Automatic Writing: Medium or Muse? – Field Guide Friday

Ankhie, back in the days of her idealistic youth, wrote a lot of angsty poetry – serious business full of magickal metaphor and mythological references. Awful, really – but those were high times – good friends, great mentors, unrealistic expectations. Ah to be young again…. but I digress…

Every workshop I ever attended encouraged “free writing” as a way to warm up the wordy bits of the brain. What this amounted to was writing without thinking, rereading or editing for 15 minutes straight. It’s harder than it sounds. And the results are often surprising. Things you didn’t know you thought – words, that by virtue of their repetition, take on strange new meaning and significance – nonsense that morphs from funny to frightening. I encourage all of you to take 15 minutes out of your day right now and try it! Seriously. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

…Bizarre, yes? If not, if it just seems dull, try it again later – I promise you, the weird stuff will come out. Which brings me to the best poetic advice I ever got. One of my instructors (a poet whose work I deeply admired and whose face haunted my dreams) told me to look for the places in my writing where “…things got weird. Throw everything else away and start again with that, and let go.” So I did. The result was something that seemed to have been written by someone else. People in the group connected with it, loved it even (which was surprising – poets are a competitive lot), but what they read and what I remembered writing were completely different things. Even odder, once it was pointed out to me,  I heard what they heard, saw what they saw. It was if the poems had been channeled. I wrote them, but in some creepy way, I wrote them as someone else.

If I’d had a copy of Judith Joyce’s The Weiser Field Guide to the Paranormal, the following excerpt might have helped me to make sense of the situation :

Automatic Writing

Have you ever written or typed words that you didn’t intend to write or type? Then you have engaged in automatic writing, among the most  common paranormal phenomena. Many do it accidentally on occasion, but some are able to harness this skill in order to communicate with spirits or probe their own subconscious.

Automatic writing occurs without using the conscious mind. In other words, your mind does not control the actions of your hands. Automatic  writing may be produced while in a trance or in a conscious state or any place in between. Hypnotism is sometimes used to facilitate automatic  writing. Usually pen and paper are used, but automatic writing may also be done with chalk and slate, or even with a typewriter, a computer, or any device that involves writing.

With automatic writing, something guides the human hand to produce words, but what is it? Depending on circumstances and the person doing  the writing, automatic writing may have different sources. The impetus toward automatic writing may come from within the hidden human  psyche, or it may be derived externally. Spirits, for instance, may use a human body to deliver messages.

Automatic writing enables subconscious knowledge to break through the barriers of consciousness. Words produced automatically may  express either the subconscious or the intuitive self. Sit quietly with pen and paper. Hold the pen poised over the paper but do not consciously write. It may take a little while, but eventually you may be surprised to discover that, without knowing it, you have written something on the paper.

Automatic writing is considered a form of channeling or mediumship. Spirits “speak” through a person’s hands rather than through the mouth.  Automatic writing may be quite different from a person’s regular writing. It may produce unfamiliar handwriting and may be done at great  speed without pause for thought. Famed Boston medium Lenore Piper was able to write with both hands while simultaneously carrying on a  conversation. Each of the three was completely distinct, her two hands and her mouth acting independently of each other.

Often, information conveyed via automatic writing is beyond the knowledge or even comprehension of the person doing the writing. People  may write in alphabets or languages that they don’t know. This art of writing in a language not consciously known is called Xenoglossy. Some  believe this to be indicative of spirit communications—an English speaking medium may channel the words of a Croatian speaking ghost, for  instance— while others believe that this reveals otherwise repressed past-life memories. In this life, you may only understand English, but in a  previous one, perhaps you spoke Russian and somewhere in the deepest recesses of your mind still do. Automatic writing allows these memories to surface.

Automatic writing harnesses the act of writing to communicate with other realms. Contactee Frances Swan claimed to channel telepathic  communications from the commanders of two alien spaceships in automatic writing sessions that lasted from one to five hours each.

An  example of automatic writing appears in the 1980 film, The Changeling.


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