Automatic writing is writing that is produced during an altered state of consciousness. During this altered state practitioners can appear to be in a trance state or fully aware. Most commonly Automatic Writing is accomplished through pen to paper but at times has included dictation or speaking into a recorder. This wide range is probably the results of the three major movements that practice automatic writing those being Spiritualism, Psychology, and Surrealism.
Automatic writing first appeared as part Spiritualist movement that started in 1848. The major tenant of the Spiritualist movement was that living individuals could communicate with the deceased. It is thought, perhaps unkindly, that automatic writing was developed as a more efficient communication to replace the cumbersome raps and taps normally used during a séance. In other word, a medium would channel a spirit and allow it to write messages with their hand.
Spirit channeled automatic writing can run the gamut of lengths from one word replies to novels. For example, Pearl Curran an ordinary St. Louis house wife of poor education allegedly made contact with a spirit name Patience Worth in July 1912 while using an Ouija Board. Patience Worth was said to be the spirit of a woman that lived in Dorsetshire, England approximately 260 years prior to her contact with Pearl Curran. Initially the primary means of communication with Patience was through the Ouija Board but later moved to automatic writing. These communications with Patience resulted in seven novels and nearly 5,000 poems. Her poems some considered to be among the nations best at the time of there writing can be found online with a simple Google search by the curious.
Another interesting work that is the result of automatic writing or spirit channeling is the Vaimānika Shāstra. A mystic named Subbaraya Shastry, according to G. R. Josyer, communicated with the ancient Hindu sage Bharadvaja who died 3,000 years ago. Subbaraya Shastry in turn dictated the work to G. Venkatachala sharma over a period spanning the early 1900s to the 1920s. Vaimānika Shāstra roughly translated as the “Science of Aeronautics” is about the ancient chariots (Vimanas) of the Hindu Gods. At this point you may realize this is the work often sited by Ancient Alien Theorist and at least one episode of the Ancient Aliens TV show.
The modern medical practice of psychiatry first began to form separate but coincidental with the rise of Spiritualism. Theodore Flornoy first introduced psychiatry to spiritualistic methods in 1889 when he published a study of a medium he called Helene Smith. In his study he argued that the alleged influence of spirits was irrelevant but what was important was the glimpse their methods provided of the subconscious mind. Soon the methods used by spiritualist including automatic writing, crystal gazing, and trance speech became the research tools used psychiatry. Many prominent psychiatrists have used these methods. For example, Freud’s Free Association can be traced to trance speech and other notables such as Pierre Janet and Carl Jung used Automatic Writing in their practice and research.
Surrealism is an artistic movement that began in the 1920s. The goal of the Surrealistic movement was to tap the creative force of the unconscious mind. Poet André Breton founder of the Surrealist movement who had trained in psychiatry was heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud’s work in free association, dreams and theories of the subconscious. Breton and other began to use automatic writing and the closely related automatic drawing to tap the subconscious mind. A surprising number of famous Surrealistic writings and art can trace their inspiration to Automatic writing and drawing notable among these is Soluble Fish by Breton.
Want to try Automatic Writing?
- Get a pad and a pen
- Relax and get comfortable in a distraction free setting.
- Take a moment to clear your thoughts.
- Take your time as nothing may happen at first.
- If you feel the pen move let it happen and don’t look to see what it is writing.
- When you hand stops moving look at the results. It may only be scribbles at first so don’t get discouraged.
- Don’t give up. If you find yourself getting discouraged stop and try again later.
- Alternately do what many writers have done for years. Substitute a recorder for pen and paper in the steps above and tell your story to the recorder. “Once upon a time.”