed to have this perception of the subtle physical, you can say immediately, “Ah ! This air is as in France” or “This is the air of Japan.”  It is something indefinable like taste or smell. Questions and Answers (1950 – 1951): 19 March 1951

A method to improve the perception of the senses

In the normal course of Yoga, once the subtle body becomes alive, the sense-mind spontaneously starts to exhibit the powers detailed above.  However, one can also consciously enhance the  powers of the senses.   We allude here to some cryptic verses in the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras where he talks of gaining such knowledge by samyama (concentration) on the object.

By directing the flash of inner light of higher sensory activity, knowledge of subtle objects, those hidden from view, and those very distant can be attained. (pravrittyah aloka nyasat suksma vyavahita viprakrista jnanam – Yoga Sutras 3.26)

By samyama(concentration) on the notions or presented ideas comes knowledge of another’s mind. (pratyayasya para chitta jnana – Yoga Sutras 3.19)

By samyama(concentration) over the relation between space and the power of hearing, the higher, divine power of hearing comes. (shrotra akashayoh sambandha samyamat divyam shrotram – Yoga Sutras 3.42)

We do not know if the Mother Mirra Alfassa had read these verses from the Yoga Sutras but she did happen to practice similar techniques during her early days in Paris.  This is an description of how she cultivated the power of Manas.

You choose one sense (or several), perhaps the one for which you have the greatest initial aptitude, and you decide. Then you follow the discipline. It’s similar to doing exercises for developing muscles. You can even manage to create willpower in yourself.

For the subtler senses, the method is to create an exact image of what you want, make contact with the corresponding vibration and then concentrate and practice. For instance, you practice seeing through an object, or hearing through a sound or seeing at a distance.  Hearing behind a sound, means to make contact with the subtle reality behind the material fact: behind the word or the physical sound, or behind music, for example. You concentrate and then hear what is behind. It means contacting the vital reality behind appearances (there can also be a mental reality, but usually what is immediately behind the physical noise is a vital reality). As an example, I was once bedridden for several months, which I found quite boring – I wanted to see. I was staying in one room and beyond that room was another little room and after that a sort of bridge; in the middle of the garden the bridge changed into a stairway going down into a very spacious and beautiful studio built in the middle of the garden. [The studio on Rue Lemercier in Paris, in 1898] I wanted to go see what was happening in the studio – I was bored stiff in my room! So I stayed very still, shut my eyes and gradually, gradually sent out my consciousness. I did the exercise regularly, day after day, at a set hour. You begin with your imagination, and then it becomes a fact. After a while, I distinctly sensed my vision physically moving: I followed it and saw things going on downstairs I knew absolutely nothing about. I would verify it in the evening, asking, “Did it happen like this? Was that how it was?”

But each of these things must be practiced for months, patiently, almost stubbornly. You take the senses one after another: hearing, sight, and eventually even the subtle aspects of taste, smell and touch. Mother’s Agenda: February 27, 1962

Video:Kuda Bux reads blindfolded

See wikipedia bio of Kuda_Bux

Video: Blind man walks the maze

This video also available at at Beatrice Gelder’s website or at the BBC website.

References

  1. Neurology Seeing fingertips. Time Magazine Jan 25 1963.  http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,940237,00.html (Accessed Mar 23 2010)
  2. Sheila Ostrander, Lynn Schroeder. Psychic discoveries behind the iron curtain, Chapter 14.  New York: Prentice Hall, 1984.
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emanuel_Swedenborg#Psychic_accounts (Accessed Mar 23 2010)
  4. Carina Storrs.  People hear with their skin, as well as their ear.  Scientific American Nov 26, 2009.   http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=skin-hearing-airflow-puff-sound-perception (Accessed Mar 23 2010)
  5. Beatrice Gelder.  http://www.beatricedegelder.com/books.html
  6. Benedict Carey.  Blind, Yet Seeing: The Brain’s Subconscious Visual Sense New York Times Dec 22 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/health/23blin.html
  7. Mark Henderson.  Blind man demonstrates blindsight.  Times Online http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/article5385633.ece
  8. A.B. Purani, Evening Talks, Second Series, p 228
  9. Jules Romains. [Louis Farigoule]. Vision Extra-Rétinienne. 1920. Translated by C. K. Ogden as Eyeless Sight: A Study of Extra-Retinal Vision and the Paroptic Sense. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1924. Reprint, New York: Citadel Press, 1978.
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16 thoughts on “The greater powers of the sense-mind (Manas)

  1. kalpana

    A great article, with lots of material from the Mother, Sri Aurobindo, bringing together present day observations alongside the ancient science of Yoga, such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

    Modern technology has helped us extend our senses, but also made us more dependent, and the apparatus needed has an environmental impact. On the other hand, the patience with which Yogis from Patanjali, to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, extended their sensory abilities shows what is possible, if we are prepared to train ourselves – but we live in an age of quick-fixes!

    Reply
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  3. Sandeep Post author

    The Upanishads say that Manas (sense-mind) is the real sense organ behind the five senses. This selection from the Persian mystic Rumi avers the same:

    The five spiritual senses are linked with one another:
    all the five have grown from one root!

    The strength of one invigorates the others: each.
    becomes a cupbearer to the rest.
    Vision increases the power of speech; the inspired
    speech makes vision more penetrating.
    Clairvoyance sharpens every sense, so that perception
    of the unseen becomes familiar to them all.
    When one sheep has jumped over a stream, the whole
    flock jump across on each other’s heels.
    Drive the sheep, thy senses, to pasture; let them
    browse in the verdant meadow of Reality,
    That every sense of thine may become an apostle to
    others and lead all their senses into that Paradise.
    And then those senses will tell their secret to thine,
    without words and without conveying either
    literal or metaphorical meanings.”

    (This selection is from Masnavi II. 3236. The translation is from Peter Washington’s book “Rumi Poems” (Alfred Knopf, 2006) p 158

    See also: http://www.dar-al-masnavi.org/n.a-II-3229.html

    Reply
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  6. mike

    “As an example, I was once bedridden for several months, which I found quite boring – I wanted to see. I was staying in one room and beyond that room was another little room and after that a sort of bridge; in the middle of the garden the bridge changed into a stairway going down into a very spacious and beautiful studio built in the middle of the garden. [The studio on Rue Lemercier in Paris, in 1898] I wanted to go see what was happening in the studio – I was bored stiff in my room! So I stayed very still, shut my eyes and gradually, gradually sent out my consciousness. I did the exercise regularly, day after day, at a set hour. You begin with your imagination, and then it becomes a fact. After a while, I distinctly sensed my vision physically moving: I followed it and saw things going on downstairs I knew absolutely nothing about. I would verify it in the evening, asking, “Did it happen like this? Was that how it was?”

    But each of these things must be practiced for months, patiently, almost stubbornly. You take the senses one after another: hearing, sight, and eventually even the subtle aspects of taste, smell and touch.”

    l can’t really understand this. From what we know, the Mother was able to leave Her body at will from the age of 5. So, why on earth would She spend weeks on trying to see [remote view] what was going on in another place when all She had to do was go out of Her body and visit the location easily. l mean, when She was with the Theon’s She was leaving Her body all the time.
    Some of these contradiction are a little confusing.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      At the age of five, she wasn’t going out of her body. She was only able to feel the consciousness over her head, as per the Agenda July 25, 1962

      But my first experience was of the consciousness here (gesture above the head), which I felt like a Light and a Force; and I felt it there (same gesture) at the age of five. It was a very pleasant sensation. I would sit in a little armchair made especially for me, all alone in my room, and I … (I didn’t know what it was, you see, not a thing, nothing – mentally zero) and I had a VERY PLEASANT feeling of something very strong, very luminous, and it was here (above the head). Consciousness. And I felt, “That’s what I have to live, what I have to be.

      There is also a difference between a purposeful exit and a spontaneous experience which may happen once in a while. She might have had the latter before.

      Reply
  7. mike

    Yes, l’m wrong again. Although, the year at the time [when She was practising the remote viewing] – 1898 – She would have been 20. This is the year She was giving birth to her son.
    Something l didn’t know before is Mother’s full name:
    Blanche Rachel Mirra Alfassa.
    So, it seems that even after achieving Divine Union She still didn’t have the ability to leave Her body at will [purposefully].
    l suppose it’s quite possible She hadn’t developed exteriorisation until She started Her occult training with the Theon’s…

    “1905 27 years old
    The first meeting with Max Theon”

    “1906 28 years old
    July-October trip to Tlemcen, Algeria, to study occultism with the Theon’s.”

    l looked it up and it appears that She started having Major experiences from age 11.

    “1890 12 years

    28 August, French naturalization of Maurice Alfassa.
    Mother’s first experience: the “Revolution of Atoms.”

    I practised occultism when I was twelve. I begin to work upon my nights in order to make them conscious… If one could create a magnificent story without any horror in it, nothing but beauty, it would have a considerable influence on everyone’s life.
    Between eleven and twelve a series of psychic and spiritual experiences revealed to me not only the existence of God but man’s possibility of union with Him, of realisation Him integrally in consciousness and action, of manifesting Him upon earth in a life divine. This, along with practical discipline for its fulfilment, was given to me during my body’s sleep by several teachers, some of whom I met afterwards on the physical plane. Later on, as the interior and exterior development proceeded, the spiritual and psychic relation with one of these beings became more and more clear and frequent; and although I knew little of the Indian philosophies and religions at that time I was led to call him Krishna, and henceforth I was aware that it was with him (whom I know meet on earth one day) that the divine work was to be done.

    Starting of painting.
    1891 13 years

    When I was a child of about thirteen, for nearly a year every night as soon as I had gone to bed it seemed to me that I went out of my body and rose straight up above the house, then above the city, very high above. Then I used to see myself clad in a magnificent golden robe, much longer than myself; and as I rose higher, the robe would stretch, spreading out in a circle around me to form a kind of immense roof over the city. Then I would see men, women, children, old men, the sick, the unfortunate coming out from every side; they would gather under the outspread robe, begging for help, telling of their miseries, their suffering, their hardships. In reply, the robe, supple and alive, would extend towards each one of them individually, and as soon as they had touched it, they had come out of them. Nothing seemed more beautiful to me, nothing could make me more happier; and all the activities of the day seemed to me dull and colourless and without any real life, beside this activity of the night which was the true life for me.”

    And at 19-20 the Divine Union:

    “1897 19 years

    Oct. 13. Marriage with Henri Morisset. New address – Atelier, 15 rue Lemercier, Paris

    Between the age of nineteen and twenty I had achieved conscious and constant union with the Divine Presence and… I had done so all by myself, with absolutely nobody to help me, not even books!”
    l remember Her son Andre Morrisset saying he used to spy [when he was very young] on the meetings the Mother would have at Rue du Val de Grace [where She lived with paul richard] and Mother told him he didn’t have to spy on them, he could simple exteriorise to observe them.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      Mike: So, it seems that even after achieving Divine Union She still didn’t have the ability to leave Her body at will [purposefully]. l suppose it’s quite possible She hadn’t developed exteriorisation until She started Her occult training with the Theon’s…

      I wouldn’t call it “Divine Union”. I think it was the psychic transformation that she had attained before she met Sri Aurobindo. Then she came to Pondicherry in 1914 and he silenced her mind. See this passage:

      I was simply sitting beside him on the floor (he was sitting in a chair with Richard facing him across a table, and they were talking). I was just sitting there, not listening. I don’t know how long they went on, but all at once I felt a great Force come into me – a peace, a silence, something massive! It came, did this (Mother sweeps her hand across her forehead), descended and stopped here (gesture at the chest).[[Mother specified: “It encompassed the three active mental centers [the forehead, between the eyebrows, and the throat].” ]] When they finished talking, I got up and left. And then I noticed that not a thought remained – I no longer knew anything or understood anything, I was absolutely BLANK. So I gave thanks to the Lord and thanked Sri Aurobindo in my heart.

      (Agenda, July 25, 1962)

      Reply
  8. mike

    “Between eleven and twelve a series of psychic and spiritual experiences revealed to me not only the existence of God but man’s possibility of union with Him, of realising Him integrally in consciousness and action, of manifesting Him upon earth in a life divine.”

    Unless l’m missing something again, there seems to be a total contradiction between what is said above and the statement from the agenda below.

    “That’s another interesting point, because I was an outright atheist: till the age of twenty, the very idea of God made me furious. Therefore I had the most solid base – no imaginings, no mystic atavism; my mother was very much an unbeliever and so was my father. So from the point of view of atavism it was very good: positivism, materialism. Only one thing: since I was very small, a will for perfection in any field whatever; a will for perfection and the sense of a limitless consciousness – no limits to one’s progress or to one’s power or to one’s scope. And that, since I was very small. But mentally, an absolute refusal to believe in a “God”: I believed only in what I could touch and see. And the whole faculty for experiences was already there (they didn’t manifest because the time hadn’t come). Only, the sense of a Light here (gesture above the head), which began when I was very small, I was five, along with a will for perfection. A will for perfection: oh, whatever I did always had to be the best I could do. And then, a limitless consciousness. These two things. And my return to the Divine came about through Theon’s teaching, when I was told for the first time, “The Divine is within, there” (Mother strikes her breast). Then I felt at once, “Yes, this is it.” Then I did all the work that’s taught to find Him again; and through here (gesture to the heart center) I went there (gesture of junction above with the Supreme). But outwardly, mentally, no religion – a horror of religions.”

    Her first meeting with Theon was at the age of 27, but Mother says above that She was an atheist until the age of 20! l’m getting a little confused. Unless Theon’s teaching were available 7 years before She met him.
    ls it possible to still be an atheist after having the Psychic Union, because it doesn’t seem likely to me.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      Her problem was that she was having spiritual experiences but she couldn’t reconcile them with the European conception of “God”. The word “God” meant an external entity. It is only when she read of Eastern mysticism that she discovered that “God” was within as well. She was more comfortable with the word “Divine”.

      There are at least four passages in the Agenda where this is mentioned, as seen below:

      First : “You see, throughout my childhood and youth and the whole beginning of my yoga, there was a sort of refusal in my being to use the word “God,” because of all the falsehood behind that word (Sri Aurobindo rid me of that; in the same way he got rid of all limitations, he rid me of that one too). But it’s not a word that comes to me spontaneously.” (Agenda May 31, 1962)

      Second: “I also put (and this is from me), “the essential unity of the creation and the divine origin of life.” That whole formula, I know, was an attempt to express the thing without using the word “God,” because … There was in my life a period of at least twenty years during which those words used to make me bristle, so I understand very well the feeling it evokes in people. Later, it was Sri Aurobindo who made me rise above all that; but it’s because he pulled me very high up that I rose above all that, otherwise, on an intellectual level, it didn’t do at all. It evokes the narrowest religiosity, and … it won’t do. So I don’t want that – the country is now fully in it, here in India. I don’t want to raise that first obstacle. That’s why I made this long sentence. ” (Agenda, July 3, 1968)

      Third : For instance, I am quite certain that if Sri Aurobindo wrote those Aphorisms now, he wouldn’t put the word God where he used it (he used the word God almost everywhere). He wouldn’t use THAT word. God, for man, really means religion …. I don’t know how to explain, it’s a sort of sensitivity somewhere that rebels-the word is false, as it were. It has almost become the symbol of an incomprehension. (Agenda, November 29, 1969)

      Fourth : And experiences! … I have had the most contradictory experiences! Only one thing has been continuous from my childhood on (and the more I look, the more I see how continuous it has been): this divine Presence – and in someone who, in her EXTERNAL LIFE, might very well have said, ‘God? What is this foolishness! God doesn’t exist!’ So you understand, you see the picture.

      You know, it’s a marvelous, marvelous grace to have had this experience so CONSTANTLY, So POWERFULLY, like something holding out against everything, everything: this Presence. And in my outward consciousness, a total negation of it all. Even later on, I used to say, ‘Well, if God exists, he’s a real scoundrel! He’s a wretch and I want nothing to do with this Creator of ours….’ You know, the idea of God sitting placidly in his heaven, creating the world and amusing himself by watching it, then telling you, ‘How well done!’ ‘Oh!’ I said, ‘I want nothing to do with that monster!’ (Agenda April 29, 1961)

      Reply
  9. mike

    Thanks sandeep. l think l can understand now. She had an experience of the Divine Presence which totally contradicted the religious cenception of God. l’ve always had problems with this as well. Because l was brought up in the west l would use the word God [when l was very young] when l spoke to the Divine, but l always had the impression of speaking to an infinite being [a great Presence].
    l remember some christian talking about his near-death experience on one of their God channels. He went out of his body to the other side and saw God with a white beard sat on his throne, with a host angels flying around him.
    l think Mother described how these people [in all religions] actually create these astral paradises where they can worship thier enthroned Deity for all eternity LOL. lt’s a terrible limitation to my mind.

    Reply
  10. Sandeep

    I have no idea how reliable this news item is, but here it is!

    Can Your Body Sense Future Events Without Any External Clue?

    Presentiment without any external clues may, in fact, exist, according to new Northwestern University research that analyzes the results of 26 studies published between 1978 and 2010.

    Researchers already know that our subconscious minds sometimes know more than our conscious minds. Physiological measures of subconscious arousal, for instance, tend to show up before conscious awareness that a deck of cards is stacked against us.

    […]

    This phenomenon is sometimes called “presentiment,” as in “sensing the future,” but Mossbridge said she and other researchers are not sure whether people are really sensing the future.

    “I like to call the phenomenon ‘anomalous anticipatory activity,'” she said. “The phenomenon is anomalous, some scientists argue, because we can’t explain it using present-day understanding about how biology works; though explanations related to recent quantum biological findings could potentially make sense. It’s anticipatory because it seems to predict future physiological changes in response to an important event without any known clues, and it’s an activity because it consists of changes in the cardiopulmonary, skin and nervous systems.”

    The study, “Predictive Physiological Anticipation Preceding Seemingly Unpredictable Stimuli: A Meta-Analysis,” is in the current edition of Frontiers in Perception Science. In addition to Mossbridge, co-authors of the study include Patrizio Tressoldi of the Università di Padova, Padova, Italy, and Jessica Utts of the University of California, Irvine.

    Read more @
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022145342.htm

    Reply
    1. amsha

      It’s probably vital-physical and if somebody has powerful vital you can sense
      that person coming from far away. I used to have a strange experience whenever
      I come to a place where somebody was standing before, I felt myself exactly like this person for short period of time.

      Reply
  11. Pingback: Hands can become independently conscious | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

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