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 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!


  1. David, concerning your August 2, 2012 Spirit Communion blog, "A New Religious Paradigm," I am not sure about what "new paradigm" you are thinking of unless it is Spiritualism itself as opposed to the old paradigm of Christianity.

    I spend a lot of time trying to figure out why Christian churches usually count their congregation in the hundreds while Spiritualist are typically happy to have thirty or so sitting in the often rented meeting room. Certainly, the Spiritualist I know are not all that interested in the history or the cosmology given to us via past mediums. I have not conducted a survey, but my bet is that a survey of members would show a priority of interests something like 80% personal improvement, 75% community of like-minded people, 40% possible healing and 20% contact with loved ones via spirit greetings.

    Many potential members of our congregation appear to have given their loyalty to the local church that offers the most benefits such as a choir or simply more fiends in one place. Interestingly, some people who are potential workers select their church based on the availability of classes that lead to status in the church.

    People who have broken the bonds of orthodoxy do seek understanding about their relationship with the greater reality, but from my experience, they do not depend on the church for their source of knowledge. In fact, they will believe according to what they have learned from many sources, no matter what "pure" spiritualism might teach. Probably the biggest draw of our church is that we are okay with that; remember that "no dogma" thing.

    As I see it, the "new paradigm" for Spiritualism is virtually the same as that which characterizes the New Age culture. That is, how does one learn to live in a way that fulfills one's self as a part of the larger community? In Spiritualism, that manifests as such notions as "What you do now matters forever," "You make your own reality" and "learning continues beyond bodily death." We know the answers but we don't know how to deliver them in a way that inspire people's hunger for a spiritual experience.

    The problem is that, while the above may be where the congregation's collective head is, the leadership is still fussing about things that were interesting a hundred years ago.

    1. Actually, Tom, when I put the title on this blog I was thinking of efforts over the past two centuries (as detailed in the text) to come up with a way of life (or religion if you will) that was a creedless departure from what had existed before. Spiritualism, of course, is our main focus here and as I showed, it was among those groups that jettisoned dogmas that had ensnarled humanity’s minds for millennia. Your points about congregant’s motivations in choosing a congregation are well put. In today’s world I think the problem for spiritualist and other progressive groups is that the majority of people have abandoned orthodoxy but upon arriving there, they stay put. They often fail to think further – a point you make as well. While attendance remains low in many spiritualist congregations, in others it is impressive (I point in particular to those in our Phoenix area). New Thought churches as a rule have trouble finding enough seats for parishioners – perhaps we should borrow a few “tricks” from them? Some New Thought churches approach mega-church status I’m told but I’m not sure I’d wish that on spiritualism! Probably the biggest difference is the leadership and how to tackle that on anything but a case-by-case basis baffles me. Your poignant statement toward the end of your comments sums this up beautifully– “We know the answers but we don't know how to deliver them in a way that inspires people's hunger for a spiritual experience.”

    2. As a regular snowbird (nesting in Casa Grande) I was intrigued to learn that there are Spiritualist congregations around Phoenix. Although I don't routinely 'do' church attendance here in the UK, in the upcoming winter season I'd like to experience what happens in the US. Can you provide addresses or contact details please?

      (I'm mac by the way found on several websites where I'm a regular online contributor specializing in Spiritualism.)

    3. There are 2 major spiritualist congregations in the Phoenix area with several small gatherings as well. While I can't supply info on the small groups the NSAC church is Church of the Living Spirit in Glendale, AZ (just N of Phoenix city limits in Glendale). Their website is . We've attended this church quite a few times even though it is a long distance from our Phoenix area winter home. They are a pretty traditional NSAC congregation but attendance and interest is good from what we've seen. They also have several special events each year such as visiting mediums, workshops, etc. They have a calendar on the website. The national NSAC convention was held in Phoenix a couple of years ago.

      Another congregation I'm familiar with because friends have spoken there is chapel of Spiritual Harmony in Phoenix. Their website is This is an active group but we've not attended yet.

      Several others are listed at and you might want to check them out as well. I hope to see you in Arizona!

    4. thank you, David

      Perhaps this winter I'll take a look-see. Maybe you'll be there too.

  2. Yes, my mind focused on my view of new paradigm and Spiritualism. So perhaps I am taking this discussion in a direction you had not intended.

    From my perspective, there is clearly an old paradigm of Spiritualism that is dominant today and an emerging new paradigm. With our near reverence for the pioneers and old books of Spiritualism, it is difficult to open a discussion about alternative views. The old books clearly define modern Spiritualism yet they were written by people who transitioned, on average, 86 years ago. We tend to think of material older than about 12 years as out of date in my field of study.

    My wife Lisa and I are directors of an organization that studies transcommunication. In this case, the "trans-" prefix denotes across the veil or etheric-to-physical. The term, Instrumental TransCommunication (ITC) was coined by a researcher in Germany to identify such phenomena as the various forms of Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) and visual forms of transcommunication using technology. The motto of the Association TransCommunication (ATransC) is Objective Evidence of Survival.

    Therein lies my point. New paradigm Spiritualism looks a lot like a community of like-minded people who prefer practical, actionable understanding over traditional beliefs. A brief survey of the Media Watch archive at will give you a sense of what I mean. It does not matter who is behind the scenes making something possible (discarnate loved one or ourselves) so long as the individual learns to manage his or her intentionality. The body is a wonderfully responsive avatar so long as we know how to guide its actions. In this view, the difference between psychic readings and mental mediumship is academic when it comes to clear sensing and uncolored expression.

    While the pioneers are good to know about and honor, modern heroes abound. For instance, Rochelle Wright, Allen Botkins and Raymond Moody are teaching us how to mediate grief with guided reunions. Such organizations as the ATransC and Forever Family Foundation are teaching us to continue our relationship with transitioned loved ones. Researchers such as Gary Schwartz are pioneering techniques to distinguish between imagined mediumship and actual trans-etheric contact. Scientists who are trained in both hard science and human behavior such as Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake are providing an objective foundation for the study of psi functioning. All of this is coming down to one important concept: there is a greater reality of which our physical aspect of reality is a subset. It is formed of a ubiquitous subtle energy which connects all of us and responds to the expression of intention. The expression of this energy is governed by universal principles which behave as fields defining every aspect of reality. These fields are not immutable laws but learn and adapt as any organism--universal or differentiated--must to fulfill itself.

    While I am not a religious person by nature, I am happy to call myself a Spiritualist. The community of like-minded people is important to me and I would recommend the nine principles maintained by the NSAC to anyone. I also understand how difficult it is to provide leadership when the consequences of any small change are so far reaching and so many members of the congregation are steeped in the traditional look and feel of the church. However, in the context of this post, I think of myself as a new paradigm Spiritualist. And, I study it in the ATransC, not as an "-ism" but as transcommunication.