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Observations placeholder

Zschokke, Heinrich – Perfect recall of other people’s lives, the truth will out



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Tales from the German of Heinrich Zschokke, Volumes 1-2

It has happened to me sometimes, on my first meeting with strangers, as I listened silently to their discourse, that their former life with many trifling circumstances therewith connected, or frequently some particular scene in that life, has passed quite involuntarily, and as it were dream like, yet perfectly distinct before me.

During this time I usually feel so entirely absorbed in the contemplation of the stranger life, that at last I no longer see clearly the face of the unknown wherein I undesignedly read, nor distinctly hear, the voices of the speakers, which before served in some measure as a commentary to the text of their features.

For a long time I held such visions as delusions of the fancy and the more so as they showed me even the dress and motions of the actors, rooms, furniture and other accessories.

By way of jest I once, in a familiar family circle at Kirchberg related the secret history of a seam stress who had just left the room and the house.  I had never seen her before in  my life; people wqere astonished and laughed, but were not persuaded that I did not previously know the relations of which I spoke, for what I uuttered was the literal truth; I on my part was no less astonished that my dream pictures were confirmed by reality.

I became more attentive to the subject, and when properly admitted to it, I would relate to those whose life thus passed before me the subject of my vision, that I might thereby obtain confirmation or refutation of it.  It was invariably ratified, not without consternation on their part.

I myself had less confidence than anyone in this mental jugglery.

So often as I revealed my visionary gifts to any new person, I regularly expected to hear the answer ‘It was not so’.

I felt a secret shudder when my auditors replied that it was true, or when their astonishment betrayed my accuracy before they spoke.

Instead of many I will mention one example, which pre-eminently astounded me.  One fair day in the city of Waldshut, I entered an inn (the Vine) in company with two young student foresters; we were tired with rambling through the woods.  We supped with a numerous society at the table-d’hote where the guests were making very  merry with the peculiarities and eccentricities of the Swiss, with Mesmer’s magnetism, Lavater’s physiognomy etc etc.  One of my companions, whose national pride was wounded by their mockery, begged me to make some reply, particularly to a handsome youndg man who sat opposite us and who had allowed himself extraordinary license.

This man’s former life was at this moment presented to my mind.  I turned to him and asked whether he would answer me candidly if I related to him some of the most secret passages of his life, I knowing as little of him personally as he did of me?  That would be going further I thought than Lavater did with his physiognomy.  He promised, if I were correct in my information to admit it frankly.  I then related what my vision had shown me, and the whole company were made acquainted with the private history of the young merchant; his school years, his youthful errors and lastly with a fault committed in reference to the strong box of his principal.

I described to him the uninhabited room with whitened walls where, to the right of the brown door on a table stood a black money box etc etc.

A dead silence prevailed during the whole narration, which I alone occasionally interrupted by inquiring whether I spoke the truth.

The startled young man confirmed every particular, and even, what I had scarcely expected, the last mentioned.

Touched by his candour I shook hands with him over the table and said no more…………….

I shall not say another word on this singular gift of vision of which I cannot say it was ever of the slightest service; it manifested itself rarely, quite independently of my will, and several times in reference to persons whom I cared little to look through. 

Neither am I the only person in possession of this power.  On an excursion I once made with two of my sons, I met with an old Tyrolese who carried oranges and lemons about the country, in a house of public entertainment in Lower Hanenstein, one of the passes of the Jura.

He fixed his eyes on me for some time, then mingled in the conversation and said that he knew me and went to relate what I had done and striven to do in former times, to the consternation of the country people present and the great admiration of my children, who were diverted to find another person gifted like their father.  How the old lemon merchant came by his knowledge he could explain neither to me nor to himself; he seemed, nevertheless to value himself somewhat upon his mysterious wisdom.

The source of the experience

Zschokke, Heinrich

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Science Items

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Difficult birth