Our Innate Spiritual Senses

The non-physical world, or the spiritual world, is revealed to us through cognitive functions that act like our five physical senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing). Our physical senses are processes through which external data is transmitted to a person’s consciousness and decoded to present an experience of what the external world is like. Our spiritual senses are very much the same thing. I’m not talking about ESP or intuition or “the sixth sense” – I am outlining the processes by which our minds download and decode information about the immaterial world.

For me, the spiritual realm consists of all that is not physical. People and other forms of consciousness that have passed on from the physical world reside here, but the spiritual realm also contains things as simple as thoughts – because I believe that the experience of having thoughts cannot be reduced to a purely physical event in the brain. Philosophically speaking, I am a mind-body dualist.

What else is in the spiritual realm? It can be easy in a materialistic society to overlook the many examples of non-physical phenomena that surround us. My brief and currently incomplete list is as follows:

  1. Phenomena of consciousness (i.e., our thoughts and inner experiences, as mentioned above)
  2. Potential (things that can exist or happen, but aren’t presently experienced)
  3. The past (things that did exist or happen at one time, but aren’t presently happening or existing anymore)
  4. Pure concepts (such as love, or archetypes)

Each of these immaterial things is understood by us through a spiritual sense, the same way that physical things are known to us through the physical senses.

It’s an interesting aside that, as far as I can tell, spiritual senses are all direct whereas the physical senses are all indirect. That is, what we see and hear and taste and touch and smell are experiences that have been mitigated and constructed by the brain’s process of gathering that data in the first place. There is no way of proving that if we see a tree, the tree must ultimately exist the way we see it, or even exist at all. This is because we could always be dreaming or hallucinating, or we could actually be mere “brains in a jar” being fed false experiences by some mad scientist. Meanwhile, the spiritual senses sense non-physical things, so there is less worry about whether the immaterial thing itself and our idea of it match up. The philosopher Descartes was getting to this when he said “I think, therefore I am.” He meant that you can only know for sure that you yourself exist because you directly sense your existence when you exert yourself by thinking. If “you” are “thinking”, there must be a “you” that really exists in order to do that thinking.

These are the four spiritual senses that correspond to the four types of immaterial things I listed above:

  1. What we call consciousness is actually a direct sense of our inner experience and thoughts.
  2. Our capacity to imagine actually functions as a direct sense of potential. Everything that is possible to imagine is contained in potential, because there’s always a way to assert that our imaginings could potentially manifest into reality (you need simply posit that parallel universes or infinite space are possible, and then literally anything can happen). Potential and the imagination are directly connected — though I think more things exist in potential than anyone could ever imagine.
  3. The past is sensed through our memory. (In order for this to be a “direct” sense, it is better to say that what we experienced in the past can continue to be sensed through our memories of those experiences.)
  4. Concepts and archetypes, such as love or light or heroism, are sensed through the process of abstraction. We abstract from a multitude of examples of the act of love to get an idea of what love itself actually is. We experience love the feeling, love the action – love the verb, but the noun form of love is only ever sensed through abstraction. It cannot even be well-imagined. Ask yourself, what is pure love? You might have some ideas about it, but no clue if you’re right, and it likely will all seem hazy or unclear – precisely because you are trying to put something which is abstract into concrete terms in your mind.

I am still working on the “so what?” portion of this analysis, to figure out what conclusions follow from my argument. But I have written before about the liberation of knowing that our imagination is a sense, that it is a way of knowing the spiritual world and not merely meaningless self-entertainment. I think the idea of immaterial senses could lead to some exciting things, and will hopefully help us better integrate the physical and spiritual aspects of our existence.

Moosing

The last day of our trip, everything happened all at once. Which is how I like it, because it’s truly a gift and then you don’t spend days wanting even more.

At one point we spotted two moose by the road. They were probably brother and sister, maybe 2 years old. We went up into the bush to get ahead of them (don’t bother following moose, just get ahead!).

We stood behind some trees, and the female was coming straight at us. We made some noise so she’d know we were there and wouldn’t spook. She kept coming until she was about 10 feet away, and my breath escaped me as I stared into her eyes. I swore she was speaking to me. She was so sweet, so gentle, so intelligent.

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A Lesson Learned

I didn’t tell the whole story of how the fox got in my car, and why it stole our tobacco, as I was a bit fried when I got home. But it was a lesson for Willow I’d like to share.

We were going down Arowhan, one of our favourite places, when we stopped by the old fox den. Supposedly it had been removed/disturbed and the foxes had vacated some time ago. The father fox is very old, about 10-12 years, which is unheard of for wild foxes. But he’s clearly wise to the ways of people and makes a good living befriending visitors! I believe I’ve encountered him a few years ago.

Despite seeing no evidence of foxes, we stopped and I gave a blessing with my rattle and sprinkled herbs from my rawhide bottle. As I prayed, Willow walked into the trees. She was going to leave some tobacco too, but decided she didn’t need to.

Then she called to me, and I followed the sound of her  voice, utterly astonished to see a fox sitting right beside her! It was the father fox, I’m pretty sure. He came right up to me.

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Then, we watched him wander over to the car…where I’d left the doors open! Clearly a seasoned thief, he jumped right in and helped himself.

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Then…he stole a whole bag of cigarettes! We believe he was telling Willow to take the time to give tobacco blessings. Well, a big blessing was given that day, because we followed him and his kits around but never recovered the tobacco.

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The foxes were sweet and played with us, leading us around and stopping for us to catch up. What a wonderful moment, just sitting on a log surrounded by three or four of them!

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Algonquin Blessings

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I have no adequate words to express how blessed I have been. We had an amazing, magical time in Algonquin, full of awe-inspiring encounters with wildlife. We drove and drove and I prayed, May my wild spirit brethren come! and come they did. We heard wolves howl, fed the grey jays by hand, and came so close to gorgeous moose, one with the most expressive, sweet expression.

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We also came across a family of foxes who were WAY too friendly. We’d left the car doors open…so one hopped in, and before we could stop it, he stole a bag of cigarettes! Willow gave chase, but they were teasing and playing with us and we never got them back.

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Willow and I gave blessings and great thanks. It really was everything we could have wanted, and more.

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