The Philosophy of Spiritualism

As was said in our introduction to this "About" section, the philosophy of Spiritualism is at the heart of the Spiritualist Movement. Spiritualists have no fixed creed, but they are asked to adhere to seven guiding principles. "The Seven Principles", as they are known, form the cornerstone of Spiritualism. They are principles to guide us, not a creed, and different Spiritualists will interpret them differently. They are the bones of a philosophy of living and each individual Spiritualist will put different flesh on those bones, according to his or her understanding and level of spiritual development. Spiritualists realise that it is very important to allow freedom to everyone, because we are all at different levels in our understanding and practice of all the many spiritual virtues. If we look critically at ourselves, all of us will find that we are forward in some of the virtues and backward in others. For example a person might be very courageous, but prone to jealousy and possessiveness, while another might be very loving and compassionate but not very strong willed. For all of us, there are areas of our spiritual life that we need to pay more attention to and develop. It is presumptious in any case to try to control the spiritual destiny of another. We have enough to concern us in trying to fulfil our own responsibilities.

The only way one can enforce compliance with a particular set of beliefs is by inculcating fear. There are, sadly, sections of all the major religions that do this, but Spiritualism is very opposed to it. Forcing compliance by engendering fear is counter-productive, spiritually destructive and dangerous. Fear is a negative emotion, closely related to other negative emotions like anger and hatred. When fear, anger and hatred mix together, the result can be explosive. Fear drives out love. If there is one thing that our "communion" with evolved spirit beings has taught us, it is that God - The Divine Spirit - is infinitely loving and infinitely compassionate. When we experience this love and respond to it, fear is removed. We are then free to experiment, question, test things for ourselves, and learn by trial and error and experience, knowing that a loving, merciful God tolerates this, indeed expects it. This is why Spiritualism has no fixed creed, just guiding principles, which we try to relate to everything we do. Released from all fear of some stern, avenging deity, we are also free to try to live our lives with love. As everyone knows, this is not always easy, but as long as we try to the best of our ability, we will be moving forward, and will be a part of that "eternal progress" that is open to everyone.

Spiritualism declares that it is a philosophy as well as a religion and a science, and when you study it you begin to appreciate that it is a highly developed metaphysical system. For that we have to thank the many highly-evolved spirit beings who have patiently explained so much to us over the last 160+ years about the afterlife, and the meaning and purpose of the relatively short time that we spend here in a physical body in this material world. Their communications have been brought to us thanks to the dedicated service of many gifted mediums, whose talents have included mental mediumship, trance mediumship, physical mediumship, direct-voice mediumship, automatic writing and psychic art. Whether channelled from spirit, inspired by spirit, or thoughtfully composed by the author, Spiritualist writings have much to teach us about morality, spirituality, life's enduring values, the meaning and purpose of life, and what we might expect on our eventual arrival in the Spirit World.

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The Role of Philosophy in Spiritualism

All Spiritualist churches and centres devote a part of their divine service to what they call "Philosophy". It is the address that the medium or an accomplice gives to the congregation before the demonstration of mediumship. It might be called instead "Words of Wisdom". By "Philosophy" we don't understand the sort of linguistic sophistry indulged in by academic philosophers, in which the purpose seems to be to accept nothing and question everything, and the arguments turn on the correct application of logical principles and the meanings of the words you use. Although Spiritualism urges people to question things and discover for themselves, Spiritualist philosophy is to be understood in the ancient, literal meaning of the greek word "philosophy" - "love of wisdom". It is possible to question and doubt too much. We all need something in life that is secure, that we can hold on to, and that is beyond question. That something is wisdom. Wisdom is that counsel that has the ring of eternal truth about it. It is intuitively grasped as being right and good. It is counsel that we can trust to guide us well in our daily lives.

In their address to the congregation, some mediums will try and channel directly wisdom from the spirit world. They are not always sure, until they stand up to speak, what their address is going to be about. This is a form of mediumship, and is another type of mediumship demonstration. If the channeling is successful, the address will be very moving and have a vibrancy and immediacy about it. Other mediums like to give prior thought to their address and structure their talk more carefully. Invariably they will ask for guidance and inspiration from the highest source that they are capable of communicating with, but they try to organise the wisdom received into a coherent and easily comprehensible address that has structure and lacks repetition. It has been my personal experience that this latter way of working generally gives the best results.

As well as the "Words of Wisdom" address that hopefully will benefit everybody, mediums sometimes give words of wisdom, specific advice and encouragement from the spirit world to individuals in their messages given during the demonstration of mediumship. This can be timely, helpful and sometimes very evidential to the individual concerned. However, we should treat any advice given as just that: advice, not instruction. We are all free to accept any advice or reject it. We are responsible for making our own decisions, and should not give anyone else that responsiblity. While it can be very comforting and helpful to have mum's or dad's or grandma's input, we should keep our own counsel if we feel that the advice given is inaccurate or inappropriate. What is undeniable is that when our loved ones show such intimate knowledge of our daily lives and give us their wisdom, advice and encouragement, we are left in no doubt about their continuing love, and their care for and involvement with us, which can be greater in the spirit world than it once was in this.

There have been many books written by Spiritualists which deal with Spiritualist Philosophy. These will include books on the typical subjects addressed by mediums in their "words of wisdom" or philosophy of life talk in a divine service. However many books of Spiritualist philosophy will go beyond this to place that wisdom in the larger context of metaphysical reality. This is the knowledge and understanding of the afterlife, the purpose of this life, God and the Divine, and spiritual progress given to us by advanced spirit beings through the various forms of mediumship. We cannot expect these books to be the last word on these matters. Spiritualists believe that greater revelations will be possible for us once "we have shuffled off this mortal coil" and our minds are not clouded as they are now by being immersed in a material body. As our last principle tells us, our spiritual progress will continue forever. On this page of the Spiritualist's National Union website, you will find some 27 books in electronic format available for download, and Spiritualist philosophy features quite prominently in these titles.

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The Importance of Our Earthly Lives

It has been said in criticism that Spiritualists spend too much time thinking about, and communicating with, the next world, to the detriment of living life in this world. I cannot speak for all Spiritualists, but in general this would be unfair. Spiritualists are very well aware of the need to live responsibly and decently in this world. Each of our seven principles is meant to inform and assist the way we live our daily lives. The last three principles, in particular, are all about life NOW. They relate to the hereafter too, but we present them as being helpful to people in this world:

5. Personal Responsibility - a very important principle. We cannot blame someone else for our misdeeds. The buck stops with us. We are accountable for all our actions. No-one else pays the penalty for our sins, or atones for them. This has always been a cardinal principle of Spiritualism. It is what we have been informed by spirit communication since the beginning of modern Spiritualism and before. Spiritualists try, therefore, to be always mindful of what they are doing. They know that there cannot be much spiritual progress for them unless they take responsibility for their actions.
6. Compensation and retribution hereafter for all the good and evil deeds done on earth. Spiritualists have been told repeatedly by spirits who have gone before us that our destination in the hereafter is determined by the way we live our lives in this world. In the world to come, human monsters will not be mixed up with earth angels and human saints as they are in this world. They will each go to a level which is appropriate for the level of spirituality they have attained and practised here. Human monsters cannot expect to end up in a happy place. This has been confirmed by some NDEers, who report that their experience took them into dark and unpleasant realms and not into a heaven of love and light. Spiritualists believe that the karmic consequences of our actions begin to kick in in this life. We don't have to wait until we get to the next world before we begin to experience the hell of our own making. We see that when we look around us. A lot, (but by no means all), of human unhappiness has been caused by a lack of wisdom and careless living, or worse.
7. Eternal progress open to every human soul. The good news. There is an eternity and this world is a part of it. We can always reverse a downward spiral. By hard work and perseverance, we can begin to make spiritual progress again. This can happen at any point in our eternal journey - either in this world or in the next world. Don't leave it too long. The sooner we begin our upward progress, the happier and more fulfilling our lives will be.

Spiritualists are more aware than most people that far from our lives being a random happening, we each come to this world for a reason and a purpose, and with a mission to accomplish. For Spiritualists a successful life is one in which the person discovers what his purpose and mission is, and sets about realising it. Spiritualists are more aware than most people that there will be consequences for both realising and failing to realise our soul's purpose. A Spiritualist is always aware that our lives are lived against the backdrop of eternity. An earthly life which does not make some spiritual progress in one way or another, is really a failed life, because the person has failed to learn the lessons from the challenges and testing experiences that life gives to each of us.

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Receiving Wisdom from the Spirit Realms

The philosophy or "wisdom talk" that is given during a Divine Service is something that everyone can benefit from. It is something everyone can take away from the meeting and ponder during the week. Spiritualist philosophy is a subject that many seasoned spiritualists enjoy. Some of them may feel that they have over the years received all the evidence they need to show that life continues beyond physical death. If they want to deepen their understanding of Spiritualism, they might well turn to spiritualist phiosophy. York Spiritualist Centre, like most Spiritualist churches and centres, has a substantial library, and philosophy is well represented there.

As well as contacting loved ones for a private sitting or a platform demonstration of mediumship, mediums will work with guides and teachers who seem to have a mission to help humanity. They come usually to people who already recognise that they have mediumistic ability and have perhaps been preparing themselves by praying and meditating and asking for such a contact to be made, or they may sometimes begin spontaneously, occasionally to children. Their wisdom, teaching and philosophy is more interesting to the world at large than the emotional content of personal messages, and a lot of this material has been published. This is probably how all of the "revealed" religions began.

The writings of Spiritualist philosophy take four forms:
(A) Automatic Writing
Automatic writing refers to a spirit communicating directly through writing. It differs from inspired writing in that the spirit controls the pen with automatic writing so that the handwriting comes quickly, and, if done by an experienced medium, can show the same handwriting as done by the spirit on earth. Some mediums who use this method will hold the pen in their left hand (if they are right-handed) or vice versa. It should make no difference how the pen is held, as it is the spirit who is doing the writing, not the medium. The medium is working "automatically", without much conscious effort or thought.
Examples: "Letters from Julia" by William T Stead; the writings of William Stainton Moses; the writings of Geraldine Cummins; Grace Cooke's channelling of White Eagle's teachings; "Testimony of Light" by Helen Greaves
(B) Verbatim accounts of Trance Addresses
Someone else makes a transcription, (this used to be done by shorthand, but today would be done from a recording), of the address of a spirit done through a trance medium. The teachings of 'Silver Birch' through the trance mediumship of Maurice Barbanell would be an example of this.
(C) Inspired Writing
This might be thought of as the joint effort of a spirit mind, or spirit minds, and the mind of the writer. The writer will wait until he or she feels the spirit(s) draw close and when they begin to feel inspired to start writing. Usually the writer tries to stay close to what he or she feels the spirit is trying to say, but personal insertions for the sake of clarity or explanation will come into the writing. Inspired writings vary in the extent to which the writer's own mind is involved. Most of the philosophy written by Spiritualists and mediums will fall into this category.
(D) Reflections
In this category fall the writings of people who claim no mediumship ability, but are reflecting on what they have learnt in the course of their involvement with Spiritualism, possibly after having witnessed outstanding physical or trance mediumship, or witnessed or heard of psychic phenomena and experiences. Examples: the books by Arthur Findlay - "On the Edge of the Etheric", "The Rock of Truth", and "The Curse of Ignorance".

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An Interpretation of the SNU Motto


God is often equated with Love, and equally often viewed as Light. This is reflected in the common expression "Love and Light" that two spiritual people might use to wish each other well. People returning from a Near Death Experience that has taken them into the Spirit World, very often speak of seeing a great Light, and sensing that Light as overwhelming love.
In common with people of most other

faiths and spiritual traditions, Spiritualists understand God as both transcendent and immanent. God is transcendent means that God is an objective reality beyond ourselves, and beyond our present capacity to fully understand. God is immanent means that God is within us. We each of us carry a spark of the Light of God within ourselves. That spark is our consciousness, it is God's gift to us. This is another aspect of the parenthood of God, which is our first principle. According to how we use our consciousness, well or badly, in loving service to others, or self-centred promotion of ourselves, our own power and greed, our own desires and egos, so that Light within us grows or diminishes. As that Light grows within us, so will our understanding of who we really are, of what we need to do, and who and what God is. As that Light diminishes, so will our understanding of God, and what is required of us. We each have the choice of how we use our conscious awareness, which is God's gift of love to us. Exercising that choice in our daily lives is our personal responsibility, for which, Spiritualists believe, we are, and always will be, accountable.


Spiritualists, in common with people of other religions and spiritual pathways, draw great inspiration from nature. We often remember in our prayers the plant and animal kingdoms, that mankind so often takes for granted and abuses. In common with many others, we realise that there are natural laws and that they should be obeyed. When a person thinks along the lines of nature, then he or she is

thinking properly. In order for brotherhood and harmony to exist among men and women, we need to gain a clear understanding of our place in the natural order of things, and how all of nature, not just mankind, is intimately and intricately connected. Looking into this, we realise that we cannot build a kingdom of love, light, peace and harmony whilst we exploit, abuse and mistreat the natural world, upon which our lives here depends.
So we need to understand ourselves, our own nature, who we are, what we are doing here and where we are heading. The great revelations of Spiritualism teach us that we all have a spiritual nature and a spiritual destiny. Unless we grasp this idea, that our lives here are just a short interlude in an eternal, spiritual existence, our spiritual progress will be hampered and more difficult. We are going to find it more difficult to understand why we should be our brother's keeper, and why we should be good stewards of the earth, its nature and resources.
If we think that our lives here are all that there is, and that our conscious awareness, responsibilities and duties will be terminated with our death, the temptation will always be there to think that these things don't matter too much. We may be tempted to overlook the excesses we have been able to get away with, because we will not know that there is divine justice, and there will be a price to pay for our misconduct.


The truth that Spiritualism proclaims is the truth of eternal life. We inhabit a body, but we are not the body. In time, we all know, our body will decay and eventually die, but that will not be the end of us. Who we essentially are: our consciousness, our mind, our thoughts, our personality, our character - all these will live on, undiminished. At death we will experience a seamless transition into

another mode of being in another dimension. The vehicle that will carry us there will be our soul, an incorruptible spiritual body, a body of higher and finer energy than our material body. This soul is within us, here and now, in this world, and is what animates us and gives us life. In proclaiming this, Spiritualism is proclaiming the good news that is preached by all religions and spiritual disciplines the world over.
Spiritualism goes further than this. It does not assert these things because of mere faith, or because they have been written down in books we revere. It seeks to demonstrate, to all who would enquire, that those "dead", who have moved on to the higher side of life, can communicate with us, and show their continuing awareness of how our lives are progressing, offer words of counsel and comfort, and show their continuing love. Spiritualists know that love never dies, that love is a story that has no end. This is the really good news that we love to share with all who will listen.
Just as we can have communion with our loved ones who have passed on, so we can communicate with higher souls who have advanced in the spiritual dimensions. Some will guide us on our spiritual pathway, some will inspire us in our acts of creativity and invention, some will work with us as healers and amplify our healing energies. Many people call these higher souls angels, but the name we give them does not matter. Spiritualism believes that these loving beings want to communicate with us and work with us, and that they speak to us and communicate with us inwardly. They will communicate with all who will listen, who are willing to lay aside the haste and the clamour of daily life from time to time and go into the silence and stillness that our souls long for. The practice of meditation is very important to Spiritualists. So is the practice of attunement to the spirit world, which is similar to meditation, but distinct from it. The kingdom of God is within us; it is an eternal kingdom; and knowing that truth will set us free from fear and despondency.

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