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The retention of unconscious memory of information learned through normal channels. Information that was previously learned and is consciously forgotten may be indefinitely stored within the subconscious. Psychiatrist Carl C. Jung claims cryptomnesia is not only a normal mental process but a necessary on as well. If it were not for this process the human mind would always be cluttered or overloaded with random information. The mind would literally explode.
Frequently by the stimulation of other thoughts this stored information in the subconscious is remembered by the average person. At these times the remembered information often seems new to the person. Sometimes the forgotten information emerges through hypnosis, or other altered states of consciousness such as remembrances of past life experiences or communication with the dead as experienced in seances. Incidents of automatic writing or xenography and inspiration may trigger the recall of forgotten information buried within the unconscious.
Cryptomnesia is often considered a possibility in psychical research of incidences involving reincarnation or a medium's communication with the dead. It is the test as to whether the resulting information was actually obtained paranormally, or could have been obtained by some other means. If the latter seems possible then cryptomnesia is strongly suspected.
The first incidence of cryptomnesia was recorded in 1874, involving an English medium William Stanton Moses. In a seance Moses said he contacted the spirits of two young brothers who had recently died in India. The deaths were quickly verified by a check of the records. But, further research showed that the obituary ran in a newspaper six days before the seance and all information in the obituary was given in the seance and nothing more was added.
A good indication of cryptonesia is when a person given information containing known errors that have been printed elsewhere. Such an incidence occurred in 1977 when a past-life regressionist hypnotized a 23 year old woman, Jan, on British television. The woman told of Joan Waterhouse, a famous witch of Chelmsford who had been tried and set free in 1566. She gave the date of 1556. Experts were quick to dismiss the recall as cryptomnesia because Jan gave the incorrect date. The date of 1556 was published in a Victorian reprint, of which there were only two copies, one was displayed in the British Museum. It was possible that Jan had seen it. Although she only had a grade school education, her other accounts of the major characters and details of the trial were accurate.
Cryptomnesia is frequently considered in incidence of .In many past-life experiences under hypnosis the persons reveal that that have previously read about the events which they are describing in books. This occurred in the 1960s with a Finnish psychiatrist Reima Kampman. Several school girls seemed to recall past-life experiences, but under hypnosis they remembered reading of the incidences in books as children.
Such incidences call to question just how much information the mind is capable of remembering, and in what manner it will later be displayed. The answers to these questions are elusive and makes it difficult for cryptomnesia to be ruled out. It can, however, be ruled out in cases where the where the information given goes beyond information that is accessible by being recorded in diaries or verified by other persons. It also possible to eliminate the element of cryptomnesia where the individuals are extremely unlikely to have reference to sources such as very young children when detailing past-life experiences.
The famous Bridey Murphy reincarnation case of 1952 is a case in point. Although cryptomnesia was unproven, Ian Stevenson credited the reincarnation possibility because the enormous detailed knowledge of the period went far beyond the expected explanation under normal circumstances.