Spiritualism is a religious movement based on the belief that the spirits of the dead exist and have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. The afterlife, or the "spirit world", is seen by spiritualists, not as a static place, but as one in which spirits continue to evolve. These two beliefs—that contact with spirits is possible, and that spirits are more advanced than humans—lead spiritualists to a third belief: that spirits are capable of providing useful knowledge about moral and ethical issues, as well as about the nature of God. Some spiritualists will speak of a concept which they refer to as "spirit guides"—specific spirits, often contacted, who are relied upon for spiritual guidance. Spiritism, a branch of spiritualism developed by Allan Kardec and today practiced mostly in Continental Europe and Latin America, especially in Brazil, emphasizes reincarnation.
Spiritualism developed and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-speaking countries. By 1897, spiritualism was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe, mostly drawn from the middle and upper classes.
Spiritualism flourished for a half century without canonical texts or formal organization, attaining cohesion through periodicals, tours by trance lecturers, camp meetings, and the missionary activities of accomplished mediums. Many prominent spiritualists were women, and like most spiritualists, supported causes such as the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage. By the late 1880s the credibility of the informal movement had weakened due to accusations of fraud perpetrated by mediums, and formal spiritualist organizations began to appear. Spiritualism is currently practiced primarily through various denominational spiritualist churches in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Spiritualists believe in the possibility of communication with the spirits of dead people, whom they regard as "discarnate humans". They believe that spirit mediums are gifted to carry on such communication, but that anyone may become a medium through study and practice. They believe that spirits are capable of growth and perfection, progressing through higher spheres or planes, and that the afterlife is not a static state, but one in which spirits evolve. The two beliefs—that contact with spirits is possible, and that spirits may dwell on a higher plane—lead to a third belief, that spirits can provide knowledge about moral and ethical issues, as well as about God and the afterlife. Many believers therefore speak of "spirit guides"—specific spirits, often contacted, and relied upon for worldly and spiritual guidance.
According to Spiritualists, anyone may receive spirit messages, but formal communication sessions (séances) are held by mediums, who claim thereby to receive information about the afterlife.
As an informal movement, Spiritualism does not have a defined set of rules, but various Spiritualist organizations within the USA have adopted variations on some or all of a "Declaration of Principles" developed between 1899 and 1944 and revised as recently as 2004. In October 1899, a six article "Declaration of Principles" was adopted by the National Spiritualist Association (NSA) at a convention in Chicago, Illinois. An additional two principles were added by the NSA in October 1909, at a convention in Rochester, New York. Finally, in October 1944, a ninth principle was adopted by the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, at a convention in St. Louis, Missouri.
In the UK, the main organisation representing Spiritualism is the Spiritualists' National Union (SNU), whose teachings are based on the Seven Principles.
Spiritualism first appeared in the 1840s in the "Burned-over District" of upstate New York, where earlier religious movements such as Millerism and Mormonism had emerged during the Second Great Awakening.
This region of New York State was an environment in which many thought direct communication with God or angels was possible, and that God would not behave harshly—for example, that God would not condemn unbaptised infants to an eternity in Hell.
In this environment, the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and the teachings of Franz Mesmer (1734–1815) provided an example for those seeking direct personal knowledge of the afterlife. Swedenborg, who claimed to communicate with spirits while awake, described the structure of the spirit world. Two features of his view particularly resonated with the early Spiritualists: first, that there is not a single Hell and a single Heaven, but rather a series of higher and lower heavens and hells; second, that spirits are intermediates between God and humans, so that the divine sometimes uses them as a means of communication. Although Swedenborg warned against seeking out spirit contact, his works seem to have inspired in others the desire to do so.
Swedenborg was formerly a highly regarded inventor and scientist, achieving several engineering innovations and studying physiology and anatomy. Then, “in 1741, he also began to have a series of intense mystical experiences, dreams, and visions, claiming that he had been called by God to reform Christianity and introduce a new church."
Mesmer did not contribute religious beliefs, but he brought a technique, later known as hypnotism, that it was claimed could induce trances and cause subjects to report contact with supernatural beings. There was a great deal of professional showmanship inherent to demonstrations of Mesmerism, and the practitioners who lectured in mid-19th-century North America sought to entertain their audiences as well as to demonstrate methods for personal contact with the divine.
Perhaps the best known of those who combined Swedenborg and Mesmer in a peculiarly North American synthesis was Andrew Jackson Davis, who called his system the "harmonial philosophy". Davis was a practising Mesmerist, faith healer and clairvoyant from Blooming Grove, New York. He was also strongly influenced by the socialist theories of Fourierism. His 1847 book, The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind, dictated to a friend while in a trance state, eventually became the nearest thing to a canonical work in a Spiritualist movement whose extreme individualism precluded the development of a single coherent worldview.
Spiritualists often set March 31, 1848, as the beginning of their movement. On that date, Kate and Margaret Fox, of Hydesville, New York, reported that they had made contact with a spirit that was later claimed to be the spirit of a murdered peddler whose body was found in the house, though no record of such a person was ever found. The spirit was said to have communicated through rapping noises, audible to onlookers. The evidence of the senses appealed to practically-minded Americans, and the Fox sisters became a sensation. As the first celebrity mediums, the sisters quickly became famous for their public séances in New York. However, in 1888 the Fox sisters admitted that this "contact" with the spirit was a hoax, though shortly afterward they recanted that admission.
Amy and Isaac Post, Hicksite Quakers from Rochester, New York, had long been acquainted with the Fox family, and took the two girls into their home in the late spring of 1848. Immediately convinced of the veracity of the sisters' communications, they became early converts and introduced the young mediums to their circle of radical Quaker friends.
Consequently, many early participants in Spiritualism were radical Quakers and others involved in the mid-nineteenth-century reforming movement. These reformers were uncomfortable with more prominent churches because those churches did little to fight slavery and even less to advance the cause of women's rights.
Such links with reform movements, often radically socialist, had already been prepared in the 1840s, as the example of Andrew Jackson Davis shows. After 1848, many socialists became ardent spiritualists or occultists. Socialist ideas, especially in the Fourierist vein, exerted a decisive influence on Kardec and other Spiritists.
The most popular trance lecturer prior to the American Civil War was Cora L. V. Scott (1840–1923). Young and beautiful, her appearance on stage fascinated men. Her audiences were struck by the contrast between her physical girlishness and the eloquence with which she spoke of spiritual matters, and found in that contrast support for the notion that spirits were speaking through her. Cora married four times, and on each occasion adopted her husband's last name. During her period of greatest activity, she was known as Cora Hatch.
Another famous woman Spiritualist was Achsa W. Sprague, who was born November 17, 1827, in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. At the age of 20, she became ill with rheumatic fever and credited her eventual recovery to intercession by spirits. An extremely popular trance lecturer, she traveled about the United States until her death in 1861. Sprague was an abolitionist and an advocate of women's rights.
Yet another prominent Spiritualist and trance medium prior to the Civil War was Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825–1875), a man of mixed race, who also played a part in the abolitionist movement. Nevertheless, many abolitionists and reformers held themselves aloof from the Spiritualist movement; among the skeptics was the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Another social reform movement with significant Spiritualist involvement was the effort to improve conditions of Native Americans. As Kathryn Troy notes in a study of Indian ghosts in seances:
Undoubtedly, on some level Spiritualists recognized the Indian spectres that appeared at seances as a symbol of the sins and subsequent guilt of the United States in its dealings with Native Americans. Spiritualists were literally haunted by the presence of Indians. But for many that guilt was not assuaged: rather, in order to confront the haunting and rectify it, they were galvanized into action. The political activism of Spiritualists on behalf of Indians was thus the result of combining white guilt and fear of divine judgment with a new sense of purpose and responsibility.
In the years following the sensation that greeted the Fox sisters, demonstrations of mediumship (séances and automatic writing, for example) proved to be a profitable venture, and soon became popular forms of entertainment and spiritual catharsis. The Fox sisters were to earn a living this way and others would follow their lead. Showmanship became an increasingly important part of spiritualism, and the visible, audible, and tangible evidence of spirits escalated as mediums competed for paying audiences. As independent investigating commissions repeatedly established, most notably the 1887 report of the Seybert Commission, fraud was widespread, and some of these cases were prosecuted in the courts.
Despite numerous instances of chicanery, the appeal of Spiritualism was strong. Prominent in the ranks of its adherents were those grieving the death of a loved one. Many families during the time of the American Civil War had seen their men go off and never return, and images of the battlefield, produced through the new medium of photography, demonstrated that their loved ones had not only died in overwhelmingly huge numbers, but horribly as well. One well known case is that of Mary Todd Lincoln who, grieving the loss of her son, organized séances in the White House which were attended by her husband, President Abraham Lincoln. The surge of Spiritualism during this time, and later during World War I, was a direct response to those massive battlefield casualties.
In addition, the movement appealed to reformers, who fortuitously found that the spirits favoured such causes du jour as abolition of slavery, and equal rights for women. It also appealed to some who had a materialist orientation and rejected organized religion. In 1854 the utopian socialist Robert Owen was converted to Spiritualism after "sittings" with the American medium Maria B. Hayden (credited with introducing Spiritualism to England); Owen made a public profession of his new faith in his publication The Rational quarterly review and later wrote a pamphlet, The future of the Human race; or great glorious and future revolution to be effected through the agency of departed spirits of good and superior men and women.
A number of scientists who investigated the phenomenon also became converts. They included chemist and physicist William Crookes (1832–1919), evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) and physicist Sir Oliver Lodge. Nobel laureate Pierre Curie was impressed by the mediumistic performances of Eusapia Palladino and advocated their scientific study. Other prominent adherents included journalist and pacifist William T. Stead (1849–1912) and physician and author Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930).
Doyle, who lost his son Kingsley in World War I, was also a member of the Ghost Club. Founded in London in 1862, its focus was the scientific study of alleged paranormal activities in order to prove (or refute) the existence of paranormal phenomena. Famous members of the club included Charles Dickens, Sir William Crookes, Sir William F. Barrett, and Harry Price. The Paris séances of Eusapia Palladino were attended by an enthusiastic Pierre Curie and a dubious Marie Curie. The celebrated New York City physician, John Franklin Gray, was a prominent spiritualist.
The claims of Spiritualists and others as to the reality of spirits were investigated by the Society for Psychical Research, founded in London in 1882. The society set up a Committee on Haunted Houses.
Prominent investigators who exposed cases of fraud came from a variety of backgrounds, including professional researchers such as Frank Podmore of the Society for Psychical Research and Harry Price of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, and professional conjurers such as John Nevil Maskelyne. Maskelyne exposed the Davenport brothers by appearing in the audience during their shows and explaining how the trick was done.
The psychical researcher Hereward Carrington exposed fraudulent mediums' tricks, such as those used in slate-writing, table-turning, trumpet mediumship, materializations, sealed-letter reading, and spirit photography. The skeptic Joseph McCabe, in his book Is Spiritualism Based on Fraud? (1920), documented many fraudulent mediums and their tricks.
Magicians and writers on magic have a long history of exposing the fraudulent methods of mediumship. During the 1920s, professional magician Harry Houdini undertook a well-publicised campaign to expose fraudulent mediums; he was adamant that "Up to the present time everything that I have investigated has been the result of deluded brains." Other magician or magic-author debunkers of spiritualist mediumship have included Chung Ling Soo, Henry Evans, Julien Proskauer, Fulton Oursler, Joseph Dunninger, and Joseph Rinn.
In February 1921 Thomas Lynn Bradford, in an experiment designed to ascertain the existence of an afterlife, committed suicide in his apartment by blowing out the pilot light on his heater and turning on the gas. After that date, no further communication from him was received by an associate whom he had recruited for the purpose.
The movement quickly spread throughout the world; though only in the United Kingdom did it become as widespread as in the United States. Spiritualist organizations were formed in America and Europe, such as the London Spiritualist Alliance, which published a newspaper called The Light, featuring articles such as "Evenings at Home in Spiritual Séance", "Ghosts in Africa" and "Chronicles of Spirit Photography", advertisements for "Mesmerists" and patent medicines, and letters from readers about personal contact with ghosts. In Britain, by 1853, invitations to tea among the prosperous and fashionable often included table-turning, a type of séance in which spirits were said to communicate with people seated around a table by tilting and rotating the table. One prominent convert was the French pedagogist Allan Kardec (1804–1869), who made the first attempt to systematise the movement's practices and ideas into a consistent philosophical system. Kardec's books, written in the last 15 years of his life, became the textual basis of spiritism, which became widespread in Latin countries. In Brazil, Kardec's ideas are embraced by many followers today. In Puerto Rico, Kardec's books were widely read by the upper classes, and eventually gave birth to a movement known as mesa blanca (white table).
Spiritualism was mainly a middle- and upper-class movement, and especially popular with women. American Spiritualists would meet in private homes for séances, at lecture halls for trance lectures, at state or national conventions, and at summer camps attended by thousands. Among the most significant of the camp meetings were Camp Etna, in Etna, Maine; Onset Bay Grove, in Onset, Massachusetts; Lily Dale, in western New York State; Camp Chesterfield, in Indiana; the Wonewoc Spiritualist Camp, in Wonewoc, Wisconsin; and Lake Pleasant, in Montague, Massachusetts. In founding camp meetings, the Spiritualists appropriated a form developed by U.S. Protestant denominations in the early nineteenth century. Spiritualist camp meetings were located most densely in New England, but were also established across the upper Midwest. Cassadaga, Florida, is the most notable Spiritualist camp meeting in the southern states.
A number of Spiritualist periodicals appeared in the nineteenth century, and these did much to hold the movement together. Among the most important were the weeklies the Banner of Light (Boston), the Religio-Philosophical Journal (Chicago), Mind and Matter (Philadelphia), the Spiritualist (London), and the Medium (London). Other influential periodicals were the Revue Spirite (France), Le Messager (Belgium), Annali dello Spiritismo (Italy), El Criterio Espiritista (Spain), and the Harbinger of Light (Australia). By 1880, there were about three dozen monthly Spiritualist periodicals published around the world. These periodicals differed a great deal from one another, reflecting the great differences among Spiritualists. Some, such as the British Spiritual Magazine were Christian and conservative, openly rejecting the reform currents so strong within Spiritualism. Others, such as Human Nature, were pointedly non-Christian and supportive of socialism and reform efforts. Still others, such as the Spiritualist, attempted to view Spiritualist phenomena from a scientific perspective, eschewing discussion on both theological and reform issues.
Books on the supernatural were published for the growing middle class, such as 1852's Mysteries, by Charles Elliott, which contains "sketches of spirits and spiritual things", including accounts of the Salem witch trials, the Cock Lane Ghost, and the Rochester rappings. The Night Side of Nature, by Catherine Crowe, published in 1853, provided definitions and accounts of wraiths, doppelgängers, apparitions and haunted houses.
Mainstream newspapers treated stories of ghosts and haunting as they would any other news story. An account in the Chicago Daily Tribune in 1891, "sufficiently bloody to suit the most fastidious taste", tells of a house believed to be haunted by the ghosts of three murder victims seeking revenge against their killer's son, who was eventually driven insane.
Many families, "having no faith in ghosts", thereafter moved into the house, but all soon moved out again.
In the 1920s many "psychic" books were published of varied quality. Such books were often based on excursions initiated by the use of Ouija boards. A few of these popular books displayed unorganized Spiritualism, though most were less insightful.
The movement was extremely individualistic, with each person relying on his or her own experiences and reading to discern the nature of the afterlife. Organisation was therefore slow to appear, and when it did it was resisted by mediums and trance lecturers. Most members were content to attend Christian churches, and particularly universalist churches harboured many Spiritualists.
As the Spiritualism movement began to fade, partly through the publicity of fraud accusations and partly through the appeal of religious movements such as Christian science, the Spiritualist Church was organised. This church can claim to be the main vestige of the movement left today in the United States.
London-born Emma Hardinge Britten (1823–99) moved to the United States in 1855 and was active in Spiritualist circles as a trance lecturer and organiser. She is best known as a chronicler of the movement's spread, especially in her 1884 Nineteenth Century Miracles: Spirits and Their Work in Every Country of the Earth, and her 1870 Modern American Spiritualism, a detailed account of claims and investigations of mediumship beginning with the earliest days of the movement.
William Stainton Moses (1839–92) was an Anglican clergyman who, in the period from 1872 to 1883, filled 24 notebooks with automatic writing, much of which was said to describe conditions in the spirit world. However, Frank Podmore was skeptical of his alleged ability to communicate with spirits and Joseph McCabe described Moses as a "deliberate impostor", suggesting his apports and all of his feats were the result of trickery.
Eusapia Palladino (1854–1918) was an Italian Spiritualist medium from the slums of Naples who made a career touring Italy, France, Germany, Britain, the United States, Russia and Poland. Palladino was said by believers to perform spiritualist phenomena in the dark: levitating tables, producing apports, and materializing spirits. On investigation, all these things were found to be products of trickery.
The Bangs Sisters, Mary "May" E. Bangs (1862-1917) and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Snow Bangs (1859-1920), were two Spiritualist mediums based in Chicago, who made a career out of painting the dead or "Spirit Portraits".
Mina Crandon (1888–1941), a spiritualist medium in the 1920s, was known for producing an ectoplasm hand during her séances. The hand was later exposed as a trick when biologists found it to be made from a piece of carved animal liver. In 1934, the psychical researcher Walter Franklin Prince described the Crandon case as "the most ingenious, persistent, and fantastic complex of fraud in the history of psychic research."
The American voice medium Etta Wriedt (1859-1942) was exposed as a fraud by the physicist Kristian Birkeland when he discovered that the noises produced by her trumpet were caused by chemical explosions induced by potassium and water and in other cases by lycopodium powder.
Another well-known medium was the Scottish materialization medium Helen Duncan (1897–1956). In 1928 photographer Harvey Metcalfe attended a series of séances at Duncan's house and took flash photographs of Duncan and her alleged "materialization" spirits, including her spirit guide "Peggy". The photographs revealed the "spirits" to have been fraudulently produced, using dolls made from painted papier-mâché masks, draped in old sheets. Duncan was later tested by Harry Price at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research; photographs revealed Duncan's ectoplasm to be made from cheesecloth, rubber gloves, and cut-out heads from magazine covers.
Spiritualists reacted with an uncertainty to the theories of evolution in the late 19th and early 20th century. Broadly speaking the concept of evolution fitted the spiritualist thought of the progressive development of humanity. At the same time, however, the belief in the animal origins of humanity threatened the foundation of the immortality of the spirit, for if humans had not been created by God, it was scarcely plausible that they would be specially endowed with spirits. This led to Spiritualists embracing spiritual evolution.
The Spiritualists' view of evolution did not stop at death. Spiritualism taught that after death spirits progressed to spiritual states in new spheres of existence. According to Spiritualists evolution occurred in the spirit world "at a rate more rapid and under conditions more favourable to growth" than encountered on earth.
In a talk at the London Spiritualist Alliance, John Page Hopps (1834–1911) supported both evolution and Spiritualism. Hopps claimed humanity had started off imperfect "out of the animal's darkness" but would rise into the "angel's marvellous light". Hopps claimed humans were not fallen but rising creatures and that after death they would evolve on a number of spheres of existence to perfection.
Theosophy is in opposition to the spiritualist interpretation of evolution. Theosophy teaches a metaphysical theory of evolution mixed with human devolution. Spiritualists do not accept the devolution of the theosophists. To theosophy humanity starts in a state of perfection (see Golden age) and falls into a process of progressive materialization (devolution), developing the mind and losing the spiritual consciousness. After the gathering of experience and growth through repeated reincarnations humanity will regain the original spiritual state, which is now one of self-conscious perfection.
Theosophy and Spiritualism were both very popular metaphysical schools of thought especially in the early 20th century and thus were always clashing in their different beliefs. Madame Blavatsky was critical of Spiritualism; she distanced theosophy from Spiritualism as far as she could and allied herself with eastern occultism.
The theory contains only one half the explanation of man's origins and needs spiritualism to carry it through and complete it. For while this ascent on the physical side has been progressing through myriads of ages, the Divine descent has also been going on—man being spiritually an incarnation from the Divine as well as a human development from the animal creation. The cause of the development is spiritual. Mr. Darwin's theory does not in the least militate against ours—we think it necessitates it; he simply does not deal with our side of the subject. He can not go lower than the dust of the earth for the matter of life; and for us, the main interest of our origin must lie in the spiritual domain.
Spiritualists believed that without Spiritualism "the doctrine of Darwin is a broken link". Gerald Massey said "Spiritualism will accept evolution, and carry it out and make both ends meet in the perfect circle".
Alfred Russel Wallace believed qualitative novelties could arise through the process of spiritual evolution, in particular the phenomena of life and mind. Wallace attributed these novelties to a supernatural agency. Later in his life, Wallace was an advocate of Spiritualism and believed in an immaterial origin for the higher mental faculties of humans; he believed that evolution suggested that the universe had a purpose, and that certain aspects of living organisms are not explainable in terms of purely materialistic processes, in a 1909 magazine article entitled "The World of Life", which he later expanded into a book of the same name. Wallace argued in his 1911 book World of Life for a spiritual approach to evolution and described evolution as "creative power, directive mind and ultimate purpose". Wallace believed natural selection could not explain intelligence or morality in the human being so suggested that non-material spiritual forces accounted for these. Wallace believed the spiritual nature of humanity could not have come about by natural selection alone, the origins of the spiritual nature must originate "in the unseen universe of spirit".
Oliver Lodge also promoted a version of spiritual evolution in his books Man and the Universe (1908), Making of Man (1924) and Evolution and Creation (1926). The spiritualist element in the synthesis was most prominent in Lodge's 1916 book Raymond, or Life and Death which revived a large interest for the public in the paranormal.
After the 1920s, Spiritualism evolved in three different directions, all of which exist today.
The first of these continued the tradition of individual practitioners, organised in circles centered on a medium and clients, without any hierarchy or dogma. Already by the late 19th century Spiritualism had become increasingly syncretic, a natural development in a movement without central authority or dogma. Today, among these unorganised circles, Spiritualism is similar to the new age movement. However, theosophy with its inclusion of Eastern religion, astrology, ritual magic and reincarnation is an example of a closer precursor of the 20th century new age movement. Today's syncretic Spiritualists are quite heterogeneous in their beliefs regarding issues such as reincarnation or the existence of God. Some appropriate new age and neo-pagan beliefs, while others call themselves "Christian spiritualists", continuing with the tradition of cautiously incorporating spiritualist experiences into their Christian faith.
The second direction taken has been to adopt formal organization, patterned after Christian denominations, with established liturgies and a set of seven principles, and training requirements for mediums. In the United States the spiritualist churches are primarily affiliated either with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches or the loosely allied group of denominations known as the spiritual church movement; in the U.K. the predominant organization is the Spiritualists' National Union, founded in 1890.
Formal education in spiritualist practice emerged in 1920s, with organizations like the William T. Stead Center in Chicago, Illinois, and continue today with the Arthur Findlay College at Stansted Hall in England, and the Morris Pratt Institute in Wisconsin, United States.
Diversity of belief among organized Spiritualists has led to a few schisms, the most notable occurring in the U.K. in 1957 between those who held the movement to be a religion sui generis (of its own with unique characteristics), and a minority who held it to be a denomination within Christianity. In the United States, this distinction can be seen between the less Christian organization, the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, and the more Christian spiritual church movement.
The practice of organized Spiritualism today resembles that of any other religion, having discarded most showmanship, particularly those elements resembling the conjurer's art. There is thus a much greater emphasis on "mental" mediumship and an almost complete avoidance of the apparently miraculous "materializing" mediumship that so fascinated early believers such as Arthur Conan Doyle. The first Spiritualist church in Australia was the United Stanmore & Enmore Spiritualist Church established in 1913. In 1921, Conan Doyle gave a farewell to Australia speech there.
Already as early as 1882, with the founding of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), parapsychologists emerged to investigate spiritualist claims. The SPR's investigations into Spiritualism exposed many fraudulent mediums which contributed to the decline of interest in physical mediumship.
In parapsychology and spiritualism, an apport is the alleged paranormal transference of an article from one place to another, or an appearance of an article from an unknown source that is often associated with poltergeist activity or séances. Apports reported during séances have been found to be the result of deliberate fraud. No medium or psychic has demonstrated the manifestation of an apport under scientifically controlled conditions.Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) was a British writer best known for his detective fiction featuring the character Sherlock Holmes. Originally a physician, in 1887 he published A Study in Scarlet, the first of four novels and more than fifty short stories about Holmes and Dr. Watson. The Sherlock Holmes stories are generally considered milestones in the field of crime fiction.
Doyle was a prolific writer; his non-Sherlockian works include fantasy and science fiction stories about Professor Challenger and humorous stories about the Napoleonic soldier Brigadier Gerard, as well as plays, romances, poetry, non-fiction and historical novels. One of Doyle's early short stories, "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement", helped to popularise the mystery of the Mary Celeste.College of Psychic Studies
The College of Psychic Studies (founded in 1884 as the London Spiritualist Alliance) is a non-profit organisation based in South Kensington, London. It is dedicated to the study of psychic and spiritualist phenomena.Cross-Correspondences
The cross-correspondences refers to a series of automatic scripts and trance utterances from a group of automatic writers and mediums, involving members of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). According to psychical researchers the correspondences when put together convey intelligible messages either from spirits of the dead or telepathy.Skeptics have written the correspondences can be explained by chance or self-delusion and is a case of researchers looking for connections in random or meaningless data.Ectoplasm (paranormal)
Ectoplasm (from the Greek ektos, meaning "outside", and plasma, meaning "something formed or molded") is a term used in spiritualism to denote a substance or spiritual energy "exteriorized" by physical mediums. It was coined in 1894 by psychical researcher Charles Richet. Although the term is widespread in popular culture, the physical existence of ectoplasm is not accepted by science and many purported examples were exposed as hoaxes fashioned from cheesecloth, gauze or other natural substances.Fox sisters
The Fox sisters were three sisters from New York who played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism: Leah (1814–1890), Margaretta (also called Maggie) (1833–1893) and Catherine (also called Kate ) Fox (1837–1892). The two younger sisters used "rappings" to convince their older sister and others that they were communicating with spirits. Their older sister then took charge of them and managed their careers for some time. They all enjoyed success as mediums for many years.
In 1888, Margaret confessed that their rappings had been a hoax and publicly demonstrated their method. Margaret attempted to recant her confession the next year, but their reputation was ruined and in less than five years they were all dead, with Margaretta and Kate dying in abject poverty. Despite their confession, the Spiritualism movement continued to grow in popularity.Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the group of metaphysical philosophies that assert that reality, or reality as humans can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In contrast to materialism, idealism asserts the primacy of consciousness as the origin and prerequisite of material phenomena. According to this view, consciousness exists before and is the pre-condition of material existence. Consciousness creates and determines the material and not vice versa. Idealism believes consciousness and mind to be the origin of the material world and aims to explain the existing world according to these principles.
Idealism theories are mainly divided into two groups. Subjective idealism takes as its starting point the given fact of human consciousness seeing the existing world as a combination of sensation. Objective idealism posits the existence of an objective consciousness which exists before and, in some sense, independently of human ones. In a sociological sense, idealism emphasizes how human ideas—especially beliefs and values—shape society. As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. Idealism thus rejects those physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind.
The earliest extant arguments that the world of experience is grounded in the mental derive from India and Greece. The Hindu idealists in India and the Greek neoplatonists gave panentheistic arguments for an all-pervading consciousness as the ground or true nature of reality. In contrast, the Yogācāra school, which arose within Mahayana Buddhism in India in the 4th century CE, based its "mind-only" idealism to a greater extent on phenomenological analyses of personal experience. This turn toward the subjective anticipated empiricists such as George Berkeley, who revived idealism in 18th-century Europe by employing skeptical arguments against materialism. Beginning with Immanuel Kant, German idealists such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, and Arthur Schopenhauer dominated 19th-century philosophy. This tradition, which emphasized the mental or "ideal" character of all phenomena, gave birth to idealistic and subjectivist schools ranging from British idealism to phenomenalism to existentialism.
Idealism as a philosophy came under heavy attack in the West at the turn of the 20th century. The most influential critics of both epistemological and ontological idealism were G. E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, but its critics also included the new realists. According to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the attacks by Moore and Russell were so influential that even more than 100 years later "any acknowledgment of idealistic tendencies is viewed in the English-speaking world with reservation". However, many aspects and paradigms of idealism did still have a large influence on subsequent philosophy.Idealism (Christian eschatology)
Idealism (also called the spiritual approach, the allegorical approach, the nonliteral approach, and many other names) in Christian eschatology is an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that sees all of the imagery of the book as symbols.Jacob Taubes writes that idealist eschatology came about as Renaissance thinkers began to doubt that the Kingdom of Heaven had been established on earth, or would be established, but still believed in its establishment. Rather than the Kingdom of Heaven being present in society, it is established subjectively for the individual.F. D. Maurice interpreted the Kingdom of Heaven idealistically as a symbol representing society's general improvement, instead of a physical and political kingdom. Karl Barth interprets eschatology as representing existential truths that bring the individual hope, rather than history or future-history. Barth's ideas provided fuel for the Social Gospel philosophy in America, which saw social change not as performing "required" good works, but because the individuals involved felt that Christians could not simply ignore society's problems with future dreams.Different authors have suggested that the Beast represents various social injustices, such as exploitation of workers, wealth, the elite, commerce, materialism, and imperialism. Various Christian anarchists, such as Jacques Ellul, have identified the State and political power as the Beast.It is distinct from Preterism, Futurism and Historicism in that it does not see any of the prophecies (except in some cases the Second Coming, and Final Judgment) as being fulfilled in a literal, physical, earthly sense either in the past, present or future, and that to interpret the eschatological portions of the Bible in a historical or future-historical fashion is an erroneous understanding.London Dialectical Society
The London Dialectical Society was a British professional association that formed in 1867 to investigate the claims of spiritualism.Materialization (paranormal)
In spiritualism, paranormal literature and some religions, materialization (or manifestation) is the creation or appearance of matter from unknown sources. The existence of materialization has not been confirmed by laboratory experiments. Numerous cases of fraudulent materialization demonstrations by mediums have been exposed.Mediumship
Mediumship is the practice of purportedly mediating communication between spirits of the dead and living human beings. Practitioners are known as "mediums." There are different types of mediumship, including spirit channeling and ouija.
Humans have been fascinated with contacting the dead since the beginning of human existence. Cave paintings by indigenous Australians date back 28,000 years, some depicting skulls, bones, spirits and the afterlife. Other cave paintings in Indonesia date back a further 10,000 years.
Mediumship gained popularity during the nineteenth century, when ouija boards were used by the upper classes as a source of entertainment. Investigations during this period revealed widespread fraud—with some practitioners employing techniques used by stage magicians—and the practice began to lose credibility. Fraud is still rife in the medium/psychic industry, with cases of deception and trickery being discovered to this day.Scientific researchers have attempted to ascertain the validity of claims of mediumship. An experiment undertaken by the British Psychological Society led to the conclusion that the test subjects demonstrated no mediumistic ability.Several different variants of mediumship exist; arguably the best-known forms involve a spirit purportedly taking control of a medium's voice and using it to relay a message, or where the medium simply "hears" the message and passes it on. Other forms involve materializations of the spirit or the presence of a voice, and telekinetic activity.
The practice is associated with several religious-belief systems such as Vodun, Spiritualism, Spiritism, Candomblé, Voodoo, Umbanda and some New Age groups.National Spiritualist Association of Churches
The National Spiritualist Association of Churches (NSAC) is one of the oldest and largest of the national Spiritualist church organizations in the United States. The NSAC was formed as the National Spiritualist Association of the United States of America (NSA) in September 1893, during a three-day convention in Chicago, Illinois. Although American Spiritualists had previously tended to resist institutional or denominational organization, early NSA leaders hoped organization would help promote the truths of the religion both spiritually and practically. Organization could help non-Spiritualists distinguish genuine mediumship from the rapidly proliferating varieties of fraudulent mediumship, increase communication among Spiritualists, prevent the legal prosecution of spirit mediums under fortune telling and medical licensing laws, and counterattacks by "orthodox" ministers in the press. To these reasons, early leaders added the material support of spirit mediums and healers, just as other religious groups provided for the support of their clergy.
Among the NSA's first leaders were W. H. Bach, Harrison D. Barrett (former Unitarian clergymen), Luther V. Moulton, James Martin Peebles, and Cora L. V. Scott (spiritualist medium). The association is also important for its adoption of a number of statements on Spiritualism which have become a standard to which other Spiritualist bodies more or less adhere.Occult
The occult (from the Latin word occultus "clandestine, hidden, secret") is "knowledge of the hidden" or "knowledge of the paranormal", as opposed to facts and "knowledge of the measurable", usually referred to as science. The term is sometimes taken to mean knowledge that "is meant only for certain people" or that "must be kept hidden", but for most practicing occultists it is simply the study of a deeper spiritual reality that extends pure reason and the physical sciences. The terms esoteric and arcane can also be used to describe the occult, in addition to their meanings unrelated to the supernatural.
The term occult sciences was used in the 16th century to refer to astrology, alchemy, and natural magic. The term occultism emerged in 19th-century France, where it came to be associated with various French esoteric groups connected to Éliphas Lévi and Papus, and in 1875 was introduced into the English language by the esotericist Helena Blavatsky. Throughout the 20th century, the term was used idiosyncratically by a range of different authors, but by the 21st century was commonly employed – including by academic scholars of esotericism – to refer to a range of esoteric currents that developed in the mid-19th century and their descendants. Occultism is thus often used to categorise such esoteric traditions as Spiritualism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and New Age.
Particularly since the late twentieth century, various authors have used the occult as a substantivized adjective. In this usage, "the occult" is a category into which varied beliefs and practices are placed if they are considered to fit into neither religion nor science. "The occult" in this sense is very broad, encompassing such phenomenon as beliefs in vampires or fairies and movements like Ufology and parapsychology. In that same period, occult and culture were combined to form the neologism occulture. Initially used in the industrial music scene, it was later given scholarly applications.Psychometry (paranormal)
Psychometry (from Greek: ψυχή, psukhē, "spirit, soul" and μέτρον, metron, "measure"), also known as token-object reading, or psychoscopy, is a form of extrasensory perception characterized by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object. Supporters assert that an object may have an energy field that transfers knowledge regarding that object's history.There is no scientific evidence that psychometry exists and the concept has been widely criticized.Spirit guide
A spirit guide, in western spiritualism, is an entity that remains as a disincarnate spirit to act as a guide or protector to a living incarnated human being.Spirit world (Spiritualism)
The spirit world, according to spiritualism, is the world or realm inhabited by spirits, both good or evil of various spiritual manifestations. Whereas religion regards an inner life, the spirit world is regarded as an external environment for spirits. Although independent from the natural world, both the spirit world and the natural world are in constant interaction. Through mediumship, these worlds can consciously communicate with each other. The spirit world is sometimes described by mediums from the natural world in trance.Spiritism
Spiritism (also called Kardecism) is a spiritualistic philosophy and religious movement started in the 19th century by the French educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail, who, under the pen name Allan Kardec, wrote books on "the nature, origin, and destiny of spirits, and their relation with the corporeal world". Spiritists refer to Kardec as the religion's codifier.
Spiritist philosophy postulates that humans, along with all other living beings, are essentially immortal spirits that temporarily inhabit physical bodies for several necessary incarnations to attain moral and intellectual improvement. It also asserts that spirits, through passive or active mediumship, may have beneficent or malevolent influence on the physical world. Spiritism is an evolution-affirming religion.
The term first appeared in Kardec's book, The Spirits Book, which sought to distinguish Spiritism from spiritualism.Spiritism is currently represented in 35 countries by the International Spiritist Council. It has influenced a social movement of healing centers, charity institutions and hospitals involving millions of people in dozens of countries, with the greatest number of adherents in Brazil.
Spiritism is also very influential in Cao Đài, a Vietnamese religion started in 1926 by three spirit mediums who claimed to have received messages that identified Allan Kardec as a prophet of a new universal religion.Spiritualism (beliefs)
Spiritualism is a metaphysical belief that the world is made up of at least two fundamental substances, matter and spirit. This very broad metaphysical distinction is further developed into many and various forms by the inclusion of details about what spiritual entities exist such as a soul, the afterlife, spirits of the dead, deities and mediums; as well as details about the nature of the relationship between spirit and matter. It may also refer to the philosophy, doctrine, or religion pertaining to a spiritual aspect of existence.It is also a term commonly used for various psychic or paranormal practices and beliefs recorded throughout humanity's history and in a variety of cultures.Spiritualistic traditions appear deeply rooted in shamanism and perhaps are one of the oldest forms of religion. Mediumship is a modern form of shamanism and such ideas are very much like those developed by Edward Burnett Tylor in his theory of animism, in which there are other parallel worlds to our own, though invisible to us and not accessible to us in our state. A psychic is to be one of the connecting links between these worlds. A psychic is defined as someone endowed with exceptional sensitivity to the occult dimension, who experiences visions and revelations. Some authors have stated only few individuals are said to have this capacity.Séance
A séance or seance () is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "session", from the Old French seoir, "to sit". In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma" ("a movie session"). In English, however, the word came to be used specifically for a meeting of people who are gathered to receive messages from ghosts or to listen to a spirit medium discourse with or relay messages from spirits. In modern English usage, participants need not be seated while engaged in a séance.
One of the earliest books on the subject of communication amongst deceased persons was Communication With the Other Side by George, First Baron Lyttelton, published in England in 1760. Among the notable spirits quoted in this volume are Peter the Great, Pericles, a "North-American Savage", William Penn, and Christina, Queen of Sweden. The popularity of séances grew dramatically with the founding of the religion of Spiritualism in the mid-nineteenth century. Perhaps the best-known series of séances conducted at that time were those of Mary Todd Lincoln who, grieving the loss of her son, organized Spiritualist séances in the White House, which were attended by her husband, President Abraham Lincoln, and other prominent members of society. The 1887 Seybert Commission report marred the credibility of Spiritualism at the height of its popularity by publishing exposures of fraud and showmanship among secular séance leaders. Modern séances continue to be a part of the religious services of Spiritualist, Spiritist, and Espiritismo churches today, where a greater emphasis is placed on spiritual values versus showmanship.
Spiritualism and spiritism
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