The What and How of Subtle Perception

The What and How of Subtle Perception

I thought it would be useful to clarify the nature of subtle perception.

First, what we experience is created in layers as part of the process of experience itself. The very act of experience gives us the world, arising from the subtle to solidity. By this I don’t mean we personally create the world. I mean our essential nature creates our form and our experiences together and simultaneously with all other beings experiencing. And this process happens instantly. Time is an effect of our relationship with the process of experience so is not a limitation.

More subtle layers are more vague and more pliable than the more physical. We all know from dreams that the mind can create all kinds of appearances and scenarios, for example. And therein lies one of the big traps of early subtle perception – confusing appearances with truth. I went into that more here.

If such things do begin to show up that’s fine. We should allow but not invest in them*. It’s also useful to recognize that your emotional response is distinct from the experience. A new opening can lead to both new experiences and purification. It won’t have the same emotional effect when it becomes normal so don’t give the emotional impact excess weight.

More subtle levels are also more powerful. An intuition is more comprehensive than an emotion, for example. The intellect can discern things our finger could never grasp. This is like the atomic being more powerful than the chemical.

Because these layers are formed in consciousness, they arise with all three aspects – the observer, the process, and the object of observation. Put another way: the senses, the process of sensing and what we sense all arise in parallel. There is no object without the mechanism for sensing it because it is the process of experience itself – the devata value – that gives rise to form. This is not philosophical or theoretical – it’s something you can know for yourself as it can be heard, seen and felt. The process is intimate to who you are.

If a tree falls in the forest, it makes a sound and is heard even if a person is not there to hear it. Hearing is a property of consciousness within which the tree falls. How one point of view (a tree, mouse, or bee) hears it will vary from another, but the hearing remains.

This means that not only can everything be perceived, it is created by the act of perceiving and it’s purpose is to be perceived. The world is perception. Even consciousness itself can be seen & heard in it’s lively form. When consciousness ceases self-interacting, then there is only lively effulgence. And in silence, peaceful stillness. Only then is there nothing to perceive.

In eastern traditions, the senses are recognized to function on all levels, not just through the physical sense organs. In the west, we have a separate set of terms for non-physical sensing: the Clairs:
Clairvoyance (sight), Clairaudience (sound), Clairsentience (touch or feel), Clairgustance (taste), and Clairolfaction (smell).

But these are not separate from the physical senses even though there is functional variations (due to the nature of the level itself – physical using physical, energy using energy, etc). Subtle sound is heard a little up and back from the physical ears, for example. The third eye is often referred to for sight but that is a little muddied. It’s not that “the third eye opens” and everything is then seen. It’s more that as the subtle internal noise is settled, our clarity increases and we begin seeing where it was once just fog. This develops over time and in different areas, not in one magic moment.

When we’re looking inside the body at our liver, it is not the third eye seeing but the focus of consciousness itself – wherever the attention is.

The 6th chakra is more about knowledge downloads and perceptions of time than clairvoyance. It’s what some would call the 6th sense, but excluding “gut feelings”.

Clearing the fog or purification is only part of the process. The other part is refinement of the mechanism. Refinement allows us to recognize progressively finer resolutions of what is in front of us. This unfolds the finer values allowing pre-mind levels to open to appreciation.

With clarity but without refinement, many aspects remain unseen. This is akin to how a microscope allows us to see things we can’t otherwise. Without finer perception, refined values are effectively invisible.

The primary influence on refinement is soma, a fine pre-physical substance I discussed here, along with a few of its practical benefits. We might call refinement polishing the now settled mirror.

With that settling and polishing, we can see the world as it is, a sea of flowing light, sparking into form and everywhere alive. Born of bliss and returning to bliss.

I talked about some other influences on subtle perception here.

To put this in a larger context, it’s also useful to understand the distinction between the Personal and Impersonal approaches. We can see the world through the lens of the intellect and recognize laws of nature interacting to create the unfolding flow of the world as described above.

Or we can see the world through the lens of the heart and discover it personified. Those same laws of nature are recognized as intelligent beings responsible for sustaining your couch, the cedars out back, the petunias coming up in the garden, the wind, and so forth.

Then, added to the flowing and surging light is the beings enacting it through voice and energy. We are surrounded and immersed in light, our own bodies teaming with beings working on our behalf.

Relative to the divine I talk about the personal and impersonal here, followed by a little more on the Personal.

If you consider that each of the subtler layers of being are progressively more expanded and rich and powerful, it is astonishing that we have become so absorbed in the physical. Most people are only generally aware that they have thoughts and emotions. They are literally oblivious to over 99% of what is here, what is supporting us, and what we’re capable of.

But let’s grow into this with some wisdom. We are here to have a human life and, as I mentioned, this stuff can be really distracting. Our best bet is to culture self-knowledge through deep meditation (in moderation) and healing. When the ground is established, then the refinement will come naturally and we’ll not so easily be swayed by appearances.

Some teachers discourage such things as delusion or distraction for good reason. But they are a rich part of who we are. We don’t want to repress the fullness of experience but nor do we want to cause the imbalance of excess. The key is balance and priority. Then fullness and fulfillment can flower, beyond conception.

*don’t invest in the content but you would find investing in skills valuable. See Comments.

Last Updated on June 16, 2016 by

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  1. Jim

    Beautifully expressed, David. Wholeness. Yes, best to allow such subtle experience to grow without paying it too much attention. The experience is at first like seeing the stars and planets on a cloudy night, so that only the brightest and largest show up. This can be very very distracting, and as you mention, ripe for appearing as some profound answer, a totality, to be nurtured and followed. But if we are easy with it instead and allow it to grow, what was so mind-blowing to start with becomes background after awhile. Incredibly useful and fun, especially when integrated completely with the rest of life.

    1. Thanks, Jim.
      Exactly. We don’t have a lot of reference points in our culture for this so it’s easier to wander astray or get into traps with it. But if we see it as a natural side effect that will grow considerably, we won’t put as much weight on this or that.

    1. Hi Rose
      Actually, I quite agree. When I said “We should allow but not invest in them” I was referring to the average person who has some interesting subtle experiences. It’s common for people to then give them great importance or go on a search to find meaning in them. Kind of like those dream interpretation books.

      It’s quite another story when skills are being developed, along with suitable understanding for working in the subtle. That is your forte, so I understand your response.

      1. When this stuff began unfolding for me in the mid-70’s, there wasn’t available skills. Some understanding but big gaps there too. I learned to be circumspect about it all. Let it unfold naturally and see where it went. That lead to the smoothest ride.

        In some ways, this was like an unskilled empath adaptation, only a little more conscious.

        With skills – it would have been a different story.

        1. A useful distinction here – the content is less important than the process – what you are learning. Getting skills and understanding can greatly enhance both subtle perception and life understanding.

          Add in some healing and you have a recipe for maximizing quality of life.

  2. Of course, my approach comes out of my own experience where deeper perception just showed up, without much attention or skills. Then I was obliged to “handle” it.

    Some of it was more than welcome. Other parts- rather a stretch. When thing arise that are well outside of conception, it takes much longer to process and adapt.

    And that of course leads to some of the kinds of articles I write here. A decent framework can really help.

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