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Parapsychology and Magic / Spiritualism / A Brief History of Spiritualism / 

A Brief History of Spiritualism

BC Saul

In the Bible, Saul consulted mediums and was condemned for it. (1 Samuel 28)

1st C Jesus Christ

The various Christian sects have been opposed to Spiritualism in varying degrees. Yet Jesus Christ is regarded by Spiritualists as a great master. He displayed many of the qualities and performed many acts, which they accept as an essential part of Spiritualism. He healed the sick, heard voices, he was transfigured on the mount. He told the robber beside him on the cross that "today you will be with me in paradise", and he appeared to his disciples after his death.

1st C St. Paul

St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians speaks of matters that Spiritualists can easily identify with.

1 Corinthians 12 (Good News Bible version) verses 4-11

'There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to everyone for their particular service. The Spirit 's presence is shown in some way to each person for the good of all. The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom while to another the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person, he gives the power to heal. The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles, to another, the gift of speaking God's message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts, which come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. But is the one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person.'

1735 Witchcraft Act

This act was to be used later to prosecute mediums.

1744 Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)

Swedenborg was one of the earliest forerunners of Spiritualism. He was a Swedish philosopher and scientist who was knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects including metallurgy zoology, anatomy, physics and the Bible. In 1744, at the age of 56 he started to write about the spirit world, telling of his experiences during dreams whilst asleep and during visions whilst awake. He claimed he was in contact with biblical characters, kings, popes and saints and that they described the next life as very similar to this, and that communication was possible between the two worlds.

1844 Andrew Jackson Davies(1826-1910)

Exactly one hundred years after Swedenborg had started writing about Spiritualism, Andrew Jackson Davis, an 18-year-old apprentice shoemaker in Poughkeepsie, New York, went into a semitrance and wandered into the mountains, 40 miles from his home in New York. He claims to have met the spirits of Swedenborg, and the 2nd Century Greek physician Claudius Galen. Although he had no education, from that time he started to teach and write about the body's supernatural powers. He dictated, in trance, a book entitled The Principles of Mankind, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind which took 15 months to write, and was written down by a minister. In the book he predicted the following:-

"It is a truth that spirits commune with one another while one is in the body, and the other in the higher spheres, and this, to when the person in the body is unconscious of the influx, and hence cannot be convinced of the fact: and this truth will ere long present itself in the form of a living demonstration. And the world will hail with delight the ushering in of that era when the interiors of men will be opened, and the spiritual communion will be established...."

On the 3 1st March 1848 the following words were dictated:-

About daylight this morning a warm breath passed over my face and I heard a voice, tender and strong, saying "Brother, the good work has begun - behold a living demonstration is born."

1848 The Fox Sisters

The living demonstration that Andrew Jackson Davis referred to, turned out to be an event that is considered as the birth of modem Spiritualism. On the actual day that he dictated those words, two sisters, Kate and Margaret Fox, who lived in Hydesville, New York started to communicate with spirit. Their father, John Fox, tried to find out what the strange noises were in their small wooden cottage. He rattled the windows and a rattle came back in reply. The sisters started asking questions by tapping and getting replies with a simple code of one rap for "yes" and two raps for "no". They established that the communicator was a pedlar who had been killed by previous occupants and buried in the cellar.

The news quickly spread through the community and a few months later John Fox started digging in the cellar and found hair and bones that were believed to be human. (It was not until 56 years later in 1904 that it was reported that, following the collapse of a wall close to the cellar, a complete human skeleton was found).

The noises in the cottage got louder and the family could stand it no longer. The two sisters were sent away by their parents, Kate to stay with a brother David and Margaret to stay with another sister, Leah who lived in Rochester. The raps and noises continued in both houses.

Margaret was later to confess twice, in 1851 and in 1888 and Kate in 1888, that the rappings were a fraud, yet they also retracted the confessions, saying that they had only done so to help them out of financial difficulties.

1849 First Spiritualist meeting If you are interested in the types of service we offer click John, but it is in the religious bit

This was the first public meeting of a group of people who called themselves "Spiritualists". They met on November 14th in the Corinthian Hall, Rochester, where the Fox sisters gave a public demonstration. They had now been joined by their older sister Leah who went on to become the first professional medium.

1854 Society for the Diffusion of Spiritual Knowledge

The Society was the first Spiritualist organisation in the USA and was founded by in New York by a wealthy merchant.

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