April 15 was the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic and here at Spirit Communion we joined the commemoration by taking note of Michael Tymn’s interesting new book on spirit communications from some of the ship’s victims (March 25 post). As noted in the blog, one of the principal communicators was William T. Stead, a British journalist, reformer and well-known spiritualist who went down that night with more than 1,500 others.
What we didn’t mention about Stead was the fact that he was a gifted automatic writer (automatist) who had given the world important messages from the world of spirit. After Death or Letters from Julia was a slim volume of observations from the other side dictated to Stead by his friend Julia who had passed over to spirit in 1891. The messages provide Julia’s interpretations of what happens upon death of the physical body and awakening in the realm of spirit. After being available for more than 100 years the letters are still captivating reading and nowadays can be downloaded from the Internet.
“Automatic writing, I may explain for those unfamiliar with the term, is writing that is written by the hand of a person which is not under control of his conscious mind,” Stead explained in the book’s introduction. “The hand apparently writes of itself, the person to whom the hand belongs having no knowledge of what it is about to write. It is a very familiar and simple form of mediumship, which in no way impairs the writer's faculties or places his personality under the control of any other intelligence. This writing may proceed from his sub-conscious mind, or it may be due to the direct action of independent, invisible intelligences. What is certain is that it does not emanate from the conscious mind of the writer, who often receives messages containing information as to past events of which he has never heard, and sometimes perfectly accurate predictions as to events which have not yet happened. It was in this way that I began to receive the communications, some few of which are collected in this little volume. All the ‘Letters from Julia’ were received by me in the same manner. Sitting alone with a tranquil mind, I consciously placed my right hand, with the pen held in the ordinary way, at the disposal of Julia, and watched with keen and skeptical interest to see what it would write.”
Stead was certainly not the only medium in those days who was being given information via automatic writing. Early spiritualist literature is full of messages that were conveyed that way with some mediums, like Stead, fully conscious and aware during delivery and others who practiced their talent while in a trance state.
|Frederick Bligh Bond|
Certainly one of the most novel uses of automatic writing was during excavation of the buildings at Glastonbury Abbey in the
architect, Frederick Bligh Bond, was hired by the Church of England to
supervise archeological investigations of the ancient abbey in 1908 and he
remained in that capacity until 1921. Throughout the project Bond consulted an
automatic writing medium, Captain John Allan Bartlett, who wrote down detailed
instructions and maps allegedly dictated by deceased U.K. monks. Bond even recorded that he
usually read out loud unrelated literature to Bartlett while the automatic
writing was in process in order to make certain that the medium’s conscious
mind was occupied with things other than what was being written by his hand.
Messages – written in Middle English, Low Latin and modern English – often had
to be deciphered or translated but they were always on target which resulted in
amazing finds at the site. Bond recorded the experience in his book The Gate of Remembrance (available for
download on the Internet). Another Bond book which reveals even more about Glastonbury and automatic
writing predictions of World War I is The
Hill of Vision, also available online. Glastonbury
Perhaps the most remarkable automatist in North America was Pearl Leonore Curran, a poorly educated woman who lived in
In 1913 while passing time with the Ouija board she made contact with a
seventeenth century Englishwoman named Patience Worth. Over a period of several
years Patience Worth dictated to Curran a string of literary masterpieces
including complete novels, poetry and plays, each being far beyond Curran’s
capability. For example, in a compilation of St. Louis, Missouri ’s best poetry of 1917
appeared five of Patience Worth’s creations alongside fewer compositions each
by other acclaimed poets such as Amy Lowell, Vachel Lindsay and Edgar Lee
Masters. Some of the Patience Worth titles are still in print nearly 100 years
later and scholars continue to marvel at the quality of the material Curran
received. Also, several in-depth studies of Curran’s career have been
A modern-day Pearl Curran would be Stella Horrocks, a retired teacher in the
who has in longhand written down complete novels under the pen names of several
well-known deceased authors. She claims the material is given automatically and
that she breathlessly awaits unfolding of the plot just as any reader
would. There is an interesting British
TV video of Stella available on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TTmIibV30s)
but, unlike Pearl Curran, I cannot find that any of the books dictated through
Stella Harrocks have been published. U.K.
The all-time champion of automatic writing title will have to be given to a man who never wrote a word of English and who is largely unknown in North America or
Europe – Chico
Xavier (1910-2002). This humble, slightly educated Brazilian holds the record
as being the second most prolific author in the Portuguese language and every
word of it, he claimed, was dictated by spirit guides. His output was greater
than 458 published books which combined by 2010 had sold more than 50 million
“When I am writing automatically,” he said, “I can see, hear and I have often registered the presence of the communicator without knowing anything about the subject matter on which he is writing.” Indeed, most of what came through Xavier’s pen was beyond his capability and understanding.
Chico Xavier (born Francisco de Paula Cândido) was a Spiritist, the philosophy and religion very similar to spiritualism that emanates from the teachings of Frenchman Allan Kardec. Spiritism is very prominent in
followers make “a clear distinction between…automatic writing and what they
call psicogr afia. The former is held
to be no more than the manifestation of one’s subconscious, while the latter –
‘psychography’ – is that of a separate entity, presumably a spirit.” (Quoted
from the amazing biography and analysis of Xavier, Brazil Chico Xavier, Medium of the Century by Guy Lyon Playfair; published in
2010 in the
by Roundtable and the International Spiritist Council.) U.K.
Regrettably, few of Chico Xavier’s works have been translated into English.
* * * *
Finally, I want to share one last thing this week, a communication from W.T. Stead who was referred to above (in the first few paragraphs). He was, of course, a Titanic victim who returned through mediums within hours of his tragic demise on the ship and he continued to reappear for decades. The transcript below comes from the book My 4,000 Ghosts by Australian actor Edwin Stanley Brookes published first in 1968. In addition to a few Titanic comments, Stead shares some profound thoughts about the importance of sitters in circles to focus upon their spirituality. These truths relate directly to posts on this blog concerning the current state of the spiritualist movement (several posts, actually, but especially the one of Feb. 2). This transcript from the book was courtesy of Richard Rowley who posted it on the Yahoo Spiritualist group. Thank you Richard.
“Spiritualists and others, when they arrive here from the earth, are surprised to find how hard and rare it is to have direct and true spiritual communication with those they have left behind. Often you people sitting in circles on the earth are victims of lower spirits, but this happens only when the spirituality of the sitters is on a low plane. Like attracts like. When sitters have progressed to a higher spiritual plane, it is almost impossible for deception by lower orders of spirits, or for impersonation to take place. People have visions that are positively misleading , because they are in low grade of spiritual development, and actually believe all they are told – and many want to be directed in practically all they do.
“These people are not Spiritualists, they are ‘Egyptian mummies!’
“In the Bible we are told to “Try the spirits and prove them.” Too few do this. We should ever be at the door to check those spirits who come through who claim to speak with such positive authority. I think our Spiritualism is scoffed at so often because of those who TRADE on it, and it becomes mixed up with outright fortune-telling, which certainly is not any part of our religion and philosophy. What we know as fortune-telling must be completely separated from our movement, if we are to expect a greater degree of respect from the people at large. People get one or two correct messages, and they believe that they must forever be guided by those who conveyed the messages. This is wrong – terribly wrong and stupid. But those who seek truth and honesty, will receive guidance from the Beyond according to their entitlement. To watch the ordinary low type of uninformed and irresponsible Spiritualist meeting is enough to make the angels weep. Not by sitting in circles and ever seeking “tests” will man develop spiritually, but he can do this only by growing closer, day by day, to the Giver of all Light. Each man must be his own savior – there is no other way – and we all more or less have the power within us to do this. Even angels are powerless to raise up a spirit – every man is spirit, here and now. We must first learn to do this ourselves.
“As your father told you years ago, soon after he found himself in the Beyond, spiritual advancement comes from trying to lift others to something higher – and there it is. When you on earth become sufficiently civilized to do away with war, then and then only, will you begin to evolve out of the slimy mess that, to our vision here, covers your earth. Your world is filled with men in high places who want war. War is the greatest cause of all the troubles on your earth. If your warmongers could see the millions of lives here blasted by wars, some from wars fought hundreds of years ago, they would freeze with horror. For some reason or other, I had to tell you of these heartbreaking things. Now we will end on a brighter note.
“Materialized forms on the earth are more common than is known. Many spirits walk your streets and would not be distinguished from an ordinary person. Photos of these have been taken, as you know … without a camera. The ordinary mind would not understand this, because it would try to understand a spiritual thing, with a material mind. Man makes the mistake of looking for spiritual realities in material things. This is the answer to a question asked at your last sitting, I am informed.”