Monkeys in the Sun: a Spiritualist Drama in Two Acts

December 31, 2009

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research

volume 28 1915

Hysterical record of two automatic writing sessions with Mrs. Piper (channeling Sir Walter Scott) and Professor Newbold. Mrs. Piper was a very famous English medium, similar to Helene Smith in France. Newbold was professor of philosophy at Princeton, a determined investigator of the supernatural.

Newbold’s questions and Piper’s written responses are arraigned like some bizarre play, the combination of Sir Walter’s descriptions of life on the various planets and Newbold’s dead pan questioning is priceless.

From the sublime (describing Venus)…

The atmosphere warm, balmy, beautiful, too much so to put in words and express. Now we feel a slight breeze and we are wafted through the outer rim as it were into a perfect little heaven by itself. Nothing ever realized on earth could compare with this. Now we see no one, i. e. no living being so to speak, only these beautiful creatures the trees like wax, the flowers like the true soul as it were, they are so really beautiful, the fields are one mass of green, the flowers of various hues, yet we see not a man anywhere.

…to the absurd (describing the sun)

we find it very warm and deserted like a deserted island. We wish to find its inhabitants if there are any i.e. if it has any. Now we see what we term monkeys, dreadful looking creatures, black extremely black, very wild. We find they live in caves which are made in the sand or mud, clay etc.

Read on until at least page 444 for the ensuing monkey controversy and Newbold’s admiting to losing it.


F.W.H. Myers on Automatic Writing

December 30, 2009

Four articles by F.W.H Myers, whose “gothic psychiatry” is mentioned in Breton’s Le Message Automatique.

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research ii 1884
On a Telepathic Explanation of Some So-Called Spiritualistic Phenomena

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research iii 1885
Automatic Writing II

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research iv 1887
Automatic Writing III

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research v 1889
Automatic Writing IV The Daemon of Socrates

Myers was the grand old man of psychic research at the time who had almost free reign to publish in Proceedings. He would have been a better writer if he had an editor though, he gets very verbose and rambling. His 30 page article titled “The Daemon of Socrates” doesn’t mention Socrates until page 18, he never sticks to the topic on hand but goes on long nested tangents. Gothic indeed.

Myers completely ascribes automatic writing to the writer’s subconscious, with the catch that the subconscience can also receive telepathic messages from others.

In part 2 he developes a theory of right brain hemisphere being the source of automatic messages that comes close to that of Julian Jaynes, particularly in part 4 when he discusses “automatic hearing”, hearing voices and hallucination.

Very interesting reads but not always easy going.

Vanity Fair Nov 1922

December 29, 2009

Yvonne George

Vanity Fair

Pretty cool 3 pages:

Page 49
Yvonne George: Late of Chez Fisher; Now of Ours

Yvonne was the beloved of Robert Desnos, who wrote some of his best poems to her. Short article of her working in NYC with a picture.

Page 50
A New Method of Realizing the Artistic Possibilities of Photography

Very early article about Man Ray’s rayographs. So early that he is still called a painter! Four rayographs and a pic of the artist.

Page 51
News of the Seven Arts in Europe

News of the arts in Europe by none other then Tristan Tzara himself. Mentions Arp, Ernst (who was then still in Cologne), two new Dada books in Paris (by Soupault and Eluard), Henri Rousseau retrospective.

Tzara then gives an interesting account of the collapse of Breton’s Congress of Paris, never thought that Peret was ever not in Breton’s camp (text is a little chopped off on the right):

A storm, memorable in the annals of modern art, has lately disturbed our life in Paris. A group of artist’s decision to hold a sort of convention in defense of modern art; unfortunately they at once proved themselves dogmatists of the narrowest kind, with a straightness of view which could not leave us cold. Satie and I organized a meeting of protest which buried the Convention and discredited its members. We issued a little pamphlet Le Coeur a Barbe. Contributors: Satie, Ribemont-Dessaignes, Eluard, Peret, Soupault, Fraenkel and I. The paper on which it was printed was of a vulgar pink: a housewife would not hesitate to wrap a camembert in Le Coeur a Barbe. The cover looked like a rebus, but only a haphazard mixture of pictures from catalogues of 30 years ago.

International Exhibition of Modern Art

December 28, 2009

International Exhibition of Modern Art

The famous armory exibition of 1913.

Art Revolutionists on Exibition in America

The American review of reviews, Volume 47

Very good piece, talks about entire exibit and not just moderns.

Why I Became A Cubist

Everybody’s magazine 43 june 1913

Think this is article that originated “explosion in a shingle factory”, writer is a dick. Interesting that he goes on at length about Gertrude Stein, apparently she was only reference point that Americans at the time had for modernism.

International Exhibition of Modern Art

The American Year Book 1913

The Cube Root of Art

The Independent, Volume 74 jan – jun 1913

This one both gets it and completely misses it in same paragraph:

Much of this new art is not modern in any sense except the chronological. Men were drawing this way five thousand, indeed fifty thousand years ago. We see on some of these canvases the swelled muscles of Babylonian statues, the elongated limbs and misplaced eyes of the Egyptian basreliefs, even the crude animals of the Altamira caverns. Some of these artists have obviously taken lessons from Hindu and Amerind, from Maori and Minoan. It is all right thus to hark back to primitive races and study their work sympathetically. It may well be that mankind has forgotten something in the course of the centuries in which so much has been learned. But that is no reason why we should admire the results of this resurrection of dead art unless it appeals to the modern man by intrinsic merit. These extremists, when their works are not admired, or at least not sold, complain of the times in which they live and lament that they have appeared on earth some centuries too soon. We sympathize with them in this. It is our misfortune no less than theirs. But we cannot help it and we are not willing to admit that the world is now so old that the period of its second childhood in art has arrived.

Later article but funny

Some Remarks Upon Modern Tendencies in Art

The Sewanee review, Volume 28 1920

It has been suggested, in connection with the now famous “Nude Man Descending a Staircase”, by Marcel Duchamp, that if in looking at it one can wink the eyes with sufficient rapidity the figure will assemble its scattered members and proceed to walk down the stairs. I have tried the experiment, but with no great success. I fear that I am unable to wink rapidly enough to meet the cinematic demands of the case, which would be at least fifteen winks to the second.

Broom/Le Disque Vert Magazines

December 24, 2009


Couple of old art/lit mags, they are public domain but most likely some of the images in them aren’t.

The Broom vol 3 nos 1-4 1922

Utterly awesome magazine, futurist covers, translations of Lautreamont’s Maldoror, some Peret and Aragon, Hans Arp, lots of other famous names. Trying to find the other volumes of this but they seem to be either not scanned or not public domain.

Le Disque Vert 1922-3

Famous French lit mag, lots of famous names. Bunch of stuff by Rene Crevel, lots of articles on Freud.

Snotty Litterature group response to “Is Symbolism Dead?” question.

Flammarion on automatic writing

December 23, 2009

Mysterious psychic forces
by Camille Flammarion 1909

In chapter II Flammarion discusses his participation with the Kardec group and his own experiences with automatic writing.

He describes the meetings of the Spiritists, the group participation and leadership of Kardec reminds me of surrealist meetings:

The members came together every Friday evening in the assembly room of the society, in the little passageway of Sainte Anne, which was placed under the protection of Saint Louis. The president opened the seance by an ” invocation to the good spirits.” It was admitted, as a principle, that invisible spirits were present there and revealed themselves. After this invocation a certain number of persons, seated at a large table, were besought to abandon themselves to their inspiration and to write. They were called ” writing mediums.” Their dissertations were afterwards read before an attentive audience. There were no physical experiments of table-turning, or tables moving or speaking. The president, Allan Kardec, said he attached no value to such things It seemed to him that the instructions communicated by the spirits ought to form the basis of a new doctrine, of a sort of religion.

His experience with automatic writing and skeptism about the results being from anything other then himself

I myself tried to see if I, too, could not write. By collecting and concentrating my powers and allowing my hand to be passive and unresistant, I soon found that, after it had traced certain dashes, and o’s, and sinuous lines more or less interlaced, very much as a four-year-old child learning to write might do, it finally did actually write words and phrases.


These astronomical pages taught me nothing. So I was not slow in concluding that they were only the echo of what I already knew, and that Galileo had no hand in them. When I wrote the pages, I was in a kind of waking dream. Besides, my band, stopped writing when I began to think of other subjects.

long quote from his The Worlds of Space (Les Terres du Ciel):

The writing medium is not put to sleep, nor is he magnetized or hypnotized in any way. One is simply received into a circle of determinate ideas. The brain acts (by the mediation of the nervous system) a little differently from what it does in its normal state. The difference is not so great as one might suppose. The chief difference may be described as follows:

In the normal state we think of what we are going to write before the act of writing begins. There is a direct action of the will in causing the pen, the hand, and the fore-arm to move over the paper. In the abnormal state, on the other hand, we do not think before writing; we do not move the hand, but let it remain inert, passive, free; we place it upon the paper, taking care merely that it shall meet with the least possible resistance; we think of a word, a figure, a stroke of the pen, and the hand of its own volition begins to write. But the writing medium must think of what he is doing, not beforehand, but continuously; otherwise the hand stops. For example, try to write the word ” ocean,” not voluntarily (the ordinary way), but by simply taking a lead-pencil, and letting the hand rest lightly and freely upon the paper, while you think of your word and observe carefully whether the hand will write. Very good; it does begin to move over the paper, writing first an o, then a c, and the rest.

In the mediumistic writing experiments it is very easy to deceive ourselves and to believe that the hand is under the influence of another mind than our own. The most probable conclusion regarding these experiences has been that the theory of the action of foreign spirits is not necessary for the explanation of such phenomena.

His final conclusion is very similar to the surrealist position on automatic writing as being a subconscience process without any spirits:

I came to the positive conclusion that not only are the signatures of these papers not authentic, but that the intervention of another mind from the spirit world is not proved at all, the fact being that we ourselves are the more or less conscious authors of the communications by some cerebral process which yet remains to be investigated.

Camille Flammarion and Sardou

December 22, 2009

House of Zoroastre

some more Sardou, from

Mysterious psychic forces
by Camille Flammarion 1909

Camille Flammarion was a famous French astronomer, early science fiction writer and spiritualist.

About Sadou he writes:

These curious drawings prove indubitably that the signature ” Bernard Palissy, of Jupiter,” is apocryphal and that the hand of Victorien Sardou was not directed by a spirit from that planet. Nor was it the gifted author himself who planned these sketches and executed them in accordance with a definite plan. They were made while he was in the condition of mediumship. A person is not magnetized, nor hypnotized, nor put to sleep in any way while in that state. But the brain is not ignorant of what is taking place: its cells perform their functions, and act (doubtless by a reflex movement) upon the motor nerves. At that time we all thought Jupiter was inhabited by a superior race of beings. The spiritistic communications were the reflex of the general ideas in the air.

Interesting the interest in early spiritualists in life on different planets, which can be seen as a precursor to modern interest in UFOs. But a key difference is that the spiritualists such as Sardou and Helene Smith only spoke of extraterrestrials of communicating telepathically, not by physically visiting the earth. I would say that it was only the invention of the airplane that added a new element to the “general ideas in the air”, and the automatic accounts of extraterrestrial contact was changed to be actual physical contact and abduction from visitors in UFOs. In this way the modern abductee accounts can be seen in the same light as the spiritualist accounts of alien life, as some form of subconscience/semi-conscience narrative.

A very interesting book, much information about automatic writing too.

Also think googlehand is flashing a gang sign