Rudolf Steiner’s Twelve Senses
In traditional learning, only 5 senses are recognised: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Rudolf Steiner went further than this traditional thinking and considered humans had twelve senses. He divided them into three areas, the lower, middle and higher sense organs.
The lower senses are those relating to the physical body; the senses of touch, of life/wellbeing, of movement and of balance. The Middle relate to the external world around us such as smell, taste, sight, and temperature. And the higher are connected with the soul and spiritual world. Steiner named these as hearing, the perception of speech, thought, and the ego, the sense of the ‘I’ of the other.
We all have a natural tendency to seek out our fellow humans. Whether it be through the sense of sight or hearing, we want nothing more than for there be someone around us at any given moment that can make this world feel less lonely.
The four higher senses are an integral part in understanding what makes up human nature because they arise from organs within physical form but exist outside anything related specifically to Earth’s gravity. There capabilities are solely dependent on development rather than neediness.
There is an in-built process of opposition between inner and outer. As you develop your lower bodily senses, they will lead to the development of higher ones eventually creating a sense that each side has its own identity with which we can identify as belonging solely within themselves or outside ourselves altogether without proper recognition by either party involved. The way I see it now ‘standings aren’t just about what’s on top but also underneath’.
Rhythm in the early years to help build the sense
The foundation to this is built in childhood. That’s why is Steiner education, beginning in nursery and kindergarten, children’s time is spent in movement, balance and touch in play, and safe in the regular rhythm of the day.
Creating a place, space and rhythm where our bodies can feel warm and comforted in these early years is really important. These feelings are created by what and how you eat, what and how you are dressed in as well as other activities like singing and colour and art that surround us.
In a Waldorf setting, or at home, these twelve senses develop within the children at different ages and so our setting must respond as they grow.
I know in our home what the children wear, for example, has become less important from a sense’s perspective and more important to them as an expression of self which we accept. So the journey with feeling and tastes, sight and smells continues.
The middle and upper years rhythm
As the children reach year 7,8,9 10 + the soul feelings or spiritual senses around talking (hearing and speaking, thinking and discussing) as well as their sense of ego “I” develops, after which they are ready to spread their wings.
I have found in the wild ride that is parenting that the important step for me to make was to really see the children where they are. It’s so easy to get caught up with our own selves and forget to enable our children to freely become themselves, unique and amazing.
If we can enable this unfurling then the children have an opportunity to develop a truly fresh perspective for the world, as our senses are the tool kit we used to experience and navigate the world through.
Wilded Family in rhythm
Wilded Family creates learning resources to inspire children, rooted in nature. Developing with the children as their senses develop. Our tools help child led and immersive learners discover patterns, get curious about natural science and feel secure in natural rhythms. Because we cannot create a better world without changing our patterns of thinking, and that starts with children. Explore our range here: https://waldorffamily.com/shop/