By Rev. Simeon
What is Spiritualism? Is it a religion?
Is it a science? Is it a philosophy? Does it deal with the living or the
dead? Is Spiritualism a concept indigenous to modern minds, or does it have
its roots buried deeply within ancient mysteries? Does Spiritualism deal
with "things that go bump in the night" or is there a more
meaningful side to it? How does Spiritualism relate to other religious
beliefs? Is it in opposition to those beliefs? Are there any references to
Spiritualistic concepts and phenomena in the Bible? What is a Spiritualist Church?
These are all questions which
any serious investigation of Spiritualism must address. The study of
Spiritualism and its implications to the matters of the spirit is, truly, a
lifelong pursuit. Knowledge is wonderful; something which the serious student
should always strive to attain. But knowledge alone is not enough. Once the
objective facts of Spiritualism are mastered, the fascinating process of
transformation must begin. That transformation is a process whereby
knowledge (the acquisition of fact) becomes digested, assimilated, and
synthesized into wisdom (the use of that knowledge in order to further the
unfoldment of soul qualities for the benefit of self and others).
So, let us begin. Before we
do, though, I should indicate that the First Spiritual Temple has never
been part of the organized Spiritualist Church body; thus, our views and
perceptions on Spiritualism may differ from those of more traditional
Spiritualist Churches. As usual, the best place to begin is at the
beginning: what is Spiritualism?
Here are three definitions of
Webster defines Spiritualism
belief that the dead survive as spirits which can communicate with the
living, especially with the help of a third party, called a medium.
The National Spiritualist
Association of Churches defines Spiritualism as: The science, philosophy
and religion of continuous life, based upon the demonstrated fact of
communication, by means of mediumship, with those who live in the Spirit
The definition adopted in 1948,
during the centenary of the movement known as Modern Spiritualism, very
succinctly defines Spiritualism as: The proof of survival.
Please note the following key
From these definitions, we can
see that Spiritualism focuses on three major concepts:
is personal and conscious survival of bodily death. (Please note the
words personal and conscious.)
itself, is the transition from one realm of awareness and life to
of some form between this world and the world of Spirit is possible,
provided that certain conditions prevail.
These are the three
fundamental concepts of Spiritualism.
The birth of the Modern
Spiritualist Movement is most widely accepted as having taken place on
March 31, 1848, with the events surrounding the Fox family, in Hydesville, New York. In reality, though, Spiritualism
is as old as humanity. Spiritualism, in its pure essence, has its roots in
ancient religion and spirituality. In effect, Spiritualism represents the
alternative to Materialism. Furthermore, it is the basic essence from which
all religious thought appeared and continues to appear on this great Earth
plane. As such, Spiritualism really belongs to no group, nor to any
religious movement or denomination. It is a gift from God, given to all
people, of all faiths and denominations.
Therefore, what is a
Spiritualist church? Well, I guess all churches, temples, synagogues, and
mosques are spiritualist in nature, because all houses of worship are
supposed to be places from which the message and inspiration of a higher
Spirit can come forth.
Spiritualism, itself, as a
concept of communication between those in the body and those in Spirit, has
been a part of the human story for centuries. The Old and New Testaments
are, in effect, a grand recording of ancient Spiritualism; they talk about
spirit intervention and communication from approximately 1800 B.C. to around
200 A.D. Throughout their pages, we are warned to discriminate carefully
between true and false prophets. Many were the people of Biblical times who
were admonished to "test the spirits".
The heralding in of
Christianity involved several spirit visitations, and it is recorded that
Jesus appeared eleven times after his death upon the cross. Jesus died in
the flesh and resurrected in the Spirit; thus, demonstrating the reality of
Beliefs in Spiritualistic
concepts were not confined to Biblical personalities alone. Boscawen, the
famous anthropologist, states: "In dreams and visions the primitive
Akkadians no doubt saw, as they declared, the shadowy forms of departed
human beings." He further adds, "Inscriptions as early as 3800 BC
on tablets show their beliefs in ghosts and spirits."
Before discussing the
precarious events which surrounded the birth of the movement known as
Modern Spiritualism, we must look at the work of two men who helped lay the
groundwork for the events which took place on that fateful evening of March
31, 1848: Emanuel Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davis.
Article in Series: Forerunners to Modern Spiritualism: Emanuel
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