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Q. Hey Lewis. Are there more than 5 senses? My friend is neurologist, and she says that the idea that humans only have 5 sense is inaccurate. Can you comment on this?

A. Of course it is so, that humans, for the most part, experience the world through their senses – a physiological capacity provided through various organs, and tissues in the body that provide data for perception. When asked how many senses there are, most people will respond “five” – hearing, smell, taste, sight, and touch. They say this because it makes sense, but also because they have been told this over and over through their lives. Tricksters know that there are many more an five senses in the plant and animal world and this includes humans. Yes, there is Sight (vision), hearing (audition), taste (gustation), smell (olfaction), and touch (somato-sensation). Yet, there is also an ability to detect what exists through other stimuli beyond those governed by these most broadly recognized senses. These othersensory modalities

 

include temperature (thermoception), kinesthetic sense (proprioception), pain (nociception), balance (equilibrio-ception), vibration (mechanoreception), and various internal stimuli (e.g. the different  chemoreceptors  for detecting salt and carbon dioxide concentrations in the blood).

So how many senses are there actually? It all depends on who you talk to. What constitutes a sense is a matter of some debate, leading to difficulties in defining what exactly a distinct sense is, and where the borders between responses to related stimuli lay. For the trickster, there are seven senses they deal with on a daily basis when interacting with ordinary environments. These seven include the traditional five and to these can be added the vestibular system, and proprioception.

The vestibular system explains the perception of our body in relation to gravity, movement, and balance. This is the sense that enables us to experience and measure acceleration, g-force, body movements and head position.  An example would be to know that you are moving when you are in an elevator, knowing whether you are lying down or sitting up, and being able to walk along a balance beam or a tightrope.

Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body, and strength of effort being employed in movement.  This sense is very important as it lets us know exactly where our body parts are, how we are positioned in space and to plan our movements.  Examples of our proprioception in practice include being able to clap our hands together with our eyes closed, write with a pencil, apply with correct pressure, and navigate through a narrow space. Many Tricksters are masters of somatics –  methodologies by which they can embody in themselves and promote in others transformation, individually and collectively. Embodied transformation is a foundational change that shows how people act, perceive the world, relate to other people, places, and things, and transform over time.

Tricksters also have subtle receptors to sense the world around them as well as the inner worlds that lie in the human unconscious and subconscious, with degrees of capability varying greatly between and within each sense. Most humans have a comparatively weak sense of smell and a stronger sense of sight relative to many other mammals, while some animals may lack one or more of the traditional five senses. Some animals may also intake and interpret sensory stimuli in very different ways. Some species of animals are able to sense the world in a way that humans cannot, with some species able to sense electrical and magnetic fields, and detect water pressure and currents. Tricksters on one level or another can cross many of these boundaries. Many NTs integrate ideas as well as experiencing the senses in unique and extraordinary ways.  Some even have the ability to smell numbers and see sounds. Many researchers are aware of these qualities though they might not link or associate them with the notion of the “Trickster”. The common terms used to describe these experiences are “Ideasthesia” and “Synesthesia.”

Ideasthesia is a phenomenon in which activation of concepts (inducers) evoke perception-like experiences (concurrents).  Synesthesia, on the other hand, is a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes.  One such experience for these individuals is “hearing in colors”. Synesthesia can occur between nearly any two senses or perceptual modes, and at least one synesthete, Solomon Shereshevsky, a Russian journalist and mnemonist experienced synesthesia that linked all five senses.   Nearly every logically possible combination of experiences can occur, and several types are more common than others, though we will nit explore these here.

Though Ideasthesia and Synesthesia are distinctly different, few mental health professionals would know the difference. For that reason, I will, in this chapter use the word “Synesthesia” to refer to both. I beg the forgiveness of anyone reading this with either condition. Still, it is more accurate than much of what is in the DSM-V and René Descartes certainly didn’t know the difference back in the 1600s. He used the same word to describe either and both.

The so-called “problem” of synesthesia was addressed by Descartes in the 17th century, resulting in Cartesian dualism.   It   was  also  addressed  by  pre-Aristotelian philosophers, in Avicennian philosophy, and there are references here and there in early Asian traditions especially the Taoist teachings of Lao Tzu. (To learn more about the Taoist perspective you may want to read my book “Tao te Ching: A Meta-Analysis of Lao Tzu’s Classic Work – Volume 2)

Isaac Newton proposed that musical tones and color tones shared common frequencies, as did Goethe in his book, “Theory of Color.” There is a long history of building color organs such as the clavier à lumières on which to perform colored music in concert halls.

The interest in colored hearing dates back to Greek antiquity when philosophers asked if the color (what we now call timbre) of music was a quantifiable quality.

The first medical description of “colored hearing” is in an 1812 German thesis by the “father of psychophysics,” Gustav Fechner. Fechner reported the first empirical survey of colored letter photisms among 73 synesthetes in 1876, followed in the 1880s by Francis Galton.

 

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