According to Wikipedia, an acceptable definition of a Sense is: A system that consists of a group of sensory cell types that respond to a specific physical phenomenon, and that corresponds to a particular group of regions within the brain where the signals are received and interpreted.[i] Part of the definition includes the fact that there are external and internal organic senses; the external senses include the traditional five: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste, as well as the senses of temperature differences, direction, pain, balance, and the position and movement of one’s own body; the internal senses perceive sensations in our internal organs.
We perceive the reality of our surroundings mainly through the traditional organic senses, but we now know how extremely limited our senses are in their narrow boundaries. The best example of our limitations is the tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum we are able to perceive (the visible light region on the chart below). We also now know that other species are able to perceive the world in ways we cannot. And so, to compensate for the limitations of our organic senses we have developed the sense of Imagination.
Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability to form new images and sensations in the mind that are not perceived through senses such as sight and hearing. This definition, to me, appears to reassert the Cartesian duality of the separation of mind and body … the mind can only sense the world through its body, and the body can only imagine the world through its mind … both are inseparable aspects of the single phenomenon we experience as the Self, and neither one can exist without the other.
Like any of the other senses, Imagination is organic – the result of neuronal activity through the life history of the beholder – and all the faculties we attribute to it … forming mental images, producing creations consistent with reality, solving difficulties, reproducing images stored in memory to create new images, etc., etc. … are only possible through the indissolubly link between mind and body sharing the history of the Self through its evolution, its ancestral traits, its experiences; which is the reason why these faculties are oftentimes deeply affected when the interaction between mind and body is damaged due to illness, decease, or catastrophic events that rupture or impair nervous connectivity
Imagination is intrinsic in Nature … the unending creativity of flowers, the replication of the Double Helix in the DNA molecule with a subtle openness for differentiation, the chemical reduction of the entire Universe into a mere 94 ‘natural’ elements,[ii] the astonishing and boundless creativity of Life in adaptation … Imagination progresses in varying degrees of intricacy, and, in us, it has developed to such a degree of sophistication that we find ourselves trying to imagine the entire Universe. As our neuronal connectivity is increased trough experience and knowledge, we develop a greater capacity to see patterns in Nature and to imagine realities beyond the perception of our external senses.
But because the mind is frequently synonymous with thought (and imagination): the private conversation with ourselves that we carry on “inside our heads.” And because one of its key attributes is that it is a private sphere to which no one but the owner has access, it is easy for us to erroneously believe, even with all the empirical knowledge that proves otherwise (the Placebo Effect, the role of the mind in disease and healing, the communion of body and mind in the ecstasy of sexual climax, the impending need for physical change that fires the imagination in search of solutions), that what the mind senses and imagines is separate from the body. This is akin to the not-to-far-away past when our senses, as they do today, told us that the sun circles the earth. It took centuries for our brain to build the permanent synapses for us to accept, without question, the truth that it is earth that circles the sun, even if our external senses sense otherwise.
Imagination in Nature is primarily a survival aid, but in complex systems it can be a tool to attain greater complexity. The human mind is limited by the confines of our body, by the perception of our senses, by the traits imposed by our evolution, thus it can be deceiving. Yet our minds are supple and open to the infinite sense of Imagination, and with our advanced capacity to see the order of Nature we correct the flaws of our perception and come closer and closer to the truth. And although Imagination dies with the end of the body, the reach of our ideas, of our accomplishments, of our visions, transcend in the measure of their significance.
Imagination is organic, the best and the most far reaching of all our senses. Imagination is boundless; it encompasses the external and internal senses yet it surpasses their boundaries, and as such, it must be studied organically as we do the other senses.
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Chart source: google.com/visible light spectrum
[i] Excerpts in Italics are from Wikipidea
[ii] The rest of the elements are synthetic