We receive this world through our senses. That’s how we know that a ball is round, sunflower is yellow, a lion roars, sandalwood has a nice smell and fire is hot. I had once read an interesting hypothetical question: “What would happen if we had a magnetic sense? Or some other sense along those lines?”. I always found this question amusing. But today, I find this question important as well.
There was a time when the living beings didn’t have eyes; and ears; and nose. That means they could discover only part of their environment. The knowledge was limited to a slice of the absolute total that was there to know. Without eyes, the living beings couldn’t know that a ball was round or that the sunflower is yellow. In fact, to know the color of a flower requires more than eyes. It requires the eyes to have the capability to see a spectrum of light that reveals the color of a flower.
Anyway, my point is that before our senses developed to the extent they are developed as of now, there was part of the world that we knew and part of the world that we didn’t know. And when I say our senses, I mean the whole of living beings and not just human beings. I call the unknown slice of the world as “The Unlit World”. It just denotes the world that is not discoverable by our senses.
There is no reason to believe that living beings can have at most 5 senses (touch, smell, hear, see, taste). As we move forward on the path of evolution, we can develop more senses (e.g. magnetic, gyro, thoughts and what not). In fact, there is no reason to believe that we already don’t have more than 5 senses. May be we already have some other senses but they are quite feeble as of today and would get stronger as time goes by.
More often than not seeing overpowers the hearing. And hearing overpowers touch. It’s quite possible that we already have some other senses (e.g. thought sense) but they are getting overpowered by other senses. May be that’s all sixth sense is all about. When someone accidentally taps into a sense that’s not yet fully developed in human beings as a whole, we just put it under the umbrella of sixth sense.
This whole line of thought has interesting implications. One implication is that at any point of time, we have only limited view of the world. It’s not only about knowing less number of things but also about knowing things in an incomplete manner. It’s like knowing only the thunder and not the lightening (or vice versa). However, my mind reacts to situations as if it knows everything about the situation.
Another interesting implication is a thought experiment: what would be the contents of the mind if there were no senses at all?