You may have heard about exercises for automatic writing. Which methods are safe? Is it something I can use in my spiritual practice? You’ll be surprised to find out how this process can benefit your inner work.
Automatic handwriting has a bad reputation in some circles because it gets lumped together with the Ouija board, fortune-telling, and dowsing for water. So, it gets branded as an evil means of divination. But it’s not true. This association is no accident. Anything that competes with Western organized religion gets demonized. It is the same with the Shamanic Journey or using a Journal.
What is Automatic Writing Exactly?
Automatic handwriting is a simple technique. You hold a pencil or pen and start writing without conscious thought to what you are writing. You don’t write with conscious intent. You simply let your hand flow on the paper.
Seers and psychologists see this as a way for us to access the subconscious mind. 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 and simply move your hand across the page. It’s important not to think about writing words; you let your hand move. As a result, it can bring some exciting things to light.
Origins of Automatic Handwriting
We find various forms of this method practiced in China in the 10th Century. Then, it shows up in the writings of John Dee in the 16th Century. The Modern Spiritualism Movement of the 1800s brought it into mainstream popularity. Here, Spiritualists (1) use this in their parlor entertainment for the wealthy.
Spiritualists are also known as grifters and con men. They perform sleight of hand and deception tricks to con people out of money. The tricks of their trade include séances, spirit channeling, fortune-telling, and tarot card readings. So automatic handwriting became another sales tool, a way of contacting spirits. They called it automatic writing divination, a way to contact deceased loved ones.
The developers of psychology saw this as a tool for accessing the subconscious mind. They understood how it could be used for inner work. So, what exactly does this process entail?
Some, like Sigmund Freud, believe it is a way of accessing the secrets of the psyche by opening a window for the subconscious or even our soul to communicate. When you can decipher the writings, it can show underlying thinking patterns, symbols of our fears, and even 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.
This practice is a standard tool of the mystic. Evelyn Underhill is a famous Christian mystic who (2) discusses the use of this process in her works. In her book Mysticism, A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness, 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 (3) talks about using this process. American author Jack Kerouac explains his use of this technique in Essentials of Spontaneous Prose. (4)
The pioneers of modern psychology used this process. For example, Carl Jung talks about this handwriting process as a way to channel ancient personalities.
“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
His comments gave fortunetellers credibility. (5) Channeling is a form of divination, which is a well-known con man tactic used in the Modern Spiritualism movement. Perhaps these comments contributed to his break up of Carl Jung with both Sigmund Freud (6) and Friedrich Nietzsche (7).
Are Exercises for Automatic Writing Safe?
This process enables us to use the stream of awareness below conscious thinking. The subconscious has several levels; the monkey brain or primitive brain is at the core. Our primitive brain houses our autonomic nervous system, which controls our bodies’ internal systems.
Our monkey brain controls our breathing, heart rate, digestion, liver, kidneys, bladder, etc. Automatic handwriting doesn’t access this aspect of the mind. It is more of a link to our subconscious, but this still accesses our emotions like fear and anger. These primal emotions link to our fight, flight or freeze response. So, our cultural programming often links to these gut-level emotional responses.
Next, we have the default settings of our Ego. The Ego is the home of our personality and instincts. Each of the nine major personality types and each of the three instinctual variants has its tendencies and thought patterns. This gives us at least 21 major combinations of personality and instinctual typologies with many sub-sets.
Last is our cultural programming, which is the dominant filter we call our worldview, which contains our beliefs and values. So, this technique can create a window to help us see the mechanisms of the mind. This process also links us to our emotional center. Some call this observer of our consciousness the thing we refer to as our spirit or soul.
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, and it will help you think more clearly and enhance your ability to solve problems. So it’s a good thing. It helps to prepare us to meet the challenges of life.
We are creatures of habit. So, it is easy to allow habitual patterns of thought to run our lives, hindering our growth. Automatic handwriting can help us see what’s holding us back. It helps with all kinds of mental roadblocks because it will help you learn about your habitual nature. You can use practical tactics to turn bad habits into good habits with this knowledge.
Is Automatic Writing a Form of Hypnosis?
It all depends on how you define them. Some think this handwriting technique and hypnotism are the same because they both produce altered states, but they produce altered states, which differ in important ways.
With hypnosis, you allow someone to guide and focus your attention. Giving your guide control makes you susceptible to “hypnotic suggestion,” resulting in a trance, very much like sleepwalking. You appear awake but are not aware of your surroundings. It makes you highly susceptible to suggestion.
On the positive side, this process can access essential details of hidden memories. So, if you are involved with 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 completely different approach. Instead of concentrating on a point, you allow the mind to wander while engaging an unfocused stare or gaze. You use peripheral vision to keep your hand on the paper, but you are open to suggestion.
This recipe produces an altered state of awareness similar to daydreaming, which means you are aware of your surroundings. You are aware you are writing but not directing the content. It 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.
What Is Automatic Writing in the Abrahamic Religions?
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. It includes the Abrahamic religions’ three branches: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (8) Together, these systems have over 4 billion members. (9)
These systems dominate our cultural narrative, and their massive social reach affects non-believers. Demons are potent 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, our fight, flight or freeze response. Whatever typologies or symbols you associate with your deepest fears will probably show up, even triggering primal fears that 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.
Are The Exercises for Automatic Writing Divination?
The most significant danger in using this process is to venture unprepared. See the above concern about symbols of your fear typologies. Next, the second danger is to use it as a parlor game. Remember, this is a profound inner work tool.
Any tool can be misused. Not knowing how to drive a car properly makes it a deadly weapon, and it’s the same with any inner work technique. Use it properly, and you’ll be safe. Ask for unknown forces to come, and you are asking for trouble.
This process will also bring up repressed memories, along with 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.
It’s essential to take this process seriously. Ask yourself some questions about why you are using this process. What is the purpose or goal of using automatic writing? What are my desired outcomes?
Determine Your Readiness to Use the Process
Readiness to learn 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, 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 robust 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. It’s how they keep you a paying customer.
Second — Use a Journal
We recommend you use a spiritual journal of your experiences during the process. Some people include all the scribblings from their handwriting session. Your journal should will contain your dreams, experiences in spiritual practices, and automatic writing data. It will give you a more accurate picture of your psyche.
A spiritual journal is also your book of shadows because it exposes the shadows of your subconscious mind. Above all, keep these journals secure. They are for your personal use.
It’s essential 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 thought 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 standard practices and fears for your personality 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 using a paper and pen type of journal, not electronic. Your handwriting captures a lot of data that gives you important clues about what is going on emotionally.
- 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 and let anything happen.
- Your handwriting style and tempo are significant; the slant in the letters, the size, and the characters’ spacing are clues to your state of mind.
- Don’t edit yourself, and 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 completing the exercise. 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 driving or walking.
- Don’t judge the value of your writing.
- Writing like this is hard inner work. Stop when you need to.
- Review your practice notes 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. It’s a process to help you stay as unbiased as possible. It can help you keep calm during all exercises for automatic writing.
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 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 is called exploring memories. It dovetails perfectly with this handwriting exercise.
(1) The Modern Spiritualism Movement: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritualism
(2) Mysticism, A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness by Evelyn Underhill: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/193586.Mysticism
(3) William Butler Yeats: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/
(4) Jack Keroack, Essentials of Spontaneous Prose: https://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88v/kerouac-spontaneous.html
(5) Carl Jung: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_and_Alchemy
(6) Sigmund Freud: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_Psychology_and_the_Analysis_of_the_Ego
(7) Friedrich Nietzsche: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human,_All_Too_Human
(8) Abrahamic Religions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions
(9) List of Religions Populations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religions_and_spiritual_traditions