What is Spiritualism?

Webster's definition:

The belief that the dead survive as spirits which can communicate with the living, especially with the help of a third party, called a medium.


The National Spiritualist Association of Churches definition: The science, philosophy and religion of continuous life, based upon the demonstrated fact of communication, by means of medium ship, with those who live in the Spirit World.



"The world of the spirits, hell and heaven, were open to me with full conviction."**

            ~Emanuel Swedenborg



    The spiritualist movement did not just start with the Fox sisters, but also Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).  He was the first person in the modern era that contributed to spiritualism, though no name was attached to his belief.  Accounts written in his journal tell of his experiences of being  visited by spirits in his dreams and having visions while awake.  His the spirits in his visions and dreams varied from biblical characters, popes, kings, and saints.  The most famous product of Swedneborg's belief was "Heaven and Its Wonders of Hell" (Carroll 17).  This spirit world was organized in seven ascending spheres, and was categorized by spiritual status.  The upper three spheres of heaven, the lower three spheres of hell, and the fourth sphere was "occupied by spirits and their earthly life" (Carroll 18).


    The second person in the modern era contributing to Spiritualism was Andrew Jackson Davis.  In 1847, a year before the Fox Sisters, Davis retired to a hill to connect to his "spiritual guide."  His guide was said to be the late Swedenborg.  Davis had very little formal education, but he taught people about spiritualism and dictated several books.


He was said to be the "John the Baptist" of Modern Spiritualism.  On the March 31 1848, it is claimed that these 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."


    Spiritualism is a basically a belief that a person's personality can surpass death and can connect with the human world through mediums.  A Spiritualist also believes that souls of the dead still take part in the living world and in human daily lives.  Though some can communicate with the deceased, not everyone who practices Spiritualism is a medium.


Some spiritualist try to tie in Jesus into their belief.  They claim that Jesus himself was a Spiritualist, because he answered to God a spirit.  Spiritualist have also claimed that the disciples were spiritualists because Jesus showed himself in the form of a spirit different times  after his resurrection in the New Testament.


Not every Spiritualist believes the same thing, just as different denominations of Christianity have different belief systems.  For further information I suggest you check out the links page.


**Carroll 17




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Page created by Ashley Fields

Religion In America (History 338)

Georgetown College



Last updated: 3-22-01