Psychometry also known as token-object reading,or psychoscopy, is a form of extrasensory perception characterized by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object. Supporters assert that an object may have an energy field that transfers knowledge regarding that object’s history.
Buchanan asserted that his particular psychism would supersede empiric science. He wrote a comprehensive treatise, Manual of Psychometry: the Dawn of a New Civilization (1885), detailing how the direct knowledge of psychometry would be applied to and affect the many various branches of science. It also would elevate the various schools of philosophy and arts thereby affecting wide social change and ultimately an enlightenment of humanity:
The thermometer measures caloric (thermo temperature). The barometer measures the weight (baro, weight) of the atmosphere; the electrometer measures electric conditions; the psychometer measures the soul (psyche). In the case of Psychometry, however, the measuring assumes a new character, as the object measured and the measuring instrument are the same psychic element, and its measuring power is not limited to the psychic as it was developed in the first experiments, but has appeared by successive investigation to manifest a wider and wider area of power, until it became apparent that this psychic capacity was really the measure of all things in the Universe.
Buchanan continued to promote psychometry throughout his life and his followers believed that it would revolutionize science in a comprehensive way as “the dawn of a new civilization”. Buchanan’s work on psychometry was continued by the geologist William Denton (1823-1883). In 1863, Denton published a book on the subject The Soul of Things. Their work was criticized by Joseph Jastrow as based on delusion and wishful thinking.
Others, such as Stephen Pearl Andrews who promoted Psychometry along with his own new science of Universology, built upon Buchanan’s ideas. As a lecturer Andrews asserted that such inquiries, as paraphrased by an 1878 New York Times article, “demonstrated that the sympathy between the mind and body is an exact science”.
In the later nineteenth century demonstrations of psychometry became a popular part of stage acts and séances; with participants providing a personal object for “reading” by a medium or psychic. It is also commonly offered at psychic fairs as a type of psychic reading. At New Age events psychometry has claimed to help visitors “meet the dearly departed” (a form of spiritualism).