A method of sensing or 'reading' from physical objects the history of each object and the history of things and people associated with these objects which is hidden to ordinary sensibility.
The term, derived from the Greek psyche ('soul') and metron ('measure'), was coined in the mid-19th century by Joseph R. Buchanan, an American physiologist who claimed Psychometry could be used to measure the 'soul' of all things. Buchanan further said:
"The past is entombed in the present, the world is its own enduring monument; and that which is true of its physical is likewise true of its mental career. The discoveries of Psychometry will enable us to explore the history of man, as those of geology enable us to explore the history of the earth. There are mental fossils for psychologists as well as mineral fossils for the geologists; and I believe that hereafter the psychologist and the geologist will go hand in hand, the one portraying the earth, its animals and its vegetation, while the other portrays the human beings who have roamed over its surface in the shadows, and the darkness of primeval barbarism. Aye, the mental telescope is now discovered which may pierce the depths of the past and bring us in full view of the grand and tragic passages of ancient history."
Sounds and perfumes also leave impressions on their surroundings, said Buchanan. Just as a photograph may be taken on film or plate and remain invisible until it has been developed, so may those psychometric 'photographs' remain impalpable until the developing process has been applied. That which can bring them to light is the psychic faculty and mind of the medium, he said.
Buchanan also claimed that this faculty operated in conjunction with what he termed a community of sensation of varying intensity. The psychometric effect of medicines in Buchanans experiments as a physician was similar to their ordinary action.
Researchers who followed Buchanan theorized that objects retain imprints of the past and their owners variously called 'vibrations', 'psychic ether', and aura that could be picked up by sensitives.
Many mediums who have practiced psychometry have since become famous in this line. Their method is to hold in the hand or place against the forehead some small object, such as a fragment of clothing, a letter, or a watch; appropriate visions are then seen or sensations experienced.
While on rare occasions a psychometrist may be entranced, normally he or she is in a condition scarcely varying from the normal. The psychometric pictures, presumably somehow imprinted on the objects, have been likened to pictures carried in the memory, seemingly faded, yet ready to start into vividness when the right spring is touched. Some have suggested, for example, that the rehearsal of bygone tragedies so frequently witnessed in haunted houses is really a psychometric picture that, during the original occurrence, impressed itself on the room. The same may be said of the sounds and smells that haunt certain houses. Psychometry is the chief technique used in psychic criminology.
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Sources: (1) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (2) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group.
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