I have spoken before about the mechanics of becoming. How the 1 unfolds into the 3, then into the 7. We see this in all sorts of aspects of experience and existence. Chakras, primary states of consciousness, layers of structure, and so forth.
In a discussion in another forum, the subject of the 5 elements came up. In many traditional understandings, the world of matter is built up from a blend of 5 subtle or etheric elements – earth, water, fire, air, and space. (although there is some variation in naming and number) These 5 are also associated with the 5 senses, often described as being created in parallel. The object and subject side of duality.
Why though 5 if the usual mechanism is the 3 (in this case, the 3 gunas) into 7. Well, it turns out there is actually 7 senses and 7 objects. It is simply that the highest 2 are not so physical.
Certainly, we’ve all heard reference to a “6th sense”. Often what they are referring to though is subtler values of the basic 5. Clairvoyance or clairaudiance for example. What we’re talking about is totally different senses.
To understand the 6th and 7th layers, we can use Vaisheshika. Vasheshika is the study of essential qualities. They list 8:
Soul, Direction, Time, Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.*
The last 5 are clearly the elements. So the first 3 can give us clues to the other 2.
To understand, lets start at the beginning. What we would call soul (atman) here is essentially the collapse of infinity to a point. Point value. That point remains infinite but is focused. Focused attention and intention.
When that attention and/or intention is directed, it takes a direction. A vector, the second quality.
As the attention moves along that vector, we experience it incrementally. This is Time, the unfolding of the ‘infinite now moment’ into increments. As the experience moves across time, it unfolds into diversity. Direction through time draws out Space, a container of the increments of time. 3D geometry. Then the other elements unfold into atomic elements** and so forth into the material world.
So Direction and Time are the qualities of attention beginning to express prior to the 5 elements, prior to space and it’s contents. This is the tendency for life to flow in a direction into experiences.
These are the object side of the equation giving us the sense of time and it’s tendency to flow in a direction. Space is an unfolding of that, so has a sense of direction but more in the sense of our movement through it, not of space itself. But space does have a dimensional aspect that relates it to time. Similarly air with space, and so forth. You may recognize the pattern of the Fibonacci sequence in the way they relate to each other.
What are the sense equivalents to time and direction? This is a little more speculative, based on a review of peoples experiences.
The true “6th sense” I would describe as knowingness. What some call intuition or hunches. It is the sensing of the timeline, the flow of life. Due to its nature, we can see this is non-local and thus has no specific physical sense organ. Some may point to the “third eye” chakra but that is related to sight. The 6th sense does relate to the 6th chakra though, due to their common step of unfoldment.
The 7th sense is the sense of unity or connection. Our oneness. Most people only have a sporadic or occasional sense of this but for some, it is lived as an ongoing reality. That is when we are connecting to the origin of the senses, the point value of the soul.
This process can also be applied to Samkhya, but it would require restructuring the Indriyas (senses and organs) and Tanmatras (objects). I’m not suggesting here that Samkhya is incorrect. It does fully describe one way of looking at the world. And we can see the organs, the limbs, the hands and feet, all express the value of 5. I am just suggesting there is another perspective which covers more of the human experience. Subtler values of what is.
It also helps us understand more of how plants experience the world. They have the same senses, just not all the same sense organs. They are less expressed, just like some of ours.
If this is a little too abstract for you, it doesn’t matter. Just some musings on understanding the human experience.
*Each quality is progressively more dense or expressed. It is thus more resistant to change. It’s much more difficult to move a building for example than to move an electronic “mass” or data. Even easier to move a thought.
** recall these are qualities and thus rule the grouping of elements and valance.
Last Updated on January 6, 2021 by Davidya
In the Yog Vasistha, he comments that Mind is the 6th sense. (pg 340) In Samkhya, Mind is what arises prior to the 5 senses. Prior to that, Ahamkara. I would not describe our sense of individuality to be the 7th sense.
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