Flammarion on automatic writing

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.


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