The Result of an Experiment - NEW ACQUISITION

De Morgan Foundation acquires rare copy of “The Result of an Experiment” publication of William and Evelyn De Morgan’s automatic writings.

The Result of an Experiment was published anonymously by William and Evelyn De Morgan in 1909. It is not known how many copies were printed but after a search of many years the De Morgan Foundation has managed to acquire a copy which was formerly in the possession of the London Spiritualist Alliance. The acquisition was made possibly with the help of a generous donation from a Friend of the De Morgan Foundation.

William and Evelyn De Morgan shared many interests outside of their artistic endeavours and one of the most fascinating hobbies was their experiments with automatic writing. Automatic writing or psychographyis an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source. Automatic messages may take place either by the writer passively holding a pencil on a sheet of paper, or with the use of tools such as a planchette, or 'Ouija board'. Automatic writing rose to popularity in the mid nineteenth century and was adopted by those practicing spiritualism as a way of communicating directly with the spirit world. One of the most famous Spiritualists of the late nineteenth century was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes).

From the late 1880’s onwards the De Morgans kept a journal of automatic writings, and selections of this experimental project were published anonymously under the tile The Result of an Experiment in 1909. In the preface of the book the authors claim that they started their experiments with a great deal of scepticism; however in time they came to believe that the spirits did indeed communicate through them:

The following pages contain the outcome of a prolonged experiment tried by two persons, a lady and her husband, who were anxious to prosecute inquiries into the phenomena of so-called Spiritualism. They had met with but little satisfaction in their investigations of this subject – had decided in fact that the bulk of the results they had witnessed were due to imposture.

And so the De Morgan attempted experiments at automatic writing at home without the intervention of professional mediums, secretly devoting a period of time every evening over a period of some twenty years to their endeavours.  The process was thus:

One person holds a pencil as though writing, and the second places his or her hand on the wrist of the writing hand of the first. The point of the pencil of course rests on a blank sheet of paper. Under these circumstances the hands usually move after a while; each operator believing in most cases that his or her hand is pulled by the other. If the experiment is persevered in, writing not infrequently results.

The De Morgans claimed that at first “nothing but scribbles came, then a few words were written, then a phrase… After many months the writing became stronger and clearer, the names of dead relations were given, and interesting personal matter and advice”. At times “bad spirits” were said to have written and finally the writing “assumed another character. “Angels professed to write, and a definite system of teaching was commenced”.

The writings are not presented chronologically and have been collated into three groups, the first purporting to come from Spirits known to the Mediums before they died,

the second from Angels and the third group which they classified as “lessons” was messages from “Spirits brought by the “Angels” to tell their stories and elucidate the Angels’ teachings.

Whilst today, the concept of communicating with the spirit world is not so readily accepted as in the De Morgans’ day, their transcripts can be viewed as a reflection of their subconscious thoughts and give valuable insight into their personal beliefs. This except from the start of group two illustrates the De Morgan’s views on life, death and the comforts of religion.

“I am an Angel, a comforter and helper. My love is not of Earth, but of Heaven and my faith is in goodness and light. My belief is in Life, not in Death; and my mind is full of much pity and much hope. You are not to mistrust the wisdom of God in his dealings with man. Sorrow is only of Earth; the life of the Spirit is Joy. Now make up your minds to rise to the light and forget the body and Earth. Spirits rise bright on this side when not clogged by much grief. Better believe in the light than cling to Wealth and be made sad by the grave.

Appointments to study the book can be made by contacting the De Morgan Foundation’s curator.

The De Morgan Foundation is always keen to enhance its collections and archives. If you would like to make a donation to the De Morgan Foundation please contact the curator.