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.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Spirit Communion Within The Anglican Communion


While we are on the topic of Episcopalians and others in the worldwide Anglican Communion (see our last blog post), I’d like to say a few words about two additional avant-garde clergymen and post a copy of a long-suppressed church report that admitted mediumship is valid.

By focusing again on the Anglican Communion I am not endorsing this Christian denomination but merely acknowledging that several prominent Anglican/Episcopalian clergy have “seen the light” and moved away from some of the spurious teaching common to all Christian groups. I’m sure there are many more. Last time we considered the work of Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong and the Rev. Stainton Moses; in this post we will look at another bishop and a parish priest who openly declared their interest and belief in mediumship.

But first, let me paste in a humorous piece by popular comic actor Robin Williams that I found on my old Episcopal parish’s website. The number-one reason Williams sees for being an Episcopalian is really true in this liberal denomination and it is undoubtedly the reason why many parishioners “dabble” in psychic interests….

Top 10 Reasons for Being an Episcopalian
(According to the comedian Robin Williams, who is an Episcopalian)
Robin Williams
10. No snake handling.
9.   You can believe in dinosaurs.
8.    Male and female, God created them; male and female, we ordain them.
7.    You don’t have to check your brains at the door.
6     Pew aerobics.
5.    Church year is color coded!
4.    Free wine on Sunday.
3.    All of the pageantry and none of the guilt.
2.    You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.
And the number one reason for being an Episcopalian: No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

For our non-USA followers, let me explain that the Episcopal Church in this country is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion that originates with the Church of England. Churches in other countries adhering to the Church of England teachings and practices are also autonomous members of that Anglican Communion much the same as Roman Catholic churches in individual countries have a certain autonomy and self-government, yet they are all affiliated with the Vatican.

A bishop visits mediums
Bishop James Pike
Our first look today will be at the late Episcopal Bishop of California, the Rt. Rev. James A. Pike (1913-1969). I’ve chatted with two people who were acquainted with this controversial clergyman and both described him demonstratively as “interesting.” Non-Episcopalians (as well as a good number of those belonging to that denomination) felt he was way out in left field and his rejection, like Bishop Spong, of core Christian dogmas led in his case to commencement of heresy proceedings several times during his career. While the heresy charges were never finalized, Pike was censured by fellow bishops in 1966 after which he resigned his post. He is especially remembered for his advocacy of ordination of women, civil rights and acceptance of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender individuals.

Pike is also remembered for his interest in psychic phenomena and spirit communication.  During the year of his censure and resignation from the diocese, his son committed suicide in New York City. After the death James Pike began noticing strange things happening around his house such as items being moved or disappearing altogether or clothes in the closet being disturbed and put out of order. He was convinced those occurrences were being perpetrated by his late son and this sparked an interest in the possibility of communicating with him through mediumship. Much to the embarrassment of the church, the bishop went about his investigations in a public manner, even agreeing to have one séance televised. He consulted well known medium Arthur Ford who was himself an ordained clergyman (Disciples of Christ) and later recorded the details of his quest for afterlife communication in a widely read book, The Other Side.

In 1969 Bishop Pike and his wife were traveling in Israel when the bishop became lost in the desert. Before his body was found but a full 24 hours after his death, British medium Ena Twigg received a message from Pike during a sitting attended by her husband and a Church of England clergyman, Canon John Pierce-Higgins. The voice claiming to be Pike was tape recorded and a full transcript of his message was published in Twigg’s autobiography, Ena Twigg: Medium.

In passing, I should note that the late Canon Pierce-Higgins who was present for the Pike communication also had a strong interest in the paranormal and he wrote an influential paper on the church and psychical research.

Anglican priest talks with Bible hero
On the other side of the globe, down in New Zealand, lives an open-minded, inquisitive retired Anglican parish priest who has done a lot to advance knowledge of ourselves, our purpose and destiny. Additionally, he has made a major contribution to our understanding of communication with those on the “other side.”


The Rev. Michael Cocks, who is a follower of this blog, is a fourth generation Anglican priest who is not afraid to explore new ideas. He is editor of a wonderful online journal, The Ground of Faith, and at the left of this page we have a link to that. The publication fearlessly and seriously examines life after so-called death, consciousness research and other cutting edge topics. I recommend it highly.

Another major contribution from this clergyman is his recent book detailing a series of afterlife communications he had with an entity claiming to be Stephen the Martyr, mentioned in the Book of Acts in the Christian Bible. During the 1970s Michael was a participant in a series of mediumship circles in New Zealand where Stephen communicated a large body of in-depth teachings that were recorded and later compiled in Cocks’s book, Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr (published last year by White Crow Books; available through amazon.com). I am currently reading this book and find Stephen’s insight to be compelling and helpful.

One of the book’s outstanding features is Michael’s scholarly examination of data from the sittings, especially those few instances where Stephen spoke in a form of Greek that was used in the location and time occupied by the Stephen we know from the Bible. The resulting analysis is a very convincing argument for the entity being who he says he was and this information provides yet another instance where information from mediumship can be seen as strong verification of life after death.

There is another major contribution that Cocks’s book makes and that is the nature of the questions he asked Stephen and Stephen’s in-depth responses. Being a clergyman, Cocks brought a lot of theological inquiries to the Stephen circles and therefore this book contains a great deal of explanation from the spirit side of life about scripture and various Christian doctrines. Only an individual with a theology background could have inspired this collection of valuable material and we are fortunate that the Rev. Michael Cocks made the effort to put this together and get it published. For those seekers still struggling with pet doctrines, a thorough study of this book would be helpful.

The question naturally arises, “why is this cutting edge stuff happening in the Anglican Communion?” Well, I’m really not convinced there is a lot of it going on, but outspoken clergy such as Spong and Pike have attracted a lot of attention. I suppose Robin Williams’ list above might really provide the clue about why those in the Anglican Communion are less likely to fear “coming out” with questions (as in the case of Spong) or investigating the paranormal as did Pike. Within the Anglican Communion there is a great divergence of opinion and this is usually thought of as healthy (but it also creates schisms as it is now doing with increased acceptance of gay clergy in the U.S.A.).

But the bottom line for Anglicans/Episcopalians and those in most other churches is still this – orthodox Christian church doctrine is not open (yet) to paranormal topics, especially after-death communication. A stark reminder of this attitude is the history of a report issued by a Church of England committee assigned the task to investigate claims made by spiritualists. The majority report came back positive about mediumship so what was the church to do? It filed the report away and kept it secret until it was “leaked” to the Psychic News many years later. With the notable exception of a few bold, outspoken clergymen such as those we’ve been examining, this is what usually happens within the church – either psychic phenomena is denounced outright or ignored or, in this case, it is investigated and when the messengers come back with the “wrong” report, their findings are summarily suppressed.

Even though this report appeared in the press 50 years ago and is now available several places online, it is still generally unknown. Its importance cannot be overstated so I’ve chosen to reprint it below in its entirety. The text I’ve used here comes from Victor Zammit’s site (link at left) and the report is prefaced by a statement written by A.W. Austin, then editor of Psychic News when the document was originally published in his newspaper. Seven of the ten committee members signed this majority report; the other three signed a minority report. I do not fully support some of their conclusions about the nature of spiritualism or the committee’s belief that there is no scientific evidence of phenomena because, to be honest, they were approaching this topic with a great deal of church baggage. Remember, too, that this report was written in the 1930s; much has changed since then. Nevertheless, what follows is Austen’s preface and the unabridged report; it deserves to be more widely known --  

WHY THIS REPORT WAS PUBLISHED
by A. W. AUSTEN.
 The Committee appointed in 1937 by the Archbishops to investigate Spiritualism carefully studied the subject for two years and handed in its report. It was expected by the Committee and by the general public that the guidance contained therein would be made available to the rank and file of the Church of England who, up to then, had been given no official lead whatsoever regarding communication with the dead.

When a decent interval had elapsed and no statement had yet been made, enquiries were instituted and it was learned that the House of Bishops had taken the surprising step of pigeon-holing the Reports.

For nine years the reports were kept secret, then one morning there mysteriously appeared on my office desk what purported to be a typed copy of the Majority Report.

I got in touch with a member of the Committee I knew was in favour of the report being published, though he was bound by his loyalty to the Church to keep its secrets.

"I have a copy of the Majority Report, and I am going to print it, "I told him. "There are one or two phrases that are obscure, because of the careless typing, but I would rather print a slightly inaccurate version than none at all. However, if in the interests of truth you will read what I have and correct it where necessary, then you will be rendering a service to everyone concerned.

The purported copy was re-typed, a reporter was sent to the member concerned. What the reporter brought back was a carefully corrected type-script, with every comma marked in, missing lines written in the margins, and complete in every detail.

The report was printed in its entirety in "Psychic News" and with the co-operation of the Press Association extracts from it appeared in newspapers all over the world.

Still the Church preserved a stony silence. Copies of the paper containing the report were sent to all the bishops and the two Archbishops. No comment came except for a protest from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

My printing of the report gave to the rank and file of the Church of England the guidance that had been denied them by the House of Bishops. To Christians all over the world it broke the news that a Committee of influential Churchman, examining Spiritualism on behalf of the Church and at the request of the Archbishops had found that it was true and could be a valuable addition to the Christian ministry.

A. W. AUSTEN.

The C H U R C H of E N G L A N D
and S P I R I T U A L I S M

Below is the full text of the Majority Report submitted to the House of Bishops by the committee of Anglicans appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to investigate Spiritualism.
=========================================
THE SIGNATORIES:

Dr. Francis Underhill, Bishop of Bath and Wells;
Dr. W. R. Mathews, Dean of St. Pauls;
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., Barrister -at-Law;
Lady (Gwendolan) Stephenson

=======================================
In interpreting our evidence it is important to take into account the theories, prevalent among the more experienced and careful Spiritualists, as to the nature and value of the alleged messages delivered through the agency of mediums.

It is pointed out, on the evidence of the "communicators" themselves, that the communicators and guides are themselves at very different levels of spiritual development and of very partial knowledge, and that the "controls" of which they make use may often be very undeveloped personalities who are capable of this particular service because they are closely linked with temporarily disassociated portions of the personalities of the mediums concerned.

There are thus at least three factors which would render messages, especially those of a high order of spiritual or metaphysical value, liable to disturbance, and which lead to the difficulties, generally recognised by spiritualists, which the communicators would in any case find in transmitting messages which do not already lie within the general conditions of our knowledge.

There is, however, nothing inherently contradictory, or necessarily improbable in this account of the conditions involved in such communications. It is, however, no more than an hypothesis, incapable of scientific proof, nor does it assist us in determining the authenticity of the communications themselves.

The verification of these, if it is possible at all, must rest upon ordinary tests. To say this is not, however, to deny that the communications may sometimes be held to be convincing upon other than scientific grounds.

In any case it seems necessary to distinguish between the sense of contact with departed friends or with "guides", and the assurance that messages have necessarily any high value because they come through this unusual channel.

It is perhaps of some importance to notice that there is general agreement in the communications that time has not the same rigid character as a "time-series" in the life that lies beyond death. 

This is in any case probable on other grounds, but it is of interest as indicating a possible reason why communicators are frequently confused or mistaken as to exact indications of time.

This may not be a failure in their own apprehension of the real significance of events so much as in their power of conveying that apprehension in a form which can be adapted to the mentality of the medium and to the understanding of those to whom the message is directed.

It is often urged as of great significance that Spiritualism in many respects re-affirms the highest convictions of religious people, and that it has brought many to a new assurance of the truth of teaching which had ceased to have any meaning to them.

It is a point of some difficulty, since assurance seems to come along different and even conflicting lines. We cannot ignore the fact that at least one considerable Spiritualist organisation is definitely Anti-Christian in character. This divergence of testimony is explained by Spiritualists as due to the continuance of spirits, at least for a period, within the system of beliefs which they have held in this life.

It is held that even though the whole development of the personality is being raised from level to level, the attitudes to truth and goodness taken up in this life persist in the next, and that this somewhat divergent testimony to the truth of Christianity must be explained in this way.

We should add that whatever be the value of this supposed confirmation of the truth of religion, Spiritualism does not seem to have added anything except perhaps a practical emphasis to our understanding of those truths.

Many alleged communications seem, indeed, to fall below the highest Christian standards of understanding and spiritual insight, and indeed below the level of spiritual insight and mental capacity shown by the communicators while still in this life.
While there is insistence upon the supremacy of love comparable with the New Testament assertion that "God is Love" the accounts sometimes given of the mediatorial work of Christ frequently fall very far below the full teaching of the Christian Gospel, seeming to depend rather upon some power of working a miracle of materialisation (in the Resurrection appearances) than upon a radical and final acceptance of the burden of guilt of man's sin, and a victory wrought for us upon the Cross.

Nevertheless, it is clearly true that the recognition of the nearness of our friends who have died, and of their progress in the spiritual life, and of their continuing concern for us, cannot do otherwise, for those who experience it, than add a new immediacy and richness to their belief in the Communion of Saints.

There seems to be no reason at all why the Church should regard this vital and personal enrichment of one of her central doctrines with disfavour, so long as it does not distract Christians from their fundamental gladness that they may come, when they will, into the presence of their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ Himself, or weaken their sense that their fellowship is fellowship in Him.

It is claimed by Spiritualists that the character of many events in the Christian revelation, as recorded in the Gospels, is precisely that of psychic phenomena, and that the evidence for the paranormal occurrences which Spiritualism has adduced strongly confirms the historicity of the Gospel records, in the sense that they also are records of paranormal occurrences, including instances for example, of clairvoyance (in the story of Nathaniel) and of materialisation (in the feeding of the five thousand, and above all the narrative of the Resurrection appearances).

The miracles of Healing are acclaimed as closely parallel to the healings performed through mediums. It is strongly urged that if we do not accept the evidence for modern psychic happenings, we should not, apart from long tradition, accept the Gospel records either.

It is certainly true that there are quite clear parallels between the miraculous events recorded in the Gospel and modern phenomena attested by Spiritualists. And if we assert that the latter must be doubted because they have not yet proved capable of scientific statement and verification, we must add that the miracles, and the Resurrection itself, are not capable of such verification either.

We must therefore ask what the proper Christian grounds of belief in these central truths of Christianity are. The answer to this question is clearly that we believe upon a basis of faith, and not of demonstrable scientific knowledge.

Our grounds for this faith are to be found either in a direct mystical assurance that Jesus of Nazareth, as we have received Him, is indeed God's word to us, or, more broadly, in the apprehension of ethical and spiritual values.

We do not accept the Gospel's because they record wonders, but because they ring true to the deepest powers of spiritual apprehension which we possess.

But if this is so, we must clearly apply similar criteria to the claims of Spiritualists, and this means that while we regard some part of these claims as matter proper to the scientist, we regard some other parts of these claims as not properly capable of scientific verification or dispute, but at the same time, as deserving the consideration of Christians upon grounds of another kind.

It has been seen, in the account of the evidence submitted to our Committee, that as far as rigid scientific tests are concerned very little if anything remains both verifiable and inexplicable out of the whole mass of paranormal phenomena.

Modern psychological knowledge has revealed a wide range of powers and of possible sources of misunderstanding in our subconscious or unconscious mind. When these are combined with the possibility of thought-transference, of telepathy, many communications delivered through mediums seen capable of explanation.

We have to notice that no good evidence for telepathy itself is yet forthcoming, but probably a majority of scientists would accept it as a fact without pretending to offer an explanation of it. If telepathy is denied, the evidence that these communications do come from discarnate spirits is greatly strengthened on the scientific side.

But the tests applied by scientists as such are in their very nature experimental, objective and impersonal. It is necessary to ask whether such tests do not in themselves invalidate an inquiry into values which are in essence personal and spiritual.

The experiences which many people have found most convincing are of a kind which could hardly occur in the atmosphere of scientific investigation. They are sporadic, occasional and highly individual. They could not possibly be repeated or submitted to statistical analysis.

It is worthwhile to notice in this connection that in the ordinary affairs and beliefs of human life we do not ask for scientific verification of this kind. We accept many things as certain in the realm of personal relationships upon the basis of direct insight.

When we say that we know our friends, we mean something very different from saying that we can give a scientific and verifiable account of them. But we are none the less sure of our knowledge. Similar certainties are to be found in the sphere of mystical experience.

It may well be that in this matter of the evidence of the survival of the human personality after death, we are dependent exactly upon this same kind of insight, and that a scientific verification, though valuable where it can be obtained, is of secondary importance, and only partially relevant.

And this is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves in our assurance of Christianity itself.

"We walk by faith, and not by sight."

It is thus a weakness, rather than a strength, in the Spiritualist position that it has been represented as resting upon scientific verification. If rigid scientific methods are applied it is probable that verification will never be attained.

We may sum up the position from the point of view of science as follows :

There is no satisfactory scientific evidence in favour of any paranormal physical phenomena (materialisations, apports, telekinesis, etc, ). All the available scientific evidence is against the occurrence of such phenomena.

Further, the hypothesis of unconscious mental activity in the mind of mediums or sensitive is a strong alternative hypothesis to that of the action of a discarnate entity in cases of mental mediumship.

Thus the strictly scientific verdict on the matter of personal survival can only be one of non-proven. Again the whole question of Extra Sensory Perception is still a matter of scientific subjudice.

On the other hand certain outstanding psychic experiences of individuals, including certain experiences with mediums, make a strong prima facie case for survival and for the possibility of spirit communications while philosophical, ethical and religious considerations may be held to weigh heavily on the same side.

When every possible explanation of these communications has been given, and all doubtful evidence set aside, it is generally agreed that there remains some element as yet unexplained.

We think that it is probable that the hypothesis that they proceed in some cases from discarnate spirits is the true one.

That so much can be said, even in so cautious a form, involves very important consequences, and makes necessary certain warnings.

It is abundantly clear, as Spiritualists themselves admit, that an easy credulity in these matters opens the door to self-deception and to a very great amount of fraud.

We are greatly impressed by the evidence of this which we received, and desire to place on record a most emphatic warning to those who might become interested in Spiritualism from motives of mere curiosity or as a way of escaping from their responsibility of making their own decisions as Christians under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

It is legitimate for Christians who are scientifically qualified to make these matters a subject of scientific inquiry, though, as we have already said, such inquiry has its necessary limitations.

But it is not legitimate, and it is unquestionably dangerous, to allow an interest in Spiritualism, at a low level of spiritual value, to replace that deeper religion which rests fundamentally upon the right relation of the soul to God Himself.

It is necessary to keep clearly in mind that none of the fundamental Christian obligations or values is in any way changed by our acceptance of the possibility of communication with discarnate spirits.

Where these essential principles are borne in mind, those who have the assurance that they have been in touch with their departed friends may rightly accept the sense of enlargement and of unbroken fellowship which it brings.

It is important to distinguish between assurance of this personal contact and assurance of the accuracy and authority of the messages received. As we have seen, and as many Spiritualists admit, there is every probability that even authentic messages would be liable to distortion.

There is a very great danger of misdirection if such messages are accepted as giving authoritative guidance unless they are checked by our own human reason under guidance of the Holy Spirit received through prayer.

But there is no reason why we should not accept gladly the assurance that we are still in closest contact with those who have been dear to us in this life, who are going forward, as we seek to do ourselves, in the understanding and fulfilment of the purpose of God.

We cannot avoid the impression that a great deal of Spiritualism as organised has its centre in man rather than God, and is, indeed, materialistic in character. To this extent it is a substitute for religion, and is not in itself religious at all.
We are impressed by the unsatisfactory answers received from practising Spiritualists to such questions as, "Has your prayer life, your sense of God, been strengthened by your Spiritualistic experiences?" This explains in great part the hesitancy of many Christians to have anything to do with it.

But if Spiritualism does, in fact, make so strong an appeal to some, it is at least in part because the Church has not proclaimed and practised its faith with sufficient conviction.

There is frequently little real fellowship even between the living, and the full and intimate reality of the Communion of Saints is often a dead letter.

Spiritualism claims, in fact, to be making accessible a reality which the Church has proclaimed but of which it has seemed only to offer a shadow. This is, of course, only a part of the truth.
For many the appeal of Spiritualism rests upon much lower motives. It may stimulate curiosity in the bizarre. It may offer consolation upon terms which are too easy.

It may afford men the opportunity of escaping the challenge of faith which, when truly proclaimed, makes so absolute a claim upon men's lives that they will not face it but turn aside to some easier way.

It is often held that the practice of Spiritualism is dangerous to the mental balance as well as to the spiritual condition, of those who take part in it, and it is clearly true that there are some cases where it has become obsessional in character.

But it is very difficult to judge in these cases whether the uncritical and unwise type of temperament which does show itself in certain Spiritualists is a result or a cause of their addiction to these practices.

Psychologically it is probable that persons in the condition of mental disturbance, or lack of balance, would very naturally use the obvious opportunities afforded by Spiritualism as a means of expressing the repressed emotions which have caused their disorder.

This is true of Christianity itself, which frequently becomes the outlet, not only for cranks, but for persons who are definitely of unstable mentality.

It should be noticed that Spiritualists themselves are very much alive to the danger to those who are already unstable, and even to those who are stable, where the motives are wrong and precautions as to sincerity inadequate.

Whatever else is clear in a matter where the evidence is difficult to interpret, it is certain that Spiritualism has every need of the high standards of Christianity and of its witness to a life which rests by faith upon God, and which is thereby freed from the conflicts of desire and of purpose to which all lives not so grounded are liable.

The view has been held with some degree of Church authority, that psychic phenomena are real but that they proceed from evil spirits. The possibility that spirits of a low order may seek to influence us in this way cannot be excluded as inherently illogical or absurd, but it would be extremely unlikely if there were not also the possibility of contact with good spirits. The belief in Anglican guardians or guides has been very general in Christianity.
But in any case the Christian life is grounded upon God, and its fundamental activities are prayer and worship, which issue in loving worship of mankind. A life so grounded has nothing to fear from evil influences or powers of any kind.

The Church of England, for reasons of past controversy, has been altogether too cautious in its references to the departed. Anglican prayers for the departed do not satisfy people's needs, because the prayers are so careful in their language that it is not always evident that the departed are being prayed for, as contrasted with the living.

In general we need much more freedom in our recognition of the living unity of the whole Church, in this world and in that which lies beyond death. But detailed suggestions on this point should be matters of dispute, and lie beyond the main purpose of this report.

If Spiritualism, with all aberrations set aside and with every care taken to present it humbly and accurately, contains a truth, it is important to see that truth not as a new religion, but only as filling up certain gaps in our knowledge, so that where we already walked by faith, we may now have some measure of sight as well.

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. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Christianity: ‘Change or die?’


Our leading spiritualist scholar J. Arthur Findlay observed in 1951 that “Theology never makes any advance, and holds to the creeds and dogmas of an ignorant past. The people must free themselves of these. The Church of the future must free itself of these ancient crutches and shackles, and, casting aside ancient and false tradition, tell the people the truth. It must strike out on a new path or ultimately perish.” (Where Two Worlds Meet, page 457)

The Rev. John Shelby Spong
That last sentence just slightly rephrased came into play again in 1998 as the title for a controversial book by a controversial clergyman ­– Why Christianity Must Change or Die by retired U.S. Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop John Shelby Spong.

As far as I know, the good bishop knows nothing of Arthur Findlay and there’s no hint in his writings that he has any interest in psychic science or mediumship but aside from this there is much that appeals to us spiritualists in this book of his and its sequel, A New Christianity for a New World (2001, both books published by Harper). Although he’s criticized by the orthodox, Spong has an immense following worldwide. This July he was again a week-long speaker at the fabled Chautauqua Institution in western New York state before SRO crowds – an accomplishment few achieve there. A couple of years ago he also was keynote speaker at the annual congress of the International New Thought Alliance and he lectures around the world before groups of all kinds. His website is also an important vehicle for his ideas. (www.johnshelbyspong.com)

In our last blog post I pointed out that spiritualism, because of its rejection of cardinal dogmas of the organized churches, is not to be considered as part of Christianity. We looked at other movements such as Unitarianism and New Thought that are technically in the same boat although, to be honest, none of these groups goes around broadcasting this fact. Spong shares a great deal with these other groups with one exception – he’s still operating within the confines of a very orthodox Christian body, the Episcopal Church which he served as a priest and bishop.

It behooves us to look at some of the things this forward-looking clergyman is saying because, I suspect, he is the tip of a gigantic iceberg that is beginning to make its presence known in churchly circles. “Religion is… not what we have always thought it to be,” Spong writes in the epilogue of Why Christianity Must Change or Die (page 225). “Religion is not a system of belief. It is not a catalogue of revealed truth. It is not an activity designed to control behavior, to reward virtue, and to punish vice. Religion is, rather, a human attempt to process the God experience, which breaks forth from our own depths and wells up constantly within us. We must lay down, therefore, the primitive claims we have made for our religious traditions. None of them is drawn from otherworldly revelations. None of them is inerrant or infallible. None of them represents the only way to God. None of them can be used legitimately to coerce or compel another to belief. All evangelical and missionary activities designed to convert the heathen are base born. They are the expressions of our sense of superiority and our hostility toward those who are different. The only divine mission in life that the church of the future could possibly have is to open people to  a recognition that the ground of their very being is holy and that when they are in touch with that holy Ground of Being, they can share in God’s creation by giving life, love, and being to others. That is the task of those who claim to be God bearers. The Christians of the world are not here to build institutions, to convert other people, or even to claim that we can speak for God. Those aspects of our religious heritage must be sacrificed as the premodern misunderstandings of our primitive history.”

Wow! That could have been written by a modern-day Findlay or channeled by Silver Birch!

Spong presents his new vision of Christianity in a manner similar to that employed ages ago by Martin Luther – with a list of proposals that define where he stands theologically. Spong’s twelve points are as follows:
  • Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
  • Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
  • The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
  • The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
  • The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
  • The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
  • Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
  • The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
  • There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
  • Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
  • The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
  • All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

The Rev. Stainton Moses
As I read these 12 theses, I am reminded of another Anglican clergyman who lived 1839-1892 in England. The Rev. Stainton Moses became a medium and as such a proponent of spiritualism despite his affiliation with the Church of England. Two of his books, Spirit Teachings and More Spirit Teachings (available online) have come as close as possible to being considered the “Bible of spiritualism” as any other title. In this quote we read the words of Moses’ control Imperator (taken from More Spirit Teachings) where he uses words similar to Spong’s:  “You are living in one of the remarkable epochs of the earth. The old creed must die before the new can be received; but it will die hard, as round it still linger the associations of many ages; but it is fast dying out, never to live again. Happy are ye, living in this age, and learning these new truths, if ye rightly appreciate and use the blessing.”  The difference between Imperator’s statement and the road recommended by Spong, however, lies in the fact that Imperator makes reference to the truths of spiritualism that should replace the abandonment of outdated creeds.  Spong, on the other hand, admits that he has no idea where the church of the future should end up after it makes its shift away from creeds and dogmas that sound pagan and silly to rational thinkers today.

Medium Charlotte Dresser revealed, with the help of her spirit control Mary Bosworth, that the Christian churches would eventually be transformed.  “The time is coming, and coming fast, when there will be a reconstruction of the religion of the churches. Creeds will largely go, and love and service take their place.”  (Life Here and Hereafter, 1927.) This, too, tends to confirm Imperator’s prophecy given years before.

So here we have a modern-day clergyman with all the orthodox credentials saying much the same thing as church break-aways such as spiritualists. While I find myself in general agreement with the Reverend Spong, I tend to view his outlook for the future of the church as a rather bleak and uninteresting one. He talks of revising the prayer book to reflect his ideas but we’ve been told over and over from those on the other side that recitation of printed prayers is of no benefit whatsoever. Likewise, Spong sees a restructured liturgy as having a central role in the new church he envisions. Ceremonial and liturgy have also been cited by spirit sources as largely a waste of time.

To be frank, while Spong’s exposure of primitive creeds and his call for their abandonment are laudable, after introducing his reforms I can’t see much remaining that would attract a crowd on Sunday mornings. Here spiritualism offers a wonderful alternative. With our knowledge of the eternal nature of our consciousness – backed up by scientific evidence – we bring a vitalizing energy to those who have walked away from creed-based organized religions. And the ability to communicate with those on the other side adds an exceptional element of excitement as well. Spiritualists (and spiritists) can catch a glimpse of their role in the universe, grasp onto that and do whatever is necessary to advance spiritually. They then find themselves on a road to somewhere – not remaining stuck in some church building repeating endless prepared prayers and taking part in liturgical exercises.

I was an active participant
at the Episcopal Cathedral of
St. John the Evangelist
 in Spokane, Washington (above).
Afterword - While some of my remarks above about liturgical religion may sound somewhat like diatribes coming from evangelical Christians, such is not the case. My personal organized religious history includes membership in the Episcopal Church – the Rev. Spong’s church – and after graduation from college I was enrolled to attend the Episcopal Theological School whose campus adjoins Harvard University. This would have led me into the Episcopal clergy just like Spong. Just weeks before I was to leave for Cambridge, Massachusetts, to begin theological studies I withdrew and pursued other educational opportunities.

Why did I abandon my lifelong (at that point) ambition to become a clergyman? In the 1960s I had made the discovery that historically and rationally there was no basis for the positions outlined in Christian creeds. When I revealed my doubts to the dean of our diocesan cathedral he responded, “Don’t worry about those things. Most of us in the clergy doubt them, too.” While that is no doubt true, I couldn’t bring myself to enter a career where I was expected to teach things that I couldn’t subscribe to. So, the Episcopal Church lost a potential priest but 46 years later I have absolutely no regrets about that.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A New Religious Paradigm


In our last blog I quoted Arthur Findlay copiously. Findlay (1883-1954), you’ll recall, is spiritualism’s foremost scholar, historian, philosopher and writer. One of those quotations, the one that distanced spiritualism completely from Christianity, was probably no surprise to seasoned spiritualists but for newcomers it might have been a shocker. And for those outside the movement Findlay’s pronouncement of separation from the Western World’s predominant religion merely reinforces what evangelical Christians have been saying about us for more than 100 years.

It’s important to note that when modern spiritualism was born in the mid-nineteenth century it was not the first religious movement to raise doubts about Christianity. The role played by Deists in founding of the United States of America is well known and Deists openly denied many of the traditional doctrines of Christianity such as the trinity, virgin birth and so on ­– doctrines that conservative Christians insist must be believed if one is to avoid the wrath of God in the form of hellfire in the life hereafter.

Concurrent with Deism was the spread of Unitarianism and Universalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson being one of Unitarianism’s most outstanding spokespersons. Unitarians, as their name discloses, deny the trinity and a whole lot more. It’s safe to say that those in most Unitarian congregations nowadays never mention the atonement, salvation, heaven and hell, inspiration of the Bible or a host of other teachings that are bread and butter for traditional churches. Universalism, of course, teaches that all religions are valid, each being a separate path to God – something that is anathema to orthodox Christians. (In the United States the Unitarians and Universalists merged into one denomination in 1961.)

Unity Church, Spokane, Washington
Then about the same time spiritualism was getting its start came New Thought. While spiritualism shares many points in common with Unitarianism and Universalism, New Thought teachings seem to be omnipresent in spiritualism. (Note: to read a summary of New Thought teachings, refer to the documents on our sister website at http://mozumdar.org/what_is_new_thought.html) I’ve met many spiritualists who, when they don’t have a spiritualist church nearby to attend, frequent a New Thought church regularly. The two largest New Thought denominations are Unity organized by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore and Religious Science started by Earnest Holmes. While most New Thought folks recognize Christian Science (formed by Mary Baker Eddy) as similar, they do not consider that denomination as part of the traditional New Thought movement.

Like Spiritualism, Unitarianism, Deism and Universalism, New Thought was an early break-away from orthodox Christianity.  New Thought does not officially endorse the findings of spiritualism although those in the movement do expect an afterlife similar to what is revealed by spiritualists. Reincarnation is also generally accepted as well and a great many New Thought folks would, I believe, espouse most of what spiritualism reveals if they only knew what it was. Over the years I’ve worked with Unity congregations, teaching classes and occasionally lecturing for Sunday services so I feel very comfortable with these churches.

William Walker Atkinson
Interestingly, one of New Thought’s early pioneers, William Walker Atkinson (1862-1932), was also quite familiar and comfortable with spiritualism. A prolific writer about New Thought, he also wrote and published (under various pseudonyms) some spiritualist and psychic titles that have remained in print for decades ­– most notably Genuine Mediumship under the pen name Swami Bhakta Vishita.  Atkinson also served as president of the International New Thought Alliance, an organization that is still very much alive. So those in New Thought cannot deny many similarities (and a similar history) between their movement and spiritualism.

All of the movements we’ve been looking at have been denounced over and over again by orthodox Christians, primarily because of what the groups refuse to accept as truth. Members of each of these groups have at times experienced acts of unkindness and in some instances actual persecution simply because they did not believe dogmas that the Christians thought essential. And each of these groups has repeatedly been denounced by clergy as being non-Christian.

So is it surprising that Findlay says what he does about spiritualism – “Spiritualism and Christianity have no connection whatever”? The other religious movements above can legitimately say the same thing.

My point in going through all this church history is to show that over the past couple hundred years there have been many who have discovered the same thing spiritualists did – that most of the core teachings of Christianity are, indeed, not worthy of acceptance. When one examines the earliest church history – the first through the third centuries – it becomes obvious that most of the earliest Christians knew nothing of the dogmas that are seen nowadays as core beliefs. (Findlay covered this early church history and the evolution of dogma in his book The Psychic Stream.)

In the next blog I will examine a famous modern-day clergyman who is leading a large pack of Christians in a new movement that also says it’s time to abandon superstitions of the past that have left their mark within the church in the form of doctrines that simply are not acceptable to a rational person. All this refutes, I believe, the assertion that spiritualists are unique in their approach to orthodox Christianity. Furthermore, many still within the churches are questioning deeply what they’ve been told. Findlay’s call for a new Reformation may well see fruition just around the corner!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Is Spiritualism a Religion?

The nameplate above for this site contains the well-known statement –  “The religion, philosophy and science of spiritualism.” Few of us would argue about the presence of philosophy in the spiritualist movement nor would we quibble about the fact that for 160 years spiritualist phenomena has inspired a lot of scientific research. But when it comes to calling spiritualism a religion we have to acknowledge that among spiritualists there those who are comfortable with that and many who are not. At the outset I’m certain my contribution to the topic will not calm the waters but I’m determined nevertheless to do my share of stirring.

The always quotable J. Arthur Findlay wrote that religion is associated in our minds with “saviours, creeds, ceremonials, rituals, churches, mosques, temples, priests and sacred books….  Without knowledge of the truth [people] rely for their salvation on forms and ceremonies, on the repetition of formulae and creeds, on acts of worship, on baptism, eucharists, the last rites and such like, until their church or temple becomes a sacred shrine, and the purveyors of the dogmas and doctrines are considered holy men set apart by God from the rest of mankind.” (The Way of Life, p. 207-8)

Some spiritualists have their church buildings but I doubt there are many who consider it a “sacred shrine” as Findlay states it. Findlay’s creeds, rituals, sacred books, saviors and such, however, are rejected by most all spiritualists outright. So that makes spiritualism a non-religion? Let’s not be too hasty in coming to a conclusion!

Dr. Charles T. Tart’s recently-published book The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together is an amazing read and it will no doubt spark some future blogs on this site. But for now let me quote (page 315) Tart’s observation about organized religions – “Religions start from the way of experience: a founder has profound spiritual or psychic experiences, or both. While there are small numbers of people in all religious traditions who try to work from this basis, by themselves having and expanding the basic kinds of experiences that started it all, their efforts are swamped by the theoreticians, the people who make some kind of intellectual and emotional ‘sense’ of the experiences. These people too often have had no direct experiences themselves, but they’re smart people, capable organizers, creative theorizers.”

Findlay, our foremost spiritualist scholar and historian, agrees 100% with Tart’s analysis as far as it goes. In fact, Findlay wrote a complete book of nearly 1,200 pages providing historical detail amplifying Tart’s first sentence above (The Psychic Stream first published in 1939). “Religion is based on the interaction between the two worlds [the material world that we are aware of now and the world of spirit or etheric world], which is appreciated by those sensitive people called mediums,” Findlay wrote in The Psychic Stream, page 27. “Because of them man has become aware that surrounding him is another order of life, and another order of beings. In his ignorance he believed that these beings were the cause of all the phenomena of nature, and that on their whims and caprices his welfare on earth, and his destiny hereafter, depended. Because he failed to appreciate his true relationship towards them he produced those beliefs which make up the various world religions. From what was true and real, he erected a mass of speculation which in many cases has hidden the truth from view.”

In a nutshell, then, here is the origin of organized religions and the superstitions surrounding them according to spiritualist thinking. Such a view can be verified by scholarship as Findlay so ably proves in his books.

“…[S]uperstition and religion are often mixed up and confused,” Findlay points out in Rock of Truth (page 160-161) "People think, for instance, that they are religious if they go to church; if they attend Holy Communion; if they cease from doing certain things on holy days; if they read the Bible; if they repeat prayers, and if they believe certain words and certain documents to be inspired by God. Less civilized people believe in offering up sacrifices, or beating tom-toms, or worshipping images. Those outward forms and ceremonies have, however, nothing whatever to do with real religion. They are the draperies, the superstition which surrounds it. Real religion does not consist in believing that God, the maker of this immense universe, which no human mind is capable of fathoming, came down to earth and lived for two years wandering about Palestine. Neither is it religion to consider a certain book is holy and inspired by God. It is not religion to repeat certain words either by yourself or after a parson, or to partake of Holy Communion, whether you consider that what you eat and drink is part of God, or the service is only one of remembrance. These things are only the clothes that have been put on to religion; religion is the something underneath the outward drapery.”

Furthermore, Findlay goes on to say that “Superstition is that which has accumulated around religion. Religion is a central truth in man’s life, which has always been and always will be. One might say that superstitions come and go but religion goes on for ever.”

Victor Zammit on his fabulous after-life site (link at the left) recently made the same point as Findlay. “BEING 'RELIGIOUS' IS NOT BEING SPIRITUAL. There are those who believe that being 'religious' is the same as being 'spiritual'. NO, they are NOT the same thing,” he wrote. “Being 'SPIRITUAL' has absolutely nothing to do with being religious or anything to do with any Church or Temple or Mosque or organized religious activities. It has nothing to do with being atheist or agnostic or whether one is a medium or psychic. Being spiritual is all about expanding your consciousness and unselfishly helping others.” This is a point made over and over again by teaching guides such as Silver Birch.

Now, from the above it seems apparent that it may prove difficult to classify spiritualism. But let’s move on a bit further before we try. In rejecting the cardinal tenets of Christianity and going so far as to label them as “superstitions,” spiritualism has distanced itself from the chief religion of the Western world. “Spiritualism and Christianity have no connection whatever,” Findlay wrote in The Torch of Knowledge (page 15). “They are as far apart as the poles. Spiritualism is a philosophy of life and claims that life after death has been proved, that those who die live on in a world much the same as this, with the same characteristics as they had on earth, and that given suitable conditions they can communicate with us on earth. Christianity on the other hand, is a sacrificial religion and the Christian Church is an organisation, to keep alive a belief in a sacrifice for sins, and for the performance of the rites and ceremonials connected with this belief. For this reason Spiritualism and Christianity will never join, and no Spiritualist who thinks deeply desires such a fusion.”

I must interject here, though, that there are some congregations of spiritualists that classify themselves as so-called “Christian spiritualists.” I understand that they do accept certain aspects of organized Christianity in addition to their traditional spiritualist teaching. Also, Spiritists whose churches are most numerous in Brazil seem to be more closely aligned with Christianity than are most spiritualists. Obviously, Findlay would have none of that!

So, where does all this lead us as we attempt to answer the question, “Is Spiritualism a Religion?” Organized spiritualism does maintain many of the outward trappings of the Christian church (being much more Protestant in organization and practice, borrowing little if anything from liturgical churches such as the Roman Catholic). But its teachings are definitely not Christian nor are they borrowed from any other organized religion. In my view, spiritualist churches are more like educational institutions than “houses of worship.” There the findings of spirit communication are discussed and parishioners are encouraged to deepen their spiritual life.

At the core of genuine spiritualist activity is the quest for knowledge and a deeper understanding about who we are and the nature of our ultimate destiny. Coupled with that should be the response of each seeker to go into the world and do good (i.e., service to others). According to Findlay, this would constitute a legitimate religious quest. Seen this way, does that make spiritualism a “religion” without superstition? Yes, I believe it does. And if spiritualism is, indeed, a religion, then it is the only one that has any empirical evidence that what it says is true.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Apology & Postscript


I apologize to my readers for more than a month of silence on this blog. Summer is our busiest time because of travel and home/farm chores. The usual pace of twice-monthly posts may be interrupted because of these responsibilities during the summer but I do have several articles in the works nonetheless. One is posted today (next entry below) and it requires a short explanation. The post concerns our experience with some physical mediumship several years ago and each segment of the account was written the day after the occurrences described, while memory was still fresh. The separate accounts were later compiled into the unified whole that is presented here. We are quite convinced the manifestations were genuine and that there was no possibility of fraud. This also is the opinion shared by all our friends who participated in these circles.

Now, I want to provide an appropriate quote to accompany my May 9 blog about confusion experienced by some recent arrivals to the spirit world due to erroneous expectations about life after so-called death. This is taken from Sir Arthur Findlay’s fascinating Where Two Worlds Meet (page 398) wherein he reproduces verbatim transcripts of direct voice séances conducted with the medium John Sloan in Glasgow, Scotland, during the early 1940s. Speaking is a Mr. Hardman who died believing there was no afterlife –

“…I was very much in the land of wonder for some time [immediately after passing over]. I will explain it to you, and I hope you will forgive me for taking up so much of your time. You see, I did not believe in the after-life, and when I came here I was bewildered with the wonder of the knowledge that it was all true. I did not deserve the kindness showered upon me by those who came to help me. I knew then that I had made a mistake…. I know what it is to be lonely. That is how I felt when I first came over, until some friends took me in hand and led me kindly along….”

There are several other similar recollections shared in the book and each stresses the importance of becoming aware of the facts of the afterlife before bodily death takes us there.

Now, please proceed to read the new post below and thank you for your patience this summer.