The end of an era?
The depletion of the most remarkable mediumistic phenomena
The era of the great mediums seems to have definitely waned. In Italy, the last mediums producing physical effects, about whom we can get reliable testimonies and well-documented information, have died in more or less recent times: Roberto Setti died in 1984, Demofilo Fidani in 1994, Urbino Fontanelli in 1995 and Corrado Piancastelli in 2014 Even abroad there is no well-documented information on mediums capable of determining phenomena of materialization such as those reported in the pages of this section. Leslie Flint, the last English medium able to obtain a large number of direct-voice communications, died in 1994. Many of the direct-voice communications obtained through his mediumship have been recorded and can be listened to on YouTube, for example on this page. The mediumistic circles still active operate mainly with incorporation mediums, with the aim to obtain information or teachings of supposed otherworldly origin, just as it happened through the mediumistic activity of Corrado Piancastelli from the 60s to 2014. In England and in other nations have been and are active mediumistic circles that pursue experimental purposes, performing tests to prove the reality of the phenomena investigated by recording them with suitable instruments. But it seems that there is no longer any trace of those remarkable phenomena of the late nineteenth century, like materialized apparitions: either the psychic tunings that made them possible are no longer activated, or the channels of contact with those entities that contributed with a leading role to the success of materializations are no longer open. Both of these hypotheses may be true.
The change of collective psychic tunings
Some considerations regarding the epochal changes occurred in the last century can help us to understand the reasons why the more complex mediumistic phenomena, certainly not frequent but not very rare until the first decades of the twentieth century, today have almost disappeared. In fact, in our socio-cultural system the way of life has completely changed as regards the interests, attractions and solicitations that continuously stimulate our attention, determining the currently prevailing psychic experiences. Just over a century ago, apart from reading books and newspapers, there was no recreational or cultural activity that was not based on direct human interactions. Even music was performed and listened to in a social context, at theaters or in the living rooms. The difficulties of life absorbed most of mental energies, but for those who still had resources to increase their culture and to satisfy their desire to know, the only sources of information were the printed paper and the circulation of ideas and knowledge through human contacts, verbal or epistolary.
First in the age of Enlightenment, and then of positivism, the confidence in the potentials that opened up to the human thirst for knowledge had greatly increased, in some respects even in a naive and illusory way. The intellect of the most gifted people applied to the various issues of life, nature, the world and the universe, with passionate and intense dedication, and the public opinion, or at least the most informed part of it, was interested in new discoveries, the theories and debates that followed. As evidenced by the testimonies of the time, in the heterogeneous and confident environment of the late nineteenth century, mediumistic séances could be a bit of everything: a living-room activity, a pastime, a search for comfort for the loss of loved ones, an instrument of investigation about survival after death, but also a true experimental and research activity aimed at increasing human knowledge. There was, however, a very strong interest from a considerable number of people in this field of study, and many eminent researchers (including well-known personalities in the academic world) willingly and steadily committed their time and energies in an activity that at that time it was also exciting, but in our days would be quite tedious, apart from the interest that certain results could present. Furthermore, the limits presented by paranormal phenomena must also be taken into consideration: for further information on the subject, see the page dedicated to the topic in the section on psychical research.
The exceptional nature of some important mediumistic phenomena, among which must surely be included the apparitions, materializations and direct-voice communications, as well as the interest in some of the communications transmitted by the entities, did not exclude a certain repetition of the results obtained during the séances, as we can see by reading the reports that came to us: after the wonder and amazement of the first séances, afterwards the phenomena ended up repeating themselves always in the same way. But if in the past the activities of interest, entertainment and distraction were much more limited than those we have currently at our disposal – reason why participation in this kind of activity could also show a challenging and cultural interest, but at the same time represented an escape from the strict routine of life's commitments – today any serious research in the field of mediumistic phenomena should present the requirements of a research activity, planned and performed as an experiment to improve our knowledge, but no longer out of curiosity or as a form of social entertainment. A significant model of this activity was planned and adopted as early as 1907 by Filippo Bottazzi (1867-1941), professor of Physiology at the University of Naples, for a series of laboratory experiments on the phenomena produced by the famous medium Eusapia Paladino. The report of these experiments (see the page dedicated to them) is reported in his book Fenomeni medianici osservati in una serie di sedute fatte con Eusapia Paladino (Mediumistic Phenomena Observed in a Series of Sessions with Eusapia Palladino - 1909).
A still unsatisfactory cognitive framework
Today our mind is subject to a quantity of stimuli and psychic experiences inconceivable only a century ago, and even the ways in which information of every kind are elaborated and transmitted in order to circulate in our socio-cultural system have enormously increased. Therefore it may be that the interest that determined in the past the activation of the psychic tunings necessary for the production of the most interesting mediumistic phenomena has vanished (or has been considerably reduced). In the absence of a satisfactory cognitive framework on the modalities with which the mediumistic faculties determine the production of phenomena, some fundamental questions remain unanswered: why are mediums capable of producing physical phenomena so rare? Why with the presence of a medium certain phenomena occur, and when he/she is not there, they don't? Why the same medium, at some point in his life, is no more able to determine the phenomena that he/she produced before? Why some mediums have to go into a trance, and some do not? All these are questions for which, after more than a century and a half of studies, even the few, fragmentary and sometimes contradictory information obtained from the communicating entities have been of little help in the development of a coherent, satisfying cognitive framework susceptible to further progress.
It is possible that the decline, if we want to call it so, or in any case the lack of progress in the research on phenomena of mediumistic origin in the context of psychical research, can be attributed to the fact that the relative field of investigation has remained almost at the initial level, blocked above all by the disputes on the checking and validadion of the objective reality of these phenomena, which should instead be considered as guaranteed on the basis of the researches and investigations already carried out and the available reports. However, it has not been possible to develop – at least up to now – a cognitive framework capable of making this kind of studies advance and of helping the exchange of reliable information with other possible psychic dimensions. It is probably still too early in the history of mankind for this to happen.
Two psychic instances
Finally, by observing the reactions of the human psyche to mediumistic phenomena, we can see that there is a contrast between two antithetical and partly conflicting needs. On the one hand there is the need to verify, control and, ultimately, master the events: all the scientific and technological progress of the last two centuries has accustomed us to manage and control at will many events, connected to our life and the environment in which we live, towards which we were previously completely impotent and passive. On the other hand, there are psychic instances of a fideistic type, addressed towards a different dimension from the earthly one. In this perspective, human life is seen as a temporary phase (and, all in all, devoid of intrinsic importance): a kind of exercise or an evaluation test that allows our conscious Ego to access other dimensions. The emphasis is therefore shifted from this life to a future life. That it is a conflict of psychic origin is confirmed, as well as by the history of humanity (with particular reference to religious disputes), by the fact that those people whose mind is predominantly tuned on one or the other aspect of this psychic dichotomy have a hard time understanding each other.
In the last century earthly life has become (at least for the part of humanity inserted in that socio-cultural context known as modern Western) more comfortable, more interesting, more pleasant and more stimulating. At the same time, precisely because of the progress made in the medical field and in the prevention of diseases, the world population has tripled in the last 70 years: a growth rate that had never occurred before in the history of humanity. That the resources of planet Earth are sufficient to offer a satisfactory life to this enormous mass of human beings is very doubtful, since most of them still live in conditions of suffering, misery and discomfort, and the future looks very uncertain.
Even in our Western culture, before the era of well-being and consumer goods established, the idea of death as liberation from this valley of tears had its role and importance. Today, instead, the idea of (earthly) life prevails as the ultimate goal, in which to seek success, satisfaction and happiness, even if the price that most people have to pay for this ideal of well-being is the adhesion and integral and uncritical dedication to the consumer production system. What will happen in the future is hard to say. It seems more important to me to understand how all this is due to the dualism within human psyche, which evidently is not yet able to harmonize the dimension of earthly life with that of any possible otherworldly existence, and then either ends up denying it or else needs to deny the value of the pursuit of happiness already in this world, in the context of a perspective marked by renunciation and the so-called sacrifice. We can not know for now what is hidden behind this psychic conflict, since – in our limited view of human beings – often the psyche and God end up being practically the same thing.
Can the psyche determine reality?
The study of mediumistic phenomena leads us to consider the hypothesis that the psyche can determine reality, at least in particular circumstances. On the fact that human intelligence is able to transform the world there can be no doubt: just look at the way in which all the artefacts and technological products made by man and created by his mind have changed the face of our planet. However, we are led to believe that this process of transformation always takes place within an objective framework, socially organized in a coherent and efficient way, even if the dynamic and design elements that determine these transformations originate from the creative activity of human mind. A direct interaction of the psyche, such as to determine a sudden anomaly in what we think to be the immutable laws that rule this world, is considered only in the context of random phenomena of a magical type, which science has contributed to remove from the sphere of our knowledge and our culture. Yet the mediumistic phenomena of recent times, and many other phenomena attributed to supernatural forces in more ancient times, are there to testimony the existence of powers that, while escaping the direct control of human will, would be able to draw on our psychophysical energies to alter the ordinary laws, determining anomalous phenomena that the human psyche itself perceives and recognizes as real.