JEFF CORBETT: On our sixth sense, or ESP, and how we should be bottling it

THE call wasn't unexpected, even though we'd not spoken by phone or in person for at least three years, and his bad news was not unexpected. He had learnt the previous week, he told me, that he had just a few months to live, a shock since he had been free of symptoms until a month before he went to his doctor.

Terrible news, the more so because he was a friend of many years, but the shock for me was in the confirmation. For a few days I'd found myself thinking of my friend with a sense of dread, somehow with an awareness that he had had bad news, and in the day or two before the call I came to know that he would phone me. He did and the news was bad.

Now, I didn't think of my friend often. We'd become close friends when we worked together decades ago, we saw each other no more than once every five years and we were in contact by phone or email every couple of years. Yet over a few days he was persistently in my mind, in my consciousness, and it was entirely involuntary.

I see this as a sixth sense, an awareness that did not arrive by way of sight or hearing, or for that matter by the other three senses that make up the common five, taste and smell and touch. I don't see it as psychic, and not just because I cling to my scepticism about psychics and the paranormal in general. It was not about seeing the future, or being prophetic.

Readers who aren't quite as cynical as you may say it is telepathy, the transmission of information between minds, but I think my friend had had more on his mind than trying to send me telepathic messages. His phone call to me was one of many he was making to friends and distant family, and his only thought of me would have been to include me in the list of people to be phoned.

That my wife and I often think the same things at the same time may be another example of this extra sense. It's random stuff, like whether we should paint the house white or it's about time she or both of us flew to Perth to visit a daughter, but I see this as simply being married too long, not telepathy! They say long-married couples come to look like each other, too, but in our case that won't be happening.

I have been aware of this sixth sense many times, and perhaps the most common manifestation is that I will suddenly begin to think of someone I know a day or two before they contact me or I learn that they've died, or something like that. Often people will say when they learn that someone they knew has died, "oh I was thinking about them only yesterday", and I do believe this sense is more common that is generally acknowledged.

Cynics may seek to explain this as the news prompting us to recall that we'd been thinking of that person, that without that news the thinking of someone is unremarkable and forgotten. Hmmm, but there is more to it than this thinking of someone before we get the bad news.

Probably the simplest expression of this extrasensory perception, or ESP as it is known, is the staring trigger. You become mentally uncomfortable, you come to sense that someone is looking at you intently, you swivel your head and your eyes lock onto theirs, sprung. We've all been that person often enough.

My first clear memory of this sixth sense concerned my dog Kip when I was 14. He'd wandered off from our Adamstown home and I'd spent many hours over four days searching for him. As I returned home on the fourth day, exhausted, I became aware that Kip was in the back shed, an awareness that came over me a couple of hundred metres from home.

I went straight to the shed, and there he was, on a hessian bag, so weak he could barely move. He hadn't been barking, he may never have been in the back shed before, yet I knew he was there. He'd been found at Mayfield, 10km away, by a woman who'd seen our Lost and Found ad in what was then The Newcastle Morning Herald.

Another clear case of this sense at work happened when my wife and I were to visit good friends in Canberra as we drove home to Newcastle from Melbourne a decade ago. We were to spend a night with them, and we'd been looking forward to it, but in the week or so before we were to arrive I came to be aware that there was serious trouble in their home.

No phone calls, no messages, no news, yet I knew we should not visit, and so we sent an SMS begging off and bypassed Canberra. A short time later we learnt that over these few days this previously happy couple had split, bitterly, when she discovered he'd been having an affair.

It's a pity we can't bottle this sixth sense. Ah, the cynics will say, it is bottled, it's called alcohol.

Probably the simplest expression of this extrasensory perception, or ESP as it is known, is the staring trigger. You become mentally uncomfortable, you come to sense that someone is looking at you intently, you swivel your head and your eyes lock onto theirs, sprung. We've all been that person often enough.

As you know I have no truck with the paranormal, and so I believe that the sixth sense is a normal sense simply waiting for an explanation.

jeffcorb@gmail.com

letters@theherald.com.au

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