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The Twelve Human Senses

Overview of the twelve senses

Though Rudolf Steiner is not the only person that talks of the human senses in a manner that clearly suggests more than the all too often dominant five, he appears to be unique in the specific twelve enumerated. In addition, he does specifically refer to these in correlation to the zodiac, though in no lectures does he appear to clearly delineate a list which links each sense sense to its zodiacal sign. The only place I have seen a full list of correlations from Steiner's own works is in his 1921 Notebook [NB77].

The problem with these notebooks is that unless one knows the context in which the diagrammes were made, faulty conclusions could all too easily follow. For example, and given that the three images that follow all have differing correlations, it would have been useful to know if Steiner was here jotting the various correlations other Anthroposophists had made or derived from his early lectures; or whether he was experimenting; or whether he was in conversation with a couple of other people in which these were noted in the illustrative context of a discussion partly in order to dismiss these (or two of these) as inadequate. Again, without the context, we need to take the images presented with careful and prudential reflections.

Rudolf Steiner's Notebook N°77 from 1921

Here are three drawings of the zodiac and the twelve senses from Steiner's notebook [NB77:1921] (published in The Notebooks of Rudolf Steiner, Watari & Kugler, eds, Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 2000, pp84-86):

Senses

  

Zodiac

 

Ego (I) sense

Concept / Thought

Word / Language

Hearing

Warmth

Sight

Taste

Smell

Balance

Movement / Motion

Life

Touch

Cancer

Gemini

Taurus

Aries

Leo

Sagittarius

Virgo

Scorpio

Libra

Aquarius

Pisces

Capricorn

  

Rudolf Steiner's 12 senses and the Zodiac (a)

Senses

  

Zodiac

 

Ego (I) sense

Concept / Thought

Word / Language

Hearing

Warmth

Sight

Taste

Smell

Balance

Movement / Motion

Life

Touch

Aries

Taurus

Gemini

Cancer

Leo

Virgo

Pisces

Aquarius

Capricorn

Sagittarius

Scorpio

Libra

Rudolf Steiner's 12 senses and the Zodiac (b)

Senses

  

Zodiac

 

Ego (I) sense

Concept / Thought

Word / Language

Hearing

Warmth

Sight

Taste

Smell

Balance

Movement / Motion

Life

Touch

Aries

Pisces

Aquarius

Capricorn

Leo

Sagittarius

Libra

Scorpio

Cancer

Taurus

Virgo

Gemini

Rudolf Steiner's 12 senses and the Zodiac (c)

 

References from Steiner regarding the Twelve Senses
> list of primary references in pdf format

Original Impulses for the Science of the Spirit (GA 96) 21st October 1906
Steiner makes various references to the senses and stones or metals associated thereto.

Esoteric Lessons 1904-1909 18th December 1906
This is the first instance I am aware of in which Steiner specifically focusses on some of the senses, and, interestingly, according to ‘record B’ makes some connections with the zodiac. It should be noted that participants’ notes were jotted after the sessions, not during.

Anthroposophy (a Fragment): A New Foundation for the Study of Human Nature (GA 45) circa 1910
(this unfinished book by Steiner, in my opinion, ranks amongst his ‘classics’ (ie, Philosophy of Freedom, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, Theosophy, Occult Science, The Threefold Commonwealth, & Christianity as a Mystical Fact. The book’s bibliography, as edited by either its translators or publishers, contains a list of references regarding Steiner’s comments on the senses. The list is not, it should be noted, complete)

A Psychology of Body, Soul, and Spirit (GA 115) Lectures given in 1909, 1910 & 1911
(this series of lectures covers much of the same ground covered by Anthroposophy (a Fragment). It should also be noted that in both this series of lectures and in the aforementioned book, Steiner discusses, apart from the higher senses of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition, ten senses, not twelve).

The World of the Senses and the World of the Spirit (GA 134) Lectures given in Dec 1911 & Jan 1912
(the lectures do not discuss the senses except for the second lecture, which gives in ‘seed-form’ what is developed in future lectures).

Toward Imagination: Culture & the Individual (GA169) Lectures given in 1916
(Everyone is unique: for me, his Philosophy of Freedom and this series of seven lectures remain the most inspiring! With regards to the senses, the third lecture is the most relevant, given on the 20th June, titled ‘The Twelve Human Senses’).

‘The Twelve Senses & the Seven Life-Processes in Man’ (published in Golden Blade 27:7-21, 1975) Lecture given in Dornach, 12/08/1916. [GA170 Riddle of Humanity]

‘The Sense-Organs and Aesthetic Experience’ (published in Golden Blade 27:22-38, 1975) Lecture given in Dornach, 15/08/1916. [GA170 Riddle of Humanity]

The Philosophy of Freedom (GA4)
Apart from the wonderful opportunity of listing this most incredible of books originally published in 1894, Steiner made some additions for the 1918 edition which are pertinent to the ego sense. He mentions this in lecture eight of Study of Man, referred to below.

Study of Man (especially lect 8, GA 293) Lectures given in 1919.
This, of course, remains the foundational pedagogical lecture cycle.

Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms (lectures given in 1920).
(Only lecture three, given in Dornach on the 8th August, deals with the senses. It should also be noted that this is the lecture mentioned, now incorrectly, in the footnote to lecture one of Man as a Being of Sense and Perception as ‘translation not yet published’).

Man as a Being of Sense and Perception (GA 206) Lectures given in 1921
(very useful, as this contains the most detailed exploration of the senses).

Zodiacal correlation sketch
(untranslated, published in Beiträge zur Rudolf Steiner Gesamtausgabe, nr 58/59, 1977, and, with translation, in Albert Soesman, The Twelve Senses, Hawthorn Press). Same as on page 85, below.

Zodiacal correlation sketches
(from an exhibition of 100 of Steiner’s Notebooks, Japan. The Exhibition Catalogue shows three sketches on pages 84, 85 and 86, the last two dated 1921, the first date unknown. The Notebooks of Rudolf Steiner, ed. E. Watari and W. Kugler, Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 2001.

Other authors of note

Hilde Boos-Hamburger The Creative Power of Colour
(has a discussion based on Steiner’s indications for enlivening the senses) original German ed. 1942; Printed in English translation by F. H. Brown, Burnley, 1961.

Rudolf Kutzli Creative Form Drawing (Workbook 2)
One of three workbooks, volume 2 has comments regarding the curative aspects of form-drawing and the twelve senses (Cf p121 ff), Hawthorn Press, 1986.

Albert Soesman Our Twelve Senses.
This book, originally notes from a series of lectures by Soesman, encapsulates and explains the working of the twelve senses succinctly and well. Of the various secondary materials available, it is, in my opinion, the best I have seen. It has also been recently reprinted by Hawthorn press (1990/1998), with minor additions.