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Saturday, September 1, 2012

First study on the statistics of Chico Xavier automatic writing messages

Fig. 1 Brazilian postage stamp released in 2010 in commemoration to Xavier´s birthday.  
Read more about Chico Xavier mediumship by clicking here (access to SKL repository).

Introduction

Brazil has a spiritualist tradition that dates back to the beginning of Spiritualism. The Spiritualist movement in Brazil is known as Spiritism and started after several works on psychic phenomena that flourish around Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail (1804-1869) in the third quarter of the XIX century in France. Allan Kardec, as Rivail was to be known later, introduced a set of Spiritualist principles (Kardec, 1985) encompassing not only the basic precepts of Spiritualism such as life after death, the possibility of communication between the material and the ‘invisible’ worlds, but alto the belief in reincarnation. Granted the stable existence of many Spiritist groups in Brazil, many mediums found a highly favorable environment for the development of their faculties starting with physical manifestations (Ana Prado (Faria, 1921), Peixotinho (Palhano, 1997), Mirabelli (Palhano, 1994)) to mental mediumship. Automatic writing or psychography (Braude, 2003; Oxon, 1878; Piper, 1929) can be described as the most prominent feature of many Brazilian Spiritist mental mediums, resulting in the publication of many ‘channeled’ books and works.  
   
Roughly speaking, this material can be divided in two groups: texts covering the principles of Spiritualism from its inception in Brazil to the present date and a vast collection of psychic or ‘channeled’ works that describe the relationship between the Spiritist movement and the afterlife. If we focus on material of paranormal origin, one figure must be distinguished: that of Francisco Cândido Xavier (1910-2002, Fig. 1). His works still remain to be carefully scrutinized and better understood not only as an anthropological phenomenon but also as notorious evidence in favor of the survival of consciousness.  The aim of this short summary is to present one of the first attempts to analyzed a very small set of his works that were published in several grief counseling books (Arantes, 2007; Barbosa, 1982, 1998, 1998b, 2008; Xavier, 1981, 1983) and that contain a peculiar period of his life. During this phase he produced many correspondences addressed to relatives on Earth from recently departed personalities. Texts attributed to such authors contain a large amount of information that cannot be easily explained by alternative hypothesis (i.e., that deny consciousness survival) and that shows the high degree of development that mental mediumship can achieve in a well-trained metal medium.
  
Xavier´s short biography

The first name ‘Francisco’ has a short form, ‘Chico’. Chico Xavier, as he was later known (Playfair, 2010; Leite, 2002; Grumbach, 2010; Filho, 2010), wrote more than 400 books and virtually thousands letters or communications attributed to recently deceased persons through automatic writing. Xavier mediumship started very early when he was about 5 and described to his relatives frequent visits of his deceased mother Maria João de Deus. Public notoriety came in 1932 with the book ‘Parnassus from beyond the grave’ in which Xavier (then at the age 22) presented a vast repertoire of poems attributed to Brazilian and Portuguese authors obtained through automatic writing (Rocha, 2001). By the late 60´s Xavier dedicated a considerable amount of his time to private correspondences as we explain below.

Statistics and psychography in other languages

TAble 1.
In a recent paper (Xavier, 2011), we analyzed the pragmatic and intentional content of these ‘private correspondences’ attributed to a large number of authors (Grumbach, 2010). Grief counseling was the aim of these paranormal compositions from the perspective of parents and relatives who sought the medium after a recent loss.  Using some basic elements of linguistic analysis, we showed how pragmatics and intention are present in those writings and how they contribute to build a convincing image of the possibility of communication with discarnate personalities. In fact, several hierarchical aspects (Rigotti, 2006) are present in a written communications in general (morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics and intention), but in automatic writings, such aspects become especially relevant in face of our complete ignorance on regard to the mechanism involved (Beischel, 2009). Thus, if in a message, many names of living relatives are found, such names must be taken into account as instances of morphological importance. If the medium uses words and sentences similar to those attributed to the diseased author, these are examples of private semantic content. Moreover, if the medium communicates intentional messages in the form of sentences of pragmatic value, a high level of interaction is probably taking place that is most easily explained in the context of survivalist hypothesis. Therefore, these correspondences build a dramatic case in favor of survival, given the large number of Xavier´s documented reports, which are however a tiny fraction of what was produced during a period of almost 40 years.


Fig. 2 (a) Distribution of number of words; (b) Distribution of author's age.
We present here a study of statistical content where we have analyzed the content of 113 letters attributed to 87 different authors (Barbosa, 1982, 1998, 1998b, 2008; Xavier, 1981, 1983). Almost all messages were written in the native language of the medium (Portuguese), with exception of 2 cases written in Italian. Table 1 contains general statistical figures extracted from the sample. The total number of words in each letter is approximated by a numerical estimation based on the word density (length and width of each text). The table has two parts. The general statistics lists the total number of analyzed letters, the total number of authors and average and standard deviations for the average number of words per letter as well as the expected distribution of author´s age at the time of their death. A large variation in the letter´s length and author age was found. Maximum letter length in the sample was 1467 words and the minimum was 26. Maximum author age was 85 while the minimum was 3. In the case of very young children, two aspects must be regarded: a) the annotated age is the author’s age at the time of death, while the automatic writing communication was obtained several months or years later; b) in many communication of young children the signed name is only an alias of the true author who is often quoted in the letters as a close relative; c) In the vast majority of letters, grandmothers and grandfathers (and also grand-grand mothers and fathers) from both family sides are the diseased ‘contacts’ or ‘hosts’ in the spirit world. Authorship inference comes from the context (also from the presence of known relative names) and pragmatic content of each letter that was later validated by the families. Another interesting statistics is presented in the second part of Table 1, which brings the average number of citations of ‘living’ and ‘deceased’ people in the letters together with their corresponding standard deviations. The total number of citations of ‘living’ relatives in the analyzed sample is 526 and names of diseased ones are 414. An interesting aspect of our analysis is the large number of nicknames (both belonging to the ‘living’ and ‘deceased’ counterparts), 151. So, at least one nickname per letter is found in the sample. Many old family first names (and most certainly nicknames) were not on the minds of those to whom the letters were addressed. Moreover, given the environment where these correspondences were obtained, almost none previous knowledge on the part of the medium can be assumed which would involve an impossible network of information acquisition as many skeptics have suggested.  Rather, they demonstrate the degree of information and detail a well-trained medium in automatic writing can provide.
Fig.3 Distribution of causes of death encountered in the sample.
Fig 2(a) is the distribution histogram of letter´s length where each bin in the abscissa is the maximum number of words found (thus 20% of the letters have more than 314.2 and less than 458.3 words). Fig.2(b) is the age distribution of attributed authors. Therefore, 5% of the letters are attributed to authors under 11 years old. Fig. 3 is the distribution of author´s causes of death. The large frequency of car crash causes is directly related to high frequency of authors between 20 and 30 years old.
Fig. 4 Automatic writing in Italian attributed to Alberto Corradi.
To give an example of automatic writing in a different language (therefore in completely distinct linguistic framework), we regard in the following a letter attributed to Alberto Corradi (1958-1978) (Barbosa, 2008). The original text is in Italian (see Fig. 4), includes the attributed author signature and was obtained in a sitting at Uberaba/MG, Brazil, on March 16 1979, almost 10 month after Corradi death in a motorcycle accident in Italy, on May 1978. A version of this message in English (parts 1-4) is as follows:
 My mother, dear beloved mommy Ebe. I ask you not to cry any more. Your tears are like flames of pain in my heart. I stay here with my beloved grand-grandma Tina and my grand-grandpa Amadei . Keep calm. God is with us. A kiss of your son to you and my dad. Alberto Corradi.” 
Alberto’s parents lived in Torino, Italy and came to Brazil to try a message from Alberto. The relatives quoted in the message are Alberto’s father grandparents, Mr. Vittorio Amadei  and Mrs. Tina Amadei (bisnono and bisnona as stated in the message, respectively).
Final Remarks
   
Many researchers in the past relied upon evidences coming from physical phenomena in favor of survival and the possibility of communication with the afterlife. However, given the preeminent communication aspect of many mental mediumship manifestations exhibiting a rich pragmatic and intentional content, it is probably more correct to say that mental mediumship provides today the best evidences for the survivalist idea. Xavier´s prolific automatic writing works contain a large amount of information gathered through paranormal ways that is best explained under the assumption of an unseen world that can be put in contact with the physical world. Such material is still little known outside a very narrow domain of the Spiritist community in Brazil and includes a private correspondences or letters that contain a large amount of family specific information. The aim of this paper is to call attention to the existence of this material, which may represent one of the best registered cases of confirmed paranormal acquisition of information in favor of the survival idea.
 
Acknowledgments


I would like to thank Alexandre Caroli Rocha for useful discussions and references.

References

Arantes H. M. (2007), Vozes da Outra Margem, 7th edition, Araras: Instituto de Difusão Espírita;
Barbosa E. (1982), Quem São, 7th edition, Araras: Instituto de Difusão Espírita;
Barbosa E. (1998), Estamos no Além, 11th edition, Araras: Instituto de Difusão Espírita;
___1998b, Horas de Luz, 5th edition, Araras: Instituto de Difusão Espírita;
Barbosa E. (2008), Claramente Vivos, 9th edition, Araras: Instituto de Difusão Espírita;
Beischel, J. & Rock, A. J. (2009). Addressing the survival vs. psi debate through process-focused mediumship research, Journal of Parapsychology, 73, pp.71-90.
Braude S. E. (2003), Immortal Remais, Chapter 5, Rowman & Littlefield Publisher, Inc.
Faria N. (1921), O trabalho dos mortos, Rio de Janeiro: FEB (Brazilian Spiritist Federation).
Filho D. (2010), Chico Xavier: o filme, Columbia/Sony Pictures.
Grumbach C., Gentile L. A. & Pelele P. P. (2010), As cartas psicografadas de Chico Xavier, Crisis Produtivas and Ciclorama Filmes.
Kardec A. (1985), Le Livre des Esprits [1857]. Paris: Dervy-Livres.
Leite A. and Lacerda R. (2002), The Most Prolific Spiritist Medium in Brazil, Francisco de Paula Candido Xavier, returns to the Spiritual Plane, GEAE, www.geae.inf.br/en/articles/news.html
Oxon M. (1878), Psychography: a treatise on one of the objective forms of psychic or spiritual phenomena. Courtesy of spiritwritings.com
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Piper A. L. (1929), The Life and Work of Mrs. Piper. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.
Playfair G. L. (2010), Chico Xavier, Medium of the Century, 1st edition. Roundtable Publishing.
Rigotti E. & Greco S. (2006), Communication: Semiotic Approaches, in Concise Encyclopedia of Pragmatics, ed. By J. L. Mey, 2nd edition, Elsevier.
Rocha, A. C. (2001) A poesia transcendente de Parnaso de além-túmulo. Dissertação de mestrado. Campinas, IEL, Unicamp. (The transcendent poetry in Parnassus from Beyond the Grave. Master Thesis.)
Wallace, A. R. (1975). Miracles and modern spiritualism [1896]. New York: Arno Press.
Xavier A. (2011), Pragmatics and Intention in automatic writing compositions: the Chico Xavier case, Paranthropology, 2, number 1, pp.47-51.
Xavier C. (1981), Feliz Regresso, 3rd edition, São Paulo: Instituto de Divulgação Editora André Luiz;
Xavier C. (1983), Correio do Além, 3rd edition, São Paulo: Cultura Espírita União;
Xavier, F. C. (1994), Parnaso de além-túmulo [several authors], 14. Edition, Rio de Janeiro: FEB (Brazilian Spiritist Federation).

 

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