This handwriting method is a powerful way to connect with our subconscious mind. Learn how this process can benefit your inner work.
What is Automatic Writing?
Automatic handwriting is a technique where you put a pencil or pen to paper and start moving your hand. You give no conscious thought to what you are writing. Many believe this practice is a self-reflection method that creates a window into the subconscious. Others see it as a means of self-hypnosis. Still, others fear it is a doorway to evil spirits and even demonic possession.
It is a simple process; you write on paper with a pen or pencil without engaging the conscious mind. It’s important not to think about writing words; you simply let your hand move. As a result, it can bring some interesting things to light.
What are the uses of automatic writing? Some like Sigmund Freud believe it is a way of accessing the psyche’s deepest secrets. For instance, it shows us underlying thinking patterns, the symbols of our fears, and forgotten memories. It is even a way to understand the meaning of our dreams. Automatic handwriting, rewriting, or spirit writing are all names for the same method.
Where Does this Process Come From?
The origins of this method are unknown. It appears on the social scene in the late 1800s, a part of the Modern Spiritualism movement. It is used as parlor entertainment for the rich social elite normally orchestrated by celebrity Spiritualists.
This parlor entertainment included a variety of mystical practices. These include séances, spirit channeling, fortune-telling, tarot card readings, and divination. Automatic writing became another popular tool used with divination. The primary use is contacting the spirits of deceased loved ones.
This practice is a common tool of the mystic. Evelyn Underhill is a famous Christian mystic. She discusses the process in “Mysticism, A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness.” Here she refers to it as a “method of heightened consciousness or automatic state.”
Ms. Underhill describes it as a method to stimulate dormant intuition and show the connection between memory and emotion. Other writers and poets also use this practice to stimulate their creative minds.
Not coincidently, many writers and poets of this era also had interests in mysticism. For instance, William Butler Yeats talks about using this process. American author Jack Kerouac explains his use of this technique in “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose.” The pioneers of modern psychology used this process.
Active imagination and automatic writing, painting and carving pictures from the unconscious, are all indirect methods of finding out what the unconscious means. — Carl Jung, Jung-Ostrowski PP 18
Jung talks about using the process to channel ancient personalities. Channeling and divination take the practice from the mystical realm of the mind to the supernatural. This reflects the use of process within the Modern Spiritualism movement. Perhaps this was a contributing factor for his break with both Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche?
How Does Automatic Writing Work?
This process enables us to use the stream of awareness below conscious thinking. The subconscious has several levels. At the core is our monkey brain or primitive brain. This is the home of the autonomic nervous system. This controls the internal systems of our bodies.
Our monkey brain controls our breathing, heart rate, digestion, liver, kidneys, bladder, etc. Automatic handwriting doesn’t access this aspect of the mind directly. However, this part of the mind links our emotions like fear and anger to our fight, flight, or freeze response. So, our cultural programming often links to these primal emotional responses.
Next, we have the default settings of our Ego. This is the home of our personality and instincts. Each of these has its tendencies and thought patterns. Last is our cultural programming. This is the filter that colors our beliefs and values. This technique can create a window to help us see these mechanisms of our minds. This process also links us to our emotional center. Some call this observer of our consciousness the thing we call spirit or soul.
Some believe this process can open access to spiritual energies or entities. Again, this depends on the beliefs of your cultural background.
Is Automatic Handwriting the Same as Morning Pages?
The short answer is yes. It is the same thing. Stream-of-consciousness writing and morning pages are all names for the same process.
What Are the Benefits of Automatic Writing?
Learning about your mind will give insight into your Ego. In turn, this will help you avoid issues and solve various problems. So, it helps to prepare us to meet the challenges of life.
W are creatures of habit. So, it is easy to allow the habitual patterns of thought to run our lives. This hinders our growth. Automatic handwriting can help us see what’s holding us back. This helps with all kinds of mental roadblocks.
This means everything from roadblocks in creativity and spiritual practice to finding work. It helps find the friction points in relationships since you are at least 50% of the equation.
This process will help you learn about your habitual nature. With this knowledge, you can use practical tactics to turn bad habits into good habits.
Is Automatic Writing a Form of Hypnosis?
It all depends on how you define them. Some people think automatic handwriting and hypnotism are the same things. This is because they both produce an altered state. However, they use two different approaches and produce altered states which differ in several important ways.
With hypnosis, you allow someone to guide and focus your attention. Giving your guide control makes you susceptible to suggestion. This results in a trance, very much like sleepwalking. You appear awake but are not aware of your surroundings.
On the positive side, this process can access important details of memories. In therapy, it can help change unwanted behaviors or addictions. On the negative side, it also enables someone to insert suggestions into your subconscious.
Automatic writing uses a different approach. Instead of concentrating, you allow the mind to wander. Next, add an unfocused stare or gaze and use peripheral vision to keep your hand on the paper.
This recipe produces an altered state of awareness similar to daydreaming. So, you are aware of your surroundings. You are aware you are writing but not directing the content. This allows you to reach the subconscious stream of thought. On the positive side, this produces a wealth of insight into the Ego. On the negative side, it also opens the door to any repressed emotional issues and fears.
Is Automatic Writing Demonic?
That depends on what you believe. Many people believe in demons. Demons are part of the Persian mythology of the dying gods that made their way into Western theology. This includes the three branches of the Abrahamic Religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Together these systems have over 3 billion members.
These systems dominate our cultural narrative, and their massive social reach affects non-believers. Demons are powerful symbols or typologies in our culture. They are a popular genre in TV and movies as well as religion. However, that doesn’t make them real.
So, it’s important to remember that automatic handwriting can trigger our primal protective instinct. This is our fight, flight, or freeze response. Whatever typologies or symbols you associate with your deepest fears are likely to show up, and deep fears can cause hallucinations. Thus, if you are prone to seeing aliens or demons, these typologies may surface. We’ll discuss this more in the dangers next.
The Dangers of Automatic Writing
The biggest danger is to venture unprepared. See the above concern about symbols of your fear typologies. Next, the Second biggest danger is to use it as a parlor game. This is serious inner work.
This process will also bring up repressed memories, along with deep emotional and psychological truths. Prepare yourself properly before engaging in any inner work. By all means, make sure you are ready to use this process.
Please take it seriously. Ask yourself some questions about why you are using this process. What is automatic writing going to be used for? What are my desired outcomes?
Determine Your Readiness to Use the Process
This is a significant step. Determine if you are ready to use this process before you try it. Be honest with your answers to the following questions. These are the best practices that make sure you get the most out of this process:
First — Prepare Mentally
If you are undergoing mental health treatment, be sure to consult your doctor before using this process. They may give you further instructions for your situation. Above all, keep your overall health and wellness in mind. After all, this is a powerful process that can bring up repressed memories and feelings. So, you want to start the process with a grounded, healthy state of mind. Otherwise, we recommend you wait until you are.
Again, don’t discount the typologies of your cultural narrative. Whatever fears your religion instills will probably surface. This is how they keep you a paying customer.
Second — Use a Journal
We recommend you use a spiritual journal. Your journal should include your dreams, experiences in spiritual practices, and automatic writing data. This will give you a more accurate picture of your psyche.
A spiritual journal is also your book of shadows. This is because it exposes the shadows of your subconscious mind. Above all, keep these journals secure. They are for your personal use.
It’s important to check the data from your sessions for trends. The more sessions you complete, the more you will learn. Review it for repeating typologies or patterns and designs. Remember, you are the best person to understand what this data means.
Three — Use The Enneagram Profile
Complete the Enneagram Personality Profile personality and instinctual stack tests. Find out about the default though patterns associated with your type. These will probably surface during the automatic writing process, and the Enneagram can also show you how to handle the common patterns and fears for your type.
You can use this process on your own to determine your personality type. You can use it with a partner for serious inner work. And, many people use it in group exercises. Either way, set a timer for your practice. Take it slowly at first.
Tips for Automatic Handwriting
Here are some best practices for this process:
- We recommend you record in a spiritual journal. Always use a pen or pencil on paper. It doesn’t matter if it is blank or lined.
- Sit until you feel ready, then just let your hand move.
- Use Peripheral vision. Don’t focus on the writing surface.
- Some prefer sitting in silence while others like to listen to music. You decide.
- Don’t care about what you write, and don’t force anything.
- Trust yourself. Don’t think about what you are writing.
- Doodle, draw pictures, let anything happen.
- Your handwriting style and tempo are significant. The amount of slant in the letters in your handwriting, the size, and the characters’ spacing are all important clues to your state of mind.
- Don’t edit yourself. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling.
- You may end up scribbling. That’s okay. You may see patterns, designs, or trends that develop over time. Don’t discount what you do not immediately understand.
- It’s important to realize that things may come up after the exercise is complete. So, keep your journal handy throughout the day if possible. Later thoughts may come to you that relate to your spiritual practice. Be sure to write them down, but not while in traffic or walking.
- Don’t judge the value of your writing.
- Writing like this is hard inner work. Stop when you need to.
- Review the notes of your practice after you’ve rested—this will give you a fresh perspective.
Use Emotional Checks
Anytime you engage in spiritual research, we recommend using emotional checks. This is a process to help you stay as unbiased as possible. It can help you keep calm during your automatic writing sessions.
Emotional checks will reduce stress and increase the accuracy of our research. So, think of it as a safety net. It will catch us when we fall into emotional distress. When we face ideas conflicting with our current opinion, it creates a dilemma. We instinctively react to protect our sacred ground. You don’t want to avoid researching while in a state of distress.
If someone asks you, what is automatic writing? Now you know how to answer them. Perhaps even show them how the process works. A complimentary exercise we use in our introductory phase we call exploring memories. It dovetails perfectly with this handwriting exercise.
We hope you found this article helpful, maybe even thought-provoking. You will find more interesting posts on our blog page. Use the search option on the blog page to find articles by key terms, topics, or category.
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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
The Modern Spiritualism Movement, Wikipedia
Mysticism, A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness by Evelyn Underhill
William Butler Yeats, Poetryfoundation
Jack Keroack, Essentials of Spontaneous Prose
Carl Jung, eyeofthepsyche.com
Sigmund Freud, Wikipedia
Friedrich Nietzsche, Wikipedia
Abrahamic Religions, Wikipedia
List of Religions Populations, Wikipedia