For those of you in the audience who don’t speak French, learn. Until then, the rough translation of petit perception would be “keen sensing.” Think of Sherlock Holmes, able to spot, notice, and interpret the nature of a man’s hat or a bit of callus on his left hand. Think of James Bond, who can taste the finest distinctions of vermouth in a martini. Think of the Bene Gesserit from Dune, able to read lies into body language from a hundred paces (1).
These are fictional examples, but real men and women (such as Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin and Dr. Joseph Bell) have developed such abilities. Petit perception is a skill, and, like any other, it can be learned.
I’ve always been the absent-minded professor. Harry Lorayne, in one of his books, talks about “the man who knows the ascension dates of all the Kings and Queens of England, and forgets his wife’s birthday.” Normally, I’m not that bad, but I tend to forget about phone calls I was going to make, fail to notice turns, or miss regular-size print and have to start over again.
It got driven home to me way back in high school. My then-girlfriend was (and is) very into Western mysticism. She got frustrated at my obliviousness one day, and led me into my own room and had me close my eyes. She then asked me to name the objects in the room without looking.
Go ahead and try it. Amazing, eh? What did you get, maybe seven, eight objects in the room? Most of them in the wrong place? Don’t feel bad, pretty much everyone’s there with you.
She originally got it from a book by Joseph J. Weed, called Wisdom of the Mystic Masters. In my opinion, about two thirds of chapter four are the only reasons to buy the book, but they’re reason enough. Chapter four details a set of exercises, developing what Weed calls the powers of Observation, the powers of Concentration, and the powers of Meditation. In Learning to Think, we’ll be focusing on the first two.
Three exercises are included under each heading, and the general note that “you’ll probably think of many more.” For observation, Weed suggests the room game outlined above, remembering how many steps you just climbed on a staircase, and focusing on the ten minutes after you got up in the morning sometime in the evening. For concentration, he has us memorizing a few lines of poetry, doing some mental arithmetic, and focusing on a person’s face for about a minute every day. To these, I would add Kim’s Game (if you have a friend willing to help you with this), Robert-Houdin’s shopfront memory, layered listening, and ‘clocks’ whenever you have a spare moment. Don’t worry, they’re all outlined in the PDF.
I will do two videos for this one. The first one will be my trying to name the objects visible behind me with my eyes shut. Feel free to give me snark for any I miss. The second set of videos will be a little more fun: I will do math, in my head, while being assaulted by loud, annoying music, flashing lights, and scantily-clad women. China helpfully provides all three in institutions they call ‘nightclubs.’
For those of you playing the Home Game, you may want to try turning the camera to your bedroom, shutting your eyes, and naming the objects in the room on camera. I still suggest mental math in the nightclub, though, for the lawlz. Do both, and you get yourself a free Highjack commission.
A full PDF of my expanded Petit Perception plan is available here.
1 – for those of you who think I got the phrase from Dune, like simulflow, I didn’t. I stole it from Robert-Houdin, same as Herbert did.