The crucial sense

Speaking of senses, we are used to think, that we are born with only five of them: Sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Maybe we only speak of these five senses, because they are the most obvious ones and are directly connected to visible and touchable organs: Nose, ear, tongue, eye and skin.

It does not stop there though. It is obvious, that we do sense a lot of things going on in and around us. We are well aware, when we are thirsty or hungry. We feel the temperature within and outside the body. We feel pain and vibrations. We sense how the body is positioned and move. Although these sensations are not attributed to the five senses, they are still sensations, meaning they are being sensed; for which there obviously must be adequate senses. Therefore we all know as a fact, that we have more than five of them.

And yet we sense more subtle things like:

  • Are these sounds part of a language or just some random noise?
  • Is this a dead or a living thing?
  • When you look at a tool, a piece of furniture or art, you are to some extend able to grasp the idea behind it.
  • We are even able to judge whether an other person is sane or not.

Our senses are obviously directed at very different matters. We can sort them in three categories, regarding their functions: Those that are channelling messages from within our body, those that tell us about the outside world and those that enables us to communicate with other mammals and last but not least: Other humans.

The first group, concerning our own body, would contain senses for touch, movement, balance and life.

The second group, concerning the outside world, would contain senses for smell and taste, temperature and sight.

The third group, concerning our fellow beings, would contain senses for language, ideas and thoughts, and the ability to recognize the genuine human «I».

In this book we are going to focus on one specific sense: The ability to sense life, the ability to sense the tiny signals from the body. We can call it “body awareness” or “lifesense”. Rudolf Steiner put it rather simple:

One may call the lifesense the most vague, most general sense of them all. We usually first realizes the existence of this sense, when something is perceived by it, which breaks the order in the body. We feel fatigue or tiredness. We don´t hear the fatigue or tiredness; we don´t smell it; but we perceive it in the same sense as we perceive a smell or a sound. Such perception, which refers to one’s own bodily being, should be attributed to the lifesense.1

Rudolf Steiner characterizes the lifesense as inherent and always active, though most of us pay no attention to it, unless the body has to present us with an imminent need for rest, food or security.

Furthermore, Rudolf Steiner´s definition of the lifesense expressly does not target feelings, only body sensations. In lack of a better word though, in conjunction with INNATE the word lifesense is used for all of these abilities:

  • perception of sensations in any specific body, be it mineral, plant, animal or human
  • perception of any specific feeling in any body
  • perception of any of these at present or any specific past time and space

1GA 45 Anthroposophie, Ein Fragment page 23, 25. Authors translation. This is one out of many descriptions by Rudolf Steiner, chosen mainly because it is his own written words in the booklet “Anthroposophie, ein Fragment”, as opposed to the thousands of speaches, shorthanded by good friends, which sadly gives room for a wide range of interpretations.