The concept of automatic writing is nothing new. Steam of consciousness styles of prose were big with the Surrealists, who tore up pieces of paper with text on it and reassembled those pieces in random order, never searching for meaning, but content to let it just be read as it was: Dada. The Beat Generation and later writers and composers like John Cage would make art out of nonsense. Writers like James Joyce wrote; “I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.”
Yeah right. Sounds a bit like Donny Rumsfeld doublespeak pre-dated by a few decades. And that’s the point. We connect the dots to get what we want out of nonsense, whether it be sold as art, literature, politics – or a psychic reading. We will alawys retain only what we want to read or hear. The Spiritualists helped loosen up the tongues of their adherents and because of their belief in the power of the unconscious, mediums were very popular with the Surrealists. They shared a common dictum: Just sit down and let it rip. For many people automatic writing is a fun parlour game, while for others of a more serious inclination, it’s a solemn pursuit into the paranormal unconscious that opens the floodgates of precognition and clairvoyance.
I have met quite a few people who swear by this exercise in creative writing, but like Ouija Boards, pendulums and the medium’s glossolalia or speaking in tongues, it remains to be seen if there is any consistent proof of anything genuine occurring. How can we test for such things and even begin to chart accuracy here? It’s a stretch to think that just haphazardly drawing or scrawling letters and shapes is any different than “speaking in tongues” defined in the dictionary as ”incomprehensible speech in an imaginary language, sometimes occurring in a trance state, an episode of religious ecstasy, or schizophrenia .” And yet, if the shoe fits and people make connections no matter how obscure later, well then voila, …we have a supposed paranormal event to contend with. Coincidence? Probably. But there’s that pesky word again. The unconscious is just that and nothing more ..or is it? Here. I’ll give it a whack. I’m going into a trance right now and will type whatever comes into my head:
“:Hhujkehfbbnfg dfhfuw2iofbbsvm,dbbdgh hdrvvevvsj uebvbswwiwhbd d sheggehbxvsdhshkkqhehdbeujeuvjawsbe ehegjegujegj eueuguedvue”
So there you have it. After I opened my eyes, I can clearly read a few consecutive words without too much code breaking: ” she be jaw.” Perhaps I have just channeled an errant thought from my ex-wife? I don’t know. What it means may have to wait for later; like tomorrow, next week or next year to be revealed. It may never amount to anything. Don’t be surprised if it manages to fit in somewhere for you. When confronted with a mystery, the human mind immediately goes to work in an attempt to make sense of whatever is placed in front of it. It can’t just be nonsense can it? That’s the game. We can’t help making connections no matter how obtuse and we run with whatever seems to make sense. It’s a way to try to come to grips with the chaos and uncontrollable forces we rub up against daily in our lives. Peddlers of the most outrageous woo know this well and take advantage of it whenever possible. Hence millions of buyers into Nostradamus, Sylvia Browne, ad nauseum.
There are rare instances that have made me wonder. Yes, I know. I can hear you already. Here goes Mark again. Well why not? It’s my blog and if you don’t like it, … buzz off.
My dear friend Marilyn Stefano, wife of the late great writer Joe Stefano once showed me a striking example of what passed for “fun and games” in the heady atmosphere of the mid-sixties Hollywood party scene. Joe and Marilyn would frequently have “salons” where the Hollywood in-crowd of the time would gather, have a few cocktails and then practice automatic writing with a large pad of manila paper. No actual spirit stuff was invoked, it was just a lark to see what might happen. Most of the time what came through was just a mass of black squiggles and lines, but one night things got a little weird.
After “doing their thing” with several sheets, which would be sketched, put aside and then examined for anything interesting at the end of the evening, one of the dozen or so sheets showed clearly the flowing strokes of the cursive name, “Abigail.” They didn’t think much of the name at the time and put it away until a few nights later - when Abigail Folger the American coffee heiress was murdered at Roman Polanski’s home in the infamous Manson Murders of 1969. To add to the weirdness, at that time Joe and Marilyn lived right next door to the Polanski’s on Cielo Drive in Beverly Hills. True story. I have seen the drawing close up. There’s no question of “seeing things” like seeing faces in a shag rug or a wallpaper pattern. The writing is as clear as if it was written on a personal check. Coincidence? Hmmmmmmm. Knowing Marilyn is not easily fooled or misled by woo, I have to say seeing it and hearing her tell her tale made the hair stand up slightly on the back of my neck. In this case, what happened appears to those who believe to have been a warning rather than a spirit message. Stuff happens.
Hey, I’m not saying I believe what happened is in any way paranormal! After all, it was a story told to me second hand. I was not there that night or privy to what went on in bewteen. Being there might have made some difference in my analysis. Still, Marilyn has never had any reason to lie to me and she’s one of the most sane people I know. I mention this incident purely as a devil’s advocate example of what believers hold up as proof. I still don’t know quite what to make of it, but this type of investigation and follow-up is the sort of information I would like to see presented soberly on “The Skeptologists.” Marilyn is convinced there could be no “confirmation bias” or “trick.” It remains a mystery to this day. Can you explain it?
Better still : Can The Skeptologists explain it?
I hope so. That will be the fun of the show and why I’m excited about the prospect of a series. If we can look at things like instances of automatic writing or any of the other popular beliefs in the paranormal and come up without a scientifically arrived at answer, we all have agreed to chalk it up to something we could not explain within the confines of a segmented show. Being able to differentiate and separate what’s woo, fraud or the misreading of data and being open to gracefully accept what might be unaccountable by any natural means for what it is – unexplainable, is the kind of honest programming that will make the difference between simple down-playing, de-bunking and ridicule and what The Skeptologists will set out to achieve.
So when does the filming begin?
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