Psychography, A Treatise of Psychic or Spiritual Phenomena 1840 - 1892




IT is a by no means uncommon thing for the handwriting in which the messages are written to be one totally different from that of the Psychic; and it is a noteworthy fact that when a special handwriting is associated with a special signature, that association (so far as I have seen) is always preserved. I am acquainted with many cases in which this is very observable. I have now before me a specimen of Psychography obtained in private without the intervention of any one outside the family circle, in which the writing is so minute as to be illegible without the use of a strong magnifying-glass. Yet the letters are clearly and beautifully formed, the lines are straight and regularly spaced, and the capitals and the name of the Supreme Being are written large, and with great care in their formation. The same half-sheet of note-paper which contains this specimen contains also another message, written in a totally different handwriting, but also with great neatness and care. Each is signed by a name, or rather by a designation, and each contains coherent and sensible matter. Each handwriting has been preserved exactly in all communications made now for some five years; and no


Evidence from the Writing of Languages.                        69

variation is discernible between the writing when obtained without human intervention, as in the case above quoted, and that which is automatically written through the hand of the Psychic through whom these messages are given. There is an absolute identity preserved throughout.


It is not only that the character of the writing is the same, but there is a marked presence in these messages of individuality on the part of the Intelligence. The matter of the message is as marked as the manner of it. This is observable especially in writings obtained under the best conditions of privacy in a family circle. Those who have looked carefully into the laws which govern these phenomena do not expect to gain any information that merits attention amid the distracting surroundings of a public circle, where the Psychic is valuable chiefly for the unfavourable conditions under which he can manage to give evidence to a sceptical inquirer; where the performance is a species of psychical gymnastics, conditions being prescribed for the special purpose, apparently, of rendering it impossible to produce a given result; and success being the invariable signal for still more stringent demands. Such investigators, it is presumed, have their reward.


In private, on the contrary, when the method of production is familiar, and the attention is directed more to the nature of information given, there is observable a very distinct and marked individuality in the Intelligent operator, and much that is written is worthy of attention on its merits.


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Almost invariably this individuality is not akin to that of the Psychic. When only one Intelligence can be detected, then usually the broad characteristics of the Psychic are reproduced, but with a marked variation in minute points, and with either the absence of some strong personal peculiarity, or with the addition of one equally forcibly marked. And where several Intelligences can be traced, they differ among themselves as strongly as they do from the Psychic.


Not only do these Intelligences present characteristics of form and style of communication different from what would have been used by the Psychic, but they give information which is beyond his knowledge, and sometimes use a language with which he is not acquainted. It is not my purpose now to dwell on the fact that information is given by means of these messages which neither is nor ever has been within the knowledge of the special Psychic through whom the phenomenon was caused. That would lead me into details which do not rightly belong to my subject, and I should manifestly be compelled to narrow down my argument to such cases as are within my own private knowledge. It is impossible to say of a given public Psychic, like Monck or Slade, that he does or does not know such a fact, or has or has not ever heard of it in his past life. I could only say that it was unlikely that he has such out-of-the-way knowledge, and could ground no argument on such an opinion.


It is easier to adduce evidence as to the language used. When we find Ancient and Modern Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Dutch, German


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man, Arabic, and Chinese forming the language of some of these Psychographs, obtained in the presence of Slade and Watkins, we shall not have much difficulty in concluding that their linguistic attainments are not of this polyglot character. As a matter of fact, Watkins is a young man whose past life has not been one that has been favourable to the acquisition of any knowledge, except that gained in the hard school of experience; and Slade knows no language but his own mother tongue. I am in a position to affirm this with confidence, on the authority of Dr. Carter Blake, who was accustomed to read French with Miss Slade and Miss Simmons during their stay in London. He says, in a letter to me, "We used to act little plays by Moliere, and the like. I am certain that Slade, who was generally present, was entirely and hopelessly ignorant of every word…. Simmons is as ignorant of the 'ethnic' languages as Slade, and the girls have a very moderate school-girl acquaintance with the French language alone."


I adduce, therefore, this fact, that languages unknown to the Psychic are frequently used, as an additional proof of the absence of fraud. When such precautions are taken to prevent previous fraudulent preparations of the slates as I have noted in each quoted case, the presumption is in favour of the reality of the phenomenon. When the evidence of the senses tells of the progress of the writing, that presumption is increased. If, when the slate is inspected, the language used is one unknown to the Psychic, I submit that the presumption is still further increased,


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and that another link has been added to the chain of evidence.


I have already mentioned one case, that of Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood, J.P., in which his ear detected the sound of Greek writing, and afterwards of the cursive script of English. I will add two other cases, one recorded by the Hon. R. Dale Owen, formerly American Minister at the Court of Naples. It dates back to a time when Slade was comparatively unknown in this country. The record is curious, inasmuch as Mr. Owen had the slate and papers on his knees, and saw the detached hand, like those mentioned by Mr. Crookes and Mr. Jencken, which executed the writing:—


At half-past seven on Monday evening, Feb. 9th, 1874, I called at Dr. Slade's rooms, 413 Fourth Avenue, New York, found him disengaged, and had a sitting which I shall remember while I live.


It was held in his back parlour; no one but myself present; doors closed and locked; sufficient gaslight from a chandelier suspended above the table to make every object in the room distinctly visible. We sat at a table without cover, five feet by two and a half, Slade at one end, and I on one side, near him; Slade's hands on the table throughout the sitting.


An interval of some ten or fifteen minutes during which nothing occurred; Slade nervous, restless, and seemingly disappointed. Then he laid a small slate on the table before me, and, after a time, went to a writing-desk, brought thence half a quire of paper, selected a sheet, and handed it to me with a request that I would examine it. I did so, carefully, under the gaslight, and can positively affirm that not a word or letter was visible upon it. Thereupon he added, "They wish you to lay it on the slate, and to lay the slate on your knee."


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Then, after another pause: "Have you a lead pencil?" "Yes."

"Please throw it under the table." I did so.

A few minutes afterwards I felt the grasp as of a hand on one of my knees, arresting my attention, for the touch was unmistakably distinct. Presently there appeared, stealing over my knees, and creeping slowly up the slate, a hand, holding my pencil. This hand resembled, point for point, that of a white marble female statue, alike in size, in colour, and in form; the fingers taper, and the whole most delicately moulded. It was detached and shaded off at the wrist. It commenced writing about the middle of the note sheet, and continued to write under my eyes for two or three minutes, ending at the bottom of the page. Then it slipped gently back under the table, carrying the pencil with it.

Again an interval, perhaps of five minutes. Then appeared a second hand, somewhat smaller than the first, but in colour and symmetry closely resembling it. This hand moved to the top of the sheet of paper, wrote as the former had done, and for about the same period of time, then disappeared slowly in like manner. I saw it even more distinctly than the first, because it wrote outside of the shadow of the projecting table-top, and directly under the gaslight.

As we had no raps indicating the close of the sitting, we kept our places, talking over what had happened. After some time, a hand similar to that which first wrote, showed itself coming out from below the end of the table furthest from Dr. Slade. It was detached, as the others had been remained visible several minutes, then sank out of sight. This closed the sitting.

When I came to examine the writing of which I had thus witnessed the execution, I found the first written to be in English, a commonplace communication with the signature of Dr. Slade's deceased wife. The last written, but first on the note sheet (headed in English, "Law of Love. Matt. v. 43-45"), was in Greek.

Now, my knowledge of Greek, imperfect when I left college, has, during more than half-a-century of disuse, so faded out that I can barely translate a word, here and there. I


[Photo illustration of handwriting]

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Evidence from the Writing of Languages.                       75


referred the manuscript to two of the best Greek scholars in Harvard University, and from them I ascertained that it was what it purported to be (a few aspirates and accents only omitted), the original of the three well­known verses, thus rendered in our revised version:—

"43. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy.

"44. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.

"45. That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.",

Truly the "Law of Love." That those of your readers who are familiar with Greek may judge the original MS. for themselves, I here submit a half-size photograph of what I obtained. (See p. 74.)

I close without comment, merely reminding your readers:— That this sitting was held in the light.

That the sheet of note paper remained in my possession from the time I first received and examined it till the close of the sitting; and has never been out of my possession since.

That, for the reality of the phenomena I had the evidence of two senses: that of feeling, and best and most convincing of all, the testimony of what the old poet calls the "faithful eyes."

New York, Oct. 15th 1876.

The other case is recorded in the Spiritualist of Dec. 1, 1876, and Mr. Blackburn's attestation supplies all the necessary information:—

The writing in the accompanying cut is a fac-simile of that which was obtained upon one of Dr. Slade's slates in the presence of Mr. Charles Blackburn of Parkfield, Didsbury, near Manchester. Mr. Blackburn states that in broad daylight a crumb of pencil was placed on the top of the table,


[Photo illustration of handwriting]

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and a clean slate turned face downwards over the pencil. The four sitters, including Dr. Slade, then joined their hands, with the exception that Dr. Slade placed one of his hands


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upon the top of one corner of the slate, whilst Miss Cook, at the other end of the chain of sitters, placed one of her hands upon the opposite corner. Dr. Slade sat sideways, and his feet were in sight all the time. Soon they heard the pencil hard at work, and the message seemed to be a long one, for the writing could be heard going on for five or six minutes; then it ceased, and raps came upon the table. The slate was turned up and found to be full of Greek writing. Mr. Blackburn wrapped up the slate in his handkerchief, and carried it to the rooms of the National Association of Spiritualists, where it is now framed under glass, and is on public view. The writing is the dry dusty writing of slate pencil. The sitters were Mr. Charles Blackburn, Mrs. Henry Cook, of Hackney, Miss Kate S. Cook, and Dr. Slade.


Another specimen of Greek was obtained by Mr. Gledstanes, who also had some Arabic and English writing on the same slate. He went to Slade, I may say, with the desire and hope of getting some French message, which he might give to M. Leymarie in Paris, a city in which Mr. Gledstanes had for some time been resident. The remarks which I have before made as to the difference in handwritings find an illustration here. The Greek writings obtained by Messrs. Owen and Blackburn are identical in type, and seem to me to be hastily written, as if by a hand familiar with the character, and accustomed to write it currente calamo [with the pen running on]. The letters are not laboriously formed, as would be the case if they were copied by one who was ignorant of the language. The characters on the; slates of Messrs. Gledstanes and Wedgwood are entirely different—are, in my opinion, formed by another hand—and are signed alike, but differently from the other writings. These points have their obvious bearing


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on the question of the separate nature of the Intelligence, and also of the reality of the phenomenon.


Since Slade has been on the Continent, at the Hague and Berlin, we find that messages in Dutch and German are written. Canon X. Mouls, with Slade in Belgium, obtained writing in French, a language with which he was probably most familiar, as well as in English, the language of the Psychic.


In London one gentleman obtained writing in both Spanish and Portuguese, though neither he nor any person in the room knew a word of either language. In an adjoining room, however, it is curious to note that there was a gentleman, Dr. Carter Blake, who knows both. It is right, however, to notice that during the time when the experiment was being made, Dr. Blake was in conversation about other subjects. The matter of the message, he tells me, is quite unlike anything that would have been in his mind. He has no pretensions to be a good Portuguese scholar; never uses the language for thought or word, except in the way of business, though he knows Spanish well.


The same results are got with Watkins, in America. Madame H. P. Blavatsky, a Russian lady now resident in New York, and author of Isis Unveiled, went to Watkins, and having written among other names, on separate pieces of paper, one in Russian character, she was asked by the Psychic to allow it to be written on the slate, as it was too difficult for him to pronounce. Madame Blavatsky placed her hand alone on a slate, under which a fragment of pencil had been placed. Mr. Watkins did not touch the slate. "An instant


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after, on turning up the slate, the appellation, consisting of three names, was found written in full, and in Russian characters, with this curious exception, that one or two letters were exchanged for those of Latin character, having the same phonetic value; e.g. an 'f', pronounced in Russian 'v', but written 'b', was substituted for the latter letter."


Again, a teacher of the Greek language in the Collegiate Institute, Springfield, Massachusetts, United States of America, Mr. T. T. Timayenis, a modern Greek by birth, obtained from Watkins, in original characters of Romaic, "the name of his grandfather, and three lines of Greek words, correctly spelled, and with accents and breathings correctly placed." To this he testifies in his own name, and, moreover, states that the "name written is very peculiar, almost unpronounceable by English lips. The slate was in full view throughout, and Watkins merely touched one corner with a motionless finger."


The same Psychic has recently obtained writing in correct and properly formed Chinese characters. It is probable that Psychography could be obtained in any given language, provided a person were present who understood that language even slightly. And there is some evidence which goes to prove that on rare occasions a language is used with which no person present is familiar; just as, far more certainly, facts are given which are not known to any one in the room.


It is, however, very desirable that extended experiment should be made in this direction before any definite opinion is formed.