Monday, August 25, 2014

Old Newspapers and Spiritual Abuse

On Sunday, Aug. 10, I was out working in my shop when I decided to take a short break from my project and the heat. I sat down next to an old cedar chest that needs some repair; that's the next project!

The chest used to belong to an aunt who passed away decades ago. My wife and I unloaded it earlier this summer and noticed that some old newspapers were lining the bottom of the chest so during my break I decided to gently pull the papers out and read them. To my surprise, they were on that Sunday exactly 80 years old. The yellowed pages were part of the Aug. 10, 1934, edition of the Oregon Daily Journal newspaper (Portland).
As a retired journalist I found many of the stories interesting but two in particular caught my attention. I'm going to try to reproduce scans of these articles here because readers should find them intriguing as well.

The first story was a short bit on page 1 about Catholic bishops in Belgium decrying the rampant promiscuity on European beaches. The swim suits of 1934 apparently were more than the pure bishops could cope with so they issued an order that none of the priests under their care should be exposed to them. All priests were to stay far away from the public beaches so as to remain undefiled. One wonders, however, how the good bishops learned about the licentious swimwear perhaps some of them had been frolicking at the beach? The article did not answer this question.
Now, as the accompanying photo plainly shows, female swimming attire of the 1930s was far from revealing, especially by today's standards. Sex has always been a slippery issue for the church and historically leaders in many religions have used restrictive rules governing sexual behavior as a control mechanism. This 1934 news article, though humorous now, is a good illustration of how religious leaders have tried to control their flocks by controlling their behavior.  This issue is explored in depth by German Catholic theologian Uta Ranke-Heinemann in her epic study, Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church (1988, English translation 1990). The church, according to Ranke-Heinemann, has constantly insisted that sex was only for procreation; sex for enjoyment, even within marriage, has always been suspect. The result over the ages has been a general negativity toward sexuality which religious leaders have often taken advantage of. Don't think that this is a problem only for Roman Catholics; it is a culture-wide issue in the Western world.

The second article catching my eye in the old newspaper concerned a minister in a fundamentalist Christian snake handling church being bitten during a religious service. Most of us have never been to a snake handling church; the few congregations that still follow this bizarre practice are mainly in the back country of Southern states (USA). Followers in these churches take to heart the verse in Mark 16 that says believers will not be harmed by poisonous snakes when they are picked up. In order to demonstrate the so-called "truth" of the Bible these believers incorporate snake handling in their worship. Ironically, the verse they revere has been shown not to exist in the earliest manuscripts; it was added much later, probably by some over-zealous copyist.
Read the story in the scan and you'll see a picture of a poor misguided person who, first, foolishly tests his God by doing something ridiculous and then, second, refuses medical help because to do so would cause him to lose face.

Snake handling still goes on in some Southern churches.
I'd like to postulate that this is an extreme example of something a lot of folks do all the time they hold onto an unfounded belief then refuse to abandon or modify it when confronted with valid evidence that they are wrong. This is certainly a description of naysayers who refuse to examine evidence for the paranormal and for life after so-called death. I see such folks figuratively sitting in the same pews as the snake handlers; their minds are made up so you can almost hear them saying, "don't confuse me with the facts." But the "facts" are here and eventually everyone is going to have to respond to them.
Believe it or not, there is a theological point where these snake handlers and the Catholic bishops in the articles see eye to eye. They all share the belief in a literal lake of fire and brimstone (aka sulphur) where unbelievers and sinners are tortured ("punished") by God for ever and ever in the life hereafter. Never mind the after-death communication evidence that has been around for 160 years saying that this lake of fire is a very cruel myth fabricated by church leaders in order to hold power over parishioners the Bible allegedly says there is such a place so it must be!

But does the Bible actually teach eternal torture inflicted by a loving, just God? Absolutely not. Verses used by eternal punishment preachers are to be interpreted metaphorically according to a fascinating and insightful book I finished reading this past weekend and in some cases, its author contends, our English versions are horribly mistranslated.
The book is Spiritual Terrorism: Spiritual Abuse From Womb to Tomb by Boyd C. Purcell, Ph.D. Dr. Purcell is uniquely qualified to discuss this topic because for 20 years he was pastor in an evangelical church, he has a bachelor of divinity degree, is proficient in New Testament Greek, has his doctorate in counseling, teaches counseling classes at the graduate level, served for many years as a hospice chaplain and much more.

Purcell's book is more than 500 interesting pages long! On those pages he thoroughly examines the lake of fire teachings, discounts them as metaphorical statements and proves this by examining the verses in Greek and various English translations, then he goes on to catalog the tragic psychological results of such doctrines in the lives of believers. His account is peppered with personal stories of patients he encountered in the hospice setting who were in anguish as they faced their dying experience because of the false hell teachings. These folks, Purcell contends, had all been subjected to spiritual abuse and terrorism at the hands of misinformed clergy who teach hellfire in order to coerce conversions.
Dr. Boyd C. Purcell
Dr. Purcell's biographical comments throughout the book reveal a sensitive man who grappled personally with his evangelical upbringing. That intellectual and spiritual struggle led him to the well-founded conviction that Christianity originally taught Universalism the doctrine that everyone will eventually be "saved." This teaching, of course, is central to spiritualism and after death communications have always revealed that humankind is on an eternal evolutionary journey toward perfection. Some of us are farther behind than others but eventually all will "arrive."

I gather that Dr. Purcell is still committed to a drastically reformed version of evangelical teaching but, nonetheless, he has contributed greatly to my understanding of the traditional Christian punishment doctrine while he offers a rational way out of the torturous lifestyle it has created for believers. Hearing a Christian pastor call a core (albeit false) Christian doctrine "abusive" and "torturous" is liberating in itself and seeing how that viewpoint led to a conviction of universal "salvation" is beautiful! We truly are living in a transforming age.
After reading this book it occurred to me that some people who have left traditional Christianity because of exposure to spiritualism may still be harboring effects of the abuse they suffered during their time within the church. I know that my youthful exposure to evangelical Christianity left many imprints on my mind which still pop up 50 years later. I frankly doubt that I was much of a believer in hellfire when I attended my mother's Baptist church but I did at least pay lip service to the doctrine. One had to in that environment or else you weren't considered a true Christian!

This last observation is something Dr. Purcell had to contend with in his own life. He had been a preacher in an evangelical denomination for 20 years when his study convinced him that hellfire was not literal and that a God of love was not going to torture his own children eternally. When his denomination found out that Purcell's understanding of this doctrine had changed, he was summarily discharged. Independent thinking certainly comes with a high price for the clergy. Fortunately, Purcell made the most of the difficult situation and got into counseling. He still preaches at various churches who welcome his message and he is on the board of trustees of the Christian Universalist Association.
All I can say is that it's too bad we don't have more Boyd Purcells in the world, people who will not be afraid to poke deep into their beliefs, weigh evidence, and change their minds if that is warranted. Unfortunately, we still have too many snake handlers, priests and other religious people who refuse to even consider they might be on the wrong path. Fortunately, spiritual truth is readily available in today's world; it is well documented and waiting to be examined. Thanks to the internet and a steady stream of new books many people are being drawn to the light. And exposure to the light tends to erase scars of spiritual abuse as individuals discover who they really are spirits manifested within a world of matter in order to spiritually grow and flourish.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lawyer Makes Closing Arguments for Life After 'Death'

While taking flights over the past few years I've found myself trying to fight off envy of other passengers who were passing the time reading books on a Kindle, Nook or other portable electronic device. Being a voracious reader, I, too, was engaged in the same activity but ‒ not being able to justify the steep price for the e-device ‒ I was packing around a fat, cumbersome and heavy printed book.

Recently, however, Amazon "invited" me to purchase a Kindle for nearly 50% off the regular price. I couldn't resist so now I am one with the airport crowd I once looked upon with jealousy!

The first book I downloaded and read on my new Kindle was Victor Zammit's newly revised edition of A Lawyer Presents the Evidence for the Afterlife.
Victor is a man I've admired for a long time. A retired attorney in Australia, for more than 20 years he and his wife have dedicated themselves to afterlife research and communication of their findings worldwide via the Internet. I had read the earlier edition of his book some time ago and was very impressed with his clear, attorney-like technique of laying out the evidence for the afterlife. The new book retains that approach, of course, and the information he shares is up to date, grounded in science and convincing.

He starts off in his opening statements as any attorney would do, by emphasizing the weight of the evidence he is going to present throughout his case. "When the evidence ‒ from mediumship, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, after-death contacts, voices on tape, psychic laboratory experiments, the Cross-Correspondences, the Scole Experiment, proxy sittings, poltergeists and all of the other evidence contained n this work ‒ is seen collectively, the case for survival after death is absolutely stunning and irrefutable," he writes. "As a matter of fact, any judge would agree that this list of topics establishes a prima facie (on the face of it) case."
Unfortunately, though, there are a great many of those within the halls of science who, without examining the evidence, pooh-pooh all of the above topics of investigation. They simply cannot accept that anything whatsoever can exist that would bring their dogmatic materialistic world view into question so if something smacks of the paranormal it is summarily tossed out as being fake, "unscientific" or simply non-existent. Theirs is the prevailing voice of most of the scientific world so the public ‒ which has high respect for scientists ‒ is lulled into believing the same things.

That widespread attitude makes it difficult for serious investigators to discover the truth and even more difficult to share their findings. Victor Zammit in this book has done a marvelous job of discussing all the fields of research that touch on the afterlife and presenting some of the best resources for learning about each one. As he points out, perhaps on their own each one of these fields of interest  is incapable of "proving" the existence of an afterlife but taken all together the only unifying explanation that makes any sense is the presence of spirit and the continuance of life beyond earthly death.
Victor Zammit
I find that one thing in particular makes this book most useful ‒ Victor Zammit is no dummy! Skeptics cannot point to his book and criticize it because it was written by someone who cannot be trusted or, because of a lack of credentials, is not a reliable author. Rather, Victor has the background and degrees that place him as an equal to any critic. Besides his B.A. in psychology, he earned an M.A. in history, a bachelors in law and a Ph.D. Add to that his many years as a practicing attorney who daily had to weigh evidence and you have someone with the perfect background for presenting the case for the afterlife.

I recommend study of this book and using it when discussing the afterlife with friends. Zammit's reasoned and well documented approach along with his revelation of the best evidence is quite persuasive.  The book is  available as an inexpensive e-book or you can purchase the more useable print edition.
I also highly recommend Victor's website (link at the top of our links on the left of this page). For several years I've received and read his weekly Afterlife Report (which he calls "Friday Afterlife Reports" but they arrive here in North America on Thursday afternoons thanks to the International Dateline). This free weekly report presents interesting information in each quickly read edition and one can sign up for it on Victor's website (click the link for Friday Afterlife Report on the left of the home page). Receiving this weekly email will help you stay connected with what's happening worldwide in afterlife research. (Reports for the past 10 years can be accessed from the site.)

Victor and his wife Wendy have performed a tremendous service by tying together all of us who share an interest in the afterlife. And this new edition of Victor's book will go a long way toward helping countless others learn the truth about our eternal nature. Thank you, Victor, for making this available.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A God for Atheists

Recently the Huffington Post online news site featured in their religion section a wonderful essay entitled "A God for Atheists." I was drawn to it immediately when I noticed that it was written by Dr. Stafford Betty, a longtime professor of religious studies at  California State University Bakersfield. It's an honor to acknowledge that Dr. Betty (pictured below) has been a follower of this blog and his occasional comments have been welcome.
While definitions of God (or as I prefer, Divine Source) are not necessarily central to this blog's mission, I do want to share a few thoughts about Professor Betty's provocative article because his comments do run parallel with what we've considered here before. I think he is right on mark when he singles out present-day Christianity (especially its evangelical wing) and its 13th century theology for causing many to explore the more rational alternatives atheism offers. "...[T]he roots of atheism are often found in primitive, narrow views of the Divine picked up in preteen years," Dr. Betty writes. "Waking up to the absurdity of God condemning non-Christians to hell is enough to blow into smithereens the childhood faith of many a thoughtful adolescent. A God who created the universe a few thousand years ago by merely wishing it into existence out of nothing is almost as fatal. For others ‒ and this goes for older people too ‒ it's the belief that God will bless us with what we pray for if we pray hard enough, or that everything that happens to us is supposed to happen. Or that God inspired everything found in the Bible, or the Qur'an, or the Vedas, or the Book of Mormon. To believe in such a God is to fly in the face of reason and evidence."
Dr. Stafford Betty
Like many of you, I can personally relate to this. Entering college as a staunch evangelical I was suddenly exposed to numerous realities about my faith that had previously been hidden from me (hidden by my church intentionally in order to "protect" followers from being "led astray.")  These realities, of course, are the  many problems of Christianity that have been uncovered over the past 300 years by academic religious scholarship. Most atheists are well versed in this field and the findings of scholars give them much ammunition when they choose to attack the predominant religion of the West. Most Christians, however, are largely ignorant of what scholars have discovered about their religion.
Add to this the childish, superstitious and out of touch picture of God present in most churches and it's a wonder that in this day of increased education the pews are as full as they are. As an alternative, Dr. Betty offers a portrait of God that seems to reflect quite well what we as spiritualists have heard from the other side over and over again. Gone are the anthropomorphic qualities as are the vengeance,  jealousy and desire to punish that so often tarnish Christian teachings. The essay is a good read and as of this writing it is still available online at
I see, however, that at least one atheist has already tried online to shoot holes in Dr. Betty's argument which really doesn't surprise me. As an alternative to the antiquated world view offered by traditional orthodox Christianity, atheists buy into a materialistic world view that holds matter as we now know it as the full extent of reality. They dogmatically assert that what we see is all we get; there simply cannot be other worlds, other realities, other forces. But as we've pointed out here before, there is an abundance of evidence showing that other forces DO exist. We acknowledge that these discoveries do not prove the existence of God but I propose, "who really cares at this point in time?" Our Source, if he/she/it actually exists, is no doubt far beyond our comprehension so it is probably useless to argue either for or against its existence. Instead, let's proceed in a direction where we can make some discernible headway and in order to do that we will need to somehow release our researchers from their materialistic mindset so they can move on unencumbered.
This blog is primarily focused on after death communication and this has also been an area receiving a lot of attention by Dr. Betty over the years. He is on the board for the Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies and his 2011 book The Afterlife Unveiled is a superb collection of descriptions of the afterlife revealed through mediumship. Professor Betty acknowledges that there is a "massive amount of evidence that points to an afterlife" and this book presents some of the most compelling accounts.
"The literature written by doctors and psychologists on the near-death experience, the books written by hospice personnel about the extraordinary visions that dying people who are not doped up with painkillers commonly report, and the reports of spirits speaking through mediums, such as we've examined here, points to a mysterious dimension that exists alongside ours" he writes in the book's conclusion. "One needs no faith to appreciate and weigh this evidence, only an open mind uncontaminated  by materialist presuppositions."
My favorite descriptions of the afterlife came through the mediumship of Anthony Borgia who died in 1989 and the communicator who worked through Borgia was none other than the Catholic priest and later Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914). Fr. Benson's messages were published in several books during the 1950s and, thankfully, they are available free online. Dr. Betty's book, however, masterfully condenses Benson's descriptions. In summarizing his chapter on Benson's message, Betty says that "The spirit world according to Benson is a place of endless variety spread out in virtually infinite space ‒ with every individual spirit residing in a realm suitable to his or her spiritual maturity." This is the essential message of all afterlife  communicators when they try to put into language their world that is so much more expansive than our own.
Harkening back to Betty's essay about A God for Atheists, we need to remember that 160 years of psychical research has amassed a ton of evidence that points toward life after death and the probable existence of an ultimate source for all that is. Ignorance and stubbornness have led people to shelve all this and consider it to be unimportant, irrelevant, unscientific or even evil. Thanks to Dr. Betty and a growing number of other leaders in education, research and science, information is slowly going out that shows the bigger picture. At some time the outcome of this expansion of awareness, I feel, will be an increased willingness to investigate our true spiritual nature in more depth. Then I'm sure we will be able to count on willing communicators from the "other side" who will be glad to help us advance our understanding.
Dr. Stafford Betty's book, The Afterlife Unveiled, is available through in both print and Kindle formats.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Remedy for Grief

One day last July I was reading headlines on the Google News site when I had an urge to do a search of the news for "spiritualism." I'd never tried that before and I don't think I've done it since but on this day a year ago my experiment struck pay dirt.

The news story my search turned up had appeared in a Kalamazoo, Michigan, newspaper just a couple of days prior and it concerned an author who was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. The author, Dr. Mary Leiker, was a former superintendant of schools for a district in Michigan state and her book, Just Behind the Door, had recently been released. I subsequently purchased the book through Amazon and found it intriguing.

Mary Leiker
Elsewhere on this blog we've commented about the many people who find spiritualism after the loss of a loved one. Grief drives them in the quest to find answers about survival after death and when they investigate they discover that evidence clearly and convincingly shows that this life is not all there is.
Mary Leiker's experience of grief, while similar to that of many others, is unique in its intensity. As superintendant of schools, Dr. Leiker was always "on duty" whenever there was a crisis situation involving students in her district. One Saturday she was alerted about a horrible automobile accident involving five seniors in the district's high school and she spun into action. She was present at the hospital, consoled family members and put into place services that would provide support and counseling for traumatized student friends. She explains in the book that the students "need hugs from their  peers to give them strength" when facing such a crisis. "They look to the adults for answers. When there are no answers forthcoming to explain the terrible events and the probable outcomes, they feel vulnerable and frightened. In essence, they look to the adults to 'fix it.' Death, however, doesn't get fixed."
Two of the students had died in the accident and the others were seriously injured. It was a gut-wrenching day for Leiker and when she returned home late that evening she wanted to go to bed undisturbed.  However, shortly after returning home she received a telephone call that would change her life forever ­‒ her adult son in Colorado had been killed in a construction accident that very day.
In the book Mary shares her innermost feelings in detail and reveals how she coped with these multiple tragic losses. More than a personal story, the book also serves as a guide to dealing with grief because her detailed individual account can be instructional to anyone coping with a loss.
Her quest for answers eventually led Mary to a talented medium who put her in direct touch with deceased members of her family including her recently passed son. The evidential and comforting messages that came through provided immense relief while it confirmed her belief that the so-called dead live on and are able to communicate with those of us remaining on this side.
This medium lived a considerable distance from Mary's home and she longed for the ability to communicate directly. Her grandmother, though not an acknowledged medium, nonetheless had psychic abilities and Mary apparently had them as well. Over time, she relates, she has been able to receive messages herself from family members on the other side which has enriched her life tremendously.
Mary Leiker's book is a sensitive, personal account with a vital message to those attempting to handle the loss of loved ones. Its author is an intelligent, well-educated individual whose approach to this topic is informed and rational.  The reader can easily profit from her experiences and perhaps even achieve what Mary herself did ‒ direct, personal contact with family and friends who still live "just behind the door."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Was There a Séance on the Day of Pentecost?

May 19 was Pentecost Sunday on the Church Liturgical Calendar, a day for traditional Christians to recall the strange events occurring  on the Feast of Pentecost shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus. But for those of us who see things through the spectacles of spiritualism, that day of Pentecost long ago takes on a meaning much different from the one expounded from pulpits around the world on this Sunday.

Our only source of information about what happened with the disciples that day is the Acts of the Apostles, a book in the Christian New Testament. Bear in mind that this account was written perhaps 100 years later with the unknown author (Luke by name but not the apostle Luke) acknowledging that he relies on oral tradition. Nonetheless, there are enough clues in the account to convince spiritualists that the disciples on the day of Pentecost were holding a séance!

Remember that prior to their gathering on Pentecost the disciples allegedly had been seeing materializations (apparitions) of Jesus for some time and that he had promised a spiritual event in the near future. So with this expectation in mind, they got together in a home to await the appearance of what they called the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) ­-- this term being used, according to Arthur Findlay, to describe the spirit control of a medium. Over the centuries that followed, the term was appropriated to designate one of the beings in the concocted Christian trinity.

In Acts we read, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them." (Acts 2: 1-3)

The phenomena just described are often experienced in a physical mediumship circle. I myself have felt slight breezes and temperature changes in circles and I'm told that these can be much more pronounced within experienced circles sitting for physical phenomena. Botanist and Church of England clergyman George Henslow points out in his book The Religion of the Spirit World Written by the Spirits Themselves that similar winds accompanied spirit communication in the Old Testament (1920, page 203): "Behold the Lord [no doubt referring to a spirit control] passed by and a great and strong wind rent the mountain;" and "The Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind."
Spirit lights are also common in séances and in some cases they could be described as fiery lights atop the heads of sitters.

Another thing happened on the Day of Pentecost long ago that has fostered a whole movement within Christendom -- Pentecostalism. We are told that in the midst of this séance some of the disciples began "speaking in tongues," or talking in various languages. There were many present, the account explains, who were from different regions and they heard the entranced Christians speaking in their home languages -- much to their amazement.

In my youth I spent a couple of years attending a Pentecostal church and I heard many parishioners  "speaking in tongues" but I'm quite certain none of those utterances were genuine foreign languages -- instead they were merely babbling gibberish pouring out of an ecstatic worshiper.  However, on the Day of Pentecost we're told that foreign languages were heard. As any student of the history of mediumship knows, there have been many monolingual mediums who have fluently spoken in trance both modern and ancient languages with which they have no acquaintance. These communications have been transcribed or recorded and verified as genuine. Perhaps the disciples did the same.

A long-passed Greek Bible scholar, Dr. T.J. McCrosson, observed many years ago that, yes, on the Day of Pentecost there were those in attendance who were from distant lands and they heard messages in their native languages. McCrosson noted, however, that those from the local area were there also so they would have heard messages in a language commonly used by both the mediums and the listeners. So, not everyone in trance used a foreign language that day - - just some of them. Others spoke messages from spirit in their every-day language (most likely Aramaic).

So, could it be that mediumship was common in the early church? Most definitely, according to Arthur Findlay who thoroughly discussed the topic in his massive history of religion, The Psychic Stream. "Mediums are the primary cause of religion, which in time grows into a form of belief comprising doctrines, dogmas and rites requiring priests to protect and perform," Findlay writes (page 605). "Mediums always created the original idea, and thus Moses, the medium, was the cause behind Judaism, and Paul, the medium, the cause behind Christianity."

In the Old Testament we read of many prophets who allegedly uttered statements from the "Lord" (which Findlay feels always signifies the medium's spirit control). But few Christians realize that prophets were present in the apostolic church as well. Several are named in the New Testament and in Ephesians we read that in each church there was to be a prophet (along with an apostle, pastor, teacher, etc.).

Findlay makes a strong argument that these prophets were the same as today's mediums. "In The Encyclopedia Britannica we find that 'Prophet is a word taken from the vocabulary of the ancient Greek religion which passed into the language of Christianity, and so into the modern tongues of Europe, because it was adopted by the Hellenistic Jews as the rendering of the Hebrew nābi. The word, therefore, as we use it is meant to convey an idea which belongs to Hebrew and not to Hellenic belief.' Thus the word prophet, meaning a medium, was adopted by Christians, but its meaning was forgotten when they lost touch with the etheric world. In the fourth century mediumship was abolished and priests took the place of mediums. Since that time no Christian theologian has understood what Paul and other early Christians meant when using the words prophet and prophesy. The foregoing, however, makes it clear that a prophet was a medium, that a seer was also a medium, and that a prophet and seer referred to the same individual, namely a medium."

Thus  in the Old Testament we read, "When a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a prophet was beforetime called a seer;" (I Sam. 9: 9) and "The spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy... and shalt be turned into another man." (I Sam. 10: 6) Findlay remarks, "Nothing could describe in fewer words what occurs to a medium when he enters the trance state."

The fact that mediums were common and accepted in the early church is clinched by an extensive quote from the very early Christian leader and theologian Tertullian (c. 160–c. 225 AD). Since few are aware of this information, I want to quote it in its entirety. Tertullian wrote this in his work De Anima and Findlay quotes it in The Psychic Stream (page 1039-1040):

For seeing that we acknowledge spiritual charismata, or gifts, we too have merited the attainment of the prophetic gift. We have now amongst us a sister whose lot it has been  to be favored with sundry gifts of revelation, which she experiences in the spirit by ecstatic vision amidst the sacred rites of the Lord's Day in the church. She converses with the angels, and sometimes even with the Lord; she both sees and hears mysterious communications; some men's hearts she understands, and to them who are in need she distributes remedies. Whether it be in the reading of the Scriptures, or in the chanting of psalms, or in the preaching of sermons, or in the offering up of prayers, in all these religious services, matter and opportunity are afforded her of seeing visions. It may possibly have happened to us, whilst this sister of ours was wrapt in the spirit, that we had discoursed in some ineffable way about the soul. After the people are dismissed at the conclusion of the sacred services, she is in the regular habit of reporting to us whatever things she may have seen in vision;  for all her communications are examined with the most scrupulous care, in order that their truth may be probed, 'amongst other things' says she, 'there has been shewn to me a soul in bodily shape, and a spirit has been in the habit of appearing to me; not, however, a void and empty illusion but such as would offer itself to be even grasped by the hand, soft and transparent and of an ethereal color, and in form resembling that of a human being in every respect.' This was her vision, and for her witness there was God; and the apostle Paul most assuredly foretold that there were to be spiritual gifts in the Church.

And Findlay acknowledges this report by saying, "Here we have an account of a great medium who was treated by an outstanding early Christian with the respect which was due her, in such contrast to the way mediums have been treated since the Church organization became controlled by the priests. This information, which has come down to us from the hand of Tertullian, proves that mediums were employed in Christian churches in the third century, as what he tells us was written in the year 211."

At this point it is quite easy to say that there is MUCH that has been kept hidden from us and much that has been altered over the years. It's my wish that from now on Pentecost Sunday can become a time when all humankind will acknowledge the existence of natural mediumistic gifts and encourage their use.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

True Religion is This....

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27

With all the hubbub surrounding the resignation and replacement of the pope, it seems like a good time to revisit a theme I've covered here briefly before, namely, the purpose and role of religion as seen by spiritualists and those friends who have communicated with us from the other side of that boundary we call death.

While I'm generally not one given to quoting the Bible, the verse above, disregarded by many in organized religion, seems to be pertinent to a discussion about the role of religion and it's a definition with which I heartily agree. Note that there is no mention in the verse of rituals or ceremonies, nothing about being cleansed of sin, nothing about sacrifice, the Eucharist or baptism, no requirement that one should hold certain beliefs, and absolutely no reference to a pope or any ecclesiastical structure whatsoever. Religion in this definition is confined to service and the individual pursuit of virtue (or building of character). In our verse, caring for widows and orphans is a metaphor for all types of service rendered to others.

It should be noted here that over the past 160 years of modern spiritualism this simple outlook on religion has consistently been the message from the other side. Spirit in message after message has repeatedly stressed the personal quest for truth and righteousness and downplayed the role of ceremony and  all activities and doctrines associated with organized religion. Service to others is seen by spirit as the single  most effective means of assuring one's spiritual growth. In other words, religion is conduct and nothing more as noted by scientist and clergyman George Henslow in The Religion of the Spirit World (1920).

In his voluminous writings on history spiritualist author Arthur Findlay shows how this "natural religion" as he calls it was corrupted over the centuries by both ignorance and deliberate manipulation from the priestly class. Rites and dogmas were added until nowadays almost everyone equates religion with these formal institutional-based practices and beliefs. The whole story is interestingly told in Findlay's 2,000-page masterwork The Psychic Stream (1939).

Put another way, scholar Karen Armstrong says that religion isn't about adherence to doctrines as literal truth it's about living one's life a certain way from hour to hour and day to day. And the remarkable spirit guide Silver Birch said, "Religion is living in a way that brings you closer to the Great Spirit. Religion is when the Great Spirit is expressed in your actions. Religion is service."

Spiritualism and New Thought have both taught that before each action there always is thought. The thought of unenlightened minds is usually rooted in self-service and only with spiritual growth does one emerge from this selfish frame of mind. Ignorant and undisciplined people who have not yet begun to look beyond self generally do what is wrong with wrong actions, according to Findlay, being those which "upset the harmony and aspirations of life." (Note the absence of the word "sin!")

"Wrong-doing comes from unbalanced and undeveloped minds, and, in its final analysis, can be reduced to selfishness, to the consideration of only our own wishes and the ignoring of those with whom we come in contact," Findlay elaborated in his two-volume history of the world, The Curse of Ignorance (Vol. 1, Chapter XI). "...The finer or enlightened mind could not find peace and harmony if others suffered from actions produced by its thoughts. The enlightened mind is so telepathically in touch with the minds of other people that it is upset if it produces disharmony in other minds. As the mind develops it becomes ever more sensitive to the thoughts of others, and adjusts itself to prevent the disharmony which leads to quarrels and unhappiness."

History, Findlay says, is the story of unfolding minds. Over much of mankind's past undeveloped minds constituted the majority of the population but during the past few centuries steady progress has been made and now there is less cruelty while efforts to help the less fortunate are abundant.

Our institutional religious dogmas and traditions, however, are products of an age when cruelty was the norm and ignorance reigned supreme. In assessing the impact of Christianity on the world's people, Findlay asks, "What, then, was the ethical standard of instruction in those days [when  Christianity was being formed], and how exactly did the people look upon life? They had their own crude ideas of right and wrong, just as a savage has, but they had no incentive to strive for something better, as they were taught and believed that their wickedness had been forgiven by God, because 'By the righteousness of one [Jesus] the free gift [of salvation] came upon all men... so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.' (Romans 5: 18) This being so, they had no reason to worry over their shortcomings."

This outlook, of course, persisted from the fall of the Roman Empire right up to the Renaissance and is still being promoted by many within organized Christianity. Nowadays parishioners are exhorted to secure their salvation primarily by endorsing certain beliefs followed by regular church attendance, tithing, baptism, partaking of the Eucharist, and any number of other things espoused by various denominations. And, oh, you should also clean up your act along the way but, don't worry, do these things the church asks and you're saved and won't go to eternal punishment in hell. Those who distance themselves from the church are looked upon with suspicion because, the preacher says, how can anybody be truly "good" outside of the "body of Christ" (code name for the so-called universal church)?

That's a lot of baggage wrapped up in religious clothes and, according to our verse at the top of this post, entirely unnecessary baggage at that. Since its emergence 160 years ago, modern spiritualism has attempted to lead people back to the important but simple foundations of living: Practice the Golden Rule, serve one another, love in abundance,  and recognize who you really are a self-conscious manifestation of  the Universal Life Force that is destined to live forever. That realization alone (which is proven over and over again through spirit communications) automatically alters one's behavior away from selfishness and toward a full, rich and loving relationship with All Life.

So, don't hold your breath that the new pope or any other leader in organized religion will usher in our New Age that task is just not one that has been assigned to any religious institution. Instead, look to enlightened science and to the prompting from within for the transformations we are longing for. As science edges closer and closer to discovery of spirit and as mankind as a collective realizes who he/she really is, then the resolve will be there to change our own world for the better. Then will our New Age truly be here.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Prophecies – Old and New

Yes, I know there has been a long gap on this blog from the last post to this. I apologize for that but go on to offer some explanation and, hopefully, some insight to those who identify with Spirit as I do.

 I've previously mentioned the demand of various chores that have kept me away from my keyboard and that has truly been the case. But beyond that, at a much deeper level, was a feeling of "waiting" that kept me silent. "Waiting for what?" you ask.

Well, I'm not too sure! "Changes" would perhaps be the best word to answer that question. A general anticipation that "things" were afoot that would affect me and my family.

Throughout the ages there have been prophesies about transformations that would result in ushering in of a new and golden time of peace and joy - complete with widespread recognition of our spirit nature. An age that would see an end to dogged materialism. Many have believed (and channeled messages supported this) that this month would be THE time for entering the new dispensation of peace. I admit that I have been one of those who felt humanity was on the cusp of a transformation the likes of which we've never witnessed before on our planet. Even after an uneventful winter solstice and end of the Mayan calendar cycle I still think there is evidence that this is so.

As spiritualists we have to acknowledge that within our movement this expectation of a worldwide transformation has always been there. Those voices from beyond that we highly trust have told us that the ancient prophesies are, in fact, at least partially true. Our evolution has rapidly brought us to our contemporary tipping point where things just have to change for the better.

In the nineteenth century Imperator, through the medium Stainton Moses said we were entering a “New Dispensation:” "What you are now witnessing are the signs and wonders that prelude the opening of a new dispensation, the advent of the Lord, not as man has fancied and as your teachers have vainly taught, in bodily presence to judge an arisen humanity, but in His new mission (the fullness of the old), through us, His messengers and ministers, in the declaration of a new evangel to your world.” (More Spirit Teachings)

The sage voice of Silver Birch through medium Maurice Barbenall went further in his explanation. “Like many others, I have come nearer to the earth vibrations to help push forward that great new world which waits just round the corner. I come to teach you the laws of the Great Spirit and to show you how, if you live according to them, the bounty of the Great Spirit can be poured into your hearts and minds.”

He continues with a further explanation: “The New World is born, born in agony of birth, with a baptism of tears and misery and sadness. But the New World is here. Its rays are beginning to pierce the fog of your world. But even in this New World all will not have been achieved. There will be plenty to remedy, to improve, to strengthen. There will still be weakness to be overcome, there will still be troubles to be eradicated. But there will be a new basis for life. Much of the needless misery, much of the needless deprivation, much of the needless starvation and sadness will have gone. The basis of life will be changed, for gradually selfishness will be overthrown and service will reign in its place.

“The New World will come more quickly or more slowly, as more of you help us or hinder us in our efforts to co-operate with you. You will not get more than you deserve or less than you deserve, for so perfect is natural law in its expression that its scales are always evenly balanced. They are weighted down neither on one side nor the other. I tell you of conditions that are operating and, as they continue to operate, what will be changed. Do not forget that you will reap in your world the harvest of countless generations of labour wrought by many pioneers, idealists and reformers, who made sacrifices to advance the lot of mankind.” (Philosophy of Silver Birch)

I could quote more ­-- there have been numerous instances of messages from spirit predicting a dramatic entrance into a wondrous New Age. But the point here is not to go through a tedious laundry list of predictions but to try to figure out what we as individuals need to do with all these utterances.  Given the fact that those in spirit predict a positive change for humanity, how should that affect our current-day thinking and actions?

Probably the best initial advice would be not to set dates or presume to know the finer details about how changes will be manifested.  The "non-events" of Dec. 21,  2012, should reinforce that point. Our human impatience makes us want to figure all this out and become "all knowing" about the "when" and "how" details. This is, unfortunately, a tendency that is all too prevalent in our spiritualist movement. How often have you heard someone say, "spirit told me thus and so" with the speaker glowing with pride and all-knowingness? It just shouldn't be this way. Instead, we need to hold certain expectations and leave the details up in the air.

Regarding widespread anticipation that Dec. 21 would usher in the New Age, I can only say that perhaps it did, perhaps it didn't. With our limited vision we can be certain that our evolution will continue and that we are in an amazing period of time. It is most likely that many of us chose to be here this lifetime in order to experience those things that we anticipate. When and how still remains a mystery but like any good suspense movie, the joy comes at the end when all is revealed at last.