SPIRITUALISM – WHAT IS IT?
By Dorothy Woodside, minister of the Spiritualist Church
First of all it is necessary to understand that we believe that we are all eternal spirit beings. So, instead of being a body which happens to have a spirit, we are spirits who happen to have bodies. This understanding paves the way to understand the belief in reincarnation (or not as our mind dictates). We do not have a creed or a body of scripture but accept our inspiration wherever we find it, including scriptures from other religions and secular material. We do profess the Seven Principles which is more a recipe for living than a creed. As a Spiritualist minister I see my role as being there to help people open their minds to the possibility of spirit existence and to encourage them to find their own truth, whatever that may be. Each of us is a unique individual with our own set of experiences from which we make judgements about what we believe and how we are going to ethically control our lives. In my experience what feels right in my heart is invariably right and if I go against this warm glow I find unhappiness while if I embrace it I find happiness and peace. Given that we are eternal spirit beings inhabiting a body, we believe that when our mortal body is no longer capable of sustaining life we shrug it off like shedding an overcoat and pass into the spirit world which exists all around us, just vibrating at a higher frequency. This higher frequency means that our mortal eyes cannot perceive it, but there are some individuals that we call mediums who can and do interact with the spirit realms and can connect us therefore with our loved ones who have “died”.
When we ourselves have an intuitive or psychic experience, it is a subjective thing and impossible to prove to anyone else. However, we know what we have experienced and this knowing is better than faith which can be shaken by conflicting evidence. If you ‘know’ who is on the telephone before you pick it up or have a feeling about an upcoming event and are proven right you have had an intuitive experience. For some of us such ‘flashes of intuition’ occur rarely, but with practise we can enhance our latent ability. When mankind lived as primitive hunter gatherers it was important for them to know when danger threatened so their intuitive faculties were awake; unfortunately when our children display intuitive flashes it frightens most of us and we tell them they are imagining things or punish them for telling lies and so their intuition is squashed and ‘lost’. Because our intuition is innate within us I believe that anyone who wants to can awaken their own intuitive powers to whatever extent they are capable (we are all ‘good at’ different things) and prove for themselves that spirit exists and that ‘death’ is not the end.
I will give a simple explanation of the Seven Principles. I cannot speak for all spiritualists but I no longer envisage God as an old man with a beard sitting on a throne in judgement for my sins. I see God as ‘All that Is’ and in that sense we are all part of God. Though the first principle states ‘The Fatherhood of God’, this father/mother principle is the creative principle from which everything that exists evolved. From this perspective we are all therefore connected to one another like brothers and sisters. This brotherhood includes the spirit beings with whom we can have communication and they and the angels minister to us or look after us as we live out our daily lives. We are immortal beings so we existed before we incarnated upon the earth and we exist in the spirit realms after we leave our physical bodies. Our reason for being is to learn and grow, incarnation by incarnation, and we continue to learn when we exist in the spirit realms in between incarnations. Part of the learning process is to be completely responsible for our own thoughts and actions, for, by the law of cause and effect, we are held accountable, and will, quite naturally, draw to ourselves the consequence of our actions. This is not as terrible as it sounds because we are all given the opportunity of another chance and another and so on till we master whatever lesson we are struggling with.
The concept of sin is foreign to our thinking. This is not to deny the existence of evil, but rather to view our stumbling steps as we learn our lessons like a small infant learning to walk. A stumble and a fall do not mean the infant is bad and no one would chastise him for it, rather encourage him to try again till he masters walking. So we believe that our fumbles and mistakes are kindly looked upon and we are gently encouraged to try again till we master whatever it is. Most tasks can be accomplished in more than one way so we do not see a ‘wrong’ or a ‘right’ way to do anything, just ‘what works’ and ‘what does not work’ in relation to any given task. We also do not believe in a literal heaven or hell, rather think of these as being states of mind that we bring upon ourselves by our thoughts. We do have a choice of how we react to any situation, and so can choose whether to be happy or unhappy no matter what is occurring around us.
If you were to come to a Spiritualist Service you would find it similar to any orthodox Christian service in that we start and end with a prayer and have hymns or songs. We have a healing part of the service in which we meditate and send thoughts of healing out to the world, and during which any who want have the opportunity of having hands on healing from a spiritual healer, We have a free will offering, an address (a sermon) and then a demonstration of clairvoyance, to show the existence of spirit. I think I have the best of both worlds because I have a belief system that sustains me and a religion that encourages me to question and find out for myself what to believe. My parents were both spiritualists but they did not impose their beliefs on my brother or myself believing that we should make up our own minds what path to follow when we were old enough to do so. None the less I have always known that spirit exists and that spirit communication is possible. I was a Presbyterian and a Mormon before I investigated Spiritualism seriously for myself in my mid forties. At the time I believed that psychic experiences happened to someone else, but over the years since then I have changed my mind. This is not to say that my abilities are like those of John Edwards or any other Medium you may have seen on T V but enough has happened to me to convince me of the reality of the spirit world and give me confirmation of the continuing existence of the human personality after the event that we call death. Unfortunately none of these experiences will convince anyone else of that fact; they are all subjective, I think perhaps you need to have your own experiences to be a believer.
The Seven Principles
1. The fatherhood of God.
2. The brotherhood of Man.
3. The communion of spirits and the ministry of angels.
4. The continuous existence of the human soul.
5. Personal responsibility.
6. Compensation and retribution hereafter for all the good and evil deeds done on earth.
7. Eternal progress open to every human soul.