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.

General Conclusions on the Sixth Sense

 - Charles Richet -

           THE ATTENTIVE reader of this book will doubtless note that each of the chapters dealing with experiments and observations of which it consists is in itself conclusive.

Veridical hallucinations, of themselves alone, would suffice to prove the sixth sense.

So also would the experiments with Mrs. Piper.

Had we but the facts obtained by Ossovietski, these alone would he adequate.

Had we none but the experiments of Kahn or those of Pascal Forthuny, they would suffice to fix our conviction, to assure us that the sixth sense does exist.

Consequently, to deny that there is a sixth sense it would be necessary to refuse to accept all these proofs, one after another.

The sixth sense is far more complicated than we had supposed. There is perhaps a seventh, an eighth sense. The phenomena are of amazing diversity. How are we to compare the case of Mrs. Wheatcroft, who, simultaneously with her son, sees the major's ghost crossing the room; the case of Mrs. Piper telling that Uncle Jerry just missed being drowned forty years ago; the case of Ossovietski who reads a line of Rostand's poetry enclosed in a scaled envelope and known to nobody?

All these cases of lucidity are strange and extraordinary. We have succeeded in uniting them in such a way as to form somehow a rather artificial collection, a mass of wholly different demonstrations, though all of them combine to establish the same fact upon immovable foundations.

We have dared to say that it was a matter of vibration. Of course that is a hypothesis; still, following the classical laws of general physics, all the forces and energies of nature are interpreted by vibrations. The word vibrations is therefore necessary, since the external world, in the final analysis, is no more than an ensemble of actual or past vibrations(1).

(1) It is useful to employ the word vibration, for it will perhaps tell us the method to be adopted for this study. By screens, by metallic cages, are we to intercept the vibrations which are transmitted? It would seem that we are not. Still, we must try-as Cazzamali did. By the chemical vibrations which act on the nervous system shall we make the sixth sense more potent: for instance, by peyotl, by haschisch, by opium, by alcohol? What new problems arise for our investigation! What are the effects of age, of sex, of nationality, above all, of heredity? Each of these questions should be the subject of detailed and altogether special investigation.

Let us then assume the hypothesis of vibration and not admit that other hypothesis, a far more fantastic one, that the human soul wanders about the universe where it meets no obstacles in its search after and finding of (!) the distant reality, and subsequently revealing it to our consciousness.

The sixth sense is that one which gives us knowledge of a vibration of reality, a vibration which our normal senses are unable to perceive.

I repeat, each of the chapters that make up this book - unless one be the unfortunate victim of popular opinion - will of itself alone carry the conviction that there is a sixth sense. i.e. that the human intelligence, owing to a special sensibility, or rather to special and still mysterious sensibilities, may acquire regarding reality fragmentary notions which the normal senses are unable to give to it.

The proofs of this are many and decisive.

1. First of all there are veridical hallucinations, so numerous and precise that they cannot possibly be attributed to chance. Monitions of death or monitions of less important facts are numerous, they are encountered so frequently around us that we are led to the conclusion that here we have a relation of cause and effect and that it is impossible to accept the naive hypothesis of extraordinary and unlikely coincidences that are continually being repeated.

Even if there were only observations, these would be quite adequate to enable us to assert that on many occasions an event in the external world affects our mind without affecting our normal senses.

2. Still, there is something better than observations, there are experiments. Indeed there are sensitives, who, when we experiment with them, prove by their lucidity that on many occasions a veil is torn and that a flash of truth, inaccessible to their normal senses, reaches their consciousness.

However unwilling we be to read and analyse the conclusive experiments that we have related, there is no longer any room for doubt. I will take a very simple experiment. If you stretch a rope across a path and a cyclist during the night collides with this rope and falls at the very spot where it was, no one will pretend that he fell there by chance. Similarly I cannot believe that when Mrs. Piper, touching an armchair says: "It was Aunt Annie who gave it," this was mere chance. There is no chance in all those experiments, made time and again with the great sensitives.

Nor is there any deception either.

Strictly speaking, when dealing with physical metapsychics, with ectoplasms, with materialisations, with lights, with raps, with levitations, with impressions m plaster, with contacts by stumps or hands, with ghosts walking about, strictly speaking I say, as these phenomena almost always take place in the dark and depend only on a small number of subjects whose honesty is problematical, we may well ask for new proofs and retain certain doubts. Here, however, there is nothing of the kind. The subjects are very numerous: experiments quite frequent. Everything takes place in open daylight. We obtain all the controls we wish to set up. Fraud, if there is any, is very easy to expose.

Consequently we must utterly eliminate deception and chance.

Now, if we eliminate fraud and chance, there remains no other explanation than that of a sixth sense.

3. Alas! This is not an explanation. It is but the statement of a fact. To explain this new fact. which is both improbable and unusual, all the proposed hypotheses have so far been - I am not afraid of saying it - both ridiculous and impotent. But whatever these hypotheses, whether telepathy, or the intervention of spirits, or abnormal hyperesthesia of the normal senses, we must still finally acknowledge a sixth sense, that is to say a stimulation of knowledge by unknown forces.

The sixth sense is even yet very obscure as regards its limits and modes, its mechanisms and its organs. All the same, however profound these obscurities, they by no means prevent the existence of the sixth sense from being proved.

Every science has two phases. The first is the ascertaining of the phenomena. The second is their explanatory theory. This book is but the first stage, the first phase, that of an exposition of the facts.

Perhaps the day will come when there will be set up the theory of the laws that govern the sixth sense.

In this book it is sufficient for me to have proved that it exists. I will sum up the whole of my work in one sentence:

The real world sends out vibrations around us. Some of them are perceived by our senses: others, not perceptible to our senses, are disclosed by our scientific instruments: but there are still others, perceived neither by our senses nor by our scientific instruments, which act upon certain human minds and reveal to them fragments of reality.

And assuredly there are still others which neither our senses, nor our scientific instruments, nor any sixth sense possessed by sensitives are - or will be - capable of disclosing.

The mechanical world with which we are acquainted - atoms, electrons, stars, planets, animals, microbes, mechanical reactions, heat, electricity - is perhaps no more than a tiny part of reality. Other forces, of quite a different order, doubtless function all around us. Who knows but that these other unknown material worlds direct our destinies!

Perhaps we shall never know these forces, perhaps our descendants will never know them either. But this is no reason for denying their existence.

It appears to me that the sixth sense is a small (an extremely small) window opening out upon these mysterious powers.


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


Other articles by Charles Richet

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