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Friday, November 3, 2017

The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense

From ancient times, humans have categorized our experiences by the five senses connected to the organs and orifices in which our bodies take in and relate to our environment. Sight through eyes, hearing through ears, smelling through nostrils, taste through mouth, touch through skin teach us to interact with our environment through pain and pleasure. We learn to shield our eyes before they are fried by the sun, to spit out what we eat that is poisonous, to shun rank smells, and to avoid touching fire. And we are attracted to the sight of an apple, the touch of a mate, the taste of honey, the smell of flowers, the sound of flowing water.

There is a 6th sense that integrates these five sense experiences to help us seek pleasure and avoid pain as we come to terms with our environment. The 6th sense is a whole-body experience which combines smells, tastes, sights, sounds and touch into things outside oneself through some symbolic designation. This whole-body experience provides a sense of self and other selves interacting in a common world. It accompanies our behavior of encountering and naming things in the world which appear as not me, not us, but as objects apart.

We call this 6th sense mind, consciousness, and spirit. In this sense of ourselves as linked with other selves in a world, we experience the passing of time, including achievement and dissolution, the sense of adventure. We experience space, a distance and a proximity to others and to things, the sense of direction. And we experience individual selves connected to other selves, the sense of community. A sense of adventure, of direction, and of community might be considered additional senses. Does a bird feel the magnetic pull of the earth to guide it south in winter? How does the dance of the bee describe where it found nectar for the queen?

However, I prefer to understand these additional senses in humanity as part of the consciousness that accompanies human speech and other symbolic behavior. As is the sense of an ideal that pushes and pulls us beyond who and what we are: the sense of transcendence.

There are limits to our senses. And so, we have built telescopes and microscopes to extend our sight.  We have manufactured devices to reach the light spectrum our eyes cannot see and the sound waves our ears cannot hear. Moreover, we have discerned the gravity waves of exploding black holes, the fundamental particles of matter and energy, and the beginning of the universe itself. It is our sixth sense that accompanies our ability to imagine, to think, and to test that has made this possible. Consciousness attends our exploration of and relationship to all the realities we discover. Material objects are embodied in spiritual intersubjectivity that we intuit directly in our acts of naming things.

Matter and spirit are inextricably linked. The duality of matter and spirit is a figment of our imagination that often leads to fallacies of thought and faults in behavior. But it is an important figment because it also aids us to appreciate the inner and outer dimensions of all there is including ourselves. 

All spirit (mind, consciousness) is a product of matter. Neuroscience explains consciousness by the neural loops and synapses of our brains. Therefore, there is no spirit without matter. But also, there is no matter without spirit.  Without mind and symbolic thinking or language, we would have no sense, no word, no concept of matter. 

The total Universe is Matter and Spirit. The spirit of the universe emerges from the material interaction of things in the universe. Our very existence proves the capacity of matter to produce spirit. And spirit is matter with the capacity to experience itself. Without that capacity, there is no matter--no energy, no motion. 

To discern spirit, we plunge into matter. We only grow our souls when we submerge ourselves in matter. To discover matter we employ mind. Soul is the essence of Matter. The duality of spirit and matter, although an existential tension we feel, is an illusion.

Nevertheless, the fictional duality between spirit and matter grounds the actual duality between good and evil.

The universe is on an adventure and so are we. We are becoming spirit through the interaction of elements, things, and selves. Our growing interconnection, our desire for community, our drive towards the right order of justice, to inclusion and equality, and to power through concerted action is the movement of syntropy that combats the inevitable second law of thermodynamics towards entropy. As matter becomes spirit through our interaction, through our collaboration, and especially through our shared action, matter and spirit become one. 

When we opt out of the adventure, when we break community, when we deny universality by settling for self-interest, tribal behavior, and nationalism that do not transcend the boundaries, we give force to the inclinations of dissolution and fragmentation. That is evil--the break of matter and spirit that destroys them both and negates the universe.