Are the Seven Principles still ‘fit for purpose’?

“When everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”  – George S. Patton.

By Geoff Griffiths

The Seven Principles have once again come under scrutiny. This follows researchers’ discovery that the idea the Principles were given to Emma Hardinge Britten (EHB) by Robert Owen, from spirit life, may actually be a myth. Was it one of those legends that tend to grow up around legendary characters –  the embroidery woven by the over-enthusiastic religious mind?

Over the years, Emma, like many others, had made attempts to come up with a simple but comprehensive statement of what Spiritualism is. “The Ten Laws of Right” and “The Spiritual Commandments” from the Lyceum Manual, which she co-authored, are two of them. And it is known that she was in the audience when Owen – still in the body – outlined his views on the universal religion whilst she was living in New York in the very earliest days of the Spiritualist era. This could have been the first seed of the Principles.

But then again, Ben Franklin laid down his religious principles in the 1700s, which, in different terminology, include the first, second, third and sixth of our Seven Principles.

“I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe.  That he governs it by his Providence.  That he ought to be worshipped (1).  That the most acceptable Service we render to him is doing good to his other Children (2).  That the soul of Man is immortal (3), and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its Conduct in this (6).” 

Clearly, the Seven Principles had been a work in progress with EHB for many years and may have had many influences. And even when she had finished her work on them, they were only the Five Principles  – legal drafting and our legendary debate and discussion had yet to do their work to arrive at the seven we know today.

The Seven Principles now define what is meant by that awful term “SNU Spiritualism”. Whatever happened to the proud boast: “I am a Spiritualist without prefix, suffix or affix”? We should know that any prefix constitutes a limitation, a narrowing.

It was only in 1964 that the SNU Conference, in one of its reactionary phases, decided that the Seven Principles – and only the Seven Principles – would define the SNU’s version of what Spiritualism was. Stainton Moses’ Spirit Teachings – until then regarded as the bible of Spiritualism and the only connected body of philosophy we have – went out of the window. This was analogous to the Fathers of the Christian church, having formulated its Creed, throwing out their scriptures as being of no purpose. At a stroke, Conference had created “Spiritualist philosophy for the lazy person” –  a dumbing down which persists to this day and has little power to engage and hold those precious intelligent enquirers.

Harold Vigurs

Vigurs Commission

All this followed a major SNU Commission of Inquiry set up the year before to consider several major problems facing the then near-bankrupt Union. Some of the Union’s finest minds – Harold Vigurs (a legendary former SNU president and Home Office lawyer), Laurie Wilson (a barrister and son of Percy Wilson, who had drafted the Fraudulent Mediums Bill), Norman Ainley (a leading Lyceumist), along with Gordon Higginson and Wilfrid Watts, formed the committee and asked the SNU membership for ideas. I’m sure the odd letter or two must have flooded in!

Vigurs and his group, who had given many years of thought to this, expressed the view that the Seven Principles were too narrow. The conference was persuaded otherwise and the Seven Principles came to sum up what Spiritualism was. (The actual minutes of the 1964 conference could not be found in SNU headquarters when I enquired, so I can only surmise what really happened from the sketchy personal correspondence of the participants.)

Deeper Roots

Well, as a quick taster of Spiritualist philosophy, the Seven Principles are fine. But where is the instruction, the fuller teaching, the explanation of spirit purpose, the vision of spirit? To use a well-known phrase, “Where’s the beef?”  It is in the mouldering copies of  Spirit Teachings languishing in church libraries; in the thousands of insightful articles entombed in the archives of Two Worlds, Psychic News, Light, etc, back issues published once and never to be seen again. This is the lost treasury of the classical model of Spiritualism – the Spiritualism of Ernest Oaten, Harold Vigurs, Emma Hardinge Britten, J.J. Morse. Real pioneers whose Spiritualism was richly informed by Stainton Moses’ classic book.

Like many others of the classical era, Oaten was sufficiently secure in his Spiritualist identity to engage with the Christian church, knowing that he would not be won over by them. He was able to say to the Archbishop’s Commission on Spiritualism that:

“(Spiritualism) has changed Jesus Christ from a mystical and awe inspiring mentor who lived two thousand years ago, and made him a dynamic, present day source of energy and inspiration, a wise and experienced human soul; an elder brother whose influence is still bathing the world in love. Who knows and cares nothing about creeds or races or churches, but knows only the needs of the human soul. He is no more the property of your church, than he is of the primitive sun worshipper. He doesn’t want your adoration; he wants clean lives of real service. Not His name – but His spirit, is the thing.”

In those days, with the gap between us smaller than it is now, we took most of our converts from the ranks of progressive Christians. We held a philosophy the depth of which the Seven Principles alone cannot replace. This came from Spirit Teachings, from The Harmonial Philosophy  of Andrew Jackson Davis, and from the Lyceum Manual, which provided something deeper and more comprehensive.

The enquirer coming to Spiritualism today could well ask what that “something deeper” might be. But there are few in our churches who could tell her or him. More likely, having learned the Seven Principles, they might ask, “Is that it?” At that point the enquirer can only go back to the message culture until the novelty wears off.  Then she or he would simply find nothing to keep them in our mainly small and narrowly-based churches, and would leave!

I have a personal example of this. A couple of years ago, I bumped into a business associate (who was a manager in a major insurance company), scanning the Body, Mind and Spirit section in a bookshop.  He confided to me that he had recently joined a Spiritualist church. I assured him that I didn’t think any the less of him for this, although I felt his choice of church – a very small one – might not be the best one. Sure enough, after a few months, he e-mailed me – and I copy and paste what he wrote:

Spiritualism, although very good and worthwhile, didn’t provide enough for me, whereas spirituality does. You hit the nail on the head because I don’t believe turning up on a Sunday singing a few hymns and listening to evidence is enough, that to me centres on grief and the fear of dying. Spirituality on the other hand seems more connecting to everyone and everything, knowing that we are spirits living in a physical shell designed to give us experience and learning. There does not seem enough depth for me in Spiritualism. I would imagine that the same words get read out week after week, the only learning and understanding comes from the readings and the address.

In short, Seven Principles Spiritualism is too shallow.

Christian contrasts

We are often told that the fifth principle of Personal Responsibility is what separates us from Christianity; the idea that we are responsible for our own sins – that Jesus cannot bear them for us. This is the Christian doctrine of Vicarious Atonement. But it goes much deeper than that.

Even in this day and age, the Christian tradition teaches that humans have fallen from God’s grace and are born in a state of  Original Sin. In order to escape from this condition, we need to be ‘saved’ through Jesus Christ. This salvation process involves complying with the Church’s teachings. So the Church, like all good salesmen, provides the problem as well as the solution! We have heard of the disease for which there is no known cure. Salvation is a cure for which there is no known disease!

Spiritualism eschews the doctrine of the Fall of Man – and the doctrines of Original Sin, Salvation and Vicarious Atonement which follow from it.  It teaches that the human is an individualised, evolving and imperfect part of the one life in the universe and is already a part of God. We therefore cannot die. Our life beyond this one – and its quality – is not conditional upon our conforming to church dogma, but is a consequence of our spiritual nature. The quality of our future state depends upon building character in this life. That is the moral driver of Spiritualism.

Christianity is a religion of salvation by conformity, whilst Spiritualism is a religion of progression by endeavour. This is somewhat deeper than Personal Responsibility versus Vicarious Atonement, which is only the tip of this doctrinal iceberg.

Clearly, having rejected salvation theology, we cannot consider Jesus of Nazareth as a saviour. He is variously regarded as an exemplar, medium, older brother in spirit or, as Emma Hardinge Britten put it, “The ancient Spiritualist” – a faithful witness to the spiritual dimension in his time.

And, of course, there is the small matter of mediumship – the revelation that underpins the Spiritualist reformation as it did the ministry of Jesus. As spiritual beings, it follows that we have spiritual faculties. In some, these are highly developed; in others they can be developed up to a point and in differing ways. Each in their own way can be used as pipelines of continuing spiritual revelation and evidential communication.

Having a clear view of our Spiritualist identity, it is not difficult to engage with Christians as the Charities Commission, through the SNU’s NEC, is asking us to do. (As you may know, the Charities Commission has criticised us for being too inward-looking and failing to join up with other religions.)  This is a shot across the bows if ever I saw one. But, I hear you say, “Well, it takes two to tango!”  Maybe, but at some point someone has to walk across those exposed acres of dance floor to ask these scowling wallflowers of Orthodoxy for a dance!

“Christian” Principles

In spite of the mutual animosity between them, and our fancies about being a religion in our own right, Spiritualism and Christianity are very much intertwined. This is because spirit inspiration works in all religions and links them together – whether they know it or not and whether they like it or not. We have no monopoly.  What do you think spirit were doing throughout all those centuries while they were waiting for the Spiritualist movement to arise?

Superstitions, dogmas and societal mindsets of humankind have always been barriers to spirit’s purpose and spirit have to work around whatever good intentions humankind puts in the way. But somehow spirit were always able to find those who could catch the message and were gradually able to ‘spiritualise’ the culture, eventually creating the atmosphere in which the Spiritualist reformation could take place.

Our Principles themselves are almost all drawn via the Judeo-Christian culture. The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man did not spring forth fully formed from the void. The spirit had sown them into the culture as the theological ground became more fertile to progressive ideas, as they did with the other Principles. True, the Orthodox put the condition of unquestioning conformity on our continuous existence. And on our eternal progress. However, many modern, progressive Christians do accept that personal responsibility cannot be circumvented by vicarious atonement.

It is said that the narrow-minded  see only the differences between their religion and another, whilst a broad-minded person only sees the similarities. There is certainly enough common ground in the Seven Principles to provide a platform for engagement with the Christian church in that awkward tango that the Charities Commission wants us to have. But we Spiritualists need rather more literacy in our own philosophy to sustain the dialogue.

Gordon Higginson

Before his passing in 1993, SNU president Gordon Higginson, a member of the Vigurs Commission, said that we needed to look at the Seven Principles from time to time to see what changes were needed. More recently, the SNU’s National Executive Committee has decreed that the Principles are unchangeable. But give them a break – this is probably a legal requirement they can do nothing about.  Companies ‘Limited by Guarantee’ have to announce definite articles to comply with company law.  That said, whatever their original intentions, all companies can adjust their articles from time to time.

Whatever the case, to progress as a movement we first need to rediscover much of the rich philosophy that we have neglected. I believe our virtual worship of the Seven Principles to the exclusion of everything else has blinded us to much of this philosophy.

What do you think about the points Geoff has raised? Use our comments facility to continue the discussion.

56 responses to “Are the Seven Principles still ‘fit for purpose’?

  1. Sheelagh Wellman

    Suffice to say Geoff Griffiths speaks a lot of sense, a reasoned and intelligent mind, reminding us of great minds of old, once in support of our movement. Where are they all now? No doubt watching us all paddling in the quagmire of discontent that is SNU Spiritualism today. Calling all ‘Spiritualists’ let’s pull together, once more, strengthening our once ‘in unison’ Union. Remove the bickering and you guys at the top remember to listen – we belong to the movement too!!

    • Vanda Bubear

      Well said Sheelagh! Just my point! There shouldn’t be ‘guys at the top’ in Spiritualism.

    • Agreed. How can we be an organisation of equals when we have a hierarchy? It doesn’t stand up to Natural Law. Sure, we need leadership, and even people who are appointed, but any appointment should be ratifed by the members – and I include Church members in this. I feel the only people who disagree with this are the people who know they won’t “get in” under this democratic system. Rather than having the smokescreen of looking at the Seven Principles, why not do something more useful, and let outside auditors look at the way the SNU is run.

      • Vanda Bubear

        I truly worry about the divisions within Spiritualism. I cannot accept that we even need ‘Ministers’. What is their job? This is just a copy-cat of mainstream religion. in mainstream religion, a minister is a conduit between the ‘followers’ and the divine. We don’t need that, surely? It has been proven, time and time again, that we can have our own personal relationship with the divine, however we perceive Him/Her to be. A minister is supposed to minister i.e. preach to the people about the right way, and the path we should follow. Surely we don’t need that either. I agree we may need elected teachers for those of us who require more knowledge of the Spiritualist philosophy, and, to some small extent, leaders who can represent us as an organisation. But history has shown that, when you start giving people titles that mean nothing, but give a sense of a hierarchy existing within the organisation, then free thinking goes out of the window. Present day Christianity is a perfect example. It’s a sad fact that most people today have been bullied, cajoled and scared into nurturing a sheep-like mentality when it comes to religion, and most will blindly follow anything or anyone who demands it, either because they are afraid, or because it’s much easier to do that than exercise their freedom to think for themselves. I guess I just don’t want to see us Spiritualists, a few years down the road, being seen as just another copycat, watered-down version of the Christian religion which has proven to be dangerously flawed in so many ways 😦

  2. It does surprise me to say the least that the early Spiritualists would campaign for freeing slaves and equal rights for women, yet their modern successors would still adhere to principles that talk about a brotherhood and a fatherhood – two terms that Silver Birch thought inappropriate and clumsy at best.

    The Principles were created in the language of a different era, for a society that was very different from ours, so would it not make sense to have Principles that reflect the changes in our modern society and our movement?

    If that is something we are not willing to do then we risk falling into the trap of thinking that everything done in the past is sacred and can’t be improved upon. If that is the case then we may as well be reading that thousand year old book and thinking it contains all we need to know about spirituality..

  3. I read it carefully – twice. He is right on the money. My latest book has a subtite of A Reality Check for the New Century and having sought input from Spiritualists around the world listed things needing change, updating and facing reality. I am thankful for people like Geoff who has the backbone to tell it like it is! Remember ole Warrn Chase our Pioneer became known by those five words. We are in the 21st Century and if Spiritualist do not drop the extra tags and unify, we may find it difficult to continue forward. Our forefathers of Spiritualism projected it as a progressive movement but somewhere it seems the train got stuck on the track. The numbers continue to decrease…..we need to remember Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

  4. Peter Raggett

    The Seven Principles would still be fit for purpose if they had been updated in accord with Arthur Findlay’s suggestions.

    1. The Universe is governed by mind, commonly called God. All we have sensed, do sense or will sense is Mind expressing itself in some form or another.
    2. The existence and identity of the individual continues after the change called death.
    3. Communication, under suitable conditions, takes place between us here on Earth and the inhabitants of Etheria (spirit), into which we shall pass at death.
    4. Our conduct must be guided by the golden rule first proclaimed by Confucius, of doing to others what we would wish to be done to ourselves.
    5. Each individual is their own saviour, and we cannot look to someone else to bear our sins and suffer for our mistakes.
    6. Each individual reaps as s/he sows, and we make our happiness or unhappiness just as we harmonise with our surroundings. Each one gravitates naturally to the place in Etheria (spirit) in harmony with his or her desires, as there desires are gratified more easily there than here on earth.
    7. The path of progress is never closed, and there is no known end to the advancement of the individual.

    Even these could be improved upon. In place of ‘Mind’ I would substitute ‘Consciousness.’

    As for engaging with the Christian church. I see no problem provided the present Archbishop of Canterbury does the decent thing and acknowledges and publishes in full the Lang report (the positive report into Spiritualism commissioned by the then Archbishop of Canterbury into claimed contact with discarnate souls) which has been suppressed by his church for over 70 years

  5. Janet Harrison

    Religion attempts to define what a body of people believe. People have this habit of thinking for themselves, so there will always be bickering. Something is not quite right about religion. I don’t want it.

  6. I agree with what Geoff has said, I have always had an issue with the wording of the seven principles, as an example, the word retribution conjures up thoughts of hell fire and damnation again, but it was written during the Victorian era, I would like to think we have moved on since those days.
    Progression open to every human soul, we could use that principle by adapting the principles to modern day thinking.
    As spirit will always tell you, there will always be a movement forward, it is up to the individual if they wish to stand still and not take up the challanges that face them in life.

  7. It took some 1500 years for the Christian church to develop its current branches, some of which like the Cathloic and Eastern Orthodox churches are more ore less ossified around their particular dogmas. Others while retaining the original core of their faith are still developing along protestant lines.

    It has been said in another post on this site that the SNU are becoming the Vatican of Spiritualism. As such they have started the processes of ossification that their Christian cousins underwent.

    It would seem that SNU Spiritualism now needs it own version of Martin Luther to redefine the 7 principles and reinvigorate the movement, which may well lead to a new branch developing.

    As to the current lot interacting more with the other religions, that may well be a good thing, but how do you get the Spiritualist shrinking violets to grasp the initiative and approach the scowling wallflowers, given the bed of theological nettles between them.
    A newly invigorated movement may well be better placed to acheive this.

  8. Vanda Bubear

    Your article is both informative and pragmatic. It reminded me of the type of Spiritualism which I signed up to many years ago.

    I would question why the Spiritualist National Union seeks so earnestly to become a ‘religion’, like all other religions, with the associated dogma and creeds, and endless lists of worthies climbing on its bootstraps? Spiritualism is in very real danger of becoming what it sought to replace. Spiritualism was never intended as a religion, but as a philosophy, as your article so eloquently points out.

    It is an unfortunate, but undeniable, trait of human nature that, once there is put in place a ‘hierarchy’ of any description, in all large organisations, be it priests, ministers, administrators or the like (the list is endless) that hierarchy will eventually come to lose a common vision with the masses. History shows us, time and time again, that, in some cases, people within the hierarchy will inevitably start to pursue their own, less worthy agendas and interests. This is precisely what has happened with mainstream religions, and I don’t want to see it happen to Spiritualism.

    I don’t know the answers, and I have been a Spiritualist for 25 years. It quite astonished me to see the way in which the SNU is portrayed by the Arthur Findlay website, as having lost its way completely and certainly not providing the scientific means of research into the afterlife that Arthur wished, when he donated his home to them in Stansted Hall. Then I open the ‘contacts’ page on the site and I am confronted with a whole list of what I term ‘worthies’ who apparently work for the SNU but never answer email correspondence when it is sent to them. Is all this really necessary?

    Where is the means for funding and researching scientific proof of our continued existence in the afterlife, which Arthur sought so diligently? Instead of paying stipends to so many ‘worthies’, should we not be putting our cash into such research, as originally intended by the Spiritualist tenets that I remember?

    Our numbers will never increase while we portray ourselves as just another religion. Our numbers will never increase while there are so many rules and regulations about matters such as the holding of a seance, and the contacting of those who have made the transition. The very basis of Spiritualism in the past, as opposed to the Church, was that it provided each of us with our own, individualised way of contacting our loved ones who have passed to the other side, and also a direct line to ‘God’, however we perceive Him/Her to be. There should be absolutely no need for authoritarian bodies and all the dogma which invariably becomes attached to them. Who wants or needs another mainstream religion?

  9. Margaret Keynes

    I agree the seven principles are amazingly out-dated, even if as the text implies, they were likely to have been a myth. Two of them are extremely sexist and two of them state that only humans have souls – which we know through mediumship, communication with animals, and common sense to be false. As to the “Ministry of Angels” – along with many others I have never understood this! Perhaps we should modernise and call it the “Department of Angels”! If these principles are locked in by Law, maybe some valuable communication between the SNU, its membership and the Government would be a good idea to update them sensibly for the 21st Century. To this end, I believe that Personal Responsibility should head the list!

  10. Keith Mcquin-Roberts

    It’s a thought-provoking article and highlights well some of the problems faced by the movement.

    As a regular ‘banger’ of the Modern Spiritualism drum I find it heartening to see ‘Spiritualism’ and ‘Spiritualist’ spelled with capital ‘S’ to show we’re not spiritualists droning on about spiritualism!

    I wonder if we’re too concerned, though, about the Seven Principles? In cyberspace I struggle to get over the message in the above paragraph, why it’s a key issue to what Spiritualism is all about. In ‘Spiritualism’ forums appear all manner of issues which have no relevance to the religion of Spiritualism and its philosophy. I’m continually battling to change that situation. Perhaps cyber space isn’t considered important but if we don’t engage with the generations who routinely spend hours a day there, then we’re largely preaching to the choir.

    I find that the very word ‘Spiritualist’ means spiritualist to so many people, embracing so many odd issues, that the meaning it has for us is lost on them…. I speak about ‘Modern Spiritualism’ now just to provide separation and distance from spiritualism. I haven’t used churches since my early days, finding much the same as Geoff’s correspondent, but Modern Spiritualism isn’t only its churches. The message of survival needs to be heard elsewhere and I do my bit towards that end.

    I’m told that some Spiritualist churches are well used and that the younger generation is seeking answers there but I’m not seeing it out on forum boards where I’m often a lone voice.

    Maybe a relationship with a broader church, even the Christian ones, would allow the message to be ‘heard’ more widely in cyberspace?

    If that’s what it takes then I’d give my support.

  11. Many years ago I was brought up as a Catholic, I didn’t have a ‘choice’ or even get my choice as a child. I feel it is wrong to impose a religous belief on such young children.
    I have since realised that what ‘I’ really want is to be a person with spiritual beliefs and act in a spiritual way towards others. There are many like myself, who do not want a church as it reminds them of the ‘religon’ they left behind.
    The seven Principles’ sound rather like the ‘Ten Commandments’ – Commandments

  12. Giles Dawson

    Another interesting discussion. Concerning the seven principles, I have always taken the view that each and every religion and philosophy has something to contribute to the general pool of spiritual thought. Whatever our individual beliefs regarding doctrine and dogma, it can’t be denied that all the great “holy” books have good and worthy things to say on matters of behaviour towards our fellow beings. The seven principles of Spiritualism are no exception.
    I do however feel troubled by some of the wording of the principles, which even as a crusty old man I find archaic. Principles one and two (The Fatherhood of God and The Brotherhood of Man) use gender exclusive language which belongs firmly in the Victorian era and hardly reflects what I consider to be the inclusive nature of Spiritualism, or indeed of society as a whole. I hope readers will forgive me and understand what I mean when I say that I have never understood the need of mainstream religions to “genderise” their deity. The idea that God, the Great Spirit, can be pinned down to a specific set of human-style parts and attributes (a He as opposed to a She) seems to me an attempt by humanity to limit and confine, and thereby more easily pigeon-hole, the infinite. Principle one reflects this mainstream tendency.
    I also struggle with principle four (The continuous existence of the human soul), which appears to deny either the existence of, or the eternal continuity of, the animal soul.
    My other issue is with the principle of compensation and retribution, which, as another poster commented, does convey echoes of Christian hellfire, though not perhaps damnation.

  13. Rev. Sharon L. Snowman

    Once any concept is set in stone it becomes unchangeable, dogmatic and ritualistic. In any religion or conclave, nothing should ever be so mandated as to preclude the ability for growth and expansion. If we do that, we tie the hands of the masses and teach mindless observance. Spiritualists the world over are free thinkers and this ability should never be stiffled. Statements that have stood the test of time, common sense and reason should be valued but we also need to face the fact that thoughtful changes can be a positive factor for the evolutionary process of our religion.

    We are in a new age and we need to meet that age with its own understandings and technologies. Phenomena is moving forward and evolving, manifestations that present themselves are changing, new authors, new memberships, many thought provoking discussions and articles are being presented. We need to move with the times and to actualize one common thought, We are Spiritualists. We can no longer live in the past, we need to enable ourselves to accept the past as a part of our heritage and move it forward to a brighter future.

    Rev. Sharon L. Snowman

    • Vanda Bubear

      With all due respect, Spiritualism is NOT a religion.

      • Like it or not Spiritualism is divided between those who do view it as a religion, those who see it as a philosophy of life and those who adhere to finding scientific proof of life after death. Of course these overlap to some extent, but the best that can be hoped for is that these groups are able to work together where there is common ground and go their separate ways where there is not. The question is are they big enough to do this.

        Changing the SNUs direction will be like manouvering a giant tanker, it takes a long time to get it back on course. For that you need an up-to-date chart. I don’t see the SNU getting one. They have pinned their course to the mast of the 7 principles and no doubt will fight il to keep it that way.

      • With respect, it is not a Religion in YOUR opinion.

        In other words, none of us can claim it is or is not anything. We can only say, with integrity and sincerity, it is not a religion (or science or philosophy) to us as individuals, according to our personal understanding or interpretation of it.

        I respect the right of every individual to perceive Spiritualism in accordance with their personal understanding of it, whether I agree with that perception or not. If I disagree, as Vanda does with a particular perception or viewpoint, I am of the view that it behoves us to explain why we disagree rather than to merely state a person is wrong.

        • Vanda Bubear

          Spiritualism is a very personal thing. Therefore, how can it be perceived to be a religion, which goes on record as being a public adherence to a particular belief system, by virtue of the practice of various creeds and dogmas. That being the case, the type of Spiritualism which I signed up to many years ago is not a religion because:-

          It consists largely of individualised, private beliefs which do not include organized behaviours and clerical hierarchies. These things are simply not necessary to follow a spiritual path in life. I do concede, however, that we need ‘guidance’ to an extent, and also the opportunity to co-ordinate, share and exchange beliefs and experiences.

          Spiritualism, as a philosophy, does not require regular meetings or services in praise of a higher deity. Spiritualists have always had their own, private discourse with God and those who have made the transition, which they are at liberty to access at any time of the day or night. Indeed, this is the very thing that has led many people, including myself, to become Spiritualists.

          Spiritualism does not venerate places of worship and make them ‘Holy’.

          Spiritualism has no place for religious dogma such as the reading of scriptures or sermons, the offering of sacrifices, acts of worship in commemoration or remembrance, and the undertaking of devotional or ritual observances.

          Spiritualism does not require the reciting of religious creeds, or beliefs, and the adherence to religious symbols. Perhaps the Seven Principles are held to be a ‘creed’ of sorts, but not a religious one.

          I echo the sentiments of Angela above. Religion is tainted. I simply do not want Spiritualism to be aligned with, or misconstrued as, ‘religion’ .

  14. Geoff Griffiths

    I have often thought that “The Oneness of Life” could cover the ground of the first three principles. It is, in fact, the first principle of the Ba’hais, who occupy the same heretical space in Islamic culture as we do in the Christian culture. It certainly gets away from not just the gender, by the anthropomorphic view of ‘God’.

    Of the three aspects of the Christian trinity, only the Holy Spirit seems to be what it says on the tin. ‘God’ is a character into which the divine mystery is poured in the process of reducing it to the size of our thinking. Not really fit for purpose. Jesus is a human replica of divinity, with rather too much ‘Christ’ baggage weighing him down. Yup, only the (Holy) Spirit has the X-factor to my way of thinking.

    By the way, the Anglican church has released the full text of the Archbishops’ report into Spiritualism – back in the late seventies/early eighties, I think. Leslie Price, who was editor of the Christian Parapsychologist at the time, was instrumental in its publication, and will correct me on the details if need be.

  15. Very interesting Geoff, personally I find it is the actual meaning of the Principles rather than the strict words that matter as they can form a guide to the way one lives in this physical journey. To me that is more important than the actual words used. I do not believe that it is our Principles that make us a religion they are a part of the philosophy, albeit I accept that in the UK they ere a necessary part of becoming accepted by the Charity Commissioners as a Religion..

    The dictionary definition of a religion is a belief in something we cannot prove. That is not the issue of survival either because Mediumship proves that. Our belief is in the fact that God, the Great Spirit, exists. It is this single fact that makes us a religion. It is that which separates us from atheism although we should remember we now have atheist Mediums proving survival, however strange a concept that may be they are still not accepting a role for the Great Spirit.

    So if the Principles are, as Geoff rightly suggested, a part of a much larger body of Philosophy, not a creed, then their importance is to give a simple guide to life. However old fashioned they are, if the underlying rationale are properly explained people can grasp why they exist. Changes are very hard to agree on, I understand that the Declaration of Nine Principles adopted by the American National Spiritualist Association of Churches have been changed on numerous occasions often to storms of protest. Here in Australia a similar furore erupted when the Victorian Spiritualists Union, the oldest Spiritualist organisation in the world, decided to adopt a new set of Principles to replace the 7.

    The VSU Committee drafted the following set which were adopted

    :: The creative divine spirit of the Universe whom we call God
    :: The unity of all created beings
    :: The communion of spirits and ministering guides
    :: The continuous existence of life beyond the veil of death
    :: Communication between incarnate and discarnate spirits
    :: Personal responsibility for all our actions whilst on earth
    :: A path of eternal progress open to all souls
    In my opinion this does not truly represent an improvement and the change is still not widely accepted. What this shows is just how hard it is to come up with a rewritten version, especially in the days of modern political correctness. Maybe it is more important to explain the reason for their existence together with the history rather than end up with some newer version that fails to contain the all inclusive purpose of the original ones.

    Delivering our philosophy and keeping it alive is one of the jobs of every Spiritualist Centre. The Medium’s address should be one of the highlights of meetings and the philosophy should be openly discussed within any Groups they hold. Clearly this is another of those issues where the decline on the platform means we are not sustaining the message. Indeed I wonder how many of our Churches and Centres actually have the capacity to lucidly explain our History and Philosophy. Given the factual errors in the history of Spiritualism inherent in the official story of our major organisations then I suspect it may be a lot less than we expect.

    I cannot see how this stops us developing more philosophy to go along with our existing material. However, we then get to another crunch point. What is included and what do we we feel should be excluded? The Metaphysical Spiritualist Centres, often blending in with Christianity, have opted for an all in approach, inclusive of. every thing which appears in the New Age. From responses to other articles I would believe some would agree with this viewpoint.

    I agree we have to move forward, however it is many many years since we have seen any substantive philosophy being passed onto us from Spirit. Unfortunately it appears that we return once again to the decline in Mediumship, especially in dedicated training and in the home circles which were likely to bring this material forward. Once again we find ourselves back in the same minefield, the loss of Philosophy is not caused by the Seven Principles but more by the failure of our Organisational Structure with the steady decline in knowledge, Mediumship and understanding.

    In reality the hey day of Spiritualism was in the free flowing early years when the attempts at organising failed and before the dead hand of organisations and rules and regulations. However, conversely tit could be argued that one of the highest points in mental Mediumship was in the 1970’s and 80’s at a time when the acceptable standards which those organisations demanded had driven the overall quality of Mediumship up. What that suggests is that there are elements of the national organisations that can be extremely good for Spiritualism and other elements that are not. It does appear that we need to free our movement up but at the same time try to restore the overall standard of what we offer. This is going to be a very difficult balancing act to achieve.

    However does it mean changing the 7 Principles or just putting them in a new perspective?

    • 1. is paternalistic, 2. is sexist, 3 pt2. smacks of religion and 6. implies some form of judgement/punishment. The language used just does not fit with modern ways of thinking.
      Very off putting. I doubt you would get the chance to explain their meaning unless you are very fleet of foot.

  16. Peter Raggett

    To my knowledge the Lang report was never released by the church. It was leaked by someone with a conscience within the church to the psychic press and subsequently published by Psychic News in the late 60s. Not coming from the church it did not have the impact that an official publication would have.

    When it comes to contact with the Anglican church let’s not forget that the report commissioned by Dr Cosmo Lang, completed in 1939, contained this final paragraph.

    “It is, in our opinion, important that representatives of the Church should keep in touch with groups of intelligent persons who believe in Spiritualism. We must leave practical guidance in this matter to the Church itself.”

    Dr. Francis Underhill
    Bishop of Bath and Wells
    Dr W R Matthews
    Dean of St. Paul’s
    Canon Harold Anson
    Master of the Temple
    Canon L. W. Grensted
    Nolloth Professor of the Christian Religion at Oxford
    Dr. William Brown
    Celebrated Harley Street Psychologist
    Mr. P. E. Sandlands, Q.C.
    Lady (Gwendolen) Stephenson

    If that lot of influential people have been ignored by the Anglican church for over 70 years what hope is there now?

    Several years ago the excellent medium Val Hood told me that many years prior she approached her local vicar to offer her services in conjunction with the Anglican church to help comfort the bereaved and terminally ill. There was a long silence while he thought then he said words to the effect, “ I know why you have been sent to me. It’s so that I can save you.” Priceless!

    All the while the Anglican church is prepared to let ignorance about Spiritualism abound within their own ranks, despite clear evidence in their possession that it is a force for good, there appears to be little hope of any intelligent dialogue with them.

    • Julie Dawson

      Peter’s point about the Anglicans is well made, though I do believe that respectful relations with other religious bodies are extremely important to furthering the work and purpose of the spirit we are all here to serve, and should be formed whenever possible.
      Concerning the Roman Catholic attitude to Spiritualism, and to communication with those who have moved on to the next stage of existence, I am told that the Italian newspaper L’Osservatore Romano carried a report some years ago which indicated that the the RC hierarchy did not entirely reject the possibility of communication with the so called ‘dead’. Does anyone know the full content of this article? I would be very interested to know it.

  17. Very interesting reading everyone, I thank you for your thoughts.

    When I look at the current religions and see a huge decline in attendances, my thoughts run to why have they not changed with more modern society. Dictatorial attitudes, conflicts between themselves. And they wonder why their congregations are dwindling? People do not want to be told what they should think and do. It is very unfortunate that many are now lost and do not know where to turn.

    When I turned my back on the Catholic religion, I wondered where I would go now, what was there? After so many years of indoctrination, I was lost, had a missing piece of puzzle… When I first found Reiki healing, yes it has an origin, it is for ‘US’ who practise it, not religious, but spiritual, if that is what we need. We do not use any religious practices when using it for people. BUT, I found myself at last. And my completion was ‘Spirituality’. Speaking to some unknown person about what I do, they said to me ‘you are really Spiritual’, a revelation to me, well just confirmed what I felt.

    Too much egoism, dictatorial attitudes ruin the reasons for Spirituality.

  18. I can see the point of this.

    Spiritualism is a way of life, and therefore we need some standards to stick to, or at the very least some guidance. The Seven Principles are as good as anything, and I also feel that they need to be updated from time to time to ensure that they are relevant. But who should do it? Given that we know how the NEC have been behaving lately, I don’t think they could be trusted with something this fundemental. After all, how can a committee with absolute power hope to have a balanced view, when they won’t listen to criticism. Given that we have a General Secretary who thinks so little of the members of the SNU that they shouldn’t be allowed to question the all powerful NEC
    then,perhaps it should be left to a “Board of Ministers” elected for the purpose. They would then need to have their decision undergo some form of ratification by the general membership.


  19. We talk of updating the seven principles which I would go along with, the trouble is, it would be nice to have it revised by spirit, but where do we see a medium who has developed sufficiently and who is spiritually motivated to attract the right influence from spirit, this is of course another failing in the movement, poor mediumship, that of course is another issue.
    I think more would not agree with what comes out of a selection of people on the earth plane than what comes from a highly evolved soul.
    On the other hand, one may ask spirit for guidance on it and be told that as we have free will and accept the challenges of life, we leave it to you all.

  20. the answer to how can we find a developed medium, is to use many…using the double blind type of system. ask many mediums on the same day at the same time to supply communication from spirit as to what should be the modern day principles or mantra. when collated the results should be interesting on many levels……

  21. Some of the traditional services which ‘religion’ has provided throughout the ages is to provide guidance, support and comfort during the ups and downs of human life. The union of two people is recognized through the marriage ceremony – what couple does not envision the long walk down the aisle of their church, surrounded by their family and friends, with all the pomp and ceremony the happy day deserves. A child is welcomed into the community through naming, christening, baptizing. During tragedy, illness, death it is often to their churches and their religion that people turn.

    We humans need that sense of community support that ‘religion’ provides, as well as the rituals and ceremonies that go along with these important life events. If Spiritualism is going to survive as a ‘religion’, I think it needs to be conscious of the fact that people need to know they can have these important traditions met within their Spiritualist church, and don’t need to turn to ‘traditional’ churches and religions to have these events recognized and validated. We need to be known for much more than “talking to the living in the afterlife,” Perhaps this is what is seen as missing when people talk of the lack of depth in Spiritualism. These traditions often require willing, able and competent ministers who are recognized by various government bodies. And unfortunately within Spiritualism, most of these ministers are ‘volunteers’ who have full time jobs and families who need their attention, not leaving a lot of time and energy for ministerial responsibilities.

    Added to the above is one of the great joys of Spiritualism – the free-thinking nature of Spiritualism, which challenges it’s members to take truth, knowledge and wisdom from all religions and/or wherever truth, knowledge and wisdom can be found to the satisfaction of each individual. This opens the doors to interesting and invigorating study, discussion and debate which is the backbone of Spiritualism.

    In addition, the purpose of our church services is not to worship but to gather together to raise our vibrations to be in tune with higher spiritual beings, to communicate with those in the Spiritual Universe, to channel healing energy, and to experience the peace, love and harmony of the higher spiritual vibrations. It’s to acknowledge that we are all One in Spirit, whether or not we are enclosed in a physical body. The human need to gather in community is met in these services.

    I think that Spiritualism needs to focus more on the idea that it is a community which endeavors to meet the very real and human needs of its members if it’s going to survive as a movement or as a religion. I liked Arthur Findlay’s suggestions to update the principles, they seem simple and straightforward. It would be nice if the principles were all unified within Spiritualism, but that is not likely to happen.

    Rev. T. Lynne Forget

  22. It is interesting that although we have a number of senior members from the USA’s National Spiritualist Association of Churches (NSAC), including a good friend of mine Rev. Marilyn Awtry, commenting upon this thread no one has mentioned the Nine Principles in their Declaration of Principles.
    In a discussion about Spiritualism’s Principles I think it is worth taking a look at these. Especially as Lynne just said it would be nice if Spiritualism had a single set.

    1. We believe in Infinite Intelligence.
    2. We believe that the phenomena of Nature, both physical and spiritual, are the expression of Infinite Intelligence.
    3. We affirm that a correct understanding of such expression and living in accordance therewith, constitute true religion.
    4. We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death.
    5. We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the phenomena of Spiritualism.
    6. We believe that the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
    7. We affirm the moral responsibility of individuals, and that we make our own happiness or unhappiness as we obey or disobey Nature’s physical and spiritual laws.
    8. We affirm that the doorway to reformation is never closed against any soul here or hereafter.
    9. We affirm that the precepts of Prophecy and Healing are Divine attributes proven through Mediumship

    These have been changed over the years, as I have already referred to, at times I believe the revised version has in fact been returned to its original format.

    We have also seen references to both Andrew Jackson Davis and Samuel Byron Brittan.

    Starting with Andrew Jackson Davis’s Declaration of Independence, published in The Spiritual Messenger, Vol 1 no 43 on May 31st 1851. We see that after several pages of argument he reaches the following point
    “And furthermore—until we feel and comprehend greater truths—we hereby declare that—

    Our Book is Nature;
    Our Master is Reason;
    Our Law is Love to Man;
    Our Religion is Justice;
    Our Light is Truth;
    Our Structure is Association;
    Our Path is Progression;
    Our Works are Development;
    Our Heaven is Harmony;
    Our God is the Universal Father! ”

    Then going on to look at the constitution of by The Harmonial Brotherhood he formed, written on May 4th 1851 and published in The Spiritual Messenger, Vol 1 no 46 on June 21st 1851 you see the first elements of our Principles falling into place.

    I have not seen the full version of Brittan’s Spiritual Declaration of Independence in July 1857 because I cannot track a copy of the Spiritual Telegraph for that year (the USA magazine not the British). However numerous newspaper and magazine reports during the 1850’s show how much debate there was about establishing Principles for Spiritualism. Some were totally against it because it was such a free thinking, radical organisation, others were in favour and debated what should be included.

    Then Rev. Marilyn Awtry drew my attention to what could well be the first Principles adopted by a church and included in their constitution. This was The First Association of Spiritualists of Philadelphia, founded in 1852 and adopting the following six Principles in 1864, just before the first Annual Convention of the new National Spiritualists Association of America.

    “First: A beneficent power and wise intelligence pervades and controls the universe, sustaining toward all human beings the intimate relation of parent, whose revelation is nature, whose interpreter is science, and who most acceptable worship is doing good to all.

    Second: All truth is sacred and its authority absolute to the individual that apprehends it, but while one may aid another in the perception of truth and duty, no one can determine for another is truth, hence each human being must believe and act upon individual responsibility.

    Third: All action, according to its quality results in suffering or in joy, by the operation of inherent laws, physical and spiritual.

    Fourth: All human beings are destined to a continued individual existence in a future state, for which the experiences and attainments of the present life are preparatory; hence it is the duty of all to perfect themselves in knowledge, wisdom and love, making a right use of all the mans obtainable, for developing completeness and beauty of character, for aid in which divine inspirations and spiritual gifts are ever available to mankind.

    Fifth: Realized communion with those who have gone before us to the invisible world is practicable under suitable conditions, and is a privilege of high value to those who use it wisely.

    Sixth: The human race is one family or brotherhood, whose interests are forever inseparable; hence it is the duty of each individual not only to refrain from whatever would wrong or harm another, but also to live for the good of all, seeking especially to aid the unfortunate, the ignorant, the inharmonious and the suffering of whatever race or condition.”

    Interestingly I am not sure that for all of the efforts of so many people we have really improved markedly upon this effort.

    However the Seven Principles themselves present quite a challenge for us to change at this moment. Perhaps the first job is to ensure that people realise that they were not transmitted by the Spirit of Robert Owen and delivered in their entirety at Cleveland Hall in 1871. Indeed the Medium and Daybreak report of the event made it clear that she read the Ten Spiritual Commandments which were published in the Lyceum Manual. In the paper Mr Burns states these were taken down the day before the meeting from the Sprit of Robert Owen but Emma Hardinge Britten’s own Auto Biography dates them from a Séance in the 1860’s held in the presence of Robert Dale Owen, Anne Leah Fox Fish Brown, Underhill and Daniel Underhill. However it is clear that at the meeting she gave four points as the Creed of the Spirits which would eventually form part of the seven principles.

    Marc Demarest has, thankfully, enabled us to see a copy of the actual Newspaper There is also a record of this in the auto biography of JJ Morse leaves of My Life published 1877 and a full transcript of the talk.
    In fact the first place that I find a copy of the 7 Principles, more or less intact is in The Spiritual Scientist of 29th June 1876, in an article repeated from the Religio Philosophical Journal written by a J. Edwards. The article is called a “Plea for Organisation” and is a call to reform the National Association in America following its collapse after the acrimonious national convention of 1873 which was dominated by the rather extreme views of the then President, Victoria Woodhull, and her supporters. In this he recommends the following Principles to organise under
    I. The Fatherhood of God.
    2. The Brotherhood of Man.
    3. The Communion with Spirits.
    4. The Ministration of Angels.
    5. The Resurrection of the Spiritual Body.
    6. Unfolding Progress through all Eternity.
    7. Reward and Punishment.
    What I think we find by looking at history is that the Principles were clearly brought together by a combination of man, Spirit intervention and direct Spirit Contribution. In that case there really is no reason why they should not be updated or a new set produced.

    However as someone else has suggested who would we trust with such an important and vital task. It seems quite likely that we will get something designed by a committee and everyone knows what that is likely to read and feel like. Were we still to have towering figures like Andrew Jackson Davis, Emma Hardinge Britten, or Cora Scott Tappan Richmond available maybe we would follow them. We would probably accept the more powerful figures of the early 20th Century but now?

  23. The Seven Principles of Mediumship:
    1. My responsibility is to provide an accurate and properly developed channel so that the Spirit World can demonstrate the reality of the afterlife beyond all doubt.
    2. I shall never bluff Spirit. If I stand up to demonstrate, and find that, for whatever reason, I am receiving nothing from Spirit that day, I will say so and sit down.
    3. I shall do my best to refrain from giving out generalities that could apply to almost anyone in the room and which therefore prove survival to no one.
    4. I shall not say that the spirit communicator is “telling” me something unless I am clairaudient and have actually heard him/her telling me. Neither shall I say that the spirit communicator is “showing” me something unless I am clairvoyant and have actually seen what he/she is showing.
    5. If I have neither heard nor seen the information I am being given, I shall say, “I sense that…” or “I feel that…” so that the people listening to me have the true facts.
    6. I shall not go on a fishing expedition and ply the recipient with questions in order to establish the identity of a communicator or embellish a message.
    7. I shall deliver messages with compassion and sensitivity, always mindful of the fact that powerful evidence of a loved one’s survival will give rise to strong emotions in the recipient.

    • I know that this is a bit “tongue in cheek” but I think that all mediums should have a code of conduct that is rigidly adhered to. There are too many mediums (deliberate use of lower case) who underachieve, and are only mediums because they think it gives them some sort of status. There are some blindingly talented Mediums (note use of upper case), who have very good links and can validate. But there are also people who mount the platform with fishing rods and a bag full of maggots. How many times have we seen someone stand on a Church platform and try to give exactly the same message to everybody. It happens too often. And what is done about it? It seems that the powers that be are extremely good at vicitmising true Spiritualists, but are happy to endorse poor mediums. Why is that?

    • Julie Dawson

      I’m curious as to why two people have given a “thumbs down” to Jo Public’s principles for mediums. I can’t see anything in them that a genuine medium could possibly argue with. Would the thumbs downers explain what they object to?

  24. I am somewhat new to the mediumship world, being an observer and learner. It seems to me that what is being questioned is: are these principles still valid, should they be revised, are they good enough for today? I am not qualified in the history or knowledge of spiritualism to answer that. But let me tell you what I see from my end. People not satisfied with the church of their upbringing, looking, searching for actual truths, in or out of “churches”. Many have dropped religion altogether thinking nothing exists beyond the pale, yet hoping and clinging to things learned as children because they have not much else, and they need that “else” badly in today’s world. They need that assurance, that hope that they are not suffering for naught. Surely, the things of the heart are valuable.

    Then I think about some of the old stories I have read about how spiritualism used to be. Looking beyond the hucksters (because churches have those too), I see strength, conviction of truth, evidence! Spiritualism was much more popular and circles were common. Spirit was circulating, helping, showing, telling, talking, healing. The want to know was contagious. People brought their friends to see and hear. But why? For the spirituality of the individual; the progression of the human collective via knowledge that we do continue after the body fails; there are many more levels to experience and exist in.

    At that stage, I feel humanity was at the “Prove to me you are” point. Now I feel humanity is more like, “You have got to be kidding, I have videos better than that!” My opinion is that “the beef” is relating to spiritualism in a way they can understand from today’s perspective. Let me give you a for instance of a “modern making”. I recently finished a book by Louis Charles, a young man who found he could hear earthbound spirits. What he found really made him think about life, religion, the hereafter, so he joined a ghostbusting group, learning how to listen and understand these spirits, and put his own twist to the situation instead of just looking for signs of their existence to showboat about. Namely, that they are “People” stuck between here and there that need our help. He put down those typical ‘ghosthunters’ that seek thrills. He put modern thought and explanations to the best of his ability to what was going on, and when he had enough experiences and enough research to be sure of his findings, he wrote about it (self-published no less). His book is selling, he is contacting spirit, getting his verifications in an odd but interesting way and getting people interested in the subject. I have since seen him do some real mediumship at the local new age bookstore, which did help the people present in a manner they could accept (thus exposing more people to the subject!) This young man stepped outside the box to where spirit was, and didn’t demand for spirit to fit inside his original strict rules of life. He learned that Love really was the highest principle of all with respect, understanding and common sense close behind it.

    In another venue, I remember as a child watching Kathryn Kuhlman healing and talking with people on tv. She was perceived as a faith healer at the time, and my friends thought she was goofy, but I didn’t forget about it. Today, medium Jonathan Edwards seems to be very popular on tv; so the subject itself is very popular. My point is….it all depends on point of view of the individual; and spirit will go wherever it can find a venue—church or no church.

  25. Going back many years, I can remember that an eminent Spiritualist ( Gordon Higginson) gave a lecture where he put forward the idea that Churches had run their course, and should be Learnig Centres (Lyceae), and that the Churches that existed at the time should seek to drive participation in Circles, where he stated that the real work of Spiritualism took place.
    Spiritualism does not only take place in Churches. It takes place in the “Real World”. If you only practice Spiritualism within Churches, and don’t live the Spiritualist life, then to put it simply, I don’t see how you can be a Spiritualist. And in order to live the life, you need guidance, not only from your Helpers and Guides, but from a code of conduct that you can demonstrate to non Spiritualists. That surely is the purpose of the Principles. Not for looking inward into the movement, but to show those that are not part of our movement what we stand for.


  26. Giles Dawson

    Purewhitelight – yes, yes and yes again. Your upper case Mediums do credit to the spirit world and repair the hearts of the grieving. The lower case, along with their fishing rods and maggots, have blighted and continue to blight the cause of Spiritualism. They are why we are in the decline we are in.
    You ask why the powers that be are extremely good at victimising true Spiritualists but are happy to endorse poor mediums. Could it be that those powers that be make tens of thousands of £s each year from people whom they have convinced can become mediums (lower case) if they attend sufficient courses? You cannot BUY mediumship! Was Maurice Barbanell wrong when he said that Mediums are born, not made? I have given up hope that the powers that be will ever realise that, no matter how much money you might rake in while trying, you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. If a gift is not present, all the hours of tuition in the world will not create it.

    • Giles,

      Thanks for that.
      I have said time and time again that the Management of the SNU miss the point so many times.
      It’s not the amount of courses you go on that makes you a good Spiritualist, it’s the way you live your life.
      Simplicity is the way forward, and adding complications only serves to make progression harder.

  27. Vanda Bubear

    I agree, Purewhitelight – this is precisely why we can do without the ‘powers that be’ because they become corrupt. Give people a title and this is what they do – it’s human nature. That’s why we need the Principles, but we don’t need the church and the hierarchy it will put in place. I am fed up of bowing to ‘higher bodies’ who seek only to line the coffers of either themselves or their organisation. I recently toured Vatican City and I balked at the superficial splendour of the place, wondering how it could happen that, when St Peter’s was being built in the time of the great Michelangelo, the Christian church could sanction the use of so much (ill-gotten) money in the name of Christianity, when there were, especially in those days, so many people on the streets dying from hunger, disease and just about everything else. What would Jesus have thought of this? He didn’t ever express the need for, or want a home, let alone one that was gilded in gold. How can anyone justify the obscene excesses of the Christian religion? At the cost of so many lives? And even today, we have the sorry sight of all those self-important cardinals dressed up in their scarlet finery, like strutting peacocks parading around the place, eager to look down their noses at the ‘masses’ and trying to cover up the criminal actions of their so-called priests, who are meant to be God’s representatives on Earth. People who call themselves Christian seem to forget the undeniable history of their Church (perhaps not surprisingly).

    in the past, those who disagreed with “official” church doctrine, such as the great Italian astronomer Galileo, were persecuted or killed. Christians were tortured by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in the 12th century just because they were teaching from the Bible instead of from “officially sanctioned” Roman Catholic church materials. The Crusades resulted in “Holy” wars between Christians, Jews, and Moslems. Recently, wars have been fought between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. The millions of people who died in such wars hence died in the name of ‘Religion’ and, certainly in the Middle Ages, these wars were sanctioned by the church.

    Sorry, rant over.

    But you can see why I am afraid for Spiritualism, lest it tread the same path. Granted we, as an organisation, will never have, or seek, access to the wealth and power of mainstream religions through the ages, much of which was gained through the carrying out of atrocities such as murder, theft of lands and the perpetration of wars. I cannot understand why anyone would want Spiritualism to purposely be aligned with the thoroughly discredited and blackened history of religion. Please enlighten me. It doesn’t matter what religion is SUPPOSED to stand for, it’s all about what it DOES stand for, and has stood for in the past.

    If we don’t. put a great distance between us and religion we can’t complain when people reject us.

    • I have no love for ‘The Church’ or organised religion but you are falling into a trap by ignoring the fact that many sincere and devout people, however deluded you may think them, gave freely to the church. Not all of it was torn from the grasp of the needy poor. Or extracted by war.
      Also, by not wanting to interact on any level with other religions, is to adopt the same irrational exclusivity that they show towards others who are not of their persuasion. Leading a spiritualist life without engaging with the world around about is why the movement is shrinking. So many are not willing to acknowlege that they are Spiritualists for fear of ridicule that I wonder that Spiritualism has made progress at all.

      • Vanda Bubear

        You raise valid points here. I am probably not explaining myself too well. What I’m trying to say, not very successfully, is that I don’t want Spiritualism to be filed in the filing cabinet marked ‘Religion’. I don’t want us to secularise ourselves to the point of exclusion, and I realise we must interact in order to share our wonderful experiences with others. I agree wholeheartedly that so many Spiritualists are frightened of ridicule but I don’t know the answer to that, since many unfortunately see the truths contained in Spiritualism as nothing more than a parlour game. I also accept that many genuine, caring people have given much to other religions, and of course cannot be held responsible for what has happened in the past. I have personal experience of both ends of the spectrum, so to speak, concerning the Christian (Anglican) church – my local vicar is a wonderful man, who would happily give of his time and do anything for anyone, but the vicar who baptised all three of my children when they were younger was recently sent to jail after being convicted of possessing, and making, indecent photographs of very young children.

        I look forward to the time when Science validates the existence of the soul, and the parallel realities in which we will reside when we make the transition. This has already started to happen with the discoveries being made by particle physicists studying quantum mechanics, who have confirmed the existence of at least two other realities, and postulate that there could be as many as ten. Dr Robert Lanzer M.D. is considered one of the leading scientists in the world, and is currently Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology, and Adjunct Professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He postulates the fascinating theory of Biocentrism, whjch he believes is the most plausible explanation of how we came into existence. This is a whole new paradigm for most scientists who believe matter was created in the beginning with the ‘Big Bang’ and evolved into consciousness. Biocentrism suggests that, in fact, consciousness came before matter and brought matter into existence solely for the purpose of having experiences, learning from them and evolving, in a spiritual way, as well as physiologically.

        • Thank you for giving us a clearer picture of your thinking, with which I concur.
          The science that underpins the spiritualists knowlege of the survival of death is a very important difference that separates Spiritualism from the other, mainly belief based, views of what I would call the universal spirit.
          It is the one thing that should make Spiritualists more confident in the truth of their

  28. Hi there

    The Arthur Findlay Society has published an alternative set of 7 Principles of Spiritualism based on those given by Arthur himself – what do you think? You can see them on the AFS website – 7 Principles

    AFS Founder
    Peter Wakeham

  29. Lesley Harris

    I’ve read through all the correspondence here. Personally I don’t think there is much wrong with the Seven Principles in their current form, which is easy to understand and easy to remember, which does not waffle and which provides a basic framework to guide you through life, which you can build on. I have come to Spiritualism by accident as an observer. My main religion is Unitarianism and I would not give that up, since it is a broad based church which does not require you to believe a creed and which therefore accommodates my dualist gut feeling that there are Both Very Good and Very Bad Forces Somewhere Up There.

    However, I have a friend who is a Spiritualist but who does not drive so sometimes my husband and sometimes I take her to services at Stourbridge or Kidderminister. It was at the library at Stourbridge Church that I came across the works of Arthur Findlay which have convinced me of survival and the need to prepare for an afterlife. I feel have benefitted greatly from the simple, kindly and loving atmosphere and philosophy of the churches I have been to and from the kindly mentoring, never mind from where, that is handed out by the medium. However I have noticed that there is often a rather large gulf between the mediumship that takes place at some services and the mediumship that is described in Arthur Findlay’s books. Perhaps this, rather than the Seven Principles is one of the problems of Spiritualism today. As to what might be done about this probem, I am sure I remember Arthur Findlay saying that mediums are products of Nature, born not made, at times they are plentiful, at others they are scarce, and perhaps we are just going through a scarce phase, and will have to offer other things, such as more and better philsophy, until we get more mediums.

    Another contributing factor to the decline of Spiritualism and for that matter most other faith system is just the rise of Materialism. People are more comfortable these days, have a great variety of other social activities and support groups and may therefore have less need to turn to a faith system until something goes really wrong in their lives. Of course you will quite rightly point out that Spiritualism is meant to be a philosophy, but for some reason, for some people, philosophy by itself is not enough to get them on the right track. It works better when it is complemented by a good religion that has not been abused.

    Finally, one thing that does not seem to occur to many Spiritualists is that it is quite possible to believe in survival, to believe in an afterlife, to try to mend your ways accordingly but with the best will in the world, not to particularly want to communicate in depth with those who have passed. Suppose you did not get on with them?!!! Suppose that you don’t feel comfortable about possibly being watched. A strength of Spiritualism is that it is there to help if these feelings should change, but it has to bear in mind that many people may have these feelings. They may come to Spiritualism later if these feelings change, but Spiritualism will not be able to come to them until they do.

  30. Vanda Bubear

    I agree. The works of Arthur Findlay, and his research into the mediumship of John Sloan, are, for me, the greatest proof of our survival. I know that there are other very good physical and even direct voice mediums about today, but, for me, John Sloan represented all that was/is good about mediumship.

    I also agree that, with the rise of consumerism and materialism, people do not need a faith system until they encounter personal tragedy of some sort. I have been a Spiritualist for 25 years, since I lost my first son, William, when he was 5 days old. Recently, my 19 year old son, James, passed through a tragic accident while at university, and Spiritualism is what has saved me, and enabled me to cope. Without my strong belief in survival I would not have got through the last 3 months. I have been lucky enough to receive a communication from James through a very gifted medium, Michael Bagan, who recently gave an interview to this magazine. Michael does not charge for his gift, and during the reading, which lasted 45 minutes, he did not once fish for clues. or come up with vague, generic statements. His messages were 100% accurate, not only from my son but also from others who had passed before him.

    However, when the time comes, I will leave James to pursue his spiritual goals in the afterlife, while I pursue mine down here on earth. We will help each other, as we have been doing since James passed, by means of mutual prayers and the sending of positive thoughts and energies, and this contact between us will always remain, but sooner or later I will not seek to speak with him unless he specifically lets me know this is what he wants.

  31. Interesting essay, Geoff. Thanks for taking it on.

    My favorite saying is to “Believe what you wish, but know what you believe.” An important step in learning what we believe is learning how to talk about it in terms that others can understand. Speaking as a member of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches (NSAC), the Declaration of Principles is a concise statement of the fundamental beliefs which guide NSC Spiritualists. Yes, there are important details which need elaboration for new people, but it is reasonable to point to the Principles as an introduction to NSAC Spiritualism. Few people would consider me a religious man, but as an engineer and one who has studied metaphysics since high school, the nine principles set well with my need for an objective view of reality.

    Researchers tend to couch controversial concepts in terms that have less controversial baggage. For instance, “spiritual healing” is considered “energy healing,” and to be more specific, “biofield therapy,” yet the energy is the same that has been discovered many times in the past. In fact, Wilhelm Reich discovered it as orgone energ,y and in 1957, ended up dieing in jail because he ignored an order from the government to stop claiming he could heal with it. (

    If I were to write a set of principles based on my current understanding of transcommunication, it might look like:

    1. There is an intended order in reality (infinite intelligence)
    2. Life is composed of individual personalities acting as a community (we are one)
    3. Personalities express the intended order according to their understanding (differentiation)
    4. Reality is a continuum in which personalities seek experience (transition and pursuit of understanding)
    5. An object of reality must be energetically in agreement with the aspect of reality it will inhabit (agreement)
    6. The expression of intended order in the physical aspect of reality is made possible by the relationship of personality with its physical host (etheric-to-physical entangelement, formation)
    7. What we do in this lifetime matters for the rest of our existence (immortality, personal responsibility)

    The NSAC defines Spiritualism as the science, philosophy and religion of continued life. For the most part, these three aspects have traditionally been based on late 1800s understanding of these phenomena and the terminology reflects this, but the meaning remains on point. For Association TransCommunication (ATransC), we take a personality-centric view and attempt to follow the energy. Thus we say that the creative process involves the expression of focused attention with the intention to realize a clearly imagined outcome. The key concepts are intended order and a clearly understood objective.

    I like to think that these concepts are universal and based on objective understanding that does not require faith. In a personality-based view, personal responsibility is fundamental and life is probably the fundamental fractal of reality. If we are all Spiritualists with the same basic understanding, then the NSAC and SNU should be no more than regional expressions. Christians may be brothers, but they are a “Thou shalt,” faith-based system of belief while Spiritualism is arguably a system of understanding based on objective experience.

    So yes, the principles are important to establish a common identity. A person should be able to make a “I can live with that” sort of judgment about whether or not he or she wants to sit the Sunday Service. The principles are the first sign of who we are. The question is whether or not they describe what Spiritualism means to you.

  32. Whilst this has been an excellent debate I don’t think it should be about the SNU 7 Principles being fit for purpose. We should ask ourselves if the NEC is fit for purpose. I think we should start there first and then think about the overall picture later, as I think that the NEC feel that some of the Principles do not apply to them.

    • I don’t want to seem to be banging on about this, but I agree totally with you Spirit1941.
      I think that the recent events as recorded here have shown beyond reasonable doubt that there is a need for reorganisation. The SNU needs to be far more democratic, and the NEC desperately needs to lose the all powerful position that they have. They just cannot expect to have the ability to ingore the wishes of the Membership. I’m not getting at anyone personally, and there are people on the SNU that I both know and respect, but you cannot have such a dictatorial and patronising set up. To remain the same is not an option. Change has to happen.
      What we have at the moment is akin to Papal Infallability, in that even if the NEC is wrong, then it is right.
      That’s not only bad management which will ultimately cost the SNU members, but it is against the principles of Spiritualism ( both SNU, and Findlayian ).
      I expect to get 3 “thumbs down” for this – you know who you are, please don’t dissapoint.

      • Absolutely agree with both of you well said

      • It seems as if we are all SNU bashing again. This is not so, as the NEC needs to change. At the moment the rules for churches and Bye Laws
        do not apply to the NEC as they have their so called “special powers” and basically can do what they like and override the Bye Laws etc. Therefore, if the NEC acts in an inappropriate or unspiritual way to either a church or a member then that church or individual has no recourse to anybody and has to put up with what is dished out. This is not right.
        We need a committee of say 3/4 ministers of the Union, taken from different District Councils, which is formed specifically to look at any complaints made about inappropriate/unspiritual actions or decisions by the NEC. At the moment who can you complain to if you are being badly treated by the NEC? Answer – the NEC, who then ignore you.
        What do other members of the SNU think about this suggestion?

        • I’m not SNU bashing. I’m NEC bashing. There is a world of difference.
          As Spiritualists, we have always had strong links with Socialism and the Co-operative Movement.
          When they elect their NEC’s then they are there to guide the movement, not to dictate. And all members have a say, either directly, or as part of a “college”. There has to be change, and quickly, or the SNU will start to form factions, and self destruct. Don’t get me wrong, I see nothing wrong with strong leadership, but that leadership needs direction and needs to be accountable. Personally, I’d get rid of Class B membership too. There should only be one class of membership open to all, not the system we have at the moment. And it should not just be available to people who already know existing members. The way we do it now does not encourage new people with fresh ideas progressing into the administration of the organisation. Any organisation that makes it difficult for new people, and new ideas, to develop within its ranks will fail eventually. How can an organisation tell Humanity that progression is open to all, when it fails to progress itself.

          Tradition is a fine thing, and we should respect it, but it’s no place to live.We need to move forward and remain relevant.



    This site has a good slant on the situation and highlights our free will or lack of it as decreed by the NEC of the SNU

  34. Were not the Seven Principles of Spiritualism given by spirit with “liberty of interpretation”? This to my mind means one is at liberty to interpret them and satisfy their understanding, at the stage of comprehension they are at. It does not mean one can willy-nilly change the wording because to do so alters those first given Principles.

    • There has been a lot of speculation over time about the origin of the Seven principles and it is suggested that the wording was altered somewhat as they were developed.
      Given that fact I can see no reason for the words to be set in stone as long as they express the underlying principles. Now that society has reached a different “stage of comprehension” to our Victorian forebearers it makes sense to adopt wording relevent to a modern audience.

  35. Hi Wendy, maybe others have a better knowledge of this but I felt that when the Principles were registered as part of becoming a Religion under the Charities rules the liberty of interpretation had to be removed.

    As to the actual creation of the Seven Principles it is clear that they were developed over a period of time and the story of Cleveland Hall in 1871 is incorrect. Much of the best work upon this is in Psypioneer but if you go to this link to a discussion on my forum you can find the links to all of that material. It is a fascinating story which is worth a good read.

    • Thanks for your comments Jim and in particular the site link. It’s going to take a while to digest everything written there, but I know I’ll enjoy doing so.

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