For questions, comments, and inquiries please email Brandon

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Survey of Automatic Writing (not Written Automatically)

One question that pops up constantly in radio interviews and seminars is why the planchette eventually went the way of the dodo. I am always quick to remind listeners of two realities: the planchette had a long and vibrant career right up through WWII, and the Ouija and other talking boards are just a natural evolution of the device, with more popular appeal. Of course, there's always that curious leapfrog of technology from really-refined-and-darned-near-talking-board-like alphabet card use, not to mention alphabet calling, but from the early 1850s until the late 1880s, automatic writing reigned.

Why is it curious? I thought I'd take a blog post to let the words speak for themselves--literally--and provide some examples of automatic writing for your perusal and interpretation. Some of these are planchette-produced. Others are produced directly from the medium. All are scrawl. So, imagine trying to interpret these significant messages from deceased loved ones in the dimly-lit chamber of a seance room, and wonder if you, too, wouldn't seek a better way, and welcome the more refined talking board once it makes its appearance.

An early automatic writing specimen, from Judge Edmund's Spiritualism, received May 25, 1853.
One of the earliest facsimiles of automatic writing was reproduced in the pages of Judge John Worth Edmund's Spiritualism in 1855. It is a spidery, scrawling script, received by Dr. George T. Dexter acting as medium, which reads: "What is one moment of joy = the joy of the spirit when it realizes the good it has done, to years of this world's pleasure - - I.T.T." Other similar communications, in various handwritings, were received in prior and subsequent seances, from such luminaries as Swedenborg and Bacon among them.

Automatic Mirror-Writing (original, left) from L.A. Sherman's Science of the Soul, 1895.
There are many instances, such as the specimen pictured above, of spirits writing in automatic "mirror-writing." The above example is taken from Loren A. Sherman's Science of the Soul, a book written after the author turned to Spiritualism in the wake of his son's death.  The author received this example from his own father via the anonymous medium "Mr. R.," who also served as the house trumpet medium. When held to a mirror (or reversed in Photoshop), it reads: "You must know it a pleasure to see and commune with you. We are so glad to see you. Rest assured we will assist you and watch over you and yours. Father."  Kate Fox famously had a brief revival of her fading star when she revealed she was capable of mirror-writing in this manner.

Automatic Writing Specimen of W. Stainton Moses, Appleton's Popular Science Monthly, August, 1896.
In some cases, entities channeled through automatic writing attempted to prove claims of their former identities by providing signatures meant to match theirs in life, such as the case with the above example. In this instance, a channeled spirit claiming to be that of William Stainton Moses, channeled through the medium Mr. B______ in the early 1890s, provided the signature, above, that hardly matched his actual signature from life, posted immediately below.

Matching signatures from L.A. Sherman's Science of the Soul, 1895
Although in some cases, as with this specimen again taken from Sherman's Science of the Soul, the matched results of automatic writing signatures to the hand of the recently-deceased would be pretty convincing. Can you imagine a grieving father receiving this kind of proof of life-after-death in the wake of his son's death, or the means he would go through (or money he would pay) to continue the communications. In this case, the seances lasted for years.

Automatic writing specimens from the medium Elizabeth Poole, 1947.
The Hamilton Files website is a rich, fascinating, and exhaustive research into the investigations of its eponymous inspiration, George Hamilton, and specimens there, more than other examples here, show the difficulty in interpreting automatic writing text. This one particularly telling example, from the hand of the medium Mrs. Elizabeth Poole, channeling the spirit of W.T. Stead on April 24, 1927, demonstrates some other technical problems with automatic writing: space and time. That is, one needs ample space to write, particularly when planchettes are involved (though that's not the case here), and, with any lack of space, seance sitters must be quick on the draw to renew the writing surface for the medium before their entranced hand falls off the page. Never mind taking the time to interpret the results in real time: 

In other words, that's an awful lot of work to gather the rather appropriate message: "Why your classroom is too should get...a larger classroom." No mention is made by Mr. Stead, it should be noted, of the sitters acquiring a larger notepad.

Mrs. Poole summons her ectoplasmic guide, Walter, in preparation for automatic writing as given above.
For those that have not yet had the chance to lose hours to the Hamilton Files site, I encourage you to do so. It is an absolute treasure-trove, and this certainly won't be the last time you see examples from that research appearing in the Mysterious Planchette pages.

A message from Sarah Underwood's Automatic or Spirit Writing, 1896. Transcription below.
And, finally, one of my personal favorite specimens of automatic writing, particularly due to the absolute mind-bending complexity of the sentence received, produced by Sarah Underwood in her 1896 book, Automatic or Spirit Writing, after she posed the question: What should, in your opinion, be our most reasonable attitude toward the existing religious systems of to-day? The written answer reads:

The attitude of convicted believers in spiritual life toward the blind leaders of the blindly dogmatic in spiritual matters should be that of the Seers to those yet in the dark—as full of lovingness and tenderness as one who sees to those bereft of sight, eager to remove the disability but patient with their natural mistakes and halting steps. Remember as they are, so once were ye, and they too shall be ultimately led to the light.

Does the spirit move you? Grab a pen  (the Waterman company recommends the model above) and see what they have to say!

No comments:

Post a Comment