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31 July 2007updated 27 Sep 2015 2:32am

A brief history of Spiritualism

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

By Libby Clark

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.

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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.

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