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Spiritualism; Modern Spiritualism;
Modern Spiritualist Movement; Spiritualist Church:

What's It All About?

Today, many are confused over all this talk about Spirit and Spiritualism. We have terms such as: Spiritualism; Modern Spiritualism; Modern Spiritualist Movement; Spiritualist Church. Are there really any differences amongst these various terms? We think there are; significant differences at that. So, let us briefly explain how we perceive and distinguish these various concepts.

The First Spiritual Temple was founded before any organized Spiritualist Church body came about in the United States. When it did, the Church leaders approached our founder, Marcellus Ayer, and requested -- in fact, they insisted -- that he join forces with them. He chose to remain independent, in order to assure that our Church remain free to pursue Spiritualism and the New Dispensation in Spiritualism in a totally open environment.

First of all: What is Spiritualism?

Spiritualism is a way of looking at and living life which accepts the reality that we were created, first and foremost, in God's image as SPIRIT; that underlying all which appears to be material, there is a spiritual foundation. In other words, Spiritualism is the opposite of Materialism.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The New Revelation," says of Spiritualism:

"The question which faces us, then, is how will this influence (Spiritualism) bear upon older organized religions and philosophies which have influenced the actions of men.

"The answer is, that to only one of these religions or philosophies is this new revelation absolutely fatal. That is to Materialism."

Therefore, any religious or philosophical movement which accepts the reality of the Spirit can be said to be Spiritualist in nature. One would be very hard pressed to find any religious movement that does not accept some type of spiritual force and consciousness underlying and vitalizing the Human person. Therefore, Spiritualism can be said to be the foundation upon which most faiths and denominations are built.

Spiritualism -- or "Spiritual-ism" -- represents any teaching or "ism" of the Spirit.

If this is so, then the logical conclusion would be that, once a person sheds the body -- through death -- what remains is the human Spirit. That Spirit must, then, be free to go somewhere and continue to exist in some manner. In other words, the material world and its body are temporal, while the Spirit is eternal. Again, most, if not all, religions preach this basic tenet of life and death. Many of Saint Paul's letters revolve around this seeming dichotomy between material/temporal and spiritual/eternal. Jesus Christ and many other prophets came to help show us this basic truth.

Yet, despite this common ground amongst the world's religions, we have much confusion and controversy over the following points:

  • ONE: Where is that "somewhere" to which the Spirit goes, following death?
  • TWO: What type of existence does the Spirit have, once it gets there?
  • THREE: Is there any contact between those of us here, in bodily form, and those who have passed out of bodily form, through death?

What is a Spiritualist?

A Spiritualist is a person who answers these three basic questions as follows:

  • ONE: At death, the Spirit goes to another realm -- dimension, level of consciousness, whatever you wish to call it -- of life and existence, known simply as Spirit or the Spirit world (as opposed to the Material world).
  • TWO: Once the Spirit passes into the Spirit world, he or she continues to grow (not physically), mature, learn, relate with others, evolve spiritually, etc. In other words, what motivates the Spirit while in earthly form continues to motivate the Spirit in the Spirit world. This makes perfect sense, if we agree that life continues, unbroken, sometimes here and sometimes there.
  • THREE: Yes, there is contact between those of us, here, and those in Spirit. This contact happens primarily -- but not always -- through mediumship.


A Spiritualist -- and here is another source of confusion -- can be of any faith or denomination. In fact, Spiritualism does not belong solely to Modern Spiritualists, any more than Christ belongs solely to Christians. Christ came to show us all the way back to God, our Father! Spiritualism helps show us all the truth concerning Spirit, Soul, and Body.

Therefore, what is the Spiritualist Religion?

The Spiritualist religion emerged from a philosophical and spiritual movement which commenced -- in a more objective form -- in the middle of the nineteenth century; specifically, March 31, 1848. This movement is called the Modern Spiritualist Movement.

Initially, it began in pockets of light and mediumistic activity throughout the planet. It proclaimed, in no uncertain terms, the answers to the three questions posed above. And it did so through the demonstration of Spirit communication -- or mediumship -- both of the physical and of the mental kind.

Was this movement widely accepted? No, because it threatened the deeply ingrained Victorian sense of Materialism. Yet, if you consider what was emerging through such writers as Thoreau and Whitman, along with such religious movements as Unitarianism and Universalism, the advent of Modern Spiritualism really should not have been such a cultural or theological shock. But, it was! Why might that have been?

The blame must fall, in part, upon Spiritualists themselves. Something happened to detract the Modern Spiritualist Movement from its intended course: the medium became the message! The message of Spiritualism became lost amidst all the phenomena and hoopla surrounding the medium. The medium -- and what he or she could do or demonstrate -- became, for all practical purposes, the focal point around the Movement and its religion. Or, as so eloquently expressed by Eileen J. Garrett, the mediums became the "High Priests and Priestesses" of the Modern Spiritualist Movement.

In addition to this, modern Spiritualists -- in order to affirm their religion -- tended to attack other religions, especially Christianity and the Christian Church. Even to this day, there seems to be a rather strong anti-Christian or anti-Church sentiment amongst many Spiritualist organizations.

So, what is a Spiritualist Church?

A Spiritualist Church is a church which professes, as its faith and driving force, the religion of Spiritualism, as manifested through the Modern Spiritualist Movement. Such churches can be independent, or they can be affiliated with Spiritualist Church bodies such as this country's National Spiritualist Association of Churches or England's Spiritualists' National Union.

The degree of religiosity and Judaic-Christian teaching varies greatly amongst Spiritualist Churches. Some prefer not to be called Churches at all; rather, centers or societies. Others shy away from any sense of religiosity or theology. Regardless of how church-oriented each may be, most Spiritualist Churches have one thing in common: the focal point of their worship service or meeting is the demonstration of mediumship; claiming that mediumship represents the proof of their religion.

So, where does the First Spiritual Temple fall in all of this?

Our Church was founded, first and foremost, as an Interfaith Church of the Spirit, with a strong link to the Christ Spirit/Consciousness. As an Interfaith Church, we embrace the basic tenets of ancient Spiritualism, rather than those of the Modern Spiritualist Movement. We embrace the wonder and mystery of Spiritualism, from ancient times, along with its modern advent, rather than the religion which emerged from this advent. Finally, we fully embrace the New Dispensation in Spiritualism, then and now. We believe that Spiritualism should never have become its own religion. God and Spirit intended it to be a gift of the Spirit, and we are all spirit. Thus, Spiritualism belongs to all religions and faith.

To us, there is absolutely no conflict between Christianity and Spiritualism; or, between Spiritualism and any faith. Our founder believed that Spiritualism represents the missing link in Christ's Resurrection, and we agree.

Again, let us quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The New Revelation":

"As to other creeds, it must be admitted than an acceptance of the teachings brought to us from beyond would deeply modify conventional Christianity. But these modifications would be rather in the direction of explanation and development than in contradiction."

Later, he says:

"There are many higher spirits with our departed. They vary in degree. Call them 'angels,' and you are in union with old religious thought. High above all these is the greatest spirit of whom they have cognizance -- not God, since God is so infinite that He is not within their ken -- but one who is nearer God and to that extent represents God. This is the Christ Spirit. His special care is the earth. He came down upon it at a time of great earthly depravity -- a time when the world was almost as wicked as it is now, in order to give the people the lesson of an ideal life. Then He returned to His own high station, having left an example which can still be followed."


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