Rev. Christian Curty OFM
Priest and Exorcist, Marian Movement of Priests
Automatic Writing Or Hieratic (Sacred) Writing?
It is widely known that Vassula writes messages that she transmits to us under the dictation of Our Lord. At that time her way of writing changes and becomes quite distinct from her spontaneous and everyday handwriting. The personal handwriting of Vassula is normally small and tense, though orderly and well controlled by her will that knows what she wants. Moreover, it is affected by her warm and very refined personality, which has a good sense of proportion. On the other hand, the handwriting of the messages is characterized by its order, its clearness, its regularity and a certain majesty. Here the personality of Vassula fades away and finally vanishes behind what, at first glance, seems to be merely a facade that is a bit rigid and artificial.
Consequently there arises the question that some people have, even though they judge positively the messages themselves. Quite legitimately, they ask themselves about the origin and authenticity of this “inspiration”. Here, too, lies the origin of the suspicion of critical minds who find therein a significant argument for their objection to the messages as a whole. Thus they claim that it is a simple exploration of the psychic depths of Vassula herself. This interpretation reduces these writings to a phenomenon that is well known as paranormal writing. In that case, we would not be dealing with the Jesus of Christian faith and a revelation from Him. Instead, it would be something from Vassula’s own subconscious that is gradually coming to light. Perhaps, they would say, there might even be another “spirit”, in which case, it could only be an evil one.
What then are we to think of all this? Are we, in fact, dealing with a revelation of the Lord, a letter of Our Lord to His Church, or is this simply an example of what is commonly called automatic writing? Is it the hand of Our Lord that writes to us through the hand of Vassula, or rather, is it Vassula who describes for us, in a state of trance, whatever arises from the depths of her subconscious? Is she guided by a parasitic spirit whom we had best identify so as not to be deceived by one who is presented to us as coming from the Lord? In the first case we would be dealing with an inspired writing. In the second case we would be dealing with the paranormal writing or automatic writing.
What is Automatic Writing?
It is a writing which involves either paranormal phenomena or some sort of divination. In our ministry as exorcists it is not rare to run across this phenomenon. The hand of someone who has given himself over freely to this sort of guidance writes by itself; it does not write by conscious thought or intelligence. Instead, it moves by an unknown force which is not subject to the will of the writer. Sometimes, in extreme cases, it is the instrument all by itself (a pen or pencil) which, by the mere contact of a finger, begins to write a message.
The message can be of a high literary value, even spiritual, or it can tend toward the bizarre, the ridiculous, or the vulgar. Sometimes it speaks of a world beyond, which is a marvellous kind of paradise, or else it can give some simple counsel to the writer, or give him a command regarding his daily, practical life. At times, it simply answers questions that are asked, whether it be its own identity: “who are you?” or whether it concerns things that tend to the dangerous area of divination. At times, automatic writing can predict future events which, in fact, can actually occur. Thus it can give rise to falsehood; it can also simply reveal an imaginary but plausible past which leads the writer to the false and heretical belief in reincarnation.
Let us ignore, here, the question of what we might call the problem of literary characteristics of automatic writing. It is quite unusual, in fact, that the speaker who, for example, claims to be Lamartine, actually writes lines of a quality worthy of Lamartine. For it is the subconscious of the subject who, though he may have some thoughts drawn from Lamartine, expresses only himself and not the well known author.
To remain within the framework of this introduction, let us also here put aside the sometimes grave risks that those incur who deliberately give themselves over to paranormal phenomenon of automatic writing. There are risks at the level of the personality which becomes split, inasmuch as the subconscious rises to the surface, while the psychological awareness is kept in a state of slumber or as a passive listener. In extreme cases, this can result in a kind of artificial schizophrenia. There are also risks on the spiritual level where an evil spirit can take advantage of this lack of vigilance in a person and then intervene, thus taking control of the person. On the one hand, madness or a state of trance results; on the other a demonic parasitism! These are the two great dangers from which it is, at times, difficult to escape.
What about the Case of Vassula?
Now let us carefully see what is happening with Vassula. There are three situations to consider.
- In the first situation, Vassula receives a “locution” of the Lord, an interior word. She can be, at the time, in a church or a public place. If this locution is a message for everyone, she will write it down when she has gone home. It is then that her hand is guided by the Hand of the Lord and the graphological characteristics of her personal handwriting are transformed. From her personal handwriting, which is small, animated and quick, with a slight inclination to the right, it becomes an upright, well ordered, calm, transparent handwriting with no particular emotion. In any case, it is not automatic writing, for there is first af all an interior word which is then followed by the actual writing of the locution. We are not here dealing with the paranormal.
- In the second situation, there is a dictation which is made by the Master to Vassula, who simply writes down what she hears. She is then in the exact situation of any secretary to her employer. That means that she maintaince her personal autonomy, her freedom and her full contact with her surrounding. She can thus interrupt the dictation at any moment; e.g. she can answer the telephone, and then take it up again where she left off. Here, too the grapholigical pattern of her letters is not her usual one. Instead, it is a vertical, upright handwriting which is easy to read and always peaceful and measured in its respiration. Even though her handwriting is different here, Vassula maintains complete control of herself and the free exercise of her conscious faculties. She simply writes down, by hand, what she receives in an inner vision of Jesus and what she hears by this Voice that inspires her. We are thus far from automatic writing.
- Finally, in the third situation, which, at times, blends in with the preceding one, Vassula receives an interior light which is infused and has no clearly pronounced words. This is what mystics call a “motion” of the Holy Spirit (whether spiritual or intellectual) which has to be put in our language with precise words and phrases and can require various expressions which, at times, are lengthy. Vassula then hastens to write down this “insight” or “understanding” that she has just received in this infused way. It is then, when she begins to write in her own spontaneous handwriting, that the Lord intervenes and shapes the letters made by Vassula’s hand into the beautiful handwriting of His own, as if to give this revelation a seal from on high. It is thus in no way automatic writing. As if to convince us of this, the Lord, at times, proceeds in another way. Sometimes the messages to be communicated are quite long and the time available is quite short. Then the Lord permits Vassula to write the dictation in her own handwriting, which is alert and lively. That shows quite well that Vassula is in no way conditioned by this way of writing nor guided by some “spirit”. Her spiritual “experience” has, then, nothing at all in common with the phenomenon of automatic writing.
It is Hieratic (Sacred) Writing
Let us look carefully at this calm, dignified writing, measured in its movements and continually animated by a vertical tendency. The median letters or the vowels are not crushed by the loops and staffs which, nevertheless, are dominant, and move with ease in the space which is their own, like that of daily life, although they are, at times, a bit confined in the interior of words. But the text breathes in the space that is provided.
Above all, there is a continual movement of coming and going which gives the whole an orientation from high to low and low to high. The text of the handwriting gives a vertical impression rather than a horizontal one, with a very evident predominance of the heights. There is, thus, nothing that is denied in the deep and instinctive life, but this depth is mastered and dominated by the higher faculties. There is nothing, then, in this handwriting, that is directed to the Past, and amazingly, nothing directed to the Future, as if only the Present moment were important, or rather, as if everything is Present in a single TODAY.
There is no sign of any egocentric regression at this time. Nothing, indeed, indicates a falling back to the self; and the tendencies toward others are discreet, light, and always uplifting. There is an evident transparency everywhere of nobility, distinction, and marvelous clarity. The only thing that is important is this double upward and downward movement, which constitutes the continual interior rhythm. At times it descends to the earthly, human depths (which is the movement of the Incarnation), and at times, there is a perceptible elevation toward a superior being who can be none other than the Father. Moreover, there is a bit of rigidity and artificiality in this handwriting where, at least at first glance, it is difficult to discern a human temperament, so sensitive and subject to changes (as one finds, moreover, in the spontaneous handwriting of Vassula). Here this dimension is continually directed on high, relativized, and disappears behind what might seem to be a mask. In fact, as it stands, this writing makes one think of Hebrew, that sacred language par excellence, in which God spoke to Moses and his people on Sinai to reveal their Vocation. That is why we describe this writing as “Hieratic”.
What is Hieratic?
In the ancient theatre, there was a mask worn by the actor to hide his human face and identify him with the “passion” of the person he played in the drama. Thus the individual, who was generally well known, disappeared behind whomever or whatever he represented. When Vassula writes under the dictation of the Lord, there is something like that in this writing that we can call “hieratic.” She disappears-she is effaced behind the One who writes to us. Let us go even further. In the Liturgy, the hieratic gesture is preserved in the Great Oriental (Orthodox) Prayer and up until the time of the Council, it was also in the Roman or Latin Liturgy. It is a sacred, or more precisely, a sacralized gesture. It does not express a human temperament (that of the priest or of his assistants) which it arrests or constrains. It is performed by a man of flesh and blood, who has his own character, his emotions, his faults, even his nationality, but it is, first of all, a divine gesture. All that is relative to the individual himself and his social or geographic origins should be effaced behind an attitude that perpetuates itself in an unchanging way through space and time: for the hieratic gesture is beyond time. It is a gesture of God that is performed by a man. Such a gesture remains always the same through the vicissitudes of the centuries and changing climates and nationalities.
This is the cause of its apparent coldness and rigidity. Here there is a risk, for if the gesture remains unchanging, it can perhaps fail to convey the Spirit and can come to resemble a branch where the sap no longer flows. That is the reason why the Second Vatican Council wanted to revitalize the liturgical gestures, giving them again a more human character that is closer to our modern sensibilities, but always under the condition that we do not forget that they are, above all, sacred gestures and not those of the media. The Liturgy is, above all, a prayer and not theatre. It is a work that is both human and divine, and it is thus not just an expression of our individual or collective sensibility. We cannot always be certain that this second risk is always carefully avoided in our conciliar liturgy.
Let us return now to the “Beautiful Writing” of the Lord, as Vassula likes to call it. It is thus a hieratic writing, in other words, a sacred writing that is without a human aspect. It is austere and not individualized, but at the same time it is clothed with such a majestic solemnity. Certainly one can see a sensibility here, but it is all directed on high. In other words, it is directed towards the spirit in man. Without taking into consideration the rational content of the message it conveys, the writing itself inspires a great peace in us to whom it is directed, radiating light and serenity. Truly this Writing is beautiful and can only be good!
What is the Reason for This Hieratic Writing?
There remains the question, why is it that, in these messages which he entrusts to Vassula, the Lord has chosen to use this hieratic writing, which, as far as I know, he does not use in identical situations. In fact, so many souls are also receiving revelations from the Lord without this way of writing.
First of all, is it truly the first time this has happened? In fact, one can ask oneself this question. Aren’t the Holy Scriptures by definition a work of God, written, of course, by human hands, but under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? It is good to recall this, for there are many times in Revelation where God himself makes use of the hand-written Scriptures to conserve the message and to better spread it, and above all to engrave it in our hearts of flesh.
That is what happened to the prophet Habakkuk who, like us, was troubled by the astonishing silence of God before the supplications of his people and the flood of Evil. He decided that: “I will take up my post-watching to see what the Lord will say to me, what answer he will make … Then Yahweh answered and said: ‘Write the vision down, inscribe it on tablets to be easily read, since the vision is for its own time only: eager for its own fulfillment … if it comes slowly, wait, for come it will, without fail … the upright man will live by his faithfulness.’ (Hab. 2:1-4) Compare also in the Apocalypse, the “letter” of the Lord to His seven Churches; Write to the angel of Ephesus….” (Rev 2:1). Note, too, this unexpected and very meaningful interruption: “When the seven thunderclaps had spoken, I was preparing to write, when I heard a voice from heaven say to me, ‘Seal the words of the seven thunderclaps and do not write them down.'”
Even if one cannot say that in these cases God himself was writing by the hand of his prophet, there are nevertheless two cases where this is explicitly said.
In fact, isn’t it God Himself who, by the hand of Moses, engraved the Ten Commandments on a hard rock to engrave them on the hardened hearts of his people? These Ten Commandments were “written by the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18), but of course it was through the hand of Moses. This is proven by the words: “Cut two tablets of stone … and I will inscribe on them.” But God says to Moses “Write the words yourself … and God inscribed on the tablets the words of the Covenant, the Ten Commandments” (Ex. 34:1, 27-28). Although we have not seen these two tablets engraved by the hand of God through the hand of Moses, it is clear that the typographical nature of the letters, their “Script” was in the Hebrew language, thus hieratic or sacred, depersonalized. They did not reflect the human temperament of Moses. Instead they reflected the power and the transcendence of God, who was not only the One who inspired them but also quite precisely the author; as it says, “God wrote….” Finally, we should also remember that Jesus Himself, the Man-God, the eternal WORD of the Father, one day wrote on the ground with His own hand! (Jn 8:6.) It is clear to the eyes of faith that any effort to make a graphological analysis here could only stammer before this writing that could not be classified in any known categories of writing which are necessarily limited. However, it is certainly closer to the hieratic writing of Vassula than to our own personalized handwritings which enter in well defined categories.
A Letter of the Lord to His Church
Therefore, if the Lord, when speaking with us, does not use the usual rapid, emotive and very moving handwriting of Vassula and instead prefers to use this hieratic and transcendent handwriting, He has His reasons. In all humility, and without exaggeration, it seems that I can say these things:
In other messages which have been entrusted to other privileged souls, the Lord is speaking to all souls of good will, at times to specific persons, at times to communities, or even to all the faithful (the shepherds and lambs). However, here He is speaking, first of all, to the shepherds, to those who are responsible for his Church, those whom the Apocalypse calls “The angel of the church of….” It is thus a LETTER TO HIS CHURCH, so very much divided for such a longtime and still menaced by internal schisms, caused quite often by personal reasons rather than different liturgical traditions or different schools of theology. Moreover, who could claim, except for the God Man Himself, to sum up in a single spirituality, in a single theological vision, in a single sacred rite, the complete ineffable mystery of the Three Who are One!
Jesus, in this End of Times, in this Time of the Nations, wishes to make us come in direct contact with the fact that it is truly He who is speaking with us and writing to us. The secretary in this case is without importance and should vanish from our eyes. This is true to such an extent that even her personal handwriting, which reveals her deepest being, should vanish behind this handwriting which is apparently impersonal and artificial but is on the contrary transcendent. Just as the individual personality of the typist-secretary reflected in her handwriting disappears totally behind the printed letters of the typewriter.
Here, it is therefore the Lord who speaks, the Man-God. It is He who bursts through all the categories of character or graphological order in which one might enclose Him. He is the one who goes beyond all our psychological categories, all our schools of theology that we use to define Him. He is the One about Whom all our sacred rites and our diverse liturgical traditions try to stammer out the mystery without ever being able to exhaust it.
And He speaks to His Divided Church. He is writing a letter to it to announce that His Return is close and He invites us to a conversion of Our Hearts to His Heart in union with the Heart of His Mother by taking the path to Unity, especially in the united liturgical celebration of Easter. Then all mankind can believe that Jesus is Risen and is indeed, the Son of God and Savior of all. (Jn.17:21-23)
In giving His writing this hieratic and sacred form so close to icons and evocative of Hebrew, the language of Revelation, does not the Lord perhaps wish to say something still more profound! Does He not wish to remind us that He is the Author of the Holy Scriptures that illumine all our human history and that as we arrive at the end of this Sacred History, He is intervening personally to open up the Book of the Apocalypse to reveal for us the mystery contained therein?
One cannot fail to be reminded of the passage in the Book of Revelation which is so evocative of the spiritual experience lived by Vassula: “I heard behind me a strong voice like a trumpet that said to me: ‘What you see, WRITE IT IN A BOOK and send it to the seven Churches. I turned to see who the voice was that was speaking to me, and I saw in the midst of the seven Lamp stands of gold (the seven Churches) someone who looked like a son of man who said to me: I am the First and the Last, He Who is LIVING… l was dead, and behold, I live forever and ever, holding the keys of death and the underworld… “‘ (Rev.1:10).
“Yes, happy are those who listen to what the Spirit says to the Churches and who faithfully keep its contents, for the time is near”(Rev. 1:3).
I might add that normally Vassula, the secretary, out of respect for her Master, writes His Dictation on her knees. Might we not also receive (at least figuratively) on our knees, this letter of Our Lord to His Church, to the Seven Churches which we are?