Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. We all recognise the input we receive from the five physical senses. These perceptions form the basis for much of our interpretation of our reality and our decision processes. Most people never consider that there are other senses possible, or available, to us. We do recognise that there are other senses in various animal species, such as the sonar or echolocation sense used by dolphins, homing sense available to many species (not just homing pigeons), etc. However, if we reflect for a moment, we may recognise that on various occasions we have ourselves received input from senses other than the five we ordinarily recognise.

Some people remark that they have an innate sense of direction and can always somehow align themselves in the world. Others note that they have the ability to judge the weight of something by holding it in their hand. Others sense the vital body or aura of other individuals. Some can feel changes in the energetic action of the moon (which is known to impact tides of the oceans as well). People can many times sense when someone is observing them without directly seeing it occurring. Others report a feeling of unease in certain locations where danger may be approaching them. Some people report a connection to another individual far away who may be thinking about them, or, as in the case of some documented cases out of the first world war, when a close relation was injured and dying on the battlefield. Still others report a sense of a different ‘atmosphere’ in one locale or another that may register subtle physical characteristics, differences in weight of the atmosphere, etc. All of these are signs of additional senses that provide us input without our overtly recognising where and how that input is reaching us. There is of course also an entire range of powers that include telepathic communication, remote viewing, etc. Many of these clearly represent physical senses, while others may belong more properly to the vital aspect of our being or direct powers of mind not specifically based in the five physical senses of perception.

A disciple asks: “You said that our body can become receptive to forces which are concentrated in certain places or in certain countries. But can we have this physical sensation without a preliminary preparation of the consciousness? Or is it truly a spontaneous sensation like heat, cold or goose-flesh, for example?

The Mother responds: “If it were the result of a thought or a will, it would not be an experience and it would have no value. You understand, I affirm absolutely that any experience that is the result of a thought or preconceived will has no value from the spiritual point of view.”

“But were you not in a state, so to say, ‘favourable’ to this sensation?”

“There are people who live constantly in a higher consciousness, while others have to make an effort to enter there. But here it is an altogether different thing; in the experience I was speaking about [In the preceding talk, Mother had described how on her return from Japan she had all of a sudden physically felt the atmosphere of Sri Aurobindo at a distaince of two nautical miles from Pondicherry] what gave it all its value was that I was not expecting it at all, not at all. I knew very well, I had been for a very long time and continuously in ‘spiritual’ contact, if I may say so, with the atmosphere of Sri Aurobindo, but I had never thought of the possibility of a modification in the physical air and I was not expecting it in the least, and it was this that gave the whole value to the experience, which came like that, quite suddenly, just as when one enters a place with another temperature or another altitude…. I do not know if you have noticed that the air you breathe is not always the same, that there are different vibrations in the air of one country and in the air of another, in the air of one place and in the air of another. If indeed you are accustomed to have this perception of the subtle physical, you can say immediately, ‘Ah! this air is as in France’ or ‘This is the air of Japan.’ It is something indefinable like taste or smell. But in this instance it is not that, it is a perception of another sense. It is a physical sense, it is not a vital or mental sense; it is a sense of the physical world, but there are other senses than the five that we usually have at our disposal — there are many others.”

“In fact, for the physical being — note that I say the physical being — to be fully developed, it must have twelve senses. It is one of these senses which gives you the kind of perception I was speaking of. You cannot say that it is taste, smell, hearing, etc., but it is something which gives you a very precise impression of the difference of quality. And it is very precise, as distinct as seeing black and white, it is truly a sense perception.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 3 Hidden Forces Around, pp. 62-64

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 20 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.
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