Spiritualism as a Religion

Since the passing of "The Fraudulent Mediums Act" in 1951, Spiritualism has been a legally recognised and protected religion in the United Kingdom. Yet Spiritualism has always existed, and has been called "the oldest religion in the world". In the Bible, (1 Samuel 28 v. 3-25), King Saul (1079 - 1007 BC) consulted "the 'Witch' of Endor" and asks her to call up the spirit of the recently deceased prophet Samuel. She was not a witch, but a medium, operating in Palestine over 1000 years before Christ. The religious intolerance prevalent in Britain in the 17th Century branded mediums as witches, and that is how the 17th Century branded the medium who helped Saul. The word 'medium' ('ob' in ancient Hebrew) was translated tortuously in the King James version of the Bible, published in 1611, as "the woman who hath a familiar spirit". That was hardly a less unflattering description for a medium than the word "witch", as "a familiar spirit" was one commonly thought of at that time to be of the devil rather than of God. The Fraudulent Mediums Act finally put an end to the persecution of mediums, and their marginalisation as witches in Britain, and today Spiritualists can practise their religion without fear or hindrance, since 2008 in accordance with "The Consumer Protection Act".

Spiritualism is a religion because it believes in God or a Divine Power, although Spiritualists are free to understand and interpret the concepts of "God" and "Divine Power" in personal and different ways. Spiritualism is monotheistic. God is the supreme creator of all that is. Spiritualism believes that each person is created by God or the Divine Power, and that each person has a spark of that Divine Power within him or her. This Divine Spark is the soul or consciousness of the person, which Spiritualists believe is indestructible and eternal. It will survive the dissolution of the body, called "death". Each soul's mission is to advance spiritually both now and hereafter, so getting closer and closer to God, and becoming more and more god-like. Spiritualists believe that our link with an infinitely loving and merciful God can never be broken, however much we fail in our soul's mission, and however unpleasant or evil we may become.

Spiritualism is a religion because it has a devotional aspect. Spiritualists believe very strongly in the power of prayer. Prayers are said both personally in our daily lives, and during each Divine Service, before and after each Open Circle, and before and after each meeting of the "Healing Group". Meditation, contemplation and reflection also form an important part of most Spiritualists private lives, and feature in our Divine Services and other events that we hold. Spiritual reading, not just reading about Spiritualism, is encouraged. Each Spiritualist has complete freedom in the choice of spiritual literature he or she reads and thinks about.

Spiritualism is a religion because it has a ritualistic aspect. The rituals of Spiritualism are simple, and most people should feel comfortable with them. Spiritualist churches and centres affiliated to the Spiritualist National Union are expected to hold at least one Divine Service every week. As Modern Spiritualism emerged in an environment that was essentially Christian, its liturgy has much in common with many Christian denominations - the Sunday service, the hymn-singing, the prayers, the address given by the medium to the congregation, called "Philosophy" by Spiritualists.

Spiritualism is a religion with its own Ministers, who have the same rights and privileges as the Ministers of other religions do, conducting naming ceremonies, weddings and funerals when asked to do so. Spiritualism is a religion that embodies the ideas of all religions, that there is a life after death, that the soul is immortal, and that a Divine power, commonly called God, exists. The philosophy of our religion is built upon Seven Fundamental Principles. The difference between Spiritualism and other religions is that through mediumship, in all its forms, we are able to give evidence to show that what we essentially are, our thoughts, our memories, our consciousness, our personality, all survive bodily death. Consistently, the messages we receive from the after-life urge us onward with our spiritual progress now, because it matters.

Spiritualism is an open and tolerant religion. People of any religion are free to come to our Divine Services, Open Circles, and meetings of our "Healing Groups". They are free to discuss things with us, and we welcome their questions. Because Spiritualism is open, tolerant and undogmatic, it has been called "the thinking person's religion." Although we welcome people of other faiths to join in our activities, attendees may not become members of our churches and centres whilst they remain members of another religious group. However, people of other faiths are always welcome to remain with us as long as they want to, as friends of our churches and centres, and draw whatever benefit they can from our activities and events. No Spiritualist will ever put any emotional pressure on anyone to become a member of a church or centre. We respect the right of all individuals to decide their spiritual pathway for themselves. We know that people should join us as members only when they feel inwardly that the time is right for this. Spiritualists see the whole of mankind as one vast brotherhood that is intimately interconnected, and we will never discriminate against anyone on the grounds of gender, sexuality, race, religion or creed.

The Spiritualist moral code is very similar to the Christian moral code. Nevertheless there are significant differences between Spiritualist beliefs and the beliefs of mainstream Christianity. Spiritualists do not believe that a person advances on the spiritual pathway solely by virtue of the religious beliefs and faith that he or she has. Spiritualists believe that a person's spiritual status and standing in the next world will be determined by their character, motivations, and actions in this world. Spiritualists also do not believe that the thoughts and behaviour of a person during a short lifetime merit assigning him or her to everlasting Heaven or Hell. Every soul always has, at any time, the opportunity for spiritual progress. Spiritualists view the afterlife as containing hierarchical "levels", through which each soul can progress on his ascent towards God. Unlike Christians in most Protestant and evangelical churches, Spiritualists do not derive their understanding of God or the after-life primarily from the Bible. For Spiritualists, their personal experience of God in prayer and meditation, and their contact through mediumship with highly evolved spirits provide this knowledge and understanding.

Most Christians accept and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for all the sins of all mankind from the dawn of time until the world ends. The great majority of Spiritualists do not accept this. They do not believe that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was to pay for all of mankind's sins. Rather they would say that his life and death should be seen as a great example of spiritual enlightenment, selfless service to others, spiritual integrity and surrender to the Divine will.

Spiritualists believe that only a person himself, with Divine guidance and assistance, can purify himself. No man can purify another, nor can the Divine power assist until a person begins to co-operate and work with it. Divine guidance and assistance will not be forthcoming until a person wants it and asks for it. Spiritualists believe that we all have free will. At every stage in a person's spiritual progress, he or she is free to accept or reject Divine guidance and support, and for that he or she is personally responsible. Spiritualists believe very strongly that each individual is personally responsible for everything they do, say and think, and will be accountable for these things after death, when they return to the Spirit World. Spiritualists believe very strongly in the operation of what others call karma - "as you sow, so shall you reap", and they are aware that this "law of karma" begins to operate in this world, before we take our transition to the next.

Even though our beliefs differ from traditional Christianity, we are not anti-Christian, just as we are not anti-Jewish, anti-Moslem, anti-Hindu, or anti-Buddhist. Spiritualism is a universal religion, tolerating and welcoming all religions; recognising such leaders as Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and Gandhi as well as Jesus. The author remembers a talk given in York by the Jesuit priest and long-distance pilgrim, Fr. Gerry Hughes SJ, during which he said: "When you approach a person of another denomination, or another faith, tread warily, for God has been there before you." In the same talk he also said: "In reaching out to a person of another faith, think rather of the views and beliefs you hold in common, than of those that separate you." These were wise words indeed. Disputes, quarrels, fights and wars break out between individuals, religious groups and nations, because we forget that the whole of mankind is one vast human family, "sons and daughters" of one and the same God who gave us life. We forget that what unites us and what we have in common is always far more, and far more important, than what separates and divides us. Religious conflict and persecution occur when we narrowly concentrate on and magnify the doctrinal differences between different faiths and denominations; when we look at the letter of our beliefs and forget their spirit, which is the loving service of a loving God, who is in all, over all and loves all equally.

So, putting our second principle, "The Brotherhood of Man", into practice, let's look at what we as Spiritualists have in common with mainstream Christianity. We both believe in the "Fatherhood of God". We share a belief that all mankind are brothers and sisters. We both believe in the ministry of angels. We share a belief in the "unseen world" and that we can have communion with it. For the Christian this may be limited to communion with God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, possibly with angels, and, in the case of Catholics and Orthodox Christians, with the saints also. The Spiritualist believes in communion with God and His angels, and with the spirit world, both with loved-ones who have passed to that world, and with "Spirit", the umbrella term we use to denote that harmonious and united brotherhood of evolved and loving souls in the spirit world who work for and with God. Both Spiritualists and Christians agree that there is something in man that survives the dissolution of the physical body at death. We share a belief in personal responsibility, although we may place a different emphasis on its importance in spiritual progress. We would agree that each person has free will, and that evil behaviour inevitably entails bad consequences for the evil doer. We would agree that there is a reward for loving, selfless service to others, although gaining that reward should not be its motive. We would agree that, at least in this earthly life, we can, with Divine support and encouragement, make advances in spiritual understanding and awareness, and in our capacity to love and serve others.

The Spiritualism that comes under the umbrella of The Spiritualist National Union is not allied to any other religion. It is a religion separate and complete in itself. Our umbrella organisation speaks for by far the greatest number of Spiritualists, and administers by far the greatest number of Spiritualist churches in the United Kingdom. Those enquirers who would like to learn more about Spiritualism with a Christian perspective should investigate The Greater World Christian Spiritualist Association, whose nearest church is The Greater World Sanctuary in Clarendon Road in Leeds. They might also consider Harrogate Spiritual Healing Church, which is an independent Spiritualist church with a Christian foundation, and a Christian foundress, Miss Flint, who donated and endowed their premises in Princes Square in 1943.

Some Spiritualists would prefer to think of Spiritualism as a spiritual discipline or a spiritual pathway rather than a religion. They may feel this way because of the dismay Spiritualists share with other religious people of good will at the aggressiveness, dogmatism and intolerance we often encounter in some religious quarters, even today. With such Spiritualists there is no falling out or disputation. We are a broad, tolerant movement, united, not in our individual creed or beliefs, but in our acceptance of The Seven Principles, which we will each interpret differently, and allow to operate in our lives in our own personal, individual and unique way. From the communications, through mediums, of many highly-evolved after-life intelligences, we have learnt that it is a person's conduct and behaviour that matter, not his or her religion or beliefs. From them we have also learnt that in the world to come "religion" will have an insignificant place, while our spiritual journey will continue and develop forever.

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Quotations on Religious Openness and Tolerance

(Taken from many religions)

"When you approach a person of another denomination, or another faith, tread warily, for God has been there before you."
Father Gerry W Hughes, SJ - Jesuit Priest and Pilgrim currently living on Lindisfarne

"God is as close to you as the person you like least."
Father Gerry W Hughes, SJ

"We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."
The Talmud - a central text of mainstream Judaism

"Other people's paths to God though different to our own, may be equally effective."
Margaret Barr 1899-1973 - Unitarian minister

"Some beliefs are like walled gardens. They encourage exclusiveness and the feeling of being especially privileged. Other beliefs are expansive and lead the way into wider and deeper sympathies. Some beliefs are like shadows, darkening children's days with fears of unknown calamities. Other beliefs are like sunshine, blessing children with the warmth of happiness. Some beliefs are divisive, separating the saved from the unsaved, friends from enemies. Other beliefs are bonds in a universal brotherhood, where sincere differences beautify the pattern. Some beliefs are like blinkers shutting off the power to choose one's own direction. Other beliefs are like gateways opening wide vistas for exploration. Some beliefs weaken a person's selfhood. They blight the growth of resourcefulness. Other beliefs nurture self-confidence and enrich the feeling of personal worth. Some beliefs are rigid, like the body of death, impotent in a changing world. Other beliefs are pliable, ever growing with the upward thrust of life."
Sophie Lyon Fahs 1876-1978 - Unitarian minister

"Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others."
John F. Kennedy 1917-1963 - Catholic and 35th President of the USA

"When the evening of life comes you will be judged on love."
St John of the Cross 1542-1591 - Spanish saint and mystic and a reformer of the Carmelites

"The paths to God are greater in number than the breathings of created beings."
Persian Scriptures

"He who is beloved of God honours every form of religious faith."
Buddhist Scriptures

"Altar flowers are of many species, but all worship is one; systems of faith are different, but God is one."
Hindu Scriptures

"It were better to be of no church at all, than to be bitter for any."
William Penn 1644-1718 - English Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania

"He drew a circle that shut me out -
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win;
We drew a circle that took him in."
Edwin Markham 1852-1940 - American poet

"The narrow-minded ask, 'Is this one of our tribe, or is he a stranger?' But to those of a noble disposition, the whole world is but one family."
The Panchatantra - A collection of Indian fables in verse and prose

"In my early youth I was taught to repeat the 1000 names of God. But they were by no means exhaustive. I think it is the truth that God has as many names as there are creatures."
Mahatma Gandhi 1869-1948, in a speech made in 1931

"The faiths of others all deserve to be honoured. By knowing them, one exalts one's own faith."
Ashoka 304BC-232BC - Emperor of India, who embraced Buddhism

"Do not attach yourself to a brick of the wall. Seek instead the eternal original."
Jalaluddin Rumi 1207-1273 - Persian and Sufi poet and mystic

"Do not believe on the strength of traditions, even if they have been held in honour for many generations and in many places; do not believe on the strength of the sagas of old times; do not believe that which you yourself have imagined, thinking a god has inspired you; believe nothing which depends on the authority of your masters of of priests. After investigation, believe that which you yourself have tested and found reasonable, and which is for your good, and that of others."
The Buddha, 5th Century BC - in the Kalama Sutra

"We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness."
Thich Nhat Hanh b1926 - Vietnamese Zen Buddhist, leader of Plum Village Retreat and Meditation Centre in west central France

"Our own life has to be our message."
Thich Nhat Hanh

"My actions are my only true belongings."
Thich Nhat Hanh

"Until there is peace between religions, there can be no peace in the world."
Thich Nhat Hanh

"Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path."
Thich Nhat Hanh

"You may do all things that men regard as religious, but unless they inspire you to lead better lives, unless they enable the spirit within you to find greater expression, then you are not religious as we see it."
Silver Birch - evolved after-life intelligence - through the trance mediumship of Maurice Barbanell

"Creeds, dogmas, doctrines, rituals, ceremonies, stained glass, altars, mitre, cope -- what have these to do with religion? Religion is in the spirit, the spirit that belongs to all Creation, which expresses itself in every rhythm and manifestation of life, that is revealed in every aspect of Nature and in the striving of all idealists and reformers who wish to serve. What has that to do with creeds?"
Silver Birch

"Learn to be free. Do not imprison yourself. Do not hedge yourself around and refuse to allow new inspiration to come to you. Truth is a constant search. Its boundaries are ever widening, for as the soul evolves the mind responds."
Silver Birch

"I know of one religion; it is service. We judge by action, by life, by motive."
Silver Birch

Friend, you have read enough.
If you desire still more,
Please write some quotes of your own
And live what they stand for.
(not forgetting to send them in to us, if you think we would benefit from the sharing. Thank you.)

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