Automatic Writing

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Automatic Writing

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Automatic writing is a form ofmediumship (spirit contact) in which an individual allows an outside force or entity to take control of the motor functions in his or her arm to write messages reputedly from either a spirit being or from the individual’s own higher consciousness. Through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, automatic writing played an important role in the development of Spiritualism, and it continued to be an element in the New Age movement during the 1970s and 1980s.

At the very beginning of the Spiritualist movement, Andrew Jackson Davis (1826–1910) channeled many of his books by this method, as did his contemporary Thomas Lake Harris (1823–1906). Among the first generation of British mediums, William Stanton Moses (1939–1892) produced books channeled from a host of spirit entities under the collective title of Spirit Teachings. By the end of the nineteenth century, the majority of published communications from the spirit world were produced by automatic writing, a situation that would only change as means of recording verbal channeling improved through the twentieth century.

Among the more interesting products of automatic writings were the Glastonbury Scripts, produced by Frederick Bligh Bond (1864–1945). In 1908, Bond was placed in charge of the archeological excavations that were about to be undertaken at the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, a medieval center of Catholic Church life that had been destroyed by Henry VIII. Though a competent amateur archeologist, Bond began to work with a medium, John Allan Bartlett, who worked under the pseudonym Alleyne, to produce maps of the site which Bond used to direct excavations. As excavations began, Bond quickly found the main buildings of the old monastic complex, much to everyone’s astonishment.

Given the number of mediums engaged in automatic writing, it is not surprising that psychical researchers initiated investigations of the phenomenon. As with much spirit communication, it was difficult to assign the material to any independent spirit activity. This problem was attacked through some experiments in what was known as cross-correspondences. In these cases, several mediums at vast geographical distances received messages that were meaningless themselves, but when put together made sense. A large set of material generated by some of the more famous of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century mediums was assembled, only a small portion of which has been thoroughly analyzed and the subject of scholarly papers. Much of this material is stored in the archives of the Society for Psychical Research in England.

While many continue to use automatic writing as a technique to make contact with the realms of spirit beings, many others, both those skeptical of all paranormal claims and those open to many of them, have come to believe that automatic writing is largely the result of individuals tapping their own unconscious mind and is subject to purely mundane interpretations.


Douglas, Nik. The Book of Matan: Automatic Writing from the Brink of Eternity. Suffolk, UK: Neville Spearman, 1977.
Muhl, Anita M. Automatic Writing: An Approach to the Unconscious. New York: Helix Press, 1963.
Wright, Theon. The Open Door: A Case History of Automatic Writing. New York: John Day Company, 1970.
Zmuda, Joseph. Automatic Writing: Occult … or a Way to the Unconscious Mind? San Francisco: Z-Graphic Publications, 1981.
The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena © 2008 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(4/) On Graham's use of inversion in his automatic writing, see Francis, 91-3.
I began my daily practice of 'automatic writing' - writing (or typing) without allowing yourself to pause, preventing your conscious mind from editing your thoughts as you write.
She describes her life-path readings as "a bit like going to a therapist." She takes a clients first name only and connects with "a guide or higher energy source" that gives her information through automatic writing. The letter that results will provide guidance and answers for the client.
Ashley's early classic Maneuvers for Small Hands will also get its European premiere and first performance in 40 years by the Dutch pianist Reinier van Houdt, whilst Object Collection offers the UK premiere of Ashley's celebrated Automatic Writing. Ed himself used to play the tuba of a fashion and learned the piano for 11 years.
This question haunted James as an author and the spiritualist phenomenon of automatic writing. The anxiety stemmed in part from developments in mental science leading to a new understanding of the mind as an untidy place that could be made up of multiple selves, and the reading of James's "The Private Life" explores the multiple, haunted selves of the author.
He inquires how useful is automatic writing as a hermeneutic tool, tries out automatic writing in modern day Kardecism, seeks evidence of automatic writing in antiquity, scouts the work of the philosophers Josephus and Ezra for testimonies, and examines religious pseudepigraphy for clues.
I am no expert, but I don't see how the rhizomatic can be effectively applied to someone as obsessed with structural symmetries as Peter, unless we equate his "absurdist" associations--Peter's term--to automatic writing. But can we do this?
When, during a session of automatic writing, Yeats offered to give up his poetry and pursue spiritual revelation, the Communicators answered "No, we have come to give you metaphors for poetry" (Ellmann 225).
Channeling is done either through automatic writing where the channeler's hand is moved supernaturally or hearing spirits speak via the gift of clairaudience and then recording the messages.
The painter, who turns 90 this year, fled Hungary in 1950 and settled in Paris where she became known for her surrealist practice of automatic writing, exemplified by Outburst (1957; Fig.
The mediums ranged from 15 to 47 years of automatic writing experience, performing up to 18 psychographies per month.
Minister Shatter stressed the bill does not provide for an automatic writing off of negative equity.

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