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What is Spiritualism / Spiritism?

Divination attempts to foretell the future, Magick, to change it, while Spiritualism attempts to communicate with the dead, to receive information and help from our 'loved ones' who have departed from this material world to that of the spirit.  The spirit, often called the soul, is the ‘real you’, the essence of what you were, what you are now, and what you always will be.  We all come from somewhere, so for sake of argument let’s call it the world of spirit (although we actually originate from the divine source of our Creator).  When we are conceived our spirit enters what we term our ‘body’.  Once born in our earthly body we soon tend to forget from where we originated and the purpose of our being here.  But we exist for our lifetime to experience events, both good and bad, which are essential for our spirit to evolve, to progress in its search for enlightenment.  In summary, the world of spirit is where we come from when we are born and to where we return when we die, although there is no such thing as spiritual death for it is simply a new beginning.

Spiritualism was often referred to as Necromancy, although this has come to be associated more broadly with black magick and demon-summoning in general.  Many references to necromancy can be found in the Bible, one such example being in Deuteronomy chapter 18, verses 9 – 12, where the Israelites are specifically warned against the Canaanite practice of 'divination using the dead'.  This warning was not always heeded though, for racking my brain I soon discovered that my compulsory Religious Education lessons at school (countless years ago) had not been in vain when I recalled that no lesser person than King Saul (chosen by God to be the first king of Israel), in suitable disguise and anonymously, paid a visit to the Witch of Endor to ask her to invoke the 'shade' of Samuel, despite his having driven all necromancers and magicians from Israel.

Spiritualism should be distinguished from Spiritism, Spiritualism should be distinguished from Spiritism, in that Spiritism is associated with Allan Kardec (1804 - 1869), particularly with his doctrine of reincarnation, which does not have a place in spiritualism, and is now practiced mostly in Continental Europe and Latin America, especially in Brazil.  Spiritism, however, does have many other points in common with its English counterpart, so apart from Spiritism's belief in reincarnation, the two terms are virtually interchangeable.

Spiritualism developed and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-speaking countries.  By 1897, Spiritualism was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States of America (USA) and Europe, mostly drawn from the middle and upper classes.  It flourished for a half century without canonical texts or any formal organisation, attaining cohesion through periodicals, tours by trance lecturers, camp meetings, and the missionary activities of accomplished mediums.  Many prominent spiritualists were women, and like most spiritualists, supported causes such as the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage.  By the late 1880s the credibility of the informal movement had weakened due to accusations of fraud perpetrated by mediums, which led to the appearance of formal spiritualist organisations.  Spiritualism is currently practiced primarily through various denominational spiritualist churches in the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK).

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Many Spiritualists believe that Christianity and Spiritualism are compatible but many more Christians would strongly disagree.  However, one way in which Christianity has been combined with Spiritualism is in this code of beliefs from The Greater World Christian Spiritualist Association:
  • I believe in one God who is Love.
  • I accept the Leadership of Jesus the Christ.
  • I believe that God manifests through the illimitable power of holy spirit.
  • I believe in the survival of the soul and its individuality after physical death.
  • I believe in Communion with God, with His angelic ministers, and with souls functioning in conditions other than Earth Life.
  • I believe that all forms of Life created by God intermingle, are interdependent, and evolve until perfection is attained.
  • I believe in perfect justice of the Divine Laws governing all Life.
  • I believe that sins committed can only be rectified by the sinner himself or herself, through the redemptive power of Jesus the Christ, by repentance and service to others.

Spiritualism and its belief system became protected characteristics under Law in the UK in 2009 by Alan Power at the UKEAT (Appeal Court), London, England.

Spiritualists believe in the possibility of communication with the spirits of dead people, whom they regard as ‘disincarnate humans’.  They believe that spirit mediums are gifted to carry on such communication, but that anyone may become a medium through study and practice.  They believe that spirits are capable of growth and perfection, progressing through higher spheres or planes, and that the afterlife is not a static state, but one in which spirits evolve.  The two beliefs, that contact with spirits is possible, and that spirits may dwell on a higher plane lead to a third belief, that spirits can provide knowledge about moral and ethical issues, as well as about God and the afterlife.  Many believers therefore speak of "spirit guides -- specific spirits relied upon for worldly and spiritual guidance.

According to Spiritualists, anyone may receive spirit messages, but formal communication sessions (séances) are held by mediums who claim thereby to receive information about the afterlife.

As an informal movement, Spiritualism does not have a defined set of rules, but various Spiritualist organisations within the USA have adopted variations on some or all of a ‘Declaration of Principles’ developed between 1899 and 1944.  In October 1899, a six article ‘Declaration of Principles’ was adopted by the National Spiritualist Association (NSA) at a convention in Chicago, Illinois.  An additional two principles were added by the NSA in October 1909, at a convention in Rochester, New York, then finally, in October 1944, a ninth principle was adopted by the National Spiritualist Association of Churches at a convention in St Louis, Missouri.

This philosophy is based on the Seven Principles of Spiritualism (The National Association of Spiritualist Churches (  The USA has nine principles which provide more information about Spiritualist beliefs).

In the UK, the main organisation representing Spiritualism is the Spiritualists' National Union (SNU), whose teachings are based on the Seven Principles.  The Seven Principles form the basis of SNU Spiritualism, and help Spiritualists to navigate and combine their spiritual and human journeys.  They were given to us through the mediumship of Emma Hardinge Britten, and are adopted by those who choose Spiritualism as their religion/belief.

The Seven Principles

The concepts and original wording of the Seven Principles came through the mediumship of Emma Hardinge Britten (1823 - 1899), one of Spiritualism's greatest mediums and speakers.  In 1871, the communicating spirit of Robert Owen (1771 - 1858), a Welsh utopian socialist and social reformer (considered the father of the cooperative movement), inspired her to summarise the philosophy of Spiritualism in principles upon which all Spiritualists would agree.  These are:

  • The Fatherhood of God.
  • The Brotherhood of Man.
  • The Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels.
  • The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul.
  • Personal Responsibility.
  • Compensation and Retribution Hereafter for all the Good and Evil Deeds done on Earth.
  • Eternal Progress open to Every Human Soul.

The Fatherhood of God

Each of us has his or her idea of what or who God is.  To some, He is a stern personality who sits on a throne in heaven, and instils fear in his believers while severely punishing wrongdoers.  To others he is a benign Father who cares for his vast family of individuals, irrespective of colour or creed, and is personified in everything that is beautiful around us.  The latter is the broad Spiritualist viewpoint, as envisaging the one supreme power.  Spiritualists regard God as the creator of a divine plan, the natural law through which He governs the universe He created, but based on love as opposed to fear.  He is the controlling force of all and the Greatest Central Source of all life and love as Andrew Jackson Davis, one of Spiritualism’s pioneers so forcefully proclaimed.  When we transgress these laws, we are betraying a trust for which we shall have to pay, either here, or in the life hereafter.  Our relationship with God is thus determined by our obedience to these laws.

The Brotherhood of Man

If we accept the Fatherhood of God, then it naturally follows that we must be his children, i.e. brothers and sisters in one family of all races and colours, which confers upon us a dual responsibility – to our Father and to each other.  This can be summed up in one word – service.  The inequalities in modern society, such as the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, the wise and the ignorant, provide an incentive for love and service.  In our daily lives we meet those who need material help, to whom a kind word or small act may work wonders.  If we extend this call to service beyond the confines of our family, our town, our country, into the whole world, pain and suffering, tumult and wars would cease.  In this way we would bring into being ‘that peace which passes all understanding’.  But it goes further than that, for the real meaning of our existence is not only our obligation to our fellow men.  Man, being himself a spirit here on earth, is immortal so the brotherhood of man is extended into the spirit spheres.  Spiritualism therefore gives a new and higher meaning to our mutual interdependence and to the word Brotherhood.

The Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels

This is the key around which Spiritualism’s whole philosophy turns.  Orthodoxy denies the reality of communion with departed spirits, whereas for well over a century Spiritualism has proved conclusively that man not only survives physical death, but is able, through mediums, to commune with those left behind.  But not simply that, for spirits spend a lot of their time giving us help and guidance in various ways with our earthly problems.  There are certain persons among us who are called mediums, who are highly sensitive to ‘spirit vibrations’ so are able to establish contact with those who have passed over and who wish to communicate with us.  Each one of us has a spirit guide or helper – a ‘guardian angel’ if you prefer, who uses the medium as an instrument through whom he can communicate.  Because of this we are able to learn how our loved ones are faring in their new environment and new way of life.  This proof of survival is of tremendous benefit to those who are bereaved.

The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul

There is an effect of the previous principle which serves to highlight how much the Spiritualist philosophy is so diametrically opposed to the materialist conception of life.  All the great religions of the world subscribe to some form of life after death in some ill-defined heavenly existence, but because they have failed to prove it to the satisfaction of modern realists, they have lost their hold on the people.  Spiritualism on the other hand does prove this fact in no uncertain manner and in so doing has profoundly revolutionised our lives in that our behaviour is no longer encompassed within the narrow limits of our earthly lives, but extends into eternity.  Our mode of living here on earth will determine our spiritual status in the life to come.

Personal Responsibility

This is the major doctrinal difference between Spiritualism and orthodox religions.  The basis of the Christian religion rests on the belief that Jesus died on a cross to save us from our sins.  Spiritualism most strongly repudiates this.  Jesus was put to death by crucifixion for political reasons.  Crucifixion was the then normal method of execution for most offences, including robbery.  The Jewish priests were afraid He would seize their power through his teaching and healing, while the Romans felt he might raise a rebellion against them.  Spiritualism asserts that no one but ourselves can save us from our wrong doing.  Man, through his conscience, knows the difference between right and wrong and is given free will to choose which road to take.  No one, be he religious or an atheist, can escape the consequences of his own mistakes.  God does not sit in judgement over us; we have to be our own judges.  What the church calls sin, Spiritualism regards as the violation of God’s divine natural laws, which Paul interpreted when he wrote “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”  Man alone has to atone for his sins and not avoid his responsibilities.

Compensation and Retribution Hereafter for all the Good and Evil Deeds done on Earth

This follows on from what has been said above.  The Orthodox Church would have us believe that on this awesome Day of Judgement God will sit on his throne and cast each one of us into heaven or hell.  Heaven and hell are simply states of mind of our own creation and not celestial localities.  Our code of life on this earth will determine our spiritual status in the world of spirit.  It is equally wrong to think that because one attends church regularly, or performs evangelical or ‘other good works’ one will automatically be given pride of place in the hereafter.  It will be our everyday deeds and motives for them that will count, and how well we have carried out the precept 'Do unto others…'  Neither is it true that after our passing we will become a saint.  Death does not make us spiritually aware.

Eternal Progress open to Every Human Soul

The idea of eternal progress may seem hard for us to understand in a world where everything has an ending, but in the world to come, where there are neither clocks nor calendars, time is immaterial.  Spiritualism points to the certainty of eternal progress, but the rate of our own particular advancement will depend upon ones desire to do so, remembering that we shall have the same free will as we have here.  We shall by no means be idle in the spirit world, in fact, we shall be very busy pursuing the paths which will lead us toward perfection -- and we shall have the rest of eternity in which to do it.  The transition from our earthly world to our new existence in the higher life does not alter our present make-up or character.  We shall be just the same as we were before the passing, retaining our free will to fashion our new life with the sure knowledge that we shall be given the opportunity to make spiritual progress with no limit on time or to the heights we can achieve.  Once again, we come face to face with our personal responsibility, even on the other side.

These seven principles are the crux of Spiritualism's philosophy.  They are inter-dependent and their influence has transformed man's outlook on life (and death).

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Evolution of Spiritualism

Spiritualists reacted with an uncertainty to the theories of evolution in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Broadly speaking the concept of evolution fitted the spiritualist thought of the progressive development of humanity.  At the same time, however, a belief in the animal origins of humanity threatened the foundation of the immortality of the spirit, for if humans had not been created by God, it was scarcely plausible that they would be specially endowed with spirits; this led to Spiritualists embracing spiritual evolution.

Spiritualists' views of evolution did not stop at death.  Spiritualism taught that after death spirits progressed to spiritual states in new spheres of existence.  According to Spiritualists, evolution occurred in the spirit world ‘at a rate more rapid and under conditions more favourable to growth’ than encountered on earth.

In a talk at the London Spiritualist Alliance, John Page Hopps (1834 - 1911) supported both evolution and Spiritualism.  Hopps claimed humanity had started off imperfect ‘out of the animal's darkness’ but would rise into the ‘angel's marvellous light’.  He claimed humans were not fallen but rising creatures and that after death they would evolve on a number of spheres of existence to reach perfection.

Madame Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society is in opposition to the spiritualist interpretation of evolution.  Theosophy teaches a metaphysical theory of evolution mixed with human devolution, which Spiritualists did not accept.  To Theosophy, humanity starts in a state of perfection and falls into a process of progressive materialisation (devolution), developing the mind and losing the spiritual consciousness.  After the gathering of experience and growth through repeated reincarnations humanity will regain the original spiritual state, which is one of self-conscious perfection.

Theosophy and Spiritualism were both very popular metaphysical schools of thought especially in the early 20th century and thus were always clashing in their different beliefs.  Madame Blavatsky was critical of Spiritualism and distanced Theosophy from it as far as she could, allying herself with eastern occultism.

The Spiritualist Gerald Massey (1828 - 1907) claimed that Darwin's theory of evolution was incomplete:

"The theory contains only one half the explanation of man's origins and needs spiritualism to carry it through and complete it.  For a while this ascent on the physical side has been progressing through myriads of ages, the Divine descent has also been going on -- man being spiritually an incarnation from the Divine as well as a human development from the animal creation.  The cause of the development is spiritual. Mr Darwin's theory does not in the least militate against ours -- we think it necessitates it; he simply does not deal with our side of the subject.  He cannot go lower than the dust of the earth for the matter of life; and for us, the main interest of our origin must lie in the spiritual domain."

Spiritualists believed that without Spiritualism the doctrine of Darwin is a broken link.  Massey said "Spiritualism will accept evolution, and carry it out and make both ends meet in the perfect circle."

A famous medium who rejected evolution was Cora L V Scott (1840 - 1923) (at various times as she remarried, she had the surnames Hatch, Daniels, Tappan, and Richmond).  She dismissed evolution in her lectures and instead supported a type of pantheistic Spiritualism.

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823 - 1913) believed qualitative novelties could arise through the process of spiritual evolution, in particular the phenomena of life and mind.  He attributed these novelties to a supernatural agency.  Later in his life, Wallace was an advocate of Spiritualism and believed in an immaterial origin for the higher mental faculties of humans; he believed that evolution suggested that the universe had a purpose, and that certain aspects of living organisms are not explainable in terms of purely materialistic processes.  Wallace argued in his 1911 book World of Life for a spiritual approach to evolution and described evolution as ‘creative power, directive mind and ultimate purpose’.  He believed natural selection could not explain intelligence or morality in the human being and suggested that non-material spiritual forces accounted for these.  Wallace believed the spiritual nature of humanity could not have come about by natural selection alone, the origins of the spiritual nature must originate ‘in the unseen universe of spirit’.

Oliver Lodge (1851 - 1940) also promoted a version of spiritual evolution in his books Man and the Universe (1908), Making of Man (1924) and Evolution and Creation (1926).  The spiritualist element in the synthesis was most prominent in Lodge's 1916 book Raymond, or Life and Death which revived a large interest for the public in the paranormal.

How Spiritualism / Spiritism Developed Around the World

Spiritualistic practices originated in ancient civilisations, but even though such practices were widespread throughout the world, they were virtually unknown in the modern Western world.

Spiritualism as we know it first appeared in the west in the 1840s in the ‘Burned-over District’ of upstate New York, where earlier religious movements such as Millerism (the teachings of William Miller (1782 - 1849), who in 1831 first shared publicly his belief that the Second Advent of Jesus Christ would occur in roughly the year 1843/1844). and Mormonism which emerged during the Second Great Awakening (a Protestant religious revival during the early 19th century in the United States), although these movements did not associate themselves with Spiritualism.

United States of America (USA)

The ‘Burned-over District’ of upstate New York was an environment in which many believed direct communication with God or angels was possible, and that God would not behave harshly, for example, that He would not condemn unbaptised infants to an eternity in Hell.

In this environment, the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 - 1772) and the teachings of Franz Mesmer (1734 - 1815) provided an example for those seeking direct personal knowledge of the afterlife.  Swedenborg, who claimed to communicate with spirits while awake, described the structure of the spirit world.  Two features of his view particularly resonated with the early Spiritualists: firstly, that there is not a single Hell and Heaven, but rather a series of higher and lower heavens and hells; secondly, that spirits are intermediaries between God and humans and that the divine sometimes uses them as a means of communication.  Although Swedenborg warned against seeking out spirit contact, his works seem to have inspired in others the desire to do so.

He was formerly a highly regarded inventor and scientist, achieving several engineering innovations and studying physiology and anatomy.  Then, in 1741, he also began to have a series of intense mystical experiences, dreams, and visions, claiming that he had been called by God to reform Christianity and introduce a new church.

Mesmer did not contribute religious beliefs, but he brought a technique (later known as hypnotism), that claimed could induce trances and cause subjects to report contact with supernatural beings.  There was a great deal of professional showmanship inherent in demonstrations of Mesmerism, and the practitioners who lectured in the mid-19th-century in North America sought to entertain their audiences as well as to demonstrate methods for personal contact with the divine.

Perhaps the best known of those who combined Swedenborg and Mesmer in a peculiarly North American synthesis was Andrew Jackson Davis (1826 - 1910), a practicing Mesmerist, faith healer and clairvoyant as well as an American Spiritualist born in Blooming Grove, New York, who called his system the ‘harmonial philosophy’.

However, despite Swedenborg and Mesmer, in 1848 an alternative method of demonstrating Spiritualism was coming to light in that strange happenings were reported in the small town of Hydesville, New York State, USA, at the home of a farmer named Fox.  It transpired that previous occupants of the house had been disturbed, usually at night, by unexplained rapping noises.

The Fox Sisters

Kate Fox, the youngest daughter of the household, is reputed to have challenged the supposed spirit to repeat the number of times she snapped her fingers.  Having 'successfully established contact', a code was agreed upon in which the raps given would answer questions posed, one rap meaning 'yes', and two meaning 'no'.  The spirit identified itself as Mr Splitfoot, a peddler who had been murdered in the house -- a skeleton was dug up in the basement sometime later.

Later, Leah and Margaret Fox, sisters of Kate, publicly admitted at the New York Academy of Music that it was they who had caused the rapping noises with their toes, but later retracted this confession, claiming to have been bribed into making it.

In 1852, four years after the rapping sounds were first heard, a Spiritualist Convention was held in Cleveland which caused additional impetus to the movement, by means of assistance from Horace Greeley (1811 - 1872), editor of the 'New York Tribune'.

Amy and Isaac Post, Hicksite Quakers (the Hicksite–Orthodox split arose out of both ideological and socioeconomic tensions) from Rochester, New York, had long been acquainted with the Fox family, and took the girls into their home in the late spring of 1848.  Immediately convinced of the veracity of the sisters' communications, they became early converts and introduced the young mediums to their circle of radical Quaker friends; consequently, many early participants in Spiritualism were radical Quakers.

Achsa W Sprague (1827 - 1862, born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont was another famous female Spiritualist.  At the age of 20, she became ill with rheumatic fever and credited her eventual recovery to intercession by spirits. An extremely popular trance lecturer, she travelled about the United States until her death in 1861.

The most popular trance lecturer around this time was Cora Lodencia Veronica Scott (1840 - 1923).  Young and beautiful, her appearance on stage fascinated men.  Her audiences were struck by the contrast between her girlishness and the eloquence with which she spoke of spiritual matters, and found in that contrast support for the notion that spirits were speaking through her.

London-born Emma Hardinge Britten (1823 - 1899) moved to the United States in 1855 and was active in Spiritualist circles as a trance lecturer and organiser.  She is best known as a chronicler of the movement's spread, especially in her 1884 19th Century Miracles: Spirits and Their Work in Every Country of the Earth, and her 1870 Modern American Spiritualism, a detailed account of claims and investigations of mediumship beginning with the earliest days of the movement.

An American direct voice medium, Etta Wriedt (1859 - 1942), employed a trumpet in the darkness of the séance room which she claimed spirits would use to make noises and voices.  She was exposed as a fraud by the physicist Kristian Birkeland when he discovered that the noises produced by her trumpet were caused by chemical explosions induced by potassium and water and in other cases by lycopodium powder.

Mainly because of the emergence of the Fox sisters, who devoted much of their lives acting as mediums in the USA and England, the Spiritualist movement quickly spread throughout the world, though only in the United Kingdom did it become as widespread as in the United States.


United Kingdom

One medium of special interest in the 19th century CE was Daniel Dunglas Home (1833 - 1886).  Home started demonstrating his psychic powers from the age of thirteen, and continued to amaze people, including the aristocracy, up to his death.  He also healed people and was famous for his feats of levitation, witnessed in good light.  In 1868, one of his most legendary feats of levitation occurred during a séance in London when he demonstrated his abilities before a crowd of people, including Lords Adare and Linksay, by effortlessly floating across the room, passing out of an open third story window, and returning the same way.

William Stainton Moses (1839 - 1892) was an Anglican clergyman who, in the period from 1872 to 1883, filled 24 notebooks with automatic writing, much of which was said to describe conditions in the spirit world.  However, Frank Podmore (1856 - 1910), an influential member of the Society for Psychical Research, was skeptical of his alleged ability to communicate with spirits and Joseph McCabe (1867 - 1955) described Moses as a ‘deliberate impostor’, suggesting his apports and all of his feats were the result of trickery.

Adelma Vay (1840 - 1925), an Hungarian (by origin) spiritistic medium, homeopath and clairvoyant, authored many books about spiritism, written in German and translated into English.

The British medium William Eglinton (1857 - 1933) claimed to perform spiritualist phenomena such as movement of objects and materialisations.  All of his feats were exposed as tricks.

Mina Crandon (1888 - 1941), a spiritualist medium in the 1920s, was known for producing an ectoplasm hand during her séances.  The hand was later exposed as a trick when biologists found it to be made from a piece of carved animal liver.  In 1934, the psychical researcher Walter Franklin Prince (1863 - 1934) described the Crandon case as ‘the most ingenious, persistent, and fantastic complex of fraud in the history of psychic research’.

In 1928, photographer Harvey Metcalfe attended a series of séances at Helen Duncan's (1897 -1956) house and took flash photographs of her and her alleged ‘materialised’ spirits, including her spirit guide ‘Peggy’.  The photographs revealed the ‘spirits’ to have been fraudulently produced, using dolls made from painted papier-mâché masks and draped in old sheets.  Duncan was later tested by Harry Price (1881 - 1948) at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research; photographs revealed Duncan's ectoplasm to be made from cheesecloth, rubber gloves, and cut-out heads from magazine covers.

Doris Stokes

England's most renowned medium during the 1980s was probably Doris Stokes.  Born Doris Sutton in Grantham, Lincolnshire on 6 January 1920, Doris May Fisher Stokes claimed in her memoirs to have started seeing spirits and hearing disembodied voices in childhood, and was able to develop these abilities further after joining a local spiritualist church.  In 1949 the Spiritualists' National Union recognised her as a practicing clairaudient medium, but she was a controversial figure, some believing her to possess genuine psychic abilities, while skeptics argued that her performances amounted to nothing more than ‘cold reading’, a technique used by mentalists to create an illusion of clairvoyance.

After suffering a crisis of confidence in 1962, she gave up working as a medium to retrain as a psychiatric nurse.  However, she was forced to retire from this profession some five years later following an attack by a patient, and returned to psychic work, becoming the resident medium at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain in 1975.

She first came to the general public’s attention in 1978 during a visit to Australia, where she appeared on The Don Lane (an American-born Australian entertainer, talk show host and singer) Show.  The wave of interest generated following her appearance on this show saw her playing to three capacity audiences at the Sydney Opera House.  She was also the first medium to appear at the London Palladium, with tickets selling out within two hours.  Naturally she received much condemnation from the Church of England and other Christian denominations (as did anyone remotely connected to occult practices), which objected to spirit communication as an offence against God.

She was often accused of using various forms of deception to achieve the effect of communicating with the dead, including ‘cold reading’, ‘eavesdropping’, and ‘planting accomplices in the audience’.  Simon Hoggart, a columnist for the Guardian newspaper, claimed that her husband, John Stokes, would gather information from those who called requesting a sitting.  He would offer them free tickets for public performances, and pass on the information to his wife to be used during that particular show.

In her book Voices in my Ear, Doris Stokes claimed to have solved two murder cases in England.  This claim was disputed by Detective Chief Superintendent William Brooks of the Lancashire Constabulary who stated that she had contributed nothing whatsoever to the detection of either murder.  Similarly, in Beverly Hills, L.A., she claimed to have been in contact with a local murder victim, Vic Weiss, who had provided her with details of his murder.  However, a former magician and high-profile skeptic, James Randi, contacted the Los Angeles Police Department, who informed him that all of the information supplied by her had been freely available to the media at the time, and she had been unable to provide any new information -- the case remains unsolved.

Her seven volumes of autobiography document the various tests she underwent to determine the source of her information, including being subject to a lie detector test, and undergoing hypnosis to be questioned about her methods.

Her health had been poor throughout her life.  She underwent approximately thirteen cancer operations, including a mastectomy, and in April 1987, the removal of a brain tumour, from which she never regained consciousness.  She died in Lewisham on 8 May 1987, supposedly leaving the princely sum of £15,291.

At the end of her last memoir, completed before that final operation but not published until after her death, she reported hearing a disembodied voice saying to her, "Your life on Earth is over, your life in spirit has begun."

Doris Stokes was described in various ways: ‘an individual of great personal warmth’, ‘the Gracie Fields of the psychic world’, and ‘a ruthless moneymaking confidence artist’.  But despite this, her memoirs, public performances, and television appearances helped to raise the profile of spiritualism and promoted a resurgence of interest in psychic phenomena in the 1980s.


H. Leon Denizard Rivail (1804 - 1869), born in Lyon and raised as a Roman Catholic, pursued interests in philosophy and the sciences and completed a number of educational courses (a Bachelor of Arts degree in science and a doctorate in medicine).  He was clearly an extremely well-educated man and spoke several languages, German, English, Italian, and Spanish in addition to his native French.  His intellectual background led to his teaching astronomy, comparative physiology, chemistry and physics in a prestigious scientific school in Paris.

In 1854, at the age of 50, he heard of the mysterious paranormal phenomena that were taking America and Europe by storm.  He was a skeptic, but despite this, under the nom de plume of Allen Kardec, he was convinced by close friends to attend an experimental meeting where he was able to witness such occurrences first-hand.  His intellectual curiosity and scientific instincts told him there had to be a rational explanation for these 'happenings', as a result of which he began to conduct his own stringent investigations.

Using the same logical rigour that he applied to his work in education and science he set out to understand the phenomena, submitting questions to many different mediums in different countries.  The answers he received were then compared, analysed, and organised for inclusion in 'The Spirits’ Book', first published in 1857.


Eusapia Palladino (1854 - 1918) could move objects with just a glance, her mediumship manifesting itself at about the age of fourteen. Her mother had died in childbirth and her father when she was twelve, so she went to stay at the house of some friends. She was persuaded to sit at a table with some others one evening, when after ten minutes the table levitated, chairs began to dance, the curtains in the room began to swell, and glasses and bottles moved around of their own volition. Each of the sitters was tested in an attempt to discover the person responsible for these movements. Eventually it was decided that Eusapia was the medium, although she took no particular interest in the proceedings, and only consented to further sittings to please her hosts and thus avoid being sent to a convent. Throughout her career she toured Poland, England and France to demonstrate her abilities and convinced many persons of her powers. Nevertheless, Magicians, including Harry Houdini (1874 - 1926), and skeptics who evaluated her claims concluded that none of her phenomena were genuine and that she was just a very clever trickster.

Africa / Latin America

  • Lukumí / Macumba

    In Nigeria, the Ju-Ju tribe of the Yorùbá culture has a religion with 600 'gods'.  Since crossing to Cuba and Brazil on slave ships, we now find Lukumí (formerly Santeria), whereas in Brazil its name is 'Macumba'.  Lukumí originated in Cuba and was historically practised by descendants of West African slaves after their 'owners' purposely divided families and mixed members of different African ethnic groups as a way of maintaining control.  Later, in the early 18th century, the Spanish Catholic church allowed for the creation of societies called cabildos to provide means for entertainment and reconstruction of many aspects of ethnic heritage for both sides.  The slaves practised Yorùbá religious ceremonies in these cabildos, along with religious and secular traditions from other parts of Africa, combining their 'masters' Catholic saints with their own Orisha, which came to be known as Lukumí.

    Various explanations of the word Macumba include a 'musical instrument', the name of a Central African deity, and 'magick'.  It was the name used for all Bantu religious practices, mainly in Rio de Janeiro in the 19th Century.  Later, during the 20th century these practices re-aligned themselves into what are now called Umbanda, Quimbanda and Omoloko.  The word Macumba came into common usage throughout Brazil amongst the non-practicing population as a derogatory or sniping word meaning black witchcraft.

  • Voodoo

    The term Voodoo is applied to the branches of the West African Fon-Ewe people of Benin (formerly the Kingdom of Dahomey), where Vodun (Voodoo) is now the national religion of more than 7 million people.  The word Vodun translates into 'spirit'.  Since crossing on slave ships from Dahomey to Cuba and Brazil, we now find 'Voodoo' or 'Vadium' in Haiti, also known as 'Hoodoo' in Mississippi and New Orleans.  Voodoo is a religious system based mainly on Theist-Animist religious traditions which seek assistance and oracles from divine powers, but which now incorporates many other components and has been further developed through time and as circumstances dictated.

  • Umbanda

    Umbanda is a religion based on the worship of Angolan spirits.  It was brought to Brazil during the colonial period by African slaves from the Bantu tribes of Congo,and now incorporates other elements drawn from Brazilian popular culture.  Orixás (Gods), from the Yorùbá culture, are given token rule over the various legions of spirits, and associated with a Catholic saint under whose guidance the spirits work.  This association began during the time when African slaves in Brazil were persecuted by their 'owners' for practicing their religion.  Their solution was to hide the original worshipping objects representing the spiritual entities under different Catholic saints' statues, thus giving the slave owners the false impression that they were worshipping that particular saint, which possessed the same personality or qualities of the worshipped entity.

  • Candomblé

    Candomblé is an African religion, practiced chiefly in Brazil, which came from Africa via African priests and followers who were brought as slaves between 1549 and 1850.  The name Batuque is also used, but that was mainly prior to the 19th century when Candomblé became more common.  Both words are believed to derive from the Bantu language.

    Although originally confined to the slave population, banned by the Catholic church, and even criminalised by some governments, Candomblé thrived for over four centuries, expanding considerably after the end of slavery in the late 1800s.  It is now a major, established religion, with followers from all social classes and tens of thousands of temples.

    For about 2 million Brazilians (1.5% of the population) Candomblé is their established religion, a spiritualist religion worshipping a number of gods or spirits, derived from African deities possessing individual personalities, skills, and ritual preferences, and connected to specific natural phenomena.  Candomblé deities, rituals, and holidays are now an integral part of Brazilian folklore.

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The Society for Psychical Research (SPR)

In the years following the sensation that greeted the Fox sisters, demonstrations of mediumship such as séances and automatic writing, proved to be a profitable venture, and soon became popular forms of entertainment.  The Fox sisters were to earn a living through it and others followed their lead.  Showmanship became an increasingly important part of Spiritualism, the visible, audible, and tangible 'evidence of spirits' escalating as mediums vied for paying audiences.  Fraud was widespread during this period as independent investigating commissions repeatedly established, one of the most notable being the report commissioned by the University of Pennsylvania by the Seybert Commission published in 1887.  Some mediums, of course, were genuine, but what was needed was some kind of recorded scientific investigation either to prove or disprove it.

Frederick Myers, Professor Henry Sidgwick and Edmund Gurney formed an association of people interested in investigating paranormal claims, including Arthur (later to become Prime Minister) Balfour, his wife Eleanor and Lord Rayleigh.  In 1876 one of their first major investigations was of a medium by the name of Henry Slade who was later found guilty of deception.  They continued their investigations over the next six years during which they became associated with several other individuals also involved in investigating claims relating to the paranormal.

In 1882 a committee was formed resulting in the founding of the SPR with Henry Sidgwick (1838 - 1900) as its president.  The initial membership included friends of the original group such as Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898) and William Gladstone (1809 - 1898).  In addition to Sidgwick, some of its more notable former presidents include Prime Minister AJ Balfour, FWH Myers, the Nobel Laureate Charles Richet, Sir Alister Hardy and William James.

Other prominent members of the SPR included Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Sir Oliver Lodge, Harry Houdini, Harry Price (see below) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930), best known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and knighted in 1902.  At the age of nine, Doyle was sent to a Jesuit boarding school in England where he remained until he graduated at the age of 17.  Having decided to pursue a medical career, he gained his 'Bachelor of Medicine & Master of Surgery' degree in 1881.  He was introduced to the occult whilst working as a physician in Southsea (adjacent to Portsmouth on the south coast of England) by General Drayson, one of his patients, who invited him to take part in a table turning sitting at his house.  He was amazed by what he saw and heard, so much so that he continued to attend these sittings on a regular basis throughout the years 1885 - 1888.

His skeptical interest was aroused to such a point that he eventually joined the SPR, where he was to begin a series of experiments into telepathy with a lady by the name of Mrs Ball, during which he became totally convinced that her telepathic abilities were genuine.  He continued his investigations into paranormal/psychic phenomena for approximately 30 years before finally associating himself with a belief in Spiritualism through his book The New Revelation.  His most famous work on this subject is a two-volume set of books titled The History of Spiritualism.

In 1922 the SPR became involved in a well-documented scandal surrounding William Hope (1863 - 1933), a spirit photographer, whom Sir Arthur defended fervently. His defence of Hope caused deep divisions within the society, which eventually came to a head when the honour of a close friend of Sir Arthur's was compromised by the SPR. Soon after this event he resigned, as did many other members of the time.

However, this was not the end of his association with Spiritualism, for in 1925 he was nominated honorary president at the International Spiritualist Congress in Paris, and he also became president of the London Spiritualist Alliance.

Harry Price (1881 - 1948) was another well-known member of the SPR.  When he joined in 1920, his career as Britain’s most famous ghost investigator had already begun.  He had spent countless hours at supposed haunted houses, and investigating Spiritualist mediums.  He was also an expert magician and made a name for himself within the SPR for using his magic skills to debunk fraudulent psychics, which at the time seems to have been the main objective of SPR investigations.

One of his most celebrated ‘frauds’ was William Hope, the spirit photographer, mentioned earlier, who had been defended by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The relationship between Price and the society became strained after this, so much so that in 1923 he left the SPR and founded the National Laboratory for Psychical Research.  This later became the University of London Council for Psychical Investigation of which he was Honorary Secretary and Editor.

The SPR was the forerunner of many other societies of this nature which were to follow, and is still in existence today, as is its sister society formed in the USA in 1885.  It continues to research and investigate, as well as trying to understand events and/or abilities described as ‘paranormal’ or ‘psychic’.

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Other Methods of Communication with Spirits

Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) is basically a ‘catch-all’ expression for the alleged ability of certain individuals to receive transmitted thoughts from others, and vice versa, to ‘see’ what will happen in the future, or to be able to move objects from one place to another without physical contact.  These especially gifted people are called psychics or sensitives.  It is supposed that we all possess this ability to some degree but that without the proper development, it remains ‘hidden’.

Human beings have always been attracted to the whole spectrum of supernatural phenomena, and thus ESP will always continue to fascinate us.  This becomes patently obvious when we see just how much of the media is dedicated to the topic; magazines, journals, web sites, television and radio programmes.  Some of the most successful films in recent years have fuelled an interest amongst the younger generations who are starting to ask the same questions and to look for explanations for the same phenomena as their parents and grandparents before them.

One day we might just find these answers because one thing we can be sure of is 'The truth is out there somewhere!' (To coin a phrase from a well-known TV series).

The Ouija, also known as a spirit board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9, the words ‘yes’, ‘no, occasionally ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, along with various symbols and graphics.

It uses a planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic) as a movable indicator to spell out messages during a séance.  Participants place their fingers on the planchette, and it is moved about the board to spell out words.  ‘Ouija’ is a trademark of Hasbro, but is often used generically to refer to any ‘talking board’.

Paranormal and supernatural beliefs associated with Ouija have been criticised by the scientific community and are characterised as pseudoscience.  The action of the board can be parsimoniously explained by unconscious movements of those controlling the pointer, a psychophysiological phenomenon known as the ideomotor effect.

Some Christian denominations have warned against using Ouija boards in the opinion that they can lead to demonic possession.  Occultists, on the other hand, are divided on the issue, with some saying that it can be a tool for positive transformation, while others reiterate the warnings of many Christians and caution inexperienced users against it.

Extra Sensory Perception (ESP)

Extra Sensory Perception, or ESP, is a collective term describing communication or perception by means of other than our five physical senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, i.e. a sixth sense.  Joseph Banks Rhine (1895 - 1980), Professor of Psychology at Duke University in the USA, conducted thousands of experiments producing statistical evidence of the existence of a telepathic function in some individuals, and coined the term ESP (also referred to as psi after the 'agent' through which the mind is able to receive the ESP impressions).

Rhine used Zener cards when conducting his experiments, designed in the early 1930s by one of his colleagues, the perceptual psychologist Karl Zener (1903 - 1964).  They consisted of five designs (now generally described as ESP symbols) these being a plus sign, a square, a circle, s set of three wavy lines and a five-pointed star.  The symbols were printed in black ink, on cards similar in size to, and resembling, playing cards.

His experiments were of a simple design in that the subject had to try to guess or call the order of the five symbols when they were arranged at random in a deck of 25 ESP cards.

The chance of calling a card correctly was clearly one in five, which made it possible to calculate how often a particular score was likely to occur by chance in a given number of calls.  Rhine argued that when a subject recorded a high score which could be expected by chance only once in a thousand tries, or once in a million, they displayed extrachance results, or ESP.

In addition to Rhine's experiments, the Ganzfeld (a German word meaning 'complete field') experiments, originated by the German psychologist Wolfgang Metzger (1899 - 1979), are considered to have been the most carefully scrutinised ESP experiments.  Alleged psychics had their eyes covered and ears blocked while a ‘sender’ attempted to transmit messages to them.  Later the psychics would compare the messages received with those sent out.  There was a great deal of excitement and interest at the time but the research failed to produce any convincing results.  There was a great deal of excitement and interest at the time but the research failed to produce any convincing results.

Coming more up to date, computer games have increasingly been used to test ESP, the computer being programmed in such a way that a random series determines the targets, while the subjects attempt to 'outguess' the computer.

There are distinct differences between ESP and mediumship, although some do class mediumship as ESP.  One argument against is the fact that ESP is a partial or complete correspondence between the mental patterns of two persons, i.e. the ‘transmitter’ and the ‘receiver’.  In mediumship the information to be received is often unknown by the sitter, but in the absence of a ‘transmitter’ the ESP explanation does not fit what is happening in mediumship – unless we agree that the ‘transmitter’ is in the ‘Spirit World’.

Some people accept and firmly believe in ESP while others are completely sceptical, one of their strongest criticisms against it being that in order for it to exist, the fundamental laws of physics would have to be broken –- but the laws of physics as we know them are only those that we know!  Parapsychologists, however, dedicated to scientifically studying claims of this ability, provide credibility to the subject, and have identified four distinct types of ESP:

  • Clairvoyance

    This is a French word meaning ‘clear seeing’.  It is a paranormal mode of perception in which visual images are presented to the conscious mind.  The perception may be of objects, people and/or scenes from the present, past or future.  The clairvoyant experience may be spontaneous or induced through meditation, scrying or other methods of divination.

    Clairaudience falls within this category, another French word meaning ‘clear hearing’ and describing the ability to hear sounds removed from our natural hearing conditions or the environment.  Parapsychology refers to clairaudience as extra-sensory information received as sound.  To someone experiencing this it is as if another person’s voice is being heard orally.  The sound, however, is not audible and the physical ear does not receive it.  It is closely allied to clairvoyance but the impressions are heard rather than seen.  Consequently, it could be likened to hearing with the spiritual ear or mental hearing.

  • Telepathy

    Frederic William Henry Myers (1843–1901), a co-founder of the SPR, coined the term ‘telepathy’ during his research into the possibilities of thought transference.  He defined it as ‘transmission of thought independently of the recognised channels of sense’.

    Telepathy is the communication between minds by means other than normal sensory channels, i.e. the transference of thought without the use of speech, gestures or other physical means.  Telepathy could be described as mind-to-mind communication, a means of obtaining the mental state or thought of another person existing in the 'here' or 'hereafter'.

  • Precognition

    This is the term applied to having knowledge of something that has not yet happened, to see into the future, especially by extra sensory perception (clairvoyance).

    Retrocognition is the opposite of Precognition in that it is the ability to see into the distant past.

  • Psychometry

    This is the ability to glean information about a person or a place just by touching or holding a physical object that is somehow 'linked' to that person or place.

    There is another possible fifth element to ESP - again, some say it is while others dispute it.  Nevertheless, it is certainly worth mentioning:

    Psychokinesis (P.K.)

    This is a term used in parapsychology to describe the ability to influence an inanimate physical object just by thinking about it, i.e. by exercising psychic powers.

So, ESP is basically a ‘catch-all’ expression for the alleged ability of certain individuals to receive transmitted thoughts from others, and vice versa, to ‘see’ what will happen in the future, or to be able to move objects from one place to another without physical contact.  These especially gifted people are called psychics or sensitives.  It is supposed that we all possess this ability to some degree but that without the proper development, it remains ‘hidden’.

Human beings have always been attracted to the whole spectrum of supernatural phenomena, and thus ESP will always continue to fascinate us.  This becomes patently obvious when we see just how much of the media is dedicated to the topic; magazines, journals, web sites, television and radio programmes.  Some of the most successful films in recent years have fuelled an interest amongst the younger generations who are starting to ask the same questions and to look for explanations for the same phenomena as their parents and grandparents before them.

One day we might just find these answers because one thing we can be sure of is the truth is out there somewhere!  (To coin a phrase from a well-known TV series).

The Ouija Board

Another method of contacting the dead is via a Ouija/Spirit Board, still in common use today.  Prior to the Ouija board, a small basket with a pencil attached to one end was the means used to get 'written answers' from the spirit world.  The medium would touch the basket to establish contact, at which stage the 'spirit' took over and wrote a message.  The 'pencil basket' soon evolved into a heart-shaped planchette; this had two rotating casters as legs, plus a pencil at its tip which formed the third leg.

Not long after the planchette’s appearance, an astonishing new development known as the 'talking board' arrived on the scene, the first patent for which was filed on 28 May 1890.  It was eventually granted on 10 February 1891 showing Elijah J. Bond as the inventor, with the assignees as Charles W. Kennard and William H.A Maupin, all from Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Charles Kennard called the new board 'Ouija' (pronounced wE-ja) supposedly after the Egyptian word for good luck.  Unfortunately for Kennard, Ouija is not Egyptian for good luck.  It is thought that the name more likely derived from the Moroccan city Oujda (also spelled Oujida and Oudjda), but even non-linguists are aware that the word ouija is also a concatenation of the French and German words for 'yes' - 'oui' and 'ja' (short for 'jawohl').

Resurgence in sales of Ouija boards came about in the 1960s with a revival of interest in all things occult and metaphysical.  Consequently, they were sold in many countries as a board game.  Still very popular today, Ouija boards are small boards, simple in design, on which the letters of the alphabet are inscribed along with the numbers 0 to 9; some may also bear the words 'YES', 'NO', 'GOOD BYE' and 'MAYBE'.  The Ouija board is used to try to establish contact with the souls of the departed.  Participants sit around a table, the focal point being the board in the centre of the table.  They place their hands on a 'pointer' (basically a small planchette) or 'inverted glass', then should contact be made the pointer or glass will move around the board spelling out answers to questions put to the spirit.  Persons of a nervous disposition can be easily frightened when using a Ouija board, so it is suggested they avoid them.

Some users are firmly convinced that a paranormal or supernatural force is at work when spelling out the answers.  Sceptics, on the other hand, believe that it is the participants themselves who, either consciously or unconsciously, move the pointer or glass to the appropriate letters to ensure they get the answer they want.  Only those actually involved know the truth.

There is supposedly ‘evidence’ to suggest that using a Ouija board can open one up in terms of sensitivity, but bear in mind that if using a Ouija board is equivalent to opening a door into the unknown, then it should be understood that whoever is using the board has no control as to who might walk through that door and into his or her life.  Instead of a kind and helpful spirit it just might be a malevolent one.

Some users are firmly convinced that a paranormal or supernatural force is at work when spelling out the answers.  SKeptics, on the other hand, believe that it is the participants themselves who, either consciously or unconsciously, move the pointer or glass to the appropriate letters to ensure they get the answer they want.  Only those actually involved know the truth.

There is supposedly ‘evidence’ to suggest that using a Ouija board can open one up in terms of sensitivity, but bear in mind that if using a Ouija board is equivalent to opening a door into the unknown, then it should be understood that whoever is using the board has no control as to who or what might walk through that door and into his or her life.  Instead of a kind and helpful spirit it just might be a malevolent one.

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Useful Information

Spiritualists' National Union (SNU)

What is the SNU?  The SNU invites Spiritualists to join in its aims to help bring Spiritualism, as based on the Seven Principles, to the awareness of millions of people.  Working together, the SNU has gained legal recognition for Spiritualism and helped to turn spirit communication away from an illegal activity into one acceptable in the eyes of the law.  Day by day Spiritualism and spirit communication is helping to remove the fear of death and opening up new understanding to the people.  But there is still much work to do.  For more information, logon to the SNU Website, or contact them:

Stansted Hall
CM24 8UD

Tel: 01279 816363 or 0845 4580768 (local rate call)
Fax: 01279 812034

Certified Mediums & Approved Healers

Private Sittings are where a medium attempts Spirit Communication for the sitter, in private.  Results can never be guaranteed but most people are normally very happy with their sitting.  However, should you be dissatisfied you should ask for your fee to be refunded.  A Private Sitting should be both evidential in nature and an enjoyable experience.  A full list of SNU certified mediums can be found on

Certain people called Spiritualist Healers are able to channel spiritual healing energies to help those who are sick.  The SNU's healers work with the help of spirit healing guides and spirit helpers.  At Spiritualist churches and centres throughout the country, services of healing are offered which are open to the public.  A list of SNU approved Spiritualist Healers can also be found on the SNU website.


A medium is a person whom Spiritualists firmly believe is able to see, hear or sense beings in the spirit world, and who carries messages from that world to this and vice versa.  This ability of mediums is said to be the result of enhanced natural powers as opposed to supernatural gifts.  A medium is especially sensitive to the vibrations of the spirit world.

To become a medium, Spiritualists say you need to develop an extremely high level of sensitivity and understanding, and to some extent be able to control the mind.  Mediums go into a meditative state in order to shut out the everyday world.

Mental mediumship

Mental mediumship occurs when a spirit sends messages through the mind of the medium.  This can produce phenomena such as:
  • Clairvoyance: Seeing spirits
  • Clairaudience: Hearing spirits
  • Clairsentience: Sensing spirits in some other way

Physical mediumship

Physical mediumship occurs when a spirit materialises or speaks through the medium.  This may involve phenomena such as rapping and levitation, spirit voices and the production of ectoplasm (Ectoplasm, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is 'A viscous substance which is supposed to emanate from the body of a spiritualistic medium, and to develop into a human form or face.')  A medium may work in a trance state in which a spirit 'takes over' the medium to communicate directly with the people present.

Mediums are not fortune-tellers, but Spiritualists believe that the messages sent by spirit beings may give some idea of the future.  According to the National Association of Spiritualist Churches (NASC), an inhabitant of the Spirit World can, to a certain degree, predict future events with greater or less accuracy, depending upon conditions.  This is done by reasoning based on observation of past and present conditions and events, and is more accurate than is the same process as used by us.  This is because the Spirit reasoner is not hampered by a physical body, nor by the conventional and set ideas that go with the limitations of such a body.

Spiritualist Churches

At Spiritualist church services, a portion of the time is spent with mediums linking with the spirit world and communicating with spirit people.  This aims to prove that those you used to love, and obviously still do, i.e. close friends and family, do live on albeit in another dimension, and that they are still connected to you by a bond of friendship and love.

Most major towns in the UK have a Spiritualist Church, a full list of which can be found on the SNU Website (a specific search 'by country' in Google or any other recognised search engine will show other Spiritualist Churches throughout the world).  You do not have to join a Spiritualist Church or make prior arrangements to attend its Sunday service, normally at 6.30 p.m.

Beware of Cold Reading

Cold reading is a technique used by psychics, interrogators, hypnotists, graphologists, palmists, astrologers etc., to convince another person that they know much more about them than they actually do.  The 'cold reader' will make several vague statements and observe the subject's reactions.  He/she will then refine the original statements according to those reactions.

I have attended several 'evenings of clairvoyance' at Spiritualist Churches.  The speaker, or clairvoyant, will sit on the stage observing the audience for mannerisms, and obvious aches and pains etc., while hymns are sung and prayers said, before commencing his/her performance.  On the few occasions when I have been 'chosen' I have deliberately led the speaker on simply to observe cold reading firsthand, agreeing with almost everything I have been told.  Names, occurrences etc., are completely ambiguous and could apply to anyone, and when it is established they are 'not related to you' will be turned around and 'related to someone you know or knew', or even to 'someone you know or knew' who knows or knew whatever it was.  Then when a dog or a cat or some other unnamed pet from the past is 'brought in' try not to fall asleep; after all, who didn't have a dog or a cat at some time or other in their life?

A cold reader is patently obvious and anything you are told should be taken with a 'pinch of salt', otherwise some of what you hear could be worrying, even frightening for those of a lesser disposition.  Even so, many people gain solace from what they are told, which in itself is probably harmless and may even help to overcome whatever barrier is obstructing them.

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Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951

The passing of the Fraudulent Mediums' Act in 1951 removed genuine mediums from the previous provisions of the Witchcraft Act 1735 and from s.4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824, thereby enabling Spiritualists to practice their religion openly and legally.

The Act

(14 and 15 Geo 6 c 33)

An Act to repeal the Witchcraft Act 1735 and to make, in substitution for certain provisions of section four of the Vagrancy Act 1824, express provision for the punishment of persons who fraudulently purport to act as spiritualistic mediums or to exercise powers of telepathy, clairvoyance or other similar powers (22 June 1951).

  1. Punishment of fraudulent mediums, etc.
    1. Subject to the provisions of this section, any person who:
      1. with intent to deceive purports to act as a spiritualistic medium or to exercise any powers of telepathy, clairvoyance or other similar powers, or
      2. in purporting to act as a spiritualistic medium or to exercise such powers as aforesaid, uses any fraudulent device, shall be guilty of an offence.

    2. A person shall not be convicted of an offence under the foregoing subsection unless it is proved that he acted for reward; and for the purposes of this section a person shall be deemed to act for reward if any money is paid, or other valuable thing given, in respect of what he does, whether to him or to any other person.
    3. A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding (the prescribed sum) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding four months or to both such fine and such imprisonment, or on conviction on indictment to a fine ... or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both such fine and such imprisonment.
    4. No proceedings for an offence under this section shall be brought in England or Wales except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
    5. Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall apply to anything done solely for the purpose of entertainment.

  2. Repeals

    The following enactments are hereby repealed, that is to say:

    1. the Witchcraft Act 1735, so far as still in force, and
    2. section four of the Vagrancy Act 1824 so far as it extends to persons purporting to act as spiritualistic mediums or to exercise any powers of telepathy, clairvoyance or other similar powers, or to persons who, in purporting so to act or to exercise such powers, use fraudulent devices.

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