The Spiritist Review - Journal of Psychological Studies - 1859

Allan Kardec

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Pneumatography is a writing produced directly by the spirit, without any intermediary. It differs from psychography since the latter takes place through the transmission of the spirit’s thought via the writing hand of the medium. We inserted these two words in the Spiritist Vocabulary, in the beginning of our Practical Instruction, with the indication of their etymological difference. Psychography, from the Greek psykhe = butterfly, soul, and graphô = I write; Pneumatography, pneuma = air, breath, wind, spirit.

With a writing medium the hand is an instrument, but his soul, the incarnate spirit in the medium, is an intermediary, or agent or interpreter of the strange spirit that communicates. With the pneumatography it is the strange spirit that writes directly, without intermediary.

The phenomenon of direct writing is unarguably one of the most extraordinary areas of Spiritism. However abnormal as it may seem, at first sight, it is today a verified and incontestable fact. If we have not spoken about it yet it is because we expected to be able to explain it after having personally made all the required observations in order to handle the subject with causal knowledge. If the theory is necessary for us to understand the possibility of the spiritist phenomena in general, it is perhaps even more necessary in this case, no doubt one of the strangest ever presented, but which no longer seems supernatural when we understand its principle.

The first revelation of this phenomenon provoked doubt, followed by the idea of deception. In fact, everyone knows the effect of the so-called sympathetic inks, whose traces initially completely invisible, show up after certain time. It could seem that one was abusing people’s credulity and we do not guarantee that such trick may have never been used. We are even convinced that certain persons, without any mercenary intention, but exclusively out of self-love and to make others believe in their power, have employed such hoaxes.

J. J. Rousseau reports the following fact in the third letter of those written from Montagne:

“In 1743 I saw in Venice a new way of fortune telling, stranger than those of Préneste. Who wanted to consult had to get into a chamber and, if wanted, could stay alone. There, from a book formed by blank pages, the person chose one page to take off; then, holding that page, mentally requested the answer to something that they wished. Then the blank page had to be folded and inserted into an envelope that was then sealed and placed inside a book. Finally, after having repeated certain bizarre formulas, always keeping an eye on the book, the person removed the envelope from the book. The seal was examined and the page removed from the envelope, where there was a written answer.”

“The magician who did such tricks was the first secretary of the French Embassy, called J. J. Rousseau.”

I doubt that Rousseau had known the direct writing otherwise he would have known other things relatively to the spiritist manifestations and would not have handled the subject so lightheartedly. It is possible, as he himself acknowledged, when we interrogated him about this fact, that he employed a process learned from an Italian charlatan.

However, just because we can imitate something it would be absurd to conclude that such a thing does not exist. Haven’t we recently seen means of imitating the somnambulistic lucidity to the point of an illusion of reality? Just because that juggler’s trick has gone around all amusement parks should we conclude that there wouldn’t be true somnambulists? By the fact that certain merchants sell false wine is there any reason for not finding pure wine? The same happens to the direct writing. The precautions to ensure the reality of the fact were, as a matter of fact, very easy and simple, and thanks to them, there could not be any doubt today.

Once the possibility of writing without intermediary is an attribute of the spirit and considering that the spirits have existed at all times, and also that they have produced the phenomena that we know in all epochs, then they equally produced the direct writing in the antiquity as produced in our days. That is how we can explain the appearance of the three words in Belshazzar’s feast room (Daniel 5:5). The middle ages, so prolific in occult prodigies, but which were burnt at the stake, must also have known the direct writing and we would probably be able to find it in the theory of the modifications that the spirits may produce over matter, discussed in our previous article – the principle of transmutation of metals. It is a point which we will discuss one of these days.

One of our members have recently told us the story of one of his uncles, a clergyman, that for many years was a missionary in Paraguay; around 1800 he obtained direct writing together with his friend, the renowned Abbot Faria. His method, which our subscriber did not know well, having only superficially observed it, consisted of a series of hanging rings, to which some pencils were vertically adapted and whose tips rested on some sheets of paper. This system represents the infancy of the art. From then on we made progress. Whatever the results obtained at different times, it was not but after the vulgarization of the spiritist manifestations that the direct writing was taken seriously. It seems that the first person to report it in Paris, more recently, was the Baron of Guldenstubbe, who published a very interesting book about the subject, containing a large number of facsimiles of the direct writings obtained by him. * The phenomenon was known in the US for some time. The social position of the Baron; his independence; the respect he enjoyed at the high society, undeniably keep away any suspicion of fraud once he could not be moved by any greedy interest. If that much one could admit that he was a victim of an illusion but there is a fact that peremptorily counters that: the fact that the phenomena are obtained by other persons that have taken all precautions to avoid any possibility of fraud or mistake.

The direct writing is obtained, as in reality the majority of the spiritist manifestations, in an ambient of worshiping, prayer and through evocation.

They have been obtained many times in churches, by the tombs, near statues or images of persons who were called. It is evident, however, that the place has no other influence but that of allowing better reverence and concentration of thoughts, since it is demonstrated that those communications may also be obtained without those accessories and in the most common places, like over a simple piece of furniture at home, as long as we hold the required moral conditions and enjoy the mediumistic faculty.

In the beginning there was an assumption that it was necessary to have a pencil and a piece of paper. The fact could be explained up to a certain extent. It is a known fact that the spirits move and displace objects, that sometimes take them and thrown them in the air. Then they could also take a pencil and utilize it to write characters; they do the same with the hand of the medium, using a planchette, etc. to obtain the direct writing. However, it did not take long to discover that the presence of the pencil was unnecessary and that a simple piece of paper was enough, folded or not, on which the characters were found after a few minutes. The phenomenon completely changes its aspect here, throwing us into an entirely new order of things. The characters are traced with any given substance. As that substance has not been supplied to the spirit then the spirit made it himself. Where has the spirit taken it from? That is the problem.

The Russian General, Count of B…, showed us the first ten lines from a poem, obtained in such a manner through the Baron of Guldenstubbe’s sister, by placing a single piece of paper, torn off from her own notebook, under the clock’s pedestal, by the chimney. After a few minutes she found fine characters written on the paper, in perfect German. Through a writing medium the spirit asked her to burn that paper; as she hesitated, afraid of sacrificing such a precious specimen, the spirit added: “Don’t be afraid. I will give you another one.” Having that promise she threw the paper in the fire, then she prepared a second sheet, also torn off from her notebook, on which the verses were reproduced exactly in the same way as before. It was this second edition that we saw and carefully examined and – strange thing – the characters presented signs of pressure as if they had just been produced.

Thus, it is not with pencil and paper that the spirits may operate but also with ink and printing characters.

One of our honorable friends from the Society, Mr. Didier, a few days ago obtained the following results which we had the opportunity of attesting and whose authenticity we can guarantee. He had gone to Our Lady Victory’s Church, with Mrs. Het, who had obtained results of this kind not long ago; he took a sheet of paper containing the headings of his commercial outfit, folded it in four and placed it over the steps of an altar, asking for a good spirit to come to write something in the name of God. After worshipping for ten minutes he found on the bottom side of the paper, in one of the folds, the word faith, and in another fold the word God. Then, after having asked for the kindness of the spirit to identify himself, he placed the paper back on the steps and after ten minutes he found these words: by Fénelon.

Eight days later he wanted to repeat the experiment, on July 12th, going then to the Louvre, in the room Coyzevox, located in the clock pavilion. He placed a folded piece of paper, like on the first occasion, over the basis of the bust of Bossuet, obtaining nothing. A five-year-old boy was with him and he had placed the boy’s hat on the pedestal of the statue of Louis XV, just a few feet away from the other one. Considering his experiment unsuccessful, he was ready to leave when he noticed under the boy’s hat, apparently written with pencil, on the marble, the words “Love God”, followed by the letter “B”. The first thought of the observers was that such words might have been written before, by strange hands, going unnoticed. In any case, they wished to obtain a new proof, thus placing the folded paper on top of those words, covering it with the hat. After a few minutes they noticed that the paper contained three letters. They replaced the paper, requesting that the phrase be completed, obtaining: “Love God”; that is the same that was written on the marble, without the letter “B”. It was then evident that the first words had been written through direct writing. Still sticking out was the curious fact that the letters were traced successfully and not at once, considering that on the occasion of the first inspection the phrase had not been concluded yet! Once he left the Louvre, Mr. Didier went to Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois where, through the same process, obtained the words - Be Humble. Fénelon - very clearly written. These words can still be seen on the referred statue.

The substance that forms the characters has total similarity with graphite and it is easily erased. We examined it in the microscope, verifying that it is not incorporated to the paper but simply irregularly deposited on its surface, forming a roughness similar to certain crystallizations. The erased part shows a dark layer introduced in the cavities of the paper’s wrinkles. Carefully removed these layers are the actual matter used in the operation. We regret to say that the small amount of material recovered did not allow us to make a proper chemical analysis. We have not lost hope, however, of doing that one day.

We refer the reader to our preceding article, where one can find the whole explanation of the phenomenon.

In this kind of writing the spirit does not use any of our substances nor any of our instruments. The spirit himself creates the substance and the instruments required, taking the material from the primitive universal element which, by the action of the spirit’s will, suffers the modifications necessary to the effect that he wants to produce. The spirit thus can produce the printing tone as well as the common ink and the graphite of the pencil; and even produce typographic characters strong enough to produce a ripple effect onto the impression.

This is the result that led us to the phenomenon of the snuffbox from our previous article, and about which we have elaborated a lot as we have seen an opportunity to probe one of the most serious laws of Spiritism, whose knowledge may shed light onto several enigmas, even from the invisible world. That is how, from an apparently vulgar phenomenon, light can shine out. The most important thing from it all is to carefully observe what everyone can do, as we can, not limiting ourselves to seeing the effects without seeking the causes. If our faith stood up from one day to the next it was because we understood. If you want to produce serious proselytes have them understood. The knowledge of causes has another result: it delineates the borderline between truth and superstition.

If we look at the direct writing with respect to the advantages it may offer we would say that up until now its main function was that of leading us to the material confirmation of an important fact: the intervention of a supernatural power that uses another means of manifestation. However, the communications obtained by such process are rarely extensive. They are generally spontaneous, limited to a few words, sentences, and sometimes to unintelligible signs. They have been obtained in several languages, such as Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, etc., or in hieroglyphic characters, but have not been used in continual and quick conversations, as allowed by the psychography or the hand writing of the mediums.


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* La réalité des Esprits et de leurs manifestations, démontrée par le phénomène de l’écriture directe. By the Baron of Guldenstubbe: 1 vol. in-8, with 15 slides and 93 facsimile. Price 8 francs at Rue de Richelieu. Also found in the Dentu and Ledoyen bookstores.

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