Tuesday, January 26, 2010
From Phantasms of the Living by Edmund Gurney, Frederic Myers, and Frank Podmore, Chapter VI "Transference of Ideas and Mental Pictures."
In the next case (which might fairly have been included under the head of experiments) we break away altogether from the auditory symbols of thought, and have a transference of an idea pure and simple. For even if the agent was formulating his thought to himself, he would naturally do so in English, while the percipient described his impression in Italian. The account is from Mr. Robert Browning, and was first cited by Mr. James Knowles, in a letter to the Spectator of January 30th, 1869.
"Mr. Robert Browning tells me that when he was in Florence some years since, an Italian nobleman (a Count Giunasi, of Ravenna), visiting at Florence, was brought to his house without previous introduction, by an intimate friend. The Count professed to have great mesmeric or clairvoyant faculties, and declared, in reply to Mr. Browning's avowed scepticism, that he would undertake to convince him, somehow or other, of his powers. He then asked Mr. Browning whether he had anything about him then and there, which he could hand to him, and which was in any way a relic or memento. This, Mr. Browning thought, was, perhaps, because he habitually wore no sort of trinket or ornament, not even a watch-guard, and might, therefore, turn out to be a safe challenge. But it so happened, that by a curious accident, he was then wearing under his coat-sleeves some gold wrist-studs to his shirt, which he had quite recently taken into wear, in the absence (by mistake of a sempstress) of his ordinary wrist-buttons. He had never before worn them in Florence or elsewhere, and had found them in some old drawer, where they had lain forgotten for years. One of these studs he took out and handed to the Count, who held it in his hand awhile, looking earnestly in Mr. Browning's face, and then he said, as if much impressed, 'C'e qualche cosa die mi grida nell' orecchio, " Uccisione, uccisione ! " '[There is something here which cries out in my ear, 'Murder, murder!'"
"'And truly,' says Mr. Browning, 'those very studs were taken from the dead body of a great-uncle of mine, who was violently killed on his estate in St. Kitts, nearly 80 years ago. These, with a gold watch and other personal objects of value, were produced in a court of justice, as proof that robbery had not been the purpose of the slaughter, which was effected by his own slaves. They were then transmitted to my grandfather, who had his initials engraved on them, and wore them all his life. They were taken out of the night-gown in which he died, and given to me, not my father. I may add that I tried to get Count Giunasi to use his clairvoyance on this termination of ownership, also; and that he nearly hit upon something like the fact, mentioning a bed in a room, but he failed in attempting to describe the room — situation of the bed with respect to windows and door. The occurrence of my greatuncle's murder was known only to myself, of all men in Florence, as certainly was also my possession of the studs.'"
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