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The Ideas of Charles Richet on the Sixth Sense and Psychic Force

Writing in 1905, Richet was not completely satisfied with the theories offered to explain psychic phenomena. He referred to an X theory, by which he meant a theory in the future. Similarly, in later years he stated that regardless of the establishment of the existence of metapsychic phenomena, they “cannot yet be built into a consistent and tenable theory …” (Richet, 1923, p. 618).

Acknowledging his ignorance, he wrote in the same book: “I believe that future hypothesis that I cannot formulate because I do not know it” (p. 623).

Nonetheless, Richet favoured some hypotheses. Following on a previous tradition of unorthodox concepts of force in psychical research that both preceeded and followed him (Alvarado, 2006), Richet was positive about physical explanations. In his words:

“It has been shown that as regards subjective metapsychics the simplest and most rational explanation is to suppose the existence of a faculty of supernormal cognition …, setting in motion the human intelligence by certain vibrations that do not move the normal senses.” (Richet, 1923, p. 619).

He later wrote about a “sixth sense,” or the ability to perceive these hypothetical vibrations of unknown origin (For a copy of Richet, n.d., click here.)

Similarly, Richet postulated the projection of bodily forces to account for physical phenomena. In his view “the simplest and most rational explanation is analogous—to suppose that the human organism has a faculty of external projection, of ‘ectoplasmisation,’ the emission of a material substance that can become organic” (Richet, 1923, p. 619).


Alvarado, C. S. (2006). Human radiations: Concepts of force in mesmerism, spiritualism and psychical research. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 70, 138–162.

Richet, C. (1905). La métapsychique. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 19, 2–49.

Richet, C. (1923). Thirty Years of Psychical Research. New York: Macmillan. (Translated from the second French edition)

Richet, C. (nd, ca 1928). Our Sixth Sense. London: Rider. (First published in French, 1928)



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