Retrocognition (also known as postcognition), from the Latin retro meaning "backward, behind" and cognition meaning "knowing," describes "knowledge of a past event which could not have been learned or inferred by normal means." The term was coined by Frederic W. H. Myers.
Retrocognition has long been held by scientific researchers into psychic phenomena to be untestable, given that, in order to verify that an accurate retrocognitive experience has occurred, it is necessary to consult existing documents and human knowledge, the existence of which permits some contemporary basis of the knowledge to be raised. For instance, if you purport retrocognitive knowledge that "Winston Churchill killed a parrot", the only way of verifying that knowledge would be to consult extant sources of Churchill's activities. If it is found that he did, indeed, kill a parrot at one time, it could be said that you "simply" obtained contemporary knowledge of this fact (by clairvoyance or telepathy, if needs be, of the relevant documents or someone's knowledge of them), rather than directly perceived – in the manner of retrocognition – any event in Churchill's past. Given this fundamental logical difficulty, there has been very little experimental investigation by parapsychologists of retrocognition. The evidence for retrocognition has, therefore, been limited to naturalistic cases suggestive of the phenomenon.
The best way to describe retrocognition or postcognition is to first understand processes that allow this ability to surface. The brain becomes unlocked at a very early age within some, say you are an infant and you smell mothballs for the first time. That imprints the brain causing it accelerate and fire at levels never detected before opening up the brain allowing the person to see everything. Take a deck of cards and flip through it and try to piece together a pattern and its relevance. Now take that same deck of cards and place a person's life on each card; snapshots at blazing speeds and try to retain what speaks to you the loudest on any particular card(s). Now decipher which voice within you is telling you the truth. The longer one waits the more the probability of being incorrect multiplies. What happens is when a Postcognitive dials in it opens a gateway and multiple voices speak at once throwing the person off. The loudest inner voice is always wrong. It's the soft inner first voice that is correct. It only speaks ONCE, that's why someone who is a Retro Cognitive may blurt out an answer, finish your thought when you are struggling to find one or inquire about a moment in your life out of nowhere, or pester you when you lie to them. It is based primarily on deduction, common sense, patterns; nothing is wasted. It can seem to be a pointless gift to them because it depends 100% on that person's confidence level, comfort, lack of "Noise" for them to be accurate. It is imperative that there is someone in their life that is honest with them, so they can retain the ability to dial in, re-center and adjust. Only then can they focus with confidence. Without these support systems they can begin to fragment, tear apart similar to what singularity does to light. They can begin to question reality, themselves even though it is clear and proven that they indeed possess these gifts. This may lead to depression and other psychological issues that are due to spiritual and inner confusion. They must stay centered. Postcognitives tend to be absent-minded, tend to misplace things, cannot retain or struggle to retain birthdates, phone numbers, names. Simple processes like fractional division are difficult yet, they function cerebrally at a much higher rate when tasked with more difficult processes.
The most popularly celebrated case of retrocognition concerns the visions in 1901 of Annie Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain – two scholars and early administrators of British university education for women – as they tried to find their way to Marie Antoinette's private château, the Petit Trianon. Becoming lost on their way, they believed that they instead came unto the Queen's presence itself. They published an account of their experience in 1911 as An Adventure. Moberly and Jourdain described how they had become convinced, over the following weeks, that persons they saw and even spoke to on that occasion – given certain details of dress, accent, topography and architecture – must have been of a presumed recollection by Marie Antoinette, on 10 August 1792, of her last days at Trianon in 1789. While often considered in popular literature as evidence for retrocognition, the book was immediately dismissed by Eleanor Sidgwick, a leading member of the British Society for Psychical Research, in an article published in its Proceedings, as the product of mutual confabulation.
- Many fictional characters in television and movies exhibit this ability. Examples include Phoebe Halliwell of Charmed, Allison DuBois from Medium and Emery Waterman from Rose Red. Literary characters with the ability include the protagonist Sarah Parsons (and several of her maternal ancestors) in the young adult time travel series Amber House.
- The Fox series Fringe added "Retrocognition" to the various parapsychological terms appearing in its opening credits sequence in Season 3.
- Dale, L. A., & White, R. A. (1977), or in other words someone gets knowledge about the past life of someone else without the known or ordinary sources but with some kind of power of the brain. It is also considered sixth sense by some people. Glossary of terms can be found in the literature of psychical research and parapsychology. In B. B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of Parapsychology (pp. 921-936). New York, NY, US: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
- Parapsychological Association (2007). Glossary of Parapsychological terms - Retrocognition Archived 2010-08-24 at the Wayback Machine
- Rhine, J. B. (1977). History of experimental studies. In B. B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of Parapsychology (pp. 25-47). New York, NY, US: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
- Sidgwick, E. M. (1911). [Review of An Adventure]. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 25.
- Iremonger, L. (1957). The ghosts of Versailles: Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain and their Adventure: A critical study. London, UK: Faber & Faber.