Steiner’s twelve senses can be grouped into three categories. He distinguished senses which relate to the perception of:
• your body: the senses of touch, of life, of movement, of balance
• the external world: smell, taste, sight, temperature
• the immaterial, spiritual world: hearing, speech, thought, ego
Will, feeling, thought
• The first four senses, the lowest, are called physical senses, or senses of the will because they are used to perceive one’s own body.
• The middle four senses are the senses of feeling. Observations made with these senses arouse feelings. These senses are also reflected in our language: a tastefully furnished house, a sourpuss, hard to swallow, heart-warming, cold thought.
• The last four senses, the highest, focus particularly on the other. These are the spiritual or knowledge senses and they are used in the observation of other people.
Sense of Movement or Muscle Sense
The previous two senses observed the body’s boundaries, the body’s internal
state and the space it takes up. The sense of movement, or of muscles,
enables you to perceive your body’s movements and posture. Your body –
limbs, eyes, mouth, tongue, forehead, chest – is never still. All these
movements are perceived, and very accurately, too. You can perceive a
0.038-degree turn of the elbow. Not only do you perceive your movements, but you are also aware of the exact position of your limbs and all the other
moving parts of your body. At any given moment, you know exactly where
your arms and feet are. This is essential information; if you are going to execute a new movement, you have to know where the movement is to begin. You don’t even have to think about this, the sense of movement is always present. The muscle sense is situated in spindle-shaped receptors in the muscles, which measure the degree of tension in the muscle fibres (figure 2) There are similar receptors in the tendons. The bending and
stretching of the limbs are perceived by receptors in the joint tendons and in the surrounding tissue.
Your sense of movement is primarily focused on perceiving your own body, but you often also use it to observe things around you. In observing moving objects, your sense of movement works together with your sense of sight, so that you can see the type of movement taking place and estimate the speed of the moving object. In order to determine the object’s shape, your eyes follow the outline of the object and shift to and from details that attract your attention. Painters use this roving habit of eyes to guide you
through their painting along a chosen course. The movements and shapes are observed by the movement sense in the eye muscles, but the eye itself only observes the colours. You can also perceive the movement of a branch in a tree with your muscle sense, by imitating the movement with your arms. You could also imagine the movement, and imagine how your eyes or arms
would likewise move. This is called sensorial fantasy or muscular imagery, and you can apply it whenever you want to observe and imitate shapes and movements. Think about: the gait of a horse, how a cow or a
pig lies down, the motions of leaves, the arrangement of branches in different trees, and so on.
Movement and feeling are connected. This is evident in our body language: the welcome indicated by open arms, the dismissal expressed by a throw-away wave of the hand, and so on.
• Perception of precise movements
Take a piece of paper and a pencil. Close your eyes, or ask someone to blindfold you. Draw a house or a three-master. The first time, draw it as you would normally draw, occasionally lifting your pencil off the paper. Then draw it again, but keep the pencil on the paper all the time. You could also do
this exercise on a blackboard, so that others can observe you as you draw.
• Perception of larger movements
Draw a straight line on the pavement with chalk and then draw a circle about ten metres on. Connect the two with an undulating line. Your drawing should roughly resemble the figure below. One person stands behind the start line and then walks along the undulating course and places a small object in the circle. The subject then goes back to the start line and repeats the exercise
blindfold. You could vary this exercise so that the subject first observes the course from the start line, and then walks it blindfold and places an object in the circle.
• Observing position and movement
Ask someone to blindfold you and to put your arm in a certain position. Describe the exact position of your arm, which muscles are activated and which are not. Then let someone change the position of your arm just slightly. Again, describe the position of your arm and the muscles used, and
describe the changes that you perceive in your arm. Split into two groups. Form rows, facing each other, and put your hands flat against the hands of
the person opposite you. Make circles and other movements with your hands, varying the pressure on the other’s hands. Describe what you feel: the pressure, tension, relaxation and movements.
Describe the motion of a moving organism, either human or animal. What is the motion like, which parts of the organism are moving, could you imitate the movement?
Stand in front of a large object and observe it while someone else observes your eyes. Ask this person to describe your eye movements.
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