Six and Out

Jenny Randles. Sixth Sense, Robert Hale, 1987.

Was the person who coined the phrase 'sixth sense' doing us any favours? Not according to Jenny Randles, challenging the entire notion that it is necessary to talk about a sixth sense as a matrix for psychic experiences - a super-mysterious entity remote from our other senses: "We do not need to lose the excitement which psi-events bring,” she avers, "but nor do we require the invention of a sixth sense, the five that we have seem more than enough".

Taking as an initial premise that psi events are pretty common, Ms Randles looks first at those five senses, Since everything they convey to us is subject to interpretation by the brain or mind - or both if you're a strict dualist - she makes a good case for regarding supposedly 'extra- sensory' perceptions as basically normal ones; feats which only seem out of the ordinary due to our limited understanding of what our senses can achieve. Add to this emotion, as "the basis of all psi-events” (p134) and consider that these in turn are "just sensory translations of an emotional message picked up and decoded in the mind" (p136). One result is that the message itself can take on virtually any of the forms we associate with the 'paranormal'.

Ranging freely across the gamut of phenomena, Sixth Sense concludes with an appeal aimed at just about everyone except perhaps the members of CSICOP; we need more imaginative experiments, a greater sense of seriousness and willingness to get involved; we have to watch out for government attempts to hijack the paranormal for aggressive purposes,.

All of which is quite unexceptional and it doesn't matter too much if we’ve heard it before. Magonia readers - a demanding audience at the best of times - may feel that Sixth Sense is too lightweight for their literary tastes, but of course the book was not maenad for them, General readers should find Ms Randle's book a lively intro into the brain/ mind/psi debate, The style is relaxed, and informal; the case material (anecdotal for the most part, often autobiographical) has a genuine entertainment value, even when it relies on the belief that if someone tells us some incredible experience it's as well to swallow it and believe them.

A review isn't the place to question the author's insistence that being psychic is a fundamental part of being human or her blanket statement "whatever their solution may be, psi events do happen", Nor is a review the place to contest her insistence that psi must be accepted as a reality if the race is to prosper, or that media-run nationwide experiments in telepathy may provide the breakthrough we've all been waiting for, nor that we'll go under for the lack of one,.

Personally I doubt that people give a toss about psi breakthroughs; the prospect of an in-depth series of psi-testing on TV seems to me to be playing straight into the cinema-owners' hands, Out of courtesy alone you ought to give Jenny Randles' Sixth Sense a whirl before you disagree with her. - Mike Goss, from Magonia 25, March 1987.

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