Charles Richet

Charles Richet

Distinguished physiologist. Won the Nobel Prize in 1913 for his discovery of anaphylaxis. Professor of Physiology at the Faculty of Medicine of Paris, member of the Academy of Science and Honorary president of the Paris-based Institut Metapsychique International in 1919. Founded the Annales des Sciences Psychiques in 1890, whose title subsequently changed to Revue Metapsychique in 1920.

Various Reflections on the the Sixth Sense

A Few Phenomena that may be Connected to a Sixth Sense | Conditions Necessary for Successful Experimentation | Refutation of Certain Objections | Hypothesis on the Mechanism of the Sixth Sense | The Hypothesis of Telepathy | The Hypothesis of a Vibration of Reality | The Hypothesis of Pragmatical Cryptesthesia | The Spiritistic Hypothesis | The Hypothesis of Hyperesthesia | An Attempt at a Classification of the Vibrations of Reality that Being into Play the Sixth Sense | Symbolism in the Working of the Sixth | The Future of the Sixth Sense

 - Charles Richet -

A Few Phenomena that may be Connected to a Sixth Sense [top]

          A. ABOVE ALL, we are dealing now with premonitions. Some of these are very striking. They deserve to be analysed with scrupulous attention. But premonition is still so much stranger than simple monition and clashes so violently with the whole of our existence (material and moral) that quite a special study must be made of it(1).

(1) E. Bozzano has written a very fine book on Premonitions which has been translated into French.

In all probability, however, premonition also is connected with this sixth sense. For the future is included in the present. A present reality implies future reality. Laplace has said that the future depends absolutely on the present and that he who would know the whole of the present would know also the whole of the future.

It follows from this that premonition, an undoubted phenomenon, is closely connected with the knowledge of the present, i.e. with the sixth sense.

Still, to remain faithful to our programme we will here say nothing about premonitions.

B. Another phenomenon of extreme interest is probably not unrelated to the sixth sense; but all the same, at least as regards methods of observation, it is very different from it. I refer to the divining rod.

This study already includes an imposing biography and numerous experimental findings.

In spite of all the documents published on this question hitherto, there is still some uncertainty regarding this curious phenomenon. All the same, one can scarcely deny that there exists a rhabdic force of unknown nature which influences the sensitiveness of the source-finder and determines muscular movements in his hands, movements energetic enough to cause him to bend violently a hazel switch or cause a pendulum to oscillate. I do not know whether this rhabdic force acts upon our sixth sense or whether it is another particular sense ... but I do not want to enter into this difficult discussion.

C. Evidently we shall eliminate from our study cases which may involve a natural explanation, for instance, a very great hyperesthesia of the normal senses. In this connection I will quote the experiments of Gilbert Murray. Murray placed himself in a room, and a sentence in a very low voice was spoken to him. A sensitive placed in the next room reproduced the words or the ideas of the sentence which had been uttered to Murray. Now there was a close relationship between the words uttered and the reply of the sensitive, i.e. of Murray himself. Well, in spite of the high authority of my friends in the British Society for Psychical Research I cannot here eliminate the hypothesis (so simple a one) of an exceptional auditory hyperesthesia. It is not known how far this excessive keenness of hearing can act, but the words uttered in a low tone may quite well, consciously or unconsciously, have been heard by the sensitive. Therefore to me in all probability this is only a case of auditory esthesia carried very far, sufficient, if need be, to explain the so-called mental communication.

In order that there may be a sure functioning of the sixth sense there must be radically eliminated all possible esthesia of our five other senses, even extreme hyperesthesia.

From this point of view here is an instance of a very commonplace phenomenon which has often caused many excellent observers to err.

When A., by the side of a sensitive, places his hands on a table, and the table is interrogated, even if the contact is very slight, there are often answers given which conform to A.'s thought, but the muscular sensibility (which is a normal psychical sensibility) can be carried so far in the case of the sensitive that he will feel the faintest impulsions involuntarily given by A., who holds his hands on the table, and then he will be able to adapt his answer to the scarce conscious and imperceptible impulsion he feels, an answer unconsciously given by A, who is touching the table.

To be more precise, A. and B. are at the table, scarcely touching it. A. asks for any name; for instance, the name of a person who has just written him a letter. A. imprints no movement on to the table (apparently at all events). The movements of the table are due solely to B., for when A. is alone there is never the slightest movement of the table, whereas with B. alone movements are often very pronounced. In this case, then, even when A. seems to be altogether motionless, I shall never dare to assert that his thought is not unconsciously transmitted by exceedingly slight impulsions which are powerless to displace the table but sufficiently strong for B. to apprehend them vaguely and intensify them.

In B. there is no exercise whatsoever of the sixth sense, but simply a very delicate muscular sensibility which causes him to perceive the slight and unconscious movement of A. Therefore, if A. touches the table there must never be attributed to the sixth sense the precise answers of B. to the questions asked by A., and the answer to which is known by A., even if they may be amazingly correct, even if A. seems absolutely motionless.

A fortiori I will leave completely aside all the high-sounding experiments carried on by certain sensitives.

Holding the hand of a person, they divine sometimes the very complicated operations which this simple-minded person ordered them, in so-called mental fashion, to perform.

I am quite ready to recognise that it is difficult in certain cases to deny that there is some telepathic communication or even a certain amount of telekinesis. But the whole thing is so doubtful that it is better to abstain from a conclusion of any kind.

Now there is in the case of our metapsychical science, still in its beginnings, great advantage in excluding all these pseudo-cases of the sixth sense. No contact. No whispered utterances. No involuntary low speaking. No reflection of images on the cornea, as certain German authors attempt to explain metagnomia. All these possibilities of error must be eliminated, even when they are most improbable.

It is worthy of note that sensitives are extremely sensitive to all impressions and attempt (even in perfect good faith) to conform their answers to these more or less conscious impressions, so that the best thing to do is to eliminate all impressions. But it is very difficult, when the answer which the sensitive is to give is known, strictly to abstain from every exclamation, gesture. look, or change of attitude, for the attention of the sensitive is extremely awake, so that the ideal experimentation is that which deals with things that nobody knows and to which consequently no one can give any clue.

If I offer a drawing in a sealed envelope and the sensitive attempts to reproduce it I attach greater importance to his success when I do not know the drawing than when I do know it; for if I do know it, in spite of myself, whilst the drawing is under my eyes I may give him some sign of approval or disapproval.

Manifestly in experimenting thus there are often eliminated many very fine cases of telepathy, but one must be extremely strict and accept only facts which involve no other explanation than the existence of ail unknown sense.

D. I shall not speak of what I have called xenoglossie, i.e. the speech or writing of the sensitive in a language which he does not know when in his normal state. Xenoglossie is not yet a demonstrated fact. UP to the present there is nothing irreproachable in the cases that have been cited. The criticism of Dessoir, inadequate in many aspects, appears to me altogether acceptable for the experiment I have related in my Traite de Metapsychique.

E. I will say as much of infant prodigies. Better suppose exceptional precocity of intellect than admit a special sense that takes the place of precocity, whether in language, music, or mathematics.

In a word, to sum up I shall admit, as connected with the sixth sense, only facts that cannot in any way be explained by our normal senses, even when we attribute to these senses an extreme and almost abnormal keenness.

F. I shall also leave aside the amazing experiments of Pontet, so well analysed and commented upon by W. Mackenzie(2). For this spiritistic mathematics, due to the personification of Stasia, has been truly marvellous, if the facts are genuine. Provisionally, however, we do not clearly see how it can be connected with the sixth sense.

(2) Metapsichica Moderna, Rome, 1923, pp. 67-142.

We will compare with the experiments of Pontet the results which Lodge obtained (the geometrical representation of a figure by a complicated algebraical formula).

G. Finally I will not mention, however interesting they be, the experiments on the transmission of thought from man to animal (The Thinking Horses of Elberfeldt, Der kluge Hans).

An important memorandum of Herr Krall has just appeared on the subject in the Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie (1927, No. 3). Human cryptesthesia is too intricate for it to be complicated by simultaneously studying animal cryptesthesia.

Conditions Necessary for Successful Experimentation [top]

Experimentation is easier for the study of clairvoyance than for that of telepathy, for in telepathy certain absolute rules are to be observed.

(a) We must abstain from looks, contacts, and movements of any kind. If, as is necessary, there is an agent and a percipient, the agent must have his back turned, must remain absolutely motionless. It is even better for him to be some distance from the percipient, because he is likely, maybe, in slightly changing his physiognomy or his attitude, or in modifying the rhythm of his breathing, to give the percipient, who is attentive to everything, some vague clue.

(b) The choice of the figure, the drawing or map must be determined by chance alone.

This can easily be understood, for there may have been, during conversation, some phrase pronounced, some memory evoked, which are quite naturally to be found simultaneously in the mind of the agent and in that of the percipient.

(c) On the same day there must not be many experiments made in succession, for as a rule, even in the best sensitives, lucidity quickly declines.

Everything takes place as though, after the initial experiments, the images became confused. The sensitives themselves are so conscious of this that they are not at all inclined, after two or three successful experiments, to continue making others.

Let us not imagine that this is the same as in the case of prestidigitators, who, having successfully carried out a card trick, refuse to do it all over again in order that their method may not be exposed. The explanation appears to me different. It is that the images of the preceding experiment become confused with those of the present experiment. I have related the story of Pickman, who, in an initial and quite irreproachable experiment, indicated to me the card of which I had thought, a card which I had drawn by chance from the pack in Pickman's absence and laid on the table with the rest of the pack. I did not touch that card. I had my back turned and did not see a single one of Pickman's movements. Now, he succeeded the first time (the probability being one in 52); unfortunately in the two following experiments he failed.

Quite recently again, the probability being 1 in 18, I had two successes with a sensitive, but I failed in the three following experiments.

It therefore appears to me wise, after one or more successes, not to continue the experiments, although it is very tempting to do so.

(d) When making the statistics of one's experiments, the whole of those which have been undertaken must be given; whether favourable or unfavourable makes no difference, they must all be counted. It is on this condition only that a legitimate conclusion can be drawn and that probabilities can be strictly calculated.

(e) Each sensitive really possesses sensibility only under certain conditions, those to which he is accustomed and those for which he is perhaps almost exclusively gifted. From this point of view there are very great individual varieties. Certain sensitives answer through automatic writing; others through movements of table or planchette; others use crystal gazing. It is useful to conform oneself both to their usual habits and to their special sensibility.

As most mediums seem to be inspired by a guide, whatever be our secret opinion of the reality of this guide, it is wise to accept this belief, to adopt temporarily the mentality of the spiritists, to fathom it, so to speak, during experiments. There will always be time later on, once the experiment is over, to accept or reject the hypothesis of a guide. For instance, Mme Leonard speaks in the name of Little Feda. Mrs. Piper speaks in the name of Phinuit. Though this Phinuit may be purely an hypothetical character, the experiment must be carried on as though Phinuit really existed. He must be spoken to and joked with, and no doubt must be cast on his existence.

Each subject has his own personal psychology. If we desired to apply to all the same experimental mode, failure would very often result. It is only after a long time that we succeed in knowing the complicated, tortuous, and fantastic psychology of some particular medium, his inveterate habits, his wonted manias. One must not be rigid, must know how to accept the conditions, at times odd enough, according to which the sixth sense is enabled to function.

Let us not be disheartened, but patient and persevering if the experiments are negative at the start. The golden mean is difficult to observe. Above all let us remember that sensitives are of suspicious susceptibility, and beware of offending them.

Let us also be extremely rigid in our conclusions and check them frequently.

Refutation of Certain Objections [top]

THEORETICAL OBJECTIONS are of no importance. What theories can prevail against facts? It is therefore a question solely of experimental objections, those which can be brought against experiments in chemistry or in physiology.

All that we have said to prove the existence of the sixth sense will be valid only if we eliminate two possibilities: first, chance; second, imperfect experimentation.

Of course, discussions must be loyal. Now, in the criticisms addressed to us it too often happens that our opponents have used a method of discussion which, to speak mildly, I regard as mediocre. They say nothing whatsoever of the fine demonstrative experiments, and criticise only unsuccessful ones. Naturally I leave on one side the criticisms emanating from ignorant and incompetent journalists. I pay no attention to them. I will meet only the ones it is reasonable to discuss, those of Delmas of Pierre Janet, of Max Dessoir, and of Albert Moll.

Of Delmas I will say little, for he is not concerned with subjective metapsychics, nor, consequently, with the sixth sense. He deals almost exclusively with the phenomena of telekinesis and materialisation. Of Ossovietski he says only one thing. "A person," he says, "of great authority, conducted two experiments with Ossovietski and had two negative results." This anonymous person of great authority with his two negative experiments, which are not described, authorises Delmas to conclude that everything we have seen in the course of fifty experiments with Professor Cuneo, with Professor Gosset, with Dr. Geley and Dr. Osty - these are by no means anonymous persons - does not count! I regret to tell Delmas that, notwithstanding the great authority of his anonymous experimenter, his two negative experiments are equal to nil, perhaps even less than that.

The criticism of Herr A. Moll is rather more serious, but Herr Moll observed nothing himself. Indeed he alludes only to our experiments with Kahn, and decides upon things in quite superior fashion without having seen anything-an innovation in criticism.

All the same I grant that, as an exception, it is possible for Herr Moll from his work-table to decide whether such or such an experimenter has acted seriously or superficially.

Let us therefore look a little at Herr Moll's criticisms.

In the first place, he claims that we have done all we can to ascertain lucidity. Now that is a great and monstrous error. Both of us constantly used our best endeavours not to ascertain lucidity. Instead of being prejudiced in favour of Kahn, as we had only limited confidence in him we mistrusted him greatly. We supervised all his actions, all his glances, and all his contacts with papers (contacts after all very few and always superficial).

Herr Moll also reveals to us the fact that there are very skilful prestidigitators, but we already knew that quite well! We had no need of the lesson.

Herr Kahn may be a clever prestidigitator. But whatever be his skill, Herr Moll will never get us to admit that this extremely clever magician was able to take up, to read, and to place in order a score of documents which he has not touched.

Has he been able, aided by a most unlikely keenness of vision, to read anything contained in papers folded in three? This seems to me very improbable. Besides it is on this account that I experimented with the gummed paper, preventing the (extraordinary) swollen appearance of the thrice folded paper. As in such cases it is always fitting to increase the number of controls and experiments, I should like to do it all again, and to place in a closed envelope the papers which Kahn has to read, as we did in the case of Ossovietski. It seems to me, all the same, radically impossible to read a paper folded in three, when there are difficult words such as Atreiden, Agamemnona; or when we are dealing with a drawing (like that of the cottage), a drawing which he reproduced so perfectly (Fig. 26).

We assert that Kahn did not touch the papers, but Albert Moll says that he does not believe him (mir fehlt der Glaube). And yet, what can we say further? We say: Kahn did not touch the papers because we are sure that he did not touch them. That is all we can affirm.

Shall I remind Herr Moll of the strange incredulity of an American psychologist, Mr. Scripture? I had presented before the Congress of Psychology of 1900, Paris, a child aged three years and three months, Pepito Arriola, a little Spaniard, who in spite of his extreme youth played the piano admirably, almost as well as a finished artist. Three times at my house, twice in the Congress Hall in the presence of 150 persons, in the full light of day, of course, and away from his mother who was talking to us, he played the piano, now improvising, now from memory. He amazed the audience with his extraordinary artistic precocity. Well now, Mr. Scripture dared to assert that we were all the victims of an illusion, and that it was Senora Arriola, his mother, who was playing in his place. Herr Moll's incredulity is of the same quality as that of Mr. Scripture(1).

(1) Zeitschrift fur kritischen Okultismus, 1926, 1, 152-179, and Zeitsthrift fur Parapsychologie, September, 1926, pp. 153-156.

The objections urged by my friend Pierre Janet appear to me of no great weight, at least as regards mental metapsychics.

Formerly, Pierre Janet and myself experimented together upon Leonie B. attempting to rediscover what had been professed by the magnetisers of old, to wit, somnambulism from a distance. Then, although Janet, if I remember aright, was convinced of this action from a distance, I for my part could not feel the same conviction. I was more exacting than he was.

Let me say this in passing without insisting on it any further.

Pierre Janet's criticism does not appear to me acceptable. For, instead of grappling with the genuine experiments of Mrs. Piper, of Mme Briffaut, of Ossovietsky, he chooses, from the rich and perhaps too profuse documentation presented in my Traite de Metapsychique, the unsuccessful or uncertain experiments. As regards one of them in particular, I assert that it is terribly mediocre. Yes, I repeat it, terribly mediocre, and it is this that a certain critic has attacked. As regards the other two observations to which Monsieur Janet objects, I had denounced them as very uncertain, and these are precisely the only ones that M. Janet has incriminated.

But I will insist no longer on this, for I am certain that, at bottom, as he himself practically declares, Pierre Janey recognises that there is something true in this vibration of reality attaining to knowledge by paths other than the normal paths of the senses, and he adds that this study must be continued if we are to reach greater precision.

Max Dessoir's objections are rather serious, and yet I cannot regard them as decisive.

In the first place regarding Reese, he made a few investigations into the personality of this individual and was able to show that Reese is not very reliable; that he makes so-called revelations and performs card tricks for payment, and that consequently he is not deserving of any confidence. The story of the big fees that he is alleged to have received from some financial company are a mere fairy-tale which Reese propagated and which merit no credence whatsoever. A letter from Mr. Hyslop is unfavourable to Reese, but Mr. Hyslop made only one experiment with Reese, and he declares that there must have been trickery, without indicating indeed, of what this trickery consisted.

In 1893, still according to Herr Dessoir, Professor Hartmann, who had at first been amazed at the lucidity shown by Reese, got this latter to show him where he cheated. How regrettable it is that Herr Hartmann, to whom Reese showed his trickery, has left us no revelation as to the nature of this latter!

In a word, these divers objections are not very serious. Can they obliterate the precautions taken by Maxwell, Schrenck-Notzing, Drakoules, Carrington, Edison to prevent them from deciding in favour of prestidigitation?

We willingly acknowledge that Professor Bert Reese does not merit our confidence. Very well then. All the same, those who experimented with him never suspected the integrity and good faith of this individual.

Herr Max Dessoir vigorously criticizes the experiments made with Kahn by Herr Schottelius. But his criticisms are ineffective, for he makes inadmissible suppositions: 1. that what had been written in ink was marked on the blotting-paper. Now as a general rule the papers were written in pencil and the blotting-paper was removed; 2. that Kahn read a paper which he held in his hand. Now, in our experiments, as in those of Schottelius. Kahn scarcely ever touched the papers, and when he did touch them he did so only by lightly passing his forefinger, for scarcely a second, over the paper in question.

Therefore, as against the authenticity of the phenomena observed in the case of Reese and of Kahn, this is all very inadequate criticism. And so, at all events provisionally, we may conclude in the reality of this phenomenon of cryptesthesia.

The fine and decisive experiments of Mrs. Piper are not too strongly contested by Dessoir. He attempts to be impartial, and yet he follows the detestable method of many of our opponents, i.e. instead of grappling with the most favourable experiments, he deals with the least favourable. Now, there is no difficulty in finding these. Indeed, solicitous after scientific accuracy, the scientists who experimented with Mrs. Piper all reported: favourable replies, unfavourable replies, doubtful replies. It is understood that there were many unfavourable ones, or at all events doubtful ones, upon which the acumen of a keen critic could exercise itself.

All the same, Dessoir loyally recognises that there are cases (those of Lodge in particular) to which he applies not a spiritistic hypothesis (which Herr Dessoir expects no more than we do), but the hypothesis of mental suggestion (Gedankenubertragung); in other words, telepathy; in other words, the sixth sense. Dessoir does not say this explicitly, for such a confession would doubtless be painful to him, but he tends to expect it, and I imagine (perhaps rashly) that he will finally be convinced that the sixth sense really exists. His mental state is almost the same as that of William James, Oliver Lodge, and myself a few years ago.

As for the objections brought against veridical hallucinations (by Vaschide and other authors), they may all be summed up in one word: chance.

If there were only one or two or three observations we might invoke chance, but there are nearly five hundred good observations published. And there would be far more still if this enquiry were extended to any length.

Now, to calculate for each of these cases the mathematical probability of coincidence would be a painfully sterile task. Simple common sense suffices to show that chance cannot be called into the case. For instance, if Mrs. Green has seen two girls in a carriage drowned in the water, with the two hats floating on the surface, whereas the same day at the other end of the world Mrs. Green's niece and her friend, when going for a drive, were drowned, and this incident has been recognised by reason of the two hats floating on the surface of the water, then simple common sense indicates that chance does not give such indications.

At bottom all these objections can always be summed up in a single one: lucidity, i.e. the exercise of the sixth sense is an unusual phenomenon.

Yes, it is an unusual and very exceptional phenomenon which upsets us and contradicts our daily observations to too great an extent for us to believe in it. Every minute of our life prevents us from believing in it. For days, months, and even prolonged years this sense is not exercised. And then, if perchance there suddenly comes about the phenomenon of cryptesthesia, we refuse to accept it. We say: it is an error; or rather, it is chance.

This does not form part of our habitual psychology. And this is why we stoutly deny it and are unwilling to accept the conclusions of even a thoroughly strict experimentation.

But when one studies science one must have the courage to take as one's guide only the experimental method, without troubling about what routine and the daily habit of things impose upon us.

Without seeing them, we leave on one side phenomena which are all the same quite simple. And yet, either through ignorance or from mental indolence we are unwilling to accept them.

When we have multiplied experiments on the sixth sense we shall perhaps succeed in fathoming one of its conditions, in understanding its mechanism. But up to the present we understand nothing. We doubt the unusual solely because it is unusual. Then at once objections arise, whether probable or improbable, serious or trifling. Both the common people and the scientists unite in rejecting the unusual fact. It is misinterpreted and repudiated solely because it is unusual.

For all that, this sixth sense, however unusual it be, is quite real.

Let us admit that the observations made upon Reese are erroneous, that those made upon Kahn have no value whatsoever. Let us admit that the cheating was discovered in Ossovietsky's experiments. Let us admit that Mrs. Piper had paid detectives to supply information about the persons questioned. Very well, we will admit these absurd suppositions. And still there would remain countless definite observations culminating in this result: that there is knowledge of things along channels apart from the senses.

Then why stoutly deny them? Is there some contradiction between the existence of this sixth sense and the whole of our ordinary psychology? The law of Fechner will still be true. Nothing will have been changed in the relations between the medulla and the brain any more than in the action of oxygen upon the blood, or the influence of the pneumogastric nerve upon the heart. The fact of there being a sixth sense will destroy nothing. It will simply be a new fact.

This new fact we imagine we have established by irrefutable proofs. In our first chapter we have shown that the existence of a sixth sense is possible. Later on in the second chapter, by means of observations, and afterwards in a third chapter, with still greater cogency, by means of experiments, we were able to demonstrate that this fact was a certainty.

Hypothesis on the Mechanism of the Sixth Sense [top]

THIS IS the most difficult question in the whole of metapsychics. How can the vibration of reality bring about knowledge?

A. The Hypothesis of Telepathy [top]

We have said earlier that the English psychologists regard the knowledge of reality as due to telepathy (the vibration of brain A. corresponding to a similar vibration of brain B.).

May I assert that my opinion is somewhat different, as I will endeavour to prove.

Two cases present themselves:

1. Cases that can be explained by telepathy

These cases are very numerous. We have, however, to find out whether the explanation by telepathy is the simplest. For instance, Mrs. Green dreams that she sees her niece, Miss Allen, drowning in a carriage which has fallen into a lake. It may certainly be supposed that the thought of Miss Allen, who is in Australia, has travelled half round the world to impinge itself upon the brain of Mrs. Green in London. But Miss Allen was probably not thinking of an aunt whom she had never seen, and she had not dreamed of the two hats floating on the surface of the water. Let us make another supposition, just a little (though very little) less strange. Let us admit that the picture that has appeared before Mrs. Green is a vibration of reality: the reproduction of a scene that has taken place in Australia, a scene that has impinged itself upon the brain of Mrs. Green; just as a Hertzian wave sent out from Sydney is caught up by a wireless receiver in London.

Another example. I ask a clairvoyante for the name of an individual who has written me a letter, and 1 hand her a letter in an envelope; she says to me: it is the name of a flower, Marguerite. Now this letter was signed "Helene." A mistake. But there was, wide open on the table of my study, some distance away from my house, another letter received that morning, which bore the signature "Marguerite." I have not mentioned this experiment because it is perhaps only a coincidence. The probability of a common Christian name is one in thirty. Now, I had perhaps received six letters that day: therefore this is a probability of six in thirty. Not worth mentioning. Chance may very well supply the name of "Marguerite."

This case is interesting only for the explanation that I seek. Certainly I find it difficult to understand that there was seen at a distance of over half a mile the word "Marguerite" exposed on my table. But I find far more inexplicable still than this vision a memory exciting the protoplasmic expansions of my brain cells, whirling with millions of other molecular combinations and finding its echo solely in the brain of the clairvoyante.

Almost all the cases invoked as telepathy are susceptible of being given another explanation, i.e. the vibration of reality, an explanation which seems to me simpler than telepathy. Alice sees a photograph of Hericourt, and describes it when the only thing sketched is the pass partout which had framed this photograph. It is easier for me to admit that she saw this photograph in Hericourt's room whilst he was drawing the passe partout than to admit the transmission of Hericourt's thought.

I will conclude by saying that in almost all the instance in which telepathy may be invoked it is possible also to invoke the vibration of reality, though of a reality other than human thought alone.

Nevertheless there are remarkable exceptions which suffice to make us accept the existence of pure telepathy. In certain cases it is a question not of the transmission of a scene, a drawing, an act, but of the transmission of an inner thought, an interior will, expressing itself by no external gesture. This is mental suggestion.

My lamented friend, J. Ochorowitz, in a book published long ago, gave some examples of this.

Ochorowitz is four yards away from the percipient, out of sight of him, and pretending to take notes.

First Experiment:

Raise your right hand."
First minute: nothing.
Second minute: waving the right hand.
Third minute: the right hand rises, then falls back.

Second Experiment:

Ochorowitz thinks: "Rise and come to me."
First minute: nothing.
Second minute: the subject slowly rises and comes.

Third Experiment:

"Rise and go to the piano, take the match-box, bring it to me and strike one of the matches, then return to your place."
The subject rises and approaches Ochorowitz.. "Turn round."
He turns round, and Ochorowitz leads him into the middle of the room; he goes to the piano. "Lower, lower." (The hand is lowered.)
"Take the box."
He takes it.
"Come to me." He comes.
"Strike a match."
(He wishes to give up the box.)
"Strike a match."

Fourth Experiment:

Go to your brother and kiss him."
The subject rises, advances towards Ochorowitz, then towards her brother. She feels the air near his head but does not touch his head, stops in front of him, hesitates, then kisses him on the brow(1).

(1) Here is another case of pure telepathy, related by Pierre Janet:

Gilbert and I agree to carry out the following suggestion: to-morrow at noon to lock the doors of the house. I wrote down the suggestion on a piece of paper which I communicated to nobody. Gilbert made the suggestion by approaching his brow to Leonie B... who is in a trance. On the morrow, when I arrived at a quarter to twelve, I found the house barricaded and the door locked. It was Leonie who had just locked it. When I asked her the why and wherefore of this strange act, she answered me: 'I found that I was very tired, and I did not want you to be in a position to enter and put me to sleep.'"

In these important experiments, although occasionally certain coincidences may be possible, there is not to be presupposed any other vibration of reality than the vibration of thought, but thought also is a reality. This is pure telepathy, an evident manifestation of the sixth sense.

Unfortunately these telepathies, when not accompanied by an external phenomenon, i.e. by a concrete mechanical reality, are rare. Besides, they do not afford so strong a conviction as facts of clairvoyance without telepathy. When a sensitive, whether hypnotised or not, is ordered to make such or such a movement, the fact that the hypnotised person rises, or sits down, or takes up a book, or tears a sheet of paper, or lights a match, or shuts a door, is not sufficiently characteristic for the hypothesis of coincidence to be definitely eliminated.

All the same., there are cases (very decisive ones) for which a telepathic explanation is the only one possible. But these cases are very rare(2).

(2) Flammarion (L'inconnu et les problemes psychiques, p. 107) quotes other facts of purely mental suggestion due either to Janet or to Dr. Dussart or to Dariex.

On the other hand, in most other cases one may hesitate between the hypothesis of telepathy and that of a vibration of external mechanical reality, whether past or present. But the hypothesis of telepathy is not the most likely, for the thought of A. being transmitted to the thought of B. is quite frequently unconscious. Telepathy then becomes, if not impossible, at least very difficult to accept.

Thus, to take an example personally known to myself, when I ask Stella for the names of two servants who were with me in childhood (Louise and Dorothee), Stella answers: "Melanie." Now, first, the name Melanie is somewhat rare; second, for more than fifty years the recollection of the worthy Melanie, my parents' cook from 1850-58, had not entered my mind. Instead of presupposing the reading in my brain of this prodigiously ancient and almost forgotten recollection, mingled with so many more recent memories, I prefer to suppose that Stella has been made acquainted with some reality of the past.

Similarly for most of the experiments made on drawings by Herr Tischer, by Sir William Barrett, by myself and many other authors, I prefer to suppose that this is the metapsychical vision of the drawing (the sixth sense) rather than thought-reading. And the reason I hold this preference very clearly is that there are numerous positive cases for which an explanation by telepathy is fundamentally impossible.

2. Cases which cannot be explained by telepathy

I shall now take the case in which the impossibility of telepathic explanation is absolute. Mme De Noailles hands me three envelopes of whose contents I know absolutely nothing. In each envelope is a sentence written in Paris. Ossovietski, in Warsaw, takes one of them by chance and reads fluently what is written in it. Now, even supposing telepathy transmitting itself from

Paris to Warsaw, from Mme De Noailles to Ossovietski, that would not be sufficient, because Mme De Noailles could not know which of these three papers had been chosen by Ossovietsky. When Kahn is given a dozen papers and one is drawn by chance it is impossible for anyone to know by the normal channels of information who wrote such or such a paper. When Bellier gives me a dozen drawings, and I take one of them by chance, and this is guessed by Alice, there is no telepathy possible. When Mrs. Titus indicates the bridge near which a woman has been drowned, no living person can know it. When Mme Morel indicates the place on the mountain and the precipice into which M. Cordier has fallen, no one can transmit this notion of reality. When Kahn reads Greek words which he does not understand, it is somewhat absurd to suppose that there can come about the transmission of syllables that have no meaning whatsoever. It is far simpler to admit that it is the vision of this writing than to admit two concomitant vibrations of the brain. In reading a letter of Sarah Bernhardt, Ossovietski sees the writing. He says: "A word of eight letters, writing that ascends, an exclamation point." Here there can be no thought-reading.

In a word, there are three kinds of cases.

1. Those in which the thought of A. is transmitted to B. without there being any other explanation than mental transmission (pure telepathy). These cases certainly exist, but they are very few and as a rule not very convincing.

2. The cases in which A. thinks of something, but of something really existing materially, so that we may wonder whether it is the thought of A. which reaches B. or whether it is the real drawing, the real writing, the real name and event which is known by B. Such cases are the most frequent of all, and I can understand that one would hesitate between the one and the other explanation. For my part, however, I am firmly convinced that almost always a drawing, a writing, a name a former event is the reality which vibrates, and not the thought (conscious or unconscious) of A.

The reason these cases are more numerous than all others is first of all because, owing to the strong impulse given to these studies by English psychologists, there have been far more experiments in this direction than in any other.

Then it is because experimentation appears more frequently to be successful. Nevertheless this experimentation is always less rigid when A. gives to be guessed by B. something which A. does not know, than when A. does know it. Indeed, if A. knows nothing, he cannot by any means assist the answers of B., since he knows nothing of what B. is about to say.

3. Cases in which telepathy cannot be invoked

These are fairly numerous and we will not deal with them.

Finally, as regards the telepathic hypothesis, it appears to me: first, that this is the only acceptable hypothesis in certain rare cases; second, that in very many cases we may hesitate between the telepathic hypothesis and that of the vibration of reality; third, that in a fair number of cases it is impossible to accept the hypothesis of telepathy, and that the hypothesis of the vibration of reality is then absolutely the only one that is acceptable.

With or without the hypothesis of telepathy, however, we must always recognise the sixth sense.

B. The Hypothesis of a Vibration of Reality [top]

Now we must explain what I have called the vibration of reality. On this point I would invoke the reader's earnest attention. For this is an attempt (a provisional one of course) at a theory of metapsychical knowledge cryptesthesic metagnomia.

Reality, i.e. the external world, surrounds us on all sides. Now this reality is known to us sometimes by vibrations, sometimes by material emanations; vibrations of the ether by sight(3), vibrations of the air by sounds, material emanations for taste and the olfactory sense, mechanical resistance for touch.

(3) The admirable discoveries of contemporary physicists enable us to presuppose that we are not dealing here with the vibrations of ether, but with electrical emanations. Now that is a problem of transcendental physics which I do not intend to discuss now.

When therefore we speak of vibrations, let it be clearly understood that we are not prejudging the question as to whether these are vibrations of ether or emissions of electrons.

But this is not everything. We know that there are around us, quite close to us, many vibrations which do not reach our normal senses, for instance those of attraction, of magnetism, of the Hertzian waves, etc.

All the same, it would be madness to suppose that there are not others.

Therefore we have three orders of vibrations of reality

(a) Those which our senses perceive.

(b) Those which our senses do not perceive but which are revealed to us by detectors.

(c) Those that are unknown to us and which are revealed neither by our senses nor by detectors.

Assuredly the existence of these c vibrations is hypothetical, since there is nothing to show them to us. But this is a necessary hypothesis. For no one is going to suppose that our wretched senses and our mediocre physical apparatuses enable us to cognise all the forces of the vast Cosmos, all without exception.

This supposition is so ridiculous that it need only be stated to show its worthlessness. Every day science is discovering, every day science will discover new vibrations.

The sixth sense is that sense by which we perceive some of these vibrations, unknown ones, but which it is absolutely necessary to recognise.

The vibration of reality! But what realities there are around us, both in the present and in the past! How can we conceive all of these vibrations interblended without confusion? It is stupendous. This is why Bozzano sternly reproached me for admitting that by cryptesthesia the sensitive is in possession of omniscience. And indeed this appears absurd enough at first glance.

But has he reflected that to transfer omniscience to the intelligence of a dead man (!!) is far more absurd than to attribute it to the intelligence of a living man?(4)

(4) The objection may perhaps be made that frequently the dead man sees only what he knew during his life-time. Nevertheless in many spiritistic communications the dead man also appears to possess omniscience.

Truth to say, this interlinking of divers countless vibrations is made almost comprehensible by what we observe regularly in wireless telegraphy. According to the wave-length the receiver obtains messages coming from Paris. Marseilles, Rome, London, Berlin, New York, from all parts of the world which transmit messages. Nevertheless there is no confusion. The vibrations of the Hertzian waves, almost infinite in number, are always there, close to us, altogether, but they do not intermix with one another. They co-exist, and it is possible to dissociate them, to perceive each message as though it were the only one.

Then why not grant a like power to the unknown, mysterious and yet certain vibrations which set functioning the sixth sense? They are frightfully complex, and a tremendous effort of imagination is needed to conceive the possibility of detaching any particular one of them.

C. The Hypothesis of Pragmatical Cryptesthesia [top]

We have said a few words on this, therefore it is unnecessary to insist further. While in certain cases an external object appears necessary to bring about cryptesthesic knowledge, in a far greater number of perfectly authentic cases, no material object need intervene.

Thus it is necessary (always provisionally) to admit that the exercise of the sixth sense does not necessitate a material, tangible and contacted object, visible and seen, but that the vibration of reality takes place at a distance without the aid of our normal senses. The material object may help slightly, at least in the case of certain sensitives. But it is not indispensable.

D. The Spiritistic Hypothesis [top]

It cannot be denied that sometimes the spiritistic hypothesis is more convenient than any other, that it explains the facts more easily. But I do not wish here to enter into a profound discussion which I have already considered, both in my Traite de Metapsychique and in my open letters to Bozzano and Sir Oliver Lodge.

I shall remain within the domain of experimentation.

In the first place, the hypothesis of an unknown vibration (of reality) is by no means denied by the spiritists, in the many cases to which the intervention of the dead cannot be attributed. But to explain many other cases, they go farther than I do; that is all.

If, they say, Mrs. Piper speaks as the friends of George Pelham would have spoken, this is because George Pelhamwas incarnated in Mrs. Piper and because the reincarnation of Pelham was alone able to cause Mrs. Piper to utter the names of Pelham's friends. For them it is Pelham itself who came back. Now, I do not discuss this hypothesis. I simply assert that Mrs. Piper possesses, regarding certain realities, notions which her normal senses could not have brought her. Little matters it at this moment whether they were caused by the vibrations of former realities or by the incarnation of Pelham.

E. Bozzano and Sir Oliver Lodge will reproach me for halting half way. Very well. All the same, I do not care to advance along an unstable path, the more so because, as a rule, there is no motive whatsoever for invoking the spiritistic hypothesis.

For instance, when I write the word toi on a piece of paper which I hold folded in my hand, and when Ossovietski says "toi, and you have made two little vertical strokes on the t," I cannot suppose that the spirit of any dead person whomsoever (which?) has given him this revelation.

Consequently, not to prolong this discussion, we might classify the facts in the following way, from the point of view of the spiritistic hypothesis:

1. Cases in which it is possible to admit indifferently the spiritistic hypothesis or that of a vibration of reality. All hallucinations and veridical dreams come within this group, the hypothesis of the sixth sense being indeed anything but in disharmony with the spiritistic hypothesis.

2. Cases (not at all numerous) in which the spiritistic hypothesis is more convenient, but which may also be explained by the sixth sense.

3. Very numerous cases, certainly the most numerous, in which no spiritistic hypothesis can be seriously invoked and which admit of no other explanation than the existence of a sixth sense, i.e. the perception of certain (unknown) vibrations of reality.

This is why it seems to me prudent not to give credence to the spiritistic hypothesis. Perhaps 1 shall come to that some day (who knows?). But it appears to me still (at the present time, at all events) improbable, for it contradicts (at least apparently) the most precise and definite data of physiology, whereas the hypothesis of the sixth sense is a new physiological notion which contradicts nothing that we learn from physiology.

Consequently, although in certain rare cases spiritism supplies an apparently simpler explanation, I cannot bring myself to accept it. When we have fathomed the history of these unknown vibrations emanating from reality - past reality, present reality, and even future reality-we shall doubtless have given them an unwonted degree of importance. The history of the Hertzian waves shows us the ubiquity of these vibrations of the external world, imperceptible to our senses.

E. The Hypothesis of Hyperesthesia [top]

If we suppose for a moment that our retinal vision has become a hundred thousand times more powerful, many experiments will be capable of explanation. The reading of the drawings and of the writings will take place as though there were no opaque envelope. Let us also suppose that the sense of touch has become sufficiently acute for Ossovietski to recognise by touch, through several sheets of paper, what has been written.

Very well! But first of all such hyperesthesia will be so intense that it will no longer have the slightest resemblance to normal esthesia.

Moreover, even if we admit it, we shall not have given any plausible explanation whatsoever, in many cases. I am quite willing to recognise that in the case of Kahn, Ossovietski, the patient of Chowrin, an abnormal and truly superhuman hyperesthesia is capable of explaining the readings in opaque envelopes. Nevertheless, we shall have explained nothing at all regarding veridical hallucinations, the experiments of Mrs. Piper and Mine Briffaut, the experiments of Alice with the portrait of Hericourt. Even in the case of Ossovietski, how are we to explain that he said to me regarding my phrase about the sea: "That is specifically your own idea"? How am I to explain that Kahn is never mistaken when he has to indicate the individual (whose writing he does not know) who has written such or such a note?

Therefore we must firmly reject the hypothesis of hyperesthesia intensified a hundredfold.

An Attempt at a Classification of the Vibrations of Reality that Being into Play the Sixth Sense [top]

THIS IS an attempt which is very audacious. In permitting myself this short chapter, I do so not so much to establish a final classification(1) as to throw some light upon one of the most obscure questions in the whole of human science.

(1) Herr Barwald (Okkultismus und Spiritismus, Berlin, 1926) admits that many of the phenomena of clairvoyance are due to hyperesthesia. This, however, has been strongly refuted by Tischner (Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie, 1927, pp. 48-58).

A. First of all there are vibrations that are interpreted in the mind of the sensitive by an image which has the appearance of matter - a ghost for instance - but which is not matter, since with the rarest of exceptions a single individual perceives these vibrations, and no material trace of its passage is left by the ghost. It is probable that, as regards a ghost, there is simply an idea without any material reality. It is this idea (eidōn) which the sensitive amplifies, decks out, enriches with manifold details. There is simple monition; but this monition is transformed by the imagination of the sensitive into a symbolical image.

B. Vibrations of the thought of the agent A., which vibrations will be echoed by the thought of the percipient B. (simple telepathy).

C. Vibrations of a present material reality: a drawing, a name, a letter, a fact.

D. Vibrations of a former material reality: a former event, a name, a fact.

That we may understand better, we will give instances of these four groups.

A. Wingfield has an indistinct and unconscious notion that his brother has met with a serious accident, is perhaps dead, and he interprets this notion by the construction of a phantomatic image(2).

(2) Some spiritists have supposed that the astral body of Wingfield's brother presented itself before Frederick Wingfield in almost material form. But the discussion of this hypothesis would lead me into the study of the whole of spiritism, which I do not care to undertake.

B. Ochorowitz, without a movement or a gesture, mentally commands a sensitive to perform an action, which is done. This is simple telepathy.

C. A drawing placed in a sealed envelope is guessed, a letter is read. In many cases, as the drawing and the letter are known to the agent, it is possible that this group comes under both the group of telepathy and the group of clairvoyance. We must therefore set up a division and say that, as regards vibrations C, some may be explained by telepathy and the rest by clairvoyance.

Thus Ossovietski makes a drawing which resembles absolutely the one that I made. It is possible that this may be a telepathic vibration. Nevertheless it is extremely more probable that it is clairvoyance, for O. reads a letter which Mme De Noailles has handed to me, a letter taken by chance from amongst three others, and the nature of which can consequently be known to nobody.

Thus there are cognitions C and cognitions C1. Cognitions C may be explained equally well by telepathy and by clairvoyance, whereas the telepathic explanation is only adapted to cognition C1.

D. The vibrations (or cognitions) D admit of the same subdivision: (D and D1). Certain of them may be telepathic. Others cannot be explained by telepathy. Mrs. Piper speaks with Aunt Annie. This is perhaps telepathic, since Sir Oliver Lodge knows the name of Aunt Annie, but Mrs. Piper gives to Mme Verrall details upon Aunt Suzanne, details which Mme Verrall did not know (D1). In a word, the hypothesis of telepathy and that of a vibration of reality are in some cases interchangeable.

All telepathy is a reality, whereas all realities are not telepathies.

I shall not go any farther, for to do so would be to lose oneself in a sea of hypotheses.

What is not hypothesis is that., whatever the explanation adopted, whether the astral body, or telpathy, or clairvoyance, the existence of the sixth sense is necessary.

When we have to define conditions under which it works we wander in unknown territory.

In certain cases the sensitive appears to see. In others he appears to hear. In others he speaks without knowing Why he speaks thus. In numerous cases he works by table-rapping or by planchette. All is mystery, except the fact of a supernormal acquaintance with reality, which is indisputable.

But not to explain a fact is no reason for denying it.

Symbolism in the Working of the Sixth [top]

WHEN OUR normal senses are excited by an external force, the result of this sensorial excitation is to supply the consciousness with definite information upon the external world. When we hear the sound of a bell we say: "That is a bell." When we see the moon lighting up a lake we say: "The moon is lighting up the lake." Now, scarcely ever does it happen that the sixth sense attains to such precision.

Veridical hallucinations possess no objective reality whatsoever. When Wingfield at Belle-Isle sees his brother who is dying in England, it is extremely probable that we are not dealing with the real presence of the shade of Richard Wingfield Baker. A ghost is not a reality. It is an emotion of the (unconscious) mind which excites the conscious mind of Wingfield to reconstruct the image of his brother. It is a sensation which calls forth the formation of an idea (giving the word "idea" its Greek meaning of "image"). Upon the stimulation given by the sixth sense, the intelligence of the percipient has erected a whole series of images, constructed a tiny drama in which there are only a few elements of reality but which nevertheless has no objective reality whatsoever. We shall find numerous instances of symbolism in veridical hallucinations, far more than in experiments which, being more precise, scarcely ever admit of symbolism. Charles B., who has just died, appears to Emma and says to her: "I am going on a journey and I have come to bid you good-bye." In all probability there has thus been nothing but a vague notion of the death of Charles B., a notion which has been transformed by the conscious intelligence of Emma into the vision of a ghost who has come to bid her good-bye.

In the experiments of reading something written, in the reproduction of a drawing, there is no longer any, symbolism, but there has been only the very correct reproduction of the drawing and of the writing. When I write the word "toi" crushed up in my hand into a little paper pellet; Ossovietski remarks that I have made two small vertical strokes for the horizontal stroke of the "t". He does not even have the idea of saying "toi," but pronounces each letter separately: "t, o, i" Kahn reproduces in writing Greek words which he does not understand.

Sometimes, however, there is a strange blend of ideas and of the reproduction of writing. Thus when Geley shows Ossovietski a paper containing the description of a fight between a crocodile and an elephant, Ossovietski sees nothing but the fight, the streaming blood, without writing direct what is on the paper.

In the case of Forthuny, symbolism constantly intervenes, though it is an exclusively verbal symbolism. A word comes to him (by internal hearing?) and this word, by strange associations of ideas, enables him to find the true answer that was to be given. For instance, a gentle man presents himself. Forthuny says: "Zola, why do I think of Zola and La Faute de l'Abbe Mouret? Your name is Moutet." - This was correct.

On another occasion he says to two young men "Cardinal, I am thinking of a cardinal ..." Of a sudden he adds: "Cardinal de Curie ... You are working with Mme Curie." - This was correct.

He sees a landscape; it reminds him of Antwerp. He says: "You are a Belgian; you have business in Antwerp. I detect the odour of printing. Why do I think of the journal Le Matin? You are editor of Le Matin of Antwerp." - It was correct.

Forthuny's verbal symbolism is unforeseen and extraordinary. He says to M. S ...: "You are a general?" "No." "I am told that I must translate this into Latin, arma, armas, ... your name is Armas." The gentleman's name really was Armas.

To Mme X.: "The word I receive is 'because'." Now, this lady's name was Weil ("because," in German).

Forthuny is given the letter of a lady we will call X.

I see a P. You are a P ... Ah! I beg your pardon! I am told that your name is Pardon." This was correct.

The thing that gives importance to the experiments of Forthuny is that in him may be seen functioning one of the still profoundly mysterious processes by which the sixth sense becomes a detector of reality. A vague impression first of all, a word, a hint, which, along a series of verbal associations from one to another by a process of searchings and successive links, leads to reality. Then why does the sensitive recognise that this is reality?

In Mme Briffaut there is also symbolisation. To indicate to Mine De Montebello that her son Louis has died a sudden death, she sees him making a vivid gesture with both hands as though to show her that he has been struck down by a sudden blow.

In the case of Ossovietski there is a somewhat curious blend of a visual reading of the written paper and of a general impression. Certainly Ossovietski reads what is written, but at the same time he has a general idea of the subject matter. For instance, when dealing with a letter given him by Mine de Noailles, he first of all sets forth the general idea: "This is a great French poet, it is something about Nature." This does not prevent him from seeing the arrangement of the letters. In Sarah Bernhardt's letter he does not understand the general meaning of the sentence at all; he sees it written, he sees the word "ephemere," he cannot understand it, but he says that it is a word of eight letters. He even indicates a note of exclamation.

On the whole there is extreme diversity in the modes whereby the sixth sense operates. At one time the sensitive has a general impression that he is translating as well as he can: at another time he perceives an image which he interprets more or less faithfully: then again, as in Pascal Forthuny, it is not a visual image but rather an oral one, a sound, a sentence, a word that arouses ideas. Similarly, in the normal state, it is now a visual image, now a sound that calls forth some idea within us.

Since we have admitted that the reality vibrating around us awakens the sixth sense, it must first of all bring forth an image in the mind. This image is sometimes precise, as with Ossovietski) Kahn, Mrs. Piper: sometimes, on the other hand, it is symbolical, as in many veridical hallucinations.

In the case of the precise image, things are very simple. Notwithstanding the opaque envelope, Alice (in her drawings), and Kahn (in his readings of written words), see, as though there were no envelope, what is drawn or what is written. On the other hand, in the case of the symbolical impression, there is an ill-defined sensation which is transformed into an hallucinatory image.

But sometimes, as in the case of Alice who sees the photograph of Hericourt, as also in the various cases of Ossovietski who sees individuals reciting the prayer of the Muezzins, or a fight in a Zoological Garden, or a knight sans peur et sans reprocke (the portrait of Pilzudski), there is a blend of a vague general sensation and of a precise visual impression.

All these explanations are but premature, for these two kinds of excitations of the sixth sense are still deeply, mysterious.

If it is true that real things vibrate around us and set functioning our sixth sense, how is it possible for the conscious mind of the sensitive to make a choice? For instance, in "An Examination of Book Tests in Sittings with Mrs. Leonard," if all the letters of all the books awaken our sixth sense, why are they not blended together in inextricable confusion?

Better withhold our opinion and draw no conclusion. We will keep to the simple proposition that there is a sixth sense without claiming to fathom its incomprehensible working.

The Future of the Sixth Sense [top]

WHILE THE existence of the sixth sense possesses enormous importance in a theory of the science of the soul, it is not immediately apparent what its consequences will be in the general practice of life.

Suppose indeed that the sixth sense does not exist. There will be nothing changed, either in our destinies or in our customs. Indeed, it is manifested under such fleeting and exceptional conditions, and supplies such precarious evidence that it is as though it were nonexistent.

Practically there is no sixth sense.

No one will be able to see his opponent's hand in a game of cards or guess the secret of a strong-box. No one will be able to read the letter contained in a pocketbook. No son will learn the news that his mother died without receiving a telegram.

Very well then! But it would be scientifically disgraceful to consider things in this fashion.

When a great discovery has been made, when a new truth has invaded the world of humanity, even the most far-seeing individuals can never know to what conclusions it will lead. At times this truth entails unforeseen and unforeseeable consequences, and that even from the rigidly narrow point of view of our present material life. Who then could have foreseen when the great Hertz discovered the electric waves, that our practical daily life would be transformed and that all the ships sailing on the various oceans would be supplied with wireless?

Moreover, even without thinking of any practical application in the discovery of the sixth sense, is it not a new outlook upon the whole of our psychology? Since absolutely unknown radiations reach the mind, we may legitimately suppose that this mind of ours is modified by a perpetual radiation of all things. This unknown world, with its unknown forces vibrating around us, perhaps exercises a profound although occult influence upon our thought life. Can we assert that our ideas, even those which appear the most spontaneous, are not created or at all events influenced by the unknown and perhaps very powerful vibrations which surround us? Our mind is not only the resultant of a cerebral constitution acquired by heredity, and of the recollections accumulated in the memory by a long series of incidents. It is probably modified, transformed, excited or inhibited by all these unknown forces.

I will add nothing further ... For I do not wish to indulge in hypotheses.

There is one hypothesis, however, about which I wish to say something. It obtrudes upon my attention when I see how prevalent, at the present time and in the present generation, are the facts of telepathy and cryptesthesia. Is this increasing prevalence due simply to the fact that our attention is directed more largely nowadays upon metapsychical facts?

Perhaps so. Bozzano, in an interesting work, has proved that in savages there were found cases (comparatively numerous) of a belief not only in survival but even in duly ascertained telepathic facts.

All the same I imagine (somewhat arbitrarily indeed) that there are more at the present time than there have ever been. It may be that we are unconsciously witnessing the development of the sixth sense in mankind.

Who knows, shall I be bold enough to add, that this may not be one of those sudden mutations of which general biology sometimes applies us with instances?

But here also I must stop, for decidedly I should lose myself in the fascinating and treacherous domain of hypothesis.


The article above was taken from Charles Richet's "Our Sixth Sense" (Rider & Co.).


Other articles by Charles Richet

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