Wednesday, May 11, 2016
The Twelve Human Senses
Rudolf Steiner to the first Waldorf teachers just before the opening of the first Waldorf school, Stuttgart, August 29, 1919:
We saw yesterday that we can only understand memory, the power of remembering, if we connect it with sleeping and waking, which are more open to outer observation. You will see from this that it must be our constant endeavor in our pedagogy to connect the unknown with the known, even in the formation of spiritual ideas.
You may say that sleeping and waking are actually even more obscure than remembering and forgetting, and therefore will not help much towards a comprehension of remembering and forgetting. Nevertheless, anyone who can observe carefully what man loses in disturbed sleep can form some idea of the disturbance introduced into the soul when forgetting is not in a right relation to remembering. We know how in ordinary life if we do not sleep long enough the ego-consciousness becomes weaker and weaker, it becomes hypersensitive, too much given up to all the impressions of the outer world. Even when there is a relatively slight disturbance through sleep, or rather through lack of sleep, you can see that this is the case. Let us suppose that during one night you did not sleep well. I am supposing that your lack of sleep was not because you were particularly diligent and spent the night in working; then matters are different. But let us suppose that your sleep was disturbed by some bodily condition or by mosquitoes, in short by something more outside your soul. Then you would see that perhaps even on the next day things affect you more unpleasantly than usual. It has made you to some extent susceptible in your ego.
It is the same if we allow forgetting and remembering to play into our soul life in the wrong way. But when do we do this? When we cannot regulate our remembering and forgetting with our own will. There are very many people — and the disposition is seen even in early childhood — who doze through life. The outer things make an impression on them, and they give themselves up to these impressions, but they do not attend to them rightly; they allow the impressions to dart past them, as it were. They do not connect themselves properly with these impressions through their ego. And if they are not rightly given up to the outer world, then they also doze half asleep with regard to the mental pictures which rise up freely in them. They do not try of their own free will to call up the treasure of their mental pictures when they are in need of it in order properly to understand this or that; but they allow the thoughts, the mental pictures, which rise up from within to rise up of themselves. Sometimes this mental picture comes, sometimes that; but their own will has no special say in the matter. This is indeed the soul condition of many men, a condition which appears especially in this way in childhood.
It will help us to bring remembering and forgetting ever more under our control if we know that in remembering and forgetting, conditions of sleeping and waking are playing into the waking life. How does remembering come about? It comes about in this way, that the will, in which we are asleep, takes hold of a mental picture down in the unconscious and raises it into consciousness. Just as the human ego and the astral body, when outside the physical and etheric bodies from the time of falling asleep until waking up, collect force in the spiritual world in order to refresh the physical and etheric bodies, so what is effected through the process of remembering comes from the force of the sleeping will. But the will is indeed “asleep.” and therefore you cannot give a child a direct training in the use of his will. For to try and make a child use his will would be like admonishing him to be very good in his sleep, in order to bring this goodness into his life when he awakes again in the morning. Thus it is impossible to demand that this sleeping part, the sleeping will, should exert itself directly in single actions in order to regulate memory.
What then can we do? Naturally we cannot demand that a person should by a single effort regulate his memory, but we can educate the whole man in such a way that he will develop habits in soul, body, and spirit which conduce to such an exertion of the will on particular occasions. Let us look at this more in detail.
We will suppose that through our special treatment of the subject we awaken in the child a vivid interest in the animal kingdom. We shall naturally not be able to do this in a day. We must so plan our lessons that the interest we arouse for the animal world becomes greater and greater. The greater the interest such lessons arouse the more they affect the child's will; so that, when mental pictures of animals and ideas about them are required by the normally regulated memory, the will has the capacity to bring them forth from the subconscious, from the region of forgetting. Only by working through the force of habit and custom in man can you give order to his will and therewith also to his memory. In other words, you must understand how everything that awakens an intense interest in the child also contributes to a very great extent towards making his memory strong and efficient. For the power of the memory must be derived from the feeling and will and not from mere intellectual memory exercises.
But you will have seen from what I have explained that everything in the world, especially in the human world, is in a certain sense separated into different parts, and yet these parts work together. We cannot understand the human being with regard to his soul life if we do not divide the soul into thinking, or thinking-cognition, feeling, and willing. But neither pure thinking-cognition, nor pure feeling, nor pure willing is ever present alone; the three always work together, weave together into a unity. And this is true of the whole human being even in the physical body.
I have pointed out to you that the human being is principally head in the head region, but that he is really all head: he is principally chest as a chest being, but he is all chest or breast-man, for the head too partakes of the chest nature, and so does the limb-man. The limb-man is principally limb-man, but really the whole human being is limb-man: for the limbs partake of the head nature and also of the chest nature: they take part, for example, in the breathing through the skin and if we want to come near to reality, especially the reality of human nature, we must be clear that all separation proceeds from unity: if we were only to recognize an abstract unity then we should learn to know nothing whatever. If we never differentiated, the whole world would remain vague, just as all cats are grey at night. Hence people who want to grasp everything in terms of abstract unities see the world grey in grey. On the other hand if we only differentiated, if we only separated, keeping everything apart, we should never come to a real knowledge: for then we should only understand the different parts, and knowledge would elude us.
Thus everything in man is partly of a knowing nature, partly of a feeling nature, and partly of a willing nature. The knowing is principally knowing, but also of a feeling and willing nature; the feeling is principally feeling, but also of a knowing and willing nature: and the same is true of willing.
We are now in a position to apply this to what we characterized yesterday as the sphere of the senses. In striving to understand what I am now going to bring before you, you must really lay aside all pedantry, otherwise you may perhaps find the most glaring contradiction to what I said before. But reality consists in contradictions. We do not understand reality unless we see the contradictions in the world.
The human being has altogether twelve senses. The reason that only five, six, or seven senses are recognized in ordinary science is that these five, six, or seven senses are the most conspicuous, and the others which complete the twelve less conspicuous. I have often spoken of these twelve senses of the human being; we will call them to mind once more today. Usually people speak of the senses of hearing, warmth, sight, taste, smell, touch — and it even happens that the senses of warmth and touch are considered as one, which, in the realm of external objects would be something like regarding “smoke” and “dust” as one because they have the same external appearance. It ought not to be necessary now to say that the senses of warmth and touch are two completely different ways in which a human being can relate himself to the world. But these are the senses differentiated by present-day psychologists, with possibly the addition of the “sense of balance.” Some add yet another sense, but even so a complete physiology and psychology of the senses is not reached, because people do not observe that when a man perceives the ego of another human being he has a relationship to his environment similar to that which he has in the perception of a color by the sense of sight.
In the present day people are inclined to mix everything up. When a man thinks of his conception of the ego he thinks at once of his own soul-being and that usually satisfies him. Psychologists do almost the same thing. They do not consider in the least that it is one thing if I describe as “ I ” all that I experience as myself, the sum indeed of this experience, and that it is a completely different thing when I meet a man and through the kind of relationship I have with him describe him as an ego, an “ I .” These are two quite different activities of the soul and spirit. In the first instance when I sum up the activities of my life in the comprehensive synthesis “I ,” I have something purely inward; in the second instance, when I meet another man and through my relationship to him discover that he too is something of the same kind as my ego, I have an activity before me which takes place in the interplay between me and the other man. Hence I must realize that the perception of my own ego within me is something different from the recognition of another man as an ego. The perception of the other ego depends upon the ego-sense just as the perception of color depends upon the sense of sight, and the perception of sound upon the sense of hearing. The organ of seeing is open to our sight, but nature does not make it so easy for a man to see the organ which perceives the ego. But we might well use the word “to ego” (German: ichen) for the perception of other “ I 's” or egos, as we use the word “to see” for the perception of color. The organ for the perception of color is external to man; the organ for the perception of egos is spread out over the whole human being and consists of a very fine substantiality, and on this account people do not talk about this “organ for perceiving the ego.” And this “organ for perceiving the ego” is a different thing from that whereby I experience my own ego. There is indeed a vast difference between the experience of my own ego and the perception of the ego in another. For the perception of the ego of another is essentially a process of knowledge, at least a process which is similar to knowledge, whereas the experience of a man's own ego is a process of will.
We have now come to the point where a pedant might feel very pleased. He might say: yesterday you said that the activities of all the senses were pre-eminently activities of the will: now you construe the ego sense and say that it is principally a sense of knowledge. But if you characterize the ego sense as I have tried to do in the new edition of my Philosophy of Freedom you will realize that this ego sense really works in a very complicated way. On what does the perception of the ego of the other man really depend? The theorists of the present day say things that are quite extraordinary. They say: you see the form of the outward man, you hear his voice, and moreover you know that you look human yourself like the other man, and that you have within you a being who thinks and feels and wills, who is thus also a man of soul and spirit. So you conclude by analogy: as there is in me a thinking, feeling, and willing being, so is there also in the other man. A conclusion is drawn by analogy from myself to the other.
This conclusion by analogy is simply foolishness. The inter-relationship between the one man and the other contains something quite different. When you confront another man something like the following happens. You perceive a man for a short time; he makes an impression on you. This impression disturbs you inwardly; you feel that the man, who is really a similar being to yourself, makes an impression on you like an attack. The result is that you “defend” yourself in your inner being, that you oppose yourself to this attack, that you become inwardly aggressive towards him. This feeling abates and your aggression ceases; hence he can now make another impression upon you. Then your aggressive force has time to rise again, and again you have an aggressive feeling. Once more it abates and the other makes a fresh impression upon you and so on. That is the relationship which exists when one man meets another and perceives his ego: giving yourself up to the other human being — inwardly warding him off; giving yourself up again — warding him off; sympathy — antipathy; sympathy — antipathy. I am not now speaking of the feeling life, but of what takes place in perception when you confront a man. The soul vibrates: sympathy — antipathy; sympathy — antipathy: they vibrate too. (You can read this in the new edition of Philosophy of Freedom.)
This however is not all. In that sympathy is active, you sleep into the other human being; in that antipathy is active, you wake up again, and so on. There is this quick alternation in vibrations between waking and sleeping when we meet another man. We owe this alternation to the organ of the ego sense. Thus this organ for the perception of the ego is organized in such a way that it apprehends the ego of another in a sleeping, not in a waking, will and then quickly carries over this apprehension accomplished in sleep to the region of knowledge, i.e., to the nervous system. Thus when we view the matter truly, the principal thing in the perception of another man is after all the will, but essentially a will which acts in a state of sleep, not waking. For we are constantly weaving moments of sleep into the act of perception of another ego. What lies between them is indeed knowledge that is immediately carried over into the domain of the nervous system. So that I can really call the perception of another a process of knowledge, but I must know that this process of knowledge is only a metamorphosis of a sleeping process of the will. Thus this sense process is really a process of the will, only we do not recognize it as such. We do not experience in conscious life all the knowledge which we experience in sleep.
As the next sense, but separated from the ego sense and from all other senses, we have to consider what I call the thought sense. The thought sense is not the sense for the perception of one's own thoughts, but for the perception of the thoughts of other men. Here too psychologists evolve most grotesque ideas. Above all, people are so very much influenced by the ideas of the connection of thought and speech that they believe that thought is always conveyed by means of speech. This is an absurdity. For with your thought sense you could perceive thoughts in external spatial gestures, just as easily as in spoken speech. Speech only mediates for the thoughts. You must perceive the thoughts in themselves through a special sense. And when the Eurythmy signs for all sounds are fully developed you need only see them done in Eurythmy to read the thoughts from the eurythmic movements, just as you take them in through hearing when they are spoken. In short, the thought sense is different from what is at work in the sense of sound for speech-sound. For next we have the sense of speech proper.
Then come the sense of hearing, the sense of warmth, the sense of sight, the sense of taste, the sense of smell, and the sense of balance. We have, indeed, a sense-like consciousness that we live in balance. Through a certain inward sense like perception we relate ourselves to right and left, to forward and backward, we hold ourselves in balance so that we do not fall over. If the organ of our sense of balance is destroyed, we do fall over; we cannot then balance ourselves, any more than we can gain a contact with color if the eye is destroyed. But not only have we a sense for the perception of balance, we have further a sense for our own movement, whereby we can tell whether we are at rest or in movement, whether our muscles are flexed or not. Thus besides the sense of balance we have the sense of movement, and further still we have the sense of life, for the perception of the well-being of the body in the widest sense. Many people are indeed very dependent on this sense of life. They perceive if they have eaten too much or too little, and feel comfortable or uncomfortable accordingly, or they perceive whether they are tired or not, and again feel comfortable or uncomfortable as the case may be. In short the perception of the conditions of one's body is reflected in the sense of life.
Thus we get the table of the senses as twelve senses. The human being actually has twelve senses.
Now that we have disposed of the possibility of making pedantic objections to the knowledge character of some of the senses by recogniszng that this knowledge character rests in a subtle way upon the will, we can differentiate the senses yet further. First we have four senses: the senses of touch, of life, of movement, and of balance. These senses are mainly penetrated by will activity. In the perception of movements by means of these senses, the will works in. Feel how the will works into the perception of your movements, even when you carry out these movements while you are standing.
The will at rest also works into the perception of your balance. It works very strongly into the sense of life and it also works into the sense of touch, for when you touch anything it is really something taking place between your will and the environment. In short, you can say that the sense of balance, the sense of movement, the sense of life, and the sense of touch are, in a limited aspect, senses of will. In the sense of touch a man sees externally that, for instance, he moves his hand when he touches anything, hence it is apparent to him that he has this sense. But it is not so apparent that he possesses the senses of life, of movement, and of balance. For since they are in a special sense “will senses,” man is asleep with regard to these senses because he is asleep in his will. Indeed in most books on psychology you do not find these senses cited at all, because science itself is contentedly asleep to many things.
The next senses — sense of smell, sense of taste, sense of sight, sense of warmth — are chiefly feeling senses. It seems quite evident to ordinary consciousness that smelling and tasting are connected with feeling. This is not felt in the case of sight and warmth, and for a special reason. People do not perceive that the sense of warmth is very closely related to feeling; rather, they confuse it with the sense of touch. Things are wrongly confounded and wrongly differentiated. In reality the sense of touch belongs much more to the realm of will, whereas the sense of warmth is in the realm of feeling only. If people do not recognize the sense of sight as a feeling sense, it is because they have not carried out observations such as those, for example, described in Goethe's Theory of Color. There you have clearly set forth all that relates color to feeling, and leads finally even to impulses of will.
But how is it that people overlook the fact that in the sense of sight we have chiefly to do with feeling? Actually we see things in the following way: in presenting an arrangement of colors to us, they show also the boundaries of these colours — lines and forms. But we do not usually attend to the way we actually perceive. If a man perceives a colored circle he simply says: I see the color, I see also the curve of the circle, the form of the circle. But there we have two completely different things looked upon as one. What you immediately perceive through the real activity of the eye apart from the other senses is only the color. You see the form of the circle by making use of the sense of movement in your subconsciousness, and you make the form of the circle unconsciously in your etheric body, in your astral body, and then you raise it into knowledge. It is because the circle which you have taken in by means of your sense of movement comes up into knowledge that what you have recognized as a circle connects itself with the color which you perceive. Thus you call forth the form from your whole body by appealing to the sense of movement, which extends throughout your body. This matches what I have already explained to you: the human being actually executes geometrical forms in the cosmos and then raises them into knowledge.
Official science of the present day does not rise to an observation so fine as to distinguish between the seeing of color and the perception of form with the help of the sense of movement; rather, it mixes everything up. But in the future it will be impossible to educate through such confusion. For how is it possible to educate a child to use his sense of sight without knowing that the whole human being pours himself into the act of seeing by way of the sense of movement?
This leads us on to another point: You are dealing with the act of seeing when you perceive colored forms. This act of seeing, this perception of colored forms, is a complicated act. But since you are a unity you can reunite in yourself what you have perceived in the two ways, through the eye and through the sense of movement. You would look at a red circle in a dull and blank way if you could not perceive the red in one way and the form of the circle in quite a different way. But you do not look upon it in a blank way because you look at it from two sides: the color through the eye, and the form with the help of the sense of movement; and life compels you to join the two together inwardly. There you form a judgment.
And now you understand judgment as a living process in your own body, which comes about through the fact that the senses bring the world to you analyzed into members. The world brings you what you experience divided into twelve separate members, and in your judgment you join the things together again because the separate parts do not want to continue as separate parts. The form of the circle is not content to remain mere form as it is to the sense of movement, neither is color content to remain mere color as it is perceived by the eye. The things compel you to combine them inwardly and you declare yourself to be inwardly ready to combine them. Thus the function of judgment becomes an expression of your whole being.
Now you see into the deep meaning of our connection with the world. If we had not twelve senses we should look at our environment like dullards, we should not be able to experience an inward judgment. But since we have twelve senses we have a fair number of possibilities of uniting what is separate. What the ego sense experiences we can connect with the other eleven senses, and that is true of each sense. In this way we get a large number of permutations in the combinations of the senses. Besides that, we have a great many possibilities through the fact that we can connect the ego sense for example with the thought sense and the speech sense and so on. There we see in what a mysterious way the human being is connected with the world. Through his twelve senses things are separated into their component parts, and the human being must attain the power to reunite these component parts. In this way he participates in the inner life of the things.
From this you will understand how infinitely important it is that man should be so educated that one sense should be developed with the same care as another, for then the connections between the senses, between the perceptions, will be sought quite consciously and systematically.
I have yet to add that the ego sense, thought sense, sense of hearing, and sense of speech are predominantly knowledge senses because the will in them is really sleeping will, the true sleeping will, in whose manifestations there vibrates also a cognitive activity. Thus willing, feeling, and knowing are to be found even in the ego zone of man, and they live there with the help of waking and sleeping.
Let us be quite clear about this: to know the human being you must contemplate him from three points of view. When you are considering the spirit it is not enough to say “Spirit! Spirit! Spirit!” Most people speak of spirit perpetually — and are at a loss to handle what is given from the spirit. You can only handle it rightly if you treat it as conditions of consciousness. The spirit must be grasped by means of conditions of consciousness such as waking, sleeping, and dreaming. The soul in man is grasped by means of sympathy and antipathy — that is, by means of conditions of life. These hold sway continuously in the unconscious.
Actually the soul is in the astral body, life is in the etheric body, and within us there is always a correspondence between the two, so that of itself the soul comes to expression in the life conditions of the etheric body. And the body is perceived through conditions of form. Yesterday [i.e., in another series of lectures published under the title Practical Course for Teachers] I used the spherical form for the head, the moon form for the breast, and the linear form for the limbs; and we shall have more to say about the true morphology of the human body.
But we can only speak truly of the spirit if we describe how it finds expression in conditions of consciousness; we can only speak truly of the soul if we show how it lives between sympathy and antipathy; and of the body if we conceive of it in actual forms.
Source: The Study of Man: lecture 8 of 14