Crystal Gazing (or Crystallomancy)
A mode of divination practiced from very early times with
the aid of a crystal globe, a pool of water, a mirror, or indeed
any transparent object. Divinations by means of water, ink, and
such substances are also known by the name of hydromancy.
The crystal gazer is often known as a ‘‘scryer’’ and the operation
of gazing known as ‘‘scrying.’’ Crystal gazing may be a very
simple or a very elaborate performance, but in every case the
object is to induce in the clairvoyant a form of hypnosis, so that
he may see visions in the crystal.
The ‘‘crystal’’ most in favor among crystal gazers is a spherical
or oval globe, about four inches in diameter, and preferably
a genuine rock crystal. The crystal may be white, blue, violet,
yellow, green, opalescent, or transparent. Blue or amethyst colored
crystals are less tiring to the eyes. As a genuine rock crystal
of this size and shape is necessarily expensive, a sphere of glass
is frequently substituted, with very good results. It must, however,
be a perfect sphere or oval, free from speck or flaw, highly
polished, and traditionally based in a stand of polished ebony,
ivory, or boxwood. Precious stones were also used by crystallomancers
of the past, the favorite stone being beryl in pale sea
green or reddish tints. Among the Hindus, a cup of treacle or
a pool of ink was made to serve the same purpose.
Crystallomancy was practiced by the ancients to invoke spirits,
and elaborate preparations and ceremonials were considered
necessary. A practitioner had to first be a man of pure life
and religious disposition. During the days immediately preceding
inspection of the crystal, he made frequent ablutions and
subjected himself to strict religious discipline, with prayer and
The crystal and its stand were inscribed with sacred characters,
as was the floor of the room in which the invocation was
to take place. A quiet spot where the gazer was free from all disturbances
was suggested. The gazer’s mental attitude was no
less important than the material preparations. Perfect faith was
an essential condition of success. If the magician wished to be
accompanied by one or two of his friends, they had to conform
to the same rules and be guided by the same principles.
The time of the invocation was chosen according to the position
in the heavens of the various planets, all preparations having
been made during the waxing of the moon. All instruments
and accessories to be used in the performance—the sword, rod
and compasses, the fire and the perfume to be burned thereon,
as well as the crystal itself—were consecrated or ‘‘charged’’
prior to the actual ceremony.
During the process of invocation, the magician faced the
east and summoned from the crystal the spirit he desired.
Magic circles were inscribed on the floor, and the crystallomancer
remained within these for some time after the spirit
had been dismissed. It was essential that no part of the ceremonial
be omitted; otherwise, the invocation would be a failure.
If the person on whose behalf the divination was to be performed
was not clairvoyant, he or she sought a suitable medium,
the best being a young boy or girl, born in wedlock, and
perfectly pure and innocent. Prayers and magic words were
said prior to the ceremony, and incense and perfumes were
burned. Sometimes the child’s forehead was anointed, and he
himself provided garments suitable to the impressive nature of
the ceremony.
Some early writers mention a formula of prayers, known as
the ‘‘Call,’’ that preceded the inspection of the crystal. After the
crystal was ‘‘charged,’’ it was handed over to the medium. The
first indication of clairvoyant vision was the appearance of a
mist or cloud in the crystal. This gradually cleared away, and
the vision appeared.
Paracelsus and others declared that such elaborate ceremonies
prior to crystal gazing were unnecessary, and that the
magnes microcosmi (the magnetic principle in man) was sufficient
to achieve the desired objective.
Modern crystal gazing is carried on in much the same manner
as in ancient times, although the preparations are simpler.
The crystal is spherical and of the size of an orange. When in
use it may be held between the agent’s finger and thumb, or,
if the end is slightly flattened, placed on a table; alternatively,
it may be held in the palm of the hand against a background
of black cloth.
The operation is more readily carried out in a subdued
light. A medium or clairvoyant acts as the seer and if the divination
is made for anyone else it is advisable that he or she be allowed
to hold the crystal in his or her hand for a few minutes
before it is passed into the hands of the clairvoyant.
The object of crystal gazing is the induction of a kind of selfhypnotic
state giving rise to visionary hallucinations, the reflection
of light in the crystal forming points de repère for such hallucinations.
The value of elaborate ceremonials and impressive
rituals thus lies in their potency to affect the mind and imagination
of the seer.
It has been widely reported that the appearance of a crystal
vision is heralded by a milky clouding of the ball. This clouding
is a kind of picture in itself. It depends on no optical conditions
and is not the result of a strain on the eye; it persists and will
be visible even after the scryer turns his head away. After the
first pictures it acts as a kind of drop scene. It has been compared
to the cloud in materialization séances; phantasmal figures
reportedly emerge.
The pictures to which the cloud gives way may be small or
may fill the sphere. The visions are often symbolic, and the pictures
are either vague images or they have a clear sense. Lifelike
visions are comparatively rare. In the majority of cases,
crystal gazing is only an amusing psychical entertainment provided
by the subconscious self.
According to Charles Richet, about one person in 20 may
succeed in the experiment but perhaps one among 20 successful
experimenters will receive genuine impressions that could
not have been obtained by normal means. F. W. H. Myers considered
crystal gazing a form of automatism by which the subconscious
self may send messages to the conscious self. Misplaced
objects may be found through the use of the crystal ball;
forgotten dreams may be revived, and a systematic exploration
of the subconscious mind may take place.
Margaret Verrall, a lecturer at Newnham College, England,
concluded from personal experiences that the picture is created
from the bright points of light reflected in the crystal. Once
formed, she said, the picture has a reality and spontaneity quite
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Crystal Gazing
unlike an imaginary scene called up voluntarily with closed
eyes. The pictures are mostly colored but occasionally resemble
black and white sketches. She was successful in tracing most of
her visions to recent memories.
‘‘Miss X’’ (Ada Goodrich-Freer), author of Essays in Psychical
Research (1899) and an experienced crystal gazer, said the best
way to begin scrying was to look about the room and observe
some brightly colored object, close the eyes, and try to transfer
the picture to the ball. If this is successful, the next stage should
be an attempt to recall a vivid memory picture and to transfer
it into the ball in the same way. After this it is very likely that
spontaneous images will also appear. Miss X often traced her
visions to forgotten memories, which she used the crystal to recall.
Occasionally, she could see in the ball the characters of a
work of fiction she was writing. If she did not know how to proceed
with the plot she looked into the crystal and watched the
figures enact the next steps of the story.
She also related a curious instance showing how unconscious
observation may become externalized in the crystal
‘‘I saw, as if in a cutting from The Times, the announcement
of the death of a lady, intimate with near friends of my own,
and which I should certainly have regarded as an event of interest
and consequence under whatever circumstances communicated.
The announcement gave me every detail of place, name
and date, with the additional statement that it was after a period
of prolonged suffering. I had heard nothing of the lady—
resident in America—for some months, and was quite willing
to suppose the communication prophetic or clairvoyant. Of this
flattering notion I was soon disabused. An examination of the
paper of the day before soon showed that the advertisement
was there, just as I had seen it in the crystal, and though at first
I was inclined to protest that ‘I had never looked at yesterday’s
paper’ I presently remembered that I had, in fact, handled it,
using it as a screen to shade my face from the fire, while talking
with a friend in the afternoon. I may add the fact that we have
since discovered that the lady in question is alive and well, and
that the announcement related to someone else of the same
name, by no means a common one.’’
The range of such unconscious observation may be very
wide. ‘‘I have,’’ stated Goodrich-Freer, ‘‘for example, occasionally
been able to reproduce in the crystal the titles of books in
a bookcase or of engravings on a wall, which after-experiment
has shown to be beyond my range of vision.’’ She also noted the
play of possible thought transference in the origin of crystal images
‘‘We were talking of a house she had never seen, and I was
describing the entrance hall. Presently she said ‘Wait, I see it;
let me go on. Is there a curtained archway opposite the front
door And is there a gong in a recess by the stairs’ This was
perfectly correct, and knowing my friend to have psychic faculty,
I wondered how far this might be clairvoyance. On the other
hand, so keen is my own power of visualizing, that I had all the
time a vivid picture of the scene in my own mind. I looked into
the crystal and planned my little test. ‘Go into the dining room’
I said. A correct description followed. ‘The table is laid for
lunch,’ she proceeded, ‘but why have they lighted the candles
in broad daylight’ The fact was that, as soon as I saw that her
attention was fixed on the table, I lighted the candles in my
crystal picture. Hers followed suit, proving some, at least, of her
impressions telepathic.’’
The most arresting question, of course, is whether the pictures
are ever objective. There have been a very few instances
in which the pictures have been reported to be reflected in a
mirror, seen by several persons, and even photographed.
There are, however, no verified cases of these reports.
A series of experiments and observations on the physiological
changes in the eye that accompany crystal vision were recorded
by Hereward Carrington in his book Modern Psychical
Phenomena (1919). He found, for example, that the seer sometimes
looks at a point in space nearer or further off than the
crystal, and if the scene is distant the focus of the eye adjusts
itself to the apparent perspective.
One of the most famous gazing crystals was that of the Elizabethan
magician John Dee (1527–1608), kept for many years
in the British Museum, London, but recently transferred to the
Museum of Mankind in London. This ‘‘shew-stone’’ appears to
be of polished coal. It was only one of several crystals possessed
by Dee, one of which he claimed was brought to him by angels.
Besterman, Theodore. Crystal-Gazing A Study in the History,
Distribution, Theory and Practice of Scrying. London William
Rider, 1924. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books,
Frater Achad [Charles Stansfeld Jones]. Crystal Vision
Through Crystal Gazing. Chicago Yogi Publication Society,
Melville, John. Crystal-Gazing and The Wonders of Clairvoyance.
London Nichols, 1897. Reprinted as Crystal Gazing and
Clairvoyance. Wellingborough, England Aquarium Press, 1979.
Pelton, Robert W. Ancient Secrets of Fortune-Telling. South
Brunswick, N.J. A. S. Barnes, 1976.
Sepharial [W. G. Old]. How to Read the Crystal. London,
Seward, A. F. The Art of Crystal Gazing or Secrets of the Crystal
Revealed. Chicago A. F. Seward, 1873.
Thomas, Northcote W. Crystal Gazing Its History and Practice,
with a Discussion of the Evidence for Telepathic Scrying. London Alexander
Moring (The De La More Press), 1905.
X, Miss [Ada Goodrich-Freer]. Essays in Psychical Research.
London George Redway, 1899.