Marcel Proust famously describes psychometric phenomena in his opus Remembrances of Things Past.
By Jake Cordero
Sudden and unexpected mental impressions — on occasion they come to each of us. I don’t speak here of memories, at least not the traditional sort that we conjure up when we sit quietly and try to remember. I speak instead of the unmoored mental impressions that arrive with a flash when we come into contact with a physical object. I speak of mental impressions for which we are wholly unprepared.
Imagine, for instance, the burst of emotion occasioned by the discovery of a strange object in a junk shop. Or imagine a word or phrase that pops into your head at the exact moment you come across a lost item on a park bench. These experiences might seem somehow related to a traditional memory, but this can’t be because the image or emotion has been prompted by an object never previously held in your possession. It may seem as if you’re experiencing deja vu, but this can’t be because the images or emotions are not associated with any of your own experiences.
These impressions, sometimes referred to as unexpected memories, are not memories at all. They’re images, thoughts, words, emotions. They’re bursts of meaning. They’re messages. And they are always, always associated with a physical object — something we hold in our hands or otherwise physically experience. They may be messages from the spirit world, or they may have some other origin. What’s clear, however, is that these messages are both contained within the physical object from which they are derived, but also somehow transcend the object.
The ability to decipher sudden messages that come to us through contact with physical objects has a name. It’s called psychometry. It is an ability that has been associated with art and artists, although not typically using that word. (Marcel Proust, for instance, famously describes psychometric phenomena in his opus Remembrances of Things Past.) Spiritualist writers also have devoted many pages to psychometry, associate it with spirit communication, and have offered instructive advice on how to pursue it.
I reproduce some of that advice, just below, along with some of my own thoughts on psychometric experimentation. But before proceeding I would note first the irony or our mission. Seeking random, unexpected thoughts — but in a purposeful way — is a contradictory endeavor. It is as if we want to find meaning without first asking for guidance. I don’t offer this observation as criticism, but rather to prepare you for the territory ahead. Spiritualist exploration, like art, asks us to derive meaning from the irrational. It requires us to get beyond our right/wrong, yes/no, true/false binary way of making sense of this world. Only in this way can we get objects to surrender hidden messages.
So, how to proceed?
First, have pen and paper on hand, or a tape recorder. It’s always good to have some method to record the results of your experiment. Some explorers inscribe the results in a spirit journal in which they also describe their dreams or the results of various other spiritualist experiments.
Next you need an object or several objects from which you want to extract a message. If you use more than one object, it’s good to choose objects found together or otherwise related — for instance, old postcards found together in an attic. Also keep in mind that extremely common everyday items — especially coins or bills — are not recommended. Such objects have passed through too many hands, have been touched by too many souls, and so any spiritual residue is sure to have been diffused and difficult to detect. Some people also like to choose objects associated with a specific deceased person.
We have found that the more you handle and move the objects before attempting psychometry, the less effective it may be. So, for instance, if you’ve found an object in an attic — and it’s not too uncomfortably hot or cold there — then consider remaining in the attic for the experiment. On the other hand if you found an object in a junk shop, then simply place it in a bag and try not to think about it until you’re ready to begin. But either way, you need to find a quiet room for the psychometry session, a place where you’re sure not to be interrupted.
Now I would stress that there’s not many right ways or wrong ways to proceed from this point onward. Personally I like to keep the objects concealed before I begin, either in a box, or with a cloth over them. The sitter should quietly meditate before handling the objects, trying to reach out with his or her mind to the surrounding stillness. Take deep breaths. Push from your mind any the day’s distractions. Make sure your cell phone is nowhere in sight. When you feel deeply relaxed (and only then) remove the object from wherever it is concealed and hold it before you. This can either be at the fingertips of one hand or between two hands held together. If it’s a very old object and smells of age, then shut your eyes and try both to feel the object and to smell it. And then … just listen. Just feel.
There’s an expression among the old-time spiritualists: “Spirits Always Speak First.” What this means is that true messages are those that come in advance of your intellect, that come before your conscious mind can get in the way and garble them. Your conscious mind will always create its own competing message. This mission of psychometry is to avoid this, to listen to what your heart tells you. In conducting these experiments you should not make any willful attempt to search your own memories. (Consciously reconstructing old memories is the work of your intellect and it is the exact wrong way to pursue psychometry.) However, if a memory comes to you unbidden and insistent, then don’t ignore it. There may be meaning to be found there too.
So … take heed of the very first word or thought or image that comes to you after you touch the object. Write this word down in your notepad or otherwise record it. If it’s not a word but rather an emotion, then try to describe it. If another word, image or emotion comes to you after the first, and it keeps coming to you, then write that down as well. If you have multiple objects, repeat this process — and if you’re feeling relaxed, you can repeat the process immediately. It may be, however, that the act of writing or recording has taken you out of your relaxed state. If this is the case then I would recommend waiting several hours or a day before proceeding – when it comes to psychometry, patience is ALWAYS your friend.
The last step is to examine the words you have recorded. Do they make sense to you? If the words or messages don’t make sense now, they almost certainly will later. Come back to them in a day or two and think about them then. If you keep a spirit journal, compare the message you received through your psychometry session with other messages you’ve received previously and by other means.
One final note. It’s always best not to become overly stressed about the attempt, to worry about failure or to believe for a moment that you’re not up to the task. Some spirit mediums will claim psychometry abilities exclusively as their own. I find this claim misleading … at best. We all possess the ability to receive messages through psychometry, even the most willful skeptics among us. I say this because we’re bombarded by these sudden messages all the time. If we do not remember them, it is only because they have made so little impression on our conscious minds. They drift away from us with little fanfare, like dreams forgotten before breakfast.
Remember: the messages we pursue through token reading are not creatures of our conscious minds. They are messages that come from somewhere inside or through us, but which are unclouded by our ego and intellect. It is our mission, though psychometry, to hold onto these messages, to recognize them and to record them. So be patient, make yourself calm, and keep in mind the old adage: “spirits always speak first.”
Trust me. You can do this.
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