The Spiritualist Church arose from the Spiritualist movement which began in the 1840s in America.
Spiritualist Churches are found around the world, but are more common in English-speaking countries. In North America, many churches are affiliated with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches and in the UK with the Spiritualists National Union.
The historically separate African American based but not formally organized Spiritual Church Movement also counts many spiritual churches among its loose membership.
The origin of mediumship is usually linked to the Fox Sisters at Hydesville, New York in 1848, but believers date the unofficial beginning of American Spiritualismto the Shakers and similar religious groups. By 1853 the movement had reached San Francisco and London, and by 1860 was worldwide. The Fox family remained very active in Spiritualism for many years.
Other notable Spiritualists were Mercy Cadwallader, who became a sort of missionary for the movement, and Emma Hardinge Britten ,who wrote many books on mediumship and its place in American popular and religious culture.
In 1853 the first Spiritualist Church in the British Isles was established by David Richmond at Keighley in Yorkshire. In 1855 the first Spiritualist newspaper in Britain, The Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph, was published, and by the 1870s there were numerous Spiritualist societies and churches throughout the US and Britain.
There was little in the way of national organisation of mediums in Britain or the USA although some regions of Britain had organised Federations that might have up to thirty circles of similar beliefs, and in 1891 the National Federation of Spiritualists (NFS) came into existence and grew
quite large before its name change to theSpriritualist National Union (SNU) in 1902.
British spiritualists of this time were often adherents of the temperance and anti-capital punishment lobbys, often held radical political views and were frequently vegetarians. A few dabbled in Women's Rights and a tiny minority espoused Free Love: the popular perception of Spiritualists was often of radicals in the Victorian period.
Two Worlds" was the major British magazine of spiritualism and had a fairly large circulation, and it advertised the existence of local circles. Trance mediumship flourished and table turning was a popular craze, reputedly even reaching Buckingham Palace. D.D. Home one of the greatest mediums did much to make spiritualism fashionable by his high profile activities, and it was common among everyone from the aristocracy down.
There can be no doubt that there were many fake mediums practicing in the period, exposed by both the Spiritualists, and the fledgling Society for Physical Research, founded in 1882, whose members spent much time investigating the phenomena.
By 1924 there were 309 Churches who were affiliated to the SNU or one of the many other organisations. A new magazine, Psychic News, had joined Two Worlds on the newsstands of Britain. American spiritualism continued to exist but was more individualistic and anti-organisation than its British counterpart.
From 1920 to 1938 there was the British College of Psychic Studies (1920 to 1947) led by Mr and Mrs Mackenzie in London, but more successful was the Arther Findlay College at Stansted which continues to today.
In 1957 Spiritualist Churches in Britain divided between the Spiritualist National Union , influenced by Arthur Findlay's beliefs and holding spiritualism to be a religion, and the circles of Christian Spiritualism, who hold it to be a denomination of Christianity. This schism is a major break, as the two groups hold very different theological beliefs.
National Spiritualist churches form the large majority and are affiliated to The Spiritualists' National Union (S.N.U.), including the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain.
The SNU also has some member churches in other English speaking countries. Christian Spiritualist Churches are mainly affiliated to The Greater World Christian Spiritualist Association.
There are Spiritualist churches in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Republic of South Africa and groups in many countries including Japan, all Scandinavian countries, Korea, Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Iceland.
Many such groups and also individuals, are members of International Spiritualist Federation ( ISF ) which was founded in Belgium in 1923 and is an umbrella organisation for all spiritualists. They hold Congresses every two years in different parts of the world. Other Spiritualist groups in the UK include The White Eagle Lodge, founded by the medium Grace Cooke,
The Institute of Spiritualist Mediums and the Noah's Ark Society , that focuses on physical phenomena only.
Styles of Worship
Spiritualist churches are places of worship for the practitioners of Spiritualism.
The Spiritualist service is usually conducted by a medium. There is an opening prayer, an address, hymns and finally a demonstration of mediumship. Through engaging their intuition, they attempt to contact with the spirits of the dead. This is known as opening up.
In Britain especially, such mediums are trained to produce clear evidence that the spirit contacted is the person they claim it to be before going on to give any "message" from the spirit. Such evidence can be details of where they lived, including addresses sometimes, particulars of illnesses suffered and notable events in their lives, often known only to the person in the audience being given the information.
The standard of mediumship varies greatly but the best do produce startlingly accurate information about the spirit with whom they are in contact.
Spirtualists believe that we all die physically; and that some aspect of the personality or mind survives this and continues to exist on a spirit plane. Spiritualists use the word Spirit as a plural which describes all minds and entities who have entered into the spirit world.
The purpose of the medium is to provide some evidence that a human has survived by describing the person to their surviving relatives.
The degree of accuracy with which the deceased are described goes some way to convincing the living relatives and friends that the medium has some contact with the spirit. Spiritualists describe this as Survival Evidence.
Spiritualist Healing is a form of mediumship which involves a technique of directing healing energy to the patient from a higher source.
The healer uses his or her hands to affect repair of damaged or diseased tissue. All or part of the patient's good health is sometimes restored. There have been a number of outstanding and famous practitioners of spirit communication connected to Spiritualist churches.
One of the principal advocates of Spiritualism was the 20th century British writer Arthur Findlay. Findlay was a magistrate, farmer and businessman who left his mansion house as place for the study and advancement of psychic science. This has now become a psychic college in Stansted, England and is run by the S.N.U.
Mediums develop their ability by sitting regularly in development circles with other student psychics. Meditation usually plays a large role in Spiritualist practice. Meditation is used to calm the "voices" of modern, hectic life so that the practitioner can better hear his or her guide.
Meditation often includes the breathing practices of Buddhist meditation ( anapanasat ) and may also include the idea of chakras.
The Spiritualist may also focus on the tenets of their chosen religion to help them attain a higher existence. These may include standard prayers ( Hail Mary, Shema, Yisrael or Salah etc. ), focusing on the name of God ( Jesus, YHWH or Allah etc. ) or other aspects of a holy nature.
Like most meditation techniques, imaging (intensely imagining a place or situation) is common. There are specific imagings used to "meet" one's guide, connect with those who have died, receive protection or support from God or simply calming the mind.
Many Spiritualists draw inspiration from other religious traditions, most notably Christianity, but also from faiths with a deep mystical tradition such as Sufism, the Kabbalah, Hinduism and Buddhism. Some Spiritualists believe in the idea of the universe as the creator, and don't necessarily follow any specific religion.
In 1899, a six-article "Declaration of Principles" was adopted. Three other articles were added at a later date. Because of its significance in setting the beliefs of Modern Spiritualism, all nine articles are quoted in full below. The influence of Unitarianism is obvious in the definition of God in article one.
In Australia these were reduced and modernised to "The Seven Principles"
Declaration of Principles
l. We believe in Infinite Intelligence;
2. We believe that the phenomena of Nature, both physical and spiritual, are the expression of
3. We affirm that a correct understanding of such expression and living in accordance therewith
constitute true religion;
4. We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change
5. We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the
phenomena of Spiritualism;
6. We believe that the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: "Whatsoever ye would
that others should do unto you, do ye also unto them." (Principles 1-6 adopted in Chicago,
Illinois, 1899. Principle 6 revised in Ronkonkorma, New York, 2004.)
7. We affirm the moral responsibility of the individual, and that he makes his own happiness or
unhappiness as he obeys or disobeys Nature's physical and spiritual laws;
8. We affirm that the doorway to reformation is never closed against any soul here or hereafter;
( Principles 7-8 adopted in Rochester, New York, 1909 and revised in Rochester, New York,
9. We affirm that the precept of Prophesy and Healing are Divine attributes proven through
Mediumship . ( Principle 9 adopted in St Louis, Missouri, 1944, revised in Oklahoma City,
1983 and in Westfield, New Jersey, 1998.)