Excerpts from

  "Secrets of Mental Supremacy " by W. R. C. Latson

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Book Description
1913. Contents: Mind and Its Material; Training of the Perspective Faculties; Memory and How to Develop It; Association of Idea; Imagination and How to Cultivate It; How to concentrate the Attention; Psycho-Physical Development; The Lost Art of Childhood.

This book was written by a medical doctor in 1913, a time when with almost no access to massive communication, people could concentrate better on their selves.

There is not a magical formula to get mental supremacy, however with a series of very simple exercises mental efficiency could be improved. The methods presented require no� previous training nor specialized knowledge and even children can easily apply them.

Thinking process involves several stages:

1. Perception 2. Memory 3. Association of memories 4. Judgment 5. Will

1. All we have in our mind came through the senses, therefore we have to learn how to fine our senses.

2. Perceptions are only useful if we can remember them, so we have to sharp our memory.

3. Isolated memories are of few value, their value increase when we are able to associate them.

4. A storm of associated memories are of little use except if we learn how to classify them.

5. In order to do anything with the mind (or with the body either, for that matter) one must choose, must wish to do that thing, and this choice, this decision to do something is called will.

The stages of the thinking process are interconnected and exercising one function we are exercising all the others. The book presents several kinds of exercises for each stage, exercises can be easily modified and new ones can be created according to the reader's preferences. No results however are guaranteed without a minimal of constant dedication.

Improving of the mental faculties, by the other hand, depends on several subjective factors. Even if we don't reach mental supremacy, this book can help us to improve our way of thinking, and any attempt to improve ourselves is worthwhile.

This book will provide you with all the tips, tricks and techniques you need to dramatically improve your memory and concentration, sharpen your mental focus, and increase your mental energy and alertness.

In fact, this book contains all the simple, step-by-step instructions and exercises you need to achieve “mental supremacy”.

Let me ask you a few questions:

  • Is fading memory or mental fatigue sabotaging your work performance, personal relationships, or independence?
  • Do you misplace things, lose your train of thought, or quickly forget a name you just learned? 
  • Do you want to stop forgetting appointments, birthdays, and other important dates?
  • Would you like to work more efficiently at your job?
  • Would you like to study less and get better grades?
  • Would you like to finally be able to remember the names and faces of people you meet?

If you want to remember and recall information more easily, think faster and with more clarity, and be more mentally fresh at the end of the day, then reading this book is a must for you.

IN the brief articles which will make up this series my object will be to present in the shortest, plainest, and most practical manner methods which, in my experience and that of many others who have been more or less under my influence, have seemed to be conducive to increased mental efficiency.

It is said that there is no royal road to learning; and while in a sense this is true, it is also true that, in all things, even in mind training, there is a right way and a wrong way--or rather there is one right way, and there are a thousand wrong ways.

Now, after trying, it seems to me, most of the wrong ways, I have found what I believe to be the right way; and in these articles I shall try to expound it to you. You need not expect an essay on psychology or a series of dissertations upon the "faculties of the mind"; for there will be nothing of the kind. On the other hand, I shall, so far as possible, avoid text-book terms and the text-book tone--both of which are quite absurd and quite futile. I shall try to give you bare facts. I shall try to give you plain directions, stripped of all verbal and pseudo-scientific flummery, for the acquisition of mental activity and mental supremacy.

W. R. C. Latson, M.D.

New York City.


FIRST of all, before you are able to think at all, you must have something to think about. You must have some mental "stock in trade." And this mental stock in trade you can gain only through the senses. The appearance of a tree, the roar of the ocean, the odor of a rose, the taste of an orange, the sensation you experience in handling a piece of satin--all these are so much material helping to form your stock of mental images--"the content of the consciousness," as the scholastic psychologists call it.

Now, all these millions and millions of facts which make up our mental stock in trade--the material of thought are gained through the senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and so on.

Value of the Perceptions.

In a recent article in a leading French scientific journal, a well-known scientist, Dr. A. Peres, has presented some ideas which are so thoroughly in accord with my own observations extending over many years, that I yield to the temptation to quote. Dr. Peres first makes note of modern degeneracy in this respect. I append a free translation of a few extracts which seem to me especially worthy of attention:--

“‘Have we naught but arms and legs? Have we not also eyes and ears?

And are not these latter organs necessary to the use of the former? Exercise then not the muscles only, but the senses that control them.' Thus was a celebrated philosopher wont to express himself. Nevertheless when we measure acuteness of vision we find that it is becoming weaker; hardness of hearing is on the increase; we suffer daily from lack of skill in workmen, in domestics, in ourselves; as to taste and smell, they are used up--thus do the inevitable laws of atavism act.

"The trouble is that, despite Rousseau's objurgating, we have always paid too little attention to the hygiene and education of the senses, giving all our care to the development of physical strength and vigor; so that the general term 'physical education' finally has assumed the restricted meaning of 'muscular education.'

"The senses, which put us in contact with exterior objects, have nevertheless a primordial importance. ... So great is their value that it is the interest and even the duty of man to preserve them as a treasure, and not to do anything which might derange their wonderful mechanism."

The length and exactness of the sight, the skill and sureness of the hand, the delicacy of the hearing, are of value to artist and artisan alike by the perfection and rapidity of work that they insure. Nothing embarrasses a man so trained; he is, so to speak, ready for anything. His cultivated senses have become for him tools of universal use. The more perfect his sensations, the more justness and clearness do his ideas acquire. The education of the senses is the primary form of intellectual education.

"The influence of training on the senses is easily seen. The adroit marksman never misses his aim; the savage perceives and recognizes the slightest rustling; certain blind persons know colors by touch; the precision of jugglers is surprising; the gourmet recognizes the quality of a wine among a thousand others; odor is with chemists one of the most sensitive reactions.

"The senses operate in two ways, either passively, when the organ, solely from the fact that it is situated on the surface of the body, and independently of the will, is acted upon by exterior bodies; or actively, when the organ, directed and excited by the will, goes, so to speak, in advance of the body to receive the impression. Passively, we see, hear, touch, smell; actively, we observe, listen, feel, sniff. By the effect of the attention and by arranging our organs in certain ways, our impressions become more intense. . . .

"The impressions made by exterior objects on the sense-organs, the nerves and the brain, are followed by certain mental operations. These two things are often confounded. We are in the habit of saying that our senses often deceive us; it would be more just to recognize that we do not always interpret correctly the data that they furnish us. The art of interpretation may be learned. . . .

"The intuitive, concrete form given nowadays to education contributes to the training of the senses by developing attention, the habit of observation; but this does not suffice. To perfect the senses and make each of them, in its own perceptions, acquire all possible force and precision, they must be subjected to special exercises, appropriate and graded. A new gymnastic must thus be created in all its details."

There are, of course, a certain number of "specific" or racial impressions and tendencies that come down through what is called heredity; but these are merely instincts and impulses, and while they have an influence upon the person's character and habits of thought, they do not, in themselves, provide actual material for thought.

If you can imagine a person who was blind and deaf, who could not smell or taste or feel or move; he would be quite unable to think, for he would have in his mind nothing about which to think. The material of thought, the mental stock in trade, is gained through the senses; and in any rational effort to train the mind we must begin by training the senses--the perceptions, as they are more accurately called,--so that we may see, hear, smell, taste, and feel with more precision and keenness. Trained perceptions are the very foundation of all mental power.

Our system of training for mental supremacy will begin, then, with a brief study of the perceptions, or senses, and the methods by which we may gain the power of seeing more clearly, listening more intently, of feeling more delicately, and, in general, of developing the perceptive powers.

But the perceptions are of little value unless we remember what we have perceived. You may have read all the wise books ever written, you may have traveled the wide world over; you may have had all kinds of interesting and unusual experiences; but--unless you can remember what you have read, what you have seen, and what you have done -- you will have no real use of it all. You will have gained no mental "stock in trade," no material by the employment of which you may hope to achieve mental supremacy. It will be necessary, then, for us to study not only methods of developing power of perception, but the means by which perception may be retained and recalled at will.

The Power of Associating Memories.

But the memory itself is not enough. I have known people of unusual powers of memory who could not talk, write, or think well--who were like "the bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, with loads of learned humor in his head"; but who, in spite of all their experience and their recollection of it, had nothing to write, nothing to say.

So--memory is not enough. One must have the power of putting memories together--of analyzing, comparing, contrasting, and associating memories--until the entire mass of memories, which form the "content of the consciousness," is wrought into one splendid, homogeneous whole--a mass of images, each one of which is intimately connected with many others, and all of which are under instant command of the central sovereign—the will.

It will be necessary, then, to give special attention to this most important matter of analyzing, comparing, and grouping mental images. Of all the activities of the mind this faculty, called "the power of association," is the one most directly conducive to what is generally called "a brilliant mind."

Imagination and Judgment.

The possession of trained perceptions, of a retentive memory and great powers of association are of enormous value; but only when combined with another faculty--imagination; and imagination is merely the power of recombining certain memories in such a fashion that the combination is new. Imagination is a faculty of the highest possible importance. Every splendid achievement, every invention, every business enterprise, every great poem, or book or picture, has been not only conceived but completed in imagination before it became actualized in fact.

And then it is necessary to be able to compare the mental pictures, gathered by the perceptions, remembered and classified by memory and association, so as to determine the relation of these memories to each other and their application to other ideas or mental images. And this valuable faculty of the mind is called judgment.

Necessity for Concentration.

Now, in order to do well in any one of the things of which I have been writing, it is necessary that the entire mind should be engaged upon that one thing. To do anything well one must do only that thing at that time. And this is particularly true of the action of the mind. The focusing of the entire power of the mind upon one thing is commonly known as concentration or "the power of attention."

So essential is this power of concentrating the entire mind upon the task in hand that it is not too much to say that no great degree of mental power can ever be gained without concentration. So in our study of the practical methods by which mental supremacy may be achieved, we shall pay special attention to the development of this invaluable faculty.

But in order to do anything with the mind (or with the body either, for that matter) one must choose, must wish to do that thing. And this choice, this decision to do something, is called the will. The power to choose quickly and decisively and to act vigorously upon that choice is a rather rare thing. He who has that power is said to have a strong will.

This question of will and its development is most important. The great difference between men – between strong men and weaklings, between the honored and the disregarded, between the masters and the serfs—is will. A man of strong, unfaltering will is sure to succeed even if his abilities are mediocre; but a man of weak will, no matter what his abilities, is not likely to achieve either success or honor among men.

As a great psychologist has said: "The education of the will is really of far greater importance than that of the intellect." And again: "Without this [will] there can be neither independence, nor firmness, nor individuality of character." Ik Marvel says: "Resolve is what makes a man manifest. . . . Will makes men giants."

The will, like any other mental faculty, may be highly developed by training; and this, with many practical exercises, also we will take up in its proper place.

Importance of the Social Faculties.

The above brief outline of the mental powers embraces those which any one may develop and use without help from or association with other people. The highest powers of the mind, however, or at any rate, the most impressive powers of the mind, can be developed only through contact with others--through social intercourse.

A man might have miraculously keen perceptions, perfect memory, splendid imagination, infallible judgment, indomitable will--he might have all of these; and yet he would miss the rewards of mental supremacy unless he were capable of dealing with other people--unless he were socially accomplished.

In our efforts to train the powers of the mind, therefore, it will be necessary to make a study of some of the principles affecting our relations with other people; and so we shall in the same practical and straightforward way discuss sympathy, adaptability, and self-command. The important question of verbal expression as applied to both speech and writing will also receive special attention.

Mental Action a Unit.

In conclusion you must not forget that, although I speak of the various mental acts as if they were separate, this is done only for convenience of discussion and description. As a matter of fact the mind is one thing—a unit. All the various "faculties" act together constantly. One cannot remember what an oak tree looks like unless he has carefully observed an oak tree. He cannot imagine an oak tree unless he remembers it. He cannot judge of the difference between an oak tree and a maple tree unless he can imagine a picture of the two side by side. And he cannot do any one of these things without attention; nor again can he concentrate his attention without an act of will.

So we see that the various acts of the mind, perception, memory, imagination, judgment, attention, and will, are inextricably interdependent—and that one act involves all the rest.

Happily this makes our task all the easier and more interesting. In this series I shall begin by giving you some plain practical advice as to the development of the perceptive powers—the ability to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell more efficiently. But with every moment of practice such as I advise you will also be developing a more exact and acute memory, a finer and more expansive imagination, a greater power concentration, and a stronger will. When we come to discuss the cultivation of the will power the exercises will require the use of the perceptions, the memory, the imagination, and other faculties. So, you see, in developing the mind in any one phase of its activity you are, at the same time and by the same act, adding to the power and usefulness of the entire mind.


Man is the eyes of things.—Hindu Proverb.

THAT far-seeing genius, Goethe, once said that he regarded himself as the center of all phenomena, a sort of focus to which converged everything in the universe, out of which came--Goethe. He also claimed that the real standard for all things in life was simply the mass of sensations that were appreciable to the human senses.

In other words, Goethe understood perfectly the now widely recognized--and widely ignored--educational principle that all mental activity is based upon the perceptions--upon the things we see and hear and feel and taste and smell.

As well might you try to build a house without wood or bricks or stone or mortar, as to try to think without a good "stock in trade" of impressions, images, and memories gathered by the senses and the perceptions.

Blurred Mental Pictures.

One of the never failing marks of the common mind, the untrained, inefficient mind, is that the mental pictures it contains are confused, blurred, inexact. A person with such a mind will tell you that an auto car just passed him on the road. "Was it a big, red car?" you ask. Well, he does not quite know. It might have been red, and yet he guesses it was black; possibly it was gray. How many people were in it? Three or four or five --four, he thinks. Ask him to give you an outline of a book he has read or a play he has seen, and he is equally helpless. And so on.

Such a person is the typical inefficient. You will find thousands of these inefficients filling unimportant places in shops and offices. And even the trivial duties of such positions they are unable to perform properly. They cannot read a line of shorthand notes and be sure of its meaning; they cannot add a column of figures and be certain of the result without repeated checking’s. Such unfortunates are the "flotsam and jetsam" of the commercial world--the unfit who, in the struggle for existence, must necessarily be crowded out by those whose mental processes are more positive and more exact.

The extent to which the perceptions can be developed is almost incredible. I know personally a bank teller who can detect a counterfeit coin without a glance at it, judging only by weight, feeling, and ring. Another man of my acquaintance makes a large salary merely by his ability to judge tea through its flavor--a "tea taster." I know an orchestra conductor who, in the full fortissimo of his sixty piece band, will detect a slight error of any one performer. I could give many other instances within my own experience of remarkable powers of trained perception.

The Perceptions Are Easily Trained.

For the encouragement of those who are aware that they do not get the best possible service from their senses and perceptions--that they do not see all there is to be seen, hear exactly and distinctly and so on--for the benefit of these I may say at once that the senses and perceptions are easily trained. A month or two of discipline such as I am about to describe will show most marked and gratifying development. In most cases a few months' training is all that is necessary; for the habit of close observation is soon formed, and once formed no further thought is required. The matter takes care of itself.

The Perceptions of Children.

First of all, a word about the senses and perceptions of children. Just here is one of the grievous defects of our defective school system. It practically ignores the fact that the child develops, not through reasoning, but through observation and activity. The child observes everything. His senses are active and acute. Childhood is the time to accumulate observations and experiences; later they will form the material for thought and general development.

The child should be encouraged to perceive and to remember. All the methods which I am about to describe are applicable to children of less than ten years old. The more elaborate and far ranging the mass of perceptions are, memories which the child carries over from infancy and childhood into youth and adult age, the greater, other things being equal, will be his intellectual possibilities.

Most of Us Are Sensorily Starved.

Most of us are grossly deficient in mental images. At a test made not long ago in Boston eighty per cent, of the children had no idea what a beehive was like, over half of them had no conception of a sheep, and over nine tenths had no notion of the appearance or nature of growing wheat. Of course they knew of other things which the country bred child would not know; but fancy the loss in the imagination of one to whom the following lines arouse no vision of a pure, rustic matutinal scene:--

"The breezy call of incense-breathing morn, the swallow twittering from the straw-built shed, the cock's shrill clarion or the echoing horn no more shall rouse them from their lowly bed."

The great secret of a true development of the perceptions is discrimination--the realization of differences. To the savage a sound is a sound; to the musician it is excruciating discord or exquisite harmony. To the musician a little depression in the ground, a bent twig, a turned leaf--they are nothing; to the savage they mean food, an enemy, safety, or danger. In the printed pages the unlettered boor sees only foolish black marks on white paper; but in those black marks the man of education sees that which makes his heart beat faster, his eyes swim with tears--which tells him secrets of life the clodhopper will never, never know. The differences are in the trained or untrained perceptions.

Most of the exercises which I shall describe are quite simple--many, perhaps, will seem trivial. But remember, as a great educator has said: "The . . . point in education is the power to attend to things which may be in themselves indifferent by arousing an artificial feeling of interest."

So the first exercise is quite simple--simple, but not easy. Try it and see.

Take any object you like--a book, a pen, a pair of scissors. Lay it on the table before you. Then take pencil and paper and describe it. Simply tell what you see. Can you? I doubt it. Tell its dimensions, weight, color, form, markings, lettering, origin, uses, possibilities, shortcomings. See how fully you can write about the object. The result will probably not please you. You will find that you have not nearly the powers of expression which you supposed you possessed. But--it is good training; and with practice your powers will grow rapidly.

You can do the same thing out of doors. Look at a mountain peak, the ocean, a horse, a bird. If you think for a moment there is nothing to write about these things read up "Poem in the Valley of Chamouni," Byron's splendid passage beginning "Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll," the superb poem in the book of Job describing the horse, Shelley's "Skylark," and so on. James Whitcomb Riley has said: "There is ever a song somewhere, my child." And to find the material for the song it is necessary only to look with refined and educated perception--to look trying to see all the various sides, all the many phases of the object looked at.

In the same way you should study also many other natural objects--autumnal tints, frost marks, snowflakes, trees, both their general form and the shape of their leaves, all the common flowers. Last of all, and in many respects most practically important of all, make it a habit to observe closely the human face. Try to recognize and discriminate the signs of education, refinement, intellect, in the face, as distinguished from the stigmata of ignorance, coarseness, and brutality.

Another good exercise for the training of the sight is this: Procure a number of ordinary marbles, say three dozen; one dozen each of red, of white, and of blue. Then mix them together in a receptacle. Now grasp a handful of the marbles, give one glance at them and throw them back again. Then note down how many of each color there were in the hand. At first you will find this difficult. In a short time, however, you will be able to distinguish at a glance between, say, three red, five white, and seven blue--and three red, six white, and six blue—with corresponding development of the powers of perception in all other directions.

A very simple and very good exercise for the development of the faculty of sight is the following:--

Procure about a dozen white paste-board cards, say three by five inches in size. Then with a small brush or with a pen draw upon each a number of small black circles. The circles should be solid black, about one quarter inch in diameter. On the first card draw one, on the second two, and so on, until the last, on which you will make twelve. Group them so far as possible in a circle.

Now to use them: Hold the cards face downward and shuffle them. Then take up the top one, give one brief glance at it, and try to perceive how many black circles there are upon it. Don't try to count during your brief glance. Don't squint, scowl, or strain the eyes. Merely glance, and then try to remember and count what you saw. At first you will probably find it difficult to discriminate between five circles and six; after a time, however, you will be able to decide instantly upon any number of circles up to fifteen, twenty or even more.

Training the Ear to Hear.

Few people know how to hear. Of most it might well be said "ears and they hear not." I do not mean that in most people the organ of hearing is in any way defective, but that as a result of inattention and lack of practice they do not get clear, vivid impressions from the sounds which impinge upon their auditory apparatus.

One of the best methods of training the hearing faculty is to listen attentively to the varied sounds of the country. The humming of insects, the cry of the robin, thrush, catbird, blackbird, swallow,--all these and the many other sounds peculiar to the country should be carefully studied.

The sounds incidental to city life are less picturesque and in a sense less varied than those of the country; and yet, if we speak only of the musical advantages of the city, there alone we have material for a splendid auditory training. Concerts, the opera, social music, the phonograph, even the hand organs on the street provide opportunities for a training of the ear. These opportunities may be utilized in various ways.

One of the best and most practical, perhaps, is to habitually require of one's self a knowledge of the melody of popular selections. How many people, not distinctly musical, know the air of the "Soldiers' Chorus" from "Faust," the "Toreador's Song" from "Carmen," or the overture to "Tannhauser"? And yet these are things that we hear every day on the street organs.

A very fine exercise for the development of the hearing faculty is merely to listen to the ticking of a watch. A method which I have found very practical and helpful is the following:--

Place the watch upon the table at which you are sitting. Now turn toward it the left ear. Can you hear it? Yes, plainly. Move a foot, two feet, three, four, from the table. Can you hear the watch? Yes. Now increase the distance, foot by foot, until you can no longer hear the watch. Now listen! listen! Concentrating the attention upon the sound until, out of the silence, or of a confusion of sounds, there comes to you the clear, rhythmical ticking of the tiny mechanism. All this time you are sitting with your left ear turned toward the watch. The same practice should, of course, be gone through with the right ear.

This exercise is valuable not only in cultivating the power of hearing, but also in developing concentration of the attention and will. It is merely another phase of the same method by which an orchestra conductor can, at will, select one instrument out of a band, and hear only that one to the exclusion of any other piece.

Training the Sense of Smell.

We hear much to the effect that, as an animal, man is inferior to the beasts of the field; but, like a great deal else that we hear, it is not true--at least not to any extent. The truth is that, merely as an animal, man is the master- piece of creation. In actual strength, endurance, grace, and rapidity of motion, the best physical types of men compare favorably with any other animal of the same size and weight. This is a biological fact.

But in one respect, at least, he is distinctly inferior, and that is as regards the sense of smell. There are very few animals that are not better equipped than man in this respect.

For this inferiority there are many reasons, which we cannot discuss in this place.

I may remark, however, that in some people the sense of smell is developed to a surprising degree. I once knew a woman, well born and highly educated who, while blindfolded, could name any one of her friends who came within a foot or two of her. The same woman was also usually able to determine, by their odor, the owner- ship of articles belonging to those whom she knew well. I know another woman who can distinguish copper, brass, steel, and iron by their taste and odor. I may also add that what we call "taste" is also largely smell. The achievements of tea, coffee, tobacco, and whisky experts depend very largely upon delicacy of the olfactory sense.

A good method of training this sense is the following: Procure a number of small pasteboard or wooden boxes such as are used by druggists in the dispensing of pills or tablets. Any druggist will provide them for a trifle. Then put into each box a small quantity of one of the following substances: cinnamon, cloves, red pepper, mustard, black pepper, ginger. A half dozen boxes are enough, selecting for them such of the above substances as are most readily procurable.

To practice this method, simply close your eyes, open a box at random and try to determine what the substance is by the odor. This method may be varied by having a number of small vials, each containing one of the fragrant oils, such as oil of cloves, wintergreen, lemon, verbena, lavender, peppermint, bergamot, nutmeg, and so on. It is a good plan also to take careful note of the distinctive odor of the various fragrant flowers so that they may afterward be recognized by the perfume which is peculiar to each.

Training for the Taste.

There are, in reality, only four savors or tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. As I have just remarked, what we call taste is very largely smell, or flavor. The best way to develop delicacy of the gustatory sense is to eat very simple food, and to put thereon very little or no seasoning in the form of salt, sugar, mustard, pepper, vinegar, or other condiment. Then, and then only, will one be able to appreciate the real flavor of the food. No one, for instance, who is in the habit of using pepper and other condiments, can really taste a strawberry.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize two things: first, that a training of the perceptive powers is the best possible investment one can make--even regarding the matter from its lowest view point--the monetary; second, that the exercises which I have suggested in this chapter, while they may seem very simple, almost trivial, will in every case where they are seriously practiced, add immensely not only to the powers of perception but to practical efficiency of every faculty of the mind.

"Secrets of Mental Supremacy " by W. R. C. Latson

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