Donna Eden & David Feinstein, Ph.D.© 2007
"If I were a dog, it would all be in black and white. If I were a mosquito, I would only see heat waves. If I were a snake, it would all be infrared. So I guess you can never really know what is there; it all depends on whose eyes are looking."
--Our Friend Devon Mortifee (Ann’s son) at Age 8
Synesthesia (“joining of the senses”) is the vivid, involuntary experiencing of one sensory mode through another (“tasting” a color, “seeing” a sound, or “smelling” a shape). The perceptions are experienced as real and originating from outside oneself (rather than being imagined in the mind’s eye), as if the object holds that sensory quality. Estimates of the number of individuals who consistently experience synesthesia vary from 1 in 200 to 1 in 20,000. It appears, however, that its frequency among the general population has increased since it was first described in the late 19th century. Recent studies indicate that synesthesia can be experienced during meditation, and it can also occur episodically during certain drug experiences, seizures, and fevers. There has been virtually no investigation of synesthesia in non-Western populations. The renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead was high in synesthesia, and some who knew her have speculated that this was one of her strengths in communicating so effectively with those of other cultures and languages.
“Energy synesthesia” is a term we have coined to describe the ability to experience, through your sensory system, subtle energies that most people do not perceive. No one, to our knowledge, has an independent sensory system (one beyond seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling) that zeroes in exclusively on subtle energies (e.g., chakra or meridian or basic grid energies), but some people experience these energies through their established sensory channels. This ability may actually be our birthright (infants and individuals brought up in non-technological cultures sense energies in ways that are rare in our culture), but is lost during enculturation (which can be defined as the social process of systematically placing filters on a young person’s senses to focus perception on what the culture understands and values). Energy synesthesia can, however, be cultivated, and individuals who practice energy medicine often begin to again see, taste, smell, or, most frequently, feel subtle energies.
Your skin is a reliable bridge for developing energy synesthesia. Skin, the largest sense organ, is photoreceptive. Even with your eyes closed, your skin registers light and sends impulses to the hypothalamus, which are relayed to the pineal gland. The pineal gland—in the center of the brain directly behind the eyes and about the size of a pea—contains a complete map of the visual field of the eyes and regulates the body’s biorhythms, in part through the production of melatonin.
Those who have studied chakra clearing with Donna will recall being told to close your eyes while giving or receiving the chakra clearing, and to notice if you see colors in your mind’s eye. Many do. Francesca McCartney teaches her students to identify colors, eyes closed, by bringing their hands near an object. She reports that people can “see” color via any area of their skin and finds that practicing “psychometry” (the use of one’s hands to sense energy) is a powerful path toward cultivating clairvoyance. Simply knowing that your hands, your skin, and your eyes are wired to sense energy (energy synesthesia)—and for some people their ears, nose, and taste buds as well—gives you an important boost in your ability to choose the practices that will cultivate the direct perception of the energies around you. Practicing energy work while holding this perspective, in fact, has sensitized many of Donna’s students to subtle energies.
Sensitivity to Light Outside the Normal Color Spectrum:
The skin emits thirty photons per square centimeter per second, not enough to cause us to visibly glow, but light is already coming out of the body. The skin also emits microwaves, infrared, and other electromagnetic frequencies. Some people visually register frequencies that are outside the normal spectrum of visible light, and this allows them to see the biofield as well. While there is apparently a “tetrachromatic” gene associated with this ability of the optical nerves to register an expanded range of the light spectrum, this ability can also be cultivated.
The pineal gland is not only light sensitive, it is associated with psychic development. It is referred to as the “third eye” in numerous mystical traditions, and it is frequently a focus in their many ways of teaching people how to cultivate “inner sight.” It is now believed that other areas of the brain, such as the hypothalamus and the right temporal lobe, are also associated with spiritual experiences. And not only is the third eye (6th chakra) involved with inner seeing, Donna believes many people receive a tremendous amount of information through the 2nd chakra, which may result in a “knowing” that may then be experienced in terms of color or other sensations. We encourage you to practice any form of meditation, yoga, or other spiritual discipline that speaks to your heart. At the same time, simply practicing energy medicine while staying open to unusual forms of perception also cultivates inner sight.
Note: Thanks to Kevin T. Dann, Ph.D., for helpful comments on the first paragraph of an earlier draft of this essay. Dr. Dann is author of Bright Colors Falsely Seen: Synaesthesia and the Search for Transcendental Knowledge.