The ninth sense: HEARING

Hearing is the ninth sense among the twelve that Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf Education, developed and introduced about 100 years ago.

The sense of hearing is the first of the higher senses, classified as the spiritual or knowledge senses and focus particularly on the other.  These senses are helpful when observing other people, animals, or things.

van Gelder says, “Listening- conscious hearing-requires you to be quiet…it is a social activity focused on others, but it is also an internal activity.” Sounds can be heard from any direction as three different aspects, the volume, the pitch, and the tone.

When you hear a sound, you have a sense of what is within the source as well.  van Gelder offers these examples, “it is difficult to distinguish a glass pane from a plastic one by sight alone. If you tap the pane, however, the sound will tell you which it is right away. You can also hear if a plate or a bell is cracked, even if you cannot see the damage. Listening to people can also reveal information about their inner lives. People might look smart, but if they feel bad inside it is immediately apparent in their voice. Someone’s intonation betrays whether they are sad, happy or excited”.

Hearing is related to the sense of balance.  (Go here for more information on the sense of balance.)

First, Steiner connected each of the lower senses to each of the higher senses.  Tunkey says,

  1. Expressed in a positive way, this means that any activity that helps one of the four lower senses will also be vital to the development of its companion higher sense.
  2. Expressed in the opposite way, so-called learning difficulties-such as inabilities to pay attention or stay with the class, struggles to form or remember thoughts, hindrances with language or listening skills-fall into the four higher sense categories. Therefore, if a child has a learning difficulty, you can look at this as a problem of incomplete development of the matching lower sense, and work with that…rather that only working directly on the label or manifestation in the higher faculty.


In this case, hearing and balance are natural companions. Balance requires conscious focus.  When we develop the sense of balance, we will help with the development of listening skills as well.

How does this relate to Unitarian Universalism and Religious Exploration?

The Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism are the ideas which we affirm to “hold as strong values and moral guides.”

I identified twelve key concepts that appear throughout them.  These are:









Democratic process




When we make a conscious effort to fortify the sense of hearing, we will in turn be developing awareness of worth, acceptance, conscience, respect, and connectedness.

 What can you do to fortify this sense?

Tunkey suggests, “Gymnastics and any other activity that rotates the inner ear in space or depends on balance will provide a terrific benefit.”

van Gelder suggests, “Stand somewhere, indoors or out, and describe all the sounds you hear. What feelings do the sounds evoke? You can do this exercise with your eyes open or blindfold. Does it make a difference to what you experience?

This is an exercise for two people, one of whom is blindfold. Stand 15 feet apart. The person who is not blindfold must whisper something, articulating well, and the blindfold person must repeat what the other whispered. Then remove the blindfold, so that the listener can see the speaker. Again, the listener must repeat what the speaker whispered. What is the result? What was the listener’s experience?

This exercise is for a group. One person sits behind a sheet or screen. Out of sight of the other subjects, this person makes sounds using various objects. For example, silver, lead, iron and wooden spoons can be used to tap objects such as a plate, a cracked plate, a glass, a porcelain cup, a plastic beaker, a free-standing bell, a bell on a table, a small bell, and so on. The rest of the group must try to identify the objects by the sounds.”

My best to you with many blessings,

Amy Huntereece, M. Ed.

DRE, Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Flagstaff, AZ


van Gelder, T. (n.d.). Sense of temperature. Retrieved from

Working with the 12 senses Touch, Health, Movement and Balance as a Foundation for Academic Progress by Jeff Tunkey