In the eleventh canto of Book II of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Prince Arthur defends Alma’s castle from hoards assaulting its five major forts. This castle represents the human body, and there are a number of allegorical points that Spenser makes from this. But what is particularly interesting is that the five major defenses of the “body” are the five senses.
We are often taught to distrust our senses, but Spenser shows them as particular points of protection from the attacks of evil. Of course these defenses are in need of a savior, Prince Arthur in this case, but they are our defenses none the less. Our task then in “mortifying the flesh” and “casting aside everything that entangles” is not ignoring, or worse, fleeing from our senses. Rather as believers, who have been raised to new life by faith in Christ and baptism (Rom. 6), our duty is to fortify and use our senses as they were designed to be used, seeking out what is truly good.
And this fortification does not come about through strenous mental excersize. It comes about through lawful enjoyment and celebration of the tastes and smells of food, listening to symphonies and jam sessions, touching friends and lovers, and watching waterfalls, trees, and tornadoes.
And this is what the writer of Hebrews says: “Solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”