The term ‘psychometry’ was first coined by the American doctor Joseph Rodes Buchanan in 1840. Also known as ‘soul measuring’, it is the practice of determining an object’s history by holding it in the hands or to the forehead. Buchanan conducted a series of experiments into psychometry using his students as test subjects. His results were enough to convince him that it was an observable phenomenon. In 1893 Buchanan published The Manual of Psychometry: The Dawn of a New Civilisation. He predicted that psychometry would bring about a revolution in science.
A person who practices psychometry, or a psychometrist, receives impressions from an object as smells, tastes, sounds, images or emotions. Helena Blavatsky explores psychometry in her influential occult work, Isis Unveiled, published in 1877. At this time the practice was relatively new. Blavatsky noted that psychometrists were able to determine the physical appearance or character of a person associated with any object. It made no difference how old a manuscript, painting or item of clothing was, someone with psychometric abilities could still gain vivid impressions from it. According to Blavatsky, a psychometrist could easily decode an ancient manuscript that would otherwise need an expert scholar to explain it.
In 1888 Professor William Denton described a series of experiments involving his wife Elizabeth and her psychometric abilities. Elizabeth was able to identify successfully a fragment of Roman masonry taken from the home of Cicero. When she touched an object from an ancient Greek church, she saw a mental image of its congregation. She was even able to identify the physical characteristics of a species of dinosaur simply by holding its fossilised tooth.
According to Helena Blavatsky, psychometric impressions leave no visible trace on objects. Jospeh Rodes Buchanan posits that these impressions may be stored in the invisible planes of the astral light or ether. It is this which William Denton terms the ‘Soul of Things’ or ‘Soul of the World’. In Isis Unveiled, Blavatsky suggests that when a psychometrist touches an object, he comes into contact with the current of astral light connected to it. Blavatsky takes the view that it is only a human being’s physical senses that are limiting. Human beings are part of the divine immortal spirit. It is this connection which allows the psychometrist to receive impressions from the astral light.
Everything in the universe is eternal and its energy is indestructible. Therefore, impressions of people and events are retained for eternity. A human being’s ability to receive those impressions is proof of the immortality of the individual human spirit. In 1919 the German doctor Gustav Pagenstecher conducted a series of psychometric experiments with one of his patients. Pagenstecher deduced that psychometrists were able to tune into the frequency of vibrations held within objects.
Albert Einstein theorises that time is not linear. Instead of a past, present and future, he suggests that all of time exists at once within a four dimensional structure. This might explain how, for certain people, the past and future are at some level accessible to their field of perception. Blavatsky takes a similar view. She says that when a person’s psychic vision looks towards eternity, it sees the future contained in a boundless present where past and future co-exist. It is often said that at the moment of death, a person sees his life flash before him. In truth, that person may simply be looking into the ‘boundless present’ that Blavatsky describes. Perhaps in that moment, the individual is entering a different dimension. A dimension outside the boundaries of time itself.