In Search of Spirit
The Story of Spiritualism
- "Under all circumstances keep an even mind.
- Any theory or hypothesis that fears investigation, openly manifests its' own error.
- The faculty of reason is the flower of the Spirit: it blooms and its fragrance is liberty and knowledge. Let reason not prejudice govern the principle of the mind". Andrew Jackson Davis
Bugs Bunny, the great American cartoon icon and sometime philosopher once said, "Don't take life too seriously folks cause you'll never get out alive". Bugs was right in one sense; we shouldn't take life too seriously for all the obvious reasons but it has to be taken seriously enough to realize that he was also wrong; we do get out alive and this simple fact is the foundation of Spiritualism.
Spiritualism by definition, is a philosophy, science and religion, and by this definition it moves beyond the boundaries of theology and, in fact, even religion. Most people associate Spiritualism with the phenomena of communicating with the dead and this is the common denominator which joins all Spiritualists, however it is but a small part of the equation. In its' broader context, it is a fact based reality based on individual reasoning power, personal intuition, and the interdependent relationship of all things in existence. Each individual is on a pathway of learning and, based on their individual understanding of things, is left to decide that which they will accept as truth.
As a philosophy, Spiritualism is a knowledge based process of evolution in which every form in the Universe, including the human form, is evolving from a lower to a higher form of existence. This process was initiated by a divine intelligent force and is part of a grand design in which the original condition of all things was Matter and Motion. These two conditions eventually evolved into what we know as our Universe and within this Universe our solar system and the gaseous form of our Earth, which in turn eventually evolved to a mineral form which further evolved vegetable forms, then animal forms. At some time in this process the human form evolved and, within it, an internal intelligence which is our Spirit (the Soul). After the death of the material human form this Spirit continues the evolutionary process on a pathway of progress in an eternal search for knowledge, wisdom and happiness, ever moving full circle back to the divine source of its' creation. The continued evolution of this Spirit reveals that there is a continuity of life at different levels of existence and that communication is possible between the spirits of those in the human form and those who have evolved beyond the physical, and through this communication we are provided with the opportunity to gain a level of knowledge which can make our individual lives on the earth plane more useful and meaningful and in the process contribute to the harmony of all mankind.
A simpler way to describe it is that "Spiritualism represents a process of evolution which is governed by a set of immutable, unchangeable laws. It is the philosophical, scientific and religious reasoning which leads to the knowledge and understanding that everything in existence is Divine and interdependent, and is involved in an eternal process of evolving from a lower to a higher form of existence; progressing to higher levels of the purity and perfection of that form; always moving closer, through an eternity of time, to the source of its creation. Either of the two represents the essence of Spiritualism as a philosophy.
As a science, Spiritualism embraces the fact that the Spirit in its' human form can communicate with Spirits who continue life on a different plane of existence often referred to as the Spirit World. It is commonly demonstrated through people, known as mediums, who have the ability to establish a connection that results in phenomena with either mental or physical characteristics. (click on "Mediumship"). Although this ability has been well documented throughout history, the first widely accepted demonstration of communication in modern times occurred in 1848 in the small village of Hydesville, NY where two sisters established communication with a pedlar who had been murdered in their small cottage five years previously, an event which is acknowledged as the Birth of Modern Spiritualism. Since then this aspect of communication has been subjected to extensive clinical and scientific investigation to confirm its' authenticity and to date, although there is no “scientific” proof, there is a substantial body of evidence which points to its' legitimacy.
As a religion, Spiritualism acknowledges a reverence for and the existence of a divine first cause; sometimes referred to as an Infinite Intelligence, Infinite Spirit, "that Great Positive Mind of the Universes", or simply as God. It has no theological basis, doctrine or dogma but does embrace the common elements of goodness found within all religions. Religious practices within the Spiritualist community can differ in keeping with the individualistic nature of each community's understanding but commonly are centered on communication, healing, and philosophical discourse.
The fact of the matter is that it took 23 years after the events at Hydesville for Modern Spiritualism to evolve into the religious movement as we know it today. In the beginning it was more a loosely based movement of social activists populated by free thinkers, It is also important to recognize that it has uniquely American beginnings defined by a series of events that could only have happened in the land of the original revolutionaries; it was itself the product of a religious revolution. And it was also the result of an evolutionary process that took place over a period of time with three significant moments in its' development each directly related to those three elements of the philosophy, science and religion. The first to evolve was the philosophy, followed by the science, then the religious aspect.
The practices of Spiritualism are based on communication with the Spirit World and consequently many people are of the opinion that the its' philosophy evolved through communications received from advanced Souls in this realm. They are right in one respect; it did come from the Spirit World but not through messages or any form of communication that we commonly associate with Spiritualism. It actually originated with one man who had a very special relationship with the Spiritual Universe and through it provided the basis of the philosophy which formed the foundation of Modern Spiritualism. He popularized the movement to the extent that he has been called the "John the Baptist" of Modern Spiritualism and eventually he became known as the Philisophical Father of Modern Spiritualism. His name is Andrew Jackson Davis, the man simply known as "Jackson".
Andrew Jackson Davis lived on this earth plane from 1826 to 1910. He was born on August 11, 1826 in the small hamlet of Blooming Grove, NY, in the Hudson Valley north of New York City not too far from what is now known as the Westpoint Military Academy. His parents were poor; his mother was a devout Christian, very superstitious and arguably clairvoyant and his father was an uneducated shoemaker who had a drinking problem. He didn't receive much of an education and wasn't encourage to do so, in fact it is said that his total schooling amounted to about five months. So you can understand that he really didn't start off well and he was clumsy; his father said "he didn't have enough gumption to make a whistle", his teacher called him a "blockhead" and his sisters called him a "dummy". He was so unsure of himself and so introspective that he thought that the only thing he was really suited for and had any real capability for, was doing "nothing". They were all to be proven quite wrong for this young man was destined to embark on a remarkable journey that would eventually lead him to a strange new world and the beginnings of a religion which some say embraced nearly half the population of the United States.
His journey actually began at the age of ten when he began to dabble in hypnotism and a strange phenomenon occurred. When he was hypnotized, it was discovered that he actually went into a trance and was able to manifest surprising powers of clairvoyance yet he couldn't remember a thing afterwards. When he was in these trance conditions he could see objects placed in other rooms or hidden in other locations. While blindfolded, he could read the title of a book place in the closet of an adjoining room or a message written on a piece of paper hidden in someone's pocket; in fact he became quite a curiousity. He also developed an unusual sensitivity that allowed him to see the human body in a transparent condition, visualize all the organs and then diagnose and prescribe remedies to medical disorders; it is now called medical clairvoyance, a very rare gift which remained with him for the rest of his life.
In 1844 when he was 17, he had an experience that would change his life. On the night of March 6, a mysterious power overtook him seeming to thrust him through time and space. He reported to have travelled throughout the night to the Catskill Mountains about 40 miles from his home where he had a vision of a strange new world; his introduction to the Spirit World, and where he also met the spirits of two historical figures who were to play a determining part in his later development. One was a Greek physician named Galen who had lived from 129-199 AD and the other, the Swedish seer and philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg who had lived from 1688-1772. Galen gave him a symbolic magical staff which represented healing power, and Swedenborg committed to instruct and provide him with guidance. This encounter also gave him a very specific instruction which would become his life's motto and a mantra for all Spiritualists: "Under all circumstances keep an even mind"
Sometimes it's difficult to separate fact from fiction; was this experience a vision, was it an actual levitation, or did he walk the 40 miles in a trance condition? No one knows, not even Davis was sure what happened, but it was the single defining moment of his life; later in his life he determined that it must have been a mentally induced clairvoyant experience but, regardless, the effect on him was tremendous and he redirected his life's focus eventually leading to the career that he became so famous for. It was also the first phase in a process that allowed him to do away with hypnosis as a method of reaching this level of attunement.
Shortly after this period Davis' clairvoyance began to change and he started to receive spiritual revelations. It is interesting to note that he claimed these revelations were not received from spirit nor were they any form of mediumship, but were the direct result of his own mental and clairvoyant perceptions. Not too much later it came to the point where he no longer required hypnosis and his trance conditions would merge with his normal faculties so that he was able move to the other world at will. He claimed that they weren't trance states at all because he always retained his consciousness and control, it was simply a process of tuning his mind to the Spiritual Universe. He called it "The Superior Condition"; a normal growth of the mind and a spiritual development to which anyone could progress if they put their mind to it.
And it was but a short time later in 1845 in the City of New York that this young man achieved this Superior Condition and visited the Spiritual Universe and, in a sense, went back to the beginning of time, to the dawn of the Universe, and started a journey that took him to a startling conclusion. It was an amazing process that laid the groundwork for Spiritualism. He described his experiences and observations through a series of trance lectures which were transcribed into his first book: The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations and A Voice to Mankind.
It is the founding philosophy of Spiritualism. It took a little over 15 months to complete and was dictated over 157 separate sessions each lasting 3-4 hours; it is so complex and detailed that, considering his age and education, you might think it was a gigantic hoax. But the whole process was witnessed by a host of independent observers; in fact there were three official witnesses, 23 secondary witnesses and 267 occasional witnesses, many of whom were hostile, but all of them confirmed that there was no indication of fraud.
The first part, The Principles of Nature, explores the nature of the Mind and Matter and the principles and laws which govern them. It explains how the Universe began and that in the beginning the original condition of all things was Matter and Motion and from these two conditions all else evolved with everything being subject to a set of immutable, unchangeable laws; beginning with the one primary principle of nature; The Law of Eternal or Perpetual Motion" and from this flows the other principles or laws. The Law of Eternal Motion produces the Law of Eternal Progression through the Law of Cause and Effect and the Law of Attraction, and the Law of Reproduction, which in turn are governed by the Laws of Eternal Justice, Universal Goodness, and Universal Truth. These are commonly known as Natural Law the end result and sole purpose of which is Universal harmony.
It also explains that everything that exists has a duality to its' makeup, that is all things consist of an inner and an outer part. The outer side, the material part is simply the body for a spiritual inner part which is the true realty. Each side an entity unto itself yet inseparable from the other.
Humans though have an extension of this duality; there is a trinity in our makeup; we call it "The Trinity of the Soul." We have three components to our whole self; we have a material body which is our flesh and bones and organs, all simple material substances and this material body is simply a vessel which houses our spiritual body which constitutes our sensations and senses, sight, hearing, touch and taste. This in turn houses our Spirit, our mind and intelligence and this is the real us, the inner part which is in a continual state of progression. And when our material body has served its purpose and goes through the process called death, it is this intelligence of the Soul (the spiritual body and the Spirit) which graduates on to the Spirit World. They leave the material body through the center of the intellect in the form of an intense bright light and transfigure into the ethereal form of spirit to continue on its' pathway of progression.
The second part, Nature's Divine Revelations, is a far reaching philosophical explanation of the uses of the principles and laws described in the first section and which govern the whole system of Nature. It details the physical origins of the Universe and its' solar systems; it provides a geological account on the makeup of our Earth and how it was formed in such detailed terms that it astounded the scientific community of the day. It explained the process of natural evolution a dozen years before Charles Darwin's "Origin of the Species" was published, and even revealed the presence of the planet Neptune before its scientific discovery. A strong case could be made that it even touched on the concept of DNA. And this section finally ends with a remarkable revelation of the existence of the Spirit World thus starting us on the road to understanding our life and the ultimate purpose of our Spirit. It explains the nature of death, the relationship of the spiritual world to the natural world and describes in detail the manner of life in the spirit world. We are then provided with a description the soul and how it continues its' existence after the death of the physical, very succinctly laying the groundwork for the science to emerge.
And it was this work that joined Davis to Spiritualism and provided the foundation for the science and religion of Modern Spiritualism. It was written before there were any demonstrations of spirit phenomena or communication, such as the events at Hydesville. But even here, it could be said that Davis had a premonition of this event for in The Principles of Nature he wrote, "spirits commune with one another while one is in the body and the other in the higher spheres and the truth will ere long present itself in the form of a living demonstration and the world would then hail with delight the ushering in of that era when the interiors of men will be opened, and the spiritual communion will be established." And later, on the memorable evening of March 31, 1848, he wrote in his diary that he heard a "tender and strong" voice tell him, "Brother, the good work has begun, behold a living demonstration is born". That exact same night the Fox sisters established their first communication and the era of scientific Spiritualism began.
One of the interesting things about the beginnings of Spiritualism is that all aspects of it make for a very good read; each episode is by itself a very good story and this is no less true of the events at Hydesville and the Birth of Modern Spiritualism. We have all known the reputation of certain houses to be haunted with strange goings-on; well Spiritualism, as we know it today, began with a house being haunted and the people in it hearing raps from Spirit.
This particular house was located in the small village of Hydesville near the town of Newark in Wayne County, New York, about 30 miles southeast of Rochester. Several families had previously lived in the house; all had been disturbed by hearing "strange noise" and all had moved out because of them. Eventually a farmer named John David Fox and his family came to live in it; his wife Margaret and two daughters, Margaretta, age 15 and Catherine, known as Kate, age 12. They too were kept awake at night by these sounds which sometimes would resemble footsteps or other loud knockings. On other occasions the furniture would be moved around when no one was present, or the sheets would be pulled off the girls when they were in bed sleeping; another time they felt a cold hand touch their faces.This went on for several months and eventually the girls got used to the disturbances, in fact they took great fun in the sounds and started to treat them as entertainment. Then one night on Friday, March 31, 1848 as they were getting ready for bed the knocks became louder than ever and they decided to have some fun and play games with the invisible knocker. Catherine finally said: " Here, Mr. Split-foot, do as I do," and she clapped her hands and an instant reply followed. Then Margaretta said: " Now do as I do -- count one, two, three, four," and she clapped her hands, and a response with four raps was heard. They called their mother then finally Kate made a number of noiseless movements with her forefinger and thumb and the unseen communicator gave a corresponding number of raps prompting Kate to cry out: "Look mother; it can see as well as hear." Mrs. Fox then put a question asking the knocker to rap the different ages of her children and instantly the correct knocks were given. They now knew that there was an intelligence behind the knocks.
The neighbours were then called and spent a long time in the bedroom asking questions and receiving answers. It didn't take too long for the word to spread and hundreds of people began to converge on the little farmhouse. It was eventually determined through a method of encoding these raps that the invisible knocker was the Spirit of a peddler named Charles Rosna who five years previously had been murdered in that bedroom for his money, the large sum of five hundred dollars. The memory of his murder had bound him to that bedroom where he had been trying for over four years to make his presence known; his skeleton was eventually found in the basement. It was determined that the murderer was a previous tenant, John Bell, who was never charged because his accuser was a "ghost".
The story did not end here though because the curious throngs got larger and so disturbing that Mrs. Fox took the girls to live with their older married sister, Leah, in Rochester but the knockings continued there. The sisters came to be known as "The Rochester Knockers" and the visiting crowds got larger and sometimes hostile. And the knocks also developed a different meaning because it was determined that other spirit people were also present and they gave instructions that a public demonstration should be given so that the world should know the truths of spirit communion; that there is no death. After much resistance they finally agreed but before "going public" they held several private circles to test the strength of the raps, and as soon as they were loud enough to be heard in a public hall, they engaged the largest public venue in Rochester, The Corinthian Hall and the rest, as they say, is history. Mediumship and the era of science within Spiritualism was born. (see Mediumship)
It has been said that the first requirement of a religion is that people must believe in certain things for them to have any sort of mental peace. In the movement of Spiritualism it was not until 23 years after Hydesville that an event would unfold to fulfill this requirement.The ensuing years after that momentous night in the Fox cottage were exciting ones as the Spiritualist movement evolved into a loose combination of ordinary people engaging in circles and seances with dramatic evidence of spirit phenomena, a virtual army of female trance lecturers who traveled America giving demonstrations of spirit control and knowledge, and a social activist movement that championed freedom and social justice for all. The human need for religious structure also saw people of like interests gather together for religious worship but there was no formal religious impetus or organization, nor was there a general will to bring the movement together. Several attempts were made but all failed.
In the early years of the movement there was an English woman by the name of Emma Hardinge Britten who was one of the most well known and respected mediums in the circle of the early pioneers. She was introduced to Spiritualism after coming to the United States in 1856 then spent the rest of her life promoting its' cause. She became one of the leading proponents of the movement traveling all over the United States, Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand promoting the truths of Spiritualism and its' practices. Her mediumistic talents included clairvoyance, physical phenomena, healing, and inspirational speaking. She was one of the most ardent soldiers in that army of trance lecturers and well known for her inspirational addresses which were given under the control of spirit before large audiences with the subject matter generally chosen by a select committee from the audience and not known to her until just before she was to give the talk. She was also destined to provide the focus for Spiritualism to evolve into a religious movement.
Mrs. Britten was in great demand as a lead medium in various circles where small gatherings would sit to communicate with their spirit friends. In the City of New York on a January night in 1871 she was invited to attend such a sitting, little knowing that this event was to play a significant role in changing the face of Spiritualism. Interestingly, the circle was to be in the house of one of the original Fox sisters, Leah, who by this time was married to a William Underhill and now living in New York where Spiritualism thrived. Another of the sitters was a prominent figure of the day, Robert Dale Owen, who together with his father Robert Owen a wealthy British industrialist and social reformer, had emigrated to the USA from England in 1825 to establish a new social order. The father became disenchanted and returned home in 1827 living there until his death in 1858, but his son stayed on to play an important role in American political life as well as becoming an ardent Spiritualist.
It was not uncommon in those days for spirit circles to be lively events with dramatic physical demonstrations and manifestations of spirit forms accompanied by direct voice phenomena. This circle was to be no different but for one significant appearance, and that was the spirit of Robert Owen who came through as a representative of the Spirit World to bequeath a message to mankind; a set of principles which suggested the whole of humanity take into consideration as they progressed through life. Spiritualists of the day rallied round them for these simple words provided that basic requirement of a religion; something to believe in, and they provided a focus for Spiritualists to organize and coalesce into a religious movement. They are known as the Principles of Spiritualism. The circle was now complete; Spiritualism was a philosophy, science, and a religion.
The Original Principles of Spiritualism
The Father of God - The Brotherhood of Man - The Immortality of the Soul and it's Personal Characteristics - Proven facts of Communion Between Departed Spirits and Mortals - Personal Responsibility with Compensation and Retribution Hereafter for all the Good or Evil Deeds Done Here on Earth - A Path of Eternal Progress Open to Every Human Soul Who Wills to Tread it by the Path of Eternal Good
The Truth of Spiritualism
The Truth of Spiritualism is that it is but a twelve letter word which represents a process; a process in which an individual Spirit is born onto this earth plane to continue a journey in search of the knowledge and wisdom which will lead it to a level of personal happiness; a happiness which can only be fully achieved through usefulness, by being of use to itself and to others. Whether it existed prior to its' present existence is of no consequence because that is a situation over which it has no control, but whether it will continue to exist after leaving this plane is of great consequence since it has the ability to chose the pathway upon which it will journey. It has no other responsibility than to live each day of its' journey having the right thoughts, doing the right things and living the right life, simply because it is the right thing to do.
- "Within the extremes of spiritual practice lies the reality of Spirit; the essence of love and goodness.
- Trust your intuition and do the right. The love of Spirit will be with you on your journey" Al Namon