Many attempts at explaining the sixth sense(s) look for a certain organ or part of the body that would complement the five recognized senses. This talk approaches the question from a different direction and argues that what those explanations describe as sixth-sense perception can also be understood as a different layer of perceiving with the existing senses. It is as if, through the five senses, we can shift gears in perceiving reality. A number of twentieth-century German and North American writers sought to capture this extended perception of reality through mystical and poetic portrayals of nature. The lecture compares these examples with the notion of shamanic consciousness, a way of sensing and perceiving nature outside human sense perception. Ultimately, the problem of the sixth sense leads us back to the reductive, restrictive standpoints of Western philosophy and science.
Kocku von Stuckrad is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Groningen. He has published extensively on topics related to the cultural history of religion in Europe, method and theory in the study of religion, the discursive study of religion, the diversity of knowledge systems, esoteric and mystical traditions in European intellectual history, the history of astrology, religion, and (the philosophies of) nature, as well as religion and secularity. Kocku von Stuckrad served as President of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture (ISSRNC) and as President of the Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG). He was also a founding board member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE). He was co-chair of the Critical Theory and Discourses on Religion Group, as well as the Religion in Europe Group, of the American Academy of Religion. In 2011, he was appointed Honorary Professor of the Study of Religion at Aarhus University.