Spiritualism
Overview
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, postulating the belief that spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

s of the dead residing in the spirit world
Spirit world (spiritualism)
The spirit world, according to Spiritualism, is the world inhabited by spirits. Though a concept of a spirit world is in the constitution of most religions, it is not "itself the religion". Whereas religion regards an inner life, the spirit world is regarded as an external environment for spirits...

 have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. Anyone may receive spirit messages, but formal communication sessions (séance
Séance
A séance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma"...

s) are held by "medium
Mediumship
Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

s", who can then provide information about the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

.

Spiritualism developed and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-language countries
Anglosphere
Anglosphere is a neologism which refers to those nations with English as the most common language. The term can be used more specifically to refer to those nations which share certain characteristics within their cultures based on a linguistic heritage, through being former British colonies...

, By 1897, it was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, mostly drawn from the middle
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 and upper class
Upper class
In social science, the "upper class" is the group of people at the top of a social hierarchy. Members of an upper class may have great power over the allocation of resources and governmental policy in their area.- Historical meaning :...

es, while the corresponding movement in continental Europe and Latin America is known as Spiritism
Spiritism
Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

.

The religion flourished for a half century without canonical texts or formal organization, 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
Women's suffrage
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or...

.
Encyclopedia
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, postulating the belief that spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

s of the dead residing in the spirit world
Spirit world (spiritualism)
The spirit world, according to Spiritualism, is the world inhabited by spirits. Though a concept of a spirit world is in the constitution of most religions, it is not "itself the religion". Whereas religion regards an inner life, the spirit world is regarded as an external environment for spirits...

 have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. Anyone may receive spirit messages, but formal communication sessions (séance
Séance
A séance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma"...

s) are held by "medium
Mediumship
Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

s", who can then provide information about the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

.

Spiritualism developed and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-language countries
Anglosphere
Anglosphere is a neologism which refers to those nations with English as the most common language. The term can be used more specifically to refer to those nations which share certain characteristics within their cultures based on a linguistic heritage, through being former British colonies...

, By 1897, it was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, mostly drawn from the middle
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 and upper class
Upper class
In social science, the "upper class" is the group of people at the top of a social hierarchy. Members of an upper class may have great power over the allocation of resources and governmental policy in their area.- Historical meaning :...

es, while the corresponding movement in continental Europe and Latin America is known as Spiritism
Spiritism
Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

.

The religion flourished for a half century without canonical texts or formal organization, 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
Women's suffrage
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or...

. By the late 1880s the credibility of the informal movement had weakened due to accusations of fraud being perpetrated by mediums, and formal Spiritualist organizations began to appear. Spiritualism is currently practiced primarily through various denominational Spiritualist Church
Spiritualist Church
A Spiritualist church is a church affiliated with the informal Spiritualist movement which began in the United States of America in the 1840s. Spiritualist churches are now found around the world, but are most common in English-speaking countries, while in Latin America, where a form of...

es in the United States and United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

.

Beliefs

Although various Spiritualist traditions have their own beliefs, known as Principles, there are some shared concepts:
  • A belief in spirit communication.
  • A belief that the soul continues to exist after the death of the physical body.
  • Personal responsibility for life circumstances.
  • Even after death it is possible for the soul to learn and improve
  • A belief in a God
    God
    God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

    , often referred to as "Infinite Intelligence".
  • The natural world considered as an expression of said intelligence.

Mediumship and spirits

Spiritualists believe in communicating with the spirits of discarnate humans. They believe that spirit mediums
Mediumship
Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

 are humans gifted to do this, often through seances. 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. The afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

 is not a static place, but one in which spirits evolve. The two beliefs—that contact with spirits is possible, and that spirits may lie on a higher plane—lead to a third belief, that spirits can provide knowledge about moral and ethical issues, as well as about God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 and the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

. Thus many members speak of spirit guides—specific spirits, often contacted, relied upon for worldly and spiritual guidance.

Compared with other religions

Christianity
As Spiritualism emerged in a Christian environment, it has features in common with Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, ranging from an essentially Christian moral system to practices such as Sunday services and the singing of hymns. Nevertheless, on significant points Christianity and Spiritualism are different. Spiritualists do not believe that the works or faith of a mortal during a brief lifetime can serve as a basis for assigning a soul to an eternity of Heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

 or Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

; they view the afterlife as containing hierarchical "spheres", through which each spirit can progress. Spiritualists differ from Protestant Christians in that the Judeo-Christian Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 is not the primary source from which they derive knowledge of God and the afterlife: for them, their personal contacts with spirits provide that.

Christians, generally speaking, accept and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for all the sins of all humanity from the dawn of time to eternity. The great majority of Spiritualists do not accept that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was to pay for all of humanity's sins. Instead, they believe that each individual is personally responsible and may have to answer for all of their own thoughts, words, and deeds after death upon their return to the spirit realms.

In the same way that Christians have the guidance of the Ten Commandments
Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue , are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry,...

, Spiritualists follow a number of principles, which are different depending on the tradition followed.

There are quite a number of Spiritualist churches which are explicitly Christian in theology, forms of worship and praise, and liturgical orientation. Among these Christian Spiritualist groups are the historically African American denominations collectively known as the Spiritual Church Movement
Spiritual church movement
The spiritual church movement is an informal name for a group of loosely allied and also independent Spiritualist churches and Spiritualist denominations that have in common the fact that they have been historically based in the African American community. Many of them owe their origin to the...

, a group which includes multi-church organizations such as the Metropolitan Spiritual Churches of Christ, and Pentecostal Spiritual Assemblies of Christ International.

Judaism
It is held by some adherents of the Jewish religion that Spiritualism is strictly forbidden by the Bible (Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

). In Leviticus
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

, one of the books concerning God's laws to Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

, it is written that God says: "I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people." (Leviticus 20:6).

On the other hand, among Jews who are inclined toward Spiritualism it is common to refer to trance mediumship as "prophecy," a "vision," or a "dream," and to cite as a counter-text the verse from Numbers 12:6 in which God says, "Hear my words: If there be among you a prophet of the Lord, I will appear to him in a vision, or I will speak to him in a dream."

Islam
Within Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, certain traditions, notably Sufism
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

, consider communication with spirits possible. Additionally, the concept of Tawassul
Tawassul
Tawassul is the Islamic understanding of intercession. It is a religious practice in which a Muslim seeks nearness to Allah. A rough translation would be: "To draw near to what one seeks after and to approach that which one desires." The exact definition and method of tawassul is a matter of...

 recognises the existence of Good Spirits on a Higher Plane
Higher Plane
-Track listing:# "Higher Plane"# "People Get Ready"# "By My Side"# "The Spirit Might Come - On And On"# "Where Love Rules"# "Amazing Grace"# "His Name Is Jesus"# "Battle Hymn Of The Republic"# "Rock Of Ages"# "The Old Rugged Cross"# "Morningstar"...

 of existence closer to God, and thus able to intercede on behalf of humanity.

Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, though heterogeneous, shares with Spiritualism a belief in the existence of the soul after death and also the belief of ghosts or spirits. Hinduism teaches both reincarnation
Reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...

 and ghosts, as Hindus believe that if a person were to die at an early age, such as by suicide or unnatural death, the spirit then roams the earth until their natural date of death. The spirit is only then reincarnated into its next physical form.

Spiritism
Spiritism
Spiritism
Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

, the branch of Spiritualism developed by Allan Kardec
Allan Kardec
Allan Kardec is the pen name of the French teacher and educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail . He is known today as the systematizer of Spiritism for which he laid the foundation with the five books of the Spiritist Codification.-Early life:Rivail was born in Lyon in 1804...

 and today found mostly in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, has emphasised reincarnation. According to Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...

, most British Spiritualists of the early 20th century were indifferent to the doctrine of reincarnation, few supported it, while a significant minority were opposed, since it had never been mentioned by spirits contacted in séances. Thus, according to Doyle, it is the empirical bent of Anglophone
English-speaking world
The English-speaking world consists of those countries or regions that use the English language to one degree or another. For more information, please see:Lists:* List of countries by English-speaking population...

 Spiritualism—its effort to develop religious views from observation of phenomena, that kept Spiritualists of this period from embracing reincarnation.

Occult
Spiritualism also differs from occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

 movements, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a magical order active in Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which practiced theurgy and spiritual development...

 or the contemporary Wicca
Wicca
Wicca , is a modern Pagan religious movement. Developing in England in the first half of the 20th century, Wicca was popularised in the 1950s and early 1960s by a Wiccan High Priest named Gerald Gardner, who at the time called it the "witch cult" and "witchcraft," and its adherents "the Wica."...

n covens, in that spirits are not contacted to obtain magical powers (with the exception of power for healing). For example, Madame Blavatsky
Madame Blavatsky
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky , was a theosophist, writer and traveler. Between 1848 and 1875 Blavatsky had gone around the world three times. In 1875, Blavatsky together with Colonel H. S. Olcott established the Theosophical Society...

 (1831–91), the founder of the Theosophical Society
Theosophical Society
The Theosophical Society is an organization formed in 1875 to advance the spiritual principles and search for Truth known as Theosophy. The original organization, after splits and realignments has several successors...

, only practiced mediumship to contact powerful spirits capable of conferring esoteric knowledge. Blavatsky did not believe these spirits were deceased humans, and held beliefs in reincarnation different from the views of most Spiritualists. Spiritualists at that time viewed Theosophy
Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

 as unscientific and both occultist and cult-like. Theosophists viewed Spiritualism as unsophisticated and uncosmopolitan.

Origins

Spiritualism first appeared in the 1840s in the "Burned-over District
Burned-over district
"Burned-over district" refers to the religious scene in western and central region of New York, in the early 19th century, where religious revivals and Pentecostal movements of the Second Great Awakening took place....

" of upstate New York
Upstate New York
Upstate New York is the region of the U.S. state of New York that is located north of the core of the New York metropolitan area.-Definition:There is no clear or official boundary between Upstate New York and Downstate New York...

, where earlier religious movements such as Millerism, and Mormonism
Mormonism
Mormonism is the religion practiced by Mormons, and is the predominant religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement. This movement was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. beginning in the 1820s as a form of Christian primitivism. During the 1830s and 1840s, Mormonism gradually distinguished itself...

 had emerged during the Second Great Awakening
Second Great Awakening
The Second Great Awakening was a Christian revival movement during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1800, had begun to gain momentum by 1820, and was in decline by 1870. The Second Great Awakening expressed Arminian theology, by which every person could be...

.

This region of New York State was an environment in which many thought direct communication with God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 or angel
Angel
Angels are mythical beings often depicted as messengers of God in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles along with the Quran. The English word angel is derived from the Greek ἄγγελος, a translation of in the Hebrew Bible ; a similar term, ملائكة , is used in the Qur'an...

s was possible, and that God would not behave harshly—for example, that God would not condemn unbaptised
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 infants to an eternity in Hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

.

Swedenborg and Mesmer

In this environment, the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Emanuel Swedenborg
was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, and theologian. He has been termed a Christian mystic by some sources, including the Encyclopædia Britannica online version, and the Encyclopedia of Religion , which starts its article with the description that he was a "Swedish scientist and mystic." Others...

 (1688–1772) and the teachings of Franz Mesmer
Franz Mesmer
Franz Anton Mesmer , sometimes, albeit incorrectly, referred to as Friedrich Anton Mesmer, was a German physician with an interest in astronomy, who theorised that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects that he called magnétisme animal ...

 (1734–1815) provided an example for those seeking direct personal knowledge of the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

. 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: first, that there is not a single hell and a single heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

, but rather a series of higher and lower heavens and hells; second, that spirits are intermediates between God and humans, so 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.

Mesmer did not contribute religious beliefs, but he brought a technique, later known as hypnotism, that it was claimed could induce trances and cause subjects to report contact with supernatural beings. There was a great deal of professional showmanship inherent to demonstrations of Mesmerism
Animal magnetism
Animal magnetism , in modern usage, refers to a person's sexual attractiveness or raw charisma. As postulated by Franz Mesmer in the 18th century, the term referred to a supposed magnetic fluid or ethereal medium believed to reside in the bodies of animate beings...

, and the practitioners who lectured in mid-19th-century 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
Andrew Jackson Davis
Andrew Jackson Davis , American Spiritualist, was born at Blooming Grove, New York.- Early years :He had little education, though probably much more than he and his friends pretended. In 1843 he heard lectures in Poughkeepsie on animal magnetism, as the phenomena of hypnotism was then termed, and...

, who called his system the Harmonial Philosophy. Davis was a practicing Mesmerist, faith healer
Faith healing
Faith healing is healing through spiritual means. The healing of a person is brought about by religious faith through prayer and/or rituals that, according to adherents, stimulate a divine presence and power toward correcting disease and disability. Belief in divine intervention in illness or...

 and clairvoyant
Clairvoyance
The term clairvoyance is used to refer to the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known human senses, a form of extra-sensory perception...

 from Poughkeepsie, New York
Poughkeepsie (city), New York
Poughkeepsie is a city in the state of New York, United States, which serves as the county seat of Dutchess County. Poughkeepsie is located in the Hudson River Valley midway between New York City and Albany...

. His 1847 book, The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind, dictated to a friend while in a trance state, eventually became the nearest thing to a canonical work in a Spiritualist movement whose extreme individualism
Individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that stresses "the moral worth of the individual". Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance while opposing most external interference upon one's own...

 precluded the development of a single coherent worldview.



Reform-movement links

Spiritualists often set March 31, 1848, as the beginning of their movement. On that date, Kate and Margaret Fox
Fox sisters
The Fox sisters were three sisters from New York who played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism. The three sisters were Leah Fox , Margaret Fox and Kate Fox . The two younger sisters used "rappings" to convince their much older sister and others that they were communicating with...

, of Hydesville, New York
Arcadia, New York
Arcadia is a town in Wayne County, New York, United States. The population was 14,889 at the 2000 census.The Town of Arcadia is on the south border of the county and is east of Rochester NY.- History :The town was first settled around 1791....

, reported that they had made contact with the spirit of a murdered peddler. What made this an extraordinary event was that the spirit communicated through rapping noises, audible to onlookers. The evidence of the senses appealed to practically minded Americans, and the Fox sisters became a sensation. However, the Fox Sisters later admitted that this "contact" with the spirit was a hoax.

Amy and Isaac Post
Amy and Isaac Post
Amy and Isaac Post, were radical Hicksite Quakers from Rochester, New York, involved in the struggles for abolitionism and women's rights. Among the first believers in Spiritualism, they helped to associate the young religious movement with the political ideas of the mid-nineteenth-century reform...

, Hicksite Quakers
Elias Hicks
Elias Hicks was an itinerant Quaker preacher from Long Island, New York. He promoted doctrines that embroiled him in controversy that led to the first major schism within the Religious Society of Friends...

 from Rochester, New York
Rochester, New York
Rochester is a city in Monroe County, New York, south of Lake Ontario in the United States. Known as The World's Image Centre, it was also once known as The Flour City, and more recently as The Flower City...

, had long been acquainted with the Fox family, and took the two girls into their home in the late spring of 1848. Immediately convinced of the genuineness of the sisters' communications, they became early converts and introduced the young mediums to their circle of radical Quaker friends.

It therefore came about that many of the early participants in Spiritualism were radical Quakers and others involved in the reforming movement
Reform movement
A reform movement is a kind of social movement that aims to make gradual change, or change in certain aspects of society, rather than rapid or fundamental changes...

 of the mid-nineteenth century. These reformers were uncomfortable with established churches, because they did little to fight slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 and even less to advance the cause of women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

.

Women were particularly attracted to the movement, because it gave them important roles as mediums
Mediumship
Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

 and trance
Trance
Trance denotes a variety of processes, ecstasy, techniques, modalities and states of mind, awareness and consciousness. Trance states may occur involuntarily and unbidden.The term trance may be associated with meditation, magic, flow, and prayer...

 lecturer
Lecturer
Lecturer is an academic rank. In the United Kingdom, lecturer is a position at a university or similar institution, often held by academics in their early career stages, who lead research groups and supervise research students, as well as teach...

s. In fact, Spiritualism provided one of the first forums in which American women could address mixed public audiences.

The most popular trance lecturer prior to the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 was Cora L. V. Scott
Cora L. V. Scott
Cora Lodencia Veronica Scott was one of the best-known mediums of the Spiritualism movement of the last half of the 19th century. Most of her work was done as a trance lecturer, though she also wrote some books whose composition was attributed to spirit guides rather than her own...

 (1840–1923). Young and beautiful, her appearance on stage fascinated men. Her audiences were struck by the contrast between her physical 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. Cora married four times, and on each occasion adopted her husband's last name. During her period of greatest activity, she was known as Cora Hatch.

Another famous woman spiritualist was Achsa W. Sprague
Achsa W. Sprague
Achsa W. Sprague was one of the best-known Spiritualists during the 1850s in the United States. Primarily a medium and trance lecturer, she also wrote articles and poetry for Spiritualist publications such as the Banner of Light, the Green Mountain Sibyl, and the People's World.Sprague was born at...

, who was born November 17, 1827, in Plymouth Notch, Vermont
Plymouth Notch
Plymouth Notch is a small unincorporated village in the town of Plymouth, Windsor County, Vermont, United States.All or most of the village is included in the Calvin Coolidge Homestead District, a National Historic Landmark...

. At the age of 20, she became ill with rheumatic fever
Rheumatic fever
Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that occurs following a Streptococcus pyogenes infection, such as strep throat or scarlet fever. Believed to be caused by antibody cross-reactivity that can involve the heart, joints, skin, and brain, the illness typically develops two to three weeks after...

 and credited her eventual recovery to intercession by spirits. An extremely popular trance lecturer, she traveled about the United States until her death in 1861. Sprague was an abolitionist and an advocate of women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

.

Yet another prominent spiritualist and trance medium prior to the Civil War was Paschal Beverly Randolph
Paschal Beverly Randolph
Randolph also edited the Leader and the Messenger of Light between 1852 to 1861 and wrote for the Journal of Progress and Spiritual Telegraph .2 as anonymous.3 under the pseudonym "Count de St. Leon".- References :...

 (1825–1875), of mixed race, who also played a part in the Abolition
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 movement. Nevertheless, many abolitionists and reformers held themselves aloof from the movement; among the skeptics was the eloquent ex-slave, Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing...

.

Believers and skeptics

In the years following the sensation that greeted the Fox sisters, demonstrations of mediumship (séance
Séance
A séance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma"...

s and automatic writing
Automatic writing
Automatic writing or psychography is writing which the writer states to be produced from a subconscious and/or spiritual source without conscious awareness of the content.-History:...

, for example) proved to be a profitable venture, and soon became popular forms of entertainment and spiritual catharsis. The invention of the telegraph in 1844 led spiritualists to claim that an unseen "spiritual telegraph" to the dead also existed. The Foxes were to earn a living this way and others would follow their lead. Showmanship became an increasingly important part of Spiritualism, and the visible, audible, and tangible evidence of spirits escalated as mediums competed for paying audiences. As independent investigating commissions repeatedly established, most notably the 1887 report of the Seybert Commission
Seybert Commission
The Seybert Commission was a group of faculty at the University of Pennsylvania who in 1884-1887 investigated a number of respected spiritualist mediums, uncovering fraud or suspected fraud in every case that they examined.-Establishment of the Commission:...

, fraud was widespread, and some of these cases were prosecuted in the courts.

Despite numerous instances of chicanery, the appeal of Spiritualism was strong. Prominent in the ranks of its adherents were those grieving the death of a loved one. Many families during the time of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 had seen their men go off and never return, and images of the battlefield, produced through the new medium of photography
Photography
Photography is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film...

, demonstrated that their loved ones had not only died in overwhelmingly huge numbers, but horribly as well. One well known case is that of Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mary Ann Lincoln was the wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and was First Lady of the United States from 1861 to 1865.-Life before the White House:...

 who, grieving the loss of her son, organized séances in the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 which were attended by her husband, President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

. The surge of spiritualism during this time, and later during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 was a direct response to those massive battlefield casualties.

In addition, the movement appealed to reformers, who fortuitously found that the spirits favored such causes du jour as equal rights. It also appealed to some who had a materialist
Materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

 orientation and rejected organized religion. The influential socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 and atheist
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 Robert Owen
Robert Owen
Robert Owen was a Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement.Owen's philosophy was based on three intellectual pillars:...

 embraced religion following his experiences in Spiritualist circles.

Many scientists who investigated the phenomenon also became converts. They included chemist
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 and physicist
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 William Crookes (1832–1919), evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

ary biologist
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913) and Nobel-laureate
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 physiologist Charles Richet. Other prominent adherents included journalist and pacifist William T. Stead (1849–1912) and physician and author Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...

 (1859–1930).

Conan Doyle, who lost his son as a result of the war, was also a member of The Ghost Club
Ghost Club (paranormal investigators)
The Ghost Club is a paranormal investigation and research organisation that was founded in London in 1862. It is widely believed to be the oldest such organization in the world.Its prime interest focuses on paranormal phenomena such as ghosts and hauntings...

. Founded in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1862, its focus was the scientific study of alleged paranormal activities in order to prove (or refute) the existence of paranormal phenomena. Famous members of the club have included Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

, Sir William Crookes, Sir William Fletcher Barrett and Harry Price
Harry Price
Harry Price was a British psychic researcher and author.-Early life:Although Price claimed his birth was in Shropshire, he was actually born in London in Red Lion Square on the site of the South Place Ethical Society's Conway Hall. He was educated in New Cross, first at Waller Road Infants School...

.
Pioneering American psychologist
Psychologist
Psychologist is a professional or academic title used by individuals who are either:* Clinical professionals who work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts .* Scientists conducting psychological research or teaching psychology in a college...

 William James studied spiritualism, publishing supportive conclusions. The séance
Séance
A séance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma"...

s of Eusapia Palladino
Eusapia Palladino
Eusapia Palladino was a Spiritualist medium from Naples in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies ....

 were attended by investigators including Pierre
Pierre Curie
Pierre Curie was a French physicist, a pioneer in crystallography, magnetism, piezoelectricity and radioactivity, and Nobel laureate. He was the son of Dr. Eugène Curie and Sophie-Claire Depouilly Curie ...

 and Marie Curie
Marie Curie
Marie Skłodowska-Curie was a physicist and chemist famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes—in physics and chemistry...

. The celebrated New York City physician, John Franklin Gray
John Franklin Gray
John Franklin Gray was an American educator and physician a pioneer in the field of and the first practitioner of homoeopathy in the United States...

, was also a well-known and prominent Spiritualist in New York City.

The claims of spiritualists and others as to the reality of ghosts were investigated by the Society for Psychical Research
Society for Psychical Research
The Society for Psychical Research is a non-profit organisation in the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is to understand "events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal by promoting and supporting important research in this area" and to "examine allegedly paranormal phenomena...

, founded in London in 1882. The Society set up a Committee on Haunted Houses and a Literary Committee which looked at the literature on the subject.
Prominent investigators who exposed cases of fraud came from a variety of backgrounds, including professional researchers such as Frank Podmore
Frank Podmore
Frank Podmore was an English author, founding member of the Fabian Society, and writer on psychic matters.-Life:...

 of the Society for Psychical Research or Harry Price
Harry Price
Harry Price was a British psychic researcher and author.-Early life:Although Price claimed his birth was in Shropshire, he was actually born in London in Red Lion Square on the site of the South Place Ethical Society's Conway Hall. He was educated in New Cross, first at Waller Road Infants School...

 of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research
National Laboratory of Psychical Research
The National Laboratory of Psychical Research was established in 1925 by Harry Price, at 13 Roland Gardens, London, S.W.7. Their aim was 'to investigate in a dispassionate manner and by purely scientific means every phase of psychic or alleged psychic phenomena'.The honorary president was The Lord...

, and professional conjurers
Magic (illusion)
Magic is a performing art that entertains audiences by staging tricks or creating illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats using natural means...

 such as John Nevil Maskelyne
John Nevil Maskelyne
John Nevil Maskelyne was an English stage magician and inventor of the pay toilet, along with many other Victorian-era devices. His door lock for London toilets required the insertion of a penny coin to operate it, hence the euphemism to "spend a penny".-Biography:Maskelyne was born in Cheltenham,...

. Maskelyne exposed the Davenport Brothers
Davenport Brothers
Ira Erastus Davenport and William Henry Davenport , known as the Davenport Brothers, were American magicians in the late 19th century, sons of a Buffalo, New York policeman...

 by appearing in the audience during their shows and explaining how the trick was done. During the 1920s, professional magician Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American magician and escapologist, stunt performer, actor and film producer noted for his sensational escape acts...

 undertook a well-publicised campaign to expose fraudulent mediums. He was adamant that "Up to the present time everything that I have investigated has been the result of deluded brains."


Unorganized movement

The movement quickly spread throughout the world; though only in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 did it become as widespread as in the United States.
Spiritualist organizations were formed in America and Europe, such as the London Spiritualist Alliance, which published a newspaper called The Light, featuring articles such as “Evenings at Home in Spiritual Séance”, “Ghosts in Africa” and “Chronicles of Spirit Photography”, advertisements for "mesmerists” and patent medicine
Patent medicine
Patent medicine refers to medical compounds of questionable effectiveness sold under a variety of names and labels. The term "patent medicine" is somewhat of a misnomer because, in most cases, although many of the products were trademarked, they were never patented...

s, and letters from readers about personal contact with ghosts.
In Britain, by 1853, invitations to tea among the prosperous and fashionable often included table-turning
Table-turning
Table Turning or "Table Tipping" is a type of séance in which participants sit around a table, place their hands on it, and wait for rotations...

, a type of séance in which spirits would communicate with people seated around a table by tilting and rotating the table. A particularly important convert was the French pedagogist Allan Kardec
Allan Kardec
Allan Kardec is the pen name of the French teacher and educator Hippolyte Léon Denizard Rivail . He is known today as the systematizer of Spiritism for which he laid the foundation with the five books of the Spiritist Codification.-Early life:Rivail was born in Lyon in 1804...

 (1804–1869), who made the first attempt to systematise the movement's practices and ideas into a consistent philosophical system. Kardec's books, written in the last 15 years of his life, became the textual basis of Spiritism
Spiritism
Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

, which became widespread in Latin countries. In Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Kardec's ideas are embraced by many followers today. In Puerto Rico, Kardec's books were widely read by the upper classes, and eventually gave birth to a movement known as Mesa Blanca
Espiritismo
Espiritismo is the Latin American and Caribbean belief that good and evil spirits can affect health, luck and other elements of human life....

 (White Table).
Spiritualism was mainly a middle-
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 and upper-class
Upper class
In social science, the "upper class" is the group of people at the top of a social hierarchy. Members of an upper class may have great power over the allocation of resources and governmental policy in their area.- Historical meaning :...

 movement, and especially popular with women. U.S. spiritualists would meet in private homes for séances, at lecture halls for trance lectures, at state or national conventions, and at summer camps attended by thousands. Among the most significant of the camp meetings were Camp Etna, in Etna, Maine
Etna, Maine
Etna is a town in Penobscot County, Maine, United States. The population was 1,012 at the 2000 census.-History:Etna is named for the famed Mt. Etna in Italy. It was originally known as "Crosbytown" after its first proprietor, Gen. John Crosby of Hampden, Maine. It was incorporated as a town in 1820...

; Onset Bay Grove, in Onset, Massachusetts
Onset, Massachusetts
Onset is a census-designated place in the town of Wareham in Massachusetts. The population was 1,292 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Onset is located at ....

; Lily Dale
Lily Dale
Lily Dale is a spiritualist community of the Modern Spiritualist movement located in Chautauqua County, New York, USA. Lily Dale became renowned for Spiritualism when members moved the home of its American founders, Kate and Margaret Fox, to the town after it was purchased in 1927.Lily Dale is a...

, in western New York State; Camp Chesterfield
Camp Chesterfield
Camp Chesterfield was founded in 1886 and is the home of the Indiana Association of Spiritualists, located in Chesterfield, Indiana. Camp Chesterfield offers Spiritualist Church services, seminary, and mediumship, faith healing, and spiritual development classes, as well as psychic readings for...

, in Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

; the Wonewoc Spiritualist Camp
Wonewoc Spiritualist Camp
Wonewoc Spiritualist Camp is a Spiritualist Church community, of the Modern Spiritualist movement, located in Wonewoc, Wisconsin. The camp is open every summer.-External links:* *...

, in Wonewoc, Wisconsin
Wonewoc, Wisconsin
Wonewoc is a village in Juneau County, Wisconsin, United States, along the Baraboo River. The population was 834 at the 2000 census.-History:...

; and Lake Pleasant
Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts
Lake Pleasant is a village in Montague, Massachusetts, United States, and the site of an early and prominent American Spiritualist campground. It claims to be the oldest continuously-existing Spiritualist community in the United States....

, in Montague, Massachusetts
Montague, Massachusetts
Montague is a town in Franklin County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 8,489 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts metropolitan statistical area....

. In founding camp meeting
Camp meeting
The camp meeting is a form of Protestant Christian religious service originating in Britain and once common in some parts of the United States, wherein people would travel from a large area to a particular site to camp out, listen to itinerant preachers, and pray...

s, the spiritualists appropriated a form developed by U.S. Protestant denominations in the early nineteenth century. Spiritualist camp meetings were located most densely in New England and California, but were also established across the upper Midwest. Cassadaga, Florida
Cassadaga, Florida
Cassadaga is a small unincorporated community located in Volusia County, Florida, just north of Deltona...

, is the most notable spiritualist camp meeting in the southern states.

A number of spiritualist periodicals appeared in the nineteenth century, and these did much to hold the movement together. Among the most important were the weeklies The Banner of Light (Boston), The Religio-Philosophical Journal (Chicago), Mind and Matter (Philadelphia), The Spiritualist (London), and The Medium (London). Other influential periodicals were the Revue Spirite (France), Le Messager (Belgium), Annali dello Spiritismo (Italy), El Criterio Espiritista (Spain), and The Harbinger of Light (Australia). By 1880, there were about three dozen monthly spiritualist periodicals published around the world. These periodicals differed a great deal from each other, reflecting the great differences among Spiritualists. Some, such as the British Spiritual Magazine were Christian and conservative, openly rejecting the reform currents so strong within Spiritualism. Others, such as Human Nature, were pointedly non-Christian and supportive of socialism and reform efforts. Still others, such as The Spiritualist, attempted to view spiritualist phenomena from a scientific perspective, eschewing discussion on both theological and reform issues.

Books on the supernatural were published for the growing middle class, such as 1852’s Mysteries, by Charles Elliott, which contains “sketches of spirits and spiritual things”, including accounts of the Salem witch trials
Salem witch trials
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex in colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693...

, the Cock Lane Ghost
Cock Lane ghost
The Cock Lane ghost attracted mass public attention in 18th-century England. In 1762 an apartment in Cock Lane, a short road adjacent to London's Smithfield market and a few minutes' walk from St Paul's Cathedral, was the site of a reported haunting centred around three people: William Kent, a...

, and the Rochester Rappings
Fox sisters
The Fox sisters were three sisters from New York who played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism. The three sisters were Leah Fox , Margaret Fox and Kate Fox . The two younger sisters used "rappings" to convince their much older sister and others that they were communicating with...

.
The Night Side of Nature, by Catherine Crowe, published in 1853, provided definitions and accounts of wraiths, doppelgangers, apparitions and haunted houses.

Mainstream newspapers treated stories of ghosts and haunting as they would any other news story. An account in the Chicago Daily Tribune
Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, and the flagship publication of the Tribune Company. Formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper" , it remains the most read daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region and is...

 in 1891, "sufficiently bloody to suit the most fastidious taste", tells of a house believed to be haunted by the ghosts of three murder victims seeking revenge against their killer’s son, who was eventually driven insane.
Many families, “having no faith in ghosts”, thereafter moved into the house, but all soon moved out again.
In the 1920s many "psychic" books were published of varied quality. Such books were often based on excursions initiated by the use of Ouija boards
Ouija
The Ouija board also known as a spirit/fire key board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0-9, the words "yes", "no", "hello" and "goodbye", and other symbols and words are sometimes also added to help personalize the board...

. A few of these popular books displayed unorganized Spiritualism, though most were less insightful.

The movement was extremely individualistic, with each person relying on her own experiences and reading to discern the nature of the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

. Organisation was therefore slow to appear, and when it did it was resisted by mediums and trance lecturers. Most members were content to attend Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 churches, and particularly Universalist
Universalist Church of America
The Universalist Church of America was a Christian Universalist religious denomination in the United States . Known from 1866 as the Universalist General Convention, the name was changed to the Universalist Church of America in 1942...

 churches harbored many Spiritualists.

As the Spiritualism movement began to fade, partly through the bad publicity of fraud accusations and partly through the appeal of religious movements such as Christian Science
Christian Science
Christian Science is a system of thought and practice derived from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and the Bible. It is practiced by members of The First Church of Christ, Scientist as well as some others who are nonmembers. Its central texts are the Bible and the Christian Science textbook,...

, the Spiritualist Church
Spiritualist Church
A Spiritualist church is a church affiliated with the informal Spiritualist movement which began in the United States of America in the 1840s. Spiritualist churches are now found around the world, but are most common in English-speaking countries, while in Latin America, where a form of...

 was organised. This church can claim to be the main vestige of the movement left today in the United States.

Other mediums

William Stainton Moses
William Stainton Moses
The Reverend William Stainton Moses , was an English clergyman and Spiritualist.Educated at Bedford School, University College School, London and Exeter College, Oxford, he was ordained as a priest of the Church of England by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce in 1870.He attended his first séance with Miss...

 (1839–92) was an Anglican clergyman who, in the period from 1872 to 1883, filled 24 notebooks with automatic writing
Automatic writing
Automatic writing or psychography is writing which the writer states to be produced from a subconscious and/or spiritual source without conscious awareness of the content.-History:...

, much of which was said to describe conditions in the spirit world. In his sessions he was able to channel a spirit who called himself Imperator. Imperator described himself as a leader of forty-nine other spirits. He conveyed information to Moses about the spirit world, its workings, and how information is passed along to people. In sessions, he was levitated several times, and was able (through spirits who channeled energy to his hands) to levitate a large table just by touching it. Similar incidents were reported during his automatic writing sessions. His pen was known to write of its own accord without his direction.

London-born Emma Hardinge Britten
Emma Hardinge Britten
Emma Hardinge Britten is known for her work as an advocate for the early Modern Spiritualist Movement. Due to the publication of her speeches and writing on the spiritual movement, and an incomplete autobiography which was edited by her sister, much of Emma’s life and work is publicly recorded....

 (1823–99) 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 Nineteenth 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.

Eusapia Palladino
Eusapia Palladino
Eusapia Palladino was a Spiritualist medium from Naples in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies ....

 (1854–1918) was an Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 Spiritualist medium
Mediumship
Mediumship is described as a form of communication with spirits. It is a practice in religious beliefs such as Spiritualism, Spiritism, Espiritismo, Candomblé, Voodoo and Umbanda.- Concept :...

 from the slums of Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 who made a career touring Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

. Her stratagems were unmasked on several occasions, though some investigators, including Nobel laureate scientists, credited her mediumistic abilities.

One believer was the Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 psychologist Julian Ochorowicz
Julian Ochorowicz
Julian Leopold Ochorowicz was a Polish philosopher, psychologist, inventor , poet, publicist and leading exponent of Polish Positivism.-Life:Julian Ochorowicz was the son of Julian and Jadwiga, née...

, who in 1893 brought her from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

. He introduced her to the novelist Bolesław Prus, who participated in her séance
Séance
A séance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma"...

s and incorporated Spiritualist elements into his 1895 historical novel
Historical novel
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is-Development:An early example of historical prose fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history and left a lasting impact on Chinese culture.The...

 Pharaoh. Ochorowicz studied as well, 15 years later, a home-grown Polish medium, Stanisława Tomczyk.

Adelma Vay
Adelma Vay
Baroness Adelma Vay de Vaya, born Countess Adelaide von Wurmbrand-Stuppach, , also known as Adelma von Vay was a medium and pioneer of spiritualism in Hungary.- Life and work :...

 (1840–1925), Hungarian
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 (by origin) spiritistic
Spiritism
Spiritism is a loose corpus of religious faiths having in common the general belief in the survival of a spirit after death. In a stricter sense, it is the religion, beliefs and practices of the people affiliated to the International Spiritist Union, based on the works of Allan Kardec and others...

 medium, homeopath and clairvoyant, authored many books about spiritism, written in German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 and translated into English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

.

Evolution

Spiritualists reacted with an uncertainy to the theories of evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 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, the belief in the animal origins of man threatened the foundation of the immortality of the spirit
Spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

, for if man had not been created, it was scarely plausible that he would be specially endowed with a spirit. This led to spiritualists embracing spiritual evolution
Spiritual evolution
Spiritual evolution is the philosophical, theological, esoteric or spiritual idea that nature and human beings and/or human culture evolve, extending from the established cosmological pattern or ascent, or in accordance with certain pre-established potentials...

.

The spiritualists view 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
Spirit world (spiritualism)
The spirit world, according to Spiritualism, is the world inhabited by spirits. Though a concept of a spirit world is in the constitution of most religions, it is not "itself the religion". Whereas religion regards an inner life, the spirit world is regarded as an external environment for spirits...

 “at a rate more rapid and under conditions more favourable to growth” then encountered on earth.

In a talk at the London Spiritualist Alliance, Rev. John Page Hopps (1834–1911) supported both evolution and spiritualism. Hopps claimed man had started off imperfect “out of the animals darkness” but will rise into the “angel’s marvellous light”, Hopps claimed man was not a fallen but a rising creature and that after death man would evolve on a number of spheres of existence to perfection.

Theosophy
Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

 is in opposition to the spiritualist interpretation of evolution, theosophy teaches a metaphysical theory of evolution mixed with human devolution, spiritualists do not accept the devolution of the theosophists. To theosophy man starts in a state of perfection (see Golden age
Golden Age
The term Golden Age comes from Greek mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five Ages of Man, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages, and then the present, a period of decline...

) and falls into a process of progressive materialization (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 now one of self-conscious perfection.
Theosophists and Spiritualists 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
Madame Blavatsky
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky , was a theosophist, writer and traveler. Between 1848 and 1875 Blavatsky had gone around the world three times. In 1875, Blavatsky together with Colonel H. S. Olcott established the Theosophical Society...

 was critical of spiritualism, she distanced theosophy from spiritualism as far as she could and allied herself with eastern occultism.

The spiritualist Gerald Massey
Gerald Massey
Gerald Massey was an English poet and self-educated Egyptologist. He was born near Tring, Hertfordshire in England.-Biography:...

, claimed that Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

'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 while this ascent on the physical side has been progressing through myraids 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 can not 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". The spiritualist Gerald Massey
Gerald Massey
Gerald Massey was an English poet and self-educated Egyptologist. He was born near Tring, Hertfordshire in England.-Biography:...

 said "Spiritualism will accept evolution, and carry it out and make both ends meet in the perfect circle".

A famous medium
Medium
- Communication :* Medium , storage and/or transmission tools used to store and deliver information or data* Transmission medium, in physics and telecommunications, any material substance which can propagate waves or energy...

 who rejected evolution was Cora L. V. Scott
Cora L. V. Scott
Cora Lodencia Veronica Scott was one of the best-known mediums of the Spiritualism movement of the last half of the 19th century. Most of her work was done as a trance lecturer, though she also wrote some books whose composition was attributed to spirit guides rather than her own...

, she dismissed evolution in her lectures and instead supported a type of pantheistic spiritualism.
Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace
Alfred Russel Wallace, OM, FRS was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist...

 believed qualitative novelties could arise through the process of spiritual evolution
Spiritual evolution
Spiritual evolution is the philosophical, theological, esoteric or spiritual idea that nature and human beings and/or human culture evolve, extending from the established cosmological pattern or ascent, or in accordance with certain pre-established potentials...

, in particular the phenomena of life and mind, Wallace attributed these novelties to a supernatural
Supernatural
The supernatural or is that which is not subject to the laws of nature, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature...

 agency. Later in his life, Wallace was advocate of spiritualism and believed in an immaterial
Immaterial
Immaterial may refer to* The opposite of matter, material, materialism, or materialistic* Incorporeality* Immaterialism, or subjective idealism* Immaterial , a 2002 short story collection by Robert Hood...

 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 be explainable in terms of purely materialistic processes, in a 1909 magazine article entitled The World of Life, which he later expanded into a book of the same name. 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”. Wallace believed natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 could not explain intelligence
Intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....

 or morality
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

 in the human being so suggested that non-material spiritual forces accounted for these. Wallace believed the spiritual nature of man could not of come about by natural selection alone, the origins of the spiritual nature must originate “in the unseen universe of spirit”.

Oliver Lodge 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 public in the paranormal.

After the 1920s

After the 1920s, Spiritualism evolved in three different directions, all of which exist today.

Syncreticism

The first of these continued the tradition of individual practitioners, organised in circles centered on a medium and clients, without any hierarchy or dogma. Already by the late 19th century Spiritualism had become increasingly syncretic
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

, a natural development in a movement without central authority or dogma. Today, among these unorganised circles, Spiritualism is similar to the New Age movement. However, Theosophy
Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

 with its inclusion of Eastern religion, astrology, ritual magic and reincarnation is an example of a closer precursor of the 20th century New Age movement. Today's syncretic Spiritualists are quite heterogeneous in their beliefs regarding issues such as reincarnation or the existence of God. Some appropriate New Age and Neo-Pagan beliefs, whilst others call themselves 'Christian Spiritualists', continuing with the tradition of cautiously incorporating Spiritualist experiences into their Christian faith.

Spiritualist church

The second direction taken has been to adopt formal organization, patterned after Christian denominations, with established liturgies and a set of Seven Principles, and training requirements for mediums. In the United States the Spiritualist churches are primarily affiliated either with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches
National Spiritualist Association of Churches
The National Spiritualist Association of Churches is one of the oldest and largest of the Spiritualist churches in the United States. It was formed in 1893 in Chicago, Illinois. Among its leaders were Harrison D. Barrett and James M. Peebles, both former Unitarian clergymen, and Cora L. Richmond,...

 or the loosely allied group of denominations known as the spiritual church movement; in the U.K. the predominant organization is the Spiritualists' National Union, founded in 1890.

Formal education in Spiritualist practice emerged in 1920s, with organizations like the William T. Stead Center in Chicago, Illinois, and continue today with the Arthur Findlay
Arthur Findlay
Arthur Findlay MBE JP was a writer, accountant, stockbroker and Essex magistrate, as well as a significant figure in the history of the religion of Spiritualism, being a partial founder of the newspaper Psychic News and also a founder of the International Institute for Psychical Research...

 College at Stansted Hall in England, and the Morris Pratt Institute in Wisconsin, USA.

Diversity of belief among organized Spiritualists has led to a few schisms, the most notable occurring in the U.K. in 1957 between those who held the movement to be a religion sui generis (of its own with unique characteristics), and a minority who held it to be a denomination within Christianity. In the United States, this distinction can be seen betwixt the less Christian National Spiritualist Association of Churches and the more Christian spiritual church movement.

The practice of organized Spiritualism today resembles that of any other religion, having discarded most showmanship, particularly those elements resembling the conjurer's art. There is thus a much greater emphasis on "mental" mediumship and an almost complete avoidance of the apparently miraculous "materializing" mediumship that so fascinated early believers such as Arthur Conan Doyle
Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle DL was a Scottish physician and writer, most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger...

.

Survivalism

The third direction taken has been a continuation of its empirical orientation to religious phenomena. Already as early as 1882, with the founding of the Society for Psychical Research
Society for Psychical Research
The Society for Psychical Research is a non-profit organisation in the United Kingdom. Its stated purpose is to understand "events and abilities commonly described as psychic or paranormal by promoting and supporting important research in this area" and to "examine allegedly paranormal phenomena...

, secular organisations emerged to investigate spiritualist claims. Today many persons with this empirical approach avoid the label of "Spiritualism", preferring the term "survivalism
Survivalism (life after death)
Survivalism refers to the belief in the survival of the conscious self after the death of the physical body. Survivalists attempt to prove survival with the methods of science, using as evidence such things as psychic phenomena, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, electronic voice...

". Survivalists eschew religion, and base their belief in the afterlife on phenomena susceptible to at least rudimentary scientific investigation, such as mediumship, near-death experiences, out-of-body experience
Out-of-body experience
An out-of-body experience is an experience that typically involves a sensation of floating outside of one's body and, in some cases, perceiving one's physical body from a place outside one's body ....

s, electronic voice phenomena, and reincarnation research
Reincarnation research
Reincarnation research is a branch of parapsychology. Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson, from the University of Virginia, investigated many reports of young children who claimed to remember a past life...

. Many Survivalists see themselves as the intellectual heirs of the Spiritualist movement. An example of the modern approach is the work of the Professor of Psychology, David Fontana
David Fontana
Professor David G. J. Fontana, Ph.D, FBPS was a British academic, psychologist and author. He was Professor of Psychology at the Cardiff University...

, who has written about the subject from a number of points of view.

See also

  • Mark Alton Barwise
    Mark Alton Barwise
    Mark Alton Barwise was the only publicly practicing member of the Spiritualist religion known to have been elected to a state office in the United States. Born in Chester, Maine of a medianistic mother, Barwise became an attorney and nationally-prominent member of the National Spiritualist...

  • Michel Eugène Chevreul
    Michel Eugène Chevreul
    Michel Eugène Chevreul was a French chemist whose work with fatty acids led to early applications in the fields of art and science. He is credited with the discovery of margaric acid and designing an early form of soap made from animal fats and salt...

  • Camille Flammarion
    Camille Flammarion
    Nicolas Camille Flammarion was a French astronomer and author. He was a prolific author of more than fifty titles, including popular science works about astronomy, several notable early science fiction novels, and several works about Spiritism and related topics. He also published the magazine...

  • Thomson Jay Hudson
    Thomson Jay Hudson
    Thomson Jay Hudson born Windham, Ohio, USA, February 22, 1834, Chief Examiner of the US Patent Office and Psychical researcher, known for his three laws of psychic phenomena, which were first published in 1893....

  • List of Spiritualist organizations
  • Necromancy
    Necromancy
    Necromancy is a claimed form of magic that involves communication with the deceased, either by summoning their spirit in the form of an apparition or raising them bodily, for the purpose of divination, imparting the ability to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge...

  • New Thought
    New Thought
    New Thought promotes the ideas that "Infinite Intelligence" or "God" is ubiquitous, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and "right thinking" has a healing effect.Although New Thought is neither...

  • Spiritual healing
  • Spiritualism in fiction
    Spiritualism in fiction
    This article provides a list of fictional stories in which Spiritualism features as an important plot element. The list omits passing mentions.-Written works:...

  • Telekinesis
  • Flora Wellman, Jack London's mother

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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