Written By Author Peter Burnell
For the final part of the triad I would like to talk about sensory awareness and maybe try to discern its relevance in day to day living. It comes over in many forms, well five to be precise, one for each of the senses and gives our lives embellishment for variety is the spice of life. Imagine for a moment that everything looked the same, and tasted the same, what a dull life that would be.
Sensory awareness is one of nature’s gifts originally put in place to safeguard our health. It evolved over time as we got more discerning. Smell and taste would be a good example so I will start with these. Firstly smell, originally it was put in place as an aid to hunting prey and a defense against the predator and a means to knowing whether something was edible. Now hand in hand with smell on the second point went taste. If it smelt wrong and did not taste right you did not eat it. These two senses are pretty much interlinked for if you lose your sense of smell it impairs your sense of taste. That was basic survival and no more. With time though we evolved past basic survival and these senses evolved with us. We no longer used our sense of smell as a hunting aid and so it got less acute over distance though more refined by way of compensation as did our taste for we started to eat a more varied diet with a penchant for seasoning. Basically we got self conscious about our food, invented gluttony and lived off the fat of the land. I had better elaborate on gluttony awhile so you might get a little understanding. Food as anyone will tell you tastes better when you are hungry and by hungry I don’t mean just peckish I mean hungry. Once this hunger is sated you feel full and stop eating for food seems to lose its taste. With gluttony however you do not eat when you are truly hungry you eat because you like the taste. It gives you pleasure to do this so it satisfies your desire and not your need. The original four types of taste were sweet, sour, bitter and salt. These had their uses for bitter usually meant inedible as there was a good chance it was poisonous. Sour generally meant it had gone off and so was also to be avoided. Sweet told you it was safe and salt being essential to life also had a place. From these four types our sense of taste evolved. We started to blend them together and get different tastes and a more discerning palate. We hungered for the taste and not the sustenance and thus gluttony came into being. The blending of these different tastes went hand in hand with the blending of the different aromas and so our sense of smell also evolved to help us to define them. The ability to taste comes to us through taste buds situated on the tongue and side of the mouth through the medium of saliva. The saliva starts to dissolve the substance and from this you get the taste. The ability to smell is achieved by special receptors called chemoreceptors found in the lining of the nasal cavity. These can detect chemicals that are either carried in the air or dissolved in water and they transmit to the brain to be decoded and detected as a particular smell.
Next on the list would be touch, well more precisely pain. Another sensory aid put in place so you might not get burned. Our whole body is sensitive to touch, through it we discern temperature and pressure and detect pain. It is a safeguard to our physical health and our well being externally for it lets you know, through the medium of pain, when things are amiss. Touch can also give pleasure and be very therapeutic. Certain parts of the body react to touch. The base of the feet would be a good example to pursue. Any reflexologist will tell you that at the base of your feet is a map of the body. By manipulating certain parts of the base (the top and toes also have a place) you can administer healing all across the body. When we used to walk bare footed we used to heal ourselves en route for the uneven floor would be our masseur and do a fairly good job in the process. The ability to touch is made possible by specialized sets of receptors located in the skin but also in muscles and other internal areas of the body. These transmit, via different nerve pathways, to the brain to be decoded and detected.
The next sense on the list is the ability to hear, a very useful tool to have when out hunting or being hunted. It is also there to warn of danger, the rattle snake and the buzzing bee would be good examples as with snow-slides, landslides and other dangerous natural phenomenon. Along with the ability to hear you have the ability to make noise. At its most basic a growl or a warning shout but it has evolved to communication. The ability to hear comes to us through receptors, often hairlike, that vibrate in response to sound waves. These are air vibrations with a frequency between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz. They trigger off an electrical impulse in a sensory nerve which is transmitted to the brain which decodes it and interprets it as sound .The ability to make sound comes from the mouths manipulation of the vocal cords through the medium of breath.
Finally, the ability to see, the most useful sensory gift we have. The ability to discern light into color is done through light receptors in the retina of the eye. These receptors are called Photoceptors and are pigment containing cells. The pigments undergo chemical changes in light of different wave lengths, which generate electrical impulses that travel to the brain via a sensory optic nerve. There are two types of cells containing these pigments, cones which allow for the colour to be detected and rods which allow for night vision for they are sensitive to dim light though they do not detect color.
We evolved past basic survival and our understanding got a little more discerning. Where once we could barely grunt we became more articulate. We could express our thoughts and feelings, not only through the voice we could do it through the mediums of sight and sound. We invented art in a bid to stimulate sensory pleasure and add to our newly found sense of awareness. So sensory pleasure next then. What actually is it and where does it come from? To find that out we have to understand a little about the brain so I guess I had better start at the core. The brain stem, our instinctive drive for self and species preservation, these are a set of laws enshrined in our being. I have mentioned them in numbers and numerous things but I will relate them once more. They are that every organism to the best of its ability to,
Survive in the habitat around it
Survive in the climatic environment around it
Survive in the social climate around it
Find its niche in the balance of the ecosystem
Defend itself from a prey’s point of view and hunt from a predators
Find itself a mate for the perpetuation of its species
Give the next generation the best chance of survival that it can
Through the medium of evolution to achieve its’ purpose.
These laws mold our life and give us our drive. Behind the stem we have the Cerebellum which monitors and corrects body movement and above and in front are the Amygdala, the Hippo-campus and the Hypothalamus. These are glands and sub organs that together with the Limbic Cortex form a protective cowl over the brain stem and comprise our emotional brain. It contains our capacity for pain and pleasure, joy, anger, sex and hunger. Wrapped around the Limbic Cortex and divided into two hemispheres by the Corpus Callosum, a bridge of nerve fibers, is the Cerebral Cortex. It is here we think, remember, learn, dream, fantasize and hallucinate. Sensory pleasure comes from the emotional part of the brain. It is the carrot to the stick of sensory pain. It is the joy of sex in the act of procreation. It is the taste and smell of food when you are hungry. It is the heightening of sensual awareness activated from the emotional brain in its role as the drive wheel of the survival brain. In much the same way as a laboratory rat it guides you, through the mediums of pleasure and pain, to uphold nature’s laws. Within the emotional brain lies the Hypothalamus, the mad scientist, this controls the release of endorphins, along with your body temperature, your sex drive, appetite and thirst and basically your moods and behavior. It even controls your deep sleep so you can’t hide from it at night. With its assistants the Hippo-campus which co ordinates the storage of memory and navigation and the Amygdala which process the emotions it reinforces Mother Nature’s will on one hand and makes you aware of your body’s needs on the other. The final part of the emotional brain is the Limbic Cortex, on a metaphysical level this is the purpose that you serve, your truth, this fuses the inner individual to the outside world. Basically it is your perceptions of reality on a higher plain and on day to day living. From here you get both joy and sadness but also a sense of purpose.
Now the final part of the brain is the superior brain, the Cerebral Cortex and its bridge the Corpus Callosum. The Cerebral Cortex is divided left and right into two hemispheres. The left is our rational side, analytical, logical and calculative. From here we get our language and our consciousness of self. The right is our emotional side, from here comes art and music and the ability to see the big picture. It sees the forest while the left side sees the trees. It also works slightly differently to the left for it works on imagery, it hears noise and from the noise paints its own picture for every note is a different color.
The three parts of the brain are the result of evolution and so are built over each other like three concentric circles. The smallest one the basic survival brain is called the Archipallium or reptilian brain, the next, the emotional brain is called the Paleopallium or old mammalian brain and the last. The superior brain is called the Neopallium or new mammalian. There is a lot more to the brain than I have mentioned but hopefully that will give you a very rough guide to sate your left hemisphere. To get the true understanding you have to take the right hand path for that holds the bigger picture. The survival brain is the first level of understanding. A being with the ability to recreate and the emotional brain is the next step on the evolutionary ladder. It now has some understanding though at this level it is still controlled by its instinct through the mediums of pleasure and pain, joy and fear. This is Man before he evolved and transcended the Earth Mother’s control of him. Man found free will and nature’s laws though still buried with in him now had an ego to contend with. You see when Adam ate the apple he got the power of discernment, quite a mixed blessing for with it comes self consciousness and that gives us an ego. Where once man served Mother Nature he now served this and so developed a few negative emotions along the way. His self centerdness said that instead of just surviving in the habitat around him he wanted to excel in it. His dwellings got bigger and more ornate, he got avaricious. Instead of migrating with the seasons he stayed over winter and battened down the hatches, he got slothful. To survive in the social climate around him he got envious and moved in next door to a fellow called Jones. He still had his reproductive urge to perpetuate the species although it was not confined to when his mate was ready to ovulate, he got lecherous. He still wanted to give his offspring the best chance of survival as this was a matter of pride and anger was there to erupt should he want to defend himself, though with hunting out of fashion it took the form of war warmongering. Instead of trying to fit into the ecosystem around him he started to take more than he needed and got gluttonous. And that is how the seven deadly sins came to be. He also had the virtues to contend with so his powers of discernment were pretty well served.
I suppose the next question would be what makes us serve a purpose for surely our free will would over ride it. To answer that you will have to understand that man by nature is an emotional animal. By serving a purpose it fills him with love. This is done through the hypothalamus through a thing called pleasure. You serve this cause because it pleases you to do so, you also get a sense of purpose and that fills a gap in your life thus also giving you a sense of well being.
To understand the brain properly might take some time so I suggest you put the kettle on (mine’s two sugars) and we’ll continue when you are comfortable .Al right? Good. Now see that cup of tea you have by your side. Well er. basically that’s it. The water is the basis of its life, the survival brain, the sugar the taste of life, the emotional brain and the tea the color of life, the superior brain with the milk as the ego. If that sounds a little simplistic I will take it deeper. Each component goes to make the whole yet is independent in its own right. The water you can drink on its own and though tasteless it will quench your thirst. To the reptilian brain that is all that matters so as an entity it is sated. The emotional brain is slightly more refined, it is at a higher state of awareness and so has some understanding. It is the second circle of the concentric circles and so is an expansion of the first. It has no color just a sweeter taste and to the emotional mind with its black and white mentality that means that it’s safe. The higher brain is yet another refinement, it sees color and with it a deeper sense of taste or understanding. It is the third circle and so it is an evolution of the other two.
From an evolutionary point of view once you are fully evolved you do not need the ego and so lose it. Your physical will becomes spiritual and you embark on a life of selflessness. At this higher level of existence symbolism comes into play. The whole of this passage could be replaced with the symbol of three concentric circles and you would get the same amount of understanding. You also get a deeper understanding of the word itself as mentioned in the meaning of life and other assorted trivia. Your mind’s eye would see From the spirit seeing life through knowing and a life of God (knowing will through understanding) blessing life (word understood seeing light) you get a self of God (knowing wisdom), God’s purpose blessed understanding God and a life of God’s will (will blessed through) Yet you would just see from Homer and Marge Simpson you get Bart, Lisa and Maggie.
Now to understand how a mind actually works you have to look at photosynthesis and the humble flower. Its roots are the survival laws and from them it gets its water or its life. The stem is its understanding that grows over time and its leaves its senses that gather in knowledge. With photosynthesis the energy from the sun’s light mixed with carbon dioxide(absorbed through the leaves) and water makes carbohydrates with oxygen as a by-product. To put it on a mental level
understanding wisdom mixed with experience from life is your mind’s energy. From this it grows in strength and understanding and gets more aware (more leaves) before coming to fruition. The flowering being an enlightened soul. (The physical will being oxygen grows with photosynthesis symbolic of enlightenment, the energy (heat) from the light is wisdom understood (light being wisdom) and carbon dioxide is the by product of breathing or experience gained through life)
Well that’s how it should work but the water might be tainted (or the flower in the shade) and growth occur in a different manner. The soul is basically a transformer on one level and a receiver on another. It receives information and transforms the imagination with this information. This information is not just spiritual it is also sensorial and sensual. The soul can feed of sensual pleasure and from this selfishness can grow. You could end up clinging to the pleasures of the material world to the exclusion of the spiritual will for ones strength is the others weakness. This would be the flower with just a little photosynthesis, stunted growth and a lot of foliage for the soul would make you more sensually aware. One is a spiritual life and the other a materialistic.
Incidentally on the spectrum of light red starts at b on the scales, orange c, yellow d, green e, blue f, indigo g and violet a. so in the words of the great Homer.
D’oh! Ray me.
Artwork By: David Heskin