What is Retrocognition?

   A vivid, realistic image, or vision, of past events, sometimes perceived by more than one of the senses, retrocognition is one of the rarer manifestations of ESR It differs from dej√† vu in two ways: first, the scene is new to the percipient, and second, there is rarely any sense of person­al connection with what is seen. In fact, most reports suggest that the percipient has in some way, almost invariably unexpectedly, been treated to a sudden glimpse back through time. The expe­rience of Coleen Buterbaugh is a good modern example of retrocognition. An errand led Buterbaugh to a room on the campus of Nebraska Wesleyan University in which everything seemed "quite normal" at first. Then "about four steps into the room . . . the odor hit me. . . . I felt . . . someone in the room with me. ... I looked up, and there she was. She had her back to me, . . . She wasn't at all aware of my presence. . . . She was not transparent and yet I knew she wasn't real. . . . [But it was] when I looked out the window behind the desk, that I got frightened. . . . there wasn't one modern thing out there. . . . That was when I realized that these people were not in my time, but that I was back in their time."

   When she reported her "vision" to others, she learned that what she had seen in the room and out the window was the campus as it had been 50 years earlier. As far as is known, Buterbaugh's experience, which was extensively re-viewed by the American Society for Psychical Research, was unprompted by any recent associations or information. Some cases of retrocognition, however, do seem to arise from great concentration or obsessional thinking of some kind. The distinguished English histori­an Arnold Toynbee reported in the 10th volume of his 12-volume Study of History that he enjoyed a half-dozen episodes of "communion" with the distant past while preparing that work over many years. The experiences occurred under such disparate circumstances as while quietly reading in a room at Oxford of the Italian confederacy (1st century B.C.), while "musing on the summit of the citadel of Mistra," and during a stroll along the Buckingham Palace Road. The last was the most intense and suffused the historian with what must have been the most welcome of feelings, that he was "in communion, not just with this or that episode in History, but all that had been, and was, and was to come."

   Somnambulism A half-waking, or trance, state in which consciousness is suspended, yet the subject walks, talks and/or performs other ordinary functions, somnambulism can occur spontaneously during sleep, in the hours approaching a fever's crisis, or in ecstasy. It can also be induced artificially. for example, through hypnosis.