—Text from a letter to Dr. Hugo Heyrman, April, 2000

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Synesthesia: Role and Meaning

Zvi Rosenstein

Department of Physiology,
Medical School, Hebrew University,
Jerusalem, Israel

Synesthesia (S) recently became an accepted object of research once again in studies of consciousness. During the last few years, several books were published and a special session was even dedicated to studies in S at the conference, "Toward the science of consciousness", Tucson, Arizona, April, 2000. In fact, we are speaking about a phenomenon that has been famous for at least 3313 years, from the moment when the Tora (in original Hebrew) was given to mankind on Mount Sinai (the Sinai revelation). The translation of the first part of the Tora is known as the Bible in English speaking countries. When the Ten Commandments were given, all the people saw sounds (Exodus, 20,18), and heard images. At that moment, the whole Jewish folk were staying around Mount Sinai, and more than 600.000 adult men (between 20 and 60 years old) participated in the event (plus women and children). The quantity of presented people- all together- was more than 2.000.000. All these people were "synesthetes" at that time. It means that most profound group effects of S are possible and may be looked for.

It is known that the Jewish folk were on an extremely high spiritual level at the moment of revelation. The Tora was given on the fifties (50th) day after Jews abondoned Egypt. We are counting each year these fifty days. Now these days we are in the process of this counting- in particular to-day is the forties day in this year counting -3313 years from the actual event. At the time of crossing of the Red Sea on the way from Egypt to Mount Sinai, "each maidservant saw [in the spiritual realm] more than the prophet Iezikiel saw in the course of his prophecy", as it is stated in the Midrash (collections of ancient traditional Jewish materials accompanying the text of the Tora itself ). It is natural to suggest that the mass manifestation of effects of S are closely connected to the dramatic elevation of the spiritual level of the folk at that time, and even caused by this elevation. If so, it not due to chance that modern researchers of S wonder how high the intellectual and creative level of their subjects, synesthes, actually is (see Synesthesia Fact Sheet, by Peter Grossenbacher (2000)). The widely described effects of the step-by-step manifestation of different mental and emotional abilities in the course of "kundalini"-raising can come easily to mind in this context. However, it may be strongly suggested in this case that some sort of similarity of effects does not mean the equivalency of causes producing these effects. This remark, though an obvious one, may be of substantial importance when the tools of positive science are applied to studies in high spirituality. The attentive reader may find some material to think over regarding this topic in the book by Aryeh Kaplan, "Jewish Meditation. A practical Guide" (Schoken Books, New York, 1985).

One can try to use the level of manifestation of S.-bound effects in a human population as an objective method of evaluation of the spiritual level of this population. In this sense, the statistics pertaining to synesthetes who are found in the society may became a useful tool for predicting social and spiritual processes in the near future. The ratio of vision-oriented synesthetes to audio-oriented synesthetes at a given time may serve as a example of a measure that we suggest to call the Spectrum of S.-bound Abilities in the Society (SAS). SAS may be tried as a tool for prediction of such effects as preference of given modality-oriented inventions, scientific articles or new directions in art at the given time, etc. The idea behind the SAS is simple – the spectrum of types of synesthetes living at a given time may predict the main directions of creative development the society is directed to.

Yet another remark connected to the S phenomena may be of interest: synesthes are more "integrated" individuals than most of us, the compartments of their brains (and souls, if one like to thinks in such terms) are less separated one from the other. Due to the well-known prophesy that, in the future, "the G-d will be the same G-d and His Name will be the same Name" [for all nations], the synesthetes are in some sense "people from the future" and again some features of human evolution can be deduced from S-phenomena directed studies. In this sense, not only physiology but psychology and even the pathology of synesthes may become a topic of genuine scientific interest.

—Svi Rosenstein
Medical Faculty, Hebrew University
Jerusalem, Israel

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