Sixth Sense
The theory of the existence of a sixth sense as a convenient
explanation of paranormal phenomena was first put forward in
the era of animal magnetism by Tardy de Monravel in his Essai
sur la Théorie du Somnambolisme Magnétique (1785). Departing
from his mesmerist contemporaries, he considered the sixth
sense as the source and sum of all our partial senses. (His colleagues
attempted to explain clairvoyance and prevision by
positing the existence of a ‘‘magnetic fluid.’’)
More recently the sixth sense has been given prominence as
Charles Richet’s comprehensive term for the phenomena of
telepathy, clairvoyance, psychometry, premonition, prediction,
crystal gazing, and phantasmal appearances. They were,
in Richet’s view, manifestations of a new unknown sense that
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perceives the vibrations of reality. The conception is largely an
attempt to do away with the spirit hypothesis, making its invocation
unnecessary. Richet admitted, however, that the working
of this sense is incomprehensible when a choice has to be made
between vibrations of reality, for instance in the case of a book
test, when the sensitive is called upon to read a certain line on
a certain page in a certain book that nobody has opened.
His main argument in favor of his theory was that the hypothesis
of the sixth sense as a new physiological notion contradicted
nothing that we learn from physiology, whereas the spirit
hypothesis does. A hint of Richet’s term survived in the
concept of extrasensory perception as used by J. B. Rhine.
Sources
Richet, Charles Notre Sixième Sens. Paris Editions Montaigne,
1928.
Sinel, Joseph. The Sixth Sense. London T. W. Laurie, 1927.