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Assagioli was an ardent student of parapsychology and esotericism for many decades. In this eminent overview, we learn about his research and the historical times they played out – a truly astonishing piece of research by Mr. Baroni.
By Francesco Baroni, Ph.D., historian and psychosynthesis counselor. Edited and Translated by Jan Kuniholm
Parapsychology is a vast territory with unclear boundaries. According to a classic definition, still very much in vogue in the American school, it can be understood as the “rational, in-depth, multidisciplinary study of facts that concern the psyche and its interaction with the environment, and that seem inexplicable in the present state of our scientific knowledge.” According to a narrower meaning, which emphasizes the communicative aspect, it is the study of “the means of communication between organisms and their environment, other than those currently explained by the scientific community.” As these definitions suggest, this is a complex field with a problematic cultural status, the history of which cannot be traced here. However, if we want to understand why Roberto Assagioli, founder of psychosynthesis and pioneer of transpersonal approaches, dedicated himself to this kind of research and not only made several theoretical contributions, but also (as we shall see) did an astonishing amount of experimental work, it will be necessary to clarify, first, some fundamental historical junctures.
At the time when Assagioli undertook his medical studies, “psychology” and “parapsychology” were deeply intertwined. This should come as no surprise because there was a common ancestor in their phylogeny. Indeed, as Ellenberger has shown in a now-classic volume, the very birth of the modern psychological endeavor must be related to the discovery of inner depths made in work first done with mesmeric trances and then with spiritist trances. The hypothesis of an unconscious mind, which forms the core of late 19th-century dynamic psychiatry, flows directly from those experiences of altered consciousness, whose cultural resonance was amplified by the Romantic context. However, artificial somnambulism, hypnosis and spiritism did not merely point to the existence of submerged psychic continents — and this is where parapsychology comes in — they also brought with them an astonishing repertoire of paranormal phenomena, from remote viewing to precognition, from telepathy to telekinesis.
One example will suffice to account for this entanglement. It is now well established that Pierre Janet (1859-1947) was one of the main pioneers of the concept of the “unconscious” (more than Freud himself was inclined to concede, as Ellenberger mischievously observed). It is perhaps less well known, however, that the set of concepts that enabled the French doctor to build his theoretical edifice (“subconscious,” “dissociation,” “psychological automatism”) derive directly from experiments with remote hypnosis — that is, experiments based entirely on “parapsychological” assumptions. If Janet later disavowed the importance of his own paranormal studies (Evrard speaks in this regard of “strategic repentance”), other researchers gravitating around the once-glorious Society for Psychical Research explicitly elaborated a refined and original psychological vision precisely from the study of mediumistic experiences. A few years before Freud, for example, Frederic W.H. Myers (1843-1901) sketched the concept of the “subliminal self,” going so far as to postulate the existence of a “larger self” as the matrix and psychic source of the ordinary self. In short, this was a vertiginous transpersonal psychology based on mediumistic grounds, which openly anticipated the psychoanalytic concept of the “unconscious.”
But modern psychology soon broke free from the awkward embrace of parapsychology. In the early decades of the twentieth century we witness some contrasting trends, the simultaneity of which seems paradoxical today. Nobel laureate Pierre Curie (1859-1906), who with his wife Maria Sklodowska (1867-1934) witnessed the performances of the medium Eusapia Palladino, wrote in 1906, “We are faced, in my opinion, with a whole new field of realities and physical states, which we cannot even imagine.” Another Nobel laureate, Charles Richet (1850-1935), in his Treatise on Metapsychics (1922) now considered the parapsychological phenomena observed in mediumistic sessions to be proven and explicitly attributed them to “intelligent causes.” Those years marked in many ways the apogee of “metapsychics” and seemed to presage its official consecration; yet this was not the case. Little by little, research on spiritualism lost ground, discredited by accusations of fraud and manipulation. At the same time a series of studies placed the paranormal in relation to unconscious psychic activity, “normalizing” it, integrating it within the psychological frameworks of the time and domesticating what de Martino would call the “scandal” of the parapsychological event. It is true that between 1920 and 1940 parapsychology was revived thanks to the spread of quantitative methodology and the transfer of research to universities (especially in the United States). However, it was during these years that the final split between psychology and parapsychology matured. The parapsychologist now became a statistical “elicitor of anomalies”; but the idea that these anomalies can reveal a completely new picture of the psyche now faded, at least in most mainstream psychological approaches.
Mediumship in medicine, psychology and philosophy: a cross-disciplinary debate
But let us come to Assagioli. From a very young age, the future founder of psychosynthesis traveled across borders to pursue his psychiatric studies. In 1906, in Switzerland, for example, he met Geneva physician Théodore Flournoy (1854-1920). This was no ordinary scholar: Flournoy was the first psychologist in the modern sense of the term to meticulously study a “normal” medium — that is, one who did not show symptoms of mental alienation — and he published his findings in the volume From India to the Planet Mars (1900), which was destined for enormous success. This work gave a positive view of mediumship, diametrically opposed to the pathologizing reading of the Charcot school that had dominated the late 19th century. Indeed, Flournoy showed how trance states seemed, on the one hand, to play a protective role vis-à-vis the ordinary self and, on the other hand, to unleash certain parapsychic abilities such as telepathy or telekinesis (showing, however, extreme caution in his conclusions).
The 18-year-old Assagioli discussed mediumship with Flournoy, as noted in a letter to Papini dated September 15, 1906. But this is not the first evidence of his interest in the subject. Before the summer, in fact, Assagioli had already broached the subject with Luigi Luciani (1840-1919), physiologist and rector of La Sapienza University in Rome. He had not been content with a discursive approach, but had decisively engaged the mediumistic experience, practicing it himself. “In the evenings,” he would write to Papini on April 21, 1906, “I have mediumistic sessions with Luciani obtaining good results.” Between 1907 and 1909, moreover, Assagioli visited Zurich several times. Here he made the acquaintance of Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), with whom he would have cordial relations throughout his life. We do not know the exact content of the conversations between the two. However, as Paola Giovetti notes, the friendship between Assagioli and Jung was cemented “not only by the interest of both of them in psychoanalysis, but also by their interest in paranormal phenomena, astrology and Oriental philosophies.”
Despite the deterrent role played by the Church against spiritualism, a lively interest in these matters did not take long to establish itself in Italy as well. As Simona Cigliana recalls, “today it is difficult to fully realize the intensity and extent of the debate that took place in the 19th century, particularly in that positivistic age, when a thirst for the marvelous and supernatural seemed to spread almost universally across all social classes; and the passion with which positivistic science devoted itself to somnambulists and gyrating tables, to apparitions and ectoplasms.” As early as 1891 Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), a professor of psychiatry at the University of Turin, had said he was “ashamed and pained to have fought so tenaciously against the possibility of so-called spiritist facts (…) I say facts because I am still opposed to the theory. But the facts exist and I claim to be a slave of the facts.” In 1908 a monumental study of the paranormal was published: Psicologia e ‘spiritismo’ [Psychology and ‘Spiritism’] by Enrico Morselli (1852-1929). Holder of the chair of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology at the University of Genoa, the author declared his conviction that the phenomena of spiritism, neglected by many scientists, would be incorporated into the body of knowledge of positive science. A few years later Morselli would serve as editor of Psiche, the journal of psychological studies founded by Assagioli in 1912.
The phenomenology of mediumistic séances raised fundamental questions about the relationship between mind and matter, the faculties of the soul, and the survival of the soul upon the death of the body. Soon therefore parapsychology and spiritism aroused the interest not only of physicians and psychiatrists, but also of those cultural avant-gardes who, seeking alternatives to the rigid frameworks of positivism, were interested in all perspectives capable of describing the totality of human experiences, including religious and spiritual ones. In Florence these sensibilities had found expression in the journals Leonardo (1903-1907) and La Voce (1908-1916).
As is well known, Roberto Assagioli was deeply immersed in this cultural atmosphere, and took an active part in what Hermet called “the magazine ventures.” His articles in Leonardo already hint at a profoundly spiritualist conception, enlivened by the study of theosophy and Eastern literatures and open to the idea that beneath the surface of the ordinary self there dawns a “superconsciousness” endowed with superhuman faculties. In the article “For a New Aryan Humanism” (1907), for example, Assagioli’s ultimate references are the Upanishads and yoga. These traditions represent the guide into the labyrinth of our self to “trace the treasures hidden therein and develop the faculties latent in it.” Their light illuminates modern psychology, describing access to higher states of consciousness up to “glorious identification with universal consciousness.” These are themes derived on the one hand from theosophy, and on the other from The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902) by American philosopher William James (1842-1910). Starting precisely from parapsychology, James had come to postulate the existence of a “continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother-sea or reservoir.”
Similar considerations can be discerned in a lecture given at the Philosophical Library in 1911 and entitled “The Subconscious.” Here Assagioli affirms the existence of “states of consciousness fundamentally different from ordinary ones, more intense, broader, in which ‘a special form of intuition’ predominates” — and in which “perhaps influences foreign to the psyche itself are at play, as in extranormal phenomena.”
Theosophical experiences (1926-1938)
In 1926 Assagioli moved to Rome, where he founded the Institute of Psychic Culture and Therapy. These were the crucial years in which psychosynthesis took shape, but also those in which his involvement in theosophy was most intense. Former president of the “Florence Group” of the Independent Theosophical League, a theosophical association with a pro-Blavatskian orientation, following his move to the capital Assagioli became vice-president of the “Rome Group,” as well as editor of the theosophical periodical Ultra. In those years, however, it was his meeting with Alice Bailey (1880-1949) that would decisively mark his intellectual itinerary. A member of the American Theosophical Society since 1917, after 1919 Bailey claimed to be in telepathic contact with Djwhal Khul, a Tibetan master under whose direct inspiration she would write [or transcribe] most of her works and whose messages heralded the imminent coming of a New Age. Leaving the theosophical organization, Bailey founded her own publishing house, the Lucis Trust (1922), then formed the Arcane School (1923), an avant-garde spiritual training school intended to prepare humanity for an epochal transition: the advent of a “unified society” based on cooperation and peace, and also on the equitable distribution of economic resources.
Assagioli had known and esteemed Bailey for several years, but the two first met in person in Ascona, Switzerland, in the early 1930s. The meeting took place at the International Centre for Spiritual Research, a theosophically-inspired summer school founded by Dutchwoman Olga Fröbe Kapteyn (1881-1962) from which the “Eranos” conferences would later develop, and in which both Assagioli and Bailey participated as keynote speakers between 1930 and 1932. During that same period, in 1931, Master Djwal Khul suggested to Bailey that she create “the New Group of World Servers,” an order “pledged to work without cessation for the promotion of international understanding, economic sharing and religious unity.” To this end, nine groups of ten disciples were to be arranged. The first of these was to consist of “telepathic communicators, elected for their receptivity to impressions from a Master and each other,” who were to be “the custodians of the whole project.” Assagioli was also part of this first select group of “telepathic communicators.” Through Bailey’s mediation, members of the group received the Tibetan’s advice on inner discipline, meditation and on the progress of their spiritual path.
The Tibetan’s letters were published in the book Discipleship in the New Age (1944-1955). Spread over a period of fifteen years (1933-1948), these “telepathic” messages played an important role in Assagioli’s path. In 1934 Djwal Khul suggested to the latter that he write an article dedicated to the power of Will — a topic to which the founder of psychosynthesis devoted the book The Act of Will (1973). The Tibetan also advanced the idea of founding meditation groups, and even an international meditation center. This happened several years later, with the establishment in 1950 of Florence Garrigue’s (1888-1985) Meditation Groups in Connecticut, then in 1971 of Meditation Mount in California, whose activities are based on some of Assagioli’s pamphlets in English. More generally, in the Tibetan’s communications we find the visionary foreshadowing of a New Age, planned by the unseen Masters and made possible, on earth, by groups of disciples of good will. Prominent among these are the founders of a spiritualist psychology, harbingers of new educational methods and techniques of personal transformation. It is difficult not to recognize in this utopia, received through mediumship, a source of inspiration that would flow into the “classical” psychosynthesis of the 1960s and 1970s, feeding the current of world transpersonal psychology.
Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that a significant parapsychological text by Assagioli (the second published in this collection) saw the light of day during these years: “The Metapsychic Faculties” (1934). The latter are defined as “capacities of perception and action that transcend the limits of space and time within which man’s normal faculties operate.” This is, says Assagioli, a difficult field of study, if not “the most arduous there is,” both because of the very nature of the phenomena, which are inherently elusive, and because of the emotional reactions they trigger. However, it is imperative to direct the attention of the scientific community toward the facts of parapsychology, because that community is guilty of “absenteeism” in that regard. Parapsychological faculties — telepathy, supernormal knowledge, premonitions — are not without dangers, however, because they expose us to contact with forces “of unknown nature and intensity.” Before using them, Assagioli observes, it is good to take control of the lower layers of the personality (the instinctive, emotional, mental forces), through the awakening of the “spiritual powers latent but present in us.”
In the same vein as these reflections, in 1937 Assagioli devoted a lecture to “vertical” or “internal” telepathy, that is, the faculty of receiving messages from the superconscious. The author points out, significantly, that “it is very difficult to distinguish between what comes from the individual superconscious and what comes from even higher spheres,” since “the higher one ascends, the more the limits of individuality tend to disappear; the higher one ascends, the more the individual becomes united with the whole.” Such a faculty, pertaining to a “higher branch of parapsychology,” can be developed through specific psychospiritual exercises. Among other things, Assagioli cites the volume Light on the Path (1885) by British theosophist Mabel Collins (1851-1927), saying it was “received telepathically” by the author.
After the war: the Florence Center for Metapsychics
In the same years that Alice Bailey was telepathically conversing with the Tibetan, in Italy parapsychological research was gradually entering “the official frameworks of national culture.” The Italian Society of Metapsychics (SIM), founded on May 26, 1937, was recognized by Royal Decree in 1941. Its mission was to reorganize and develop the research carried out in the previous decades from a more distinctly scientific-experimental perspective — that is, radically detaching itself from spiritualist hypotheses and theories. In those years SIM’s membership list included such eminent academic figures as orientalist Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984), historian of religions Raffaele Pettazzoni (1883-1959), and endocrinologist Nicola Pende (1880-1970). The 1942 conference recommended that corresponding members be appointed “according to their geographical distribution throughout the country, in order to facilitate the development of a network of informants and organizers of research and monitoring activities of psychophysical phenomena reported in the various regions of Italy.”
Ten years later, in 1952, we also find Assagioli among SIM’s corresponding members. Having moved to Florence after the war, the latter had resumed his private practice as a psychiatrist, at the same time initiating a program of conferences and meetings open to the public. That some of these events had parapsychology as their object — even “empirical” parapsychology, that is, based on properly experimental activities — is not, in itself, an unknown fact. However, a set of documents preserved at the Institute of Psychosynthesis, recently digitized and made public, allow us to better appreciate this line of activity, which continued over time and took on structured contours.
In a letter dated July 25, 1952, the then president of SIM, William Mackenzie (1877-1970), a biologist and parapsychologist who was a friend of Assagioli’s, proposed to the latter and to Paolo Graziosi (1906-1988), professor of paleoethnology and anthropology at the University of Florence, the direction of a “study group connected with our Scientific Committee,” pointing out that “an appreciable activity in this direction” was in fact already underway “in the said city by the initiative of Dr. Assagioli.” It was not necessary to wait long. Assagioli became a corresponding member of the SIM on August 13, 1952 (to be later appointed an “ordinary member” in 1954) and at the same time he founded at the Institute of Psychosynthesis the “Metapsychic Center of Florence.” In charge of the center’s secretariat were the Croatian noblewoman and painter Zoe Borelli Vranski-Alacevich (1888-1980) and her husband, Ermenegildo Alacevich dei Cinque (1888-1970), who had always shared an interest in the paranormal.
A few months later Assagioli spoke at the Second National Congress of Metapsychics, held Oct. 4-6, 1952, in Salerno, Italy, with a paper outlining the activities of the Florence center. Here Assagioli postulates that the existence of parapsychological faculties is now indubitably proven. “Metapsychics,” Assagioli resolutely asserts, “has now collected such a vast harvest of well-documented facts and has performed such a sum of experiments, that the existence of various supernormal faculties in man can now be said to be definitely proved. It seems to us, therefore, that it is entering a second phase; that is, that it can and must tend more and more to the in-depth study of the data already collected and those that are gradually being collected, seeking to discover the laws that regulate those phenomena, the manner of their unfolding, and thus to use methods of investigation more and more suited to their peculiar nature.” It follows that the Center’s research program “has been and is rather qualitative than quantitative, more intensive than extensive.” In accordance with his psychagogical approach, Assagioli insists on the need to train gifted subjects, aiming not so much at the “quantitative development of these faculties, as [at] their refinement and control,” with special attention “to the metapsychic faculties of a higher type, which present a special human and spiritual value, such as telepathy with spiritual content, intuition, inspiration, artistic creativity, the elevation of consciousness; that is, in general, the activation of the superconscious.” In doing so, metapsychics will be able to contribute to a “height psychology,” which is as necessary as depth psychology.
Here is how the Florence center is described: “Our Center,” Assagioli writes, “is located at Via S. Domenico, 16, second floor. It is a modest premises, composed of two rooms: one used for meetings, the other as a laboratory; but they have the advantage of being overlooking the countryside and thus of offering that tranquility and silence, not easy to find in cities, which are favorable to research of our kind. Therefore we cordially invite both experimenters and ‘psychics’ who may stay for some time in Florence to cooperate with us. We especially assure the ‘psychics’ that they will find with us understanding, respect for the particular ways in which their faculties are explored and help for them to come to master them and make the best use of them, as much for scientific research as for their inner development and for possible practical applications: diagnostic, curative, etc. I conclude by expressing the wish that everyone, experimenters and subjects alike, wherever they may be, will work in concert to try to probe more and more into the great mystery and to make the metapsychic ‘talents’ yield as much as possible for the good of humanity.” 
As for the activities carried out, the first, Assagioli says, was a course of weekly lectures on “The supernormal psychic faculties and their development.” During the meetings, collective exercises in visualization, auditory evocation and concentration were performed. In another series of weekly meetings, however, experiments in extrasensory perception with Rhine cards and telepathic transmission were carried out (which, Assagioli points out, yielded a “distinctly positive” outcome), as well as psychometry. In addition to this, subjects capable of expressing “automatic or inspired psychic manifestations” were tested. Among them was Miss Gisella Scarlatti, “who had been receiving for years, by means of writing in her waking state, a series of messages of a religious nature and who, after attending our first meetings, began to make a series of drawings of a decorative and stylized character and some with symbolic meaning, which are of considerable interest.” Assagioli then reports that he carried out some experiments with mediums, and says, “Some phenomena were observed, mainly of a telekinetic character, including the playing of musical pieces on the piano while the medium, a musician, was a few meters away moving the fingers of his hands which were held by two of the participants. But overall there was no new fact that deserves special mention”(!). There was no shortage of tests on the “bio-radiating faculties” of gifted subjects by imposition of hands. In one case, the experiment aimed to sprout lentil seeds, in other cases to cause mummification of biological substances (meat and fish).
Shortly thereafter, SIM changed its [public] face. The obsolete term “metapsychics” — echoing the discipline’s beginnings and its controversial relationship with spiritualism — had been replaced by the more modern and aseptic “parapsychology.” Thus, on January 25, 1955, the Florence center officially became a group of the Italian Society of Parapsychology. A 1955 document shows in detail the nature of the activities carried out. As in previous years, experiments in telepathy, concentration, psychometry, visualization and auditory evocation were performed. In other cases, a speaker presented a recent topic or publication in the field of parapsychology. Sometimes Assagioli himself presented theoretical insights during the meetings. On Feb. 16, 1955, for example, he dwelled on “the various aspects under which the perceptions of the psychic may occur, on the various interpretations of foresight and telepathy, on intrapsychic relations, on the modalities of investigation, on errors in predictions, on language and symbolic representations.” On Feb. 23, 1955, moreover, he illustrated “the relationships existing between the phenomena of telepathy, psychometry, prediction, etc., and what are habitually called ‘mediumistic’ phenomena.” In this meeting, Assagioli concluded that “the independence of the psyche from the physical body can be deduced from all these paranormal phenomena and confirmed by the powers of yogis and the highest religious experiences. All these facts combine to give almost certain proof of the survival after death of the physical body.” Another document describes the center’s activities in 1956, including an interesting lecture by Assagioli on precognition. It is completed by a “sequel” reporting on experiments carried out in the preceding weeks, and addresses a classic theme, that of possible determinism that is suggested by the fulfillment of prophecies. Picking up the themes developed in “Metapsychic Faculties,” Assagioli reaffirmed there the value of freedom, a condition that grows in degree as one moves from one “sphere of life” to another.
The bulk of Assagioli’s parapsychological activities thus lie in the 1950s, with a peak of publications between 1959 and 1961. In the writings of this period, the Assagiolian conception of paranormal phenomena is definitively delineated, and an organic relationship between parapsychology and psychosynthesis is articulated. The finding, derived from scientific experience, of the existence of paranormal faculties — first and foremost, telepathy, but also psychometry or precognition — now delineates, for the first time in a complete way, the theoretical place of a transpersonal psychology. In this context, paranormal powers are the natural correlate of an unconscious that instead of being closed in on itself — like the Freudian one — is in constant communication with other unconscious, with which it entertains relations that Assagioli calls “osmotic.” Assagioli concluded that there exists a basic interpsychism involving “a continuous exchange of parapsychological influences.” Parapsychological experiences are thus natural occurrences. The distinction between parapsychology and psychology, moreover, is conventional and provisional: one day parapsychological phenomena will be considered normal and will find their place within a broader and more inclusive psychology. The recognition of their naturalness, on the other hand, also serves to diffuse their fascination, to contain the emotional reactions they arouse, and to reduce the temptation to abuse them. Indeed, recourse to metapsychic faculties is not without risk. A psyche that is open to all kinds of influences, Assagioli repeats, is like a house left wide open, easily accessible to burglars. The risk is that the indiscriminate use of certain faculties will correspond to nervous disorders, aggravated by the uncontrolled emotional reactions in those who experience them.
Parapsychological faculties therefore must be known and mastered, including through specific psychospiritual exercises. Among these, Assagioli recommends the constant practices of detachment and disidentification. In this way paranormal gifts can be used for good, and put at the service of the spiritual life. Assagioli gives two examples of their beneficial use: vertical telepathy and conscious irradiation, or “the parapsychological projection of beneficial energies,” including love, joy and compassion. But beyond these practical applications, the observation of parapsychological faculties can have transformative efficacy because it offers empirical confirmation of the independence of consciousness from matter.
We mentioned that Assagioli’s parapsychological interests seem to culminate between 1959 and 1961. This temporal peak is not surprising. The 1950s and early 1960s are a transitional period, structurally standing between the resumption of activities [after the war] and the development of psychosynthesis as an organized movement. While it is indeed true that at first psychosynthesis established itself mainly abroad, in the 1960s the movement began to grow in Italy as well. In 1965 the Institute of Psychosynthesis was established as a Moral Entity. Also in 1965 Psychosynthesis: a Manual of Principles and Techniques, Assagioli’s first systematic publication, was released. From 1967 onward, psychosynthesis centers multiplied throughout the Italian peninsula. The growing effort aimed at the dissemination and institutionalization of psychosynthesis undoubtedly absorbed the time and energy of an already elderly Assagioli. This same process, on the other hand, perhaps also contributed to the decision to scale down the parapsychological activities conducted at the Institute of Psychosynthesis; activities that risked diverting psychosynthesis into a field of scientific heterodoxy, instead of anchoring it more firmly in the academic psychology of the time, giving it a stable place among the main humanistic therapeutic approaches.
Assagioli and the Circle Florence 77
His interest in parapsychology and in the latent faculties of the human soul led the founder of psychosynthesis to associate with one of the best-known mediums and psychics in recent Italian history, the Florentine Roberto Setti (1930-1984), around whose mediumistic communications the group known as “Cerchio Firenze 77” [Florence 77 Circle] had been formed and operated from the 1950s to the early 1980s. The fact was probably known in the Florentine milieux of psychosynthesis and among the witnesses of the Circle’s sessions. An account of the circumstances of this meeting — which can be placed in the first half of the 1950s — was given by psychotherapist Enrico Ruggini in his valuable volumes dedicated to the history of the Circle, published between 2015 and 2017.
After pointing out the resonance that the parapsychological investigations conducted at the Institute of Psychosynthesis aroused among the public, Ruggini emphasized how soon news reached Assagioli that a young Florentine medium was transmitting, in a state of trance, contents of great philosophical and metaphysical depth. They were accessed by Assagioli when he was delivered some typewritten copies of Setti’s mediumistic communications. Ruggini reconstructs the meeting between the two as follows:
The researcher’s interest was drawn to such an extent by those writings that he immediately wished to meet the young medium. On the other hand, there were those in the Circle who pondered the advisability of having Roberto Setti meet Assagioli, since he was a man of great stature, known in scientific circles both in Italy and abroad. Indeed, it was thought that an opinion from him on the phenomenon occurring through Roberto Setti would have weight and value even outside the Circle of friends. So it was that one day Guido Campani, Roberto’s brother-in-law, made an appointment with Assagioli, and went there with the young man, who had heard much about the distinguished psychiatrist, and he too had a desire to meet him. Their meeting was a happy one; Assagioli asked Roberto’s permission to do experiments with him, and they agreed in such a way that Roberto, following some simple indications of the scholar, would sometimes offer to demonstrate some of his extraordinary faculties in Assagioli’s own study.
It should be noted that Setti carried out his activity as a medium under the tutelage of the same invisible entities he channeled. It therefore seemed inevitable, before proceeding with the experiments, to ask these what they thought of Assagioli’s idea. The latter “authorized a short cycle of experiments conducted very confidentially by the doctor.” The tests conducted on the young medium required, however, a special procedure and setting. According to Ruggini, Assagioli, “knowing well the mechanisms of the psyche, and in particular the power of suggestion, decided to propose some simple experiments to Roberto, which would take place inside his study, but with him — Assagioli — absent and waiting in an adjoining room; in this way he would not be influenced directly by Roberto’s physical presence.”
Once the setting was defined, here is how the sessions took place: “The young medium would fall into a trance on the small couch in the study, in which the doctor’s bulky writing desk dominated, occupying almost all the space; and during the trance, which took place in the presence of Guido and sometimes Wanda Carboncini, as well as a couple of people from the Psychosynthesis group, the Guides would answer the questions that Assagioli had previously posed as the object of experimentation.”
It was during one of these afternoons at the Institute of Psychosynthesis that Assagioli introduced Zoe Alacevich to Roberto Setti. During the meeting the medium, assisted by Assagioli, impressed the Croatian noblewoman with his psychometric gifts:
That day Zoe was wearing a ring with a large stone; it was a family jewel of which she was particularly fond, since it reminded her of the serene hours that until a few years before, unaware of the dark future that was approaching, she had spent in contemplation of her beloved mountains, which she could see from the windows of her house in Zagreb, while, out of a habit, with the fingers of her other hand, she played gently with that stone, which her mother had worn before her. Assagioli got an idea and asked her to slip the ring off her finger and hand it to Roberto, and then asked the medium to tell them anything that came to mind. Roberto closed the jewel in his fist and seemed to absent himself. He turned his head toward the window of the small studio they were in and began to talk and describe a landscape as if he saw it before his eyes; Zoe Borelli listened in disbelief. Roberto spoke of places he did not know, but with a richness of detail that allowed her to identify them one after another, while inside her mind flowed the images that Roberto described with extreme precision. Roberto “saw” the meadows of Poviknem rising from the deep valleys to the rocks of Pocovje, so distinctive, unmistakable; and that sharp belt of forest like a long wave of firs and beeches; and the “French quarries” of Veternica, like wounds on the flanks of the Medvenica massif, bare slices of rock cut out in the green; and farther on, the galena mines of the Francopans, with that metallic sheen, opaque and leaden in the sunset; and the Horvat stairs, natural steps rising to the sky, drawn on the profile of the ridges. Zoe was moved: “— My mountains, they are my mountains… ” That ring was somehow imbued with the poignant emotions that Zoe had felt looking at her mountains and Roberto had been able to describe them through that object, that had become for him like a gateway to her memories. Between Roberto and Zoe there was immediate mutual affection, so the new friend was welcomed and began to join the Circle, becoming a regular visitor. Her sweet and discreet temperament made her well-liked by the group, and the Masters revealed to her that she was expected. But Zoe’s husband was also part of the group.
Between the two worlds, cultural and social, of the Psychosynthesis Institute and the Florence 77 Circle, therefore, a certain permeability seemed to emerge. Several personalities, such as Mr. and Mrs. Alacevich and Wanda Carboncini, frequented both environments for years, animated by their interest in man’s latent faculties and communication with “invisible worlds.” Undoubtedly, the two environments complemented each other: the Assagioli center provided a useful space for theoretical framing, in-depth study and debate, while the Circle represented a formidable laboratory of mediumistic experience. The closeness between the two worlds, it must be said, was also expressed in a mutual appreciation of each other’s speculative and doctrinal productions. If Assagioli, as we have seen, was impressed by the philosophical quality of the Circle’s teachings, Roberto Setti’s Guides in turn did not fail to express a positive evaluation towards psychosynthesis, even going so far during one session as to present “to the members of the Circle, for didactic and comparative purposes, perhaps the most famous diagram drawn by Assagioli to synthesize his image of the human psyche and of man as a whole, the so-called ‘ovoid.’”
The father of psychosynthesis, therefore, was also a parapsychologist. From the historical point of view, it is worth noting that this interest did not represent only Assagioli’s personal inclination, or the simple legacy of his theosophical spiritualism. A “practice of knowing” situated “in the margins of official academic discourse,” precisely because of its “liminal” nature, parapsychology provided in the first decades of the twentieth century a multidisciplinary theoretical interface capable of converging some of the most fundamental questions of the natural, psychological and philosophical sciences. At the center of the debate stood the vexata quaestio of the mind-matter relationship, the power of the former over the latter, the independence of consciousness with respect to the body and its survival after the death of the physical organism.
It is perhaps still little known, but adherence to such a discursive space was interdisciplinary, involving some of the greatest representatives of twentieth-century Italian culture. Two examples may suffice. The first is that of the best-known Italian philosopher of the first half of the century, Benedetto Croce (1866-1952). Drawn by the young de Martino into the delicate debate on the “magical powers” found in “primitive societies,” Croce, following Hegel, went so far as to affirm that “philosophy … has no reason whatsoever to deny the magical powers and other forms of forces of the world (which usually go together) that take on a mysterious aspect; and indeed it affirms, with ideal possibility, their certain reality.” However, for Croce, parapsychological faculties belong to an archaic, outdated phase of the historical unfolding of the spirit. That was an auroral epoch in which the subject did not yet feel with exactitude the limits that separate him from external reality, and captured, thanks to the ductility of his own “sentient soul,” portions of reality that a more solid “I” did not access, in a kind of “immanence of feeling” that gave rise to clairvoyance. In conscious man, however, these states have a residual and pathological character.
The second name is, in fact, that of Ernesto de Martino (1908-1965). Italy’s leading twentieth-century anthropologist forged his first hermeneutic categories precisely on the terrain of parapsychology. A scholar of shamanism, de Martino argued that in certain anthropological contexts paranormal phenomena were real, as the individual and collective psyche “shapes” the natural datum, or rather entertains a dialectical and co-creative relationship with it. The “ethnometapsychics” he proposed in the 1940s is nothing more than the realization of this operative nexus that must unite the gaze of the anthropologist and that of the parapsychologist in the study of cultural places, or “biotopes,” in which the magical event is part of the natural order, insofar as the latter is structured by collective belief, and in which the boundaries of the external world and inner world are in constant fluctuation. In Primitive Magic (1948) this constructivist approach will crystallize into the idea of a culturally conditioned nature; an idea that represents, according to Silvia Mancini, “the most original and avant-garde theoretical summit in the twentieth-century Italian history of religions.” It was a revolutionary insight, which seemed to translate into anthropological terms the theoretical import of quantum mechanics, and in particular the idea of the indissociability between the observer and the observed; and whose “scandalous” character de Martino sensed for the Western cultural establishment, suffering from incurable “cultural arrogance” and incapable of questioning its own category of reality.
Some Italian psychologists, it should be noted, were active promoters of parapsychological research. Among these deserves mention Emilio Servadio (1904-1995), who shared with Assagioli both Jewish origins and an interest in esotericism. After helping to create the Italian Psychoanalytic Society in 1932, Servadio was one of the founders of SIM in 1937 and played a crucial role in the development of Italian parapsychology.
In this context, however, it was Assagioli’s distinction to incorporate parapsychology into the theoretical (and practical) system of an integral transpersonal psychology. Assagioli, that is, considered paranormal facts among the main indicators of the open and efficacious nature of the psyche. Open because the self, instead of being limited by the organism to which it belongs, is in permanent contact both with other centers of consciousness (horizontal telepathy) and with higher versions of itself (vertical telepathy) and, ultimately, with the Self from which it emanates. Effective because through its own radiating force, and acting on a number of intermediate levels such as the “etheric plane,” consciousness works changes on matter, showing the intimate interconnection existing between the physical and psychic worlds. From the psychological point of view, moreover, Assagioli reiterated the transformative potential of parapsychological experiences. If well used, these can facilitate the recognition of the foundational spirituality of consciousness and its independence from physical reality. They contribute, therefore, to the personal and transpersonal development of the individual, allowing glimpses of the evolutionary possibilities of the self.
That is, Assagioli sees parapsychology as a repository of knowledge that can be drawn upon to construct a new and more complete image of man: a psychology capable of describing the higher states of consciousness, its dynamic interconnection with matter, its latent potentials — and its future capabilities.
This approach, though undoubtedly original, is historically related to some models of pre-Freudian psychology, especially the proto-Transpersonalist models of authors such as James and Myers, who recently have been the subject of an interesting rediscovery in some Anglo-Saxon scientific circles. It must be said, however, that compared to the early twentieth century, cultural frameworks had changed. What for Myers were intuitions or discoveries at the germinal stage, gleaned from his experiences with mediums and laboriously negotiated with the scientific community, for the Assagioli of the post-World War II era were now acquired and irrefutable evidence, resonating both with the science of the time and with Western and Eastern mysticism. In what Assagioli explicitly called, as early as the 1952 conference, the “second phase” of parapsychological research, it was no longer so much a matter of proving the existence of extranormal phenomena — as of applying laboratory results to a new “multidimensional” psychology, whose goal is to describe the heights and breadths of an open and evolving psyche and to foster the expression of its potential.
A vision that seems futuristic today, but it was certainly in keeping with the cultural climate of the 1960s and 1970s. It is to Assagioli’s credit that he attempted to sketch one of the earliest maps of it, linking the work of the forerunners of fin-de-siècle “metapsychics” to the transpersonal psychology of the counterculture.
 The source of this definition is the website of the Institut Métapsychique International in Paris: https://www.metapsychique.org/definitions-de-la-parapsychologie/ (URL accessed on 1 August 2022).
 A good introduction, even if focused on the French context, is that of M.B. Brower, Unruly Spirits: The Science of Psychic Phenomena in Modern France, Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 2010. See also M. Biondi, P.E. Tressoldi, Parapsicologia, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2007. The reader will find other references in the following notes.
 H.F. Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry, New York, Fontana Press, 1994 (first published in 1970). “Romanticism had established an intellectual climate which favored the recognition of unconscious mental activity. Subsequently, hypnotism, phenomena associated with spiritualism, and reports of multiple personality, reinforced the view that any model of mind that failed to acknowledge the unconscious must be incomplete.” (Frank Tallis, Hidden minds: A History of the Unconscious, New York, Arcade Publishing, 2002, p. 29). See also A. Crabtree, From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic Sleep and the Roots of Psychological Healing, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1993, and B. Méheust, Somnambulisme et médiumnité, 2 vols., Paris, Synthélabo, 1999.
 H.F. Ellenberger, op. cit., pp. 406-409.
 R. Evrard, Enquête sur 150 ans de parapsychologie. La légende de l’esprit, Escalquens, Éditions Trajectoire, 2016, p. 47.
 Ibid. p. 127.
 “I also believe that any self we may have knowledge of here is really nothing more than a fragment of a greater self, which reveals itself in a way that is both mutable and limited through an organism that is not structured in a way such as to allow it to fully manifest itself” (F.W.H. Myers, Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, London, Longman, 1903, vol. I, pp. 14-15). At the beginning of the twentieth century the influence of The Human Personality was considerable. René Sudre called this volume the “Bible of English parapsychologists” (R. Sudre, Parapsychology, New York, Grove Press, 1962, p. 378). It should be noted that the notion of “subliminal self” had been theorized by Myers since 1892 (see A. Crabtree, op. cit., pp. 327-350).
 The Curies won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1903. — Tr.
 F.W.H. Myers (see note above) and others concluded that at least some of Palladino’s feats were fraudulent. —Tr.
 Quoted in K. Blanc, Pierre Curie: Correspondances, Paris, Éditions Monelle Hayot, 2009, pp. 643-644.
 Based on the experiments carried out over two decades, Richet said he was certain of the reality of cryptesthesia (remote viewing, telepathy and precognition), and he also believed that ectoplasmia and telekinesis were proven. During mediumistic sessions, objects, arts, human bodies are formed from nothing; the tables rotate and rise; objects move without contact. “All these phenomena”, says Richet, “seem to be due to intelligent forces, including the amazing intellectual phenomena of our unconscious” (C. Richet, Traité de Métapsychique, Paris, Alcan, 1922, p. 2).
 See below.
 M. Biondi, P.E. Tressoldi, op. cit., p. 59.
 A convert to spiritualism in 1891, Hélène Smith (whose real name was Élise-Catherine Müller; 1861-1929) had soon proved to be an extremely prolific medium, capable of producing long narratives in a trance state. In five years of sessions she would produce several mediumistic novels — two of them explicitly presented as memories of previous lives: the “Hindu cycle” and the “royal cycle” — and a second personality, Léopold. In the so-called “Martian cycle,” Hélène Smith communicates with the inhabitants of the red planet, whose landscapes and civilization she describes and renders the language and writing later studied by Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913). For most of his career Flournoy will be the representative of parapsychology in Switzerland. In 1909 he would chair the Congress of Experimental Psychology, trying unsuccessfully to integrate mediumistic phenomena into psychological research (R. Evrard, op. cit., p. 84). On this subject see also N. Edelman, Voyantes, Guérisseuses et visionnaires en France, 1785-1914, Paris, Albin Michel, 1995, pp. 187-190.
 A. Berti, Roberto Assagioli: profilo biografico degli anni di formazione, Florence, Institute of Psychosynthesis, 1988, p. 37. Relations between Assagioli and Flournoy, sustained by a common interest in the paranormal, continued over time. A letter dated Dec. 15, 1914, addressed by Flournoy to James H. Hyslop, relates an interesting episode in which the Geneva physician was involved with Assagioli. Being in Zurich as the guest of a friend, Flournoy, who was sharing a room with his young Italian colleague, suddenly had a vision of a tremendous battle that seemed to involve the whole world, with “hosts of armed men hurling themselves at each other,” “a spectacle that had in it the Titanic and the Cosmic” in which “the beneficent power of Light” and “the evil power of Darkness” were confronting each other. Although Flournoy does not consider the event “metapsychically probing,” he does not fail to relate this vision—which certainly constituted an anomalous psychic experience—to the outbreak of World War I, and asks Assagioli to corroborate his account with a report of his own (in Luce e Ombra XXVII, 7, 1927, p. 306).
 A. Berti, op. cit., p. 38.
 “Jung,” Assagioli recalls, “affably welcomed the visitors who flocked in from all sides, and I keep alive the memory of the animated conversations I had with him in his large study with its walls all lined with books and curious exotic objects” (quoted in P. Giovetti, Roberto Assagioli. La vita e l’opera del fondatore della psicosintesi, Rome, Mediterranee, 1995, p. 30).
 Ibid. Recall that it was precisely to mediumship that Jung had dedicated his dissertation, On the Psychopathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena (1902), in which he analyzed the case of a young medium, his cousin, and her experiences of spiritism. In 1961, shortly after the Swiss psychiatrist’s death, Assagioli would devote a lecture precisely to the relationship between Jung and parapsychology. See Institute of Psychosynthesis, Assagioli Archives, ID DOC 23573, https://www.archivioassagioli.org accessed July 24, 2022 (henceforth we will refer to the documents kept at the Institute’s Archives by “ID DOC” following the numbering adopted on the Institute’s website).
 S. Cigliana, “Spiritismo e parapsicologia nell’età positivistica,” in Storia d’Italia. Annali 25. Esoterismo, edited by G.M. Cazzaniga, Turin, Einaudi, 2010, pp. 521-546, p. 528.
 Quoted ibid. p. 543. Lombroso’s certainty of the reality of “spiritistic facts” was induced by his participation in the séances of the Apulian medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918). In 1908 Palladino was examined, in Naples, by a committee appointed by the Society for Psychical Research.
 For an overview of the group of people related to Psiche, see P. Guarnieri, “Senza cattedra”. L’Istituto di psicologia dell’Università di Firenze tra idealismo e fascismo, Florence, Florence University Press, 2012, p. 66 ff. On Morselli see M.T. Brancaccio, “Enrico Morselli’s Psychology and ‘Spiritism’: psychiatry, psychology and psychical research in Italy in the decades around 1900,” Studies in history and philosophy of biological and biomedical sciences XLVIII, 2014, pp. 75-84.
 A. Hermet, La ventura delle riviste: 1903-1940, Florence, Vallecchi, 1941.
 “Per un nuovo umanesimo ariano,” Leonardo V, 2, 1907, pp. 162-182. This is the text of a lecture given on January 20, 1907, at the Philosophical Library in Florence.
 Quoted in A. Berti, op. cit., p. 19.
 Ibid. p. 20.
 As Alvarado observes, “James came to believe in minds being interconnected, like islands or trees, referring to ‘a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother-sea or reservoir… Not only psychic research, but metaphysical philosophy, and speculative biology are led in their own ways to look with favor on some such ‘panpsychic’ view of the universe as this.” (C.S. Alvarado, “William James,” in Psi Encyclopedia, London, The Society for Psychical Research, https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/william-james accessed July 19, 2022).
 R. Assagioli, Il subcosciente, Florence, Biblioteca filosofica, 1911, p. 18 (ID DOC 028141). This paper was promptly reviewed in Luce e Ombra (C. Alzona, “R. Assagioli, Il subcosciente,” Luce e Ombra XI, 6-7, 1911, pp. 401-402).
 There had been some divisions among theosophists after the death of founder Helena Blavatsky in 1891, as Annie Besant became the leader of one group, while eventually others believed that she had departed from the original teachings as received through Blavatsky. — Ed.
 “What at this moment appears to prevent world unity and keeps the United Nations from arriving at those necessary settlements which the man in the street is so eagerly awaiting? The answer is not hard to find and involves all nations: nationalism, capitalism, competition, blind stupid greed.” (A. Bailey, Problems of Humanity, New York, Lucis Trust, 1964, p. 172). [This book was originally published in 1944 — Ed.]
 The school’s first symposium was held in 1929. Regarding Bailey and Assagioli’s participation in these activities, see ID DOC 21030, with the Summer School program for August 1930, consisting mostly of lectures by Bailey and Assagioli. It is conceivable, then, that the two met in Ascona that very year. Fröbe and Assagioli had known each other since at least 1928 (H.T. Hakl, Eranos. An Alternative Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century, Sheffield, Equinox, 2013, p. 30). In this regard, the reader may consult, in addition to Hakl’s text (especially pp. 25-32), the volume by R. Bernardini, Jung a Eranos. Il progetto della psicologia complessa, Milan, FrancoAngeli, 2011, pp. 259 ff. (especially note 88, p. 261 and bibliographical references). On the relationship between Bailey and Assagioli see also our “Le radici teosofiche del modello ideale: note per una storicizzazione delle tecniche psicosintetiche,” https://www.academia.edu/32266990 (accessed August 6, 2022).
 A. Bailey, The Unfinished Autobiography, New York, Lucis Trust, 1979, p. 214.
 I. Blackthorn, Alice A. Bailey: Life and Legacy, Tokyo, Next Chapter, 2021, p. 252.
 A. Bailey, Discipleship in the New Age, New York, Lucis Trust, 1944-55. Here Djwal Khul used the acronym F.C.D. to refer to the founder of psychosynthesis. These are the three initials of a phrase used by the Tibetan to guide Assagioli in his spiritual evolution, “Freedom from ties, Chelaship, Detachment,” meaning Freedom from attachments (emotional), Navigating in study (esoteric), Detachment (impersonality).
 A. Mankoff, “Roberto Assagioli, Psychosynthesis, and the Esoteric Roots of Transpersonal Psychology,” available at https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/roberto-assagioli-psychosynthesis-and-the-esoteric-roots-of-transpersonal-psychology/ (accessed July 16, 2022).
 Garrigue was a disciple of Bailey who along with other students of the Arcane School helped found the School for Esoteric Studies, which opened in 1956 in New York. Assagioli would also participate in its activities. On the history of the Meditation Mount see https://meditationmount.org/history/ (accessed August 2, 2022) in addition to A. Mankoff, op. cit.
 “Opportunity will come to you to reach the world with ideas that are relatively new . . . you must work for a year at the organization of your thought and material so that you can reach the thinkers of the world with the new ideas in the field of that oncoming major science, that newer field of service – the field of psychology” (in A. Mankoff, op. cit.).
 The first version of this text was presented as a paper at the Institute of Culture and Psychic Therapy in Rome in 1934 (“Le facoltà psichiche supernormali,” ID DOC 23483). The text was later published in 1946 under the title “Le facoltà metapsichiche” in the journal Scienze del mistero, edited by the noted Orientalist Giuseppe Tucci, on which see infra (Scienze del mistero I, 5, March 15, 1946, pp. 33-44). The exact date of the original report, January 21, 1934, is obtained from a handwritten note by Assagioli on a copy of the article kept at the Institute (ID DOC 23396).
 ID DOC 23483.
 ID DOC 23856. This document is from the 1950s, but on the first page we find these words, in Assagioli’s hand: “part of the lesson of 1937.”
 S. Mancini, “Fra pensiero simbolico, religione civile e metapsichica: la storia delle religioni nel primo Novecento italiano,” in Storia d’Italia. Annali. 25. Esoterismo, op. cit., pp. 629-658, p. 640.
 Ibid. p. 641.
 For example, Tina Muzzi, Assagioli’s collaborator, reported, “We were admitted to the upper floor [of the Institute], where Assagioli’s private rooms were. There we would meditate on the day of the full moon or attend experiments aimed at testing the extrasensory gifts of those present. Experiments in telepathy using Rhine cards and psychometry: Assagioli had previously prepared sealed envelopes marked with a number, which the psychics had to hold in their hands trying to perceive the contents” (in P. Giovetti, op. cit., p. 60). In the Assagioli household, the Muzzi couple also participated in mediumistic sessions with a trance medium. On the mediumistic experiments conducted by Assagioli, see below.
 Mackenzie “was an English biologist, philosopher and parapsychologist who was born and lived mostly in Italy. In 1905 he founded the first marine biology laboratory in Genoa and was professor of biological philosophy at the University of Geneva from 1939 to 1945. Honorary President of the Italian Society of Parapsychology, honorary member of the Institut Métapsychique International in Paris, he studied […] the parapsychological faculties of animals and mathematical mediumship. He was director of Parapsychology in the two-year period 1955-56, and published in many parapsychological journals” (L. Gasperini, Ernesto Bozzano: Tra spiritismo scientifico e ricerca psichica, Master’s Thesis in History of Scientific Thought, A.A. 2009-2010, University of Bologna, Faculty of Philosophy, 2010, p. 245, note 42). In 1912 Assagioli had studied the case of Elberfeld’s “calculating horses” with Mackenzie (R. Assagioli, “I cavalli pensanti di Elberfeld,” Psiche. Rivista di Studi Psicologici I, 6, 1912, pp. 419-450), and later had benevolently reviewed the famous treatise Metapsichica moderna. Fenomeni medianici e problemi del subcosciente, published by his English colleague in 1923 (see ID 23565).
 ID DOC 17762. It does not appear that Graziosi accepted the proposal, but he was certainly a member of the center and participated in its activities, dealing in particular with experiments of a psychophysical nature.
 See the letter from Francesco Egidi (then president of the Italian Society of Metapsychics) to Assagioli dated July 26, 1954 (ID DOC 17763).
 ID DOC 18446. The date of Assagioli’s SIM membership can be seen from his membership card, which is also kept in the archives (ID DOC 17759).
 ID DOC 17786. Zoe Borelli Vranski-Alacevich, born in Zadar, was the daughter of Hugo Borelli Vranski and Evelina Alačević of Hvar. She received her first painting lessons from her father and painter Marija Ettinger while attending the girls’ high school in Zagreb, then studied at the Kunstschule für Frauen in Vienna and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. After her studies she moved with her family to Paris, where she exhibited with Jean-Louis Forain in 1913. In 1946, he had to leave Zagreb because of the Julian-Dalmatian exodus. In Italy she met and married military man Ermenegildo de Cinque Alačević, her cousin, who after being held prisoner two years by the Americans had been freed, reinstated as a general in the Italian army, then posted to Florence. Endowed, according to Tina Muzzi, with “prestigious psychic gifts” (P. Giovetti, op. cit., p. 59), Zoe had experimented from a young age with automatic writing — through which she claimed to receive messages from Paramahansa Yogananda — and had deepened her study of theosophy; she also practiced spirit painting. After making the acquaintance of Assagioli “she was included by him in a research group that was formed, in addition to scholars of the phenomenon, by two other female mediumistic painters” (E. Ruggini, Il Cerchio Firenze 77. Una storia vera divenuta leggenda, 3 vols., Amazon, 2015-2017, vol. 1, Kindle ed., location 1024). It was Assagioli himself who put the Alacevichs in contact with the well-known Florentine medium Roberto Setti and the group that gathered around his communications, the Florence 77 Circle, in whose activities the two participated for several decades (see below). The Florence 77 Circle can be defined — both for the philosophical quality of its doctrinal developments and for the interest aroused by the paranormal phenomenology that characterized it — as the most significant Italian mediumistic experience of the second half of the twentieth century (see our “Tra esoterismo, New Age e mistica cristiana: le dottrine del ‘Cerchio Firenze 77’,” Aries. Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, XI, 2, 2011, pp. 167-188). On the Alacevich see also N. Bonora, Con amore per amore, Rome, Mediterranee, 1990, p. 91 ff. as well as E. Ruggini, op. cit. On the relations between Assagioli and Roberto Setti see below.
 R. Assagioli, “Il Centro di Metapsichica di Firenze (Programma – Attività svolte),” in Nuovi problemi di metapsichica: 2. serie. Atti del 2. Congresso Nazionale, Salerno, 4-6 Ottobre 1952, Rome, Esim, 1952, pp. 119-124. The manuscript of the talk is preserved in the Assagioli archives (ID DOC 18446). Among the speakers we also find clergyman Reginaldo Santilli (1908-1981), author of a volume on spiritualism published with much acclaim in 1952, as well as psychoanalyst Emilio Servadio (see infra). The first national congress had been held in 1949 in Siena.
 R. Assagioli, “Il Centro di Metapsichica di Firenze,” op. cit., p. 119. Italics are ours.
 Ibid. p.120.
 Ibid. p. 124.
 Ibid. p. 122.
 Ibid. pp. 122-124. These latter experiments were conducted by Dr. Alfredo Paoletti, a dowser.
 In this regard Assagioli will say in 1957: “Paraps. is a more up-to-date word, more fashionable, I would say, sounding more graceful or to be more precise less strongly unwelcome to academic ears, but what it designates is precisely the same thing, the same field of research that used to be called metapsychics” (ID DOC 17773).
 “On January 25  at the group’s headquarters in Via San Domenico 16, Dr. Roberto Assagioli in the presence of a large audience of scholars and listeners announced the formal establishment of the Florence group according to the Rules of the Italian Society of Parapsychology” (ID DOC 17827).
 Speakers include Zoe and Ermenegildo Alacevich, but also Angelo Biancotti of Turin, Dr. Marabini of the Centro Studi Parapsicologici in Bologna, Valeria Peretti-Brizzi, president of the Centro Sperimentale di Radiestesia (Cespesa) in Rome, Prof. Giorgio Piccardi of the University of Florence, Dr. Pietro Grazzini, a dowsing physician in Florence, and Gastone De Boni, editor of the magazine Luce e Ombra (R. Assagioli, “Il Centro di Metapsichica di Firenze,” op. cit., ibid.).
 ID DOC 17827.
 Every Sunday at 5 p.m. Assagioli gave a lecture on the “Development of Parapsychological Faculties,” accompanied by exercises in visualization and inspirational reception (ID DOC 17824). The meeting was usually followed by the lecture by another speaker. Among them we find Roberto Hack (1889-1971), a Florentine accountant of Swiss descent and noted theosophist, who would later serve as Secretary General of the Italian Theosophical Society (1962-1971). Elsewhere we learn that Assagioli in 1957 carried out experiments (apparently successful) in fish mummification with the Alacevichs (ID DOC 17879). In another document Assagioli details the methodology of these experiments, explaining that mummification is caused by the action of prana, which in turn is connected to the etheric body of the bioremediating subject (ID DOC 23241).
 The typewritten text has been preserved, but does not appear to be published (ID DOC 23754).
 ID DOC 24234.
 During these years Assagioli devoted several significant papers to parapsychology, many of which are collected in this volume. A search of the archives reveals at least five. The first is an unpublished text (referred to as a “conversation with Dr. Assagioli”) dated February 8, 1959, entitled “Abstract Art and Parapsychology” (ID DOC 23077). The second is the lecture “Parapsychological Faculties. Why they matter-Dangers of their use and how to avoid them,” presented on March 15, 1959 (fifth text in this collection; ID DOC 23403). The third is the article “Parapsychological Faculties and Nervous Disorders,” published in Men and Ideas in January 1961 (seventh text in this collection; ID DOC 23406). The fourth is the lecture “Parapsychological Faculties,” dated May 7, 1961 (ID DOC 2340; sixth text in this collection). The fifth is “Psychosynthesis and Parapsychology,” a lecture read at the Accademia Tiberina in Rome on June 7, 1961 (ID DOC 17774; first two texts in this collection). This is a lecture originally given in 1960, then repeated on May 14, 1961.
 In English-speaking countries, the equivalent would be a government-recognized non-profit institution. —Ed.
 Enrico Ruggini, op. cit. These volumes are a particularly interesting source given that Ruggini, in addition to participating in the Circle sessions in the final phase of Setti’s mediumistic experience, is also a psychosynthesisist trained at the Italian Psychosynthesis Therapeutic Society in Florence.
 “The founder of Psychosynthesis had initiated in Florence, at his Institute, an intense activity of metapsychic investigations, conducted with the rigor of the scholar and making use of his considerable medical-scientific expertise. Around the Institute of Psychosynthesis gravitated the passionate devotees of these disciplines invisible to the academies, and a great fervor accompanied this research work: meetings, conferences, discussions, and experiments followed one another under Assagioli’s supervision. Any news about paranormal manifestations, unusual events, or metapsychic faculties, that came from the Florentine circles of those years, but also from neighboring areas, was collected and sifted, and the most interesting cases did not escape serious, competent and conscientious examination by this group of enthusiasts led by Assagioli. And of course it could not fail to reach the ears of this physician and researcher the news that a young medium in Florence itself was working wonders. Not only that… some of the assiduous frequenters of the Florentine mediumistic circle, who were passionate about Theosophy, had also attended the conferences held at the Institute of Psychosynthesis and were interested in the research being carried out there. So it was that soon Assagioli received typewritten copies of transcripts of some of the communications that took place during Roberto Setti’s sessions” (E. Ruggini, op. cit., ch. 6).
 Ibid. Wanda Carboncini, initially the “typist” of the Florence 77 Circle—she used a typewriter to transcribe the teachings provided by the Guides—collaborated with Assagioli on the project of the first telephone helpline that arose in Italy in 1963 (P. Giovetti, op. cit., p. 59), and was in charge of the typing transcriptions and translations of Assagioli’s texts from 1964 to 1981 (http://www.psicosintesi.it/sites/default/files/rivista_022_cronologiadellecarciheistituzionali_0.pdf accessed August 6, 2022).
 E. Ruggini, op. cit., ibid.
 S. Mancini, op. cit., p. 629.
 B. Croce, “Intorno al ‘magismo’ come età storica,” Quaderni della Critica XII, 1948, pp. 53-64, p. 57. On this issue, and more generally on the relations between idealist philosophical circles and spiritualism, see our “Benedetto Croce e l’esoterismo,” Annali dell’Istituto italiano per gli Studi Storici XXVI, 2012, pp. 251-335.
 E. de Martino, “Lineamenti di etnometapsichica,”, Società Italiana di Metapsichica: Problemi di Metapsichica I, 1942, pp. 113-39. See S. Mancini, op. cit., especially pp. 642-655, and also F.A. Geisshuesler, “A Parapsychologist, an Anthropologist, and a Vitalist Walk into a Laboratory: Ernesto de Martino, Mircea Eliade, and a Forgotten Chapter in the Disciplinary History of Religious Studies,” Religions X, 304, 2019, pp. 1-22.
 S. Mancini, op. cit., p. 654. On these issues de Martino engaged in a bitter debate with Mircea Eliade during the parapsychology conference held at Royaumont Abbey, north of Paris, in 1956 (his paper “Histoire des religions et parapsychologie” was published in La Tour Saint-Jacques N° 6-7. Spécial sur la Parapsychologie et le Colloque de Royaumont, Paris, La Tour Saint-Jacques, 1956, pp. 96-107). In this regard we refer to the remarks of S. Mancini, op. cit., pp. 652-653, and F.A. Geisshuesler, op. cit.
 See E. de Martino, Il mondo magico, Turin, Bollati Boringhieri, 2007, pp. 52-53.
 Servadio also collaborated as a parapsychologist in the ethnographic missions of de Martino in Lucania in 1957. See G. Errera, Emilio Servadio. Dall’ipnosi alla psicoanalisi, Florence, Nardini, 1990; M. Olzi, A Cure for the Soul: Mesmerism, Psychical Research, and Psychoanalysis in the Life and Work of Emilio Servadio (1904-1995), doctoral thesis, University of Insubria, Varese and Como, 2019.
 See ID DOC 23241.
 We refer to the work done by a team of Anglo-Saxon psychologists and neuroscientists, to whom is due the impressive volume Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century (Lanham, MD, Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). In this text, the authors (E.F. Kelly, E.W. Kelly, A. Crabtree, A. Gauld, M. Grosso, B. Greyson) ask what the phenomena of extreme psychophysical affect (such as stigmata, or blisters produced in a state of hypnosis), near-death experiences (NDEs) and out-of-body experiences (OBEs), and various types of mystical experiences tell us about consciousness and its functioning. Through the study of these rogue phenomena, the authors arrive at an “alternative theory of mind” in the vein of Myers and James’ models. According to this theory, consciousness cannot be considered a mere product of neural structures, but rather must be seen as an entity independent of the brain or body, endowed with extrasensory faculties such as precognition, retrocognition, telepathy and remote viewing. This is a theoretical approach that clearly argues in favor of a transpersonal psychological model.
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