First published in 1911, "The Sixth Sense: Its Cultivation and Use" is a masterpiece on the Sixth Sense, or the Mystic sense. The book discusses this perceptive faculty in relation to health, thought, character, and religion.
The author, Charles Henry Brent, was the Episcopal Church's first Missionary Bishop of the Philippine Islands; Chaplain General of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I and Bishop of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Western New York. He has been characterised as a "gallant, daring, and consecrated soldier and servant of Christ" who was "one of modern Christendom's foremost leaders, prophets, and seers."
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THE SIXTH SENSE: ITS CULTIVATION AND USE
Chapter 1. The Sixth Sense
Chapter 2. In Relation To Health
Chapter 3. In Relation To Thought
Chapter 4. In Relation To Character
Chapter 5. In Relation To Religion
This book was planned and promised to the publisher more than three years ago. Exacting duties have compelled the writer from time to time, to defer the completion of his undertaking. The delay has been profitable in that it has afforded opportunity for the study of recent works on kindred topics, which in some respects has modified and in some enlarged the original conception of the subject in hand. A long ocean voyage at last has provided the quiet in which to write out these thoughts.
SS. Prinz Eitel Friedrich, Gulf of Aden, 8 January, 1911.
By the Sixth Sense I mean the Mystic Sense, or that inner perceptive faculty which distinguishes man from the highest below him and allies him to the highest above him. So distinctive among created objects is it of man that it might, not inaptly, be characterized as the Human Sense. It is used for no one exclusive purpose; on the contrary it is only under its operation that man’s activities, one and all, become human. In its nature it differs essentially from the bodily senses though we are justified in thinking of it as a sense because its function is, like them, to perceive and to afford food for thought.
The five bodily senses originally, in the first stages of evolution, were, and, in their ultimate aspect are, one sense—the sense of touch. By means of it plant, mollusc and worm relate themselves to the universe of which they are a part. By degrees the single sense, in the evolutionary process, finds opportunity and occasion for specialization. Sight is extraordinarily sensitized touch by means of which form and color are perceived, and the distant object comes bowing to our feet; the stars, leaping across space, are converted into intimate friends, and earth’s farthest horizon lies at our door. Hearing is touch localized and specialized so as to be capable of perceiving the vibrations caused by the impact of one body upon another; its enlarged capacity classifies sound in such a way as to offer its mutations and subtleties for our use and pleasure as the weaver offers his threads to the loom. Smell is that specialization of touch, uniquely delicate, supposed by Maeterlinck to be still in its earlier stage of development in human kind, which responds to the stimulus of those otherwise intangible exhalations called odor. Lastly, taste is touch specialized so as to discern the inner properties of food stuff; taste is the testing sense. Mere touch determines the existence, specialized touch the character and niceties of matter of the physical universe.
As indicative of the unity of the animal senses and the cooperative sympathy between them, it is noteworthy that when one sense is impaired or destroyed, the others diligently endeavor to supply its absence, the entire body playing the part as far as possible of eye or ear or both, and each remaining sense growing extraordinarily acute so as to take on somewhat of the character of the most nearly affiliated or the neighbor sense. The blind man can almost see with ears and hands, the deaf can almost hear with eyes. The senses that are left strain, not without a measure of success, to convey to the brain impressions for which they are not congenitally adapted.
The organic differences in the bodily senses, then, find a close unity in functional similarity, all the sensory nerves grouping themselves under the head of touch. The Mystic Sense, likewise, first comes to our attention as a simple faculty of perception by which we gain cognition of that department of reality that transcends bodily touch and its sub-divisions, but study reveals that its unity is ordered complexity, as in the case of all developed endowments. Broadly speaking it is the sense which relates man to the spiritual or psychic aspect of reality. It puts us into relation with the spiritual order of which we are a part. It finds room for exercise, gains its freedom, and reaches its highest development in this sphere, beginning operations at the point where the bodily senses are compelled by inherent limitations to halt. It discerns the innermost character, use, value of the objective, and differentiates between the human and the animal estimate of things. Indeed it has in it that which is not of this world or order. It soars beyond human and mundane affairs and steeps its wings in Divine altitudes where the throne of God is set. Not only does it perceive but it also lays hold of and appropriates that phase of reality which lies beyond the unaided reach, or eludes the grasp, of all the rest of our faculties in their happiest combination, and therefore of any one of them independently. It takes the material gathered by physical contact with the world of sight and sound, and presents it to the mind for rationalizing operations. More than that, it comes back freighted with wealth gathered in explorations in regions where neither body nor reason can tread, converting life’s dull prose into poetry and song.
The most alert and indispensable of endowments, it is at once sociable with the remainder of man’s faculties, external and internal, and jealously independent of them saving of human consciousness alone. In its higher stages of development it accepts suggestions from all, dictation from none. Its manner is courteous and its mode of approach one of promptings and hints. The sphere of every other faculty is its sphere where it is content to play the modest part of a handmaiden, never usurping functions already provided for, although it has a sphere of its own whither not even reason can follow. It is supplementary to all, contradictory to none. Without its exercise there can be no progress or growth. It has its origin in a groping instinct, its final development in orderly activities capable of increasingly clear classification. Body, intellect, character, moral and religious, are under its influence and dependent upon its beneficent operations. It plays upon the body, contributing to its health and efficiency; it gives wings to the intellect, making it creative and productive, capable of formulating hypotheses and venturing upon speculation; it converts the seemingly impossible into the normal, bringing moral ideals within reach of the will, without which improvement in character would be a matter of chance; it unfolds the Divine to the human and forms a nexus between here and beyond, now and to-morrow, finite and infinite, God and man. It looks not only up but down, making the nature outside of us intelligible to the nature inside of us and friendly with it. If it peoples the stars, it also makes a universe of the atom. It is mysterious, recollective, emotional, intuitive, speculative, imaginative, prophetic, minatory, expectant, penetrative. As it moves up or down with equal freedom, so it reaches backward or forward, is attached or detached at will, in its operations.
The Sixth Sense, or, to be more accurate, the second group of senses, has its specialized functions, difficult as it is to analyze with accuracy this most spiritual endowment of human personality, the inner gift of touch. It has specializations parallel to those of the bodily senses. Sight, hearing and testing are its functions. So clear eyed is it that it can see with the nicety of an eye aided by the microscope, so sensitive to voices that the lowest whispers impart a message, so critical as to test values with a precision and swiftness that surpass the taste and smell which tell us what is sweet and what unsavory.
If it be argued that I am but dilating on certain aspects of mind, I am not concerned to deny that all may be comprehended under that convenient blanket-word. But they are as distinct from the rationalizing media as from the will.
The nearest approach to a satisfactory substitute for the term “mystic sense” in terms of the reason is “conceptual reason.” It furnishes us with the thought of a faculty which has procreative or generative properties capable of being fertilized by intercourse with that which is separate from and higher than itself. Its first activity is to lay itself over against that which, though partaking of its own nature, is not itself. It is not self-fertilizing and can conceive or beget only after having perceived and apprehended. 1 It has constant regard for an objective and communication with it.
The operation of the Mystic Sense is summed up in the single word faith, which is described as the giving substance to that which is hoped for, the testing of things not seen. 2 There is no objection to letting the world faith cover the whole working of the Mystic Sense, provided it is not restricted to a severely religious meaning. It is thus that it is commonly understood, or at any rate when applied in other connections it is assumed to be the working of a different faculty from that exercised in the sphere of religion. In its distinctively religious meaning, faith is the operation of the Mystic Sense in its highest employment. There is no one faculty that is reserved exclusively for religious employment. The fact is that religious faith is no more separate from the processes of the Mystic Sense which appropriate health for the body, hypotheses for the mind, working principles for the man of action, and ideals for the character, or independent of them, than the act of physical perception, which enables us to touch the stars, is separate from that use of the sensory nerves which relates us to the book we handle, or independent of it. They are both the result of a single faculty, or group of faculties, operating in different altitudes. Faith will be accepted in these pages as a philosophic term. Thus we speak of scientific faith, moral faith, and religious faith with equal appropriateness, meaning the Mystic Sense operating respectively in the interests of the scientific, of the moral, and of the religious.
The Mystic Sense has for its workshop the uplands of life in the rarefied atmosphere of ideas and ideals. It is at once a super-sense giving us a bird’s-eye view of the universe which is not permitted at close quarters, and a sub-sense bringing before our attention the contents hidden beneath the surface of things. There are not two worlds, objective and subjective respectively, but two aspects of one world—things as they are in their absolute and ultimate being, and things as they are relatively or as apprehended by our cognitive powers. Our conception of the truth is a distortion or falls short of the truth, and it is our aspiration to bring about such a coincidence as will make the relation of subject to object perfect. We draw the thing as we see it for the God of things as they are now, not to-morrow only, the sole difference being that to-morrow our painting will be truer to the original and consequently more artistic than now. All objective is immediately reduced by man, by subconscious or conscious process, into subjective, so that we may for the sake of convenience talk of subjective and objective phases of reality, the subjective being human, partial, progressive, the objective being divine, absolute, and final.
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