Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center
Over the years there has been some discussion about Italian student of psychic phenomena Ernesto Bozzano (1862-1943), who was well-known for his bibliographical studies and his strong defences of the idea of survival of bodily death. Most of this work has been done by Italians, among them Massimo Biondi, Luca Gasperini, Giovanni Iannuzzo, and Silvio Ravaldini. But regardless of the writings of these authors it is my view that more may be done regarding the historical study of Bozzano’s work, which is the topic of my last published article, a longer version of a paper previously published in Italian in Luce e Ombra.
My paper, “Studying Ernesto Bozzano: Suggestions for Future Historical Studies” just appeared in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (2013, 77, 147-163). Rather than present an overview of Bozzano’s work, or of specific publications or topics, as I have done before in 2005 and 2007, I present ideas for further research to learn more about Bozzano. This includes his personal and intellectual development, as well as his writings about specific topics and phenomena, and concepts and theories. Furthermore, I discuss in the paper the need to study further Bozzano’s use of rhetoric, his analytical method and the reception of his work. All of this would contribute not only to our knowledge of Bozzano, but also to our knowledge of European, and, particularly, Italian psychical research.
One of the guiding questions to learn more about Bozzano is who influenced him during the course of his life. “It is clear . . . that he was directly influenced by Russian student of psychic phenomena Alexander Aksakov (1832-1903) . . . Furthermore, my impression is that Bozzano was influenced by Frederic W. H. Myers (1843-1901) more than has been recognized.” In the paper I present examples of the latter. I believe that more systematic discussion of this transcends Bozzano and illuminate the reception of Myers outside of British context, a limitation of most current work about him.
More detailed work could be conducted regarding guiding ideas in Bozzano’s work, such as his use of the concept of evolution and his discussion of “animism” and spiritism, in the sense of phenomena produced by the spirits of the living and of the deceased, respectively. Similarly, there is much to explore regarding Bozzano’s writings about specific manifestations. As I wrote in the paper:
“This could include veridical mediumistic and apparitional manifestations . . . , premonitions . . . , the different ways in which thought and will can create reality (such as materializations and thought-photographic effects . . .), ‘transfiguration’ . . . , and hauntings . . . New studies of Bozzano could explore his contributions in terms of the classifications of phenomena that he created, something that also reflects how he saw the phenomena . . . But Bozzano could also be studied as a pioneer in the study of phenomena that were rarely discussed systematically, such as those visions reported by people around dying persons consisting of observations of lights, nebulous forms, or replicas of the body of the dying person leaving their bodies . . .”
The reception of Bozzano’s work is a particularly interesting area as you can see in the following excerpt:
“Some non-spiritists cited Bozzano to refer to cases and to various aspects of psychical research . . . A particularly prominent example [of an influential treatise] . . . was French physiologist Charles Richet’s Traité de métapsychique (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1922). While most of his citations in this book referred to cases collected by Bozzano in his works . . . , Richet also cited Bozzano’s opinions . . . Regardless of their differences regarding survival . . . , Richet respected Bozzano. This is evident in the Traité, where Richet referred to Bozzano as ‘the psychologist to whom are due so many penetrating and shrewd studies on various issues of metapsychics’ (pp. 323-324). Furthermore, Richet also referred to one of Bozzano’s studies as follows: ‘Like all the writings of Bozzano, this study deserves to be pondered . . .’ (p. 703) . . .”
In addition: “Studies are also needed about how Bozzano was criticized by many . . . [An] example would be critics writing in the pages of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research who commented on what they believed were Bozzano’s low evidential standards . . . ”
Reception studies, I believe, teach us about “how Bozzano was evaluated and how he affected others.” They are thus important tools in the assessent of the importance of individuals and their work. In addition, paying attention to reception “allows us to use Bozzano as a window to understand better the various methodological and conceptual approaches prevalent in psychical research at the time.”
I stated in the conclusion: “In these comments I have briefly mentioned some topics deserving further and more detailed historical study in relation to Ernesto Bozzano. But there are other topics that may be explored further. Examples are attempts to disseminate Bozzano’s work, such as De Boni’s efforts in publishing revised versions of his teacher’s work . . . , and the many translations of his work by spiritists in Brazil. It is my hope that this future work will be informed by approaches prevalent in such varied areas as social and intellectual history.”
Some Writings About Ernesto Bozzano
(see bibliographies of Bozzano’s writings
and about his work).
Alvarado, C.S. (1987). The life and work of an Italian Psychical Researcher: A review of Ernesto Bozzano: La Vita e L’Opera by Giovanni Iannuzzo. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 81, 37-47.
Alvarado, C. S. (2005). Ernesto Bozzano on the phenomena of bilocation. Journal of Near-Death
Studies, 23, 207–238. (Available here)
Alvarado, C. S. (2007). Remarks on Ernesto Bozzano’s La Psiche Domina la Materia. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 25, 189-195. (Available here)
Biondi, M. (1984). Pagine d’appunti di Ernesto Bozzano [A page of notes about Ernesto Bozzano]. Luce e Ombra, 84, 156–164.
Bozzano, E. (1924). Autobiographical sketch. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 18, 153–155.
Di Porto, B. (no year). Ernesto Bozzano. In Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (Vol. 13, pp. 578–580). Rome: Treccani. (Available here)
Gasperini, L. (2009-2010). Ernesto Bozzano: Tra Spiritismo Scientifico e la Ricerca Psichica [Ernesto Bozzano” Between Scientific Spiritism and Psychical Research]. Laurea thesis, University of Bologna.
Gasperini, L. (2010). L’annosa disputa Bozzano–Morselli [The age-old dispute Bozzano-Morselli]. Luce e Ombra, 110, 290–306.
Gasperini, L. (2011). Ernesto Bozzano, i “popoli primitivi” ed Ernesto de Martino (Ernesto Bozzani, “primitive people,” and Ernesto de Martino]. Luce e Ombra, 111, 17–25.
Gasperini, L. (2011). Criptestesia o ipotesi spiritica? Ch. Richet ed E. Bozzano a confronto [Cryptesthesia or spiritistic hypothesis? The confrontation of Ch. Richet and E. Bozzano] Luce e Ombra, 111, 113-126.
Gasperini, L. (2012). Ernesto Bozzano: An Italian spiritualist and psychical researcher. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25, 755-773.
Iannuzzo, G. (1983). Ernesto Bozzano: La Vita e l’Opera [Ernesto Bozzano: Life and Work]. Verona: Luce e Ombra.
Ravaldini, S. (1993). Ernesto Bozzano e la Ricerca Psichica: Vita e Opere di un Pioniere della Parapsicologia [Ernesto Bozzano: Life and Work of a Pioneer of Parapsychology]. Rome: Mediterranee. (Available here)