The Evolution of Perception
In any attempt to save the world we are in one sense an immense help in changing the world, and in another sense, paradoxically, we are a hindrance and destructive burden upon the world. The world which most people seek is invariably based upon their own sense of pleasure with the exclusion of pain. The socially accepted freedom that we value and associate with liberation, the one that drives most us to change the world, is a separatist effort to impose our own individual agenda upon others and the world. German psychologist Erich Fromm would suggest that this is “freedom from” or “freedom to”, but not real freedom because it is based on the differing points of view that each and every one of us believes to be physical and psychological comfortability.
This social and cultural motif that humanity perpetuates is only one dimensional for the sheer fact that we have excluded the reality of pain from our existence. We are suffering from an illness within the psychological and spiritual sphere as a result. An individual will do anything no matter how absurd to avoid their latent psychological and spiritual pain. We dissect and edit out of our life what is not in accord with our hypnotic conditioning, as we continue to try and bypass the inevitables in our life. Pain is experienced when we begin to break our psychological limitations. The very nature of our perception is contaminated as a result of spiritually bypassing our psychological pain, to the point that the root of our awareness is continually veiled from the excessive stimulation of pleasure within the physical and mental planes of consciousness.
The arcane wisdom of the sages expounds to humanity that consciousness is composed of three planes of growth which is an evolutionary process our perception undergoes through sincere self-work. The wisdom traditions, the esoteric mystery schools of antiquity, the perennial philosophers both ancient and contemporary, and the metaphysicians all refer to these three planes as the physical, mental and spiritual. Majority of humanity only perceive the temporal plane of the physical world, and are somehow under the delusion that this sphere is a permanent realm without ever undergoing vibratory and rhythmic transformations of change from the spiritual sphere. In John Holman’s The Return of the Perennial Philosophy he writes about this evolutionary process of perception through the three planes in relation to Christian Theosophy,
There are actually three births. The first is the natural or ‘outward’ birth, the second is the birth of the soul in the human consciousness, and the third is the birth of the spirit or the highest divinity in the soul. In Christian Theosophy man – every man – is body, soul, and spirit, and the three births relate to each of these. At the end of the road, man sees through his highest spiritual eye. This ‘eye in the heart’ (a phrase also popular with Frithjof Schuon) was/is the eye ‘with which God sees himself through us’, says Versluis. The Fall of Man (or Adam) is a moving away from this higher (Aevertinal) consciousness to a lower (Character or earthly man) consciousness, so that instead of seeing transcendent reality, we see only the temporophysical world.
The sincere spiritual seeker and esoteric student travel through these three planes of growth, where one’s perception begins to evolve from the physical and mental planes of material and intellectual orientated consciousness, onto the higher plane of spiritual consciousness. If one is sincere in their own introspected self-work, our perception of reality will embark upon a journey from matter to spirit where consciousness is perceived in all forms of life. British author and philosopher Philip Sherrard explains this journey from matter to spirit,
I see the universe as a hierarchy of levels descending from the formless spiritual level down to the most dense material form.
In Sanskrit the liberation of perception is known as moksha, and in The Science and Practice of Humility this is known as the “evolution of perception” where I thoroughly explore the philosophical, psychological, metaphysical, and spiritual knowledge behind this evolved perception and its relation to the three planes of consciousness.
The spiritual plane of consciousness is a level of perception so reflective and transparent that one who dwells in this enlightened state can perceive eternity in the manifest and understand that matter and spirit could not be separate. The Taoist sage Chuang Tzu said,
When there is no more separation between “this” and “that,” it is called the still-point of the Tao. At the still-point in the center of the circle one can see the infinite in all things.
Residing in that unpolluted state of consciousness, the spiritual plane, Chuang Tzu could perceive the infinite irreducible essence of the universe, known in Chinese as Tao and Sanskrit as Brahman, in all forms of nature. This is a way of perception so subtle that one can perceive the formless reality within the world of form. This level of perception that Chuang Tzu attained cleared his mind and vision of what he once thought was a concrete reality built on separation and chaos. In this purification of one’s mind and awareness, an evolution of perception takes place naturally that leads one to the ultimate “sense of unity” revealed within. This evolved perception and sense of unity should not be misconstrued with the informational awareness one attains from alternative research of conspiracy theories or new-age misconceptions of oneness. The awareness and oneness that a sage imbibes is in the authentic wisdom of a sense of unity within consciousness that an individual has latent within and can experience as it is our original nature. The result of this mystical experience is a pure state of awareness not attracted or caught in the apparent drama of life.
As a result of being lost in our daily dramas and general semantics of life, the most misunderstood and peculiar state of consciousness in this world remains that of a sage. In general, people often think a sage’s life is useless and de-humanist because a sage is not at all concerned with the issues of the world in the same way that most people are. The thinking in the western developed world, which is the primary way of thinking all over the world, is that the moral and noble individual is built upon the agendas we uphold according to our indoctrinated belief systems. This indoctrination leads to a righteousness and benevolence that, in the eyes of the general public, is thought to be virtuous and beneficial to humanity. To act in this manner is what most people believe “being human” is about. The more we are actively engaged in life, the better we are for life is the social and cultural meme.
Yet, as a sage would point out, this perspective is fundamentally flawed because the way in which we are trying to change the world is based on our own personal conditioning that in the end is a separatist view of life. How can we ever heal our differences as a species through our separatist notions and agendas? In realizing this predicament, a sage seeks to uproot all of their own personal agendas in the hope to reach a place within of complete equanimity. When we are not distracted by our conditional responses to the external world, our attention begins to look inward bringing the agendas that we believe to be intrinsic to our nature to the light of consciousness. The realization one has in this process is that it is the completely “agenda-less Being” who is free in this life. And in this complete freedom they are the only one who can deal with any issue, no matter how large or small, because their perception is not caught in the detail of worldly affairs. This elevated perception is what distinguishes an authentic sage from the common state of perception in the world.
In my new book The Science and Practice of Humility, this elevated state of perception is a central theme because it links evolution to the enlightenment of the individual when explored deeply. To equate our perception to evolution is foreign knowledge to those who are distracted by the gravitational pull of the external world. But for those who are in sincere introspection this is an experience of reality that is reflective and transparent.
The origins of the knowledge of evolution are in the way we perceive the world. In Hermeticism, Hinduism, and other occult traditions, they all explain this through the relationship between the expansion and contraction of consciousness, as its function corresponds to the in and out action of breathing but in relation to the sense of perception. Hinduism refers to this as the “breath of Brahma.” This is in direct correlation with the Hermetic doctrine that explains this using the terms “involution” and “evolution.” Meaning, involution is the contracted state of perception that is “involved” in the detail of life and worldly affairs, and diametrically opposed to this is evolution which is the expanded state of perception that is a way out of the gravitational pull and distraction of involution. For example, when we observe an ant colony, we discover from our elevated level of perception a civilization and system of ants that are harmonious and intrinsic to Earth. But a paradox exists here, because even though from our level we perceive harmony, from the ant’s perspective life is chaotic. In Chip Hartranft’s commentary of The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali he articulates this evolution of perception beautifully,
As the senses spontaneously cease to react to external stimuli, a phenomenon Patanjali calls pratyahara, consciousness begins to grow calmer and more refined in its perceptions, and capable of noticing the ordinarily invisible movements of consciousness itself. The experience is something like viewing a realistic image in a painting at the far end of a gallery. As one comes closer, the brushstrokes and the texture of the canvas become visible – eventually to the point where the image has completely deconstructed and can no longer be seen unless one elects to step back.
When we look into the nature of all life on this planet and the universe this understanding of harmony in correspondence to chaos can be applied to anything, even the human race.
When we observe humanity, we discover that on one level of existence there is war and discord, and yet from a higher level of perception life is actually healthy and harmonious. An example of this is a city. For those who live in the city, life is busy and fast paced, and one’s mind is caught in the detail of social and cultural life, and as a result they impose their Will upon others by perpetuating their own personal agendas. Though this may be life on the level within a city, if we are to hover above a city we discover that from a different level of magnification a city is in perfect harmony and moving in a rhythm that replicates a biological organism. It really depends on how you look at it.
We discover this rhythm in all levels of life, from the subatomic vibrations of electrons, to the movement and orbits of galaxies in the vast eternal expanse of space. In every facet of life there is an order to the apparent chaos, the only problem is most of us are not witness to the order that gives chaos its latent harmony. Our agendas based on our conditioning bind us to worldly affairs in the external world, rather than sincere introspection within. Human perception is primarily focused on the physical and mental planes of consciousness, which are those levels of perception we use to focus on the detail of reality. But both of these planes are only an extension from the spiritual sphere. When we focus a microscope on the cellular world we perceive chaos with seemingly no pattern, but when we retract our attention we discover a human organism in a complete harmonious order and pattern. The physical and mental plane equate to the chaotic perception of the cellular world, while the higher perception of those cells making up a part of a harmonious human body is the elevated perception of the spiritual plane of consciousness.
We all know this to be true because when we are lost in the detail of life and the stories within our mind, we lose sight of our center and the perception of reality as it “is,” not as “we” think it should be. Peace in this world, both individually and collectively, will never be a reality if we continually impose our Will over others, no matter how subtle or gross our agenda is. If our conditioning is not exposed, we cannot complain about how the world is or our plight in life.
The answer to this riddle is in perceiving reality as it “is” and not in how we want it to be according to what we perceive as a pleasurable experience. The answer is not in attempting to change the world to suit yourself, but instead, it is in liberating your mind from the hypnosis of the detail that magnetically attracts and draws your perception out of the center of the spiritual plane. A sage dwells on this plane, as they have refined their awareness into the oceanic consciousness of the spiritual plane, where their perception is not attracted to the drama of conditioned beliefs. Thus they perceive the pattern of reality that unites us all. This perception not only evolves the individual, but also the collective, because the individual is the seed of the collective. If our perception is not caught in the detail, how could any conflict or violence eventuate? Both conflict and violence would be impossible because all modes of division, whether that is religious, nationalistic, race, sex, and other subtle forms of separation, have dissolved into a mind of no deliberation through an evolved perception. This proves the temporal nature of such belief systems.
The virtues of compassion and forgiveness arise naturally in one whose perception has evolved, as they have ceased taking any part in life’s so called “game” that cannot and will not ever be won. If we are to seriously contemplate upon this, how could we ever seek to change the world without ever understanding where the world comes from?
The world comes from the individual; everything the world “is” comes from the mind of the individual. To change the way of the collective world is an abstraction, as the world is a multitude of individuals. So if we are seeking to change the world, all you need to do is be sincere in changing yourself and then the world has changed. This real change, though, cannot be understood clearly if we are ignoring any aspect of ourselves, either physically, mentally or spiritually. We need to be sincere in liberation through self-work, because if we are just trying to dwell on the spiritual plane without working on the physical and mental planes, then this is a form of ignorance, which is discussed at length within The Science and Practice of Humility.
Misconceptions are generated by the status quo in how a sage’s consciousness is perceived. The empty flowery interpretations of new-age teachers, who invariably only push positivity (masculine/yang/active/heaven) without acknowledging the negative (feminine/yin/receptive/earth) aspect of the psyche, and the herd-like imitation of followers, have not helped the matter. As a result of such deep-seeded monarchical perspectives of the universe, either consciously or unconsciously, most people view a sage’s way of perceiving as blank and devoid of emotion that is above all life. This comes from a lack of understanding and depth which is usually from the average individual who knows nothing about sincere self-work or by one whose spirituality has become narrow and rigid. A sage’s evolution of perception, on the other hand, is analogous to the space of the universe, meaning it is not simply blank, empty nothingness. But instead, space contains the whole universe which is that sense of unity most have never come in contact with.
The sage’s softened glare, refined consciousness and evolved perception, allows them to be receptive to life in authentic humility, rather than meeting the world head on with resistance and force. This receptivity, which humanity has forgotten, is an openness so radical that change begins to take place without the intention to do so. Receptivity is the feminine principle of nature that we have all suppressed because we are under the hypnosis from our intellectual world that this is weakness to show such openness to life. But if we can see clearly in this moment, what has projecting our conditioning upon the world achieved other than the perpetual destruction and suffering of the planet and human race? To assume that being receptive is weak is to ignore the obvious power of humility.
When we observe the most receptive aspect of nature, water, we discover that though it may be perceived as weak, it is in fact the most powerful aspect of nature because of its receptive quality. Water is the lowest lying force of nature replicating the human quality of humility, and yet water’s humble nature has the power within it to end civilization as we know it. This analogy does not mean that humility is a tyrannical power used to take over the world through control; on the contrary, this power that one acquires in revealing the “science of humility” is a state of receptivity that transforms the world from the foundation of life up onto the superficial layer of form. Bringing authentic humility into our consciousness depends on how we perceive the world both within and without, and is actually a bridge between both worlds. Our level of magnification holds the key to individual liberation in this life, as to see reality as it actually “is,” frees us from the limitations within our mind so we can finally perceive the one underlying reality moving through the many in its infinite uniqueness. Perceiving reality from the spiritual plane allows for the science of humility to emanate its light into the world.
The Science and Practice of Humility is a book that explores the spiritual, scientific, esoteric, philosophical, psychological, and metaphysical principles and wisdom of the universe. But first and foremost, it emphasizes that if we want authentic freedom then we need to be sincere in all facets of our life and truly understand that we do belong to this world. Real freedom, both individually and collectively, depends on how you see the world and how willing you are to experience That essence within you that is of the eternal realm (known as the connection between Atman and Brahman in Sanskrit) which cannot be given a name as it is the nameless within you. Evolution rests upon that nameless experience of enlightenment that can only become a reality through the perception you attain from sincere introspection and self-work.
About the Author
Jason Gregory is a spiritual philosopher, independent scholar, writer, and teacher specializing in the fields of Eastern philosophy, Western esotericism, comparative religion, psychology, culture, and ancient civilizations. He is an ardent traveler who has searched ashrams, monasteries, and temples in some of the most remote places in the world. As a result of his travels, Jason has lived in Asia for several years studying the philosophy and culture of the East and how it can benefit civilization in the modern day. Originally trained in the meditation practices and philosophies of Vedanta in Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Zen Buddhism, Jasonâ€™s curiosity with the perennial thread throughout the worldâ€™s spiritual traditions expanded his work into the exploration of the Western esoteric traditions of Gnosticism and Hermeticism and their underlying relationship to the East.
Jason is the author of two books and the creator of one documentary. He is the author of the highly acclaimed The Science and Practice of Humility and the cult classic Way of the Weirdo, and the writer and director of the documentary The Sacred Sound of Creation. He continually writes articles for popular magazines and websites around the world. His work has been featured on hundreds of radio shows with his numerous guest appearances.
Jason Gregory spends his time traveling, writing, and teaching around the world through his lectures and workshops centered on his work. His lectures and workshops are said to be one of the most insightful and inspirational events one can attend, as he reveals through his work that enlightenment is not an end goal that we are searching for, but instead a way of life which is an art of living. This understanding leads to the essence of his work that enlightenment evokes a humility which is a universal science.
You can read more in his book The Science and Practice of Humility.
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