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Roberto Assagioli discusses five paranormal faculties of the human mind, how they work and the research that has been done to verify them.
By Roberto Assagioli (no date). Original Italian title: Le Facoltà Metapsichiche. From the Assagioli Archive in Florence. Translated by Gordon Symons. See also the free ebook: Psychosynthesis and Parapsychology. https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/product/psychosynthesis-and-parapsychology/
This field of study and research is particularly difficult, complex, full of sources for errors; in fact, I think we can say that it is the most difficult that exists.
It is so because of the very nature of the phenomena studied. The metapsychic faculties are eminently plastic, changeable, and highly sensitive— not only to every conscious and unconscious influence and every inner attitude of the subject, the experimenters, and the spectators, but also (as we shall see) to “currents” and psychic influences from people and causes far away in space and time.
This extraordinary sensitivity of the metapsychic faculties would require a particularly dispassionate “neutrality” of the observers and experimenters. On the other hand, there is no field of investigation that arouses such intense passions, and is the cause of such vehement conflicts.
This is not surprising, since those phenomena upset the human mind to the core; they raise the fundamental problems of life and death, of destiny and freedom; they reveal to us admirable possibilities of knowledge and action, and at the same time a disturbing play of forces; they bring us face to face with Mystery.
All this gives rise to extreme and opposing emotional and mental reactions in various people; indeed sometimes in the same person.
On the one hand, the charm of the unknown, the unusual, and the marvelous, can lead to fanaticism, exaltation, blind credulity, and superstition. The illusion of being able to exploit those powers for one’s own advantage, to dominate or bind others to oneself, to avoid dangers, or to derive material benefits from them, ignites hopes, desires and passions that are always ready to flare up.
On the other hand, fear (which in some reaches real horror) of the mysterious; the fear of painful revelations; a sense (often unconscious, but justified) of the dangers that would loom if they allowed faculties to manifest in themselves— faculties that they feel are latent and that they would not know how to control— cause many people to feel a violent repugnance for those investigations. They defend themselves from such investigations with an attitude of skepticism, devaluation, and derision toward those who deal with them – an attitude (illogical , but psychoanalytically easy to understand) that is all the more aggressive and excessive, the more intense and unconscious are the causes of aversion and fear.
But also, various other more or less conscious motives often come into play to produce and accentuate hostility towards metapsychic phenomena. Among them, one of the strongest is misoneism, that is, hatred for the new and the unexpected—whatever does not fall within the often restricted circle of one’s previous beliefs, one’s “acquired ideas”. This misoneism reappears on the occasion of every new scientific discovery or a new, unusual and unexpected technical invention with a regularity, a persistence, and an obstinacy that do not honor human nature. 
It is therefore evident that in no field like this one is it more necessary to employ the true and healthy scientific spirit. That is, to observe the phenomena and carry out the experiments with a serene, dispassionate, impartial mind; to exercise an assiduous and insightful vigilance over ourselves, so that preconceptions, desires, personal fears do not disturb the very delicate exercise of the subject’s metapsychic faculties, nor impair the accuracy of the observations and the objectivity of the interpretations and deductions. It would therefore be necessary that the best scientists of each country deal with it in a broad, systematic way, dedicating the time, energy and means required to these researches. Instead, we are very far from this. There have been some who have done so (in Italy I will name Lombroso, Morselli, Bottazzi, Cazzamalli) and who deserve all our applause. But the vast majority abstain from it or dedicate themselves to it in a very private way. 
If the absence of the majority of scientists is understandable, it is however no less deplorable and harmful: it is certainly no illusion that their abstention also induces others to also abstain. However, the reality is that the public is passionately and extensively concerned with metapsychic phenomena in spite of every veto, every condemnation, every skepticism and every derision.
Given precisely that these experiments are exposed to that hostility and often involve intimate facts, they are generally kept hidden or only talked about in private; therefore, we have no idea how widespread they are. We find them in the countryside among the peasants, we find them in the popular districts of the cities, and we find them in every social class, up to businessmen and politicians, right up to the palace. It is well known that the monk Rasputin acquired enormous and fatal prestige from the Russian Imperial family thanks to his – real or presumed – metapsychic powers.
This widespread and passionate interest is quite natural; it responds to the deep and irrepressible needs of the human mind that we have mentioned, and to others. Among these, the need for direction is important, as well as guidance, advice, and help, which men generally feel, and women even more so. When they find themselves in difficulty, in complex and obscure situations, facing serious decisions, they frantically look for someone to help them find the way out, to overcome obstacles, to solve problems. And in this search they preferably turn to those who have, in their eyes, a superiority, a halo, without stopping too much to ascertain whether it is true or illusory.
In the past, when there was greater religious faith, people generally called upon the priest to become the “director of conscience”. Now, while believers continue to do so, many turn to the doctor, who thus has an opportunity for good. But often the materialistic orientation of doctors, their lack of psychological training, time, and aptitudes do not satisfy or inspire confidence.
Therefore, many people allow themselves to be attracted by the fascination of the metapsychic faculties, going to consult mediums, clairvoyants, palmists, and others who engage in similar “wonderful” practices. Not infrequently, interest in these things is awakened by the occurrence of spontaneous phenomena in untrained people who can easily overestimate and exalt them.
The only effective remedy against the dangers of these adventures in such a dark and unsafe field is that serious and adequately trained scholars undertake these researches and diligently enlighten and guide the public.
Metapsychic faculties have very varied explanations according to their modes and fields of action. Their main manifestations are:
1. SUPERNORMAL CALCULATION
There have been and there are people capable of instantaneously, or very quickly, giving the solutions to arithmetic problems that normally require long and complex calculations.
Here is an example, among many. Little Colbaro, at eight years of age, gave immediate correct answers to problems such as the following: “Cubic root of 268,336,125” (= 645). “How many minutes are there in 48 years?” (25,208,800) (See W. Mackenzie, Modern Metapsychics, p.132-133). Some of these prodigy-calculators began to exercise their faculty at a very early age: Fuller at 3, Ampère at 4. It is remarkable that in several cases the faculty weakened, to the point of disappearing, with passing years. Even more remarkable is the fact that, while some of the calculators, such as Ampère and Gauss, later demonstrated scientific genius, the majority had mediocre intelligence and some were even morons.  But there is more: manifestations of supernormal calculation have certainly also been observed in certain animals! 
This manifestation, which has also been repeated with other metapsychic faculties, is of great scientific and human importance. In fact, it shows that these faculties are by no means proof of a total superiority of those who possess them. Although those who have achieved a supernormal evolutionary stage (geniuses, saints, mystics, initiates) have not infrequently possessed them, they manifest themselves even more often in mediocre and subnormal people. Indeed, it appears that weakness, immaturity, and dissociation of the normal personality favor the emergence of metapsychic phenomena from the subconscious. 
Later we will see the consequences and medical applications of this fact.
Calculation-prodigies have often been asked how they find the solution to problems, but they cannot explain it. One of them, Ferrol, made an interesting introspective analysis of the way his faculty unfolds. “Since I was a child, I have calculated in an absolutely intuitive way, so much so that I often had the idea that I had already lived another time. If a difficult problem was presented to me, the result flowed directly from my feeling without my knowing at first how I had obtained it. I was looking for the way starting from the result. This intuitive way of grasping never failed, it grew in parallel with the demands that were made. I still often have the sense that someone else is beside me.”
Telepathy, or the remote transmission of thoughts, images, moods, words, is the most widespread and best known metapsychic manifestation. Almost everyone has had some experience of spontaneous telepathy. There is also voluntary or active telepathy, that is, the deliberate transmission of some image, impulse or message. Serious experiments have been made in this regard, with positive results.
Telepathy naturally makes one’s thoughts turn to the radio with its transmitting and receiving devices, and this analogy is confirmed by the fact that very short wave emissions from the human brain have been actually recorded with very sensitive devices in particular conditions (Cazzamalli and others).
The study of the laws governing telepathic phenomena is still at the beginning. However, it can be said that in this field “harmony” seems to have more importance than distance; that is, telepathic communication between people who are inwardly similar and linked by affective relationships, even if very distant in space, is easier than between people who are close but not psychically “attuned”.
Furthermore, there are facts which would indicate that the greatest difficulty in conscious telepathic relationships would consist more in bringing up to the waking consciousness what the subconscious has perceived, than in the transmission itself between the subconscious of one person and that of another; indeed, it seems that telepathic sensitivity is a habitual faculty of the subconscious.
From this the immense importance of telepathy is clear. It explains the great extension of inter-psychism, which has been mentioned, and confirms the need for continuous vigilance and wise discrimination to distinguish between the ideas, feelings and impulses that arise within us, those that truly are “ours”, and those that come instead from extraneous influences, individual or collective.
Telepathy is the metapsychic faculty that can be experienced with the least inconvenience and danger and constitutes one of the interior achievements that man can legitimately propose to transcend the limitations of space and, in a certain sense, realize the omnipotence of the spirit. We will say more extensively when speaking of the subconscious.
3. METAPSYCHIC PERCEPTION OF MATERIAL BODIES AND OBJECTS
This faculty of “clairvoyance” is expressed in different ways and has been called by different names depending on the kind of objects towards which it is directed.
There are people who have the power to see the inside of their own bodies. For example, a patient of Dr. Comar perceived the unknown presence of a bone in her intestines and indicated its shape and size; her description was found to be exact when the bone was removed. This faculty is called autoscopy.
Other subjects have a similar faculty regarding others; that is, they can diagnose the diseases affecting the people with whom they are put into psychic relationship. However, mistakes are easily made, and therefore, in the current state of investigations in this field, a great deal of prudence is needed in taking these “diagnoses” into account in practice.
Subjects were observed who had the ability to read writings holding them (closed) in their hands or resting them on their forehead or on one knee.
But the best known and most widely confirmed phenomena of this kind are the perceptions of currents of water, metals or other substances that are found underground. These perceptions are generally obtained, or rather “objectified” and made conscious through the use of “divining rods” or the “pendulum”. This faculty is not uncommon and has been recognized and used for practical purposes by companies, public bodies and governments.
Even events that are taking place at a distance can be perceived in a metapsychic way. Famous in this regard is the case of the great naturalist, seer and mystic, Swedenborg, who perceived and exactly described a fire taking place in Stockholm, while he was a few tens of kilometers away from it. This “vision” was noted and declared “of the greatest probative value and such as not to leave room for any doubt” by the cautious and critical mind of Emanuel Kant.
4. SUPERNORMAL PERCEPTION OF FACTS AND PSYCHICAL CONDITIONS CONCERNING PEOPLE PRESENT OR FAR AWAY, LIVING OR NOT
A widely used method called “psychometry” is to hold an object that belongs, or that belonged, to the person with whom you want to relate.
This procedure sometimes gives results of extraordinary accuracy, such as to eliminate even the slightest suspicion of coincidence or that the subject has guessed.
For example, Dr. Osty received a letter from a friend to carry out an experiment, with the sole indication that it had been written by a person who later died. He gave the letter, of insignificant content, to a psychic, Mme Viviana, who, in hypnosis, limited herself to holding it in her hand. She provided 29 precise data, of which four were not verifiable, but the other 25 were all found to be accurate.
After 4 days, a new experiment was made regarding the same deceased person with another subject, this time in the presence of the deceased’s sister-in-law; the subject provided 40 data, of which three were uncheckable and the other 37 all true. (Osty, op.cit., P.165-167).
In this category we can include, at least in part, the responses that many “psychics” give by means of “palmistry” and “cartomancy”. It is true that scholars of hand lines argue that they actually indicate past and future dispositions, trends and events. This is not the place here to discuss this statement and in any case it is not necessary to do so, since – even assuming that there is some objective correspondence between the signs of the hand and individual life – whoever observes those who give palmistry readings easily notices that at least one part of what they say (at least those who are in good faith and say things that are true) is the result of metapsychic perceptions.
This is also true for graphology. This undoubtedly has an objective and scientific basis, although the interpretations of the individual signs given by the various graphologists do not always agree (but this also happens in other sciences …). Yet certain indications of the best graphologists are so precise, so certain of their characterological “profiles” and so responsive to the personality of the subject studied, that they suggest something more is happening than a simple mental interpretation of objective data and their rational combination. After all – if these metapsychic faculties are, as is probable, latent in everyone and their unconscious use is much more widespread than is believed – it is difficult to exclude their intervention in any relationship between human beings. For example, the very rapid and surprising diagnoses of certain clinicians are probably, at least in part, the effect of supernormal perceptions, even if those who make them, maintain (as Augusto Murri did) that they arrive at them in an exclusively rational way.
These consist of the prediction and announcement, often given with precise and minute details, of events, absolutely unpredictable with normal means, which then actually take place, even after years, in the manner indicated.
The real existence of this premonitory faculty can no longer be doubted by anyone who examines without preconceptions the large number of well-documented evidence that exists in this regard. Dr. Osty devoted particular attention and competence to their study, and he reported and discussed the results in the aforementioned book “La Connaissance Supranormale”. 
Premonitions constitute the most surprising metapsychic phenomena and raise serious philosophical and spiritual issues. The first impression aroused by their knowledge is almost inevitably that of a rigid determinism of events and therefore raises, sometimes in a distressing way, the doubt as to whether man is really free, whether he can truly exercise a voluntary and decisive action on events, or whether he is not the prey of blind chance; if his fate is not regulated by iron laws over which he has no power.
But a closer study clearly shows that this is not so. In order for premonitions to prove the existence of a universal determinism in human destiny, they should be frequent and above all, sure. Instead in practice they prove to be very uncertain: alongside those confirmed by events, there are many more which are fallacious, or which contain truths and errors in various proportions. Failed premonitions can be partly explained by transmission errors, subconscious influences, etc .; but on the other hand the explanation lies precisely in the fact that the foreseen events were not predetermined, that the intervention of new elements, of new forces in the play of causes and effects could radically change the situation.
An analogy may make this fact more evident. Suppose a wealthy industrialist wants to have a villa built and hires an architect to prepare the project. Anyone who saw the project ready in the architect’s office, before construction began, could easily “predict” the size, style and layout of the villa. Well, this “prediction” could come true, but it is by no means certain that this will happen. New factors of all kinds could ensure that the villa is no longer built, or that the design is radically modified. An economic crisis can deprive the industrialist of the necessary means; the outbreak of a war could cause a shortage of materials and workers; during a trip an industrialist could see a villa that he likes better than the one planned, so as to induce him to have the design redone, etc.
Many considerations lead us to believe that in all human life the mode of occurrence of events – however large and with infinite complexity – is precisely the same. When causes, remote or proximate, individual or collective, set forces in motion, they tend to produce the corresponding effects; but these do not immediately “precipitate” into facts and events visible in the external world; they prepare and develop themselves in the invisible (the law of subconscious processing mentioned in the chapter … it would be precisely one aspect of this more general law of life) awaiting the necessary conditions to manifest themselves. It can be said, in a certain sense, that those effects exist in the state of “project”, “program”, or “trend”. During this period of preparation and “latency” it is possible for a subject with metapsychic faculties to perceive those “forces”, tendencies or “directions”; and that he is able to enter (figuratively speaking) the study of the Great Architect, in the mysterious “Office” where the plans of Providence are elaborated. What he perceives in it, and then relates it, can come true – if new elements, new causes do not intervene. And among the new causes that can modify or cancel those plans, neutralizing the effects of the previous ones with equal and opposite forces, , precisely there is the intervention of the free will of man, and of his independent, spontaneous, unpredictable decisions.
This conception not only shows how the existence of premonitions that come true proves nothing against the freedom of man — and therefore man’s creative initiative and moral responsibility — but leads to another deduction of the utmost practical importance. It gives us the reason why we should not rely on metapsychically obtained data in making decisionsor in regulating our conduct. Apart from the numerous causes of errors of various kinds studied very well by Osty, the fact is that, even when a premonition is genuine at the moment it is perceived, it may become false before it can come true.
It is advisable to be very reserved and cautious in making use of indications from other forms of metapsychic information as well. First of all, in all those supernormal perceptions, errors are very frequent and difficult to identify. Furthermore, even the right indications are often partial and one-sided. For example, the characterological indications generally concern that aspect or side of a person with which the “psychic” is “in tune”, for which he has perception skills; but there may be other levels or elements of that person (other “wavelengths”) which are more important and vital that have completely escaped him. Thus, even by saying the right things, the psychic can give an incomplete picture and such as to lead to incorrect and unjust assessments.
After having indicated the appropriate precautions for those who experiment with metapsychic subjects, we must draw attention to those necessary for the subjects themselves. It is good that these people and those who care for them clearly know that the use of the supernormal faculties can easily produce serious nervous and psychic disorders.This fact is certainly not surprising. It is natural that encouraging inter-psychism, opening oneself to the often turbid, agitated and disharmonious influences of individual and collective psychic currents (particularly in our times!) tends to weaken, indeed dissociate and dissolve the personality of the subjects, to foment any morbid tendency, to produce above all hypersensitivity and hyper-emotivity.
In addition to this, the very use of the metapsychic faculties requires a strong consumption of nervous energy (similar to that often required by literary or artistic production) which leaves the subjects exhausted.
In this regard I will cite the case of a Danish young lady, who practiced palmistry for many years in Rome, where she was very well known and appreciated. She was a person of a high cultural and moral level, who practiced her “art” above all as a mission, trying to give good advice and put those who consulted it on the right path. She narrated with proper satisfaction that she had been able to restrain various people from errors and faults, and restore peace to several families. But she was a fragile person, very sensitive and vibrant, who identified with all those who turned to her, participating in their emotions, their pains, their problems. So, she became more and more anxious, gradually lost control of herself until she became mentally ill so that she had to be hospitalized.
It is interesting to note that the inverse case is equally true: that is, that many sufferers of nervous and psychic disorders have metapsychic faculties, often without realizing it, and that these are the cause of part of their disorders, or they accentuate and complicate them. Therefore, it would be advisable for doctors to know the field of metapsychic phenomena well , and to take due account of the part that those phenomena play in nervous and mental pathology. Thus, the error of attributing to physical causes disorders that have a completely different origin would be avoided, while the discovery of the true causes would show what are the truly effective treatments in those cases, especially of a psychotherapeutic nature.
From all that has been said it appears that the study of the metapsychic faculties is of great scientific interest and lends itself to useful medical applications, but that it is very difficult and complex and requires special precautions to avoid being harmful to the subjects.
Those investigations and experiments should therefore be actively carried out, but only by serious and conscientious scholars, preferably in suitable Institutes, who are animated by scientific fervor but who are willing to use measures and precautions so that psychics could have the protection and assistance they need, due to the consumption of energy and disturbing influences to which they are exposed.
 See my “Contribution to the Psychology of Misoneism,” in Psyche Vol. II 1913 n. 5-6
 It is not difficult to discover the reasons that can induce such abandonment, and Breuer rightly indicated it in the article he wrote (The ancient “Light and Shadow”) when he took over the direction of the journal Psychic Research in January 1932.
 In modern times such people are generally identified as “autistic,” as the term “moron” is now disused. — Ed.
 On these facts and their interpretation, see R. Assagioli, “The Thinking Horses of Elberfeld,” in Psyche, 1912 no. 6. (this study will be republished in a pamphlet titled For Better Education now in preparation); See also W. Mackenzie, New revelations of the animal psyche (Genoa, Formiggini).
 For this a reason I have preferred to adopt the “neutral” word metapsychic (which is used by Richet and others) instead of the more frequently used word supernormal.
 Ernesto Bozzano too has collected and acutely commented on many proofs in “On premonitory phenomena” in Light and Shadow, Rome. 1914)