Introduction

The communications which form the bulk of this volume were received by the process known as Automatic or Passive Writing. This is to be distinguished from Psychography. In the former case, the Psychic holds the pen or pencil, or places his hand upon the Planchette, and the message is written without the conscious intervention of his mind. In the latter case, the writing is direct, or is obtained without the use of the hand of the psychic, and sometimes without the aid of pen or pencil.

Automatic Writing is a well-known method of communication with the invisible world of what we loosely call Spirit. I use that word as the most intelligible to my readers, though I am well aware that I shall be told that I ought not to apply any such term to many of the unseen beings who communicate with earth, of whom we hear much and often as being the reliquice of humanity, the shells of what once were men. It is no part of my business to enter into this moot question. My interlocutors call themselves Spirits, perhaps because I so called them, and Spirits they are to me for my present purposes.

These messages began to be written through my hand just ten years since, 30th March 1873, about a year after my first introduction to Spiritualism. I had had many communications before, and this method was adopted for the purpose of convenience, and also to preserve what was intended to be a connected body of teaching. The laborious method of rapping out messages was manifestly unfitted for communications such as those which I here print. If spoken through the lips of the medium in trance, they were partially lost, and it was, moreover, impossible at first to rely upon such a measure of mental passivity as would preserve them from admixture with his ideas.

I procured a pocket-book, which I habitually carried about with me. I soon found that writing flowed more easily when I used a book that was permeated with the psychic aura, just as raps come more easily on a table that has been frequently used for the purpose, and as phenomena occur most readily in the medium's own room. When Slade could not get messages on a new slate, he rarely failed to get one on his own seasoned one. I am not responsible for the fact, the reason for which is sufficiently intelligible.

At first the writing was very small and irregular, and it was necessary for me to write slowly and cautiously, and to watch the hand, following the lines with my eye, otherwise the message soon became incoherent, and the result was mere scribble.

In a short time, however, I found that I could dispense with these precautions. The writing, while becoming more and more minute, became at the same time very regular and beautifully formed. As a specimen of calligraphy, some of the pages are exceedingly beautiful. The answers to my questions (written at the top of the page) were paragraphed, and arranged as if for the press: and the name of God was always written in capitals, and slowly, and, as it seemed, reverentially. The subject- matter was always of a pure and elevated character, much of it being of personal application, intended for my own guidance and direction. I may say that throughout the whole of these written communications, extending in unbroken continuity to the year 1880, there is no flippant message, no attempt at jest, no vulgarity or incongruity, no false or misleading statement, so far as I know or could discover; nothing incompatible with the avowed object, again and again repeated, of instruction, enlightenment, and guidance by Spirits fitted for the task. Judged as I should wish to be judged myself, they were what they pretended to be. Their words were words of sincerity, and of sober, serious purpose.

The earliest communications were all written in the minute characters that I have described, and were uniform in style, and in the signature, "Doctor, the Teacher": nor have his messages ever varied during all the years that he has written. Whenever and wherever he wrote, his handwriting was unchanged, showing indeed, less change that my own does during the last decade. The tricks of style remained the same, and there was, in short, a sustained individuality throughout his messages. He is to me an entity, a personality, a being with his own idiosyncrasies and characteristics, quite as clearly defined as the human beings with whom I come in contact, if, indeed, I do not do him injustice by the broad comparison.

After a time, communications came from other sources, and these were distinguished, each by its own handwriting, and by its own peculiarities of style and expression. These, once assumed, were equally invariable. I could tell at once who was writing by the mere characteristics of the calligraphy. By degrees I found that many Spirits, who were unable to influence my hand themselves, sought the aid of a Spirit "Rector", who was apparently able to write more freely, and with less strain on me, for writing by a Spirit unaccustomed to the work was often incoherent, and always resulted in a serious drain upon my vital powers. They did not know how easily the reserve of force was exhausted, and I suffered proportionately.

Moreover, the writing of the Spirit who thus became a sort of amanuensis was fluent and easy to decipher, whereas that of many Spirits was cramped, archaic in form, and frequently executed with difficulty, and almost illegible. So it came to pass, that, as a matter of ordinary course, Rector wrote: but, when a Spirit came for the first time, or when it was desired to emphasise a communication, the Spirit responsible for the message wrote for himself.

It must not be assumed, however, that all messages proceeded from one solitary inspiration. In the case of the majority of the communications printed in this volume this is so. The volume is the record of a period during which "Imperator" was alone concerned with me; though, as he never attempted writing, Rector acted as his amanuensis. At other times, and especially since that time, communications have apparently proceeded from a company of associated Spirits, who have used their amanuensis for the purpose of their message. This was increasingly the case during the last five years that I have received these communications.

The circumstances under which the messages were written were infinitely various. As a rule, it was necessary that I should be isolated, and the more passive my mind the more easy was the communication. But I have received these messages under all sorts of conditions. At first they came with difficulty, but soon the mechanical method appeared to be mastered, and page after page was covered with matter of which the specimens contained in this book will enable the public to judge.

What is now printed has been subject to revision by a method similar to that by which it was written. Originally published in the SPIRITUALIST newspaper, the messages have been revised, but not substantially altered by those who first wrote them. When the publication in the SPIRITUALIST was commenced I had no sort of idea of doing what is now being done. Friends desired specimens to be published, and the selection was made without any special regard to continuity. I was governed only by a desire to avoid the publication of what was of personal interest only: and I perforce excluded much that involved allusion to those still living whom I had no right to drag into print. I disliked printing personal matter relating to myself: I had obviously no right to print that which concerned others. Some of the most striking and impressive communications have thus been excluded: and what is printed must be regarded as a mere sample of what cannot see the light now, and which must be reserved for consideration at a remote period when I and those concerned can no longer be aggrieved by its publication.

It is an interesting subject for speculation where my own thoughts entered into the subject-matter of the communications. I took extraordinary pains to prevent any such admixture. At first the writing was slow, and it was necessary for me to follow it with my eye, but even then the thoughts were not my thoughts. Very soon the messages assumed a character of which I had no doubt whatever that the thought was opposed to my own. But I cultivated the power of occupying my mind with other things during the time that the writing was going on, and was able to read an abstruse book, and follow out a line of close reasoning, while the message was written with unbroken regularity. Messages so written extended over many pages, and in their course there is no correction, no fault in composition, and often a sustained vigour and beauty of style.

I am not, however, concerned to contend that my own mind was not utilised, or that what was thus written did not depend for its form on the mental qualifications of the medium through whom it was given. So far as I know, it is always the case that the idiosyncrasies of the medium are traceable in such communications. It is not conceivable that it should be otherwise. But it is certain that the mass of ideas conveyed to me were alien to my own opinions, were in the main opposed to my settled convictions, and moreover, that in several cases information, of which I was assuredly ignorant, clear, precise, and definite in form, susceptible of verification, and always exact, was thus conveyed to me. As at many of the seances spirits came and rapped out on the table clear and precise information about themselves, which we afterwards verified, so on repeated occasions was such information conveyed to me by this method of automatic writing.

I argue from the one case to others. In one I can positively assert and prove the conveyance of information new to me. In others I equally believe that I was in communication with an external intelligence that conveyed to me thoughts other than my own. Indeed, the subject-matter of many of the communications printed in this volume will, by its own inherent quality, probably lead to the same conclusion.

I never could command the writing. It came unsought usually: and when I did seek it, as often as not I was unable to obtain it. A sudden impulse, coming I knew not how, led me to sit down and prepare to write. Where the messages were in regular course, I was accustomed to devote the first hour of each day to sitting for their reception. I rose early, and the beginning of the day was spent, in a room that I used for no other purpose, in what was to all intents and purposes a religious service. These writings frequently came then, but I could no means reckon on them. Other forms of spirit manifestations came too: I was rarely without some, unless ill-health intervened, as it often did of late years, until the messages ceased.

The particular communications which I received from the Spirit known to me as IMPERATOR, mark a distinct epoch in my life. I have noted in the course of my remarks the intense exaltation of spirit, the strenuous conflict, the intervals of peace that I have since longed for, but have seldom attained, which marked their transmission. It was a period of education in which I underwent a spiritual development that was, in its outcome, a very regeneration. I cannot hope, I do not try, to convey to others what I then experienced. But it may possibly be borne in upon the minds of some, who are not ignorant of the dispensation of the Spirit in their own inner selves, that for me the question of the beneficent action of external Spirit on my own self was then finally settled. I have never since, even in the vagaries of an extremely sceptical mind, and amid much cause for questioning, ever seriously entertained a doubt.

This introduction has become autobiographical in a way that is extremely distasteful to me. I can only plead that I have reason to know that the history of the pleading Spirit with one struggling soul has been helpful to others. It is unfortunately necessary for me to speak of myself in order to make what follows intelligible. I regret the necessity, and acquiesce in it only from the conviction that what I record may be of use to some to whom my experiences may come home as typical. I presume that no two of us ever struggle up to light by precisely similar methods. But I believe that the needs and difficulties of individual souls have a family likeness, and it may be in the future, as I am thankful to know that it has been in the past, serviceable to some to learn by what methods I was educated.

Besides this--the subject matter of these communications, and their bearing educationally on myself--the form and manner of their delivery is of infinitely small importance. It is their intrinsic claim, the end disclosed, the inherent and essential truth that they contain, which marks their value. To many they will be utterly valueless, because their truth is not truth to them. To others they will be merely curious. To some they will be as an idle tale. I do not publish them in any expectation of general acceptance. I shall be quite content that they be at the service of any who can find them helpful.

M.A. (OXON.)

March 30, 1883.