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.
References in periodicals archive ?
The story of George's "faked" automatic writing is well-known.
Essick, Viscomi and Phillips take their cue to expand the interpretation of Blake's ideas of relief etching without being very aware of the legacy of Todd's Surrealist ideas which are the historical origin, as I have shown, of their adaptation of the automatic writing techniques of printing so widespread amongst Todd/Surrealist contemporaries [sic]" (42).
Leonard, Eileen Garrett, and other extraordinary mediums is based on Xavier's automatic writing of hundreds of books and the apparently anomalous information he conveyed to many people.
Using a meticulous blend of meaningful, authentic and purposeful tasks combined with one-on-one instruction which incorporates a variety of visual and rhetorical modeling strategies, emerging writers, it is argued a move from controlled to automatic writing fluency within a short time span.
Automatic writing is the practice of producing text, in which the person producing it does not acknowledge it as coming from his or her central place of identity.
While spiritualism never really coalesced around a particular church or institution, it grew into a definite cultural practice, one involving Ouija boards, sances, automatic writing, strange electrical devices that looked like they came from the laboratory of Thomas Edison and, at least on occasion, outright fraud.
It's an eclectic blend of faux science, automatic writing, satire, and an attempt to find connections where none were thought to exist--a sort of self-therapy, allowing the hand to say what the voice cannot.
The cosignatory of this manifesto stands out because of the attention he paid to automatic writing and automatism in general.
After James died, according to Wershler-Henry, Bosanquet tried to re-establish contact through automatic writing, a spiritualist practice of communicating with the Other Side.

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