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T H E A U T O M AT I C W R I T I N G OF MISS GRACE ROSHER
Including a report of'on interview by Jane Knight
"Automatic" writing is not an uncommon phenomenon. Many persons with no pretensions to any "psychic" faculty ﬁnd themselves able to practise it, and it is now recognized in psychiatry as a valuable method of exploring the unconscious. To psychical researchers, of course, it is of special interest as a form of "mediumship"; the famous William Stainton Moses, for instance, produced his Spirit Teachings in this manner, and the "cross-correspondences" of the "SPR Group" of automatists probably represents the strongest known evidence in support of the survival hypothesis. Many thousands of words, allegedly inspired by tile spirits of the dead, are written every year in this manner; psychical researchers are constantly receiving requests for opinions on such scripts, and publishers are plagued by the submission of books produced by this means. Most of them are frankly pitiful, and the origin of the material contained in them would be obvious to the humblest student of p s y c h o l o g y. T h e i r l i t e r a r y v a l u e c a n b e a s s e s s e d b y t h e f a c t t h a t , w i t h a f e w exceptions, all books of this kind are produced by "vanity publishers" whose only concern is to extort large sums of money from the misguided authors. Notable among the few exceptions are Hrs. Pearl Curran, the amanuensis of "Patience Worth," and Hiss Geraldine Cummins, whose well-known books were a l l w r i t t e n " a u t o m a t i c a l l y. " There are three main grounds upon which the writings of various automatists have been claimed as paranormat: (a) that the content of the "scripts" could not, by any normal means, have been within the writer's knowledge; (b) that the appearance of the handwriting was quite unlike that of the automatist, and (c) that various forms of "physical" phenomena occurred, i.e. that a pen wrote when balanced in a normally impossible manner or even when suspended by itself over the paper. By far the majority of the best-known automatists--including Hrs. Curran, Hiss Cummins and the members of the "SPR Group"--have conﬁned themselves to (a). A few have produced scripts in calligrapily quite unlike their own, though, so far as I know, never in a hand unknown to them and subsequently shown to be t h a t o f a d e c e a s e d " c o m m u n i c a t o r. " S t a i n t o r, H o s e s w r o t e i n a n a s t o n i s h i n g variety of styles; those shown in illustration I are representative. It is generally conceded, however, that although remarkable, thisability is not initself'paranormal. Claims of the occurrence of phenomena of type (c) are extremely rare, and no really well authenticated report seems to be on record. It was asserted that in the presence of Stainton Moses a pen would rise untouched in the air and write by itself, but there is no reliable evidence that this actually happened. Not
The Automatic Writing of Miss Grace Rosher
surprisingly, therefore, considerable interest on the alleged resemblance of the handwriting has recently been aroused by claims made for a of the "communicators" as produced by Miss British automatist, Miss Grace Rosher, who is Rosher and that of their earthly lives. I undersaid to produce phenomena not only of types stand also that the "expert" who has reported (a) and (b), but also of type (c). on the resemblances, Mr. F. T. Hilliger, is a Much of the interest in Miss Rosherstems from "graphologist" who claims to be ableto delineate the publicity she has been given by the Churches' character from a person's calligraphy, and not a Fellowship for Psychic and Spiritual Studies, handwriting expert in the scientiﬁc sense, as formerly the Churches' Fellowship for Psychical employed in criminology, for instance. Study, to whom Miss Rosher went when she ﬁrst At the suggestion of Miss White, secretary of discovered that she was an automatist. Some the CFPSS, who could not understand why I British readers will no doubt recall seeing her was "so sceptical," I asked Miss Rosher for an "in action" on a television programme, broadinterview, and although she was fully aware of cast on November 2rid, 1959. In 1961 a book by my critical attitude, this was readily granted. I Miss Rosher, Beyond the Horizon, was published was accompanied on my visit by Jane Knight, a under the sponsorship of the CFPSS. Subtitled contributor to Tomorrow and a member of the "Being new Evidence from the Other Side of Society for Psychical Research, to whom I am Life Communicated by Gordon Burdick," it grateful for the following notes: purports to be an account of life in the next world as seen by Miss Rosher's deceased ﬁance. M o r e r e c e commumcat~ons' ntly ..... through the Jane Knight,s Report hand of Miss Rosher from others, including the Our ﬁrst interview with Miss Grace Rosher was scientist Sir William Crookes and the poetontheafternoonofMayl6. Onenteringherhouse, philosopher Douglas Fawcett, have been published my ﬁrst impressions of this tiny grey-haired in the Quarterly Review of the CFPSS. woman were her bluntness and her sense of I have already given the reasons for my own humour. Briskly bidding us to take chairs at the inability to accept these writings, on the evidence ﬁreside, she sat facing us, and clasping her hands at present available, a s the ...... commumcatlons together said, "Before we ,even begin, let us they are supposed to be; in my review of Beyond have this clearly understood--I am not a spirituathe Horizon (Tomorrow, Winter, 1963) I quoted list. Furthermore, I am not a medium, either." several passages illustrating the general level of She went on to explain that ever since the the "Burdick" writings, and in "Current story of her "communications" from her deComments (Tomorrow, Autumn, 1962) I demonceased ﬁance, Gordon Burdick, had appeared strated with quotations the difference between in her book Beyond the Horizon, she had been the literary style of Crookes in this life and that receiving requests from people all over the ascribed to him in the next. I also illustrated country to endeavour to make contact with the striking similarity of "style" between the relatives who had "passed on." Miss Rosher Crookes "communication" and that attributed said this was all very difﬁcult, and she intensely to Douglas Fawcett. disliked publicity, because ~.he was, even now, In this report, however, I shall not concern very wary of the whole thing. myself with these matters, but with the question Asked how this "automatic writing" began, of the claim that Miss Rosher produces phenoshe said that one afternoon in 1954, she was mena of the type that I have classed as (c) above. sitting at her desk, having been writing letters, Before passing on, though, it may be appropriate and idly wondering if she had time to write here to express surprise that no attempt seems another before tea. Then it seemed as though to have been macle to obtain a second'opinion she heard a voice say, "Leave your hand there
and see what happens". She thought to herself, "Why, what could happen?" and was amazed when the pen began to move, apparently of its own volition. Even then, no thought of "spirit communication" entered her head. "1 thought I must have a lot of electricity in my body" she said, with a smile. She sat there, watching the pen make little squiggles, and was astounded when they resolved into decipherable words-"Love from Gordon." Miss Rosher was very much disturbed by this event, and said nothing to her family or friends. She said, "1 began to think I must be going off my head." Asked if she had ever heard of "automatic writing" before her experience she said most emphatically, "No!--and even if I had, I would never have attempted to contact my ﬁanc~ in that way. I would have felt it was wrong. In fact, even now, so many years later, I still sometimes feel doubtful about it." Miss Rosher went on to explain that for several days she did nothing about the matter. Then she decided to see if the pen could again move of its own volition. Sitting down at her desk, she said a short prayer and awaited events. The result was a message from her ﬁance--shakily written, but clearly decipherable, and in his own handwriting. Since that time, Miss Rosher has received pages and pages of such messages. She explained that after a while the writing began to "steady down" and she found that she was able to ask "mental questions" which her ﬂanc~ would answer by writing with her pen. Gradually, too, the pen required less and less support from Miss Rosher herself. Purely by chance, she heard at this time about the Churches Fellowship for Psychical Study, the headquarters of which were then at Worthing. Herself a member of the Church of England, Miss Rosher wrote to the Rev. Maurice Elliott, enclosing the writing she had received and explaining what had happened. The Fellowship was very much interested, and as a direct result of Miss Rosher's letter to Mr. Elliott, her book Beyond the Horizon was eventually published. Asked what she knew about psychic matters,
Miss Rosher promptly replied, "Nothing at all." She explained that since publication of her book, she had of course come into contact with these matters, but at the time that she began to receive messages from her ﬁanc~ she knew nothing at all about such things. "1 knew that I was not doing it myself," she said. "But I could not explain how it all happened." On the ﬁrst occasion that her ﬁanc~ "brought" Sir William Crookes to "communicate" through her, Miss Rosher did not even know who he was. "1 thought he must have been a chemist of some sort, but I was basing my ideas on Crookes's lenses and that sort of thing," she said. "When Gordon said he would bring a scientist, I thought it would be Sir Oliver Lodge, and I was a little bit disappointed when Crookes turned up. Then, afterwards, I heard all this fuss about Crookes and that medium--a Miss Cook, or somebody-and I told Gordon that if he was that sort of man, I didn't want anything to do with him, and not to bring him any more." She went on to say that a young man, Christopher Hassall, had communicated through her immediately after his death. So also had a close friend, the famous Douglas Fawcett. "1 did not know until afterwards that he had told his wife and Sir Victor Goddard that he would try to communicate through my hand after his death," she explained. "As soon as I showed his wife the message, she recognized his handwriting at once, and since then, of course, he writes through me quite often." Referring to the number of requests to "make contact" which she receives, Miss Rosher explained that she feels that this is too much of a responsibility, and avoids it wherever possible. When it was pointed out that she could probably earn a handsome living in this way, she replied briskly, "Perhaps--but this is not something I can turn on or off at will. If it could happen at any old time, I should feel that it was very suspect. Besides, I feel very strongly indeed that once money comes into this sort of thing, something else goes out." Commenting that she is an Anglican and a
n1 1 1 1
The Automatic Writing of Miss Grace Rosher
member of her parochial church council, Miss requests "from the Other Side" to allow various Rosher again stressed that she is not a spiritualist. famous people (claiming to be members of "the In fact she has never been to a seance, circle or Myers Group") to communicate through her, spiritualist meeting of any kind, and has no but she does not feel enthusiastic about this. intention of doing so. "1 am just not interested Asked how she knows when her ﬁanc~ wishes to in spiritualism," she said. "It all seems so point- "communicate," she explained that she is given less--moving tables about and that sort of thing. a signal--"almost as though he was blowing And nearly all the guides or whatever they are gently on my forehead." Sometimes, she said, called seem to be Red Indians. It gets my goat! several clays go by without communication, and I am just not interested in these circles and explained that she is a busy person, and cannot bouquets and red lamps and whatnot." Although give all her time to "this business." Asked how she is a member of the Churches' Fellowship, she had been able to give demonstrations of the Miss Rosher feels that many of the members are writing and be ﬁlmed while doing it, Miss f a r t o o g u l l i b l e . " 1 r e m e m b e r a t t e n d i n g a Rosher explained that she tries to arrange with meeting once when I listened to atape recording "the boys" (Gordon Burdick and Douglas supposedly giving the voices of 'spirit guides,' " Fawcett) to be there at a certain time. "They she said, with a chuckle. "1 can remember that have never failed me yet," she said, with a smile. one of them was supposed to be a Regency (Jane Knight's report ends here) beau--and he quoted Tennyson, who, of course, was years after the Regency Period. But nobody else seemed to notice. And the 'guide' from the A Demonstration darkest Africa spoke the best English of the lot!" Miss Rosher subsequently agreed for us to Miss Rosher said that she never reads the witness a demonstration of her writing, and we psychic Press, and was extremely angry when she accordingly visited her again on May 30. She found some ofthethings which had been written sat on a divan with a pad of paper on her knee, a b o u t h e r w r i t i n g . A f t e r Tw o Wo r l d s h a d using a perfectly ordinary fountain pen (one of published their version of her story, she was three normally used, which we were allowed to approached by a somewhat sensationalist Sun- examine). At ﬁrst she wrote with the pen held day newspaper, but refused to give an interview in the normal manner, then relaxed her grip and until she was told that if she did not, the paper closed her ﬁst so that the pen was resting loosely would merely paraphrase the version in Two between her thumb and foreﬁnger. After slowly Worlds. She then saw the reporters, but avoids writing a few lines in this way she raised her publicity wherever possible. foreﬁnger slightly so that the pen was balanced "Even now," she said. "1 ﬁnd my prejudices across it and continued to write, but even more difﬁcult to overcome. Until all this started, I slowly. At the end of each word the pen rocked knew nothing at all about such matters--in fact, on balance and the nib lifted from the paper 1 always thought that people who believed in without any perceptible movement of the ﬁnger spiritualism were a bit soft in the head." or hand. The movement back from the end of In the eight years which have elapsed since she one line to the beginning of the next was exreceived the ﬁrst "communication" from her tremely slow, and there was always a long pause ﬁance, Miss Rosher explained that not only has before the ﬁrst word of the new line was comhis writing become ﬁrmer and steadier, but the menced. The writing thus produced is shown in pen requires less and less support from her. illustration 2. The marginalnotesandthosepreced_ She now balances the pen against her extended ingthesignatures--onﬁnger, ﬁst, pen held normal_ foreﬁnger, and Gordon Burdick"communicates" ly--were added by Miss Rosher immediately in this way. Recently, she has been receiving afterwards. The scriptshown in illustrations 3 and4
T O M O R R O W
An example of the automatic writing of W. S t a i n t o n M o s e s .
Writing produced by Miss Grace Rosher with the pen held in various ways (the marginal notes are by Miss Rosher).
A U T O M AT I C W R I T I N G :
allegedly paranormal scripts and others produced by normal means.
Automatic writing produced by Miss Grace Rosher with pen held in a normal manner.
Continuation of the ' script' shown in iUustration 3, written on reverse side of page.
The Automatic Writing of Miss Grace Rosher
Miss Grace Rosher writing with the pen bala n c e d o n h e r f o r e ﬁ n g e r. ( F r o m a n e g a t i v e l e n t b y M i s s R o s h e r. )
Specimen of writi~g produced by Mr. A. L. Bushnell with the pen b a l a n c e d o n h i s ﬁ n g e r. ( T h e p a s s a g e was taken at random from The British Journal Photographic Almanac for 1961.)
An example af the writing of Gerdon Burdick during his lifetime compared with part of a 'Burdick' script. (From a negative lent by Miss R o s h e r. )
M r. A . L . B u s h n e l l d e m o n s t r a t i n g to Simeon Edmunds. (The pen was balanced on the ﬁnger and not in contact with any other part of the hand.)
was then produced with the pen held normally. The demonstration of writing with the pen balanced lightly on one ﬁnger is most striking. It is a feat which one would not, I think, normally believe possible, and the untrained observer might well accept it as something ofa paranormal nature; indeed, most persons I have discussed it with seem to assume that if it happens it is paranormal, and are only concerned with whether or not it does happen. The importance of establishing whether or not it is paranormal, however, is apparent from a sentence by "Burdick" (shown in illustration 5), "1 think if I can control the pen entirely myself that it will be much more evidential and may perhaps convince even the unbelievers." The claimed evidential value is also stressed in an appendix to Beyond the Horizon, which reads: "Since the manuscript of this book has been placed in the hands of the publishers, a new development has arisen with regard to the writing. As previously stated I had been asked by my communicator to relax my hold on the pen so that he could 'manipulate it more easily,' which resulted in the pen writing while lying between my ﬁrst ﬁnger and thumb which were held far apart, and later with the pen just resting against my closed ﬁst. On July 22 of this year 1961, having placed the pen in the latter position, I noticed to my surprise that although my hand was perfectly still, the pen was quivering very rapidly. I was puzzled by this as I had never noticed anything of the kind before. Having raised my hand so that the pen was in a position to write, I noticed when the writing came that it was not as good as usual and that the words were all joined together. Glancing at the pen I then noticed that instead of resting across my hand it was balancing on the edge of my ﬁrst ﬁnger, and wrote, '1 am trying to write with the least possible contact with you,' and concluded by saying, 'this is just one step nearer to my being able to write without any contact with you at all.' Since then the writing has greatly improved and the words are no longer joined together, the writer having now, it seems, acquired the
necessary force of his own to enable him to raise and lower the pen even in that precarious position. His ultimate ambition being to be able to control the pen entirely alone. The pen writing in this position has been witnessed by a number of people." In an attempt to establish whether it was possible by normal means to write with a pen balanced on the foreﬁnger I showed a photograph of Miss Rosher doing this (illustration 6) to a number of people, and asked them to make an attempt. At a lecture I gave at the Battersea College of Technology, London, I also asked a number of students to try, and a few days afterwards received the following letter from one of them: "Dear Mr. Edmunds, I have tried writing with my fountain pen balanced across my foreﬁnger as you showed me. It is quite possible, but requires a very steady hand. I enclose a foolscap page copied from the Koran written in this way. Several friends obliged me by trying the same. The results indicate that few of them have sufﬁciently steady hands, that it is initially easier to communicate the movement from the elbow (the page from the Koran was written using ﬁnger and wrist movements principally) and that my own pen balances perhaps better than most. If you would like m e t o d e m o n s t r a t e t o y o u , o r to write half a page countersigned by two
witnesses, please send me a postcard . . .
Yours faithfully, A. L. Bushnell." Mr. Bushnell's page from the Koran was particularly interesting in that it began as a shaky, spidery scrawl, but towards the bottom of the page had improved so much that it was hardly distinguishable from his normal writing. I asked him to come and give a demonstration, the result of which is reproduced in illustration 7. By then he was sufﬁciently practised to write just as quickly as Miss Rosher had done, and to raise and lower the nib between words with no perceptible movement of his ﬁnger or hand.
T h e A u t o m a t i c Wr i t i n g o f M i s s G r a c e R o s h e r
Illustration 8 shows Mr. Bushnell demonstrating to me. I have since seen several other people write in this way, but none as well or so quickly as Mr. Bushnell. But one is enough. Whatever the explanation of the content of Miss Rosher's scripts and her ability to produce handwriting resembling that of deceased persons, there is clearly nothing paranormal in her ability to write with a pen balanced across her ﬁnger. That her "communicators" should believe otherwise is interesting.
One further observation must be made. Notwithstanding any criticisms i have made here and elsewhere I have no doubt at all that Miss Rosher is an honest and sincere person who ﬁrmly believes her automatic writing to be the means by which Gordon Burdick, Douglas Fawcett and others "on the other side" are able to communicate with her. Although she was aware that I do not share her beliefs she showed me great courtesy and gave me every
There is no Natural Religion .... As all men are alike (though inﬁnitely various), so all Religions, as all similars, have one source. William Blake. When once morality has been deprived of its religious and metaphysical foundations, it inevitably becomes subordinated to lower ends. Christopher Dawson. The Pure worship the true God, the Passionate, the powers of wealth and magic; the Ignorant, the spirits of the dead and of the lower orders of nature. The Bhagavat Gita. The resurrection of metaphysics and a fresh expansion of charity are the essential presuppositions of a return to human unity--to that unity which was perfect only in the Garden of Eden and in Gethsemane in the heart of Christ, the longing for which will never cease to haunt us. Jacques Maritain. Life is a ﬂame, and transmigration, new becoming, is the transmitting of the ﬂame from one combustible aggregate to another; just that, and nothing more. If we light one candle from another, the communicated ﬂame is one and the same, in the sense of observed continuity, but the candle is not the same. A. K. Coomaraswamy.
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