On Pendulums, Planchettes, and Automatic Writing in the Context of the Integral Yoga

& A ‘Letter to the Editor’

In response to the 0/1 issue of The Vishaal Newsletter, October 1985, we received the letter reproduced below. Our first thought upon seeing the return address indicating that it had come from ‘the Mother’ was, ‘Who is this impostor?’ (The Mother left her body on 17 November 1973.)

TVN 0.3-001Shortly after reading the message, the source became evident as the tone is clearly that of a mediumistic message and the channel is known to us. The content of this message is characterised by a dogmatic rigidity and pomposity unlike the incarnate Mother. The disregard for knowledge and truth shown by dismissing it as ‘mental language’, and the egocentric attitude confining Sri Aurobindo’s work to a tiny locale is sufficient to indicate the nature of the entity behind it.

The unfortunate fact is that this message, and others of the same ilk, are being circulated from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram with no indication of their true origin and are being passed on as statements of ‘the Mother’. The confusion this may cause to unwitting readers is lamentable and the responsibility that lies upon the perpetrators of these false messages is considerable. By specifying the sender as ‘the Mother’, we realise that these individuals, without a doubt, have clearly lost touch with reality.

We feel the most constructive response to this ‘Letter to the Editor’ is to reproduce an article written in 1982 by Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet on the subject of mediumistic activities and how they relate to the pursuit of a serious spiritual discipline.

The Editor

On Pendulums, Planchettes, and Automatic Writing
in the context of the integral yoga

Any of these mechanisms for receiving messages from the occult planes are limited in their efficacy by the condition of the medium through whom the messages are passing. There is inevitably a colouring brought about by the instrument. If it is a group engaged in these activities, then the sum total of their consciousnesses and their predominating tendencies determine the limits as it were of the incoming messages. Therefore the messages received are never objective and are almost in their entirety subjective: the truth and worthiness of their content is limited to the level of the consciousness and evolution of the person or persons conducting the sittings.

On the other hand, the nature of the transmitting ‘spirit’ is to be taken into account. This entity will usually be identified by the group as the most prominent, wisest and highest consciousness that is known to them and onto whom all their thoughts and aspirations can be focussed. This ensures clear reception of the message. However, even if the being contacted were of this highest order, the messages communicated would always be determined by the level of development of the medium.

There can be cases when the medium is completely self-effacing, which is usually attained in trance or semi-trance states. Then there is the phenomenon of messages coming through which supercede the understanding of the medium and reflect an entirely different level of consciousness. Needless to say, it is very rare to encounter such a medium. And in any case, this condition is not a desirable one – especially for those engaged in yoga – because it presupposes a completely defenseless state regarding the entry of unidentifiable forces from the occult planes.

Concerning the validity of the messages received, it must be borne in mind that these are entirely subjective. They are messages transmitted by beings or a being in connection with the medium by virtue of an affinity of development. One could consider this a sort of affinity in terms of wave lengths or vibratory speed of the consciousness. Thus the medium will always contact an entity who corresponds to his or her particular vibration, which in turn is determined by the individual’s development. The higher and wider this is, the higher and wider will be the consciousness contacted during the communication sessions.

When a group engages in these activities on a regular basis, a steady contact is established and the entities communicating are usually the same in each session. One example is the Findhorn Group which came into being on the basis of ‘guidance’ from these spirits, and they have published the communications received from them. There are even messages received from ‘Sri Aurobindo’.  By regular practice channels are opened and remain open. In some cases this can be positive – that is, a ‘good’ entity may be contacted. This of course again depends upon the state of consciousness of the principal medium. There are cases however when the entity is mischievous or narrow or has downright bad intentions; in which case the medium is carried away into the world of such a spirit and used for its purposes. Moreover, it is to be emphasised that only very rarely is the entity contacted truly the consciousness proclaimed by the spirit. For the most part the entity is simply adopting the name of the spirit the group wishes to contact, and there is no way in which this impersonation can be unmasked.

The closer a person is to a consciousness poised in truth and truthfulness of being, the closer he or she comes to the planes where this principle prevails. But given the constricting limitations of human nature, it is naive to believe that one can contact a consciousness of that superior level while being yet imprisoned in the untransformed instrument. The messages that are received in such a state always reveal this limitation. That is, the messages are always in tune with the receiving consciousness; and to a perceptive awareness poised in a higher level, this inferior receptivity is always evident by a study of the incoming messages.

Apart from the consideration of these limitations that the medium imposes, there is another factor to consider: the mental and vital energy of the medium can compel an action on the mechanism, be this a planchette or a pendulum. In the case of the latter, the possibility of imposing a movement on the instrument by the medium’s own conscious (or subconscious) will is easily verifiable. Anyone with a reasonably developed will can make this experiment: one holds the pendulum and by mental power obliges the instrument to move in a positive or negative motion. The pendulum, of all the items used for reception of messages, is the one most easily susceptible to the influence of the medium’s will. Usually the medium is not conscious enough to realise the manner in which he or she is influencing the object’s motion. Nonetheless, conscious or not, the influence is present and the pendulum is highly receptive to the medium’s will and wishes. The same can be said of automatic writing and the planchette.

In the final analysis, one is always obliged to dissuade seekers from using these methods of communication with occult planes because of the great susceptibility of the human being and his propensity to fall in awe of such processes and to believe that the being contacted and the messages received are sacrosanct and cannot be questioned, and out of this a notable dependency is established and inevitably the practitioner comes to rely on the guidance furnished by the entities contacted. But to begin with, in order for the person to be able to engage in such an activity and reach these states of dependency, a certain degree of gullibility is required. Otherwise the channel will not be opened. One may call this ‘receptivity’, in the better cases. But here we are treading on dangerous ground, as anyone truly proficient in occult practices realises.

The condition of defenseless receptivity and the powerful experience of being directly involved with an occult process and in contact with a power which actually communicates whole and coherent messages, answering any question the aspirant may pose, more often than not create a state in which the medium and persons engaged in such activities never challenge or doubt the communications. A relationship is established with the communicating powers before long, and anything that then comes through is accepted as fact. Even when these facts are contradicted by realities, the medium finds justification for these evident discrepancies, so as to be able to continue believing and indulging in the activities.

It is this state that is a danger to the practitioner of the integral yoga more than any other, this clinging to the ‘truth’ of the communications in the face of contrary indications, making adjustments, excuses, modifying the sense to suit the occasion and cover up the flaws, – all done so as not to lose faith in the entity with whom a deep bond has invariably been established.

When a person is knowledgeable in occult matters, in the true sense of the word and not a mere dabbler or amateur of such arts, then a certain detachment is possible, but not otherwise. It stands to reason that the higher the medium’s consciousness, the closer to the truth the communications will be. But even in the case of very highly evolved souls – a rarity – the messages will always be conditioned by the person’s overall and particular destiny. That is, no message can be received which exceeds or violates the boundaries established by this pattern. And no information can be given which violates the laws of larger collective and evolutionary destiny patterns.

Because of the underdevelopment of the human being and the half-light of his consciousness, indulging in such practices is not recommendable, unless a profound knowledge of the occult is present with a special protection that accompanies or arises out of a particular preparation or initiation undergone for the purpose. And even with this it is possible to be led astray and to come to rely on sources outside oneself which do not allow for positive and objective systems of verification. These methods – planchette, pendulum, and so forth – have therefore nothing to do with other systems of prophetic arts such as number-science, astrology, or even palmistry. In the art of astrology – presuming of course that the astrologer is competent and honest – there is the additional element of objectivity present by virtue of the system being founded on the cosmic harmony. Therefore, having this pattern as one’s key, it is always verifiable and the same conditions can be analysed and reanalysed by many different people at many different times. The element of subjectivity enters only into the question of interpretation, not the method itself upon which astrology is based. Therefore the method is always available for examination and open to all. Such an art, however, requires a very strict and long preparation for one to become truly proficient and master of the method, in most cases requiring more than one lifetime of dedication. Thus the point to be stressed is that these arts, which form the limbs of the Veda and are the numerous methods for studying the evolution of consciousness in Time, are in their essence bodies of objective knowledge, unlike the mediumistic pendulum or planchette or automatic writing which are in their very essence wholly subjective activities. It may be of interest to point out that in the very early days of his yoga, Sri Aurobindo experimented with automatic writing. A book was published, entitled Yogic Sadhana but was later withdrawn by him because he did not feel it was his own insofar as he had received the contents in toto through automatic writing. He suggested the identity of the entity to be a deceased yogi. These experiments took place between 1910 and 1920, at a time when spiritism was the rage throughout the world.

Any true student of the occult knows that one has to fervently doubt and test all one’s experiences until objective proof is secured. The process of doubting and testing is a healthy and essential one, especially when relying exclusively on an inner Guide. When there is an embodied Guide, reliable and true, this process can then be lessened since there is a realised source to turn to for verification of the occult experience or the quality of the message received. Such a Guide will possess or be a source of objective knowledge, the outcome of a severe initiation which the ordinary individual is incapable of undergoing.

Apart from the technical inadequacies of these methods, there is above all the question of the state of consciousness of the practitioner. A deep-rooted sincerity is required on the part of the medium, if he or she does not wish to be led astray. While indulging in these pastimes, one has to recognise honestly one’s limitations and the extent to which the wishful thinking of the person or the group is colouring the communications. Needless to say, this honest evaluation is very difficult to encounter. These activities can be considered harmless only when a real and not an imaginary contact is established with an entity proven beyond a doubt to be the true thing. And this requires a great objectivity, a high degree of Knowledge and, above all, a deep sincerity.

However, what one invariably encounters are inflated egos because mediums consider themselves altogether special, ‘chosen’ by some higher power to be the recipients of this ‘occult wisdom’. Once this becomes consolidated, it is virtually impossible to liberate those who indulge in these practices from these delusions. They are too hopelessly convinced that they are the official and exclusive instruments through whom the spirit speaks, whatever its identity. And this is the surest way to block any progress in yoga.

Kodaikanal, 1982

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