The «mission» of Ernesto Bozzano



Ernesto Bozzano's life and personality (1862-1943)

Bozzano was born in Genoa in 1862, in a wealthy family. The few biographical information we have about his early years are largely drawn from Silvio Ravaldini's book Ernesto Bozzano e la ricerca psichica (Ed. Mediterranee, 1993), which contains some excerpts from Bozzano's letters and communications, in particular those addressed to another Italian scholar of parapsychology, Gastone De Boni (1908-1986), whom Bozzano dearly called «his godson», and whom he regarded as his disciple and continuator of his work in the field of parapsychology. In fact, the abundant material that constituted Bozzano's library was later inherited by De Boni, who enriched it further, and at the death of the latter was reorganized and classified by Silvio Ravaldini in the current Bozzano-De Boni Library, whose Foundation has its headquarters in Bologna.

A child with an early intelligence, Ernesto Bozzano wanted to devote himself to his studies, but – to his regret – when he was 14 his father, after having had him attend a technical school, made him interrupt his studies so that he could undertake, with his four brothers, a commercial career. As he himself wrote, «my brothers, to whom commerce and industry were perfectly suited, became millionaires. I, on the other hand, remained a misfit». However, he continued to cultivate his many interests  and to study as a self-taught, passionately inquiring about both the progress of scientific disciplines (astronomy, geology, paleontology, etc.), and the guidelines of philosophy and psychology. After a youthful literary production of verses inspired by patriotism, he also deepened his literary studies of books in French and English, until he could well understand the works written in these languages, even if he could not speak English due to lack of practice. The job of accounting clerk to which his father had forced him caused him «a state of inconsolable moral depression», somatized in a form of dyspepsia, due to which soon after he was twenty years-old he gave up working. After a brief journalistic collaboration with Genoa's newspaper Secolo XIX, he retired to private life and devoted himself entirely to his studies. A frugal man and bachelor, he was able to live without problems thanks, at first, to the hospitality of his brother Vittorio, and, after sometime, to the economic help offered him by another wealthy brother, Adolfo, who in 1922 put at his disposal a small villa on the hills near Savona, where Bozzano lived until 1941, the year in which he had to move back to Genoa because the villa had to be sold. Because of his precarious health conditions, Bozzano died in Genoa in 1943.

Philosophical studies

For a decade, between 1882 and 1892, Bozzano's intellectual activity turned almost exclusively to the study of philosophy. As he himself told De Boni, «above all, a great problem attracted and fascinated him: the comprehension of the problem of Being, the mystery of life, the mystery of human personality, of the why of existence». De Boni, in his preface (written in 1941, when Bozzano was still alive) to Bozzano's book Popoli primitivi e manifestazioni paranormali (Primitive Peoples and Paranormal Events), so wrote about that period: «During this decade, he tried to interpenetrate the thought of the most important philosophers, from Plato to Hegel, from Descartes and Lotze to Rosmini and Gioberti, but these long and tiring investigations in the domain of philosophy came to nothing reliable; on the contrary, he entered the depths of doubt more than ever. At his first rebellion of not believing for an "act of faith", a second one followed, with which he rejected en masse all the metaphysical postulates based on nothingness...». Bozzano then devoted himself to the study of scientific philosophy (the one that in his opinion was based on the scientific knowledge of the time): «in an uninterrupted succession, and with a more than ever passionated ardour, I read and read again, taking notes from the beginning to the end, the works of Büchner, Moleschott, Vogt, Feuerbach, Haeckel, Huxley, Comte, Taine, Guyau, Le Dantec, Morselli, Sergi and Ardigò, obtaining the positivist postulates of scientific investigation».      

Personal vicissitudes

From this information it is already possible to get a rough idea of Bozzano's psychic tunings prevailing at that time: a man thirsty for knowledge, indefatigable reader and tireless scholar, but not very critical towards his mental tools, through which he believed he could reach a form of reliable and solid knowledge. In some ways he identified himself with the classic nineteenth-century scholar, a very serious person, committed to his studies and endowed with a spirit of sacrifice, whose life was to be completely dedicated to a noble mission. He himself so wrote in a letter to Miss Maude Bubb, an English correspondent of a wealthy family with whom he had an intense epistolary relationship (without ever meeting her in person), that began in the early 1920s and lasted for almost twenty years: « me life is something that must be taken very seriously. We have not come to this world to enjoy, but to give our contribution to the progress and spiritual elevation of humanity, to the extent of our abilities and vocations».  

In his youth Bozzano had a love disappointment: at eighteen he became engaged to a French young lady who, having returned to Paris, married an officer. In a letter addressed to De Boni he wrote: «Unfortunately, the fate denied me the serene joys of fatherhood and family. I also had my fiancée, a beautiful girl whose vivacity and alertness were fascinating, and I was deeply in love with her, but I was betrayed. She was a Parisian; she went to Paris with her aunt to see her family again, and never came back. She had, moreover, the ruthless idea of sending me the participation of her marriage. That day I was very close to throw myself into the sea». Bozzano always showed a reverential love towards his mother's figure (another trait of nineteenth-century mold), but we know nothing about other important relationships with female personalities, except for the aforementioned epistolary one with Miss Bubb. As often happened in that period (and not only then), the high intelligence, erudition and depth of reasoning of the scholar was counterbalanced by a sort of sentimental infantilism, found, for example, in his letters to Miss Bubb, which started with «My dear little sister, very far away», and contained sentences like this: «I am elated to learn that you are going to send me a very recent photograph of yourself, which I will frame and keep on my desk, conversing with the same when I will need comfort and inspiration, as Numa Pompilio did with Nymph Egeria».

As Ravaldini observed in his aforementioned book: «Bozzano was undoubtedly in need of love, about which he had a conception that probably surpassed his time, still imbued with many taboos. He saw love as a feeling that undoubtedly burst forth from the soul, but is closely intertwined with sexual activity, rightly reputed as an essential, basic necessity, which completes and harmonizes any union between two beings who love each other. This is revealed by his long letters addressed to an unidentified Miss Lily (who had written him hat she regarded as obnoxious – indeed repugnant – the sexual intercourse), in which he provides real lessons on sex, trying to make it clear that the union between man and woman is simply follows the biological laws that rule us, but at the same time it is a marvelous act of nature that must be fully and lovingly lived. And all this – it should be noted – while he himself, with his solitary life, undoubtedly went against nature».

Adherence to Spencer's philosophy

As Luca Gasperini wrote in an article published on Luce e Ombra (112, n. 3, page 224): «Among the philosophers of science, Bozzano elected as his myth and idol the English philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), the Aristotle of modern times, as he called him. Since when he approached him, he spent two years studying, cataloging and annotating his works, in which he trusted that he had found the definitive answer to that problem of Being, which had initiated his philosophical thought». In a 1939 article (How a positivist thinker became spiritualist), Bozzano wrote: «From that moment on I became the apostle of my idol, arguing against anyone who dared to doubt the mechanistic postulates of that giant of thought. I became a positivist convinced to such an extent that it seemed to me unbelievable that there could be educated people, endowed with a normal common sense, who believed in the existence and survival of the soul». These statements too are revealing of Bozzano's psychic orientation, always in search of absolute convictions to defend with an energetic commitment.    

For a synthesis of Spencer's philosophical system you may refer to specialized texts or to the websites that deal with it. But, as Gasperini rightly observed in the aforementioned article: «...Bozzano often used the words materialism, positivism and mechanism, which appear in his writings as interchangeable terms, as synonyms, when in reality they are not... About Spencer, we know that already from his contemporaries (Hudson, 1895) and also on the pages of Luce e Ombra... he was explicitly interpreted in a non-materialistic key». Indeed Spencer, in recognizing that the limits of human knowledge are connate in mental processes (that is, in human psyche itself), affirmed the relativity of knowledge, which proceeds from particular facts to general rules, until it reaches the ultimate principles beyond which it can not go, and therefore it will never understand the unitary principle that underlies everything: this principle is the Unknowable, the metaphysical foundation of every empirical reality. Despite this, Bozzano wrote: «Ten years of profound and systematic philosophical studies had, in my opinion, demolished the spiritualist interpretation of the universe, and the mechanistic conception of the great Herbert Spencer dominated my thought as a ruler». Evidently he studied a lot, but he interpreted the thought of others in his own way.  

The origin of his interest in psychical research

In the philosophical decade Bozzano had already maintained epistolary relationships with various scholars, philosophers and psychologists, both in Italy and (above all) abroad. This was a constant feature of his life, which – in addition to the thousands of pages written by him published in various magazines – made him well known among scholars, although he traveled very little and never crossed the Italian border. Among his correspondents of that period, besides Spencer himself, there was Théodule Ribot (1839-1916), a distinguished French psychopathologist and professor of Experimental Psychology at the Sorbonne, who had translated Spencer's Principles of Psychology into French. In 1891 Ribot, who edited the Revue Philosophìque, one of the most important scientific journals of the time, informed Bozzano that he was going to send a new magazine entitled Annales des Sciences Psychiques, which was promoted by Charles Richet, the great French physiologist, and edited by Xavier Dariex. Ribot urged Bozzano to read the magazine carefully and to send him his opinion about it, since it dealt with a new branch of psychological research aimed at demonstrating the possibility that thought could be transmitted at a distance from brain to brain.     

According to what De Boni said, Bozzano wrote in response to Ribot «a letter of fire», declaring the contents of the magazine senseless and expressing his wonder at the fact that renowned scholars in science could believe nonsense such as telepathy, apparitions of ghosts and infestations. Actually, Bozzano's psyche had to show a certain inclination towards the study of paranormal phenomena. When, in 1892, an article by an unidentified Dr. P. Rosenbach of St. Petersburg, entitled Ètude critique sur le mysticisme moderne (in which the studies on paranormal phenomena were accused of having no scientific basis, and the explanations of the phenomena themselves were reduced to the hallucinatory hypothesis or to fortuitous coincidences), was published in the Revue Philosophìque, Richet responded in an ironic and reasoned manner, refuting Rosenbach's claims on the basis of the right of scientists to ascertain the reality of the phenomena, and to advance hypotheses about their causes, that had to be then verified. Bozzano was struck by the strength of Richet's arguments, based on the facts, which contrasted the weakness of Rosenbach's statements, which appeared to him largely aprioristic and gratuitous, and not very different from those he himself had used in his letter to Ribot. So he decided to read up about issues related to spirit, death and survival and, with the energy and determination which he was undoubtedly endowed, he set to work for a fruitful research that would go on without interruption for 50 years, until his death.   

A séance and an exhortation

That a certain inclination towards the spiritual dimension was already well present in Bozzano is confirmed by the fact that after the death of his mother, whom he was very fond of, which occurred in July 1892, the scholar went through a period of crisis and pain, expressed also in twilight poetic compositions, and began to attend at the sittings of a small group of spiritualists who met weekly at home of Luigi Montaldo, then secretary of Genoa's municipality. The role of writing medium was assumed by Montaldo's wife, Affilia, through which an entity that signed with the pseudonym of Nero dictated moral, social and psychological advice. According to De Boni, during a sitting held in July 1893, on the first anniversary of Bozzano mother's death, Mrs. Montaldo exclaimed: «Oh! But what happens to me? I feel like I'm surrounded by an influence of paradise! Oh, what calm, what serenity, what happiness invades me! Undoubtedly there is some very high, very pure, angelic entity». She then wrote a few words that were given to Bozzano, who was surprised because they were the last two verses of the epigraph that he had placed on his mother's grave that morning: «Now and forever invoking You, mother». If it is true, as De Boni stated, that Bozzano was moved because he felt for sure that his mother was by his side, this episode is symptomatic of the emotional and sentimental inclination of the scholar, who did not even take into account the telepathic hypothesis, and less than ever the possibility that the medium might have somehow known what he had written on the epigraph.

Bozzano also revealed to De Boni that in that period he felt oppressed by serious and intimate sorrows, which he would never have expressed in the presence of others, and on which the only one who could give him some comfort was his mother. During the séance he tried, therefore, to ask her a mental question, to which immediately followed a written reply in such terms that he alone could understand its meaning. Then, anxiously, he gave his mother a mental invocation of advice, for which he obtained the following answer: «I'm happy with you. Go ahead on the noble road you have put yourself on. This is your mission on earth. I kiss you». This communication was enough to dispel all his doubts, assuming he still had some, and from that moment on he devoted himself, body and soul, to metapsychics. The sentimental attitude of Bozzano, decidedly inclined to believe in the spiritualist hypothesis and devoid of that unbiased experimental attitude that characterized the investigations of other Italian researchers (such as Bottazzi), always manifested itself during the mediumistic séances in which he took part in person, as a member of Minerva Scientific Circle in Genoa, or through the mediumship of marquis Centurione-Scotto at Millesimo in the years 1927-28. For this reason Bozzano's experimental investigations on the field represent the least important aspect of his work.         

Another curious biographical episode, reported by De Boni, helps to interpret the psychological orientation of Bozzano: at eighteen, returning from a trip in Genoese mountains, he met a gypsy who offered to read his future. Although incredulous, he did not refuse, and obtained the following prophecy: «I see you very old, over 70... 72... 74... 76... then I see darkness. Now you are engaged, but with a beautiful young lady who is not of ours... she is not of our race! But you will not marry her, you will not be able to marry her, because she will marry another man. You will study all your life, you will write many and many books... you will write them on a subject that is like the one through which I now speak to you: just this topic! You will become the apostle of a great spiritual ideal... through books and books written by you. Your whole life will be dedicated, lacking a family, to a high ideal». Of course, there is no document confirming the reality of this episode, which could have been enriched in details by Bozzano's memory, and that however may have had a certain influence on the subsequent orientation of his life.   

Bozzano's work

For almost half a century Bozzano obtained and kept in his library almost all the literature (books and magazines) specialized in topics related to mediumistic and paranormal phenomena, available in the main European languages. With a Carthusian's patience, he classified analytically every single article, every event and every testimony reported on these texts, in order to have an archive available, that would allow him to find the most suitable and convincing examples to quote in relation to the topic dealt with, in one or the other of his numerous monographs. What makes Bozzano's work worthwhile and meritorious still today is above all this work of documentation, by virtue of which he has been called «the greatest metapsychic learned person of his time». Thanks to his patient and assiduous work, by reading the books written by him we can learn of a considerable number of cases that otherwise would have been forgotten or whose research would have required time and effort. The fact that his library has been preserved and enriched thanks to Gastone De Boni first, and then Silvio Ravaldini, allows today's Italian scholars to have at hand a rich documentation for their own research.      

Furthermore, Bozzano entertained, until the beginning of the Second World War, a wide correspondence with all the leading researchers of his time, from William James to Charles Richet. Unfortunately, many of these letters were burned by himself when, in September 1941, his brother Adolfo sold the villa in Savona and he was forced to go back to Genoa to live there with his other brother Vittorio, in an apartment in which there was not enough space to accommodate all the books, magazines and correspondence accumulated over the years. Panicked, before even becoming aware of De Boni's offer to keep part of the library and the correspondence at his home in Verona, Bozzano, in one of the emotional accesses to which he was subject, made a fire with the quintals of letters received from almost the whole world and the copies of the letters he had sent. Later, of course, he regretted it, but the irremediable damage was done. Only a small part of his correspondence was saved.      

Until 1899 Bozzano engaged in the work of acquisition, study and classification of the texts he gradually received, especially from France, England, the United States and Germany. It was in that year that he published, on the important Rivista di Studi Psichici edited by Cesare Vesme (printed in Paris in Italian), his first article on metapsychic subject titled «Spiritualismo e critica scientifica» (Spiritualism and Scientific Criticism), in which he refuted the hypotheses advanced by the opponents against the spiritualist interpretation of the manifestations of the dead. In the following years Bozzano published many articles on the major foreign magazines of parapsychology, and became a regular contributor to the Italian magazine Luce e Ombra, founded in 1900 by Angelo Marzorati. Until 1939, the year when this magazine was forced to close by order of the fascist regime, Bozzano published there his monographs which then, reworked and increased with an intense work carried out especially in the last years of his life, since 1941 were published in separate volumes, thanks to Gastone De Boni.      

Bozzano's intent and the method adopted by him

It is important to understand that you can study a certain topic by dedicating time and energy to it, researching documents and testimonies, reading and evaluating what other scholars have written about it, and evaluating in a logical and reasonably critical way the conclusions reached and the hypotheses advanced, without thereby being able to assert to have adopted the scientific method: in fact, as already noted, the scientific method involves experimentation and objective confirmation of the observed experimental data. There are entire fields of study, such as history, which by their nature escape a rigorously scientific method and base their results on investigations which compare documents, assess their reliability and convergence of evidence, based on deductive and circumstantial criteria. In the culture of the late nineteenth century, still largely based on humanistic foundations, this distinction was anything but clear, and often methods of investigation and study based on eighteenth-century empiricism were considered scientifically correct.      

Bozzano is no exception: indeed in his works expressions such as «scientifically proven», «scientific study» and the like, are profuse at full blast: he defined his activity in the field of metapsychics as «science of the soul», for which he foresaw a bright future, without realizing that the real scientific enterprises always involve the acquisition of an operative power, current or potential, by humanity (or at least by a part of it). The method adopted by Bozzano consisted essentially in taking a specific field of investigation as the object of the research to which from time to time a monograph was dedicated (for example telepathy, or phenomena of infestation, or visions of the dying), in searching in his vast archive for some exemplary cases of the phenomena investigated, in commenting them with arguments that to his psychic orientation had to appear logical and rationally convincing, and in drawing the necessary conclusions to confirm the thesis he intended to prove. Bozzano defined his method as «convergence of proofs».     

The first criticism, however obvious, that can be addressed to him is that all the examples he used were quotations of what was published in the specialized literature, without any distinction or assessment regarding the verification of the facts and the reliability of the testimonies. Bozzano defended himself from this criticism by arguing that, since the testimonies concerning certain phenomena were so many, and almost all converged towards the same results, this fact had to mean something: in other words, quantity made premium on quality. As Giovanni Iannuzzo wrote in an article dedicated to Bozzano published in n. 112, issue 3, of Luce e Ombra: «To Bozzano the reality of a paranormal phenomenon derived above all from the number of independent observations of the phenomenon itself. The very fact of the detection of a psychic phenomenon by independent subjects – even in a historical and cultural sense – implicitly demonstrated the existence of that phenomenon. The task of metapsychics, according to Bozzano, had to be to collect all the available independent observations, compare them by highlighting concordances and discrepancies, and then rationally classify them».  

What did Bozzano want to prove?

In summary, we can say that Bozzano was a convinced spiritualist: he believed that the human being was composed of a body and a spirit, and that the spirit survived the death of the body. However, as we will see in more detail in the section «over the life» (particularly in its last page), if it can be quite clear to all of us what we refer to when we speak of the body, the same can not be said when we speak of the spirit, and under this aspect Bozzano very little clarifies. In his book Animismo o Spiritismo?, published in 1938, Bozzano tried to frame in a work of synthesis the theoretical results of his studies on paranormal phenomena, in their multiform manifestations. In this text, which is fundamental for understanding his point of view, the author maintained that, even if one wanted to exclude the cases of identification of the entities manifested through mediumship, it would be sufficient «the fact of the existence of supernormal subconscious faculties to provide the incontestable proof of human survival». The supernormal subconscious faculties to which Bozzano referred were those that gave rise to ascertained phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychometry, etc., to explain which recourse was made, almost unanimously, to the extraordinary psychic faculties of which some individuals, called sensitives, were gifted. In this sense, the term «animism» was used at that time as a synonym for what today could be defined as «superpsychism».    

Bozzano's argument developed as follows: once the facts have been ascertained (and the facts, being such, impose themselves by their own virtue), it must be admitted that some human beings (and even some animals), through which these facts are produced, are equipped with non-ordinary psychic faculties. These faculties are independent of biological evolution since, as Bozzano observed, they are equally present in the animal world, among primitive peoples and among the members of advanced societies. The scholar was then confronted with a reasonable objection, for which: «the fact that supernormal faculties show up in some individuals does not imply that these faculties exist in a latent state in the subconscious of all». In fact, as early as 1903 Marcel Mangin noticed: «For twenty years I could yearn, with the full strength of my soul, to acquire these marvelous gifts, without feeling, at the end of the twentieth year, the most insignificant awakening in me». Bozzano thought he could solve this problem by stating that: «the great majority of people to whom manifestations of the examined nature (paranormal phenomena) occurred, were in the identical negative conditions of Mr. Marcel Mangin, until some serious infirmities occurred to them, or the hour of agony did not arrive for them, or they did not incur some serious traumatic brain accident, or they did not happen to undergo swooning, or somnambulistic-hypnotic experiences, or inhalation of ether, and so on». This «and so on» could include, as we have seen on this page, the intake of psychoactive substances.

With this way of arguing Bozzano came to the conclusion that he had at heart, namely that non-ordinary psychic faculties exist in a latent state in any human being, and perhaps in every living organism. In principle, this conclusion may also be accepted, provided to keep in mind that not all psychic faculties are equivalent, and that there certainly are many cases in which non-ordinary psychic faculties are due to alterations in the brain functioning. It should also be remembered that in a vast majority of human beings paranormal psychic faculties never show up, while in some (few) individuals they manifest themselves even in ordinary conditions. Moreover, unlike what our author claimed, it is not true that supernormal faculties are manifested only when the psychic is in an unconscious or semi-unconscious state: as we have seen, in the history of mediumship there have been significant phenomena even through mediums that did not go into a trance. Unfortunately, Bozzano never deepened enough his arguments, and once his psyche was satisfied with the logical conclusions of his reasoning, he was led to believe that such reasoning had a force of general conviction, and immediately jumped to the next step. In this case the next step consisted in recognizing that «no one will be allowed to claim that in their own subconscious there are no supernormal faculties» (notice that Bozzano does not say «non-ordinary faculties» but «supernormal faculties»), and that these faculties show the presence of the spirit within us: «it seems unquestionable that the only rational solution of the formidable puzzles here exposed, consists in recognizing that the subconscious faculties are not destined to be used in the earthly environment, because they are the sensory faculties of spiritual existence, waiting to emerge and practice in the spiritual environment, after the crisis of death».     

Bozzano's limits

Bozzano tried to solve in his own way the problem of psychism (called by him, as we have seen, animism), hypothesizing without any hesitation the existence of a spirit associated with every living being, without understanding what were (and are) the true terms of this issue. In fact, the question that he should have been asked to himself is the following: since all the tunings related to the psyche's ordinary manifestations are acquired and processed through brain activity, on the basis of which observations we can be sure that also paranormal phenomena are not determined by brain functions that in some people are more developed than the standard? Moreover Bozzano explained to us very little about the origin and development of the spirit, the way in which it is associated with our human personality and manifests itself through it, and above all about the problem of consciousness as the foundation of our individual existence and the process of transferring our individual consciousness from the brain to the spirit. To our scholar these were indisputable facts, to which he believed by faith while claiming to have proven them with scientific rigor: «according to these circumstances – he wrote – emerges clear and conclusive the evidence that the whole subconscious personality is a spiritual entity, independent of any direct or indirect functional interference of the cerebral organ».    

Incidentally, the supernormal subconscious powers hypothesized by Bozzano are very similar to the metaphysical concept of «unconscious» to which we have referred in this page. The fact that we can try to draw on psychic tunings different from the ordinary ones as a source of inspiration, as guidance, counsel or comfort in the face of life's difficulties, or out of curiosity, desire for knowledge, or even – why not – for will of power, does not necessarily mean that we have a personal spirit capable of acting autonomously, or that this spirit will take possession of our consciousness and our memories upon our brain's death. Instead, according to Bozzano «the integral, subconscious personality of the sensitive... must be considered a spiritual entity in itself, independent of the cerebral organ, independent of the somatic body, endowed with its own consciousness, its integral memory, and spiritual senses; and consequently, destined to survive the somatic organism, which is for it an indispensable instrument as long as its relations with the earthly environment persist». We are again, in the end, in the context of the hypothesis of the alien spirit, to which I have already referred in the section on mediumistic phenomena. How our consciousness and will would be transferred in this alien spirit after our death, is still a mystery. 

Bozzano and the Gordon Davis case 

To give just one example of how Bozzano was not able to understand and sufficiently deepen the problem of consciousness, here are some of his considerations (always drawn from Animismo o Spiritismo?) on the famous case of the entity Gordon Davis, reported by Samuel Soal. On January 4th, 1922, through the medium Blanche Cooper, an entity that said to have been Gordon Davis, a childhood friend whom Soal thought to have died in the war, showed up to Soal in direct voice. After he had expressed concern for his wife and son, left in the world of the living, and after offering Soal excellent evidence of identification, the entity Gordon Davis was silenced by Nada, the medium's control, who claimed that the power of the entity was harming the medium, and that Gordon was anxious to send his news to his wife, because his death had caused her a real shock. In the next sitting Nada offered to communicate herself what Gordon Davis had to say, so that the medium could sustain the effort. While Soal could hear two voices whispering to each other, Nada began to describe various details of the house in which, according to Gordon, his widow and son lived.      

Three years later, in 1925, Soal learned by chance that Gordon Davis was still alive and well, and that he lived in a house in the town of Southend. On April 8th of that year he went to visit his friend and found that practically all the details of the mediumistic description of the house and its furnishings were true. But the strangest thing was that his friend, informed of the matter and questioned about his activities in January 1922, told Soal that he had visited the house (unfurnished) for the first time on January 6th, 1922, and that he had moved there with his family in December of that same year. In January 1922 neither Gordon Davis nor his wife (who saw the house for the first time only a few months later) had still decided how to use the rooms and their furnishings: in fact the house was in bad condition, and in order to make it habitable it had to be repaired and cleaned up. In addition, when Soal asked his friend for information on what his activities had been in January 1922, during the hours of the sittings in which the entity Gordon Davis showed up, the living Gordon (who kept an agenda-diary in which he wrote down all his personal commitments, the meetings with the clients and the relative hours, and the important events of each day) was able to show that in both cases he had been engaged in business meetings with some clients.        

As we have seen, according to Bozzano each of us is associated with a spiritual component (which he called «subconscious integral personality»). In order to be able to manifest itself mediumistically while a person is still alive, this subconscious personality must resort to the psychic energy of that person, and this is possible only if the person finds him/herself in a more or less accentuated unconscious state. Bozzano derived this theory from the fact that we dream when we are asleep, that in somnambulism and in hypnotic states secondary personalities can be manifested, that many paranormal events occur when a person is in critical or near-death conditions, that normally mediums are in trance, that is in a state of unconsciousness, and the like. His attempts (indeed not very brilliant) to explain the case of Gordon Davis, started therefore from the assumption that during the time of the first séance, during which the entity Gordon Davis communicated in direct voice, the living Gordon Davis – engaged, as we have seen, in a business meeting – had been subjected to brief periods of unconsciousness, of which neither he nor his interlocutors would have been aware, during which his subconscious personality would manifest itself mediumistically to Soal: «when a person enters into a psychic relationship and in a mediumistic conversation with another distant person, (must) go into conditions of temporary drowsiness, or overt or concealed psychic absence».  

Regarding the fact that the entity Gordon Davis showed to believe himself dead, while Soal thought that «it could be explained by supposing that this idea was influenced by the spiritualist beliefs of the medium, who in turn would have received false information from the mind of the experimenter (that is, Soal himself, who thought that Gordon Davis had died in war)», Bozzano simply said that it can be presumed «that they are the same communicating spirits who believe they have been caught by a sudden death, since – as they are in a more or less incipient conditions of bilocation, with relative psychic disorientation – they can not avoid believing in their sudden disincarnation». A strange statement, which would imply a complete dissociation between the consciousness of a living human being (the only one to which reference can be made, as we have seen, to establish the sense of our individual identity) and the consciousness of the associated subconscious spirit, subject in turn to uncertainties, blunders and errors. As for the correct description of the furnishings of the house in which Gordon Davis went to live with his family, Bozzano wrote that: «it can be considered scientifically proven that the subconscious integral personality is aware of the future events which will occur to our conscious personality, though it does not normally have the power, or the will, to inform the latter in advance».

It is important to understand how, according to Bozzano, this complete alienity of the subconscious integral personality (which acts, thinks and speaks autonomously) towards the consciousness of the living person to whom it is connected, did not represent a problem worthy of further in-depth study. Not only was the living Gordon Davis in no way an active (and less than ever consenting) part of the mediumistic communication process, but he also had no perception of some form of psychic anomaly manifested while the sitting was underway, despite Bozzano claimed that some interruptions in Davis' flow of consciousness should necessarily have arisen. We will try to better explain these important themes on the page dedicated to the spirit theories.       

Bozzano's merits

Beyond the limits of a disconcerting naivety in his argumentation, the claim to present as scientific a method that lends itself to a plurality of possible interpretations, and the lack of a serious study on the correlations between the hypothesis of the subconscious integral personality and the consciousness of our individual existence, Bozzano was gifted with an excellent dialectical capacity and his arguments are often convincing. Not infrequently he had good game in demolishing the theses of some adversaries of spiritism, skillfully demonstrating how their conjectures were even more inconsistent, abstruse and unprovable, than the hypothesis of the existence of spirits. As Iannuzzo observed in his above mentioned article, «it is true that his work can be critically discussed. But criticizing the work of Bozzano beyond the limits of which we have already discussed means to criticize the very history of psychical research. In fact, until the advent of experimental parapsychology, Bozzano used methods that other scholars had used; and it is not superfluous to recall that if Bozzano made methodological errors, other psychical researchers were not far behind».    

From the point of view of the literary collection of the testimonies of paranormal facts and their classification, the importance of Bozzano's work remains remarkable. Until the beginning of the Second World War, he collected and classified all the major works (books and magazines) of a metapsychic subject published in the Western world. To quote again Iannuzzo, «he therefore had at his disposal all the psychic literature from the beginning of the history of psychical research up to the moment of his death, and synthesized this enormous amount of material in his work». In fact, Bozzano's monographs are still today an important tool for understanding the systematics of parapsychological phenomena in the field of psychical research, because each monograph, accompanied by numerous examples, is dedicated to a particular sector, which Bozzano called with the terms more diffused in his time: telepathy, telestesia, clairvoyance, bilocation, ghostly appearance, etc. The scholar was also very careful to highlight those cases in which a given phenomenon could be classified in more than one category, reasoning on the different aspects that could make more or less plausible its attribution to one or another branch. Thus Bozzano produced a grand summary of the literature on psychical research. To end with Iannuzzo's words, «Bozzano was for at least three decades the most famous Italian psychic researcher in the world. He was in correspondence with illustrious foreign scholars, who esteemed him deeply. Charles Richet was one of his best-known mentors, who thought it would be very important to publish Bozzano's complete works, a task to which Gastone De Boni dedicated himself, for some time... Scott Rogo, who dedicated one of his his book on some research by Bozzano, talks about him as one of the most important scholars and theorists on this matter».   


Kant & Swedenborg
Hypnotism & psyche
Hypnosis research
Research hypotheses
Myers' research
Frederik van Eeden
Dualism of theories
Research in Italy: 1
Research in Italy: 2
Research in Italy: 3
Ernesto Bozzano
Theories about spirit
Joseph B. Rhine
G. A. Rol's faculties
Ugo Dèttore
Limits of paranormal
Psyche, reality & will