Spiritualism Examined

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Spiritualism Examined

SPIRITUALISM

SpiritualismTwo hundred years ago education was almost totally in the hands of the established church. Its message was authoritative and rarely, if ever, challenged. On questions about life and death, the church taught that a man or woman's innermost self survives bodily death, and continues to exist in a spirit world either of blissful reward or eternal punishment.

As the nineteenth century progressed and the age of rationalism opened up, these long cherished beliefs were subjected to intellectual enquiry and scientific testing. Only those things that attracted concrete proof passed these tests. The belief that death is simply the gateway to a new but different conscious experience was a theory that could not be reproduced in the laboratory. Where was the evidence that man's essential being survived death? It only existed by virtue of the authority claimed by the church.

This teaching was not supported by the Bible, as we shall see later in this article. But through all the preceding centuries, the scriptures were not available to the greater part of the population. And, from 1859 when Charles Darwin wrote his book The Origin of Species challenging the Bible account of Creation, the Bible itself was rejected by many people who no longer accepted it as the wholly inspired Word of God.

Modern Spiritualism
Modern Spiritualism emerged against this background of rational enquiry following some strange happenings in Hydesville, a small town in New York state in America. A family named Fox moved into a house in the town where unexplained noises were reported by previous tenants. When this happened during the Fox's tenancy, the youngest daughter challenged whoever or whatever was making the tapping to repeat the number of times she clicked her fingers. Subsequently, by using a series of codes created by the girl and her elder sisters, answering raps provided the information that the house was inhabited by the spirit of a man who had been murdered there.

As the girls' alleged communication with the spirit world first occurred on March 31, 1848, this date is taken as the birth of Modern Spiritualism. When news of the events in Hydesville began to circulate, the girls' claims were subjected to various tests, and eminent scientists quickly took sides; some claimed that a supernatural event had occurred, and others suggested it was all an elaborate deception. But so much attention was focused on the claims, that many gatherings were held elsewhere in America and then in Europe in an attempt to communicate with the spirits of the dead.

Acceptance of Spiritualism
A number of famous mediums were quickly accepted into high society. The two Fox girls were very profitably managed by their elder sister, and other mediums too benefited personally from the exercise of their abilities. Seances, as the spiritualist gatherings were called, grew more and more elaborate. One very well known medium, Daniel Douglas Home, presided over gatherings where tables moved apparently by themselves, where he was able without injury to hold red hot coals in his hand, and even to levitate off the ground and float in and out of windows. He was feted at many of the European royal courts.

A great stimulus to the general acceptance of modern spiritualism was provided by Queen Victoria's interest – an interest generated by the loss of her husband Prince Albert. Shortly afterwards, with the enormous loss of life in the great wars of the twentieth century, men and women bereaved of their loved ones tried to get in touch with those who died in order to obtain messages of comfort and advice, just as they did when their relative or friend was alive. This is perfectly understandable. Human relationships form an important part of each person's life, and when death intervenes, those who are left alone naturally feel the need to continue the communication they previously enjoyed, if at all possible.

Spiritualism offers to answer that need, for it claims that death is not the complete end of consciousness. At the moment of what we call death, spiritualists believe that a person's essential being merely transfers from the material realm to the realm of the spirit. There is, so they claim, no loss of consciousness, just the transition to a higher and better plane of existence. Added to this is the further claim that communication can occur between the material world and the spiritual world, but normally this needs to be facilitated by an intermediary - or medium - who can only assist if the conditions are favourable.

Concepts of Spiritualism
Three basic and interconnected concepts thus underlie Spiritualist beliefs:

  1. That there is personal and conscious survival of bodily death;
  2. Death is the transition from one realm of awareness and life to another that is an advance on our present existence; and
  3. When conditions allow it, communication between this world and the world of spirits is possible with the help of intermediaries.

These concepts were expressed most succinctly during 1948, the centenary year of Modern Spiritualism, when Spiritualists adopted the following brief description of their beliefs:

"The Proof of Survival"

From this it is apparent that great emphasis is placed on the communications that occur through the assistance of mediums. Without these, there would be no proof of survival, and the ability to survive death and unconsciousness would be just an unproven theory. Much rests, therefore, on the nature of the communications that take place, and whether they provide sound, reliable and incontrovertible evidence.

 

To read this entire Article click on this pdf:Spiritualism Challenges Bible Authority