100 YEARS ON by GORDON HIGGINSON, PRESIDENT OF THE SNU
The Spiritualists’ National Union continues to forge ahead and week by week new seekers of the after-life are won to our banner. It is one of the unique features of Spiritualism that conviction is based on personal experience and experiment. When we endeavour to interest newcomers to our movement, we do not point to some old musty records and insist that this should convince them. We do not ask their adherence to our teachings and principles by an assertion that they must believe that which has been recorded.
In a dramatic age, when the individual is taught to rely on his own experience and judgement, faith grounded on authoritative teachings becomes an anomaly. Each one who is a true seeker desires direct, personal conviction based on facts of events that inspire trust in the reality of spiritual life. The term ‘faith’ has little attraction to the many who have become accustomed to rely upon experience which they have personally examined.
Conviction to Spiritualism must come through personal research and observation of our truths and revelations. Then, as the veil lifts, seekers enter the fuller and larger life of the spirit, so all man made creeds and barriers are swept away and more and more the divinity which is hidden within each being becomes manifest and, like the rising sun, the eternal truths dawn upon them. They are reborn anew, believing and knowing that there is a future life, a continuation of mortal life upon a higher and more spiritual plane.
Wherever death implants its sting and wounds the heart, Spiritualism heals and comforts. It cannot remove the scar or bring the physical body back to earth, but it can comfort by the knowledge that death is but transition and heals and strengthens us by the evidence that our loved ones draw near to our side and wrap us in their love. Such ministrations are not dependent upon the acceptance of any creed, neither do they rest upon the validity of any scripture old or new. They depend solely upon personal experience and investigation.
There are some to whom faith is sufficient, who do not require the evidence of the world beyond. But most people find that in the hour of grief, when death robs them of their loved ones, their faith is insufficient. They want to know whether they have survived the grave. Religion is not based upon the theories of priests and clergymen but upon the facts of nature as demonstrated by gifted mediums. Facts remain long after theories have vanished.
Because the Christian churches have lost the use of the spiritual power of God and the angel world, their teachings have become distorted. Man-made theology has, in many cases, replaced the inspiration upon which their religion was built. Through mediumship, the power of the spirit is being revealed again all over the world. Through mediumship, man’s spiritual nature is known to us. Through mediumship, the next stage of life is revealed to us. Through mediumship, we know there is but one life with many aspects, and that conscience and memory go with us across death’s silent river.
The development of Spiritualism during these one hundred and fifty years as a new science, philosophy, religion and way of life has far greater significance and importance for the entire future of mankind than the vast majority of Spiritualists realise. It was not an accident that Spiritualism was inaugurated by the Fox sisters in 1848 when the Industrial Revolution was in the process of changing our lives, when the age of science was rising triumphantly. We are living an age of great scientific achievements. As a consequence of all this, rapid changes have taken place in the world. The forces of science and materialism have spread like a great forest fire, sweeping away the errors, superstitions and the outmoded creed and dogma of the Christian Church. Reason supplanted belief. This was obviously a period of crisis in the history of the world. The ‘Rochester Rappings’ owe their fame entirely to the planning and action of the spirit world, to the fact that they happened precisely when men and women were needing such an opportunity as this remarkable incident provided to investigate the reality of a future life. They needed to know for sure if there was a life after death.
Despite the sneers of the cynic and the protests of the critic, the ‘hot gospellers’ and the ‘born again’ Christians, there can be no doubt that the world at large has now accepted as an accomplished fact the possibility of communion between the world of spirit and the physical world. Spiritualism has percolated through to every civilised country in the world and we will progress further until people everywhere accept the truth.
In 1890, one hundred years ago, Theodore Parker, the great American apostle of liberal religion, declared, ‘Spiritualism admits all the truths of religion and morality in all the world sects – its inspiration is open to all – it is no fixed fact, is elastic, offers demonstrable truth as a basis of its religion, has more evidence of its wonders than any historic form of religion hitherto; it is thoroughly democratic with no hierarchy, it is not a form of religion, but to the pure in heart it is religion itself’.
The teachings of Spiritualism include and enforce all the good things that are contained in all world religions and other systems. It leaves out nothing that will make men or women better or happier. If all of us live up to the Principles, we will help God and the spirit world to keep this wonderful world on its course and enter with glory the New Spiritual Age.
There is, however, a danger that confronts the Spiritualist movement today, that individuals should attempt to divert the stream of pure inspiration into channels where it is not meant to flow. The spirit in Spiritualism is being driven out and pure inspiration from the spirit world is being replaced with creeded ideas, and dogmatic beliefs. Psychic phenomena and (so-called) spirit messages of a very low standard are being demonstrated from our platforms.
The influx of new people into our movement who are merely anxious to witness unfamiliar phenomena is responsible for a considerable lowering of evidential standards in the last few years. There is a tendency to sap mediumship to its dregs. Mediumship is dependent on sensitiveness and should be protected equally from vampires within and persecutors without.
We must learn to tend and watch over our mediums, teaching them that their spiritual faculty is a sacred possession, which must be used in the service of God and the people of the world, remembering also that every labourer is worthy of his hire.
We need, badly need, more mediums, a higher standard of mediumship and inspired speakers. We need a good deal of pruning of the lower end of the scale.
The future of Spiritualism will depend entirely upon the progress we make in improving our means of communication between the spirit world and our own. Spiritualism was founded upon, and has grown from, the simple fact that spirits can return and communicate with us through the agency of mediums, thus proving survival – continuation of life after (so-called) death.
This fact has now been demonstrated over a period of one hundred and fifty years. The evidence has undoubtedly accumulated and the Spiritualist movement has spread over the entire world. Millions have witnessed demonstrations of mediumship, and there are very few, if any, who have not heard or read in the press or watched on television the claims of Spiritualism.
We would be super-optimistic if we believed that Spiritualism is at present either attracting large numbers into membership or showing signs of assuming world spiritual leadership.
What is holding Spiritualism back? What is obstructing mass acceptance by the public on the one hand and the interest of intellectuals and scientists on the other?
The chief obstacles are in my opinion:-
- The disturbing complications and difficulties of mediumship.
- The decline and depreciation of mediumship.
- The disappearance of good Home Circles and dedicated sitters.
- The poor standard of so-called ‘Spirit inspired’ mediumistic addresses on Spiritualist platforms.
- The confusion between Psychism and Spiritualism, fortune-telling and spirit communication.
We have many churches doing outstanding work, but we see others who let us down badly.
It is time we made it clear to the ‘seekers’ who have left orthodoxy, the difference between Christianity and Spiritualism.
Spiritualism possesses potentialities both in the phenomenal and philosophical aspects that can, and must, make our movement much greater as a factor in the future.
As its adherents, its mediums, its advocates, realise these potentialities and open themselves as channels of expression, there is no reason but to believe that infinite resources and powers of the spirit realm will be opened up and the material ills and evils will be swept away by the influx and emergence of the spiritual into our everyday life when the companionship of the arisen ones, the fellowship with the greater sons of the spirit, when the abiding sense of oneness with the divine shall become an everyday fact. I claim that as a religious system Spiritualism contains all the elements that are vital to the intellectual, moral and religious needs of the coming age and that it affords scope for the expanding consciousness and experience of the future.
Considering the tremendous nature of the task our pioneers faced 150 years ago, I think Spiritualists have every reason to congratulate themselves for what has been accomplished, and furthermore today we honour Mrs Emma Hardinge Britten who laid the foundations for the SNU a century ago here in the great city of Manchester. This is indeed a proud day in our history. Spiritualism has passed successfully through the storms of ridicule, indifference, opposition and persecution, until today it has entered into a definite place of its own as a factor of vital importance in thought and to life itself.
Is Spiritualism progressive? Yes! Has it progressed? Decidedly so. Will it continue to progress? That depends on ourselves. Are we prepared to make the sacrifices our pioneers made? A mighty army is at work; not at the work of destruction, but at the work of regeneration, stimulation, help and guidance. They have not abandoned the conflict, they are in it still, regarding it now from a higher standpoint, seeing and lamenting our blunders and ready to lend a helping hand. We are co-workers together.
That happier state which is called the Kingdom of Heaven is the aim and goal. Towards that end immortal powers are working. Unruly wills retard it, greed and strife oppose it, but surely the powers of good are the stronger and in the end will prevail.
The purpose of those in spirit life has been, and is, to emphasise certain principles, and by demonstration to drive into our consciousness the truths of religion. They seek to give us the clearest light upon life we are able to bear. As we are each in different stages of development, so do we each see in accordance therewith.
We are seekers, and those who seek have the promise that they shall find. And what we find we must share with others, so that together we may reach the Kingdom of God.