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.
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.
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.
In 1484 Pope Innocent VII strongly
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’.
In the 18th century a Swedish scientist and astronomer,
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.
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.
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.
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 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