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Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Sixth Sense

Do human beings have a ‘sixth sense’ that we have simply rationalized away? Animals – of which we are of course included – tend to be thought of as having a ‘sixth sense’ that alerts them to various circumstances or scenarios and causes them to react to various changes, anomalies, dangers, etc. Birds, will feed if it will rain all day, but not in short storms – how do they know? Dogs, cats, whatever, sensing fear, etc. We all are pretty familiar with these types of scenarios… but what about humans? There are people that claim to read minds: psychics, shamans, what-have-you. They are right often enough to have still have enough followers to exist after several millennia; so is there truth to this? Is this simply an untapped human sense that we have not learned to use, or is it something that we have ‘rationalized’ away?

If the theory of evolution is correct and we did evolve from animals, then it would seem that we would have once had these abilities, or at least enough of an understanding of them to use them. With the rise of ‘man’ and his/her capacity for rational thought, is it possible that we have chosen to explain this sensation away because it is not so easy to quantify, grasp, or master? I mean, it is no secret that there is a great deal of skepticism regarding this type of thing. So are we today still doing the same thing? Pushing it further away with the increased value of rationality, and even further away with the decreased belief in spiritual existence?

There are at least two possible lines of thought here. One is that a hard to understand sixth sense exists along the lines of Daoist/Budhist concepts of energy flow and animist practices that can be harnessed through meditation, rituals, and other internal practices. The second scenario to explain this ‘unexplainable’ situation is that of western religions were spiritual life was used to explain ‘unexplainable things’ and the focus and ritual remained external in nature. Either way, there was a path towards allowance and acceptance of possibly ‘unexplainable’ events, experiences, and powers.

This possible sixth sense, was able to find a home in both of these types of religious traditions, but today, with the decline of religion in its all-powerful/believing form in the face of the concept of the truly ‘rational’ actor, is there no longer a place for the exploration of a sixth sense?

As ‘rational’ beings things tend to follow fairly logical – even mathematical – lines of explanation. And while we have been able to diagram the workings of other senses, this possible ‘sixth sense’, seems to be elusive. So claim its existence, some think of it as absurd and simple illusion. Is it that it does not exist, or that science has just not discovered a way to ‘prove’ its existence as of yet?

I guess in the end, animals are animals. So why would virtually all animals seem to have an ‘awareness’ that one other animal does not? Is this because perhaps humans are the anomaly – the one with the capability of ‘rational’ thought? Did humans ‘trade-in’ a sixth sense for ‘rational’ thought – only to leave a few lingering anomalous practitioners? But what if humans are not different? What if the one anomaly of all animals – humans – are simply using that one anomalous feature – rationality – to make this simple sense ‘disappear’? Are humans so focused on the quantification of logical rational thought that they have imagined these unquantifiably mysterious capabilities away?

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