Our last blog focused on research that shows aging of the organized religious spiritualist movement in the
This trend bodes poorly for
the movement unless younger blood is attracted to keep things advancing. However,
it also should be noted that many new “converts” are joining – but the vast majority of those are at least in middle
It is a sad reality, though, that in many parts of the nation (
again) there are no spiritualist congregations any more and in others their
numbers have been drastically reduced. U.S.A.
In light of this decline, one could ask, “Why bother? Maybe organized spiritualism has seen its day and eventually all the congregations will be gone. So what?”
Before we get to possible answers to those questions, let’s first try to pin down what spiritualism is. As I see it, the core of modern spiritualism can be summed up in two statements: (1) Every human is more than a physical body – each individual is a spirit occupying a physical body and when that physical body dies, we live on in the etheric world; and (2) Those in the etheric world can, under certain conditions, communicate with us who are residing on earth.
These ideas were central to the movement that began in
state in 1848
with the rappings in the Fox home. After the rappings became public there was
rapid emergence of mediumship and investigations by people from all walks of
life who confirmed over and over again those two fundamental principles of
spiritualism. In a short time there were folks around the world who were
convinced and they flocked to those who apparently possessed mediumistic
skills. Unfortunately, many charlatans were ready to take advantage of the
situation so spiritualists got together, formed associations and churches.
These evolved into centers where spiritualists could get together and, just as
important, they were able to set some standards that tended to expose the
fraudulent mediums while at the same time provided a ready-made audience for
the genuine ones. New York
Since most of these new spiritualists had emerged from other Christian churches, they brought to their new groups the familiar trappings from those traditional orthodox bodies. These included hymns, structure of services, and the tendency to codify or reduce their new religion to a set of doctrines, albeit a shortened and very liberal collection of doctrines.
I am not aware that any organized spiritualist denomination (with the possible exception of Spiritism launched by Allan Kardec) that were established after clear instructions to do so from those on the other side so I will step out on a limb and contend that they were all man-made institutions – but, nevertheless, spirit has worked mightily within those institutions. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have received proof of survival and had their grief abated by it. A massive amount of evidence for survival has been accumulated as well, much of it probably due in large part to the existence of organized spiritualism. Those churches have also been channels for healing and education, touching the lives of many over the past 160 years.
So, in looking at what spiritualism is and at what its organized groups have accomplished in the past we can begin to sense why it is still hanging around and why a particular subset of our population finds it so attractive and helpful. One of the reader comments posted for our last blog made some very good points about the type and age of people attracted to spiritualism. Let me quote: “…the loss of a loved one tends to spur a person to seek explanations and possible hope. In effect, one needs to have lived a while before becoming cognizant of one's physical mortality. In that sense, there is a natural selection in which people who are motivated to understand their relationship with the greater reality are more attracted to Spiritualism than are the idle curious.” This certainly provides an understandable and rational explanation about why spiritualism tends to attract older folks as well as those of all ages who are looking for a deeper understanding of spiritual realities. It has no doubt always been so.
Coincidentally, on the Psychic News website there are two recent articles discussing the so-called “failure” of modern organized spiritualism. The first is rather negative but the second, while acknowledging problems, provides some hope. Lis Warwood’s rebuttal makes the valid point that spirit communication was initiated by the “other side” with the express desire to prove to humankind that there is life after so-called death. That message is still vitally needed and apparently spirit has been successful in impressing a vast majority of the human race that life does continue indefinitely. Polls indicate belief in life after death is still entrenched and, furthermore, those believing that communication with the spirit world is possible far outnumber the members of spiritualist congregations. Television programs featuring mediums are common nowadays and several popular dramatic series have afterlife communication as part of their plot line. While these statistics and trends dismay the materialistic skeptics, they are somewhat encouraging to the rest of us because of the possibilities they present. The central message that we are spirit and that those beyond the grave can communicate is still interesting to many people worldwide. If our spiritualist churches and associations are finding an eager audience with this message then they are bound to continue. If their presentation of this message is not receiving much notice, then eventually there will come a time when either a change or a termination will be necessary.
I encourage my readers to peruse the Psychic News articles and the many comments that were posted there by readers. They can be accessed at http://psychicnews.subhub.com/content/hydesville-debate .
A couple of blogs back I made the comment that it is difficult if not impossible to be a solitary practicing spiritualist – the very heart of spiritualism is communication with the spirit world and communication by definition requires two or more individuals. Also, the New Testament promise stating that spirit will be present where two or more are gathered together in spiritual agreement is very true. That premise is the working framework for each and every spiritualist circle and it also holds true for other spiritualist gatherings as well – both religious and secular. This all leads me to believe that there will always be spiritualist groups of some sort. The message is there, the need is there and the interest is there. Those gatherings may or may not resemble traditional spiritualist church services – I tend to think the churchlike structure will probably continue to diminish over time. But get-togethers of like-minded folks are still helpful and necessary. What form they may take we can only guess at this point. But if we ask spirit for guidance and direction I’m sure it will be gladly given.