Automatic handwriting is a powerful way to connect with our subconscious mind. Learn how this process can benefit your inner work.
What is Automatic Writing?
Many believe this practice is a method of self-reflection 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 pen or pencil without engaging the conscious mind. You do not try to writing words, you simply let your hand move. As a result, it can bring some interesting things to light. Some like Sigmund Freud believe it is a way of accessing the deepest secrets of the psyche. 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 writing, automatic handwriting, freewriting or spirit writing are all names for the same method.
Where Does it Come From?
The origins of this method are unknown. It appears first in the Modern Spiritualism movement in the late 1800s. In this setting, this process is parlor entertainment for the rich social elite led by celebrity Spiritualists. This entertainment included a variety of mystical practices such as séances, spirit channeling, fortune-telling, tarot card readings, and divination. Automatic writing became another tool of divination. The primary use is contacting the spirits of deceased loved ones.
This practice is a common tool of the mystic. For example, Evelyn Underhill, a Christian mystic 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 as a way to stimulate their creative mind. Not coincidently many writers and poets of this era also had interests in mysticism. For instance, William Butler Yeats talks about using this process at great length. And, American author Jack Kerouac explains his use of the process 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 of using the process for channeling 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. For instance, it controls our breathing, heart rate, digestion, liver, kidneys, and bladder (among other things). Automatic writing 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. So, automatic handwriting creates a window to help us see these mechanisms of the mind. This process also links us to our emotional center. Some call this observer of our consciousness, the thing we call spirit or soul.
Additionally, 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. In other words, 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 a variety of 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. The process of 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 in finding 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 employ practical tactics to turn bad habits into good habits.
Is Automatic Writing 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. So, you are not aware of your surroundings. On the positive side, this process can get access to important details of memories. And, 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. In other words, use peripheral vision. 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 its way into Western theology. This includes the three branches of the Abrahamic Religions which are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Together these belief systems have over 3 billion members. These systems dominate our cultural narrative. The massive social reach effects 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, then 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 really is serious inner work. Please take it seriously.
This process will bring up repressed memories, along with deep emotional and psychological truths. So, prepare properly before engaging in any inner work. By all means, make sure you are ready to use this process.
This is a very important 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 which 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 likely 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 as well as 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 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. Also, 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.
Finally, if it is your first time it best to use it with a partner whom you trust. It’s also a good idea to use it within the scope of a monitored curriculum. 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. Use a pen, or pencil on paper.
- 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 to happen.
- Trust yourself. Don’t think about what you are writing.
- Sit until you feel ready, then just let your hand move.
- Doodle…draw pictures…let it happen.
- Electronic mediums don’t work well with this process. You can’t allow your hand to flow. And so, you can’t fully express yourself.
- Your handwriting style and tempo are very important. The amount of slant in the letters in your handwriting, the size, and the spacing of characters are all important clues to your state of mind.
- Don’t edit yourself. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling.
- You may end up with 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 draw judgments about 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. Review with a fresh perspective.
Use Emotional Checks
Anytime you engage in spiritual research we recommend the use of 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. This is because 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 conduct research 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 complementry exercise we use in our introductory phase we call exploring memories. It dovetails perfectly with this handwriting exericse.
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their own path.
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