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History of Spiritualism
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Origins of Ancient Spirtualism

The belief in, and practice of communication with, spirits has existed in all nations. Spiritual

phenomenon has occurred throughout human history, with people being entranced, inspired and

influenced by spirit intelligences. During moments of ecstasy, in dreams, reveries, drug induced states

and deep meditations people have experienced spirit awareness. In fact, mankind’s history, literature,

folklore and fairytales are full of mystical spiritual beings both good and bad.

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In ancient times, primitive man

had no doubt that his ancestors

survived death and ancestor-worship

was a form of religion.


Some people had psychic abilities, similar to modern mediums, and

were aware of psychic forces the

spirit world, and could communicate with spirit peoples.

The greeks consulted oracles and

the Egyptians and Romans practised fortune-telling and prophecy to obtain guidance from the gods. Even today some cultures have their witch-doctors and shamans who invoke the powers

of the spirit for healing

and giving guidance.

Christianity and Spirtualism

The Christian Church was founded on spirit communication and phenomena that could be described as mediumship.


Throughout the bible are many examples of spiritual happenings, inspirational speech, speaking in other languages, spiritual voices,

and angel messengers foretelling the coming of prophets.


Many Spiritualists believe that Jesus had an exceptional psychic

and mediumship ability as illustrated in the reports of his healing powers, inspired teachings, the transfiguration, and the many

so-called ‘miracles’ that occurred in his presence.


After his death, Jesus was seen and heard by his followers and

it seems that mediumship played an important part in the

spreading of the new religion.

However, in the 4th century, Christian leaders decided that

the use of psychic and mediumship abilities was wrong

unless performed by the Christian priesthood. All others

who demonstrated spiritual abilities were denounced

as ‘false prophets’, evil sorcerers, heretics and

were liable to punishment.

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In 1484 Pope Innocent VII strongly

denounced mediums.


The Church also sanctioned the publication

of a book entitled, Malleus Maleficarum

or ‘Hammer of the Witches,’ that described

all people who communicated with spirits

as witches and stated that they should

be severely punished.


After this, there was a long period of

persecution where people suspected of

using psychic abilities were in danger of trial, torture and execution. During these times some mediums were put to death by the church-sanctioned ‘witch-hunters’.

18th and 19th Centrury

In the 18th century a Swedish scientist and astronomer,

Emmanuel Swedenborg,

became well-known for his philosophical writings that, he claimed, were received from

spirit teachers and inspirers.


We move then into the 19th

Century as ‘Modern Spiritualism’ made its way from America to

the United Kingdom and across Europe and around the World

where the writings of Andrew Jackson Davis set the foundation.

A J Davis claimed that spirit communication from Emmanuel Swedenborg (who died in 1772) contributed to his vast literary works.

Andrew Jackson

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The Fox Sisters
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Most Spiritualists are familiar with the story of the occurrences at Hydesville on March 31st 1848 involving Catherine

and Margaretta Fox who were bothered by ghostly noises which grew more and more troublesome.


After a while the family realised that when they spoke out and ask questions the noises changed. They would ask

questions and receive a reply: one knock for yes, two for no. By this method the family found out details

about the spirit person who was making the noises. The spirit communicator explained that he had been

killed and buried in the cellar. The family subsequently found evidence of a hidden body.


The publicity about this incident travelled throughout America, England and other parts of the world and encouraged

others to seek communication from the spirit world. The logical system of one knock for yes, two for no

seemed to work well for many thousands of people and form the basis of communication.

Andrew Jackson Davis

It is equally important to consider

the events surrounding Andrew Jackson Davis (1826 – 1910) born in Blooming Grove (Orange County), NY, some

years earlier as setting the foundation

for acceptance of the phenomena.


It was through Andrew Jackson Davis

that Spirit brought a new revelation in their universal teachings and philosophy that would colour the nature of Spiritualism and give a deeper meaning to the evidence of the life beyond physical death.

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A local tailor (William Livingston), who was experimenting with mesmerism, threw Davis into

a trance and, in his time, he became know as the ‘Poughkeepsie Seer’ as he developed the ability

to go into a trance state and could demonstrate his psychic ability. He called his altered state of consciousness, the ‘superior condition and it is said to have induced within him a ‘very active

and intense psychic ability.’ It was through this ability Davis produced many volumes of

philosophical writing which exceeded all knowledge of the philosophy and

many branches in science of the time.

Emma Hardinge Britten
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Emma Hardinge Britten was born in 1823 in the East end of London. As a child, Emma could predict coming events and often saw the spirits of dead relatives and family friends.


She discovered that she had a mediumship ability for

table tipping and rapping, where spirits made themselves known by table movements and noises.


Emma went on to concentrate on inspirational speaking

about spiritual matters in light trance. Emma travelled throughout America and many parts of the world and

in so doing played a pivotal role in encouraged the

formation of many Spiritualist groups, societies and

churches and in organising and bringing together

Spiritualists through her powerful inspired speaking

and her ability to communicate by pen and

publish to a wider audience.

The origins and concept of the Seven Principles came through Emma’s mediumship. The original

Principles were later adapted to suit the newly formed Spiritualists’ National Union becoming the

Seven Principles of Spiritualism in the format that we are familiar with today.

Source: Extracts from various locations within the Spiritualists’ National Union website

Additional Reading Material on Spiritualism
History of spiritualism by Arthur Conan

For additional information on

the history of Spiritualism click link below or book image to read"

The History of Spiritualism

by Arthur Conan Doyle

and / or visit:

Pioneers of Spiritualism