During Spiritualism’s heyday, philanthropists, political activists, (including vegetarians and animal welfare activists), and all kinds of intellectuals and Establishment figures believed that spirits in the Afterlife could be contacted to aid learning and help those in the physical world live a better life. Queen Victoria and the royal family are said to be ardent believers. Spiritualism’s ‘Pope’, the flamboyant socialist Hannen Swaffer (who opposed capital punishment and always wore a hat) was an ardent campaigner for Spiritualism.
Since the dawn of time, the voice of Spirit has been sought for wisdom and healing. People travelled vast distances to seek solace and advice from male and female mediums and healers, shamans, prophets, sooth-sayers, oracles, many of whom heard the voice of God and instigated a wide variety of religious movements that are still current in the world today.
We are all familiar with the Fox sisters (1848) whose mediumship moved objects and produced raps and spirit knowledge. Young girls around puberty are notorious for producing extraordinary phenomena; Joan of Arc (1430) led a French army to victory and Bernadette of Lourdes (1858) met a strange lady who showed her a vast source of pure water which assuaged the epidemic of the water born disease, cholera.
United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, are all examples of the religious movements of the time, as are the Mormons, who began in 1820s with Joseph Smith seeing an angel and channelling a book of mysticism and hidden treasure. The healer and channeller, Andrew Jackson Davis (1844) also from New York State was influenced by Mesmer and the Shakers. His spirit guides were the physician Galen and the visionary, Swedenborg. He channelled over 30 books including ‘The Principles of Nature – Her Divine Revelations’. He was the forerunner of the sleeping prophet, Edgar Cayce, who also mediumistically diagnosed and issued prescriptions to heal thousands of people. It was Jackson Davis who coined the currently popular term ‘the Law of Attraction’. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches use prophecy, inspired speaking, insightful messages healing from the Holy Spirit, and mainstream Christian religions are providing more specific and greater numbers of exorcisms as part of their ministry.
Alongside Spiritualism’s development from the US to the UK, Spiritism developed in France and is very popular still in South America and North America where it is mainly channelling based but healing features in both. During the late 1970s, Jane Roberts channelled the multi-million pound, award winning Seth Material. Jack Pursel channelled Lazaris, a being from beyond the Mental and Causal Planes, and J Z Knight channelled messages from Ramtha, a 30,000 year old entity from Atlantis. Kevin Ryerson channels many spirits, including the Apostle John, follower of Jesus. Diana Hoerig channels several spirits including King Arthur’s Merlin. She heads The Violet Flame Network which concentrates its energies towards creating truth and integrity. Taryn Krive channels a Hopi Indian woman, a spirit of deep vision and serenity. Neville Rowe channels six dolphins, known as Cajuba who challenge mankind’s ability to live alongside other creatures with respect and consideration for their wellbeing. There are many kinds of specialised spirits that provide messages for our world, the problem of war, disease, the extinction of species, from deities, angels, ascended masters, even alien entities and those from the future who are concerned about air, sea and food pollution, climate change, rising sea levels, etc. etc.
Spiritualism quickly too off in the UK with delivery of messages from loved ones in the Afterlife. Contacting those Missing in Action made Spiritualism popular during the war years and between them. During its heyday, many people donated money and property in order to establish it as a bona fide religion. Their legacy is prestigious, purpose-built churches, a heritage of bricks and mortar without which Spiritualism would find it difficult to claim a religious or charitable status.
Spiritualism is having a revival of books, TV stations, telephone lines, daily newspaper reports as ghost hunts, medical psychics, possessions, apports, missing children found, psychic art, psychic children and animals, channelled videos, and a hundred and one ways to conduct healing, add to the readings and messages from loved ones in Spirit and we have a huge revival taking place not only in the UK but throughout the world.
Many people say church buildings are out of date. We could meet in homes or hire community centres. The Spiritualists’ National Union is involved in approx. 340 buildings, many of which it holds ‘in trust’ and therefore has contractual responsibilities. I have been involved in a minor way involved with the Rochester Square Spiritualist Temple and have been disturbed by reports of missing church documents and valuables, the ownership surely of those poor people who raised the money to build the church who are still alive in Spirit and have something to say about this!
Over years, the SNU did not take care of their building: with no coat of paint, no removal of buddleia from the roof, the huge weeds left to grow so the church looked abandoned. Sadly, squatters broke into this distinguished and iconic temple. I was told that illegal drugs were taken and sold by squatters who held pagan rituals in the congregational space. A house next door was allowed to build onto the side of this once free standing temple, in fact, I was told a long abysmal saga of unskilled stewardship, neglect and the worse kind of irregularities.
Each SNU church is run independently to be under the leadership of anyone with sufficient personal backing to form a committee, irrespective of their ability or principles. I heard of committees run by arrogant, victimising and blackmailing thugs and I have first-hand experience of this. Spiritualism is currently a bona fide religion with charitable status and thugs need to be routed out of Spiritualism before they give Spiritualism a reputation from which it will not recover.
When these committees do not follow ‘best practice guidelines’, they are open to all kinds of ego based structures, leading to conflict, chaos and exploitation, and to the deterioration of the services that churches are committed to supply. Some members of the committees are still in the same roles after 5 years! The SNU provide ‘supervision’ but there is no proactive will on behalf of the SNU to create a successfully run church with a thriving congregation. It seems more expedient to wait for a church to get into predictable financial difficulties, then close it and sell it rather than provide the kind of supervision that a church needs to make sufficient funds to pay for necessary ongoing repairs or renovations. Any fool can create a free website, access a Facebook profile and events pages, open a church for several hours each day, and organise regular workshops, courses, outreach fundraisers, with individual and group teaching, healing and caring. A church congregation should be able to assist with all kinds of problems, whether they be technical, legal, structural, etc. All other religions have within their congregation someone to paint the church door, remove the weeds, repair the mailbox, etc. etc.
The SNU have removed original Christian elements within some of their churches which is shocking to those who are of the opinion that they were built with Christian fixtures and fittings by the Christian Spiritualists who built them. Christians are being persecuted in many places around the world so to be hostile to Christian symbolism in our current day is a scandal, especially by a religion with an ever increasingly poor reputation and a 40 word doctrine which any narcissist or psychopath without scruples will smirk through.
There are false adverts published offering free mediumship to those who telephone the helpline but their private details are recorded and sold to ‘premium rate’ mediums. I have been told that some Spiritualists are working under false names, taking money that should go into church funds whist they are in receipt of state benefits. Some Presidents and other church dignitaries will not provide their name when asked! Many think they are the church, or that they own the church! It is quite laughable when the congregation consists of 30 people, most of whom want to make money from giving messages!
Spiritualism needs to be transparent and accountable if it is to survive. Dysfunctional mediums, in constant conflict with others, who are narcissistic or unreliable, will bring Spiritualism into disrepute. Lies, bullying, collusion and devious manipulation show a rock bottom level of spirituality. As ‘like attracts like’, the spirit guides of such mediums will be on a similar spiritual level and are therefore not to be trusted. Spiritualists are not chastised for alcoholism, offensive language, jealousy, stealing, back stabbing and other abhorrent behaviour. I have been told that many churches operate a Mafia/gang mentality where people who go for support and can find themselves under obligation to have expensive one to one sittings, where they are upset, told untrue, unreasonable and unkind ‘messages’ that their loved ones are lost and unhappy or that someone in their family has it ‘in’ for them so they need to watch out! Some people I spoke to have been deeply, deeply upset by what they were told as ‘messages from spirit’ when they were ‘set up’ by attending a Spiritualist church and being targeted for individual readings at £40 a time! Others have told me that the mediumship tuition was so poor that members experienced a mental breakdown, hearing voices, imagining seeing headless corpses at night and being told the church could not help them and not to visit again.
I have rarely witnessed spiritual philosophy taught and would suggest that every meeting should have some element of spiritual teaching. A spiritual life path is about caring at personal cost, being generous, reliable, trustworthy, honest, open, responsible, kind, humble, calm, supportive, understanding, compassionate and offering equality, giving service to God and to the church without expecting recompense. Of course, many know this and are extremely caring Spiritualists. This article is about saving Spiritualism for the future because it has a wonderful history and antecedents and mediumship and peripheral topics are tremendously popular at the moment. I realise that many people reading this are thoroughly dedicated and are an asset to Spiritualism. I applaud you here. I also know that church buildings need massively expensive renovations and the SNU need to be effective custodians and not financially support permanently failing church management structures. I pose the questions, what is to be done and who will do it?