A History of modern Spiritualism

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Text Box: Spiritualism of some form has existed for  millennia, specifically communicating with the ancestors, which can be witnessed by observing the belief systems of numerous ancient tribes around the world and later the pagans. However the religion we now observe as Spiritualism was first named and is attributed to a communication with those spirits, which dwell upon a higher plain of existence, beyond the veil of death in a small town in America in the mid 19th century
Mr. & Mrs. Fox and their two youngest daughters Margaretta and Catherine moved into a small wooden cottage in Hydesville , New York, U.S.A., in 1847. The rapping's in the night began occurring on a regular basis and eventually, on Friday 31st March 1848 the girls were preparing for bed when they heard the noises again. The family and an investigation committee formed a code that could be used to communicate in words and numbers. Margaretta Fox did the first public demonstration of mediumship in the New York Corinthian Hall in 1849.
Spiritualism was introduced to England in 1852 by a medium from America called Mrs. Hayden, who had suffered many hostilities from churches and press. However, she was backed up by such eminent people as Sir Charles Isham, Professor De Morgan, Robert Chambers and Dr. Ashburner. Keighley in Yorkshire became the first site in Britain to establish a Spiritualist Church which was opened by David Richmond in 1853 and it was also the first place to publish a Spiritualist Newspaper called “The Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph” in 1855. A great socialist called Robert Owen became interested in spiritualism after having private sittings with Mrs Hayden in 1854. After his death he gave the seven principles of Spiritualism through the mediumship of Mrs. Emma Hardinge Britten in 1871. The Two Worlds Newspaper which was first issued in 1887 published the seven principles in 1889. Mrs Emma Hardinge Britten was known as a very good medium and had returned to England in 1866 to promote spiritualism.
Andrew Jackson Davis, born on the 11th of August 1826 in Orange County USA founded the Lyceum in New York in 1863, after giving a lecture in Dodsworth Hall, Broadway, New York., where he described the things he had seen in the Summerland, how happy and well looked after the children were there. Subsequently in 1866 Mr Hitchcock opened the first British Lyceum in Nottingham. The first Lyceum conference was held in Bradford in 1886 headed by Alfred Kitson. In 1887 the first Lyceum Manual was produced in Britain. It was written by Mrs Emma Hardinge Britten, Alfred Kitson and Mr Kersey. The Spiritualists Lyceum Union became established in 1890, however the name became British Spiritualists Lyceum Union four years later. In 1948 the British Spiritualists Lyceum came together with the Spiritualists National Union and in 1951 the Lyceum Department received a letter from the SNU stating that from now on it would be know as The Spiritualists Lyceum Union.
An interesting report was printed in 1869 by the Dialectical Society which was a committee that had been formed to investigate Spiritualism. Sir William Crookes a top physicist published his report to the Royal Society in the Journal of Science in 1871. He had set out to prove Spiritualism had no substance, but found it to be breathtakingly accurate. He remained a believer in the existence of the spirit world for the rest of his life.
1865 and 1872 saw two failed attempts at forming a national organisation for spiritualists. However, in 1873 the British National Association of Spiritualists was formed. Further in 1882 Sir William F Barrett started the Society for Psychical Research.
In the late nineteenth century it was felt necessary to form a Federation to group all Spiritualist organisations together instead of lots of isolated bodies, which saw the founding of the National Spiritualist Federation in 1890. However, they had no legal status and in 1902 found it necessary after 12 years to join with the Spiritualist National Union Ltd which was formed in 1901. This meant “The Companies Act” gave them the right to hold properties as a company limited by guarantee. The main aims of The Spiritualist National Union Ltd, which still hold fast today are to spread the religion and philosophy of Spiritualism.
In 1916 Ernest Oaten led a parliamentary campaign instituted by the Union for legal recognition of Spiritualism. Two years later in 1918 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lent weight to spiritualism by speaking of his own beliefs in it and issued a publication called “The New Revelation”.
Arthur Findlay produced three books between 1931-1935, these were, On the Edge of the Etheric, The Rock of Truth and The Unfolding Universe. He was also the founder of The Psychic News which was edited at the time by Maurice Barbanell.
The first BBC programme on Spiritualism was given by Ernest Oaten in 1934. Spiritualism continued to grow, and quite a few notable and significant things were happening. In 1937 the Archbishop of Canterbury with Dr. Cosmo Lang and Archbishop Temple of York formed a Church of England Committee to look into Spiritualism. They issued a report on their findings, but this report was suppressed as it was found to be too favourable. The SNU also started appointing Ministers in 1939, and in 1940 the Union was given a certificate by the Government to act as a Trust Corporation.
1944 saw the trial of Helen Duncan at the Old Bailey. She was accused of being a fraudulent medium following a police investigation and was sent to Holloway Prison for nine months. This caused the government of the time great embarrassment, as Mrs Duncan was reputed to have contacted the spirit of a sailor who was serving on a warship, that at the time was not known to have been sunk. Mrs Duncan’s communication was seen as a dangerous breach of national security and her arrest and incarceration were seen as a bungled attempt to silence her as she was considered a spy.
The Royal Albert Hall in London was the venue for the celebrating one hundred years of spiritualism in 1949 and just a year later in 1950 the Spiritualists National Union was promoted as the official body representing spiritualism within the UK. Another extremely important year within spiritualism was 1951 when the Government saw fit to bring in the “Fraudulent Mediums Act”. This meant a lot to Spiritualists, because, if it was recognised that there were fraudulent mediums, this also meant there were bona fide ones. The same legislation abolished the “Witchcraft Act 1735”, and Mediums no longer had to worry about Section 4 of the “Vagrancy Act 1824”.
In 1954 the National Federation of Healers was formed. At the AGM of the Union in 1963 a motion was put forward showing a need for a Guild of Spiritualist Healers. Although the motion was approved, nothing could be done at the meeting. This was followed by a proposal to form a Guild of Spiritualist Healers in 1964 at the Unions AGM held in Manchester. In the same year Stansted Hall was bequeathed to the SNU by Arthur Findlay for use as a College for Psychic Science, which opened its doors in 1966. 1969 saw the inauguration of the League of Friends of Stansted Hall. In 1970 the first meeting of the Guild of Spiritualist Healers took place at Stansted Hall and the first conference followed in 1972. A new set of Articles of Association were adopted and a new three tier system of administration was agreed upon at the SNU AGM in 1975. The Guild of Spiritualist Healers was merged with the SNU in 1994 and made responsible for healing within the Union.

Despite the benefits that the union offers, our church chose to remain independent as set out in our constitution deeds and has remained so to this day.

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Page Last Updated

20/10/2012 at 14:00

By John