The world of the supernatural, or paranormal, is complex, often confusing, and very much alive with debate and discussion. For every consensus, there is a raging debate that cannot be quelled, and retrocognition sits in the middle of this whirling vortex.
Now considered a mainstay of parapsychology, retrocognition walks a very fine line. As such, not many people know much about it, or even what it is.
What is Retrocognition?
Retrocognition, coming from the Latin retro (behind, backwards) and cognition (knowing) was coined, as a term, by Frederic W. H. Meyers in the 1800si. Considered, in its simplest form, to be the recollection of past events that one should not have any memory of. Thus, it is separate from hindsight (the remembering and assessing of past events experienced) and precognition (the foreseeing of events yet to come).
Broadly speaking, retrocognition is believed to present itself in two main ways. Firstly, in the remembering of past events concerning others, and secondly in the remembrance of one’s own past lives. Both beliefs have long folkloric and spiritual histories, however, despite their very recent recognition.
Retrocognition Through History
For many religions, retrocognition, precognition, and other parapsychological concepts fall into the realms of sorcery, witchcraft, and the powers of a seer or oracle. As such they are not readily accepted in many communities, but there are some religions for which this is a benign concept.
Karmic religions which focus on the idea of reincarnation, for example, Buddhism, often recognize personal retrocognition as a possibility. In fact, many believe that ability is most likely to manifest in very young children, and, as we will see later, there have been some cases in which young children show uncanny knowledge.
Perhaps the most infamous case of non-personal retrocognition, however, is that of Annie Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain. These two scholars, pioneers for female education, visited the palace at Versailles in 1911 and claimed that on taking a wrong turn while trying to visit Marie Antionette private cottage Le Petit Trianon they experienced something extraordinary.
Moberly and Jourdain claimed that they had experienced some of the last days of the French queen and that they had seen and spoken to people of her day. They published their experiences in a book The Adventure (1911) but were quickly dismissed as having experience mutual confabulation by esteemed parapsychologists of the day.
Confabulation, or the joint or single misremembering of events without intent to deceive, has been cited in many cases of retrocognition.
Cases of Personal Retrocognition
Over the years there have been many strange and fascinating cases of retrocognition, almost all of which occur in very young children. There are many theories as to why this may be.
Some people state that most of us are simply forgetful and that these few children remember because they are exceptional. Others cite research showing the link between oxytocin and amnesia; oxytocin is produced during pregnancy, and so it may be that the oxytocin in our mother’s womb makes us forget. Other’s state that it’s a defense mechanism implemented by the same instinct that suppresses extreme trauma; to remember our old life while trying to build a new one would be too painful, and so we forget.
This certainly rings true; many children who remember their past lives find it distressing.
The Case of Sam Taylor
Many cases of retrocognition begin with young children saying things which are believed strange or oddly grown-up. The case of Sam Taylor is an excellent example; when he was just over a year and a half old, he looked at his father and said: “When I was your age, I used to change your diapers”. This was startling because of the sophisticated language, of course, but also because his paternal grandfather had died just 18 months before his birth.
Furthermore, as he aged, he talked of his grandfather more and more often and would discuss things that he could not have known, but which no-one would be likely to discuss with a child. For example, he expressed sadness over the murder of his (his grandfathers) sister, and the fact that his wife (grandmother) used to make him milkshakes in a food processor every day at the end of his life.
Though many people do not believe Sam’s story, there are dozens more like it; the case of a midwestern boy, Ryan, who remembered the life of a minor movie extra and Hollywood agent Marty Martyn is just one example.
Retrocognition in Medicine
The idea of past life regression has been around since 2 BC when Hindu Yogis used it to unburden their souls of karmic baggage, but these days it is mostly practiced by hypnotherapists. They believe that, under hypnosis, past life memories can be discovered and analyzed to aid in the treatment of the trauma those experiences caused. There are those who believe, for example, that this can be used to treat irrational phobias which may have been caused by trauma or even death in a past life. While the scientific basis of this theory is shaky, it cannot be denied that there are many people who claim to have used this regression to successfully deal with trauma, phobias, and aversions.
This practice is not fully recognized by traditional medical practitioners but is nonetheless widely used.
In there is no consensus surrounding retrocognitive phenomena, but for those seeking to investigate the concept, there are more varied and accessible sources than ever before. The concept itself has a long history amongst spiritualist communities and karmic religions, which hold beliefs in the concept of reincarnation.
For the average modern sceptic, however, perhaps this definition is enough; retrocognition is the possession of knowledge, personal or secondary, which should not otherwise be present. It may take the form of Deja vu, phobias, or even full-scale visual and auditory hallucinations. No scientific experiments have yet been able to prove its existence, and yet there are those whose personal experiences have proven enough to convince them totally. What you believe is up to you.