Spiritualism—Italy
In Italy the birth of the Spiritualist movement was largely
brought about by French periodicals and developed along the
lines of the Kardec school. The visit of the famous medium
Daniel Dunglas Home in 1855 led to the formation of many
societies and to the publication of the first Spiritualist journal,
L’Amore del Vero.
The Kardec school of Spiritism greatly affected the development
of Italian Spiritualism. Copies of Kardec’s books and
French Kardecean periodicals circulated freely in Italy. Once
introduced, Spiritualism developed rapidly, and by 1870 there
were more than a hundred societies in different parts of the
country. Both Spiritists and Spiritualists were represented.
Among the prominent organizations were La Società Spirituale
di Palermo, formed in 1863. In the same year the first
representative Spiritualist organ, Annali dello Spiritismo, was
started in Turin by Niceforo Filalete (also known as Vincenzo
Scarpa). The Magnetic Society of Florence, which had influential
members, began its activity about the same time. Baron
Seymour Kirkup sent many accounts of activities to the London
Spiritual Magazine.
In 1873 Baron Guitern de Bozzi founded the Pneumatological
Psychological Academy at Florence, where earlier the visit
of the British medium Agnes Guppy-Volckman, beginning in
1868 and extending to a period of almost three years, left a
deep impression. The academy existed only a brief time.
A period of lively psychic activity began in 1872 when Signor
Damiani discovered the medium Eusapia Palladino, around
whom famous scientists gathered for a many years. G. B. Ermacora,
founder and coeditor of the Rivista di Studi Psichici, Cesare
Lombroso, Ernesto Bozzano, Enrico Morselli, Angelo
Brofferio, Filippo Bottazzi, Benigno Bianchi, and many other
well-known researchers worked to establish the authenticity of
psychic phenomena. A succession of such powerful mediums as
Auguste Politi, Francesco Carancini, Amedee Zuccarini,
Lucia Sordi, and Linda Gazzera helped them in their task.
Various organizations were formed, including the Società di
Studi Psichici in Rome and the Society for Psychic Studies at
Florence. Ernesto Bozzano, a leading psychical researcher,
presided over the Italian Spiritualists Association, and a very
well-organized society, Circulo Arnaldo Vassallo, was formed in
Genoa. It was named after one of the pioneers of the movement
in Italy.
Spiritualism—Italy Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
1472
The formation of the Associazione Italiana Scientifica de
Metapsichica (1946) at Milan and the Centro Italiano de
Parapsicologia (1960) in Naples indicates the revived interest
in psychic phenomena after World War II.
Spiritualism made considerable progress in Italy in spite of
continual opposition from conservative Catholics, who stigmatized
the movement as diabolical. Progress owed much to the
open-minded investigations of psychical researchers such as
Angelo Brofferio, author of Per lo Spiritismo (1892), Ercole
Chiaia, and Ernesto Bozzano, who published a defense of the
British medium W. Stainton Moses. In 1985 the Archivo de
Doucumentazione Storica Della Rocerca Psichica was established
in Bologna as a collection of psychological books and research
records. The collection was built around the collections
of Ernest Bozzano and Gastone de Boni.
According to a poll conducted in 1999, nearly a quarter of
Italians believed in magic, fortune-telling, astrology, and spiritualism.
They spent a total of one billion lire per year on these
interests, according to the survey conducted by Confesercenti
and the polling institute, SWG. The poll found that 22 percent,
or more than 10 million people, believed in mystical practices
in a country that counts 70,000 magicians, astrologers, clairvoyants
and faith healers. About 2.5 percent of those polled, or 1.2
million, admitted that they had been victims of fraud when they
turned to the supernatural to solve the more mundane difficulties
of love, health, and work. For a nation whose population
has been largely one of practicing Roman Catholics, their
church’s admonition against such practices apparently was not
heeded. ‘‘While there is an understandable need for a touch of
magic in life. . .action is needed to stamp out abuses, illegal behaviour
and fraud widely linked to these practices,’’ noted Confesercenti.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Bottazi, F. Nelle regioni inesplorate della Biologia Umana.
Rome, 1907.
Bozzano, Ernesto. Popoli Primitivi e Manifestazioni Supernormali.
Milan Armenia Editore, 1974.
Brofferio, Angelo. Per Lo Spiritismo. 3d ed. Turin, 1903.
Carrington, Hereward. Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena.
New York B. W. Dodge, 1909.
De Vesme, Cesar. History of Experimental Spiritualism. 2 vols.
London Rider, 1931.
Lombroso, Cesare. After Death—What Boston Small, Maynard,
1909.
Morselli, Enrico. Psicologia e ‘Spiritismo’ Impressioni e note Critiche
sui fenomeni medianici di Eusapia Palladino. 2 vols. Turin
Boca, 1908.
Reuters News Service. ‘‘Almost a Quarter of Italians Believe
in Magic. . .’’ 13 August 1999.

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