THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF SPIRITUALISM
AN EXPLANATION OF THEIR MEANING IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Most major religions tie their adherents to a creed or dogma. Spiritualism does not. The philosophy of Spiritualism is founded on seven basic principles. These seven principles "act as guidelines for the development of a personal philosophy of how to live one's life".1.

What is a principle? The dictionary definition is "a fundamental truth on which others are founded, or from which they spring", whilst another definition, "based on Spiritualist philosophy, is a 'teaching' which everyone knows or can believe to be true, although different opinions can be held about its lesson. In other words, freedom of interpretation…."2.This aspect is unique to Spiritualism.

The fundamental teachings of spirit imparted to the world in through the mediumship of Emma Hardinge Britten, a pioneer of the early Spiritualist Movement, and upon which Spiritualism is based are:

The Fatherhood of God

The Brotherhood of Man

The Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels

The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul

Personal Responsibility

Compensation and Retribution hereafter, for all good and

evil done on earth

Eternal Progress open to every Human Soul


Without doubt the rather 'Victorian' language of the Seven Principles, may at first appear as a stumbling block to seeing their relevance in the modern world of the 21st Century. Transmitted in 1871, the principles are couched in the language and understanding of that time. Some may at first struggle with the apparently 'paternalistic' and even 'sexist' terminology. Others might find the terminology archaic and reminiscent of Christian concepts of 'good' and 'evil' and 'retribution' wherein the believer can either look forward to a 'place in heaven' or live in fear of landing in 'Hell' when their time on Earth is done.

To view the meaning of the Seven Principles in this way would, however, be an error as further examination of the Principles will, I hope, reveal. In understanding the true meaning and relevance of the Seven Principles, their value to us as guiding principles is re-affirmed. Given as inspired guidelines, they are open to interpretation by each individual according to their own personal understanding and particular circumstances. It is for this reason that many Spiritualist Churches, Missions, and Centres, cite the words "with liberty of interpretation" whenever referring to the Seven Principles of Spiritualism. Spiritualism does not claim a monopoly of Religion. It believes that "one's religion is a personal matter and any person adopting Spiritualism is Free to interpret the Principles according to their own awareness".3.

1. THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD

Spiritualists recognise that there is a creative force in the universe, and that force, or 'energy', or 'Intelligence', is an all knowing, ever present creative 'consciousness' that not only brought the whole universe into existence, and also life itself in its many forms, but also continues to actively create and interact with the whole of the creation. The 'God' of the first Principle of Spiritualism is 'The Creative Force', the 'Life Force', the 'Great Spirit', the 'Divine Consciousness', or 'The All that Is', and not the God of the Christian's, reduced to a nebulous figurehead sitting on a throne meting out punishment for wrongdoing, or rewards for 'worshiping' in 'his' name. The 'God' perceived by Spiritualists "is not the limited Deity of the Judeo-Christian world, endowed with both human virtues and vices…..the Spiritualist God is a more abstract idea, embodying all the creative and positive attributes, yet possessing none of the vices and negativity attributable to Mankind. Each and every individual is united to this Deity by dis-severable ties: bonds inherent in his or her very existence. God is Divine Love!"4.

The Spiritualist 'God' is infinite Power, and infinite Love. This 'God' is a source of hope, encouragement, love and support, constantly available to each and every one of us. It is a God of infinite Wisdom that will never reject us, who are a part of 'its' creation. A 'God' who, in creating all that exists, or will ever exist, imbrued all things with a part of its Divine Consciousness. Every person, no matter what their faith or religion may be, is a part of 'God's' creation, and therefore holds within their very being a part, or a 'spark' of the Divine.

Spiritualist's believe that we all: Muslim; Jew; Catholic; Protestant; Baptist; Mormon; Wiccan; Pagan; Atheist, Spiritualist, and so on, are part of 'God's' creation and hold within their being this 'Divine Spark' of God. We believe that "we all follow our own path at our own pace, discovering the 'God' within and bringing us a greater knowledge of this Divine source".5.

Because Spiritualist's perceive that all hold the 'Divine Spark' of God within their being, and that it is this that spark that gives us life and consciousness, we 'honour' the source of that Life Giving Force, coming to 'God', and acknowledging 'God' as children come to the wise 'parent/parents' who have given them life, nurtured them in their infancy and who stand by them as they come of age. In this sense do Spiritualists understand the words: 'The Fatherhood of God'.

The first principle of Spiritualism is a statement of "our ideal of God, and of our consequent human relationships"6. We must clearly understand "that the concept of God envisaged……is not a person in the ordinary sense of the word, that the use of the term 'Fatherhood' means only that we regard this relationship as one of the attributes of the Supreme Mind. Perhaps the term 'Parenthood' would be more helpful, because some of us may have unhappy memories of a stern father relationship, whilst parenthood would include a mother relationship, invoking happy memories of the loving care and guidance……However, the term fatherhood can still be used, with its interpretation, where desired, as parenthood."7.

For Spiritualists, our ideal of God is as the Supreme Mind or Consciousness beyond the Universal Plan. "We conceive God as Supreme Mind and the infinite source of life, love, wisdom and power manifesting through Natural Law".7. Spiritualism is "confident in claiming the existence and presence of a Divine order and the working outwards of a Divine Power which dwells in all things. The life of animals and plants, the growth of flowers, and, in fact, existence and development of any kind would be impossible without the presence of this latent power".8.

It becomes clear, having examined the views of a broad range of Spiritualist writers, past and present, that the 'God' of which we speak is neither male nor female; the Spiritualist God IS the creative intelligence behind all creation. It is the 'Infinite Power' or 'Force' that gives rise to all life, all existence. We each hold within our being, as creatures of God's creation, an infinitesimal part of God which drives us to become aware of, and express the divinity within, in all aspects of our lives. That all people, and all living things, including the Earth and the Universe, are a part of God and 'its' creation we should honour and respect the divine aspect in all things, and in so doing will honour the 'father' who created all things.

Understanding the first principle, 'The fatherhood of God' in this way allows the Spiritualist in the 21st Century to still find meaning and guidance in its words. God, the Creator, the Infinite Intelligence or Mind, or whatever other phrase might be called upon, is an ever present Presence' in our lives.

In honouring the Father, we honour all things in God's creation. In respecting the 'Fatherhood of God' we find we must respect all things in God's creation.

Through honouring and respecting all things as a part of God, we can arrive at an understanding that we must love all things as we love the 'Father' God.

To love, respect, or honour God, without respecting, honouring, and loving God's creation is in fact to deny God.

As we live our earthly lives, as we strive to progress toward a greater understanding of 'God' and 'its' creation, we become aware "that life and progress stem from within, dependent on this power source", and "we conceive God as being in the highest sense Our Father and ourselves as units of His Being and members of His Family".9. We might choose, in these modern times to say Father/Mother God to convey that what we have in mind is not a paternalistic figure; we might be inclined to describe God as the Great Spirit, Loving and Eternal Father or Divine Creator, in order to reflect our changing and ever growing awareness of this Infinite Source of all things, but inherent in all these words is a conviction that there is a 'Supreme Being', and that Supreme being 'guides' us and our journey, through this experience we call Life.

2. THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN

The Concise Oxford Dictionary definition of 'brotherhood' is "Relationship between brothers; companionship; (members of) association for mutual help etc.; community of feeling; kindred", while the word 'man' is defined as "Human being, individual of genus Homo, and a brother, a fellow human being, a person; the human race", thus it is clear that the second principle of Spiritualism 'The Brotherhood of Man' is not referring to the male species, but to ALL human beings. It is highlighting that we are all part of the family of God, and as such have a common bond or relationship to each other.

"The Second principle confirms the validity of the truth that service to God involves, necessarily, service to the Community of Mankind. Implicit in this idea is the concept of collective responsibility………the principle embraces the idea that we are inextricably connected, not merely to those of our immediate kith and kin but to Humanity as a whole. The concept of the Brotherhood of man draws into kinship the totality of mankind, irrespective of individual or collective ideas to the contrary. If one would truly 'Serve' one's Creator, the only possible avenue of service is through that of service to God's children: our fellow creatures".10.

Some might argue that the title of the second principle should be amended to brother-sister-hood of mankind to reflect in modern terms the "ideal expressed in the teaching that we are all brothers and sisters and there is no high or low, except in spiritual attainment" and as "children of God we are all equal"11. Others have maintained that since the words 'brotherhood' and 'man' contain within their meaning all people there is no need to make any alteration.

For the Spiritualist, the concept incorporated in 'The Brotherhood of Man' is wide ranging, radiating from home life through every phase of human relationship. "Though we humans may differ in colour, build, social development or ideal, we are basically of the same pattern and we all have ahead of us the same exalted physical goal".12.

As Harold Vigurs, a former President of the Spiritualist National Union in the United kingdom, and a man who was involved in the struggle to gain the Spiritualist Movement exemption from the Witchcraft Act in that country, expressed the view of most Spiritualists when he wrote "in the home we have two relationships, the ordinary physical relationship of parents and children and the spiritual relationship of brothers and sisters in God's family. This leads to the surprising realisation that, as spirit beings, all parents and their children are brothers and sisters. So, with that realisation existing, we must treat each other in our homes with the same courtesy and consideration we show to others, and a full realisation of this fact should make a great improvement in the way some parents treat their children. And, of course, vice versa".

"This precept of brotherhood, sisterhood, universal famility relationship, could, if carried into practical effect in our daily lives, transform the whole basis of earthly existence, as family life in this context embraces not only the immediate family circle or our local community or nation, but all communities and all nations, with all members being equal. Accomplishment of this realisation would put an end to communal strife and warring factions, combat national self-interest-first considerations and territorial gains or acquisitions at the expense of others, and develop a spirit of true INTER-nationalism">13.

The same concept or ideal would apply in all facets of life; in the workplace; in the school and university; and in the realm of religions too. Sadly, religion is in our world, still a cause of separation and discussion. Different concepts of God and/or interpretations of creeds and dogmas abound, resulting in the formation of splinter groups, persecution and even heresy hunts by one religion toward another or any other religion. And, all too often this is done in the name of 'God'.

One might be tempted to ask how, and why, God, if such a Creator Force or Supreme Intelligence, does exist, 'allows' the children of its creation to act with such hatred, dislike, prejudice and persecution. The Spiritualist will answer that Love, dislike and hatred between individuals or nations, and wisdom, silliness or folly, in decisions or actions, are due merely to different degrees of mental and spiritual development and our sub-conscious reaction to circumstances or conditions. The Spiritualist will point to the 'free will' given to Humankind by the Creator. We are 'free' to choose to act wisely, or foolishly, to demonstrate the love of the spark of the Divine Spirit that exists within each of us, or to ignore that spark of Divinity.

As other principles of Spiritualism will also demonstrate, we are all on a spiritual pathway. We progress along that pathway at our own pace; ultimately the goal is to discover our true spiritual identity and to reflect it in our world through service to our spiritual community, but God will let us awake to this reality in our own time, much as a wise parent will allow the child to make their mistakes, learn their lessons, rather than impose the right behaviour through rigid rules and regulations, or punishment.

Perhaps it will take many more generations to raise Humankind to the stage where we can rise above hatred and envy and become wise enough to govern our lives on the basis of the ideal as expressed in the principle 'The Brotherhood of Man', but Spiritualists have recognised that this is ultimately an intrinsic part of the spiritual journey, and so they strive, as

individuals, as small groups of people who come together, in their Churches, and Missions, to put into practice the message contained within this second principle of Spiritualism.

The 'Brotherhood of Man' principle "teaches that God, being the Universal Parent, we are all members of His Family. This means that all men and women — good, bad or indifferent; wise or foolish; strong or weak; virtuous or sinful; lovable or hateful; worthy or unworthy — are all members of the same family as brothers and sisters and entitled to each other's love and service."14.