A term coined by Theodore Flournoy and used in psychical
research to denote unconscious memory. It may be accessible
in trance and explain much unusual information, or knowledge
recalled under special circumstances.
Italian researcher Cesare Lombroso says in his book After
Under certain circumstances, i.e. when I am at great altitude,
say six or seven thousand feet, I remember Italian, Latin
and even Greek verses which had been forgotten for years. But
I know very well that I read them in early youth. Similarly, during
certain dreams in nights when I am afflicted with conditions
showing intestinal poisonings disagreeable memories of years
previous . . . are reproduced with precision, and with particulars
so minute and exact that I could not possibly recall them
when awake. Yet I observed that they are always fragmentary
and incomplete recollections and depend more on the conditions
of the sentiments than on the intelligence.
Cryptomnesia has been encountered in instances of plagiarism
in which authors use material from other writers, without
any conscious memory that they have acquired such material
from their prior reading, rather than from their own creativity.
Through the twentieth century, cryptomnesia has been increasingly
used to explain some extraordinary information given by
It played an important role in explaining the case of Bridey
Murphy. In a hypnotic state, Ruth Simmons (pseudonym of
Virginia Tighe) described in some detail a former life as a person
who lived in Ireland in the early nineteenth century. M. V.
Kline was one of several psychologists who suggested that Simmons
had compiled a number of forgotten memories to create
the character of Bridey. It was also discovered that as a girl,
Simmons had lived across the street from an Irish family which
included a woman whose maiden name was Bridie Murphy.
The critique of the Bridey Murphy case suggested cryptomnesia
as an explanation of many past-life and similar memories
produced by people under hypnotism. It has also been invoked
to explain some instances of xenoglossis, in which people
speak a language they have never learned.
Reed, Graham. The Psychology of Anomalous Experience. Boston
Houghton Mifflin, 1974.