Upon whose shoulders, we now stand ...honouring the pioneers of Spiritualism
Emanuel Swedenborg was one of Europe's greatest minds, and considered today to
be one of the three greatest minds
in all of history.
In 1744, he was brought to the spirit world
by Jesus to learn his truths, and upon his return wrote, The Heavenly Doctrine to reform Christianity. Swedenborg had
been selected because a mortal was
needed, who would be respected among
the thinkers of the day to be the herald
of Jesus's spiritual revelation. Swedenborg was such a man, having an eclectic mind
and learned in mathematics, geology, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, anatomy
and astronomy. He was one of the outstanding and respected scientists
of his time, and a member of
Sweden's House of Nobles.
Swedenborg did indeed travel to the spirit world, still attached to his silver cord, to learn the higher
spiritual truths. This inspired him to devote the latter quarter-century of his life to writing eighteen
published theological works, and several more which were unpublished. He spoke of founding a
'New Church', that would be based on the works he was writing of his experiences while out of his body.
including a variety of important cultural figures, both writers and artists were influenced by Swedenborg's
writings. Included are: Robert Frost, Johnny Appleseed, William Blake, Jorge Luis Borges, Daniel
Burnham, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Flaxman, George Inness, Henry James Sr.,
Carl Jung, Immanuel Kant, Honoré de Balzac, Helen Keller, Czesław Miłosz,
August Strindberg, D. T. Suzuki and W. B. Yeats
Considered the John the Baptist of Spiritualism, Andrew Jackson Davis
was a prolific spiritualist author and proclaimer of the coming revelation
Davis grew up in the small town
of Poughkeepsie, along the Hudson
River in New York State. Young Davis
showed signs of clairvoyance and
heard voices, and in 1844, had an
experience that changed his life.
On the evening of March 6th, he
experienced a trance-like state, and
when he gained full consciousness the
next morning, he was some forty miles
from where he had entered the trance.
Davis claimed, during this time, to have met the spirits of Galen, the Greek physician and Swedenborg, the
Seer. Davis may have had a vision or been teleported or perhaps he walked the distance while in trance –
no one can say for certain. Regardless of what occurred, the effect on him was profound, and afterwards,
he traveled extensively, lecturing and authoring thirty books that became the philosophical foundation of
early American Spiritualism.
In 1847, Davis predicted that it would not be long before the afterlife would be proven. His validation came
a year later in Hydesville, New York with the phenomena later known as the 'Hydesville Rappings'.
During the month of March 1848, strange knocking noises began to plague the Fox family shortly after
they moved into a two-room cottage on a small piece of land at Hydesville, New York, south of Rochester.
The cottage was intended to be a temporary home while a suitable family home was being
built adjacent to an uncle's property.
Neither the Foxes' nor their neighbors were able to determine the origin of the sounds, and, not only
could the knocks be heard, but those who were present could feel the cottage disturbed. So, just to have
fun, the two young girls started talking to the unknown entity and gave it a name 'Mr. Splitfoot', which is a nickname for the devil. Surprising to them it answered back with loud rapping sounds.
A communication was established with a question from the girls and an answer from the discarnate
entity a simple one rap for yes, two raps for no. Then the family's eldest son David who lived in Rochester
can to see and devised an alphabet code whereby he would recite the letters of the alphabet and when
he reached the correct letter Mr. Splitfoot would rap back one or two.
Though laborious, words could be spelled out and it was learned that the unearthly sounds came
from the spirit of a travelling Jewish peddler named, Charles B. Rosna. He had been robbed and
murdered by the previous occupant, a Mr. Bell, and his remains were buried in the cellar. It was learned
that the peddler had left a wife and five children behind and had no way of knowing what
happened to him. The noises presumably were an attempt to contact his family by having the
Foxes' inform them of his demise. His sudden and unexpected death left unfinished business
which caused the peddler to remain earthbound and to haunt the Fox cottage.
Digging by the neighbors commenced in the cottage cellar, but the mud from the spring flooding
prevented any immediate discovery. In the summer the digging continued and bits of teeth, bone
fragments and the peddler's tin box (where he kept valuables) were unearthed. I personally saw
these artifacts on display in 1989, in the basement museum of Lily Dale's Skidmore Library. However,
when the old school house was converted into a permanent museum the artifacts had not made the
transition and disappeared. When I made inquiries I found that this was
a very sensitive subject at Lily Dale.
People came from miles around to Hydesville to investigate the phenomenon. This eventually became
a distraction that overwhelmed the Fox family to the point where they could not tend to their daily
affairs. So, they decided to move to Rochester where their son David lived. The spirit peddler followed
and continued making contact with the sisters.
The noises could be heard by all, but no one could explain them. On November 14, 1849, supportive
friends arranged for a public demonstration at the Corinthian Hall, the city's largest assembly. The
sisters demonstrated the peddler's rapping, which was the first demonstration of psychic phenomena held
before a paying audience, and inaugurated a long history of public events to come by spiritualist mediums.
Prior to taking the stage a committee of leading citizens was appointed to investigate the sisters before
the demonstration. The committee determined that the girls were making the rapping sounds by
cracking their knee, ankle or toe joints. Regardless, they passed every test and the committee
had no alternative, but to declare the phenomenon authentic and allowed the girls to preform.
The sister's act was so successful that Horace Greeley founder
and editor of the New York Tribune received a letter sent to
the paper informing him of the Rochester phenomena. Greely
had lost a son and was willing to look into the matter. He
dispatched a reporter, Charles Partridge, to investigate, who returned with a favorable report. Greely, then arranged for
the sisters, and their mother as chaperon, to come to
New York City, where further examination took
place by the scientific community.
Greeley produced public demonstrations at a theatre off
Broadway where the girl's performances caused a sensation
and were responsible for bringing psychic phenomenon to
the forefront of the American scene.
The Hydesville Rappings were by no means the first reported supernatural knocks in history, but what made them unlike
the others was the publicity given them by Greeley and his newspaper. In the end, Greeley stated, "I am convinced that
the sounds and manifestations were not produced by
Mrs. Fox or her daughters, nor by any human
being connected with them."
Horace I. Greeley was born in Amherst, New Hampshire, in 1811, where he trained as a printer.
He later moved to New York City and became a journalist working for the New Yorker, and in 1841
he established the New York Tribune, a newspaper he edited for over thirty years.
Greeley he served briefly as a congressman from New York, and was the unsuccessful candidate
of the new Liberal Republican party in the 1872 presidential election against incumbent President
Ulysses S. Grant. He had a strong moral tone and used his paper to campaign against alcohol,
tobacco, gambling, prostitution, capital punishment and slavery. He is perhaps best
remembered for the phrase, "Go West, young man go West."
Born in the East end of London in 1823, the daughter
of a sea captain, she was a talented musician and
singer. As a child, Emma could predict coming
events and often saw the spirits of dead
relatives and family friends.
Her mediumistic gifts included automatic and
inspirational writing, psychometry, healing,
prophecy and inspirational speaking.
In 1856, under contract to a theatrical company,
Emma Hardinge Britten sailed from Southampton,
England to New York City. There, through the
mediumship of Miss. Ada Hoyt, Emma converted
to Spiritualism and was to become one of
its most important advocates.
The origins and concept of the Seven Principles came through Emma’s mediumship. She is said to
be responsible for having received through her mediumship in 1871, at least four of the original
principles of Spiritualism; from Robert Dale Owen, an American statesman then in the spirit world.
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.
A principle pioneer of Spiritualism, Judge John W. Edmonds was chief justice of the New York State Supreme Court.
In 1851, Judge Edmonds began investigating mediums
and witnessed several hundred physical manifestations
in various forms keeping very detailed records.
When Judge Edmonds went public with his findings
in a book in 1853, simply titled, Spiritualism,
he was attacked by the press, the pulpit, the
politicians and was forced to resign his post on
the bench and return to private practice.
The president's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, began exploring Spiritualism after the death of their
11 year-old son Willie, by visiting mediums and sitting in circles. The President took a passing
interest in the phenomena and later became an advocate. There are claims that Abraham Lincoln
the 16th President received guidance from spirits who communicated through mediums in
crucial decisions of national importance during the American Civil War years.
There exists a story that at one sitting, Nettie Colburn, the President's personal medium went
into trance, and spoke about the President's duty to free the slaves. There is also hearsay that
there was spirit influence in Mr. Lincoln's most profound works - the Gettysburg
Address and the Emancipation Proclamation.
Spiritualism gave rise to a belief in spirit contact, which appealed to many celebrated people
of the time: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Cullen Bryant, Thomas Carlyle, Emily Dickinson,
Sir William Crookes, Edgar Allen Poe, Alfred Russell Wallace, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe,
Queen Victoria, and W. B. Yeats were all investigators and proponents of this new spiritual science.
Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Scotland, where he
studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He
practiced as a physician specializing in
conditions of the eye.
In 1902, Edward VII knighted him for his role in
the Boer War in South Africa.
Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet
was published in 1887, and he eventually became
wealthy through the popularity of the series.
He had an insatiable interest in psychic phenomena and dedicated the latter part of his life to the advancement
of Spiritualism lecturing worldwide and becoming
the movement's most renowned proponent.
Arthur Ford of Georgia developed his psychic abilities during
World War I, while in the army. In 1927, he traveled to Great Britain
where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle remarked, "One of the most
amazing things I have ever seen in forty-one years of psychic
experience was the demonstration by Arthur Ford."
In 1928, Ford went into trance, and his spirit guide Fletcher, a
Canadian lad, announced that there was a woman present whom
he had not seen before and that she was eager to make contact. The
woman said, "I am the mother of Harry Weiss (Houdini), and for many
years my son has waited for one word that I was to send back, and
that word is 'forgive'. Now my son will be able to communicate
for himself." Houdini's widow Beatrice was notified, and a series
of ten sittings were arranged during which Arthur Ford brought the
code through to Mrs. Houdini from her husband.
ROSABELLE ** ANSWER TELL ** PRAY ** ANSWER
LOOK ** TELL ANSWER ** ANSWER ** TELL.
The code made headlines. The press accused Mrs. Houdini of giving it to Arthur Ford in advance
of the sittings. She defended herself in this letter saying, "Regardless of any statement made to the
contrary, I wish to declare that the message, in its entirety and in the agreed-upon sequence given
to me by Arthur Ford, is the correct code prearranged between Mr. Houdini and myself." She further
stated that she did not need money and had no intentions of going on stage, nor, as some
newspapers suggested, a lecture tour. Nevertheless, the power of the press
convinced the public that the code was not properly given.