A brief history of Spiritualism

From its beginnings in the US, to its spread around the world

Communication with the spirit world and many of the various forms of psychic phenomena associated with the Spiritualist movement are as old as man himself. From the earliest days humankind has been conscious of the existence of the spirit, or a power greater than their own with which they feel a bond.

In times past, in many different cultures, there is evidence of communication with God, Spirit or ancestors all of whom were revered and approached to bestow favours, facilitate healing, guide decisions, and support in times of stress. This was usually undertaken by the wise men and women who were sensitive to the energies and would communicate on behalf of their people, in essence, the forebears of modern day mediums.

The Greeks consulted oracles, the Native Americans had their medicine man, the Egyptians, the Assyrians and Romans all practised divination to obtain guidance from the gods. There is nothing new in the concept of a spiritual world or in the use of spiritual power to arrive at spirit communication. Indeed, the early Christian Church was founded on the basis of mediumship. Jesus is accepted to have been an excellent communicator with spirit; he was a speaker, teacher and healer, and appeared after his physical death to prove survival.

However, modern Spiritualism is generally considered to date from the events which occurred in Hydesville, New York, USA, on March 31, 1848. Two sisters, Margaretta and Catherine Fox, established intelligent communication with a spirit entity which had been responsible for noisy knockings in their home. This aroused curiosity and publicity and the numerous investigations carried out by prominent scientists and intellectuals both in America and Britain enabled mediumship to come out into the open and become established.

Within a short space of time many societies of Spiritualists were formed in America and in Britain based not merely upon the psychic phenomena produced but also upon the religious implications and philosophy within the teachings received from spirit through the communications.

Initially the movement in Britain was not structured, or organised, by a central body. However, it became apparent that there was a need to unite the many scattered churches and societies into some kind of association to present a collective front against persecution, win religious recognition and liberty of worship for its followers and mediums.

In 1890 the Spiritualists’ National Federation was created; this was largely just an annual think tank conference. Through discussions and debate it was decided to incorporate under the Companies Acts as a company not-for-profit and limited by guarantee. In July 1902, The Spiritualists National Union came into being, at which point our Seven Principles became the definition and basis of the religion and religious philosophy of the Spiritualists’ National Union.

1. The Fatherhood of God.
2. The Brotherhood of Man.
3. The Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels.
4. The continuous existence of the human soul.
5. Personal responsibility.
6. Compensation and retribution hereafter for all the good and evil deeds done on earth.
7. Eternal progress open to every human soul.

The primary object of the Spiritualists’ National Union is to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of the religion and religious philosophy of Spiritualism on the basis of the Seven Principles. It aims to unite Spiritualist societies and churches into a Spiritualist brotherhood and to secure for them full recognition as religious bodies. It encourages Spiritualist research, the certification and appointment of Ministers, lecturers, exponents and teachers, and the publication and distribution of Spiritualist literature. The Union has taken a leading part in the foundation of the International Spiritualist Federation, which unites Spiritualists of many countries.

Spiritualism is a religion of growth and we are continuing to expand and welcome new opportunities to share the truth and knowledge that we have with all of those who inquire. In recent years, although the media has not always portrayed mediums in the best possible manner, the publicity that we have received has allowed those with curious minds to find their way to our churches, centres and groups where they are always warmly welcomed and their questions answered.

Libby Clark is an Officiant of the Spiritualists National Union who has been a working Spiritualist Medium for 30 years. She is a Course Organiser / Tutor at the Arthur Findlay College, and works worldwide as a Spiritualist medium, teacher, healer, trance healer. www.libbyclark.biz
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Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

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