How many senses do we have? There are five known and accepted physical senses that humans have. What are the 5 senses? Sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Organs associated with each sense – eyes, nose, ears, skin, and tongue – send information to the brain to help us understand the environment around us.
However, there are additional senses that often go unnoticed such as neuron sensors detecting movements that control balance and tilts of the head, and kinesthetic receptors that sense muscle and tendon stretching. Other receptors can identify oxygen levels in certain bloodstream arteries.
Then there are metaphysical senses that allow us to perceive the world in abstract and irrational ways such as thought, intuition, and more. These are less accepted as senses because of the way they are defined in the modern world. Going back to our roots, we may discover how we use these senses to navigate our way in this world.
So, what are the senses? How to enhance your senses? Read on to find out more…
The not-so-obvious metaphysical senses
How many senses are there? What are the metaphysical senses or non-physical senses?
There are five physical senses that are commonly accepted. Since there is plenty of information about these, we will explore the uncommon senses in this article.
Thought as a sense
The ancient Egyptians considered “Thought” to be the sixth sense. This is interesting because we believe that we think thoughts. We believe thought is an active process in which our brain generates the thought. But could there be another possibility? If we consider thought to be a sense, then thinking would be the process of receiving information from outside and processing it in a way that it “makes sense”.
As seen in this image, the eye of Horus is broken down into six senses, and divided in the order of the amount of importance each sense was considered to have. Surprising to many, smell is considered to be the most powerful human sense according to ancient Egyptians, and thought ranks third, contributing 1/8th of the information to our world view.
This distribution could have changed based on evolutionary processes of our physical bodies as well as the culture. Perhaps the importance of smell in the hunter-gatherer phase of humanity was a lot more than it is today.
This different perspective on thought makes us also consider other non-obvious senses.
The sense of space
Ever felt suffocated, claustrophobic, or not having enough space? It is the feeling you have when your sense of space has been invaded or affected in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. While this is a physical sense, it is not a commonly accepted sense, even though we often use the phrase “sense of space”.
Our sense of space affects us in various ways that we take for granted. It is what gives us the ability to perceive the world three dimensionally. If we only used our sight to perceive the world, we would be living in a 2D world, because of the way sight is obstructed by objects. The difference between 2D and 3D comes from our sense of space.
There are many other ways in which we take our sense of space for granted, a discussion for another time, which brings us to…
The sense of time
Time is perhaps one of the greatest mysteries for humans, and also one of the most baffling pursuits of knowledge. Any time someone attempts to define time, they are faced with contradictions and paradoxes that flip their definition in endlessly frustrating ways. Our perception of time as a hand ticking on a wall clock has distorted our natural perception of time. While many people associate time with the numbers appearing on their smartphones, our natural sense of time is far different from this.
The experience of time slowing down and speeding up in different situations and circumstances is a great example of the difference between our natural and artificial sense of time. Ancient yogis from India have often spoken about the mystical experience and it’s relation to time, the eternal now, and other such concepts. To understand our experience of time, each of us has to go deeper into exploring this sense of perception.
What is the distinction between general senses and special senses?
The human body has two types of senses called general senses and special senses. See details of general vs special senses below:
- General senses are all associated with the sense of touch and lack special sense organs
- General senses include touch, pressure, pain, temperature, and vibration
- Special senses have specialised sense organs that collect sensory information and change it into nerve impulses
- Special senses comprise of olfaction (smell), vision, gustation (taste), hearing, and equilibrium (balance)
What are the special senses?
Special senses are defined as having specialised organs devoted to them. The senses of taste and smell are detected by chemoreceptors, hearing and balance are detected by mechanoreceptors, and vision detected by photoreceptors. These are the five special senses.
The detection and interpretation of stimuli provides us awareness of the surroundings. This stimulus is received by specialised nerve endings – also known as sensory receptors. Complicated receptor organs are signified as special senses.
Sensory nerve endings exist in the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. And impulses from these nerve endings travel to specific areas of the brain to create sight, sound, smell, taste, and balance – where the ear plays an important role. Changes in the environment can be detected by these special senses.
What are the chemical senses?
There are two chemical senses that are dedicated to detecting chemicals in the environment. These are smell, also known as olfaction, and taste – often referred to as gustation. Smell provides information about the chemical composition of substances prior to you coming into direct contact with them.
The stimuli for smell are volatile chemical substances in the atmosphere which stimulate the olfactory receptors in the upper part of the nasal passages. The taste or gustatory system detects ingested, water-soluble molecules called tastants, providing information about the quality and safety of ingested food.
The sense of taste has the same sensory receptors that respond to molecules in the food we eat or the air we breathe, causing a pronounced reaction between the chemical senses.
Can you heighten your senses? How to heighten the senses?
Your senses can be heightened by using special techniques that have been developed over centuries and millennia:
- Inhaling strong scents on a daily basis – also known as scent therapy
- Listening to music – especially genres with alternating elements
- Adding a variety of different foods to your diet – stimulating your taste buds
- Doing eye exercises – which can increase focus and processing speed
- Feeling different textures – helps waken the brain and stimulate sensory recognition patterns
- Meditation and daydreaming – This can strongly enhance your thought perception when done with discipline
Can We Sense Other Things?
Indeed, we can. In order for us to have a sense, there simply needs to be a sensor for that specific sensation. In addition to the range of senses already mentioned there are sensors in your bladder that indicate when you need to urinate. And sensors that identify a full stomach.
Senses for hunger and thirst also exist. And people have been known to have impending senses that allow prediction of imminent weather changes. On occasion, senses may be perceived in a different way with sounds and colours being associated with certain sights and smells – this is called Synesthesia.
Ayahuasca, a sacred plant brew from the Amazon, is well known for its ability to produce modified states of consciousness. In these states, our senses get amplified in a way that we gained heightened awareness of our physical and metaphysical senses.
The Spirit Vine Ayahuasca Retreats in Brazil provide a space for participants to explore these experiences in a safe and comfortable way. You can learn techniques to increase awareness of senses through guided meditations and yoga. A healthy diet is recommended prior, during, and after visiting the retreat as this helps to cleanse the body of toxins that may be blocking or clogging the senses. The practices taught during your stay will then allow you to integrate this knowledge into your everyday life.