After Hydesville: A
Movement Is Born
Rev. Simeon Stefanidakis
The ball was now set rolling and
the messages continued. On November 14, 1849, the first meeting of a small
group of Spiritualists was held in the Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New
York. The excitement over the revelation grew and public investigation was
demanded. Committee after committee was formed to try and prove that the
phenomena were fraudulent. Public opinion was not at all in sympathy with
the events, and at one point the Fox sisters were nearly lynched.
Nevertheless, the movement known as Modern Spiritualism kept on growing.
Others discovered that they,
too, had mediumistic abilities, and mediums began springing up here and
there; spirit's message moved on. Public meetings were soon held,
attracting much interest as well as curiosity. On June 4, 1850, the message
of Spiritualism was brought to New York City. Horace Greeley, then editor
of the New York Tribune, showed great interest in the
phenomena and established a committee to investigate, with an open mind,
the events. He subsequently reported in the New York Tribune:
"We devoted what time
we could spare from our duties out of three days to this subject, and it
would be the basest cowardice not to say that we are convinced beyond a
doubt of their perfect integrity and good faith in the premises. Whatever
may be the origin or cause of the 'rappings', the
ladies in whose presence they occur do not make them. We tested this
thoroughly and to our entire satisfaction."
Why did the events which took
place in Hydesville, as well as those which
followed, have such an impact?
To answer this question, we
have to compare these communications with those which took place through
the instruments of Emanuel Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davis.
In looking at both of these
prophets of the new revelation of Spiritualism, we can see clearly that
they were used to bring forth a very important message from Spirit:
survival of death. This was done specifically through the vehicles of
teaching, philosophy, and revelation. The work of these two great men was,
indeed, marvelous and very much need; however, something vital was missing:
the communication was generally one way. At that time, people could not
tangibly relate to the messages coming from spirit. You must remember that
communication with the spirits was very much a cultural and theological
shock to the people of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries;
consequently, it was very difficult for them to accept something of this
nature without having some form of direct involvement.
In contrast, the
communications which took place in Hydesville
were by no means as philosophical or as educational as were those given
through Swedenborg and Davis. Here was a man who had been murdered, trying
to communicate to a family who did not understand what was happening and
may very well not even have cared. But a very vital element was added in
these simple messages: the communications were two-way in nature. People
played an important role in these communications. Spirit out of the body
spoke to spirits in the body, and vice versa.
Therefore, through the Hydesville events, two facts were established:
communication can be a two-way experience.
communication can be used not only to teach, inspire, and give us
philosophical revelation; it can also be used to assist us in our daily
lives and to prove, or demonstrate, that there is personal and
conscious survival of death.
So, the events which transpired on March 31, 1848,
clearly represent the first stone used to build the temple of Spiritualism
upon the firm foundation previously laid down by Emanuel Swedenborg and
Andrew Jackson Davis.
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