article by Carlos Alvarado Ph.D. was originally published in the
Journal of Near-Death Studies,
23(4), Summer 2005. It is presented here with
the kind permission of the author, Prof. Alvarado, and
editor of the Journal of Near-Death Studies.
Italian psychical researcher
Ernesto Bozzano (1862-1943) was a
well-known student of parapsychological phenomena and a strong defender of the
concept of survival of bodily death. This paper includes an excerpt of what Bozzano referred to as the phenomena of bilocation, a term he used for the
phantom limb sensations experienced by amputees, autoscopy, out-of-body and
near-death experiences (OBEs and NDEs), and a variety of luminous or cloud-like
emanations that clairvoyants claimed left the body at the moment of death. He
believed these phenomena indicated the existence of a subtle body capable of
exteriorization during life as well as at the moment of death. I present
Bozzano’s ideas in the context of his career as a psychical researcher and of
previous discussions of the topic found in the early literature of Spiritualism
and psychical research. Although some contemporary students of OBEs and NDEs
still speculate on the relationship of these phenomena to the concept of
survival of death, Bozzano’s work is not widely cited today and few researchers
have followed up his method. Nonetheless, his work is of historical interest,
reminding us of areas and phenomena that deserve further study.
ITALIAN PSYCHICAL researcher Ernesto Bozzano (1862-1943) was an important
defender of the concept of survival of death through the study of the phenomena
of parapsychology. Part of this work centered on the phenomena of "bilocation,"
a term he used to refer to the exteriorization or projection of both
consciousness and subtle bodies from the physical body. This term is usually
used in the Christian literature to refer to instances in which saints are seen
as an apparition in a location different from where their physical body is
actually located (Gregorio, 2004). Bozzano’s concept of bilocation included
out-of-body experiences (OBEs), near-death experiences (NDEs), and other
phenomena I will discuss later in this paper.
Although Bozzano was an active contributor to the Italian and French literatures
on psychic phenomena from the turn of the century to the early 1940s, his
writings on bilocation are generally forgotten today. This work does not appear
in a number of comprehensive discussions of the topic of survival of death that
include OBEs (Almeder, 1992;
Fontana, 2005; Gauld, 1982;
1982). While Bozzano has been cited in some discussions about OBEs, these
citations have been limited to his views about specific features of the
phenomena (Alvarado, 1997, pp. 21-22;
Irwin, 1985, p. 22). But Bozzano’s actual
work, that is, his particular approach to the analysis of bilocation, and his
conceptualizations of this phenomena, have been neglected (for an exception see
the brief discussion in Alvarado, 1989, p. 30). Such neglect may stem from a
variety of reasons. Most of Bozzano's works appeared before 1940 and they were
published mainly in Italian and French. Furthermore, many of Bozzano's
methodological and conceptual assumptions may be questioned by contemporary
academic researchers who study the relevant phenomena, as I will discuss later.
However, Bozzano’s work deserves to be better known not only because of its
place in the history of the subject, but also to assess its relevance today. In
order to contribute to the dissemination of his ideas about bilocation, I
reprint here one of his later discussions on the subject. This will be preceded
by a general discussion of Bozzano and the context of his ideas, that is, the
literature discussing the belief that consciousness can leave the body both
during life and at death. In addition, after presenting the excerpt of Bozzano’s
writings, I will briefly discuss his work in the context of modern developments.
Bozzano and Psychical Research
the early 1890s, when Bozzano became interested in psychic phenomena, both
Spiritualism and psychical research had developed a considerable literature (Inglis,
1992). Although there had been much interest in telepathy (Luckhurst, 2002),
many of the efforts of psychical researchers focused on the empirical study of
phenomena that some believed indicated the possibility of survival after bodily
death. This approach was very influential on the research agenda of a variety of
psychical researchers, including those of the London-based Society for Psychical
Research, founded in 1882 (Alvarado, 2003; Gauld, 1968). Studies of this type
included research into haunted houses, apparitions, and the performances of
mediums, that is, individuals who presumably were able to manifest the influence
of deceased persons. The phenomena of mediumship included visions, speaking and
writing, and such physical effects as telekinesis (movements of objects without
contact) and materializations (appearances of body parts or whole bodies) in the
Bozzano began to study psychic phenomena in 1891 and soon gained an
international reputation for a career devoted to establishing the existence of
spirit (Alvarado, 1987a, 2000a; Bozzano, 1924; Iannuzzo, 1983; Ravaldini, 1993;
Siegel and Hirschman, 1983). In looking back on his work, some said Bozzano was
the dean of Italian spiritists and psychical researchers (Fodor, 1933/1966, p.
36). His writings were hailed as among the classics of modern Spiritualism
(Meyer, 1928, p. 439).
By his own admission, Bozzano had a materialistic approach to life and
intellectual concerns, but his reading of the psychical research literature and
later experiences with mediums convinced him that the phenomena were real and
that many of them indicated that humankind survived bodily death (Bozzano,
1924). This belief, as well as his experiences with the influential Italian
physical medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918) (Alvarado, 1993), were expressed
in his book Ipotesi Spiritica e Teoria Scientifiche (Bozzano, 1903).
Throughout the years Bozzano became known for many reasons, but I will focus
here on those I consider to be the most important.
First, Bozzano produced highly polemical writings countering anti-survival
speculations. This included, but was not limited to, criticisms of French
physiologist Charles Richet (1850-1935) and psychical researcher and popularizer
of science René Sudre (1890-1968) (Bozzano, 1923b, 1926). His criticism of Sudre
was published in book form, in which Bozzano replied to Sudre’s attempts in his
textbook Introduction à la Métapsychique Humaine (1926) to explain
survival-related phenomena in purely psychological terms or as the
parapsychological powers of the living.
Second, Bozzano argued that psychic phenomena showed that human beings had a
nonphysical component. For example, he considered telepathy to be "basically a
manifestation of a psychic or spiritual nature" (Bozzano, 1933, p. 148; this,
and other translations, are mine) and a faculty "independent of the
psychophysiological functions of the cerebral organ" (p. 149). Similarly, in his
book Dei Fenomeni di Telestesia Bozzano argued that telesthesia (or
clairvoyance) was a spiritual, nonphysical faculty (Bozzano, 1942, pp. 172-173).
This nonphysicality was made evident in his discussions of phenomena that
indicated survival of death such as haunted houses and deathbed visions (Bozzano,
1919/1925c, 1923c). In fact, Bozzano believed that survival of death was proved
beyond a reasonable doubt. In his view, the investigations conducted in
different areas of psychical research without prejudice and following a
scientific approach "all converge ... in the experimental demonstration of the
existence and the survival of
the soul" (Bozzano, 1923c, p. 260).
Third, in an argument closely related to the previous point, Bozzano actively
defended the view that supernormal subconscious functions were independent of
biological evolution. In an early article he stated that the powers of the
subconscious were not affected by natural selection. Furthermore, he affirmed in
the article (following
Myers, 1903) that these powers belonged to a spiritual
realm and that their purpose was to be used after bodily death (Bozzano, 1906,
p. 561; for later discussions of evolution see Bozzano, 1923a, ca. 1938).
Fourth, and also related to the second and third points, Bozzano (1926, ca.
1938) believed that survival of death was proved by the combined consideration
of phenomena produced by the dead and by the living, the latter of which Bozzano
referred as "animism." Although traditionally the word "animism" is used to
refer to the belief that objects and other aspects of nature have a spiritual
essence, Bozzano here followed Alexander Aksakof (1890/ca. 1906) in using the
term to denote the psychic powers of the living. This position differed from
that of those who saw the psychic powers of the living as mere explanations for
survival phenomena (Richet, 1924; Sudre, 1926). Because such animistic phenomena
as telepathy and clairvoyance were not considered to have physical explanations
or to be shaped by biological evolution, Bozzano saw them as demonstrating the
existence of a nonphysical component during life. Instead of using animistic
phenomena to explain spiritistic phenomena, Bozzano argued that they should be
seen as the complement of discarnate influence:
are indispensable for the purpose and cannot be separated, since both are the
effects of a single cause; and this cause is the human spirit, which, when it
manifests in transient flashes during "incarnate" existence, determines
animistic phenomena, and when it manifests in a "discarnate" condition in the
world of the living, determines spiritistic phenomena" (ca. 1938, pp. viii-ix).
Fifth, Bozzano published many studies of specific topics or types of phenomena
in which he brought together many cases from both the spiritualistic and
psychical research literatures. Among these were how symbolism appears in such
phenomena as extrasensory perception (ESP) and apparitions (Bozzano, 1907); the
different ways in which thought and will can create reality, as seen in such
physical phenomena as materializations and thought-photographic effects (Bozzano,
1926-1927/1929); and the occurrence and importance of psychic phenomena in
so-called primitive people (Bozzano, 1927). Furthermore, Bozzano conducted many
studies of the manifestation and gradation of features in a variety of specific
phenomena such as haunted houses, deathbed phenomena, mediumistic communication
from the living, cases of "transfiguration" in which the medium's face was
altered, clairvoyance, and "transcendental" music (music heard at deathbeds or
produced by mediums), and mediumistic communications describing the experience
of death (Bozzano, 1919/1925c; 1923c, 1925b, 1934b, 1942, 1943/1982, 1952).
In this work, Bozzano arranged cases in terms of types and tried to establish
continuities between the different types to support his spiritualistic
interpretations. In his analyses, Bozzano emphasized the importance of the
principle of convergence of proof. This referred to the confluence of different
types and features of the phenomena to support his survival interpretations. For
example, in his book Phénomènes Psychiques au Moment de la Mort, Bozzano
(1923c) used a variety of deathbed manifestations, including visions, movement
of objects, and music heard at deathbeds, to defend the concept of discarnate
agency. Some specific characteristics of the cases, such as collective
percipience, were also discussed to support the point.
In his arguments, Bozzano characteristically emphasized that his conclusions
were logical, being strictly derived from the analysis of facts. For example, in
a paper on telepathy, he referred to the "indubitable existence" of facts
"demonstrated" by his "comparative analyses of the facts" (Bozzano, 1933, p.
156). He took a similar approach in the excerpt on bilocation phenomena
Bozzano’s numerous publications were used as a convenient reference for
illustrative purposes even by authors who did not follow his conclusions. The
latter was particularly true among writers outside of the Anglo-American
tradition (Richet, 1922; Sudre, 1926). Furthermore, a widely used reference
work, Nandor Fodor’s (1933/1966) Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science,
mentioned Bozzano repeatedly in many entries, including those about hauntings
(p. 165), premonitions (p. 299), symbolism (p. 374), and xenoglossy (p. 410).
However, Bozzano’s influence regarding ideas of nonphysicality and survival was
limited, for the most part, to those individuals who were already convinced of
those interpretations. In fact, his books were frequently criticized by others
who raised questions about evidentiality in the cases he discussed and about his
interpretation (De Vesme, 1934;
Driesch, 1932/1933, pp. 34, 155; Saltmarsh,
1938). One of his strongest critics pointed out that Bozzano confused facts and
their interpretation, and that he had a tendency to assume dogmatically that he
had reached the truth through analyses of cases that did not, in fact, provide
all the necessary information for such conclusions (De Vesme, 1935).
The Immediate Context for Bozzano's Ideas of Bilocation
Before presenting an excerpt of Bozzano’s writing on bilocation, I want to
emphasize the importance of the literature that influenced him. Bozzano was
extremely well read both in the publications that preceded him and in those
contemporary to his work. Some of what I mention below was cited by Bozzano and
it is likely that he was familiar with the rest of this literature. Leaving
aside discussions of concepts and cases related to ideas about the separation of
the soul, spirit, or subtle body from the physical body published before the
19th century (Mead, 1919; Poortman, 1954/1978; Zaleski, 1987), I will discuss
briefly the literature that provided a context for Bozzano's later ideas.
Readers interested in more details about some of these materials should consult
my previous reviews (Alvarado, 1980, 1989) and those of
Susan Blackmore (1982),
and Harvey Irwin (1985).
In addition to conventional religious views about the spirit, the soul, and its
destiny (Alger, 1878), during the 19th century several movements promoted the
existence of some component of human beings capable of slightly detaching from
or completely leaving the physical body, and thus producing a variety of psychic
phenomena. One of these movements was mesmerism. In the view of an early
mesmerist, the somnambulist (or "magnetized" individual) could show clairvoyance
because the soul was temporarily detached from the usual sensory pathways and
could receive impressions directly from a subtle principle that acted as an
intermediary between the physical body and the soul (Chardel, 1818, p. 37).
Others referred to this principle as a semimaterial body made of nervous fluid (Charpignon,
1851, p. 76).
Some of the old mesmerizers used to "send" their magnetized subjects to distant
locations to test their clairvoyance, a phenomenon that came to be called "traveling
clairvoyance." While some subjects only reported images of distant locations,
others seemed to feel that they were actually in that location. In a description
of what seemed to be an OBE in a magnetized individual, one author wrote:
appeared, as if her mind partially left her body, to go to the place
sought; ... From these distant places, the mind seemed to come fully back ...But
this coming back was attended with ...much prostration, and ...alarming
palpitation of the heart ....’’ (Haddock, 1851, p. 107).
magnetic work included that of French researchers
Albert de Rochas (1837-1914)
and Hector Durville (1849-1923). Their magnetized subjects claimed they could
see their own doubles or the doubles of other subjects (De Rochas, 1895;
Durville, 1909). Furthermore, Durville (1909) presented pictures of the outlines
of his subject's exteriorized "phantoms" and recorded observations of physical
phenomena produced by them at his command.
Some reported that communications received through mediums referred to a fluidic
body called the "perispirit" that allowed the immaterial spirit to use the
physical body and to produce all kinds of phenomena, such as movement of tables
and visible apparitions (Kardec, 1863). The spirit was reportedly able to leave
the physical body in certain conditions such as sleep or trance, although
during life the spirit is never completely separated from the body. The Spirits,
similar to some seeing mediums, recognize the Spirit of a living person through
a luminous trail coming from his body, a phenomenon that does not take place
when the body is dead ... . (Kardec, 1863, p. 146)
Similarly, it was argued that a person "may in the present life detach his soul,
in a greater or less degree, from its corporeal organization" (Jung-Stilling,
1808/1851, p. 229).
Apparitions of the living were explained by many through the concept of a
"double," or subtle replica of the human body housed inside it but able to leave
the body in certain conditions. Examples of this idea are available in the work
of such authors as Adolphe D'Assier (1883/1887), Annie Besant (n.d.), Louis-Sophrone
Fugairon (1907), and Sylvan Muldoon and
Hereward Carrington (1929). In addition,
many of these were cases in which the person who appeared was not conscious of
leaving the body, such as those in which the apparition coincided with crises
brought on by illness, accidents, or being near-death. These are the cases that
formed the subject matter of a study that, to this day, is considered one of the
central classics of early psychical research, Phantasms of the Living
(Gurney, Myers and
Podmore, 1886). Although the main thesis of the book was not
the projection of a double, but the idea that these apparitions were
hallucinations caused by telepathy, one of the authors of the book disagreed
(Myers, 1886). As he elaborated in a later publication, some people had a
"special idiosyncrasy which tends to make the phantasm of a person easily
perceptible; the breaking loose of a psychical element, definable mainly by its
power of producing a phantasm" (Myers, 1903, Vol. 1, p. xx).
In addition to apparitions, there was much speculation on the role of the double
in explaining materialization phenomena. Thus, in one case it was argued that
the materialization of a whole body was "not an independent spirit, but the
spirit, or ‘double’ of the medium ... ." (Anonymous, 1873, p. 452). The concept
was also used later with medium Eusapia Palladino to account for phenomena such
as the imprints of faces and hands on clay (De Rochas, 1897, p. 25). Other ideas
about subtle bodies came from a variety of occult teachings (Papus, 1900). The
movement of Theosophy was particularly influential, in that it emphasized a
variety of subtle bodies with different properties and functions (Deveney,
1997). As one representative of this movement wrote, some people could project
their "astral body" (Judge, 1893, Chapter 5).
Outside of Theosophy, there were also published cases of individuals claiming to
have had the experience of being out of the body. Some consisted of a single or
a few experiences (Committee of the London Dialectical Society, 1871, pp.
162-163; Crowe, 1848, Vol. 1, pp. 178-179; Durville, 1909, pp. 82-89; Funk,
1907, pp. 181-184). For example, in one case the experiencer was studying for a
medical exam and felt unable to move. He wrote:
suddenly seemed to divide into two distinct beings .... One of these beings
remained motionless on the sofa; the other could move some little distance, and
could actually look at the motionless body on the sofa. There existed between
these two "beings" an elastic force which prevented the one from severing its
connection with the other. At will I could make the second "being" lie on the
floor, or move some distance about the room. As the distance between the two
beings became greater, so did the elastic force seem to become more powerful. A
limit was soon reached at which no effort of will could effect a further
severance. This limit was about two yards. When this limit was reached, I could
feel resistance to the separating efforts in both "beings" ... . I resisted the
feeling of fusion. It could be prevented at will. Eventually, with a curiosity
to know "what was going to happen next," I allowed it to proceed. The two beings
then rapidly united again ... . (Simons, 1894, p. 288)
were also accounts of recurrent OBEs published in such books as The
Beginnings of Seership (Turvey, ca. 1911) and My Travels in the Spirit
World (Larsen, 1927), and in articles (Fox, 1920). None of these was as
detailed about the features of the experiences as Muldoon's discussions in
The Projection of the Astral Body (Muldoon and Carrington, 1929). This book
was and remains influential because of its detailed discussion of induction
methods and of specific "astral" phenomena. Another influential work along these
lines was Méthode de Dédoublement Personnel, by French occultist Charles
Lancelin (1852-1941). He discussed such projection methods as the training of
the will and autosuggestion, as well as the importance of a variety of physical
conditions to successfully project the astral body such as ambient temperature,
bodily position, and mood (Lancelin, 1913/1986).
Furthermore, there were NDE accounts as well (Myers, 1892, pp. 180-186,
195-200). One of them was the widely cited case of physician
A. S. Wiltse. After he experienced some rocking motions he wrote:
felt and heard ... the snapping of innumerable small cords ... . I began slowly
to retreat from the feet, toward the head ... . I passed around the brain as if
I were hollow, compressing it and its membranes, slightly, on all sides, toward
the centre and peeped out between the sutures of the skull, emerging like the
flattened edges of a bag of membranes. I recollect distinctly how I appeared to
myself something like a jelly fish as regards colour and form .... As I emerged
from the head I floated up and down and laterally like a soap-bubble attached to
the bowl of a pipe until I at last broke loose from the body and fell lightly to
the floor ... . I seemed to be translucent, of a bluish cast and perfectly naked
... . (Myers, 1892, p. 181)
addition to apparitions of the living, OBEs, and NDEs, Spiritualism always
delivered the message that death was a transition to another world. This idea
came frequently through mediumistic communications received from supposed
spirits. Chemist and physician Robert Hare (1781-1858) recorded mediumistic
messages in his book Experimental Investigations of the Spirit Manifestations
(1855), in which communicators described "spiritual birth," descriptions of the
spirit leaving the physical body at death.
Another interesting line of discussion characterized death as a permanent OBE.
In one such case apparently clairvoyant individuals observed emanations from the
body at death, a description of which appears in the excerpt reprinted below.
Clairvoyant and "inspired" speaker Andrew Jackson Davis (1826-1910) described
the process as follows:
clairvoyant sees right over the head ... a magnetic halo ... in appearance
golden, and throbbing ... . The person has ceased to breathe, the pulse is
still, and the emanation is elongated and fashioned in the outline of the human
form! ... . The head of the person is internally throbbing ... . The golden
emanation ... is connected with the brain by a very fine life-thread. Now the
body of the emanation ascends. Then appears something white and
shining, like a human head; next, in a very few moments, a faint outline of
the face divine; then the fair neck and beautiful shoulders; then, in rapid
succession, come all parts of the new body down to the feet - a bright, shining
image, a little smaller than this physical body, but a perfect prototype or
reproduction ... . The fine life-thread continues attached to the old brain ....
When this thread snaps, the spiritual body is free! And prepared to accompany
its guardians to the Summer-Land (Davis, 1868, pp. 15-16).
one of these cases medium William Stainton Moses (1839-1892) reported that he
observed a luminous aura around a dying individual (Anonymous, 1887/1904). In
another case the husband of a dying woman observed for several hours mists and
spirits around his wife, as well as the departure of her spirit, which was
connected to the physical body through a cord (Anonymous, 1908, pp. 309-310).
None of the other people present saw any of this. Such accounts of death may
have inspired allegedly successful attempts to photograph and weigh the
departure of some component of the human body at death (Baraduc, 1908;
MacDougall, 1907). But similar claims of instrumental detection were also found
in the literature in which occasional and usually controversial photographs were
taken that were said to depict the double of living persons (Oxon, 1876).
Many believed that these phenomena supported the view that "something" could be
exteriorized from the body. This "something" was believed to be able to carry
consciousness on occasion and to separate from the body permanently at death (Mattiesen,
1931, 1936-1939, Vol. 2, pp. 296-411). However, not everyone shared these views.
English psychical researcher Edmund Gurney (1847-1888) believed that some
apparitions of the living in which the persons who appeared felt they were at
the location where they were seen could be explained by telepathy between the
two parties (Gurney, Myers, and Podmore, 1886, Vol. 2, Chapter 17). Gurney also
described nonveridical spontaneous sensations of feeling oneself out of the body
as a hallucination (Gurney, Myers, and Podmore, 1886, Vol. 1, p. 288, footnote).
This interpretation was shared by later writers whom Bozzano cited in his
publications (Osty, 1930). Several others did not accept the idea that objective
doubles could be projected from the body (Richet, 1922; Sudre, 1926).
Bozzano on Bilocation
Bozzano defined bilocation as a conglomerate of manifestations showing a
gradation from phenomena of the living to those taking place during the dying
process that, in his view, showed the existence of a subtle body and indicated
the potential to survive death. Somewhat similar approaches may be found in the
writings of Gabriel Delanne (1909), William Harrison (1879), and
Frederic W. H.
Myers (1903). Bozzano discussed the topic in many publications (1923c, pp.
102-103; 1926, Chapter 10; 1933, pp. 151-152; 1934a; ca. 1938, Chapter 4; 1942,
pp. 155-156) and commented on the similarity between descriptions of the process
of death given by mediumistic communicators and by clairvoyants (Bozzano, 1952).
Bozzano’s main discussion on the subject consisted of a multipart paper (Bozzano,
1911) and an expansion of this paper into a book, the French translation of
which was entitled Les Phénomènes de Bilocation (Bozzano, 1934/1937).
In this book, Bozzano claimed that bilocation phenomena were of "decisive
importance" to the argument for survival of death because they proved the
existence of an "etheric body" within the somatic body that may exit the
physical body during its life (Bozzano, 1934/1937, p. 8). He discussed the topic
using four groups of cases. The first group included phantom limb sensations
experienced by amputees and the sensations of doubling reported by hemiplegics.
Not convinced of the validity of conventional neurological explanations for
these phenomena, Bozzano believed instead that the sensations in question were
explained by a fluidic body and that they represented the initial stage of
The second group of cases were those of visions of the self while consciousness
remained in the physical body (autoscopy). Bozzano accepted that some of these
cases had a pathological component. But overall, he saw them as the transition
between being in the body and getting out of it. This was particularly true of a
small number of cases in which consciousness seemed to shift between the
physical and the autoscopic body.
The third group of cases consisted of those in which consciousness was felt to
be definitively separated from the physical body (OBEs and NDEs). These cases
took place mainly "during absolute rest of the body" (Bozzano, 1934/1937, p.
41). Bozzano emphasized cases in which the person had been to a place far from
the body and obtained information about events taking place at that distant
Finally, in the last group of cases Bozzano included those accounts in which the
phantom of the living person was perceived by a third party. Not counting an NDE
case that was not perceived by anyone else other than the experiencer, the
chapter included eight accounts of apparitions of the living and 13 accounts of
emanations from the body of dying individuals. The latter referred to mists or
cloud-like forms, luminous manifestations, and the shape of the dying
Bozzano admitted that in some cases it was difficult to distinguish between the
projection of a double and a telepathic hallucination. Nonetheless, he argued
that the projection explanation was a better one in many cases, particularly in
those cases in which the phenomenon was perceived collectively. Observations
made around the dying individuals were particularly impressive to Bozzano, who
considered them to be an "embryonary or rudimentary" doubling representing the
"initial phase of 'deathbed bilocation' phenomena'" (Bozzano, 1934/1937, p.
120). This initial stage was the exteriorization of fluid subtle energies or
matter in a diffuse state, a process that ended with the formation or the
condensation of the whole etheric body. Furthermore, Bozzano believed that the
deathbed vision of the dying themselves, as well as apparitions of the dead,
complemented bilocation and represented the functioning of consciousness after
separation from the body. However, those phenomena received only a brief mention
at the end of the book.
Following his well-known approach to case analyses, Bozzano (1934/ 1937, p. 172)
argued that his classification and analysis of cases put emphasis on "legitimate
and conclusive" evidence he obtained through "comparative analysis and the
convergence of proofs." Each of the above mentioned phenomena was seen to
converge on the conclusion of the existence of a fluidic body. The objective
nature of this agent, Bozzano believed, was evident because of his use of
"procedures of comparative analysis with hundreds of facts of the same genre ...
which represent all the gradations that this phenomenology shows ...." (Bozzano,
1934/1937, p. 172). Starting with sensations within the body, the cases
progressed to seeing oneself from the physical body, to having consciousness
projected out-of-the-body into a phantom body, and finally to what seemed to
Bozzano to be a permanent projection from the body. The latter was the only
group of cases that did not depend on the testimony of the experiencer.
In the final pages of his monograph Bozzano stated that the acceptance of an
etheric body as an explanation for the above mentioned phenomena implicated the
existence of an etheric brain. Furthermore, this conclusion showed the existence
of the spirit, an entity that ruled the mind using the body to manifest itself
but independent of it (Bozzano, 1934/1937, p. 175).
The excerpts reprinted below consist of parts of Chapter Four of Bozzano's
Discarnate Influence in Human Life (pp. 101-149), published around 1938 (the
book was also published in Italian: Bozzano, 1938/1967). The organizing
committee of the International Spiritualist Congress, held at Glasgow in 1937,
presented an invitation to Bozzano to write this book, asking him to be the
Honorary Vice-President of the Congress and to summarize his many years' work on
the topic "Animism or Spiritism: Which Explains the Facts?" (Bozzano, ca. 1938,
p. vii). The excerpts, with my comments added in brackets, follow:
generic appellation "Phenomena of Bilocation" is used to designate the various
ways in which the mysterious occurrence of "exteriorization of the double" takes
place in the bodily organism. These phenomena are of fundamental importance for
metapsychical science, since they serve to show that animistic manifestations,
although connected with the functions of the psycho-physical organism of the
living, have their origin in something qualitatively different from the organism
itself. Hence they assume a definite theoretical value for the experimental
demonstration of the survival of the human spirit. In other words: the phenomena
of bilocation demonstrate that within the "somatic body" there exists an
indwelling "etheric body," which in rare circumstances of weakening of vitality
in the individual (physiological sleep, hypnotic sleep, mediumistic trance,
ecstasy, swooning, narcosis, coma) is able to release itself temporarily from
the ‘‘somatic body’’ during incarnate existence. The inevitable inference
follows that if the etheric body is able to separate temporarily from the
somatic body, preserving its consciousness intact, we must end by recognizing
that when it separates definitively at the crisis of death, the individualized
spirit will continue to exist in an appropriate environment. This is equivalent
to admitting that the fact of the immanent existence in the somatic body of an
etheric body, and consequently of an etheric brain, shows that the seat of
consciousness, intelligence, memory and supernormal sense faculties, is the
etheric body, which is the sublimated and immaterial garment of the discarnate
In 1910 I published a long monograph on the phenomena under examination [the
actual year was 1911]; but as facts of this nature continued to accumulate in
great numbers, I decided recently to publish a second edition, double the size
of the first. Thus I am in a position to discuss this important question with
full knowledge of the subject. In the work alluded to I start from the so-called
phenomena of "sensations of wholeness in the amputated," where, at times, the
sense of the wholeness of the missing limb is so real that even if the
individual’s attention be distracted, he still feels the sensation that the
missing limb would have felt had it been there. And that a limb in a fluidic
state really exists there may be concluded from the fact that "clairvoyant
sensitives" affirm that they see it. In this connection I recalled the
interesting case narrated by Dr. Kerner in his famous book, The Seeress of
Prevost, in which the seeress in question, when she met a person who had
lost a limb, continued to see the missing limb joined to the body in a fluidic
form .... [German poet and physician Justinus Kerner (1786-1862) recorded the
trances and psychic phenomena of Frederica Hauffe (1801-1829) (Kerner, 1845).
For a discussion of the experiences of amputees as a function of the spiritist
concept of the perispirit see D’Assier, 1883/1887, pp. 103-104, and Bouvery,
1897, pp. 44-47].
There is ... no doubt that the phenomena of "sensations of wholeness in the
amputated," concur admirably to demonstrate the existence of an etheric body
immanent in the somatic body. Hence the importance they assume for the
scientific demonstration of the existence and survival of the human spirit.
I discussed in my monograph, after cases of the above nature, instances of
"incipient bilocation" of those suffering from hemiplegia, who sometimes see, on
the paralysed side, a longitudinal section of the phantasm of themselves, and
affirm that it enjoys a completeness of sensation, a fact inexplicable by Dr.
Sollier's "coenesthesic" hypothesis, since in those afflicted with hemiplegia,
far from an exaggeration of the coenesthetic sense, the suppression of
this sense exists [Paul Auguste Sollier (1861-1933) published an important book
on autoscopy (Sollier, 1903)].
Next follows the cases of "autoscopic bilocation," in which the subject sees his
own phantasm while preserving full consciousness .... I show that if the
psychopathic hypothesis formulated by Dr. Sollier to explain these cases in
their totality could be held legitimate before the advent of metapsychical
investigation, it is now no longer so, since in the same manner as the
investigations of telepathy demonstrate that not all hallucinations are
fictitious, so the investigation of the phenomena of bilocation shows that not
all episodes of autoscopy are psychopathic [The most important study of
telepathy used to show that not all hallucinations were subjective was that of
Gurney, Myers and Podmore (1886). Other influential works included the studies
of Aksakof (1890/ca. 1906), Delanne (1909), and
I then passed on to the analysis of the cases in which consciousness is
transferred to the phantasm, which sees before it its own unconscious body.
These are very interesting cases, in which the supernormal sensory faculties
... The exteriorization of the double takes place during normal sleep, hypnotic
sleep, swooning, narcosis and coma; and successively the cases in which the
liberated phantasm of a sleeping living person is perceived by other persons;
arriving finally at the cases in which the phenomenon of bilocation takes place
on the deathbed. This last category is the most important of all .... Lastly
episodes were cited in which the watchers observed the phenomenon in all phases
of its evolution, to the perfect reproduction of a fluidic simulacrum of the
somatic body of the dying, an animated, living simulacrum, assisted by
apparitions of the dead, who apparently attend at deathbeds for that purpose.
With regard to these last important phenomena of bilocation at a deathbed, I
insisted on the vitally important fact that all clairvoyants, no matter to what
peoples they belong - civilized, barbarous or savage - describe the development
of the phenomena in substantially identical terms; which shows that the
clairvoyants describe a positively objective phenomenon; otherwise it would be
impossible that all should agree in enumerating the same phases of the
phenomenon, wherein are contained particulars so new and unthought of, that by
the hallucinatory hypothesis they could certainly not be produced identically in
all the hallucinated ... .
As has already been stated, the phenomena of bilocation in general, but
especially those in which the consciousness is transferred to the phantasm,
occur in many gradations during states of weakening of vitality in individuals,
such as physiological sleep and that induced by anaesthetics, the
somnambulistic-hypnotic phases, swooning, coma, the crises of convalescence,
nervous exhaustion, or moral depression. They rarely occur in physiologically
and psychically normal conditions; in such cases they take place in
circumstances of absolute bodily repose, more especially in the period that
precedes or follows sleep. In the last circumstance the sense of bilocation is
somewhat vague, undecided, and of very short duration.
One of the most notable characteristics of the cases in question would seem to
consist of the fact that in cases of the appearance at a distance of the
bilocated phantasm, various incidents of veridical perception of distant things
and situations ... almost always occur; these are sometimes observed also in
cases in which the double does not go far from its body.
Psychologically speaking, the fact of feeling oneself existing personally, in
the fullness of sentiment and conscious faculties, outside the body and
contemplating the body, is a fact worthy of profound meditation. It is a feeling
difficult to reduce to elucidatory formulas derived from the psychology of the
schools, inasmuch as this phenomenon differs radically from those of "autoscopy,"
in which the conscious self remains in the organism and sees its own phantasm at
a distance, a phenomenon analogous to others cited in works on mental pathology,
and reducible to a pure and simple case of hallucination. Here, on the contrary,
we find the inverse phenomenon which in this particular case leaves no opening
for the hallucinatory hypothesis, considering that from the psychological point
of view an insuperable abyss exists between the sensation of seeing one's own
double and that of finding oneself consciously out of the body, and
contemplating the body ... .
... I will relate only one episode in which the bilocated phantasm begins to
exercise supernormal sensory faculties. My friend, the engineer Giuseppe Costa
... narrates the following episode which happened to himself [in a book
describing his psychic experiences and opinions (Costa, 1923)]: "... . I had
been obliged to yield, completely exhausted, to an imperative need of repose,
and had thrown myself on the bed, fainting rather than asleep .... An
unconscious movement of my arm, probably, overturned the lamp ...and instead of
going out, it gave off a dense smoke which filled the room with a black cloud of
heavy, acrid gas ... . I had the clear and precise sensation of finding myself
with only my thinking personality, in the middle of the room, completely
separated from my body, which continued to lie in bed ....I saw my body
perfectly recognizable in all its details, the profile, the figure, but with the
clusters of veins and nerves vibrating like a swarm of luminous living atoms
.... I wanted ...to pick up the lamp and open the window, but it was a material
act that I could not accomplish .... Then I thought of my mother, who was
sleeping in the next room. I saw her clearly through the dividing partition,
quietly asleep in her bed ... . It seemed to me that no effort of any kind was
needed to cause her to approach my body. I saw her get hurriedly out of bed, run
to the window and open it, as if carrying out my last thought before calling
her; then leave her room, walk along the corridor, enter my room and approach my
body grippingly and with staring eyes ... . My mother, questioned by me soon
after the event, confirmed the fact that she had first opened the window as if
she felt herself suffocating, before coming to my aid. Now the fact of my
having seen this act of hers through the wall, while lying inanimate on the bed,
entirely excludes the hypothesis of hallucination and nightmare during sleep in
normal physiological circumstances" ... . [Costa] ... succeeded in telepathing
his thought to his mother, so as to wake her and bring her to his aid, thus
saving him from certain death ....
I will ... pass on to relate some examples of another category, wherein are
found the greatest number of cases of bilocation; it is also the most important
because it deals with phenomena of "death-bed bilocation" which are observed by
"sensitives," and often by persons who cannot be considered as such ... . I will
narrate first an example taken from a group of cases in which the bilocation is
of an incipient or rudimentary order and is observed collectively and
successively by several persons; this last circumstance is of great evidential
value as regards the objectivity of the phenomenon. I consider cases of this
kind very instructive, since they represent the initial phase of the phenomena
of "death-bed bilocation," in which can be observed the emergence from the
physical body of fluid substance in a diffused state, which, after repeated
fluctuations caused by partial reabsorption on the part of the organism
(corresponding with the fluctuations of vitality in the sick person) ends by
integrating into a "living and animated etheric body" as the supreme hour
approaches [Such ideas about "fluids" should be seen in the context of
speculations about the nature of subtle bodies, such as those in Baraduc (1893),
Besant (n.d.), Durville (1909), Fugairon (1907), Kardec (1863), and Lancelin
(1913/1986), and a variety of concepts of bodily forces meant to explain
mediumistic phenomena, as seen in the writings of
Schrenck-Notzing (1920/1925), and Sudre (1926); see also Alvarado
It follows that cases of an incipient order are not less important than those in
which the bilocation is complete, since they instruct us concerning the phases
which determine the great phenomenon in the supreme hour of the final detachment
of the etheric body ... . I take from Light ... an episode in which there
were eight percipients [For the actual reference see Monk (1922). Light,
a British spiritualistic journal, started publication in 1881]. Miss Dorothy
Monk sent ... the following account of what took place at her mother’s
death-bed, on January 2nd, 1922.
"After a long illness, terminating with gastric influenza, mother died of heart
failure ... . All through the night our family, consisting of father, a brother,
five sisters and myself, watched by her ... . During the afternoon we saw bright
blue lights, sometimes near her and sometimes about the room. We could only see
them for a second or two, and usually only one or two of us at a time. I watched
carefully, and three times out of four when I saw one near her she stirred and
endeavoured to speak, but was past it by this time. At dusk that afternoon as
she lay perfectly quiet, I and three sisters all at once noticed a pale-blue
mauve haze all over her as she lay. We watched it and very gradually it deepened
in colour until it became a deep purple, so thick that it almost blotted out her
features from view, and spread all in the folds of the bed-clothes like a purple
fog. Once or twice she feebly moved and the colours travelled with them. We
thought it very wonderful, so called the two remaining sisters to see if they
could see it too, and they could. At this time our sister saw a grey smoke-like
object pass between two chairs; it was about three feet high and just glided
away from the bed. I was sitting there, but did not see it. As we watched, very
gradually patches of bright yellow light, like sunlight, appeared on the pillow;
one at the left side of her head was particularly bright sometimes, and then
would slowly dim and once more become bright again. Mother’s old friend was also
in the room during this time, but she neither saw the purple mist around mother
nor the blue lights, and said that our eyes were tired with watching, and that
we were overwrought. We drew her attention to this very bright patch on the
pillow, and she saw it, but said it was the reflection of the fire or gaslight.
We screened both, and she then went round the room and moved pictures and
photograph frames and tilted the mirror, but without making any difference to
the light. At last she came and put her hands directly over it, but without
shading it in any degree; after that she sat down without saying a word.
"Early in the evening I saw my eldest sister, and the other sister who saw the
grey object before, both turn and look at the same time to the place where it
had appeared, and they saw it once more; again I did not see it, but they both
did, and both agreed as to the description. The sister who first saw it about
this time also saw a large blue globe-like light resting on mother’s head, but
none of the rest of us could see it. She explained that the inside appeared all
moving and gradually it turned to deep purple and faded out.
"About seven o’clock that evening mother’s lips parted and from that time we
gradually saw a thick white mist collect above her head and spread across the
head of the bed .... It came from the top of her head, but collected more
thickly to the opposite side of the bed to which she was lying. It hung like a
cloud of white steam, sometimes so thick we could scarcely see the bed-rails,
but continually it was varying although it moved so slowly as to be scarcely
perceptible. I and my five sisters were still with her and all saw it
distinctly, also my brother and one brother-in-law. The blue lights continued
about the room, also tiny flashes of yellow, like sparks, appeared sometimes.
All this time mother’s lower jaw gradually fell a little. For some hours we saw
little difference except that a halo of pale yellow light rays came round her
head; they were about seven in number; they varied in length from twelve to
twenty inches at different times. By midnight everything had cleared off, but
she did not die until 7:17 on the morning of January 2nd. At 6:15, one sister,
who was resting in another room, heard a voice say: ‘Another hour now ...
another hour now;’ it roused her, and she came back to mother who finally
breathed her last one hour and two minutes later ... ."
No doubt can arise as to the objectivity of the complex manifestations which
occurred, seeing that the final and most important phase of the manifestation
was observed collectively by all those present.
The greater part of the other preceding and varied manifestations were also
perceived collectively, though not always by all, and two of them were decidedly
"elective." This would signify that the manifestations observed collectively
were "ectoplasmic" emanations, and consequently visible to normal sight, while
the apparition of a greyish smoky column perceptible to only two persons, and
the luminous globe perceptible to only one person, were of a qualitatively
different character, and consequently perceptible only to the eyes of
"sensitives" [On selective perception of such phenomena see Gurney, Myers, and
Podmore (1886, Vol. 2, pp. 221-223, 237-238, 619-622), and Anonymous (1908). Bozzano himself discussed selective perceptions in his writings about hauntings
(1919/1925c, pp. 58 and 128-129), deathbed visions (1923c, p. 234), and music
heard at deathbeds (1943/1982, p. 117). "Ectoplasmic" refers to ectoplasm, a
substance supposed to come out of the body of physical mediums to provide the
basis for materializations (Geley, 1924/1927); see also Alvarado (2005). There
are some reports that suggest that some of these supposed ectoplasmic structures
are not always visible to everyone in a position to see them (Crookes, 1874, p.
92; Schrenck-Notzing, 1920/1925, pp. 175 and 181)]. It should accordingly be
inferred that the phenomenon of the smoky column three feet high, and the other
of a luminous globe over the head of the dying woman, must have represented the
incipient exteriorization of the "etheric body" and the "mental body" of the
invalid, not yet integrated and fused into one phantasm. I note in this
connection that several cases are registered in my classification, in which, at
the moment of death, the watchers saw a luminous globe issue from the head of
the dying and rise rapidly, vanishing near the ceiling; while it is known that
Dr. Baraduc succeeded in photographing an analogous apparition of a luminous
globe at his wife’s deathbed [French physician Hyppolyte Baraduc (1850-1909)
took pictures of his wife as she lay in bed dying. The pictures show luminous
globes of light (Baraduc, 1908). Baraduc was well known for his study of vital
forces through a moving needle instrument (Baraduc, 1893) and photography (Baraduc,
From another point of view, I observe that the brilliant bluish lights floating
about the room, and often approaching the dying woman, who showed herself
conscious of them by moving and trying to speak, were presumably of external
origin; that is to say, what appeared as brilliant bluish lights to the
sensitives watching, were for the dying woman the spirit forms of deceased
relatives ... .
A difficulty remains to be solved in that the fluidic exteriorization, after
continuing to take place for five consecutive hours, dissolved instantly, while
the invalid continued to live for another seven hours .... In that case it may
be inferred that if the phenomenon dispersed seven hours before the invalid’s
death, this would be explained by the presumption that with the total emergence
of the etheric body, the irradiation of vital fluids had ceased; hence the
phenomenon vanished from normal sight, while the etheric body fully developed,
hovering above the somatic body, remained there, perceptible only to the finer
sight of sensitives and mediums [For a discussion of cases where the form of the
dying person was actually seen close to or above the dying body see Crookall
(1967); see also Anonymous (1908, pp. 309-310). Bozzano was familiar with a book
by Joy Snell (1918), who had many visions of this sort during her career as a
However this may be, the perplexities inherent in the manner in which the
phenomena of bilocation occur, have nothing in common with the problem depending
on the objective reality of the phenomena themselves; and when all the various
ways in which the phenomena under examination are classified, analysed and
compared, beginning with that significant phenomenon of "sensations of
wholeness in the amputated," and ending with the cases of clairvoyants who
watch the reintegration and departure of a perfect etheric body, vitalized and
animated, and also assisted by apparitions of the deceased who apparently attend
at the deathbed for that purpose - when, I say, we are able to judge from the
complex mass of facts, then the perplexities that remain to be solved lose all
neutralizing theoretical value; since we are equally led to infer, on the basis
of facts, that from henceforth we know enough about the phenomena of bilocation
to conclude, without fear or error, that they alone suffice to demonstrate
experimentally the existence and survival of the human spirit ... .
It is in fact evident that the existence of an etheric body immanent in the
somatic body takes for granted the existence of an etheric brain within the
somatic brain. This admission would clear up at once all the perplexities which
have always held back physiologists from admitting the existence of a spirit
surviving the death of the body, which perplexities are summed up in the
indubitable fact of the existence of a psycho-physiological parallelism in the
phenomena of thought, leading inexorably to the conclusion that thought is a
function of the brain. There is no doubt that the physiologists were apparently
right in concluding this; but they would not be so if the terms of the
formidable problem were inverted by the experimental demonstration of the
existence of an etheric brain within the somatic brain; in which case the latter
would be merely the indispensable apparatus for the translation of the
impressions that come to it from the outer world by means of the senses in the
form of physical vibrations, into terms of psychic vibrations
perceptible to the spirit immanent in the etheric brain ... . [There was of
course a long tradition preceding Bozzano of discussions of the importance of
the nervous system in human function and of the mind-body problem (Finger, 2000;
Wright and Potter, 2000; Young, 1970). Three authors known to Bozzano, French
philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941), American philosopher
(1842-1910) and British psychical researcher Frederic W. H. Myers (1843–1901),
postulated the action of a principle (mind, spirit) that was separate from the
brain but used it to communicate through it (Bergson, 1908/1911; James, 1898;
Myers, 1903)]. The existence of an etheric brain ...could explain a
psycho-physiological enigma ... in connection with ... a German review
containing a long article referring to certain cases observed during the Great
War, in which soldiers who had had their brains torn up by shrapnel, with
abundant loss of brain matter, recovered and kept their intellectual faculties
intact. And the author of the article ended by citing ... the well-known case of
a non-commissioned officer ... who after two years complained of persistent
headache, which however did not prevent him from fulfilling the duties of his
rank. He died suddenly, and an autopsy of his brain revealed the fact that an
abscess of slow development had reduced the entire brain to a pulp of pus ... .
If the existence of an etheric brain, seat of the individual consciousness, were
admitted, it would follow that the enigma of the "men who think without a brain"
would be capable of ready explanation, since it is logically presumable that in
given circumstances of "special fluidic synchronization" between the somatic
brain and the etheric brain, the latter would be able temporarily to take the
place of the somatic brain, doing without its own physical organ. In other words
... the only circumstance of fact absolutely necessary for the explanation of
the disturbing mystery, is the recognition of the existence of an individual
consciousness independent of the physical brain; and this is what we obtain by
recognizing the existence of an etheric brain, seat of the integral subconscious
personality and provided with supernormal faculties [French physician and
psychical researcher Gustave Geley (1865-1924) reviewed cases of brain pathology
like the ones mentioned by Bozzano and argued that they showed that the
materialist hypothesis was erroneous (Geley, 1919/ca. 1920, pp. 78-83; see also Troude, 1920). Guepin (1915a, 1915b) reported an interesting case of this sort.
Bozzano (1925a) himself discussed these topics in a previous essay].
interest Bozzano showed in the survival implications of OBEs and NDEs has
continued to recent times (Becker, 1993; Fontana, 2005; Stevenson and Greyson,
1979). The survivalist position was clearly stated in a recent book in which it
was suggested that the OBE
us a glimpse of what it may feel like to exist without a physical body and
therefore of what it may feel like to survive death ... For if my consciousness
can function outside and at a distance from my body, why not
survive death without any body? (Grosso, 2004, p. 22)
However, as pointed out before, fairly recent discussions of the evidence for
the concept of survival do not include reference to Bozzano’s work, and more
particularly, to his argument of the key importance of considering the above
mentioned types of cases together, as opposed to dealing with each separate type
in isolation (Almeder, 1992; Braude, 2003; Fontana, 2005; Gauld, 1982; Roll,
Few individuals have followed Bozzano's approach. P. T. Bret (1938) used
published cases of apparitions of the living and OBEs to study different
manifestations of the double, but did not follow Bozzano's survival model. There
are similarities to Bozzano's approach in discussions of published cases by such
authors as Raynor Johnson (1953) and Hilary Evans (2004), and especially in the
projection and survival-oriented work of Muldoon and Carrington (1951) and
Robert Crookall (1967). Crookall has come closer than anyone else to Bozzano’s
approach by bringing together several converging lines of evidence for
projection phenomena from the old Spiritualist and psychical research
I mentioned earlier a few possible reasons for the neglect of Bozzano's work
today, namely its publication date and the fact that most of his work did not
appear in English. However, there are other possible reasons for this neglect as
well. I believe many modern researchers may believe that Bozzano was too
confident in his conclusions. If there is anything we have learned from the
history of psychical research, it is to be skeptical of many claims of
knowledge, particularly those that, like Bozzano's, are presented as
"indubitable," "incontestable," and "irrefutable." Even assuming that Bozzano
was right about bilocation, his style of presenting his conclusions may strike
the modern reader as, at best, a belief and, at worst, a hasty use of the data
at his disposal.
In psychical research, as in other areas of research, we need to distinguish
between the data (which itself are not completely objective) and our
interpretation of the data. So, when Bozzano assured us that phantom limb
sensations were related to autoscopy, or that autoscopy involved the projection
of the same double operating in an OBE, he was
not stating a self-evident fact. Instead he was offering an interpretation of
the cases he considered. In other words, the so-called "convergence of proof" is
not as evident to others as it was to Bozzano.
Another obstacle to the acceptance of Bozzano's ideas, or even to the citation
of his work today, is that modern research on spontaneous bilocation-related
phenomena has changed since Bozzano’s times. His use of different types of cases
to reach conclusions by showing varieties and continuities in the phenomena was
also used by others in the past in some classic works about apparitions and
related phenomena (Gurney, Myers, and Podmore, 1886; Myers, 1903). This
approach, however, is no longer the preferred method of study. Bozzano's use of
cases to study types and gradations of phenomena with an emphasis on the
principle of "convergence of proof" is no longer common. Recent work with OBEs
and NDEs (Alvarado and
Zingrone, 2003; Greyson, 2000) attests to the fact that
studies of these phenomena are now conducted using questionnaires that offer the
advantage that each study participant gets asked the same questions.
Furthermore, most of the studies involve quantitative analyses that, in addition
to assigning numerical values to the incidence and frequency of specific
features of the phenomena, attempt to relate them to such factors as
psychological variables. Thus, while Bozzano was trying to prove survival of
death, contemporary researchers focus instead on relationships with other
phenomena such as after-effects (Alvarado and Zingrone, 2003), dissociation (Greyson,
2000) and body image (Murray and Fox, 2005).
Furthermore, part of the reason for the rejection of, or lack of interest in,
Bozzano’s approach is that the topic is conceptualized differently today.
Authors such as Blackmore (1984, 1993), Irwin (2000), and Ronald Siegel (1980)
see the OBE and the NDE as purely hallucinatory, a position defended as well for
different reasons by several other modern researchers (Blanke, Landis, Spinelli,
and Seeck, 2004; Blanke, Ortigue, Landis and Seeck, 2002; Brugger, 2002; Girard
and Cheyne, 2004). The phantom limb sensation and autoscopy are not discussed
today in the way Bozzano did. Most contemporary treatments of the phantom limb
phenomena in the academic and scientific literatures assume neurological
explanations unrelated to the notion of the projection of a subtle body (Brugger,
2003; Fraser, 2002; Halligan, 2002; McGonigle, Hannigen, Salenius, Hari,
Frackowiak, and Frith, 2002; Melzack, 1989), although there are some exceptions
in the popular literature (Sheldrake, 2003, pp. 281-284).
The same is true for autoscopy, which is generally considered a pathological
condition (Dening and Berrios, 1994; Grotstein, 1983). Glen Gabbard and Stuart
Twemlow (1984, pp. 56-58) and Irwin (1985, pp. 23-24) have tried to outline
criteria to differentiate the OBE from autoscopy. Although autoscopy has been
related to OBEs in recent times, such discussions do not proceed from the point
of view of the projection of a double (Brugger, 2002). A recent paper suggested
that both OBEs and autoscopy are caused by paroxysmal disorders of body
perception and body schema (Blanke, Landis, Spinelli, and Seeck, 2004). Because
these ideas reflect the reaction of the current scientific paradigm to the
phenomena, it is unlikely that we will soon see empirical studies using
Bozzano’s approach. Furthermore, and particularly in the case of the phantom
limb sensations, the phenomena do in fact seem consistent with neurological
explanations, while remaining an anomaly for neurologists.
Taking a wider perspective, Bozzano’s belief that the spirit acted through the
brain, a well-known position in the history of the mind/body problem (Wright and
Potter, 2000), is not prevalent in today's scientific circles. With the
exception of a few who have seen the mind as an independent causal agent acting
through the nervous system (Beloff, 1994; Popper and Eccles, 1977;
Thouless and Wiesner, 1947), most contemporary students of the mind seem to follow Roger
Sperry (1993) in believing that consciousness "cannot exist apart from the
functioning brain" (p. 879). This prevalent view, added to ideas of an
etheric brain and the variety of bilocation phenomena discussed above, almost
guarantee that most psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists (including
some parapsychologists), cannot take Bozzano’s proposal seriously.
Does this mean that the type of analyses Bozzano offered on bilocation are no
longer useful today? While I believe we should not limit ourselves to Bozzano's
approach, I would contend that his work still is useful. It reminds us of the
complexity of the phenomena in question, a complexity that gets obscured today
by the emphasis on studying the prevalence or frequency of experiences in
relation to other variables, while giving little attention to the features of
the experience itself (for a call to remedy this in relation to OBEs see
Alvarado, 1997). Furthermore, Bozzano's work reminds us of that there are
phenomena we are virtually ignoring today.
A case in point are observations such as those reported by Dorothy Monk (1922)
and cited by Bozzano. Today very little work has been done with reports of
luminous, misty, or other types of emanations from the physical body at the
moment of death. Some exceptions include analyses of published cases by Crookall
(1967) and by myself (Alvarado, 1987b), cases presented by Elizabeth McAdams
(1984) and Carla Wills-Brandon (2000), and some general discussions of these
phenomena (Ring, 1980, pp. 225-231). Unless one is prepared to dismiss such
reports as hallucinations induced by the emotional context surrounding the
deathbed, coupled with the personal beliefs of the experiencers, the
similarities of features illustrate the potential pointed out by Bozzano. They
remain a challenge for researchers, a challenge more difficult to meet than the
scientific study of apparitions of the living, OBEs, and NDEs, if only because
of the apparent rarity of these reports. On the other hand, perhaps what we need
are new researchers who, inspired by such writers as Bozzano, eventually seek
Bozzano's work also reminds us of the existence of cases with features that can
be verified. That is, there are experiences in which a person obtains verifiable
information about events at the location to which he or she has "traveled," and
in which apparitions of the traveler have been seen at the place the OBErs
describe. Similar to the cases of observations around a death-bed, a small
number of these apparitional cases are collectively perceived. Little attention
has been given to these potentially important phenomena in modern times (for
exceptions see Hart, 1954; Hart and associated collaborators, 1956; Ring and
To conclude, if Bozzano’s work is to have an impact today, he needs to be
rediscovered by those few scientists who are open to explanations other than the
current hallucinatory and neurological conceptualizations of such phenomena as
OBEs and NDEs. While it is unlikely that the inclusion of the phantom limb
phenomena or autoscopy into the bilocation continuum will convince most, perhaps
the further documentation of veridical OBEs and NDEs, as well as collective
death-bed experiences could serve as a reminder that there are aspects of
bilocation phenomena that we have yet to explain adequately within the context
of the current scientific paradigm.
Carlos S. Alvarado, Ph.D., is
Assistant Professor of Research in Psychiatry at the
University of Virginia. He wishes to thank
Nancy L. Zingrone
for useful suggestions for
the improvement of this paper, Cecilia Magnanensi for several relevant
Bozzano's work published in Italian, and Andreas Sommer for assistance with
references. Reprint requests should be addressed to Dr. Alvarado at the Division
Personality Studies, Department of Psychiatric Medicine, University of Virginia
System, P.O. Box 800152, Charlottesville, VA 22908-0152; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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