Presidential Address 1988 – Scrapheap Warning

SNU President Issues ‘Scrapheap’ Warning on Spiritualism’s Future

In a rousing speech to the Spiritualists National Union’s annual conference at Sheffield, President Gordon Higginson urged delegates to rekindle the fervour of Spiritualism’s pioneers and carry forward their beliefs.  The world was crying out for the message of Spiritualism but too often “we go on altering our rules, worrying about petty things instead of concentrating on the main issue concerning life itself and our purpose on earth.”

Gordon warned delegates that unless Spiritualists found a way of getting the fundamental philosophy of Spiritualism across, the movement would “end up like all past religions – on the scrapheap of the world.”

Gordon, who was celebrating his 18th year as President, had to leave conference before the end , but was given a standing ovation as a send-off.   SNU vice-president Eric Hatton said of Gordon: “He has devoted his life to the Spiritualist cause.  He is in every way poorer for it excepting his spiritual growth, which I think is unique to him.”

Gordon also found time during the weekend to talk about Spiritualism on an early morning chat show on Radio Sheffield.  This is the text of his speech to conference:


“Today I celebrate 18 consecutive years as National President.  It has been both an honour and a privilege to hold such high office for so long.  History will record my name as being the longest-serving President since the inauguration meeting of 1892.

There are delegates and members present today who also attended the 1970 AGM when I was first elected.  They too will remember the appalling financial state of the Union at that time. The bank stopped payment of cheques.  The only asset we had was Stansted Hall … and this was held by the Building Fund Pool to cover debts of over £40,000.

We were literally broke.  It seemed in the light of all the facts and figures that the only way out was to prepare for liquidation.   I think it is important to this conference that delegates and members should be reminded of the utter chaos of the Union on 1970 when I stood for President.  I was also aware that no one else wanted this ‘hot seat’.

I knew to be successful, I had to first win the trust and faith of our churches and members.  People need to believe in those that lead them.  They must also be convinced that their leaders are right – right in their judgements and right on their advice.  There must always be someone to follow, someone in whom they could believe.  I was ready to take command.  And I did.  At the close of the 1970 conference, I made several promises.  One: to save the Union from liquidation.  Two: to do all in my power to prevent the sale of Stansted Hall.  Three: to form a new Union.  Four: to secure the future of the Spiritualists National Union.

Frequently I look to the past to gather those threads of wisdom which experience so well bestows.  Looking back should be habitual with us – unless we have benefitted by what we have come through, we have lived in vain.

If you take an honest look  at the record of my leadership over the past 18 years, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Union has made a marvellous recovery and has successfully consolidated its position and secured its future.   Stansted Hall is no longer a “white elephant” and a drain on resources.  It is viable and making a reasonable profit.  It stands as a monument to our success and our most valuable asset.

But do not let us be satisfied because of the strides we have made and lull ourselves into a sense of false security because the tide is now in our favour.  We are the architects of the future. None can relieve us of our responsibilities. The work of the pioneering is not yet over.

Looking back, the old pioneers did their work well.  Moved by a courage that seems superhuman, they cleared the ground for us and laid the foundations for Modern Spiritualism on the rock of facts and truth which have withstood the tempest. Their foundations will stand.

It was on this rock that the Spiritualists of the old days formed the Spiritualist Federation from which has grown the SNU.   They had conflict with the Christians and were persecuted and condemned; they were ostracised from society and abused wherever they went.   But through it all our pioneers never wavered from their beliefs. They fought on and kept Spiritualism as Spiritualism – a landmark amid the broad ocean of time.  The finger of time is powerless to bring it to decay for it is built in the hearts of good men and women.

The Spiritualism of our old pioneers stands as a rock from whence the beacon light of truth has shone through these many years.  In 1892 the SNU pledged itself to build its superstructure on the foundation laid by the pioneers. No way will we ever give up this ground.  It is our heritage.  Therefore at this AGM let us pledge ourselves to be at least as faithful and loyal to pure Spiritualism as they were. For a house divided against itself cannot succeed.

Spiritualism came into this world as part of a great plan. The instruments through whom this new revelation was to be broadcast were carefully selected.  On the day the Fox Sisters established their first communication, Andrew Jackson Davis, that great seer who preceded modern Spiritualism and who later became the father of the Lyceum movement, records that he heard a voice which said, “Brother, the work has begun.”

Through the Fox Sisters, spirit messengers prophesied that their truths would sweep the world. It seemed impossible in 1848. It has happened today. In every country evidence of spirit power has been demonstrated.

What was the plan behind the advent of modern Spiritualism? When the early investigators inquired they were told the aims of Spiritualism were fourfold:  To prove the continuity of life beyond the grave; man’s ability to communicate with his loved ones here; to unite all the religions of the world and to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth.

The case for survival stands proved.  The cumulative evidence of over 140 years has reached dimensions that cannot be upset.  But there are still the mourners to be comforted.  There are still dark places in the world to be illumined with the light of Spiritualism.  We still have to weld the warring factions in religion.

I firmly believe that the kingdom of heaven on earth will be realised only when men and women understand that there is room in the world for all.   We must open our eyes to the suffering and starvation of millions of our fellow men, women and children.   It must appal the conscience of all Spiritualists to see such suffering when the bounty of nature is overflowing and that only man’s selfishness, greed and criminal stupidity stops him from breaking down the wall which, erected by himself, stands between him and that kingdom,

My whole heart is in seeing the Spiritualist movement where it ought to be – in the forefront of human thought and making its influence felt in all branches of human activity which are working for the common good.  This is not a dream.  It is more than a dream.  It is a human possibility.  The aim of Spiritualism is to advance man’s interest as a spiritual being.  We can best do that by endeavouring to promote the spiritual welfare of others.

Is it not true to say that the world has forgotten the Spiritualist principles that lie behind all life?    Spiritualism demonstrates that mankind is fundamentally linked by a spiritual tie.  I have learned from the spirit world to understand something of the creative force which is behind all creation.  Knowing this I feel it to be my duty to try and carry out the furthering of those principles in this world.

I accepted to be the President of the Union during its darkest days because I see only in the adoption of the SNU’s principles, aims and teachings, the means towards a united world and brotherhood of all men.

I believe in the Fatherhood of God in the sense that I can see behind all things a force that makes for good, one that uses us for the workings of its beneficent purpose.  I do not expect it to do my work for me. I must do the work myself.

In accepting the Brotherhood of Man as a cardinal principle of everyday life in all its aspects I believe that pure Spiritualism when practised and properly understood will abolish all differences of creed, ease all class and caste hatreds, join us all in one great human family and build up a new world in which the only distinction will be the degrees of our services for the general good.

Believing this I know that war is the worst of human crimes.  All wars are civil wars because we are all brothers.   I have had proved to me that whenever, however clumsily, I try to do something which helps humanity, I am aided, nay spurred on, by beneficial entities who can see further than I can and who know more than I can know.

It is to Spiritualism that we must look chiefly for the world’s salvation from the madness of modern society, its politicians, its economists who are unable to prevent the slaughter and starvation of millions in the midst of so much wealth and abundance, and who after renouncing war invent everything they possibly can to make the next war more diabolical than the last and likely to destroy not only national enemies but civilisation itself.

True Spiritualists oppose everything that degrades human life because we know that the human spirit, which is God, cannot be expressed through miserable, starved, degraded bodies.  We say the body is sacred as the temple of the living spirit. Everything that degrades that body degrades that temple and degrades God.

When the world is crying out for a lead, when mankind, tired of old-fashioned theology, is groping towards the light of truth, yearning for the knowledge that Spiritualists can give, we go on passively tinkering with our machinery, altering our rules, worrying about petty things instead of concentrating on the main issue concerning life and our purpose on earth.

Unless we are prepared to retrace our steps and follow that path our pioneers cleared for us, Spiritualism will end up like all past religions – on the scrapheap of the world.

From Psychic News, 23rd July 1988


1 thought on “Presidential Address 1988 – Scrapheap Warning”

  1. I love how Gordan in an honest way nearly commands excellence from people. He knew we could be so much more than our sometimes limited thinking by standing strong in the knowing that Spirit and God if we let it, is enough. It’s from this knowing that through grace and humility true spirit will emerge and speak.

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