Friday, March 20, 2015

Astral projection and bilocation in the early Renaissance church



In the mid-15th century, the monks of San Francesco, in Borgo San Sepolcro in Tuscany, allotted 510 ducats - a fantastic sum at that time - for a double-sided altarpiece. The lead artist was Stefano de Giovanni, known as "Sassetta", already recognized as the master of the Siena school. The altarpiece was constructed over the grave of of the Blessed Ranieri Rasini, and a series of panels on the predella depicted scenes from his life.
    The Blessed Ranieri (just short of sainthood) was revered locally as a miracle maker with the ability to project an energy double that could work wonders while his body was engaged somewhere else. Thus he ranks as an all-but-patron-saint of dream travel and astral projection.
    Anyone interested in the history of dream travel would do well to look very closely at two surviving paintings of the Blessed Ranieri, by the great Sassetta. The one above is titled "The Blessed Ranieri Freeing the Poor from Jail", and it is in the Louvre. It shows Ranieri whizzing around like a rocket man.


The second painting shows Ranieri appearing to a cardinal in a dream; this panel is now in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. It depicts Ranieri floating in mid-air above the sleeping body of a well-fed cardinal, pointing to a flask containing a healing balm.
     It was a good thing for those who saw the Blessed Ranieri (d. 1304) flying about in this way that they were living in a Catholic country where bilocation and astral projection were welcomed, at least when practiced by the religiously correct. In the Puritan theocracy of colonial Massachusetts, a couple of centuries later, a snitch who claimed to have seen you flying around in your dream body could get you hauled into a Salem witch trial.


I'll be interested in further information on the flying holy man in Sassetta's paintings. His aerial visit to the rotund cardinal is mentioned in Sassetta: The Borgo San Sepolcro Altarpiece, edited by Machtelt Israels, but it seems that the identity of the cardinal is a matter for speculation.
    A pleasant legend survives in a later account (1622) by a printer named Giovanni Antonio Castiglione, according to which the monks had emissaries sent to a certain cardinal to request balm to preserve the Blessed Ranieri's body after he died "in the odor of sanctity." The flying Ranieri got to the cardinal first, offering a deal: balm for his body in return for healing for the cardinal. So, in the painting, he has gone in ahead of the emissaries waiting outside the cardinal's bedchamber. Ranieri was the subject of a religious play that was popular in Tuscany.


Art:

"The Blessed Ranieri Frees the Poor from a Prison in Florence" (c.1440) by Sassetta, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris

"The Blessed Ranieri of Borgo San Sepolcro Appearing to a Cardinal in a Dream" (1444) in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin.


16 comments:

Krista said...

I just finished writing in my journal about my dream last night of flying and landing on a high bookshelf in a medieval library to teach a group of young women (dressed in medieval clothes) how to fly. "You just become light - let go of the heaviness and weight. And you can fly." And the first thing I read online is this entry. Whoa!

Robert Moss said...

Krista - Isn't it grand when the universe tips us a wink, like that?

Krista said...

It sure is. . . but HOW does it work? I've never met you, though I've read all of your dream books. Are there energetic connections or what?? How can people we don't know manifest what we need to see or hear? And why do I keep dreaming of people in medieval garb?

Louisa said...

When I first saw these two paintings and the word "double-sided" in the text, my first spontaneous thought was that the first painting shows what seems to be happening and the second one what is actually happening.

Robert Moss said...

Krista - How does it work? I'll need to write more than one new book to address that question properly. For now, just three suggestions. First, mind reaches to mind in the wireless interworld. Second, a symbol may exercise its own magnetism, bringing things together. (What does THAT mean? Start with my blog essay on "symbol magnets" here: http://mossdreams.blogspot.com/2010/02/symbol-magnets-jungs-fish-tales.html) Third, as the Chinese say, "there are things that like to happen together".

Why dream repeatedly on medieval themes? If this is my experience (and I have had many comparable experiences, as you must know from my books) it's because there is someone or something calling me from that time NOW. Ancestral memory, or karma, or a lesson, or a mirror for a current situation or relationship....and/or a mind in another time reaching to me from his/her NOW time, for reasons I'll want to explore through direct communication.

Robert Moss said...

Louisa - Ingenious suggestion. However, both paintings of the flying holy man reproduced here were on the predella beneath the two-sided altarpiece, which consisted of no less than 60 panels.

Krista said...

Thanks so much for your comments, Robert. Lots for me to consider. And the Goethe quote (which I do not recall ever having read before) from your earlier blog post says what I feel to be true. "We all have certain electric and magnetic powers within us and ourselves exercise an attractive and repelling force, according as we come into touch with something like or unlike."

Worldbridger said...

Krista,

Welcome to the noosphere.

Carol Davis said...

I experience such a delight and continued wonder at the connections. Bilocation has often been seen as a sign of holiness in Christianity. I wonder if it is a sign of wholeness, a discovery of dimensions of self, the possibilities for reaching out to others. It could also be part of evolving consciousness, in which gifts can be used for good or harm.

Many, probably most, of us, dream about connections across time and space. I have a certain at homeness in medieval times, and have received comfort from the music and guidance from some of the people of those times. I've seen a web or grid often in dreams that shows connections. I know I bring a spiritual bias, an understanding in which we are many yet one. There are many stories in various traditions in which we are created from one, are one. When we pay attention, we see that oneness more and more. The attraction and repelling help give shape and definition. It makes it better to explore aspects of the many in one. So, of course, it is part of who we are that one writes what another needs just at that moment.

Krista said...

And Worldbridger, thanks for the finger pointing me in a new direction.

Robert Moss said...

Carol - Beautifully stated. Thank you.

Robert Moss said...

Krista and Woldbridger - Noosphere is a useful concept, that was first developed, as I recall, when Teilhard de Chardin and Édouard Le Roy attended lectures by the Cossack engineer Vladimir Vernadsky as the Sorbonne between the two world wars. We must hope that an an evolutionary force, its trend will be upward. Julian May makes excellent fictive use of the idea in her Galactic Milieu novels, of which I recommend "Jack the Bodiless" highly - giving us an interesting vocabulary and some memorable example of how minds can reach each other and change things within the noosphere.

nina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Moss said...

Nina - Thanks, as so often, for your excellent and speedy research. Your version is more in the standard line of posthumous saintly interventions in which the saint, traveling in a subtle energy body, may or may not be perceived as a physical visitor. We also know that bilocation has an honored pedigree in the Catholic Church. So if the legend of Ranieri's bilocation cannot be documented, we may still say, as the Italians do, "si non e vero e ben trovato."

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