The story of an Italian medium: the importance of the facts
Importance of the documentation relating to events occurred in the past
The reason why so much space has been devoted to the mediumship of Urbino Fontanelli and the relative documentation lies in the fact that the study of these events convinced me of the reality – objective and not only subjective – of mediumistic phenomena (about the peculiarities of this kind of reality, see the page on the two levels of reality). Of this I am grateful to Silvio Ravaldini. But beyond what are my personal opinions, everyone can make their own independent evaluation of the material presented in these pages, coming to the conclusions that he/she prefers. The facts reported really occurred and are well documented: those who wanted to question their authenticity should doubt all the historical studies and reconstructions of events that are based on documents, chronicles and testimonies handed down, given that what happened in the past can not, by its nature, being subject to a direct investigation in the present.
Interpretation and method problems
As for the interpretation of these (as well as other) certainly paranormal events within a coherent and verifiable cognitive framework, we are at the moment completely lacking in methodological and even practical tools to perform the necessary research according to a scientific criterion. As has been repeatedly highlighted in these dissertations, the scientific method is a product of the human psyche that has the advantage of establishing a shared correspondence between our cognitive mental processes and the different aspects of the physical world in which we live, allowing us to understand and also to control events with considerable security and to predict the results of the operations we perform. The complexity of the physical world, however, determines an increasingly specialized development of knowledge, and in the end the limits imposed on the global knowledge of the human community are those determined by the characteristics of the human psyche and its evolution over time. But when we are dealing with paranormal phenomena we have to leave the field (objective and almost always verifiable) of the phenomena of the physical world to connect with a dimension that shows decidedly different and anomalous characteristics. So we do not even have a reliable reference about which resources of our psyche we can use.
Obvious assessments on the psychic contamination of the communications
The fact of not being able to present a satisfactory cognitive theoretical framework does not however prevent us from reasoning on the facts occurred, at least in the terms in which the way of reasoning adopted can be shared by a plurality of people who adopt similar criteria of analysis and deductive logic. First of all, in the investigation relating to the communications obtained through the medium Fontanelli, it is necessary to clear the field of the undoubted psychic contaminations due to the mental activity, desires, expectations and fantasies of the medium and the sitters. In relation to these latter, their psychic attitudes could be received by the medium not only telepathically, but also consciously – before and after the trance state – when the sitters commented on the events that occurred during the séance and also told him about them. Above all the typtological phase – due to the same uncertainties related to the features of the communication – was characterized by the usual implausible identifications and stage names provided by the same entities, probably to meet the sitters' expectations: a phenomenon confirmed by a lot of mediumistic literature, which shows various examples of entities that have shown up with the name of more or less famous personalities, without presenting any proof confirming their identity. So Dante, Boccacci, Puccini, Raffaello and the other illustrious names that emerged during the rapping period must be ascribed to the complementary play between the energy sources (whatever their origin) that determined the mediumistic phenomena, and the psyche of the sitters – including the medium – that processed the material from which these energy sources could draw. Therefore the names given by these entities can not in any way be considered as a proof of the survival of the historical figures to whom they were attributed.
Even the presence of arbitrary psychic elements, not infrequently contrary to historically verified events (as in the case of Giovanni Boccacci or the story narrated by the Cossack Edovic) should not be surprising, since the same entities recognized that they had to use elements drawn from the medium's psyche to be able to communicate. One gets the impression that the personality provided by the entities was still fictitious, and susceptible of evolution as the relationship with the group of sitters progressed and deepened. This was also true for the personality of those entities to which the role of guide was recognized, such as Marzo Veritieri or Amato Cellini, who were neither among the illustrious historical figures nor among those who passed away, known to the sitters. The idea of spiritual evolution present in the psyche of some of the sitters, together with the unconditional acceptance of the reincarnation as a vehicle for this evolution, contributed to transform the personality of Marzo from a deceased inhabitant of Empoli, devoid of particular charisma, into a spirit of the highest level, identified – in the minds of some of the sitters – with that of the historical personality of Jesus Christ (Amato himself said, as reported in the minutes of June 5, 1938, to have known Simon Peter in his time).
Objections about some of Ravaldini's assessments
Several years ago Silvio Ravaldini told me that in his opinion a clear distinction had to be made between the rappings period, in which the identifications of the entities were in any case uncertain due to the very rudimental and unreliable communication system, and the period of materialization and direct voice, when the entities manifested themselves autonomously and showed identifying characters, in their appearance or voice, objectively well recognizable and independent from the interpretative interventions of the sitters. However the minutes of the séances, very concise and unfortunately lacking in valid clarifying elements, do not allow us to confirm this assessment. In fact, starting from the sitting of May 20, 1938 (after an interruption of four months in the drafting of the minutes), two types of phenomena were recorded, in addition to the occasional raps that still occurred from time to time: the communications in direct voice and the materializations. While the former continued until 1952, allowing Ravaldini to verify them in person and also to record them, the materializations occurred only in the course of a few séances, in the period in which Ravaldini was not yet allowed to attend them. In the minutes the term materialization, referring to a complete personality, is used only in the séance of May 20, 1938: in addition to Wagner, who in Ravaldini's reconstructions had already materialized before, during unregistered sittings, the materializations of the guides Marzo and Amato, of Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccacci and the medium's grandfather are mentioned. No description is reported in the minutes regarding the appearance, form and consistency of these materializations but, by analogy with what reported with regard to the entity Wagner, we are led to think that they appeared as people of flesh and blood, whose iconographic image could correspond to elements present in the psyche of the medium and the sitters. It is not even clear, apart from a couple of cases, whether the materialization of the entities required complete obscurity or could even occur with the red light on.
The other manifestations of these entities transcribed in the minutes after May 20, 1938, refer only to the direct voice, which was clearly recognizable (like the voices of the guides or of the sitters' relatives and friends passed away). As for the consistency of the aspects relating to the identification of each entity, it should be noted that already in the sitting of December 1, 1937, the entity Boccacci had communicated (by raps) that he had written a book entitled Gocce di Rugiada, saying that he would dictate it in the course of future séances. The same Boccacci, in the sitting of June 9, 1938, dictated – in direct voice – the poem on the wedding of monna Lisa Cavalcanti, whose literary quality and composition vein are at a decidedly lower level than the prose of Gocce di Rugiada. The identifying elements provided by the same entity Boccacci during the period of direct voice are then consistent with those of the typtological period. For example, in the séance of May 24, 1938: Boccacci tells us about a book he wrote, entitled Gocce di Rugiada, which was not published; he says that this book is much better than his Decameron. This communication was made in direct voice, so the entity once again confirmed the attribution of the identity of Boccaccio by the sitters.
Timid and acquiescent attitude of the sitters
The fact is that the attitude of the sitters towards the manifestations of the entities was always completely passive, almost submissive, and aimed at never upsetting the guide entities in any way, probably in the fear that the mediumistic phenomena might cease. For this reason, no serious attempts were ever made to force the entities to provide stringent probative evidence regarding the identity they declared, or attributed to them by the sitters, as instead was done in other cycles of mediumistic séances investigated by scholars devoted to psychical research. Therefore, from the point of view of identifying the entities on the basis of verifiable elements beyond those present in the psyche of the medium or the sitters, the séances of Castelfiorentino offer no element of particular interest, except for the case of the priest Giuseppe Riccardi. Some of the identities, such as that of the spy 47+1 (sitting of March 24, 1945) are certainly fanciful, like many of the reported events or extraordinary revelations made by this or that entity. See for example the description of life on the planet Venus done by Amato in the séance of May 24, 1938: Amato shows up and speaks to us a lot about certain stars. He says that on Venus there are inhabitants like on Earth, only slightly more reddish in color, but they are more advanced than us; there too they have séances as we do, and they have their mediums as we have on Earth. The inhabitants of Venus work an hour or two a day, since a lot of work is done by machines that are set in motion by an electric current that is picked up by antennas made with a metal that is not found on Earth. They sow and harvest the wheat and make bread like we do. There are far fewer illnesses than here. Venus also had its past.
The entities recognized without uncertainty by the sitters, or by the tone and timbre of their voice – identical to those that the known person had in life – or for their physical aspect in the very few cases of materialization (the medium's grandfather) may have drawn, as has been said, to elements present in the psyche of the medium and the sitters for the transmission into our dimension of identifying elements, both in the case in which they were actually what they said they were, and in the case in which they deceived (like the entity Boccacci ). As I have already said, with regard to the hypothesis of the survival of human personality, Castelfiorentino's séancess have no probative value.
Impossibility of explaining the phenomena only on the basis of the unconscious psychic powers of the medium and the sitters
After recognizing these facts, it remains however to understand to whom or what can be attributed the power to produce all the extraordinary physical phenomena that occurred during these séances, and in particular that of the direct voice. In presenting the chronicle of the events reported in the documents, I preferred to keep terms such as spirits and entities – recognizing them a sort of operational autonomy – not only because this was the orientation (of a decidedly spiritualist nature) of those who drafted the minutes and the majority of the sitters, but also because no explanatory hypothesis based solely on presumed psychic powers of the medium is to be considered satisfactory. In fact the psychic hypothesis – defended by the most strenuous adversaries of any form of alien intervention (of a non-physical nature) in the production of physical mediumistic phenomena – to have some value and reliability, must be able to bring all phenomena back to the psychophysical faculties of the medium (and partly also of the sitters) that can be activated using the brain. Otherwise, as Ernesto Bozzano had already guessed in his time, it should be admitted that an energy instrument of a non-physical nature (whatever it is called: spirit, perispirit, ethereal body, ectoplasm, etc.), able to produce the phenomena themselves, is associated with the medium. What we wanted to put out of the door, would come back through the window, because we would be forced to recognize the existence, associate to the human being (or at least to some persons), of a non-physical component capable of operating directly and actively on the physical world. If so, who can exclude a priori that this component could not even survive the death of the physical body?
Facts that corroborate the existence of autonomous entities
The direct voice communication recordings of the guide Mariòl (with her typical way of expressing and the questions addressed to the other communicating entities and the sitters) and the interferences of the spirit invading the field, induce to consider also the effective existence of entities endowed with autonomous forms of intellect and intentionality, existing in a different dimension from ours. The complexity of the communication, the uncertainties, the anomalies, the repetitions and the need for confirmation regarding the transfer and orientation of the transmission by Mariòl, show a framework that cannot be interpreted and understood in terms of a single energy source connected with the medium. Therefore, in the attempt to find the agent that produces the phenomenon, we must also hypothesize the existence of other individual energetic forms, called spirits by the followers of spiritism.
Difficulties that arise in making entities correspond to the spirits of the deceased
As for the connection between these entities and human beings actually lived on this Earth, I believe that the picture offered by Castelfiorentino's sèances contains – as we have already observed – some (few) convincing elements and a lot of others not convincing. What most disturbs our reason are the imaginative, misleading or insincere declarations of some of these entities (though not all of them). On this topic, however, it is advisable to study in depth the vast literature concerning mediumistic communications, of which only a minimal part has been reported – only by way of example – in the pages of this section. Our reason has become particularly demanding with regard to the evidence provided, and the presence of assumptions (absolutely devoid of validation evidence) and imaginative psychic components, in stark contrast to our positive knowledge, makes us doubt also of those communications and statements that could have some foundation of truth.
Autonomy of the entities and sources of human creativity
We have already highlighted the importance of the psychic elements elaborated by the mind of the medium and the sitters for the staging of the representation during the séances. But often the entities showed to behave in full autonomy, doing and saying things that had no plausible connection with what the sitters could think or devise. Why should the entity Wagner have had to remove a shoe from the feet of each of the sitters? Why the novel Gocce di Rugiada was dictated? The entity who dictated Gocce di Rugiada, beyond his arbitrary self-identification with Boccaccio, seemed to actually draw on an already written text, according to the testimony of Ravaldini, who had the opportunity of hearing the Writer many times and was fascinated by him. The security with which he proceeded, the clarity of his diction, the precision with which he articulated the words and with which in some cases – facing the uncertainty of those who had to write them down – spelled them letter by letter, seemed to confirm the existence of a dimension in the which that work was already present, in one form or another.
In relation to human creativity, both in the artistic as well as in the scientific and technical field, I would like to recall that the etymology of the term invention comes from the Latin invenio, which means: I find. Trovatori and trovieri (from the French troubadours and trouvères) were called in the Middle Ages people of spirit, poets and poetesses, composers of stories, storytellers and singers capable of creating something that would capture the attention and curiosity of the public. Trovas were called (and still are) the songs of the Cuban Son (boleros, habaneras). In some ways the idea of inspiration as a process that brings us into contact with a dimension in which we find what we seek (even without knowing well what it is) has some affinity with mediumship, and shows a significant difference with respect to the process of rational construction, which is attributed exclusively to the faculties of brain processing.
The medium as the fulcrum of the interference between two dimensions
In any case, we must recognize the exceptional nature of the medium as an instrument through which the mediumistic phenomena are produced, and without whose extraordinary faculties it is not possible to establish a contact with the other dimension, despite the lively desire and will of all the other sitters. This fact is also one of the weak points of spiritism: no matter how high the evolutionary level attributed to the guide entities may be, they are not able to establish a contact with our dimension if the medium is not present, despite the desire and commitment of the members of the spiritualist circle. As some researchers of the early twentieth century (for example psychiatrist Enrico Morselli) had already highlighted, the medium represents the essential element for the study of mediumistic phenomena: there must be a fundamental difference between a medium like Fontanelli and a normal human being not gifted with mediumistic faculties, a diversity that is not found in the ordinary behavior of the medium – assimilable in everything to that of a normal person, sensitive indeed, but for every verse absolutely reliable – nor, I think, in his psycho-somatic apparatus. I don't know if an autopsy was ever performed to examine the brain of a medium of the caliber of Urbino Fontanelli, but my opinion – even if not supported by evidence – is that nothing unusual would be found. On this I don't agree with Morselli and other exponents of the psychological schools of the beginning of the last century, which highlighted the psychic anomalies that characterized the personalities of many mediums (but also – I would add – those of many scholars of the psychical phenomena).
In the case of Urbino Fontanelli, since it was not his conscious will that determined the mediumistic phenomena, someone could be tempted to ascribe them (on the basis – as we have seen – of a superficial examination) to some more or less obscure unconscious faculties, entering into the insidious territory that the concept of the unconscious still entails in our day, object as it is of different forms of interpretation not infrequently entirely subjective (see the pages about the unconscious in the section human psyche). To remain well grounded, without wanting to explain facts that remain mysterious with even more enigmatic causes, the unconscious must still fall within the (personal) context of all those modes of physiological, behavioral and psychological functioning of the human organism which do not reach the consciousness and therefore escape any control by the Ego. Therefore all the unconscious dynamics concern the individual psyche and can determine particular behaviors and bodily reactions: for this reason, they may involve the psyche of other people, but are never able to determine physical phenomena such as direct voice, levitation, apports, displacements or levitation of the medium and his chair, and all the other mediumistic events that occurred in the séances of Castelfiorentino. So, it is necessary to hypothesize the existence of extraordinary powers of a non-physical nature – but able to interact with the physical world and to determine events within it – whose origin, which cannot be attributed to the physical person of the medium, must be traced back to entities existing in a dimension distinct from the physical one.