February 17, 2012
Kosher Sutra: Synaesthesia (Yitro)
In the mid-1920’s a Russian Journalist called Solomon Veniaminovich Shereshevsky was reprimanded by his boss for because he didn’t write any notes during a meeting. Shereskvsky didn’t need to because he had a photographic memory. He was later discovered to be a synesthete. Synaesthesia is a state whereby someone’s neural pathways crossover, so that when they hear a musical note they will see a colour, when they touch something it will trigger a taste sensation and so forth.
Our Kosher Sutra takes us to Mount Sinai where people ‘could see the voices’ that were usually heard (Exodus 20:15). There was a disagreement between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yishmael over whether this was indeed a miracle. The former argued that it was supernatural as it lifted humans up to a heavenly realm, whereas the latter suggested that it was merely an opportunity for everyone to experience the Divinity that is always around and within them*.
When we stop to truly listen to that which is going on around us, we can quickly find ourselves in the realm of the supernatural, hearing things that we otherwise missed. We can ‘see’ the anger in someone’s voice even if they are speaking calmly if we quiet ourselves and look at their body language. We see the anxiety and depression in someone’s voice if we stop listening to just the words they are saying and really listen to them in their entirety.
The journey of yoga and meditation takes us much deeper, and far closer to our full potential. The book Autobiography of a Yogi describes someone having extra-sensory experiences on a daily basis, but are these really miracles? Or are they merely touching the potential that we all have?
Last year’s excellent film Limitless showed a man who took a drug to open up the full potential of his brain, although we don’t really need this drug to enjoy our brain to its fullest. We just need to slow down and listen.
The standard manual of mental disorders DSM-IV does not list synaesthesia as a neurological condition because it does not have to cause problems with everyday life. Many people who experience it have begun to see it as a gift rather than a burden.
We have incredible abilities at our fingertips and most of us have only just begun to scratch the surface of our body and soul’s potential.
*(as recounted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichot, vol. 6, pp. 121-129 and vol. 1, pp. 149-150)