The opportunities afforded by automatic writing for communicating with subconscious strata of the personality have been made use of by Pierre Janet and others in cases of hystero-epilepsy, and other forms of dissociation of consciousness. A patient in an attack of hysterical convulsions, to whom oral appeals are made in vain, can sometimes be induced to answer in writing questions addressed to the hand, and thus to reveal the secret of the malady or to accept therapeutic suggestions.
AUTOMATISM. In philosophical terminology this word is used in two main senses: (1) in ethics, for the view that man is not responsible for his actions, which have, therefore, no moral value; (2) in psychology, for all actions which are not the result of conation or conscious endeavour. Certain actions being admittedly automatic, Descartes maintained that, in regard of the lower animals, all action is purely mechanical. The same theory has since been applied to man, with this difference that, accompanying the mechanical phenomena of action, and entirely disconnected with it, are the phenomena of consciousness. Thus certain physical changes in the brain result in a given action; the concomitant mental desire or volition is in no sense causally connected with, or prior to, the physical change. This theory, which has been maintained by T. Huxley (Science and Culture) and Shadworth Hodgson (Metaphysic of Experience and Theory of Practice), must be distinguished from that of the psychophysical parallelism, or the “double aspect theory” according to which both the mental state and the physical phenomena result from a so-called “mind stuff,” or single substance, the material or cause of both.
Automatic acts are of two main kinds. Where the action goes on while the attention is focused on entirely different subjects (e.g. in cycling), it is purely automatic. On the other hand, if the attention is fixed on the end or on any particular part of a given action, and the other component parts of the action are performed unconsciously, the automatism may be called relative.
Sensory Automatism is the term given by students of psychical research to a centrally initiated hallucination. Such hallucinations are commonly provoked by crystal-gazing (q.v.), but auditory hallucinations may be caused by the use of a shell (shell-hearing), and the other senses are occasionally affected.
Motor Automatism, on the other hand, is a non-reflex movement of a voluntary muscle, executed in the waking state but not controlled by the ordinary waking consciousness. Phenomena of this kind play a large part in primitive ceremonies of divination (q.v.) and in our own day furnish much of the material of Psychical Research. At the lowest level we have vague movements of large groups of muscles, as in “bier-divination,” where the murderer or his residence is inferred from the actions of the bearers; of a similar character but combined with more specialized action are many kinds of witch seeking. These more specialized actions are most typically seen in the Divining Rod (q.v.; see also Table-Turning), which indicates the presence of water and is used among the uncivilized to trace criminals. At a higher stage still we have the delicate movements necessary for Automatic Writing (q.v.) or Drawing. A parallel case to Automatic Writing is the action of the speech centres, resulting in the production of all kinds of utterances from trance speeches in the ordinary language of the speaker to mere unintelligible babblings. An interesting form of speech automatism is known as Glossolalia; in the typical case of Helène Smith, Th. Flournoy has shown that these utterances may reach a higher plane and form a real language, which is, however, based on one already known to the speaker.
AUTOMATON (from αὐτός, self, and μάω, to seize), a self-moving machine, or one in which the principle of motion is contained within the mechanism itself. According to this description, clocks, watches and all machines of a similar kind, are automata, but the word is generally applied to contrivances which simulate for a time the motions of animal life. If the human figure and actions be represented, the automaton has sometimes been called specially an androides. We have very early notices of the construction of automata, e.g. the tripods of Vulcan, and the moving figures of Daedalus. In 400 B.C., Archytas of Tarentum is said to have made a wooden pigeon that could fly, and during the middle ages numerous instances of the construction of automata are recorded. Regiomontanus is said to have made of iron a fly, which would flutter round the room and return to his hand, and also an eagle, which flew before the emperor Maximilian when he was entering Nuremberg. Roger Bacon is said to have forged a brazen head which spoke, and Albertus Magnus to have had an androides, which acted as doorkeeper, and was broken to pieces by Aquinas. Of these, as of some later instances, e.g. the figure constructed by Descartes and the automata exhibited by Dr Camus, not much is accurately known. But in the 18th century, Jacques de Vaucanson, the celebrated mechanician, exhibited three admirable figures,—the flute-player, the tambourine-player, and the duck, which was capable of eating, drinking, and imitating exactly the natural voice of that fowl. The means by which these results had been produced were clearly seen, and a great impulse was given to the construction of similar figures. Knauss exhibited at Vienna an automaton which wrote; a father and son named Droz constructed several ingenious mechanical figures which wrote and played music; Frederick Kaufmann and Leonard Maelzel made automatic trumpeters who could play several marches. The Swiss have always been celebrated for their mechanical ingenuity, and they construct most of the curious toys, such as flying and singing birds, which are frequently met with in industrial exhibitions. The greatest difficulty has generally been experienced in devising any mechanism which shall successfully simulate the human voice (not to be compared with the gramophone, which reproduces mechanically a real voice). No attempt has been thoroughly successful, though many have been made. A figure exhibited by Fabermann of Vienna remains the best. Kempelen’s famous chess-player for many years astonished and puzzled Europe. This figure, however, was no true automaton, although the mechanical contrivances for concealing the real performer and giving effect to his desired movements were exceedingly ingenious. J. N. Maskelyne, in more recent times (1875–1880), has been prominent in exhibiting his automata, Psycho (who played cards) and Zoe (who drew pictures), at the Egyptian Hall, London, but the secret of these contrivances was well kept. (See Conjuring.)
AUTOMORPHISM (from Gr. αὐτός, self, and μορφή, form), the conception and interpretation of other people’s habits and ideas on the analogy of one’s own.
AUTONOMY (Gr. αὐτός, self, and νόμος, law), in general, freedom from external restraint, self-government. The term is usually coupled with a qualifying adjective. Thus, political autonomy is self-government in its widest sense, independence of all control from without. Local autonomy is a freedom of self-government within a sphere marked out by some superior authority; e.g. municipal corporations in England have their administrative powers marked out for them by acts of parliament, and in so far as they govern themselves within these limits exercise local autonomy. Administrative or constitutional autonomy, such as exists in the British colonies, implies an extent of self-government which falls short only of complete independence. The term is used loosely even in the case of e.g. religious bodies, individual churches and other communities