A Demonstration of Spirit: Events in Hydesville
The Emergence of the Spiritualist Movement
Opposition to Spiritualism
The Paradox of Spiritualism: a Religion or a Philosophy?
The First World War & After
The 1920's & 1930's
World War Two & Beyond


A Demonstration of Spirit: Events in Hydesville

The Modern Spiritualist Movement is often said to have began with the events that took place in Hydesville, New York on March 31, 1848. It was on this date that members of the Fox family began to communicate with the spirit of a murdered pedler, through a system of rappings.

John Fox, his wife Margaret, and daughters Kate and Margaretta had moved into the house in the small hamlet of Hydesville, some three months earlier. The house had gained a reputation as being haunted, with recorded instances of mysterious raps, taps and other noises and the previous tenant, Michael Weakman had moved out because of the inexplicable disturbances.(1)

At first the Fox family seem to have had no cause for concern, however around the middle of March 1848 strange sounds and activities began to occur in the house. In a signed affidavit, dated April 4, 1848, Mrs Fox described the events on that fateful night in March. After briefly outlining disturbances on earlier occasions, from knocks and the sounds of footsteps in various parts of the house, Mrs Fox goes on to say:

"On Friday night, March 31st, 1848, we concluded to go to bed early and not permit ourselves to be disturbed by the noises, but try and get a night's rest...... It was very early when we went to bed on this night; hardly dark. I had been so broken of my rest I was almost sick. My husband had not gone to bed when we first heard the noises on this evening. I had just lain down. It commenced as usual. I knew it from all other noises I had ever heard before. The children, who slept in the other bed in the room, heard the rapping, and tried to make similar sounds by snapping their fingers.

"My youngest child, Cathie, said: 'do as I do,' clapping her hands. The sound instantly followed her with the same number of raps. When she stopped, the sound ceased for a short time. Then Margaretta said, in sport, 'Now, do just as I do. Count one, two, three, four,' striking one hand against the other at the same time; and the raps came as before. She was afraid to repeat them. Then Cathie said in her childish simplicity, 'Oh, mother, I know what it is. Tomorrow is April-fool day, and it's somebody trying to fool us.'

"I then thought I could put a test that no one in the place could answer. I asked the noise to rap my different children's ages, successively. Instantly, each one of my children's ages was given correctly, pausing between them sufficiently long to individualize them until the seventh, at which a longer pause was made, and then three more emphatic raps were given, corresponding to the age of the little one that died, which was my youngest child.

"I then asked: 'Is this a human being that answers my questions so correctly?' There was no rap. I asked: 'Is it a spirit? If it is, make two raps.' Two sounds were given as soon as the request was made."

Margaret Fox continued to ask questions and each was answered in the same manner with raps and by this method she ascertained that it was a man, aged thirty one years who had been murdered in the house and his remains buried in the cellar.

On asking the spirit whether it would continue to rap if the neighbours were called in, and receiving an affirmative answer, John Fox went and fetched their nearest neighbour, who on experiencing the raps and answers to questions called her husband who was also able to ask questions and receive answers. Then a Mr. Duesler and his wife and several others were called in. Duesler asked many questions which established how and where the man was murdered and when, and even by whom.

All who came to the house heard the raps and the tapping out of answers to questions asked. Many who came, stayed the night, but Margaret Fox and her children left the house. Nevertheless, over the following days the raps continued.

The concluding remarks in Margaret Fox's statement four days after this event are interesting.

"I am not a believer in haunted houses or supernatural appearances. I am very sorry that there has been so much excitement about it. It has been a great deal of trouble to us. It was our misfortune to live here at this time; but I am willing and anxious that the truth should be known, and that a true statement should be made. I cannot account for these noises; all that I know is that they have been heard repeatedly, as I have stated."

Though within days of these events, attempts were made to dig up the cellar of the house in the hope of finding the body of the spirit who claimed his name was Charles B. Rosna, they were unsuccessful. It was not until 56 years later that a discovery was made which proved beyond all doubt that someone had actually been buried in the cellar of the house the Fox family had lived in. In 1904 the Boston Journal recorded that the skeleton of a man said to "have caused the rappings first heard by the Fox sisters in 1848 has been found in the walls of the house... "

There is a postscript to this story that highlights the deeper significance of the events described. Margarette Fox went to live at her sister's house in Rochester, New York some 30 kilometres from Hydesville. Raps broke out at this residence, indicating that it might be the young girls who were supplying the energy for spirit to manifest as they did. The disturbances continued until David Fox, Margarette's older brother, tried as an experiment to converse with the spirits using the alphabet. The results were most intriguing. The following is what was recorded:

"Dear Friends, you must proclaim this truth to the world. This is the dawning of a new era; you must not try to conceal it any longer. When you do your duty God will protect you and good spirits will watch over you."

These words echo those received by Andrew Jackson Davis, who in the early books written on Spiritualism, was described as the John the Baptist of Modern Spiritualism, for it was he who may be said "set into place and definitively proclaimed the coming revelation of Spirit communication." (3)

Some 4 years before the Hydesville events, Davis began to tour the countryside giving trance lectures, as a result of a life changing experience wherein he believed he had been contacted by the Swedish seer Emanuel Swedenborg. While entranced, Davis could speak eloquently on a vast range of philosophical, scientific and religious subjects, even though he had little education and came from a poor background.

"Davis's prediction of the movement of Modern Spiritualism was given in his work"(4) 'Principles of Nature' first published in 1847.

In it he wrote:

"It is a truth that spirits commune with one another while one is in the body and the other in the higher sphere...... and this truth will ere long present itself in the form of a living demonstration. And the world will hail with delight the ushering in of that era when the interiors of men will be opened, and the spiritual communion will be established."

Finally, on the very same day that the events that would literally shake the world into looking at the very real possibility of communicating with those in spirit were taking place in Hydesville, Andrew Jackson Davis recorded in his diary the following words:

"About daylight this morning a warm breathing passed over my face and I heard a voice, tender and strong saying, 'Brother, the good work has begun ­ behold a living demonstration is born'...... "

Further reading can be found here




The Emergence of the Spiritualist Movement

The first Spiritualist meeting was held in the Corinthian Hall, Rochester USA on November 14, 1849. At the meeting the facts of the Hydesville phenomena were presented, and the case for Modern Spiritualism outlined. The assertion made was that not only had the spirit of a murdered man communicated, but that all kinds of spirits could communicate. Further, that this opening up of communication between the two worlds, was just the beginning.

And indeed it was. "The spirits wanted to attract the attention of the world, to ring the bell of the psychic telephone in the hope that someone would be sensible enough to lift off the receiver and hearing the message would broadcast it through the world." (5) Just what that message really was, would become clearer over the following fifty or sixty years.

But at first it seemed it was the physical phenomena aspects of spirit communication that drew attention, and many who 'experimented' with the emerging Modern Spiritualist Movement, discovered that they too had the ability to make contact with spirit. What became known as 'mediumistic abilities', demonstrated an ever growing range of physical phenomena wherein spirit appeared to be able to communicate through raps, move objects, produce apports, materialise under certain circumstances, cause people to levitate, to mention just a few of the proclaimed physical manifestations observed.

It was inevitable, that such spectacular phenomena would come under scrutiny, and that there would be unscrupulous people who would claim fraudulently to be capable of producing such phenomenal evidence of spirit interaction with the world. But, notwithstanding the frauds that undoubtedly did occur, there were sufficient genuine examples of such physical phenomena for the movement known as Modern Spiritualism to continue to gain in popularity.

The movement grew quickly and spread throughout many countries. By the 1890's, a range of phenomena, from rappings, to materialisations, automatic writings, and trance mediumship of various kinds were occurring in England as well as in America. There were reports of spirit directed phenomena occurring in Germany, France, China, Turkey, South America, Africa and Australia.

To understand the early emphasis on such physical phenomena, we need to remember that in the 1800's "the world was still deeply enmeshed within Victorian Materialism. Therefore, Spirit needed to work within the nature of the times, in order to grab people's attention, so to speak, and get them to listen. Thus, during those pioneer days, the prevalent means by which Spirit interacted with us was physical mediumship and physical phenemena." (6)

But this is not to say that there was no communication from Spirit offering knowledge or information of a 'higher nature'. Indeed, the information communicated through the instruments of such as Emanuel Swedenborg and Andrew Jackson Davis, highlights the significant message being delivered by Spirit and demonstrated through the physical phenomena. The message was unequivocal: the human spirit survived after physical death of the body!

While the teaching, philosophy, and revelations of Swedenborg and Davis spoke of this great truth, the physical phenomena brought the reality of the message home to people in a very direct and immediate way. There could be no doubt. The Spirit survived death and could communicate, and indeed was communicating, to those still living in the physical world.

The phenomena also illustrated a second and vital aspect of Spirit's message to the world: communication with Spirit could be a two-way process. Spirit in the non-physical realms could speak to those in the physical but those in the physical could also speak to Spirit and receive meaningful confirmation of Spirit's continued existence.

Such a revelation is of immense significance. As Reverend Simeon Stefanidakis Minister of the First Spiritual Temple in Massachusetts USA put it:

"......through the Hydesville events.......(it was) established (that).....Spirit communication can be used not only to teach, inspire, and give philosophical revelation; it can also be used to assist us in our daily lives and to prove, or demonstrate, that there is personal and conscious survival of death." (7)

Throughout the late 1800's and into the early 1900's the Modern Spiritualist Movement continued to flourish. It was not only a 'popular movement' in the sense that its beliefs and philosophy, and of course its associated phenomena, appealed to the general population, but also a movement that attracted many scientists, philosophers, theologian's, and writers, who were intrigued by the possibility of 'life after death'. Indeed, many such scientists and men and women of learning, upon investigating the phenomena, found themselves 'convinced' of the truth of the Spiritualist principle of human survival. Some became outspoken supporters of Spiritualism. Perhaps the best known of these 'converts' to the Spiritualist Philosophy is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the famous Sherlock Holmes novels.

Sir Arthur became a dedicated supporter of Spiritualism after the tragic death of his son in the First World War. Having visited a number of mediums seeking to make contact with his dead son, Conan Doyle set himself to seriously investigate Spiritualist phenomena and, having become convinced of the veracity of the Spiritualist message, wrote many influential books on the subject of Spirit communication, and travelled to a number of countries around the world, including Australia, giving lectures on the Spiritualist Message.
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Opposition to Spiritualism

Though the Spiritualist Movement continued to find its supporters, there were others in the 'scientific' and 'religious' communities, who sought to ridicule and discredit Spiritualist beliefs and phenomena. Many detractors, sought to disprove the validity of Spiritualism by 'exposing' fraudulent mediums and by trying to duplicate the physical and mental phenomena to show that it did not have a non-physical or Spirit directed origin. Often such opponents called upon professional conjurer's and magicians to 'expose' the phenomena as nothing more than 'slight of hand' or other such deception.

A significant number of those who criticised or attacked the philosophy and phenomena of Spiritualism, did so on what they called religious grounds. One such outspoken critic was an American by the name of Uriah Smith in this book 'Modern Spiritualism: A Subject of Prophecy & a Sign of the Times', published in 1896. His writings are indicative of both the nature of the criticism generally levelled against Spiritualism, and the dilemma so often faced by its opponents when attempting to discredit the Spiritualist Movement.

A few excerpts from Smith's work will make clear the form of attack experienced by the Spiritualist Movement. Smith begins by acknowledging:

"Spiritualism cannot be disposed of with a sneer. A toss of the head and a cry of 'humbug', will not suffice to meet its claims and the testimony of careful, conservative men who have studied thoroughly into the genuineness of its manifestations, and have sought for the secret of its power and have been satisfied as to the one, and been wholly baffled as to the other. That there have been abundant instances of attempted fraud, deception, jugglery, and imposition, is not to be denied. But this does not by any means set aside the fact that there have been manifestations of more than human power, the evidence for which has never been impeached. The detection of a few sham mediums, who are trying to impose upon the credulity of the public, for money, may satisfy the careless and unthinking, that the whole affair is a humbug......

"But the more thoughtful and careful observers well know that the exposure of these mountebanks does not account or the numberless manifestations of

power, and the steady current of phenomena, utterly inexplicable on any human hypothesis, which have attended the movement from the beginning." (8)

Uriah Smith goes on to describe just a few of the phenomena with these words:

"Various articles have been transported from place to place, without human hands, but by the agency of so-called spirits only; beautiful music has been produced independently of human agency, with and without the aid of visible instruments; many well attested cases of healing have been presented; persons have been carried through the air by the spirits in the presence of many witnesses; tables have been suspended in the air with several persons upon them; purported spirits have presented themselves in bodily form and talked with an audible voice; and all this not once or twice merely, but times without number, as may be gathered from the records of Spiritualism, all through its history." (9)

In concluding his opening remarks about Spiritualism Smith quotes a remark by T.J. Hudson in 'Law of Psychic Phenomena' (10) written in 1894:

"The man who denies the phenomena of Spiritism to-day is not entitled to be called a sceptic, he is simply ignorant; and it would be a hopeless task to

attempt to enlighten him".

Thus is Smith obliged to confirm that the phenomena associated with Spiritualism is genuine, they are not tricks or the result of fraud. What then, can be the reason for such strenuous opposition to Spiritualism? Uriah Smith supplied the answer in no uncertain terms. The phenomena is genuine, but the 'Spiritualistic'

interpretation of them is wrong!

Though "it is evident that there is connected with Spiritualism an agency that is able to manifest power and strength beyond anything that human beings, unaided, are able to exert" and, that "the same agency possesses intelligence beyond the power of human minds", (11) that agency, of necessity could not be Spirit, because the human soul is not immortal and could not, therefore, become a spirit after the death of the physical body in which it had resided. The soul was not immortal because, if it had been, the Bible would have said so, and since the bible was the very word of God, the fact it wasn't stated in the Bible could only confirm that it wasn't true.

Smith, and the many others who derided Spiritualism in the first 50 or so years of the Movement, concluded, based on their understanding of the Bible, that what the Spiritualists believed were Spirits of those who had survived death, were in reality, fallen angels, evil spirits, who as agents of the devil, were sent to the world to destroy humankind's faithfulness to God.

Spiritualist phenomena was real, but it was the work of the devil!

That the Spiritualist philosophy, so often accompanying the phenomena, spoke of love, and respect for our fellow man, and the 'Great Spirit' from whom all things become manifest', was in the minds of men such as Uriah Smith a blasphemy; a travesty wherein the devil wrapped himself in the words of God, in order to delude man and entrap their souls in hell for all time.

Despite such opposition the Spiritualist Movement held firm and many thousands more explored the movement's beliefs and phenomena, with each passing year.


The Paradox of Spiritualism: a Religion or a Philosophy?

From the very beginning, there existed the seeds for a schism within the Spiritualist Movement. The phenomena based nature of the early Spiritualist meetings lead many who were disillusioned with established religions to see in Spiritualism a new philosophy free from the doctrines and dogma of the past. The message inherent in the phenomena was than man was a much greater being than previously understood. This new understanding, should not, indeed could not be contained within a religious context.

For others, the phenomena associated with Spiritualism, confirmed their religious beliefs, and so Spiritualism was often heralded as a new revelation of religious doctrine. Spiritualism was "the religion that superseded all other religions".

The Western world in the nineteen century was a great age of independent spiritual teachers, though most remained at least nominally Christian.

"Churches were in the decline. Atheists and materialists attacked them from without. The abuse of clerical privilege and collusion between Church and State exposed them to the criticism of liberals and radicals. Internal squabbles about doctrine and battles between reformers and reactionaries weakened them within. The antiquity, hierarchy and secular power which had for so long been the sources of their authority were now the cause of internal revolt and public disaffection. Putting it simply, the churches seemed to have lost their way and this was reflected in their spiritual lethargy. Even the major independent denominations had rebels within their ranks". (12)

One inevitable consequence was the appearance of independent religious sects, and Spiritualism with its new breed of 'priests' and 'pastors', in the form of the mediums, who demonstrated these wondrous new spiritualist phenomena, and spoke with such confidence the 'message of spirit', were quickly seen as able to minister to the spiritual needs of those unsatisfied by the established churches.

Spiritualist Churches began to appear throughout America, Britain, and beyond. The format of the meetings held in these churches usually bore much resemblance to a traditional Sunday church service, with the addition of a demonstration of the medium's powers to link with spirit and pass on messages from the so called dead. This is not surprising since many who flocked to the new Spiritualist Churches came from an orthodox Christian background and still found comfort in the outer trappings of their religious upbringing.

Many of the staunchest supporters of Spiritualism, had previously been strong Christians and saw no conflict between the teachings of Jesus and the new revelations from Spirit, though Jesus was sometimes described as a Master Teacher, a great spirit who had been sent to the world by God to guide us forward, rather than being presented as the 'Son of God'. This strand of Spiritualism gained a strong following and, what are described as Christian Spiritualist Churches have continued to exist to the present time.

The Spiritualist Movement, however, attracted many of the middle and upper classes, and those who were drawn to a new way of thinking and exploring their known world The nineteenth century had seen the rise in doubts about Christian doctrine and arguments about the institutional status of churches "were intensified by the growing prestige and authority of natural science and the increasing sophistication of" (13) the exposition of biblical scripture. The Bible as a historically accurate and literal record was being challenged by the emerging sciences which were demonstrating that the world, and humankind's evolution on the planet, had occurred over a much greater time span the 6,000 years stated in the Bible.

As Peter Washington records in his seminal work on the life of Madame Blavatsky and the emergence of the Theosophical Movement in the late 1870's, in the late nineteenth century:

"While technology encroached further on the sacramental sense of a world created and sustained by divine power, advanced textual and historical scholars, drawing on the disciplines of philology and etymology, were demythologising the Bible and humanising the figure of Christ himself. Christianity was reduced in consequence to little more than an interesting tribal story with an influential moral, more or less embodied in Christian legal and political institutions. In such a context Jesus appeared not as the unique Christ, but one influential teacher among many, together with Buddha, Socrates, Confusius, Manu and Lao Tzu. Some of these teachers were mythical, others historical figures wrapped in a carapace of myth which contemporary scholarship gradually stripped away ­ a process which suggested that Christianity itself might be a kind of fiction, a transcendent narrative that could still give meaning to each individual's own 'story', without being in any objective sense true." (14)

This weakening of Christ's exclusive divine authority made a large enough crack of doubt to let in any number of new movements, and teachings. And, as Washington notes, though no one of these developments necessarily denies the validity of Christian experience, or excludes the possibility of spiritual life or militates against the existence of established churches as such ­ together they to unsettle all three.

Thus in general, the religious revivals of the nineteenth century were frequently characterised by a tendency to identify 'true' spirituality with mysticism or occultism. This was one way of saving the spiritual from the corrupting effects of religious institutions. And while the established churches declined, interest in religion itself was never stronger. "Spirituality itself was not in question, so much as a secure source of spiritual authority."(15)

The problem of the source of spiritual authority was intimately entwined with another nineteenth century pre-occupation, the search for a single key that would solve the mysteries of the universe. For many, at least for a time, Spiritualism was perceived as a powerful source which promised to provide a key to the deepest mystery of all. "A major focus of the unsatisfied spiritual hunger which afflicted so many Victorians was an obsession with the rituals and protocols of death, fuelled by uncertainty about the nature ­ an even the existence ­ of the afterlife. This appetite was suddenly and startlingly satisfied in 1848" by the events which took place in Hydesville.

Though many who flirted with Spiritualism were content to incorporate the phenomena and belief's as expressed by the spirits through the mediums, into their existing spiritual and religious beliefs, other more serious spiritualists hoped that the meaning of their experiences would be established on solid scientific grounds, and therefore build a movement independent of any pre-existing religious dogma. For such Spiritualists, Spiritualism was a Philosophical movement based on scientific principles and natural laws, albeit principles and laws of nature as yet unexplained. It was merely a matter of time.

The quest for scientific proof affected not only convinced Spiritualists. A number of Societies, including the Society for Psychical research took a close and often sympathetic interest in the progress of Spiritualism. These organisations devoted much energy to collecting evidence and mounting controlled experiments in order to monitor spirit manifestations. Though most who involved themselves with such societies were not themselves Spiritualists, they were people who were prepared to explore the possibility of the Spiritualist message.

Some sixty years after the advent of the Spiritualist Movement, the message from the realms of Spirit was becoming clearer. Those in spirit were proclaiming a 'new dispensation'; a divinely ordained revelation sent to the world to prove three things:

"immortality; the existence, and how they exist, of spirits; (and) the effects of spirits in another world upon life in this."(17)

The so called "New Dispensation" was a world-wide call from Spirit to humanity to take the next step in the spiritual evolution of man's understanding of his true nature, and that of the world which had been created around him. Just as the physical phenomena had at first captured the minds and imaginations of those who explored the Spiritualist Movement, so now was Spirit beginning to call for people to see beyond the mediumistic phenomena and discover an "appreciation and understanding of the implications ­ personal and universal ­ behind Spirit communion and communication." (18)

Spirit wanted the message of spiritualism to go out into the world to reach men and women of all faiths, all denominations, and all persuasions, so that all could experience the reality of Spirit and incorporate the revealed truths into their own religious and spiritual journeys.

"In other words, Spirit did not wish Spiritualism to become a religion unto itself; rather, a means whereby all religions could find a common foundation upon which to build their various pathways into God's Kingdom." (19)

The message of Spirit was not a call to establish a new religion, "but a new religious order, whereby all religions could find at least one common ground: in Spirit." (20)

Such a message allowed for the incorporation of Spiritualist principles and philosophy into any, and all religions, or indeed into none if so desired. It was a message that stood above and beyond religion. It was a fundamental Truth being offered to the world.

It was perhaps almost inevitable, given the social, religious, and political climate of the time that, both in America and England, the Spiritualist Movement would find itself forming along roughly religious lines, despite the fact that such a move was not ever the intention of Spirit. As it became clearer that few established religions were willing to incorporate spiritualist beliefs or phenomena into their doctrine, more and more Spiritualists decided to create a new religion out of Spiritualism.

Thus, by 1910 the Spiritualist Movement can be clearly identified as having two distinct strands, or approaches, to the phenomena and message from the world of Spirit. The Christian Spiritualist strand of the movement, in general terms identified Spiritualism as a religious movement, while the second strand of Spiritualism strove to avoid the trappings of any religious connotations, seeking to identify Spiritualism in the context of philosophy and science.

Though these two distinct strands of Spiritualism can be easily identified, there was in the beginning, and still today, much overlapping of the two approaches to Spiritualism in practice. Both treat as fundamental to their practice of Spiritualism, the immortality of the human soul, the existence of spirit and the reality and value of communication between Spirit and those in the physical world. Both approaches adhere to a conviction that the message from the world of Spirit is both profound and far-reaching in its implications. Spiritualism was an ever evolving movement with Spirit offering new information and knowledge on a daily basis. As understanding of Spirit's message to the world has grown, so too has the Spiritualist Movement's understanding of the value and scope of Spiritualism.


The First World War & After

In the 10 or so years before the advent of World War One, the Spiritualist Movement, though still popular, had settled into being just one of the many different movements that had grown out of the nineteenth century. Though still actively frowned upon by the religious orthodoxy, Spiritualism, and particularly Christian Spiritualism, had found a niche and even established, a certain, if minor, respectability as an alternative religious movement.

Some, who initially held high hopes of Spiritualism providing the answers to life's mysteries, had become dissatisfied with what was seen as the apparently trivial nature of much of the communication received from Spirit, and the apparent failure of science to confirm the validity of the Spiritualist viewpoint. The decline in the more sensational 'physical phenomena' had also impacted on the Spiritualist following, while the emergence of Theosophy with its unique blending of Eastern and Western beliefs had drawn many onto a new path.

The 1914-1918 War brought with it the horror of death on an enormous scale. People struggled to come to terms with the loss of life of many thousands of young men. Inevitably there came a resurgence of interest in Spiritualism with its purported ability to communicate with those who had passed from the physical world into Spirit. Grieving families flocked to the Spiritualist Churches and Missions, seeking comfort and confirmation that their loved ones had survived. Throughout the war years, and for some time after, Spiritualism once more had a significant impact on the lives and beliefs of many. Without doubt, the Spiritualist Movement at that time provided, as it had in the beginning, a message of hope for the world.


The 1920's & 1930's

The impact of the First World War on Spiritualism was significant in two respects. The loss of human life on such a massive scale, brought attention strongly back on the message of 'survival over death', first brought to the world's attention in 1848. The pre-occupation with proving survival of the human spirit over death was understandable in the context of the human tragedy experienced as a result of the war. The many who had lost loved ones, sought reassurance and comfort through the Spiritualist medium's ability to make contact with the departed spirit; and to hear that those who had died were 'in fact' alive and well, though existing in a different realm helped many to deal with their grief.

Arising from this, came a reawakening of interest in the nature of the Spirit Realms, and during the 1920's and 1930's many hundreds of books, articles, and pamphlets were produced recording communications from the Spirit world describing the myriad of different 'levels' or 'realms' that existed as part of the greater Spirit World.

By 1923, there were between four and five hundred societies in Britain alone, devoted to Spiritualism. Spiritualist organisations of various kinds could be found throughout America, Europe and as far away as Australia and New Zealand. While the full range of physical phenomena still occurred, by the 1920's what was soon described as the 'mental phenomena' of spirit directed activity, was gaining ascendency. The mental phenomena included automatic and inspirational writing, trance mediumship, over-shadowing and transfiguration, clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, and associated techniques such as psychometry and flower-reading.

Once again, Spirit was offering new information and knowledge on a daily basis, revealing what happens to the human spirit in the process of death, the nature and dimensions of the spirit world, the evolving nature of spirit consciousness and, importantly some of the obligations and responsibilities that seemed to be a part of being a 'spirit'.

What were described as 'more evolved' spirit entities began to make their presence felt in the world, as they communicated through the agency of the trance mediums a message that how we lived while in the physical world determined in some distinctive way, how we fared in the world of spirit. The call from Spirit now began to emphasise that how humankind lives while in the physical world, was an important part of humankind's spiritual evolution.

Spirit called upon people of the 'earth plane' to awaken to their true spiritual nature and origins and recognise the fundamentally important role the earth played in the 'Divine plan' for humanity.

Spirit cried out for all people's to learn to love; "to bring an end to all separateness between peoples; to end all race distinctions, class distinctions, colour distinctions, and all distinctions of religionÉÉ" and learn to care for the Earth that Spirit informed those that would listen was an essential part of God's creation. (21) To fail to heed this call could, Spirit reported, bring humankind, indeed the very world itself, to the brink of destruction.

Therefore, the second factor of significance influencing the Spiritualist Movement during the years between the First World War and the second, relates to the new message to humankind emerging from the world of Spirit. The 1914-1918 War, had been heralded as the 'War to end all Wars', yet Spirit warned that this would not be the case, the world would find itself at war again if it did not begin to heed their message.

In addition, Spirit communications began to emphasise more and more clearly, that the phenomena were a means to an end, and not an end in themself. With an increasing sense of urgency Spirit urged humankind to look beyond the phenomena; to look beyond the fact that the spirit survives bodily death, and understand that all things, human, animal, vegetable, mineral and the physical Earth, were all a part of the "great creator of all that is" (22) and must be cared for at all cost.

Silver Birch, one of the many great spiritual teachers who have communicated from beyond 'the veil of death' spoke these words:

"There is a plan behind all spirit communication. We strive to make you realise the latent divinity that is yours, that you may express more of the great SpiritÉÉÉYour world has to learn that behind what it regards as the manifestation of life, there is the eternal reality of the spirit, that the children of matter are not only worldly beings but spiritual beings expressing themselves through bodies of matterÉÉWe preach the gospel of the spiritual brotherhood of all peoples.

Hints of this new message can be found in many of the earlier records of the words of Spirit from the very beginning of the Spiritualist Movement, but by the 1930's and in the 1940's, with the advent of the Second World War, what had begun as a trickle in the 1890's, became a loud river roaring our a clarion call to humankind.

Silver Birch, like so many other spirit teachers, did not merely speak in abstract about humankind's divine nature, or about humankind's part in the Universe as a whole. He gave a clear indication as to how to proceed.

"The whole keynote of our teaching is contained in the word - service. Ours is the gospel of mutual helpfulness, co-operation, tolerance, sympathy. We desire all to learn to serve one another. Your world needs service. It needs the spread of the idea that all people are parts of one another, that the divine spirit flows through all human beings, making all equal in the sight of the Great Spirit......"

"There is the service of freeing poor, racked bodies from pain, the service of fighting injustice and tyranny, the service of fighting hate, the service of preserving freedom and the service of abolishing the evils of your world and giving the spirit in man a chance to express itself as the great Spirit desires that it should."

Silver Birch and many other Spirit teachers and guides made it clear that in order to give service we must recognise the divine spark that is within each one of us. We must learn to love, for unconditional love and service are synonymous; they are the same thing.


World War Two & Beyond

With the outbreak of World War Two, once again Spiritualism experienced a massive increase in interest in its beliefs and activities. The appalling loss of life on a scale never before seen, brought grief not only to those whose lives were affected by the loss of a loved one, but also to those who perceived the futility of all war. The call of Spiritualism for all to unite as one 'family of mankind', held appeal to many who were disillusioned by the events taking place