Allan Kardec on automatic writing pt 1

Experimental Spiritism
Allan Kardec

trans 1874 (written 1861)

Allan Kardec was founder of French Spiritism, a movement dedicated to a quasi-scientific investigation of spirits and their interaction with humans. Its heyday was pre world war i, I think it could be said to represent mainstream occultism in France at the start of the 1920s, making it the primary doctrine of any spiritualist discussion or journals at the time of formation of surrealism.

The more I read about Spiritism the more it reminds me of early surrealism, the same emphasis on research and investigation except substituting the subconscience for spirits.

As far as automatic writing, Kardec defined it as psychography with two different types: indirect (two or more people using planchette) and direct/manual (one person usually with pencil). The direct is the most interesting type, it is subdivided into three groups (page 219):

  • mechanical: the highest level; no conscience of content of writing, movement independent of will
  • semi-mechanical: mix of highest and lowest levels; conscience of the writing as rapidly as it is formed, movement independent of will
  • intuitive: lowest most common level; conscience of writing, though it isn’t mediums thoughts, movement voluntary and optional

or to summarize:

  • mechanical: conscience follows writing
  • semi-mechanical: conscience accompanies writing
  • intuitive: conscience precededs writing

This goes to the point of the source of the automatic writing, whether it is from the conscience thought of the writer or from the subconscience; Kardec admits to it being a mix:

page 257:
All that we have said applies to mechanical writing ; it is that all mediums seek to obtain, and with reason ; but purely mechanical writing is very rare ; it is more or less mixed with intuition. The medium, having the consciousness of what he writes, is, naturally, prone to doubt his faculty ; he does not know if it comes from himself or the foreign spirit. He need not be disquieted, and should continue all the same; let him observe with care, and he will easily recognize in what he writes a crowd of things not in his thought, that even are contrary to it — evident proof that they do not come from him. Let him then continue, and doubt will be dissipated by experience.

We have said above that there are cases in which it is indifferent to know if the thought is from the medium or a foreign spirit; when a purely intuitive or inspired medium writes a work of imagination, it is little matter if he should attribute to himself a thought suggested to him ; if good ideas come to him, let him thank his good genius, and he will have other good ones suggested to him. Such is the inspiration of poets, philosophers, and savants.


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