Automatic writing

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For the class of devices that automatically reproduce signatures and other handwriting, see Autopen.
For the Ataxia album, see, see Automatic Writing (album).

Automatic writing or psychography is an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.[1]


Automatic writing as a spiritual practice was reported by Hyppolyte Taine in the preface to the third edition of his "De l'intelligence", published in 1878. Besides "etherial visions" or "magnetic auras", Fernando Pessoa claimed to have experienced automatic writing. He said he felt "owned by something else", sometimes feeling a sensation in the right arm which he claimed was lifted into the air without his will.[2] George Hyde-Lees, the wife of William Butler Yeats, also claimed that she could write automatically.[3]

Hélène Smith claimed to have experienced automatic writing, which was included in Théodore Flouroy's From India to the Planet Mars. She alleged that the writing was "Martian" in origin.

William Fletcher Barrett wrote that "Automatic messages may take place either by the writer passively holding a pencil on a sheet of paper, or by the planchette, or by a 'ouija board'."[4] In spiritualism, spirits are claimed to take control of the hand of a medium to write messages, letters, and even entire books. Automatic writing can happen in a trance or waking state.[5] Arthur Conan Doyle in his book The New Revelation (1918) wrote that automatic writing occurs either by the writer's subconscious or by external spirits operating through the writer.[6] The Surrealist poet Robert Desnos claimed he was among the most gifted in automatic writing. Some psychical researchers such as Thomson Jay Hudson have claimed that no spirits are involved in automatic writing and that the subconscious mind is the explanation.[7]

Alleged cases of automatic writing have included Jane Roberts,[8] Helen Schucman [9] and Neale Donald Walsch. [10][11] In 1975, Wendy Hart of Maidenhead claimed that she wrote automatically about Nicholas Moore, a sea captain who died in 1642.[12] Present Automatic Writer since 1986: Rev. Jackie Waring of Karmic Release

Skeptical analysis[edit]

A 1998 article in Psychological Science described a series of experiments designed to determine whether people who believed in automatic writing could be shown that it might be the ideomotor effect.[13]

Psychology professor Théodore Flournoy investigated the claim by 19th-century medium Hélène Smith (Catherine Müller) that she did automatic writing to convey messages from Mars in Martian language. Flournoy concluded that her "Martian" language had a strong resemblance to Ms. Smith's native language of French and that her automatic writing was "romances of the subliminal imagination, derived largely from forgotten sources (for example, books read as a child)." He invented the term cryptomnesia to describe this phenomenon.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lewis Spence An Encyclopaedia of Occultism Dover Edition, 2003, p. 56
  2. ^ Pessoa, Fernando (1999), Correspondência 1905-1922, Lisbon: Assírio & Alvim, pp. 214-219, ISBN 978-85-7164-916-3 .
  3. ^ Marjorie Elizabeth Howes, John S. Kelly The Cambridge Companion to W.B. Yeats 2006, p. 11
  4. ^ William Fletcher Barrett On the Threshold of the Unseen Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 162
  5. ^ Dictionary Definition
  6. ^ Arthur Conan Doyle The New Revelation 2010 Reprint Edition, p. 47
  7. ^ Thomson Jay Hudson The Law of Psychic Phenomena Wildhern Press, 2009, p. 252
  8. ^ Seth Speaks
  9. ^ A Course in Miracles (1975)
  10. ^ Conversations with God (1996)
  11. ^ Sue Lim Good Spirits, Bad Spirits: How to Distinguish Between Them 2002, p. 82
  12. ^ Ivan Rabey's Book of St Columb (1979)
  13. ^ Psychological Science 9.1, January 1998
  14. ^ Randi, James. An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural (N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1995, page 22).


Further reading[edit]