This is a much neglected subject. Hardly anyone seems to have thought it worthwhile to have found out exactly what our faculties are and what they can and cannot do. What could be more important to us all? It is a big subject to deal with adequately and little more is attempted here then an introduction. Every one of our faculties needs its own individual treatment. Every skilled craftsman sees to it that he has the best possible tools available for the job in hand and the appropriate tool for each operation. Our faculties are the tools we use in the job of living, and there is a special tool for each particular kind of operation.
Knowledge and experience enable us to perfect our faculties and to use them to full effect in our living to produce a perfect work of art and beauty. A definition of faculty could be the ability of consciousness to function in a particular way, through a specialised mechanism, for a specific purpose. All active life begins when faculty begins to function and ceases when faculty ceases. Sanity and success depend on our keeping our faculties alive, alert and in good working order. As an example of faculty operating through a mechanism, take sight - seeing is the faculty, the eyes are the mechanism through which it functions. The faculty belongs to the inner being, the Self; the consciousness arising in or from the Self is the 'seer', the eye is the mechanism of the sense of sight in the physical world.
In the process of evolution faculty proceeds, and indeed causes the development of its mechanisms. Faculty is there in the Self, before the production of its means of operation, e.g. sight before eyes. Seeing as a faculty, or particular kind of perception, operates on the inner as well as the physical planes, through mechanisms appropriate to the particular plane of operation.
Hearing is also a faculty, its mechanism is the ear; thinking is a faculty, its mechanism is the mind operating in the brain; feeling is a faculty, its mechanism is the sympathetic nervous system, and so on. Faculty remains within the Self when the mechanisms fail at the death of the body.
So we have in the physical world the physical instrument, the eye, the ear, the brain, etc. The impressions so gained are registered in consciousness at the level of the Self. They are, however, transmitted to consciousness via other 'mechanisms' in the inner man. These mechanisms are aspects of the capabilities of man's various principles, his 'vehicles' of consciousness, in the normally invisible realms behind the physical. These realms have various names, the astral, the pranic, the emotional or kamic, and the mental. Man's vehicles of operation, developed or latent, in these realms, constitute his psyche or more commonly, his soul. In the ordinarily developed man, although sense impressions are conveyed to consciousness through these principles, they are not developed to operate independently of the physical vehicle. When the appropriate aspects of them are so developed, the man becomes, so we say, clairvoyant and clairaudient. However, even when these vehicles do not yet have perceptive faculties of their own developed, they must be able to respond to stimuli received from the physical body and act in themselves as unconscious purveyors of them, to consciousness. In this sense, because of the essential part played by these inner psychic mechanisms, faculty could be described as being psychic.
All our faculties in this sense belong to the psyche, and so they are basically psychic faculties. The faculty is a permanent possession and prerogative of the Self. The mechanism physical and psychic is a temporary convenience with a local and limited range according to its development and condition, but of immediate value.
We must now notice the significant fact that expansion of consciousness must result from, and be accompanied by, an increase in faculty development, and an increase in function, in turn resulting in and from the development of its mechanism. Physical atoms and organs cannot of themselves feel or see or hear or think, except, of course, to the extent that the individual lives of the cells comprising the sense organs do. Each cell, of course, has its own inner principles. All faculties to a degree are latent or functioning in the psyche, and all are present potentially. In this we are all exactly alike; the apparent difference between us individuals is seen in how far we have realised and developed our faculties by use and application.
For any faculty to become operational in any of us, we have only to make a choice and want it. We then go for it determinedly, and in time it is ours. Then practice makes perfect. The genius is one who has done just that. Every man, woman and child is a potential genius and that means each of us. Nothing, however, comes as a gift to any man. There are no gifts except one, the gift of life itself, which provides us with all the opportunity we need. Special faculties are the result of special application and special effort. However, what one can do and be, all can do and be - if they want to. This is how Cosmos works. It is the Law and is perfectly just and fair; reasonably it could not possibly be otherwise.
Now what is the psyche as distinct from the Ego? The psyche could be defined quite simply as the whole non-physical mechanism of consciousness. It is partly mental, partly emotional and partly astral, and all those are constituted of 'lives' functioning characteristically at their appropriate levels. Together they form a psychic bridge between the Ego, the Spiritual Entity, and the living instrument, the physical body, which registers the sense impressions.
The evolutionary procedure is that the faculty, residing in the Self (the Ego), causes the evolution of the principle or 'mechanism' necessary for it to function at the desired level of expression. Normally when we are alive, this is at the physical level. For example, the Individuality, or Ego, has the ability to sense light and see effectively at its own level of being, and this without effort of any sort. But at a lower level it has to acquire for itself a mechanism formed from the living 'material' belonging to that particular level, in order to function there. For seeing at the physical level, a physical as well as a psychic eye is needed. The physical eye receives the light waves, the psychic 'eye' senses them and conveys them to the consciousness. We call the whole process seeing or sight. Similarly with the other of our five senses, at physical level: touch, taste smell and hearing. Each of these we now know is a sense which functions as a faculty through an appropriate sensing and transmission mechanism. The sense of touch is via our nerve endings distributed over the entire surface of the body. These are particularly sensitive at the tips of the fingers.
It is by way of our physical senses that we are in touch with our environment through which, and in which, we gain all our experience of life at the objective level.
Our life, however, is much richer than this. It is enhanced by our enjoyment, by our aesthetic appreciation, by our inner feelings of happiness and well being, by our hopes, our aspirations, and our affections and loves. Of course, all these have their opposites, their negative sides. But the contrasts are 'the stuff' of our lives. We need both the positive and negative stimuli for our proper growth. All, however, is as the result of faculty; on the one hand the receptive ones, those which provide our in-coming responses, and on the other hand, the outgoing, active ones with which we modify our environment and affect our relationships, and hence our further experience. All is faculty in operation, and each faculty has its proper place, for example, our emotions are not the right faculty for thinking. They could obviously lead us into some very unwise actions, but proper positive emotion, like real affection or legitimate desire, has its place. Self-observation of our actions and reactions is the only way to learn the constructive use of our faculties. This means a degree of self-awareness and persistent application over a long time before we become possessed of real knowledge of ourselves, and eventually Wisdom, the end result of spiritual development.
Published from Geoffrey's personal archive July 2012 The Blavatsky Trust 2012