This is one of two letters available monthly to Poetry of Nature subscribers.
For full access to the Poetry of Nature letters please subscribe to the program on the membership page.
Geoff Oelsner’s PONderings
Dear PON Friends,
Our Year of Poetic Medicine comes to an end this month as autumn continues with its scintillating colors and colder, clearer air. As the veil thins our senses may become sharper. We may become aware of subtler sensory capacities and dimensions of experience.
How many senses do we actually have? Only five?
I want to offer some ponderings on our perceptual fields and the diversity of ways our awareness operates. I’ve learned from experience that recognizing more of these ways and attuning to them can heighten our awareness of self and world and inspire our day to day lives.
My friend the spiritual teacher and author David Spangler has offered one model of our perceptual fields:
As David sees it, in the physical realm, we have sight, hearing, smell and taste and an array of somatic senses: touch (pressure, vibration), thermoception (temperature), nociception (pain), proprioception (position) and balance (vestibular).
In the less materially dense realm which David calls the Borderland, he lists these psychic senses: clairvoyance, clairaudience, empathy (or one might use Frederic W.H. Myers’ term, telepathy), telepathy, energy awareness, clairsentience (perception of things not normally perceived) and I would add claircognizance (intuitive knowing). In the psychic or Borderland realm of consciousness there tends to be less of a felt sense of separation between subject/perceiver and the object perceived than in the material realm.
In what David Spangler terms the even less dense Subtle Worlds, there is no sense of fundamental separation but rather holoception, or perception through participation and oneness.
This three-part model is one I’ve found helpful. It’s extended my awareness of how my perception works, and allowed me to recognize, articulate and enhance some of the subtler sensitivities or capacities of our human equipment, our total perceptual field.
How many other ways of perceiving might there be, and how could coming to greater awareness of them enrich our experience and creativity?
Last week a friend sent me a link to an essay by Lewis Hyde. The Senses of Penland about a potter named Paulus Berensohn (1933-2017) who compiled a list of 60 senses.
Hyde’s essay includes the below list Paulus Berensohn made of what he construed as our senses, which he divided into four categories—radiation, feeling, chemical and mental senses. I wouldn’t call many of the capacities he listed senses per se, but I find the good man’s perspectives perceptive. Some of his mind-opening items revivify my memories of brief subtle perceptions of the gossamer kind that can so easily fall through the cracks and be forgotten. Here’s Berensohn’s wildly eclectic list:
1. sense of light and sight - including polarized light
2. sense of seeing without eyes, such as heliotropism or the sun sense of plants
3. sense of color
4. sense of moods and identities attached to colors
5. sense of awareness of one’s own visibility or invisibility and consequent camouflaging
6. sensitivity to radiation other than visible light including radio waves, x-rays, etc.
7. sense of temperature and temperature change
8. sense of season, including ability to insulate, hibernate and winter sleep
9. electromagnetic sense of polarity, including the ability to generate current as in the nervous system and brain waves
10. hearing, including resonance, vibrations, sonar and ultrasonic frequency
11. awareness of pressure, particularly underground, underwater and to wind & air
12. sensitivity to gravity
13. the sense of excretion for waste elimination and protection from enemies
14. feel, particularly touch on the skin
15. sense of weight, gravity and balance
16. space or proximity sense
17. Coriolis sense or awareness of effect of earth rotation
18. body movement sensations and sense of mobility
19. smell with and beyond the nose
20. taste with and beyond the tongue
21. appetite and hunger
22. hunting, killing or food-obtaining urges
23. humidity sense, including thirst, evaporation control and the acumen to find water
24. hormonal sense as to pheromones and other chemical stimuli
25. pain external and internal
26. mental and spiritual distress
27. sense of fear, dread of injury, death or attack
28. procreative urges, including sex awareness, courting, love, mating, paternity and raising young
29. sense of play, sport, humor, pleasure and laughter
30. sense of physical place, navigation senses, including detailed awareness of land and seascape, of the position of the sun, moon, and stars
31. sense of time
32. sense of electromagnetic fields
33. sense of weather changes
34. sense of emotional places, of community, belonging, support, trust and thankfulness
35. sense of self, including friendship, companionship and power
36. domineering and territorial sense
37. colonizing sense, including receptive awareness of one’s fellow creatures--sometimes to the degree of being absorbed into a super organism
38. horticultural sense and the ability to cultivate crops, as done by ants who grow fungus, by ants who farm algae or birds that leave food to attract their prey
39. language and articulation sense, used to express feelings and convey information in every medium from bee’s dance to human literature
40. sense of humility, appreciation ethics
41. sense of form and design
42. reasoning, including memory and the capacity for logic and science
43. sense of mind and consciousness
44. intuition or subconscious deduction
45. aesthetic sense, including creativity and appreciation of beauty, music, literature, form and drama
46. psychic capacity such as foreknowledge, clairvoyance, clairaudience, psychokinesis, astral projection and possibly certain animal instincts and plant sensitivities
47. sense of biological and astral time, awareness of the past, present and future events “next” (left brain)
48. the capacity to hypnotize other creatures
49. relaxation and sleep, including dreaming, meditation, brain wave awareness
50. sense of pupation, including cocoon building and metamorphosis
51. sense of excessive stress and capitulation
52. sense of survival by joining a more established organism
53. spiritual sense, including conscience, capacity for sublime love, ecstasy, a sense of sin, profound sorrow and sacrifice
54. sense of awe
55. sense of imagination
56. sense of tension and release of the body
57. sense of chi
58. sense of balance
59. sense of story and how it links us up with the cosmic—the universe story
60. sense of being known—Bushmen “wherever they went they felt they were known”
Perhaps some senses on that list will remind you of experiences of enhanced or atypical perception you’ve had. If any of the senses Paulus Berensohn or David Spangler enumerate are alive and lively in you, you might write something about your experiences of them. Doing so may further evoke and refine your awareness.
Beyond the labels, it’s all awareness, all sacred energy.
* * *
The veil between the worlds thins. Though we’re past Samhain, I want to reintroduce you to Annie Finch’s wonderful three-veil poem:
(The Celtic Halloween)
In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground
they were watching while they hung,
…Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil
that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.
I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother’s mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings
arms that carry answers for,
intimate, a waiting bounty,
“Carry me.” She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.
~ Annie Finch
Can you sense the veil thinning as longer cooler nights uncover more starstreams over Turtle Island?
I wrote the following poem to celebrate the beautiful power of this season of incoming darkness and hemispheric cooling:
Signs of Winter Mind
A ribbon of birds
climbs and builds in the air
the image of a voiceless shout for joy!
They are leaving now.
Soon early snowflakes
will land in grain fields--
arrivals from a more silent place.
The mind stretches out...a pond
awaiting the touch of leaves in green ice...
We walk down roads more quickly,
racing with the cold.
In our speech are traces
of a new tune the trees sing
and above us sharper stars
appear like crowns of dew
in night’s tangled meadow.
Something immediate trembles in us,
an offering to the whole universe.
~ Geoff Oelsner
Photograph by Leslie Oelsner, from our upcoming book, Attunements for the Earth
May this season bring blessings to you, as you continue to open to your own true nature and the poetry of nature. It’s been an honor for me to share our poetry and the precious times we’ve created together. Please know that in our inherent oneness, your loving creative energy is always, always a contribution to the collective.
Please touch the Earth with love,
“If a year was tucked inside of a clock, then autumn would be the magic hour.”
~ Victoria Erickson