Automatic Speaking
The phenomenon of excitation of the vocal chords without
the volition of the conscious self. Today this phenomenon is
called channeling. Speech bursts forth impulsively, whether
the medium is in trance or a more normal waking state. In the
latter case, and in partial trance, the medium may understand
the contents of the communication even if it comes in a language
unknown to him or her. But the retention of consciousness
during automatic speaking is exceptional.
The mediums Horace Leaf and Florence Morse were conscious
during automatic speech, and this consciousness was also
observed by Eugèn Osty with Mme. Fraya and M. de Fleurière.
The curious case William James records in the Proceedings of
the Society for Psychical Research (vol. 12, pp. 277–98), of the
experiences of Mr. ‘‘Le Baron’’ (pseudonym) in 1894 in an
American Spiritualist camp meeting, is especially instructive on
this score. ‘‘Le Baron,’’ who was a journalist, at one of these
meetings ‘‘felt his head drawn back until he was forced flat on
the ground.’’ Then ‘‘the force produced a motor disturbance
of my head and jaws. My mouth made automatic movements,
till in a few seconds I was distinctly conscious of another’s
voice—unearthly, awful, loud, weird—bursting through the
woodland from my own lips, with the despairing words ‘Oh, my
people.’ Mutterings of semi-purposive prophecy followed.’’
James also spoke, as a curious thing, of the generic similarity
of trance utterances in different individuals.
‘‘It seems exactly if one author composed more than half of
the trance messages, no matter by whom they are uttered.
Whether all subconscious selves are peculiarly susceptible to a
certain stratum of the Zeitgeist, and get their inspirations from
it, I know not.’’
Spiritualists, of course, reject James’s observation and cite as
evidence some of the more notable trance utterances and inspirational
oratory, such as The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelation’s
and a Voice to Mankind, originally dictated by Andrew
Jackson Davis) in trance in 1845 and 1846. Thomas Lake Harris
produced two long poems in a similar manner Epic of the
Starry Heavens (1854), a poem containing nearly four thousand
lines, and A Lyric of the Morning Land (1856), another impressive
poetic composition of over five thousand words. Both were
dictated in a remarkably short time. David Duguid’s curious
historic romance Hafed, Prince of Persia (1876), and its sequel
Hermes, A Disciple of Jesus (1887), were also taken down from
trance dictations.
Interesting Cases of Automatic Speaking
The revelations of Catherine Emmerich, the seeress of
Westphalia, were taken down and published by Clement Brentano
in a work of several volumes. The seeress, who lived at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, told the story of the life
of Jesus day by day as if she had been an eyewitness of it all. Her
account deviated from Roman Catholic teachings at several
points, and Roman Catholic apologist Herbert Thurston attacked
her work by noting the numerous discrepancies in her
visions. He put together a formal critical examination and compared
her visions with those of other more ‘‘orthodox’’ ecstatics.
Telka, ‘‘Patience Worth’’’s poem of sixty to seventy thousand
words in an Anglo-Saxon language, was dictated through
Pearl Curran as rapidly as it could be written down by a secretary,
and the medium was so independent of that which came
through her that she was free to smoke a cigarette, to interrupt
herself by taking part in the conversation of those present, or
go into the next room to answer the telephone. The whole
poem, a masterpiece, took a total of 35 hours.
Medium Florence Morse was not only conscious of her inspirational
delivery but one of her controls, who had a fund of dry
humor, frequently kept her amused by his remarks on some
feature of the proceedings, especially when it was a case of answering
questions.
Trance singing is a kindred manifestation to automatic
speaking. Jesse Shepard was the most notable example. In the
case of Mrs. A. M. Gage, a New York soprano singer who lost
her voice through an attack of hemorrhage of the lungs, it was
accompanied by a complete alteration of personality.
One of the most remarkable examples of trance utterance
was that of the British medium Mrs. Louis A. Meurig Morris,
who delivered impressive sermons under the control of the
spirit ‘‘Power.’’ During these addresses, the medium’s soprano
voice changed to a ringing masculine baritone and all her mannerisms
became masculine.
Psychologists who do not accept the claim of spirit utterance
through a medium classify the phenomenon as the creation of
a secondary personality, and there are many interesting cases
on record of individuals who manifested several quite markedly
different personalities. Also related to automatic speaking is
the phenomenon of glossolalia or ‘‘speaking in tongues,’’ as
well as xenoglossis, the speaking of a language without having
studied it.
Sources
Thurston, Herbert. Surprising Mystics. London Burns &
Oates, 1955.

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