Have you ever driven past a building with a sign on the lawn that read, “First Spiritualist Church”? It may call itself a church, but it is not Christian—by any stretch of the Christian theological imagination.
On March 31, 1848, the two Fox sisters (Margaretta—14 years old, and Katie—12 years old) were visited by “Mr. Splitfoot.” Mr. Splitfoot was a spirit who thrilled the young girls by answering their questions with “rappings.” For example, one of the girls said, “Now, do just as I do. Count one, two, three, four” (she clapped her hands as she spoke). The spirit answered by rapping the same number of claps. Public demonstrations followed, and the audiences grew to such an extent that they needed larger meeting places. On November 14, 1849, the mediums Margaretta and Katie held the first Spiritualist meeting in Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York.
From that point on, Spiritualist phenomena captured the attention of thousands of people, as is evidenced by the springing up of psychical research societies throughout Europe and the United States. Even at Duke University in 1927, J. B. Rhine conducted experiments to investigate psychic phenomena. Many of these societies, as well as others that have surfaced since, exist today. Needless to say, with the rise of these societies, churches were formed to give the faithful a place to express belief in psychic phenomena.
Practices of Spiritualism
I have attended several meetings of Spiritualist churches (do not do this unless you are called of God to do so). In these meetings certain spirit phenomena occur. Those who lead the meetings are Spiritualist ministers and have been trained as mediums. Mediums serve to bring spirits and their accompanying phenomena to those attending. In this way they serve as “mediators” between the realm of the flesh and the realm of the spirit.
Doing so involves different skills on the part of the medium. Clairvoyance (“clear seeing” or “soul seeing”) allows the medium to see the spirit realm (or spirits) and to convey messages from the spirit realm to attendees of the service. Clairaudience means “clear hearing,” where sprit entities interchange thoughts with the medium. The medium in turn gives the message to individuals at the meeting. Clairsentience is the practice by which the medium senses a contact with the spirit realm. This is sometimes called “the sixth sense.”
Perhaps the most exciting event that occurs at either Spiritualist meetings or séances is when “ectoplasm,” a living material substance sometimes described as a milky white substance, exudes from the body of the medium (and those attending the séance) and lifts tables and other objects (levitation). The most sensational form of this comes about when the ectoplasm attaches itself to an actual spirit (a deceased relative), who thereby establishes contact with those at the séance. This is called “materialization.”
The Theology of Spiritualism
When Jesus appeared to hundreds of people after His death, He “materialized.” There is no resurrection. There is materialization. In this sense Jesus became the spirit guide of His disciples and could materialize and dematerialize at will.
Its doctrine of God is panentheistic. Panentheism teaches that God is “in” the world in the sense that just as the soul is in the body, so God is in the world. The world is, then, God’s body. God is therefore an impersonal infinite intelligence that pervades the world.
Further, “Jesus Christ was not ‘Alimighty God,’ ” but was simply a man (Spiritualism denies the virgin birth). Spiritualism tacitly rejects the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Also, Jesus is one of many Christs, one of many people that have come into the world to enlighten the world. Beware, though, that Spiritualists affirm the “divinity” of Jesus. But they do not mean this in the biblical sense. Instead, Jesus was divine as every child of God is divine. Spiritualists will even say Jesus is unique, in that He was the greatest medium that ever lived.
Related to this is the Spiritualist teaching that Jesus and “the Christ” are separate entities. Christ is an impersonal “principle of divine love.” Jesus was a man who embodied and expressed this principle.
The Holy Spirit is not a person. It is “spirit power” or “spirit control.” Thus, when we read in the Bible that the Holy Spirit came upon believers, it was simply a manifestation of people coming under the control of some kind of spirit guide.
As for humanity, Spiritualism affirms the spark of divinity in every person. Each person contains all that God is.
What is salvation? Man is his own savior, and there is no need for the vicarious blood atonement of Jesus Christ. Heaven and hell are states of mind, states of consciousness for which we are responsible. The Spiritualist view of the afterlife is one of transition from the earth plane to the spirit plane. “There is no death,” says the Spiritualist, “only transition to that plane where there eventually will be pure spiritual bliss and where God is love and love is God.”
The spirits of dead relatives are not dead relatives. Either they are the product of the imagination or they are demons. Jesus is the unique Son of God, the Christ, second person of the Trinity. He gave Himself in substitutionary atonement for His people. He is not a medium. He condemns mediums (see Lev. 19:31; 20:6). He was bodily resurrected, and was not a materialized spirit. God is tri-personal, not some impersonal soul whom the world embodies. Humanity is sinful, not divine. Humanity is therefore in need of a personal Savior, Jesus. Finally, heaven and hell are real, and are two places where all people go after death, depending on whether or not one believes in the biblical Christ.