For and Against: More Christians in Spiritualism

For and Against is a regular feature in which two well-known commentators with opposing views on a particular spiritual or philosophical topic debate the issue. In this, our third debate, Leslie Price and Lis Warwood go head to head on the advantages and disadvantages of attracting more Christians to the Spiritualist movement.

To have your say on this subject, post a comment and/or click on the link to our MicroPoll at the end of this article.

If there’s a subject you feel passionately about and would like to see debated in a future issue of SPN, let us know. Our thanks to those who’ve already written in with suggestions. Watch this space!

We need more Christians

Leslie Price

Organised Spiritualism has been losing members. Geoff Griffiths has shown in both Psychic News and Spirit of PN a long-term decline in Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU) membership. The figures for the Greater World Christian Spiritualist Association (GW) are even worse. In the last 40 years, the number of affiliated GW churches has fallen to around 60, from 200, having dropped from 400 in the 1950s(5). (GW has never been good at publishing proper statistics of members and churches, but it seems possible there were once 800 or more GW churches.)

Some people suggest that a non-religious centre would do better. There was just such a place – the SAGB in Belgrave Square, London. Forty years ago, it was one of the hopes of the movement, where young and old thronged the tea room after lectures and demonstrations. But its impact faded.

Did the movement take a wrong direction, perhaps decades past? I believe it did. Suppose we go back to when the SNU was just starting, a century since. Frank Podmore, in his Studies, p.38, then noted:
“The inspired writings of Mr Stainton Moses form the gospel of modern English Spiritualism.”

And what was this gospel? We can refresh our memories from Stainton Moses’ book Spirit Teachings on the SNU website. It may be summarised by saying that Spiritualism was a new revelation to remind humankind not only of survival of death, but also of personal responsibility. This movement was said to be led from the spheres by Jesus, of whom it was explained: “We are not careful to enter into curious comparisons between different teachers who, in different ages, have been sent from God. The time is not yet come for that; but this we know, that no spirit more pure, more godlike, more noble, more blessing and more blessed, ever descended to find a home on your earth. None more worthily earned by a life of self-sacrificing love the adoring reverence and devotion to mankind. None bestowed more blessings on humanity; none wrought a greater work for God.”

Now, the Seven Principles of Spiritualism had said nothing of Jesus, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle suggested that the leadership of Jesus ought to be acknowledged. A SNU report of 1928 declined to do this. It conceded that:
“Zoroaster, Gotama ‘The Buddha’, Jesus ‘The Christ’ and Mohammed are the recognised founders of great religions known by their names, which still exist and give spiritual consolation to innumerable congregations. Nearest to the Western world and accepted as its special teacher is Jesus. His teaching, as represented by the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule and the New Commandment, admittedly embodies an ideal ethical and spiritual standard for human conduct; and the story of his life and self-sacrificing death has been and remains an inspiration and comfort to millions of his followers.

“Spiritualism, however, bases its position upon the universal manifestations of the continuity of personal life after physical death and the uplifting influence of excarnate spirit people upon the incarnate. It therefore accepts all these great founders as inspired and as revealers of spiritual truths to mankind and builds its own philosophy and teaching not only upon the truths revealed to mankind through these ancient teachers, but also upon the New Revelations received by this generation through modern Seers, Prophets and Mediums.”

The SNU conference confirmed this view, and in 1934 even came close to excluding Christians altogether from its ranks. Formally, it rejected the leadership of Jesus, which had been revealed through the medium Stainton Moses.

I suggest that at this moment – around 1930 – decline began. First came the rise of the GW, an explicitly Christian Spiritualist body which probably drew away thousands of Spiritualists from the SNU. Another Christian Spiritualist body, though of an esoteric kind – the White Eagle Lodge – followed.
Is it possible that the embarrassment of the ‘No War’ prophecies in 1939 could have been avoided if the movement had been more explicitly Christian, and less confident that it was sufficient in itself? Some prominent mediums, including the SNU president, predicted peace, or at least their guides did, but war broke out. Perhaps they had paid insufficient attention to the scriptural injunction: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”

In recent decades, the SNU has made it impossible for members of Christian bodies to join its ranks. It imposes few other restrictions on its members, but if you belong to a body which even admits the orthodox (such as a local Council of Churches) you cannot join the SNU.

Is this wise? Are differences of theological interpretation so important that it is these which should cause Spiritualists to be split into different bodies? Many people with a Christian background are of a good standard of education and behaviour, and would be an asset to organised Spiritualism.

Ironically, the so-called orthodox mainstream churches themselves are a good deal more liberal. Their members have a wide range of belief, and those who join them are unlikely to be asked to accept more than was said of Jesus in Spirit Teachings.

Now, it is a fine thing to stand on principle. We would all have contempt for, say, a political party which decided: “Oh dear, we’re not getting many votes – let’s abandon our beliefs and stand for something else.”
But we do need to be sure that we have made the distinction where it should be made. The history of religion is littered with bodies that evidently did not. There are those who will sing with organs, and those who won’t, those who use only biblical psalms, but not hymns, those who insist on tongues and those who won’t have tongues, and so on.

If, as Spirit Teachings said, all the dogmas are shown after death to be of little significance, including membership of this or that organisation, why make such a big deal of it?

In practical terms, I do not suggest changing the Seven Principles. But I would propose that the barriers to orthodox people joining Spiritualist bodies should be swept away. That includes admitting orthodox Buddhists, Hindus and so on.

Then, and only then, might there be some possibility of Spiritualism becoming a world religion.

We need more Spiritualists – not Christians

Lis Warwood

“Spiritualism and Christianity have no connection whatever. They are as far apart as the poles. Spiritualism is a philosophy of life and claims that life after death has been proved, that those who die live on in a world much the same as this, with the same characters as they had on earth, and that given suitable conditions they can communicate with us on earth. Christianity on the other hand, is a sacrificial religion and the Christian Church is an organisation, to keep alive a belief in a sacrifice for sins, and for the performance of the rites and ceremonials connected with this belief. For this reason Spiritualism and Christianity will never join, and no Spiritualist who thinks deeply desires such a fusion.” 1

Thus wrote Arthur Findlay, in 1936, in reply to attacks on Spiritualism made the previous year by the bishops of London and Winchester, and in response to the many other religious figures who had shown their deep antipathy to Spiritualism since the movement began.

Findlay wanted people to differentiate clearly between Christianity and Spiritualism and put forward the view that Christian beliefs prevent the general acceptance of the truths of Spiritualism. His viewpoint broadly represents that strand of Spiritualism promoted by the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU).

As Gordon Ray observed in 2005 in Spiritualism and the Christ Principle, institutional Christianity does not form a part of SNU teachings, the basic philosophy of which is contained in the Seven Principles. SNU Spiritualists are united in their rejection of such fundamental teachings of Christianity as original sin, the virgin birth, vicarious atonement, the trinity and divine judgement.

SNU Spiritualism is, in the most solemn and serious sense, a religion in which the fundamental truths of survival, and communication with the spirit world, articulate a new and unique religious point of view.

While rejecting the defining dogmas of Christianity, the SNU nevertheless considered the motion urged by Conan Doyle in 1927, that a new principle be added to the existing seven, acknowledging the original teaching and example of Jesus. In declining to adopt such an additional principle, and in declaring it was not in the interests of Spiritualism to do so, the SNU did not, however, prevent its members accepting the spiritual teachings and leadership of Jesus in their personal lives.2

SNU Spiritualism welcomes into its ranks every Spiritualist that can accept the Seven Principles, while leaving them free to exercise liberty of interpretation, and to subscribe to any other opinions which do not contravene those principles. Leslie suggests, however, that in formally rejecting the pre-eminent role of Jesus, SNU Spiritualism took a wrong direction, and, that the decision may define the moment a decline in organised Spiritualism began.

Certainly, there has been a steady decline in the membership of the SNU over the past 20 years, but there is little evidence that it began in the 1930s with the ’rejection’ of Jesus – and Christians – from the ranks of Spiritualism.

The year Conan Doyle’s call for the leadership of Jesus to be acknowledged was declined, the SNU membership stood at 15,678, with 419 affiliated Spiritualist societies and churches. By 1932, though membership was marginally lower, the number of churches affiliated with the SNU had grown.

In 1934 – the year, according to Leslie, that the SNU conference formally rejected the leadership of Jesus and came close to excluding Christians altogether – SNU membership again fluctuated only slightly, while the number of churches rose significantly. In the remaining years of the decade that Leslie argues is privotal to the decline in Spiritualism, the number of SNU churches continued to grow, while membership numbers showed somewhat greater fluctuation.

It is evident that between 1928 and 2009, SNU churches and membership have at times both dramatically declined, for example, with the onset of WWII, and also dramatically increased. Membership grew rapidly in the first five years after the war, then dropped, before again hitting a high in 1950. By 1960, membership was down once more, after which, with minor fluctuations, there was a steady growth until 1989 when the SNU could boast it had 19,609 full members.3

These rises and falls in membership of the SNU, sometimes minor, at other times great, suggest influences at work far broader than the failure of SNU Spiritualism to incorporate the leadership of Jesus into its philosophy and practice. Before we finally leave statistics behind, we need to examine the apparent impact of the emergence of the Greater World Christian Spiritualist Association (GW) on the SNU. Members of the GW describe themselves as servants, and part of the army of the Master Christ. A vital tenet of GW philosophy is that the sins committed by the individual can only be rectified by the individual “through the redemptive power of Jesus the Christ”.4

Whilst figures for the Greater World are admittedly scant, we know that in 1932, a year after that organisation’s registration as a charity, there were 360 affiliated churches, and by 1935, 580. In 1969, Geoffrey Nelson calculated, perhaps somewhat over enthusiastically, GW membership rising from around 8,000 to 20,000 in the first four years.5

As already noted, the number of churches joining the SNU at that time also rose, while total membership fluctuated only slightly. Undoubtedly, the SNU lost both churches and individual members to the GW. However, on the available figures it is difficult to argue that the increase in membership of this organisation was the result of any mass exodus from the SNU. It would appear that the GW membership and churches may have been drawn from new and pre-existing non-affiliated churches and societies.

Even if we considered the emergence of the GW as indicative of there being a significant body of Spiritualists who did at that time want the role of Jesus to be a part of their practice of Spiritualism, Leslie’s own figures regarding the decline in the number of the GW’s affiliated churches over the last forty or fifty years would suggest that this is no longer the case.

The decline in the Christian Spiritualist movement would appear to be both greater, and more rapid than that experienced by SNU Spiritualism. This hardly supports a view that there might be scope for greater involvement of Christians within Spiritualism, when that branch of it which might, on the surface at least, appear most attractive to Christians, is failing.

In addition, even a cursory examination of the theological differences between SNU and GW Spiritualism makes clear that the fundamental distinction, namely the status accorded to Jesus, offers little scope for unification between these two bodies. In our increasingly secular society, as disenchantment with formal religions has grown significantly, it may be that a Christian-based Spiritualist approach is no longer attractive to people, and even a professedly non-Christian, but religion-based Spiritualism as practised by the SNU is failing to find favour.

Today there are many who, while accepting the reality of life after death, and the ability of the spirit world to communicate, reject the need to formalise that belief in religious terms, viewing Spiritualism more as a ‘philosophy for life’. As Stainton Moses sagely observed, “There are Spiritualists and Spiritualists.” 6

By all means, let us encourage Christians, and those of any other religion or none, to enter into our Spiritualist churches, and may we always welcome them with a smile and an open heart. Let them come and discover what Spiritualism is about, and, if they find the message of Spiritualism supplants their previously held religious views, then offer them membership. If not, wish them well on their journey, and be content that the seed of truth, that is the spirit world’s gift to earthly life, may yet bear fruit in their lives at some other time.

In rejecting the viewpoint that Spiritualism needs more Christians, I can do no better than to quote Leslie Price, himself, when he wrote in Psychic News (Feb 6, 2010) acknowledging the need for real Spiritualism “to keep out Unreal Spiritualists, and to avoid a muddled message”. I, as he, “would call for separation but mutual respect”.

If Spiritualism is ever to become a world religion it must remain undiluted by the concepts and beliefs of other religions or philosophies. Whether it is able to do so is up to us.

1. Arthur Findlay, The Torch of Knowledge, Psychic Press Ltd, 1936, Author’s Preface, p. 15.
2. Harrison, 1978 in the London Spiritualist; also SNU 1999, quoted by Gordon Ray, Spiritualism and the Christ Principle, 2005.
3. Lis Warwood & Geoff Griffiths, Graph of Full SNU Membership 1929 – 2009, compiled from SNU Statistics, March 2011.
4. See
5. Geoffrey K. Nelson, Spiritualism and Society, Schocken Books, New York, 1969, Table 6, Membership of Spiritualist Societies, p. 285.
6. William Stainton Moses, (M.A. Oxon), Spirit-Identity and Higher Aspects of Spiritualism, London Spiritualist Alliance Limited, 1908, Appendix, Esoteric questions affecting Spiritualists only, p. 87.

What do you think?

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24 responses to “For and Against: More Christians in Spiritualism

  1. My goodness PN you really do go where angels fear to tread! And good on you for it. I am not with Mr Price or Ms Warwood on this because I have never thought of Spiritualism as a religion, more as a fact of life. How can you make a religion out of the fact that nobody dies? Religions are belief systems. Survival after death has nothing to do with beliefs. It is a fact pure and simple and as such belongs to Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Janes, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Agnostics, Atheists and everybody else. Making a separate religion out of it is like making a religion out of breathing.

    • I think Giles reads it right. We can often be in trouble when we add an “ism” to anything, especially when that “ism” is added to a word such as “spiritual” which must surely have the potential for universal application. “Ism” is a suffix derived from the Greek word “ismos”, denoting action or a state of being. As such it cannot make the state of being spiritual the monopoly of a small special interest group. Arthur Findlay saw Spiritualism – literally the state of being spiritual – as the “coming world religion.” I interpret this as meaning that survival and communication, plus their accompanying consequences of ethics and behaviour, are inescapable universal truths. Why then have they been turned into a religion? All who believe that a spiritual outlook and behavioural stance are for the benefit of humanity should unite together, not separate into factions which spend time debating the thoroughly human fallacy of theological difference.

  2. John Morris

    All religions are man made and have brought about death and destruction to many millions of people over eons of time.

    I often wonder how shocked and at best very surprised the various and many religious groups and individuals are when they pass over to the other side.

    Spiritualism and the regualar contact that we have with our brothers and sisters on the other side allows us to understand that we will just be going home to our various soul groups.

    No one-upmanship, but just kindness and understanding with brothers and sisters in spirit who are of like mind.

    Love and Light,


  3. Leslie Price

    Lis refers to my words in a PN article “Why I am not a Real Spiritualist” in which I wrote:

    “I sympathise with the wish to keep out Unreal Spiritualists, and avoid a muddled message. I would call for separation but mutual respect.”

    How is this to be reconciled with my suggestion that more Christians are needed? One answer would be the introduction of an associate SNU membership for individuals such as liberal Christians who because of other organisational links, do not qualify for full SNU membership. The Churches Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies has had associate membership for many years; this permits Unitarians and others who are not members of orthodox churches, to share in most CFPSS activities without changing the core direction.

    To allay suspicion, perhaps I might add that I don’t aspire to associate SNU membership myself, being not a liberal Christian, of which there are many in the big denominations today, but in some ways a fundamentalist.

  4. Indeed, John, all religions are man made, though at least Spiritualism cannot be accused of having “brought about death and destruction to many millions of people,” in the 163 years of its existence as a movement and a religion.

    There is no doubt that for many who investigated the phenomena associated with Spiritualism in its formative years saw in the movement confirmation of earlier religious teachings, especially those of the Christian tradition. Others saw in Spiritualism a new revelation which was so profound that it was felt it genuinely created a new religion. Others, in the past, and today, would view the fundamental truth of survival over death as a universal truth that does not require religious trappings and could be incorporated into any, and all religions.

    I have much sympathy with the view that Spiritualism is a philosophy, and a way of life, rather than a religion, yet Spiritualism in its religious context stands for much more than the fact of survival over physical death. It presents other crucial truths, encapsulated in the Seven Principles, which convey not only that we survive, but why and how we can make our physical existence and that survival over death a more meaningful and spiritually purposeful experience.

    Spiritualism, as we understand it, is most certainly a religion. If we discard all the principles of Spiritualism, and leave only the reality of survival, it is also not a religion. It seems to me we can legitimately argue it is a religion, it is not a religion, it is a Christian religion, it is a universal truth applicable to all religions and it is a uniquely non-Christian religion.

    The beauty of Spiritualism is that we have the free will to choose how we define it, and how we choose to express it in our lives. Ultimately, when we find ourselves in the Spirit world I have no doubt that how we lived our lives, how we treated our fellow humankind, and our planet, will matter far more than whether we belonged to a religion, operated in accordance with a philosophy or held no formal religious or philosophical viewpoint. Yet people will always seek to gather together with those of like mind. We, as humans, find comfort and support in sharing our sense of belief and way of life with others.

    We must strive for tolerance and respect for our differences of opinion or belief. While I would not support Leslie’s suggestion for a form of associate membership of the SNU open to Christians, I would support a new, independent Society, which had as its basic tenets the reality of survival over death and the validity of communication between this world and the next. An organization which SNU Spiritualists, GW Spiritualists, non-religious Spiritualists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc., could all choose to join and be free to explore those two fundamental concepts – survival and communication – whether as believers, inquirers, researchers, philosophers or as sceptics. A body that could promote those fundamental principles yet allow people to continue to belong to whatever religion that they felt worked best for them as a guiding moral force in their lives. Such an organization might do much more for advancing knowledge of life and death than any individual religion.

  5. Mike Goodall

    I tend to agree with Lis on this one, with a few reservations…

    [I]By all means, let us encourage Christians, and those of any other religion or none, to enter into our Spiritualist churches, and may we always welcome them with a smile and an open heart. [/I]
    Yes I totally agree with that statement. At our church over the past 15 years or so we have had Christians, Catholics, Jews, a Muslim, and many other religions attend our services, and some of them have even been members of the SNU in the past. However with the introduction of Associate Membership before Full Membership, and members having to attend an Induction Course and sign that they accept Spiritualism (under the seven principles) and ‘absolutely nothing else’ in my view has certainly accounted for a decline in membership. Making it a ‘closed shop’ allowing only those who dedicate their whole lives to Spiritualism I think is a mistake; they are constantly trying to get new members but at the same time are making it hard for people to join and continue their original religious beliefs. I know of no other organisation that does this so harshly. A high membership subscription rate does not help either in these hard economic times.

    On the original question of Christian and Spiritualist beliefs I have never been able to understand theologically how you can have both. They are surely poles apart. I know several Christian Spiritualists and although I am glad that they can live with their beliefs I still cannot grasp the principles.

    I also agree with the comments that Spiritualism is not a religion but a way of life; and the old argument that we should not call our services ‘churches’ still holds strong; perhaps that is another reason for youngsters and some others not attending.

  6. Jackie Hanna

    We are all one. One with God, the light, source, whatever our minds accept as reality. We call it spirit. There is no division in oneness. We wish to have control over others decisions of their faith when in reality this will never be the case. Our problem isn’t in the name of our beliefs it is the belief that we have to define it at all. Each of us know that our lives are more beautiful and hold more meaning because we understand and live with this light to guide us each day. We practice mediumship to show others that given a chance they to can know this incredible truth. The demonstration was the hook and is what convinced me of spirit. My heart was already seeking answers to my own experiences. An act of proof is so needed in the world. We have been given this gift from Spirit. If we come together it should be in faith of what we know. In connecting together the strength of spirit itself. Spirit will be that healer of minds, hearts and souls. We forget the power of spirit and instead of allowing this light to shine through us to open the hearts of others we seek to find individual walls of definition and reason which only trap and bind the real spiritual light. Why not Open our hearts to faith in spirit and allow spirit to open the doors to others for us. They give us an act of proof, but do we carry this forward as a faith in goodneess, love, and oneness. Do we use our knowledge to build their relationship with spirit as their journey or ours? Call it what it is, spiritual growth teach love and faith in Spirit allow each person to call it what feels right to them: Source,light, God it doesn’t matter. God works for me because I was raised to believe in him. I feared to work with spirit because of this belief at first, but I felt the love and the healing and knew this to be what i was seeking with my heart. It is in our hearts and prayers that this power will grow. United as one seeking the power of one to reach out to other hearts and open their minds. We are so busy with the business of forming churches we seemed to have forgotten the power isn’t ours but in our faith of spirit. Our belief doesn’t end with a demostration. Our lives have been changed. Their lives can change. Teach more by having faith in the light and love so that others might wish to understand and seek spirit and it’s truth. Use the church to connect together as one in love of spirit. I know this truth and it holds me in a solid belief. Show others the wonderful joy our faith gives us. Have faith that spirit can only grow through your faith. Reach out from your hearts as one knowing you only have to ask and spirit will guide. This is what I think is meant by including a christain belief system not that we have to beleive in a structure, more that we have to show our own belief in spirit. There is no logic to spirit if there were it would not be what it truly is, an act of faith. Practice the love and it will open the doors to others.

  7. I have no objection to anyone from any faith learning about Spiritualism and would encourage it, however there are a number of philosophical issues that interfere with a fuller understanding or acceptance of Spiritualism’s philosophy and practice. For example it is becoming clearer that all the faiths based on the ‘Old Testament’ are working from a text that may well have its origin as a novel, a pure piece of entertainment and fiction. The Old Testament may well have been written as a basis from which to encourage folk to do right in a time where law may have been in its infancy…Maybe the reasoning behind the text will remain one of life’s great enigmas.
    As followers of Spiritualism it is accepted that we, as individuals, are solely responsible for whatever acts of kindness or evil we do while living this physical life. We do not have recourse to call on Jesus to forgive our sins or die for us, as in both cases it would be pointless because of our personal responsibility to answer for whatever we do or have done.
    I would suggest that the simpler a philosophy the purer it is, as to my mind the philosophy is simple ‘work toward a life of spirituality’, and if we all did this there would be no requirement for the thick tomes that adorn the alters of our more established systems of belief, tomes that speak of acceptable violence, persecution, a vengefull diety that takes sides in times of conflict. What sort of belief is that!
    So yes people of all faiths should be welcomed with open arms, and yes they should be encouraged to investigate and explore Spiritualism (something that some of the world’s religions discourage), and yes they should be invited to learn about the philososphy especially where it diverges from say Christianity.
    As a final point, and not wishing to be too direct, it is an unfortunate consequence that when people from say a Christian background join the Spiritualist movement they find it virtually impossible to let go of their Christian origins, possibly due to years of indoctrination and emotional and behavioural programming. This inability to release from long held Christian belief has in many cases, and I have seen this across the Spiritualist movement in the UK, filtered through into Spiritualist churches where such folk, having gained positions of influence within a church or centre, have brought in Christian paraphernalia and in some cases ‘ritual’ to what should be a ‘Spiritualist’ service. Those of you who frequent Spiritualist venues in the UK take a good look around when you next visit an SNU Spiritualist church or centre, take a good look around and note what you see on the walls or on the lecturn…Are you seeing things consistent with a Spiritualist church or Christian?

  8. I believe that the spiritualism is a philosophy and way of life. The philosophy is simple and beautiful but the only thing that distinguishes spiritualism from other beautiful philosophies is mediumship in its various forms.

    Through various forms of mediumship we have so much more understanding of life beyond physical death, and also about how to live this earthly life.

    Christ has been described by writers like Annie Besant, as a great teacher for the west. There have been other great teachers in the east and middle-east. I know people who believe in what they call “Christ-consciousness” – a belief in the love which the Christ the teacher espoused – but their belief extends beyond the traditional tenets of contemporary Christianity.

    To me, when human beings decide to organize and institutionalize beliefs, some barriers inevitably arise. People start telling others what they should believe and inventing structures of belief and behaviour which can become quite rigid and narrow. And they also can get a little imperialistic. The bigger western churches and certainly some eastern churches have been down this road. It is inevitable because we are human – in all our differences and preferences.

    The trance revelations of some of the great spiritualist literature e.g. Chan and Ramadahn, seem fairly quiet on the matter of organised religion although they acknowledge the follies of some of the teachings and actions of organised religions.

    I have seen what can happen when spiritualist churches as human organisations go astray as well. It can be truly awful.

    I think we must travel our own journeys and find our own truths but it seems to me essential that we preserve and encourage the skills of mediumship and healing. The spiritualist church has indeed done this and this is one of its greatest achievements. The medium whose reading changed my life actually belongs to an obscure European Christian sect but practises her mediumship and healing in what has become a cultish and very narrow spiritualist church. It wasn’t like that in the beginning or when she joined it. The church has simply become the vehicle in she practises her great gifts. She keeps her other beliefs very private. She does great work I believe – the work of spirit – bringing hope and healing to many who visit the church looking for just that.

    I admire those of you who keep the doors of spiritualism open because there are treasures within that cannot be found elsewhere. Mediumship and scientific proof of life beyond physical death are two of those treasures.

  9. I simply ask people who doubt that I have gotten in spirit: “Do you believe in Easter?” When they answer yes, I tell them “Then there you are.” I love seeing the wheels turning in their heads!

    I see no reason why someone cannot be a Christian and believe in the Spiritualist principles. I believe that God created all, but I also believe that he created creatures that adapt and evolve to their environments. I guess some people still think the Earth is flat.

  10. Is God a He?

    This actually raises another point of discussion what is God?

    Traditionally god is seen as a man within all Christian mythology and this is mirrored in-the-main within Spiritualism, possibly due to the theological origins of the majority of Spiritualists coming from Christian backgrounds.

    As a Spiritualist I agree the we were formed in god’s image but not as a human being as many interpret this quote. I would suggest it is akin to the Chi, or a quanta of energy encapsulated within a material form in this matterverse.

    How far can a Christian faith stretch to accept a world view that does not have a physical god or place any importance on the Christian character Jesus, if he really existed?

  11. John, I strongly recommend that you read Annie Besant’s “Esoteric Christianity’. The mainstream Christian churches have moved some distance from the teachings of the Christ, I think. There are the organisational and political churches and the spiritual churches within these Christian institutions. You can’t lump everyone in the one basket.

    I’d like to see the spiritualist movement hold a variety of options.

  12. Hi Lightsnaps

    I am sure many Spiritualists will have read Annie Besant although as she was a Theosophist not a Spiritualist her writings were more relevant to that movement. There has always been a cross over between these movements although in the past there was also considerable friction especially about Madam Blavatsky’s teachings. In 1878 on the 30th Anniversary of Spiritualism Andrew Jackson Davis described a third group of Spiritualists (after Rational and Christian), the Magical Spiritualists, which in essence he indicated had become The Theosophical Society under the leadership of Madam Blavatsky and with Emma Hardinge Britten on the committee at first.

    The third group has not been mentioned here, the Metaphysical Spiritualist Churches that encompass all they wish to within their walls but their numbers, within independent centres, are rising.

    I am proud to be one of those Spiritualists who back in Victorian time attracted the title Infidels, I am not a Christian. I rejected Christianity for a wide array of reasons after much thought, reading and discussion well before meeting up with Spiritualism. I joined this movement from a background of being a Humanist Agnostic with strong beliefs in human equality and pacifism

    Let us briefly revisit issues which have been given, that indicate why Spiritualism is different to Christianity. The first and most important is Christ as a Saviour this is something taht Spiritualism directly rejects and it contravenes our 7 Principles. Additionally we must remember that, if the Bible is correct and the history of Jesus has any reality, he never claimed to either be the son of God or to come to earth to save us. This is subsequent theology. So Spiritualism is denying a central plank of the Nicene Code -there is no vicarious atonement.

    Spiritualists believe neither in heaven, nor in hell, nor in the devil. There is no original sin in Spiritualism that belief relies entirely upon the Creation Story of Adam and Eve in the Old Testament. If I rejected Darwin’s theory of evolution I would prefer to use the Aboriginal Dream Time Stories as my version of creation.

    I accept that there may be some churches that come closer to us but remember the “orthodox” churches would not accept their teachings readily. Even then the exclusions, I have listed above, would place us in very different territory to even the “unorthodox” belief systems of these churches. The closest to us are probably still those that were involved in the founding of our movement, Quakers, Universalists, Unitarians and Swedenborg’s New Church.

    Spiritualism is a very distinct philosophy which has considerable value both to its adherents and to the world. This is as it stands now without adding any extras to it. It is a simple philosophy with great depth.

    As Lis has said whilst we should welcome anyone to our centres at any time we should preserve our own beliefs by ensuring that members accept and follow this. To be a member of a Spiritualist Centre is to accept the philosophy without any hidden agendas. To frequently people join wanting to make Spiritualism move to another place, quite often to move with the times. They want to include many things without properly thinking through either what this means to the core philosophy (or even properly understanding this and its magnificent history), or whether the ideas they wish to tag on have real validity.

    I can understand your thought that “I’d like to see the spiritualist movement hold a variety of options.” However in Australia I see the real effect of that approach frequently here everything is included even within so called Spiritualist Churches. For example, there are 9 centres in South Australia. Although you may see some similarities between a few of the churches almost certainly you would receive a totally different view of what Spiritualism was. From what I have seen and been told as you travel round Australia you may become even more confused. One local centre even rejects that the Fox sisters started Modern Spiritualism.

    This also reflects in the way Mediumship is presented, with considerable emphasis on flower reading in many centres. This also flows through into the development of Mediums. The type of talks which are presented will reflect a wide variety of ideas as well; we see more and more of the Archangel Channellers. Too often we are likely to see material that if treated with proper discernment would wither to nothing in the face of our Spiritualist Philosophy and history. Indeed more often the Churches are stating a disclaimer before the talk is given that it may not represent either the views of the Church or Spiritualism

    As a dedicated Spiritualist, following a rational approach similar to the Spiritualist National Union, it becomes harder to convince people that Spiritualism has any coherent and consistent philosophy. Attempting to indicate elements that are not part of the Spiritualist philosophy when another centre is teaching this material is quite challenging

    I believe that, unless we hold the line somewhere, the movement we know as Modern Spiritualism will fade from sight. Spiritualism has shown that, with good speakers and mediums it is a force to be reckoned with. In the past it has also been a force for social change. It is time to look at how we get back to this level not become governed by more rules or burdened by suspect new age teachings.

    I also believe that the Christians amongst us should be taking the same action to resuscitate the Greater World. They can then perpetuate the involvement of Christ as a saviour if they wish.

    What we do need is some non denomenational body, not rule making but coordinating the efforts to attract an awareness of Spiritualism in the wider world. It would help if that coordinated some form of review of Mediums to to get the standard back up to where it was.

  13. Jim, I don’t know enough to contribute much more to this discussion. I agree that much of the ‘platform’ of Christianity has been constructed for political/theological reasons.

    I don’t think that Spiritualism is strong enough in Victoria, where I live, and one can get different versions. Many people who attend may not have read some what I consider to be the basic literature. Many are simply trying to live well and manage the challenges of the times.

    The flower readings – well I think that these are people trying to develop their psychic skills and sometimes they are vehicle to give support and affirmation to others.

    As a developing medium I believe that spirit contacts us in different ways and some times flowers and other symbols can act as shorthand or triggers for good evidential mediumship. Once, in my group we did flower readings and they were quite powerful but our teacher always helps us see what is from Spirit and what might be psychic or cold reading.

    Back to your responses, I do feel that some knowledge is ‘disappearing’ but one can only trudge on, seeking a pure path for oneself. I have enough in the literature and my class to keep me going at the moment but sometimes I long for a strong and vital community of like souls. In my dreams, I thought that these existed more commonly in the UK!

  14. John Morris

    Good morning Lightsnaps,

    Not all knowledge is dissappearing as it is certainlyis being passed down tohose following on behind us in the UK.

    What is happening for sure is that the larger formal church gatherings are getting smaller and the old style “Home Circles “are growing.

    We sometimes have guests who are amazed at what they see and hear when in direct contact with the spirit world.

    Human nature being what it is today makes things difficult for spiritualists who want to share but are concerned for the fear of the financial greed that exists today and people using the gifts that we all have within us for personal financial gain.

    There are advertisments right left and centre which prove the point with regards financial gain being made with our free gift from the spirit world.

    I have no doubt we also have genuine spiritualits around who treat their small group sitters as brothers and sisters as we go on our journey of learning and understanding hand in hand together.

    I suppose you could liken our circle to that of theVictorian times and at a pace to match theirs, once we have shut the door to the 21st century for our 60 minutes plus sitting when uniting of the 2 worlds.

    Perhaps this is the way that we are meant to go certainly Spiritualism is alive and well.

    Love and Light,


  15. The first circle I sat in a spiritualist church setting but the church later was beset with conflict and I left. Now I am a member of a private circle run by a traditionally trained medium. I am learning the skills of mediumship but miss the sense of belonging to a spiritually oriented organisation. Still, I am grateful for what I have and trust that Spirit will lead me to a place or situation where I can be most useful.

    Personally. I think we must remember that times change and that the manifestation of Spirit in this world will change as well. Somewhere in one of the Ramadahn trance homilies (Ursula Roberts) that is stated quite openly. The manifestation of Spirit has never been the same in our own world anyway because of the very different cultures.

    In Western society, Spiritualism has played a significant part in a quiet way. Alfred Deakin, one of the greatest Australian Prime Ministers, was a spiritualist and married to a woman from a well known spiritualist family in Melbourne a long time ago. I know that the UK, the US and New Zealand could tell similar stories. It would be easy to underestimate what is happening now. I am not Christian in the usual sense but I believe that Christ was indeed one of the great teachers and if I go to a Christian spiritualist Church I go for the mediumship and the lovely sense of community – and also because there may be little else available on the day!

    I doubt that spiritualism in any form will ever become mainstream, however.

  16. I smile at the system of rating – thumbs up/thumbs down symbol, not that it disturbs me but it would be nice to have a few words instead, to engage in a dialogue rather than a pejorative symbol. That would be more interesting 🙂

  17. Spiritualism is a Religion/ way of life that should be free of dogma and rigidity.
    Christianity is a rigid religion, with an encompasing dogma, and a leadership which dictates what you need to think in order to be a part of “the club”.

    It’s not Spiritualism that is incompatible with Christianity, but the other way round. I think Spiritualism has more in common with Humanism than Christianity, but of course that’s only my opinion.

    The only downside is this. Why should someone who holds such rigid beliefs want to be part of a free thinking “ism”? I’m not against Christianity, or any organised religion. It’s just that I know that they’re not for me. But to want to be part of two such widely diverse beliefs seems far from complimentary. Why not decide where you stand and stick to it, rather than “hedge your bets”?

  18. In the historically African American Spiritual Church Movement, the so-called conflict between Christianity and Spiritualism does not exist. The Spiritual Church Movement grew out of the expulsion of Black members from the USA-based National Spiiritualist Association of Churches (NSAC) in 1922. The Spiritual Church Movement is not a single denomination, but rather a loose grouping of several distinct denominations, such as Universal Hagar’s Spiritual Churches, Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ, Missionary Independent Spiritual Churches, Pentecostal Spiritual Assemblies of Christ Worldwide, etc. Obviously, for us, your question was settled long ago: We are Christians and Spiritualists — and some denominations among us also include within our membership Jews, Muslims, African Traditionalists, and others who accept Spiritualism as a guiding principle. Look us up online sometime: The Spiritual Church Movement. We are friendly, we are Spiritualists, and we welcome all to our congregations.

  19. Thanks for that Catherine, the expulsion in 1922, given Spiritualism’s ealier fight for racial equaity, was a very sad moment in time. I have often researched the history of that time and discussed it over the internet with American friends. I am glad that your church is working so freely, as it should.

  20. I believe that bringing this matter into the open is good for us all. We must be able to honour everyone who seeks the light and lives a spiritual life whatever their beliefs. On a personal level I accept Jesus, who was born and died a Jew, as a great teacher and medium. I do not accept him as a god as Christians do. The history of Christianity should be studied by all who have an interest in this subject and I can recommend Arthur Findlay’s “The rock of truth” as a good starting point.

  21. Lesley Harris

    The “Rock of Truth” is certainly a good starting point. I am reading it right now. On page 179 there’s a very interesting paragraph: “It is because I believe that Spiritualism is being handicapped and thwarted by orthodox Christians through ignorance, that I have tried to show that there is no basis for the beliefs of Christianity. Christians, greatly as they err, certainly take life seriously, and are the very people who should be Spiritualists, because they, like Spiritualists, take the view that life on earth is more than it really seems to be”.

    And Volume 2 Chapter 10 of his History of Spiritualism, Conan Doyle, draws lots of parallels between Christianity and Spiritualism and suggested that the current (ie in his time) Spiritualist services were similar to early Christian services.

    So on the surface, there would seem to be a good argument for having more Christians in Spiritualism. And if Christianity had remained as it was in the early days there would be no problem. However as Lis says, and as Arthur Findlay hammers out time after time, current mainstream Christianity and Spiritualism are poles apart, and indeed Christianity has been an active persecutor of Spiritualists and continues to be so in some, (not all) Christian quarters.

    Of course it depends on what you mean by Christians, and when is a person Christian and when is a person not a Christian. Do we mean liberal Christians? My main church is Unitarian and we are always grappling about to what extent we are Christian and to what extent we are not. If being a Christian means following the example of Jesus Christ and believing that he lived to guide us in life, rather than died to save us from sin, and rejecting the idea that he died in order to provide us with eternal life, then yes, it might be possible to combine elements of that with Spiritualism, and Spiritualist services might benefit from occasionally including mention of Jesus as a great teacher and medium, and of parts of the Bible as great pieces of Spiritualist evidence. It would seem from Rev Catherine Yronwode’s posting that some liberal Christians are working together well with Spiritualism, and presumably they do so in Greater World Spiritualist churches. But I do not see how traditional mainstream Trinitarian Christianity with its doctrine of the Atonement, its belief in a Personal Saviour God, and its history of persecution of mediums could combine comfortably with SNU Spiritualism. You cannot serve two different masters.

  22. Broadly agree with most of the comments here.
    I have said many times that Christianity came from Spiritualism, not the other way round.
    We get all hung up on the Hydesville Rappings, and use that as the start of Spiritualism. I think not.
    Spiritualism has been around since before the time of physical creation. It’s another part of Nature, which you could never accuse any conventional religion of – they’ve all Man Made.

    If you we’re to hop into a time machine, and go back to the early days of true Christianity (not the gubbins we have now, thanks to King James, Charlemagne, and others ). You’d probably see a very loose and informal gathering of like minded individuals, who would share philosophy, and have contact with those who had passed on to a higher life, giving validation to the truth that life is eternal.

    Certainly not the dogma and rituals that Christians, (and some spriritalists) seem to thrive on now.

    A friend of mine used to say ” Give up Religion – become a Christian”. I didn’t really grasp what he was getting at, until a few years ago.

    Love and Light,

  23. you can be both.
    – i do not go to church
    – i am spiritual
    – i believe in reincarnation
    – i believe that Jesus’ teachings (as described in the Talmud of Jmmanuel) is the way to live life.

    Let me explain how i can be all these without conflict … I grew up catholic but basically avoided religion for many years (and still do) and i was agnostic for most of my adult life. I spent the last year and a half researching various life topics including spirituality because i wanted to learn to meditate and become more grounded. My full time research led me to discover a fascinating document called the Talmud of Jmmanuel. This translated document is based on the original document written ~2000 years ago that was discovered in Israel in 1976. The story surrounding how it was discovered and how it was destroyed shortly after being translated is filled with controversy that would make a great movie, but regardless, we are left with this transcribed document (not the original) — essentially like the vast majority of religious texts.

    What makes this TJ so interesting is that it seems to be the original text from which the Book of Matthew was based on. And with that, understandably, the TJ has been called a hoax and has been shrouded in controversy ever since.

    I would have ignored this entire thing had i not found Prof. James Deardorff very detailed analysis of the TJ comparing it verse-by-verse to the Book of Matthew. I fully expected the professor’s analysis to prove the TJ to be a hoax and to show that the TJ was written after the BOM and I was actually more curious to see the techniques he was going to use to compare the two documents. The research actually proved the TJ to be authentic which got me curious so i read the TJ first hand. It is a super interesting document that depicts a much clearer (and more believable) story than the BOM. All those ambiguous verses and confusing information in the BOM are not in the TJ. The verses are flowing and very understandable.

    It becomes clear that countless verses in the BOM were changed and twisted and key information simply omitted. Anyway, people that are interested, i encourage you to make up your own mind by reading the TJ and spending time reviewing the various verse-by-verse comparisons done by Prof. Deardorff.

    Here’s 1 simple famous comparison of a very famous verse: Matthew 10:34 to the Talmud of Jmmanuel 10:43-44

    Mt 10:34
    34″Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

    TJ 10:43-44
    43″Do not think that I have come to bring peace on Earth.
    44Truly, I have not come to bring peace, but the sword of knowledge about the power of the consciousness, which dwells within the human being.”

    There are many more versus just like this.

    Here are the documents and link for you to research on your own:

    Talmud of Jmmanuel (TJ) PDF

    Click to access talmud.pdf

    Verse-by-verse comparison of TJ to the Book of Matthew

    Good luck.


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