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SPIRITUALISM and Spiritism

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Author Topic: SPIRITUALISM and Spiritism  (Read 2361 times)
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« Reply #30 on: July 15, 2007, 07:18:45 am »

Characteristic beliefs, compared with other faiths

Spiritualists believe in the possibility of communicating with spirits. A secondary belief is that spirits are in some way closer to God than living humans, and that spirits themselves are capable of growth and perfection, and can progress through successively higher spheres or planes. The afterlife is therefore not a static place, but one in which spirits continue to evolve. The two beliefs: that contact with spirits is possible, and that spirits are more advanced than humans, leads to a third belief, that spirits are capable of providing useful knowledge about moral and ethical issues, as well as about the nature of God and the afterlife. Thus many Spiritualists will speak of their spirit guides — specific spirits, often contacted, who are relied upon for worldly and spiritual guidance.[3]

Spiritualism emerged in a Christian environment and has many features in common with Christianity: an essentially Christian moral system, a perceived belief in the Judeo-Christian God, and liturgical practices such as Sunday services and the singing of hymns. The primary reason for these similarities is that Spiritualists believe that some spirits are "low" or mischievous, and delight in leading humans astray. Therefore, beginning with Swedenborg, believers have been cautioned to hesitate before following the advice of spirits, and have usually developed their beliefs within a Christian framework.[3]

Nevertheless, on significant points Christianity and Spiritualism are quite different. Spiritualists do not believe that the acts of this life lead to the assignment of each soul into an eternity of either Heaven or Hell; rather, they view the afterlife as containing many hierarchically arrayed "spheres," through which each spirit can successfully progress. Spiritualists also differ from Christians in that the Judeo-Christian Bible is not the primary source from which they derive knowledge of God and the afterlife: their own personal contacts with spirits provide that source.[3]

Spiritualists were fiercely opposed by Christian leaders. Here an 1865 tract equates Spiritualism with Witchcraft, and blames the faith for inducing the Civil War. The tract goes on to berate Spiritualism for its association with Abolitionism.Religions other than Christianity have also influenced Spiritualism. Animist faiths, with a tradition of shamanism, are obviously similar, and in the first decades of Spiritualism many mediums claimed contact with American Indian spirit guides, in an apparent acknowledgment of these similarities. Unlike animists, however, spiritualists tend to speak only of the spirits of dead humans, and do not espouse a belief in spirits of trees, springs, or other natural features.

Hinduism, though an extremely heterogeneous belief system, generally shares a belief with Spiritualism in the separation of the soul from the body at death, and its continued existence. But Hindus differ from Spiritualists in that they typically believe in reincarnation, and typically hold that all features of a person's personality are extinguished at death. Spiritualists, however, maintain that the spirit retains the personality it possessed during its (single) human existence.

Spiritism, the branch of Spiritualism developed by Allan Kardec and predominant in most Latin countries, has always emphasized reincarnation. According to Arthur Conan Doyle, most British Spiritualists of the early 20th century were indifferent to the doctrine of reincarnation, very few supported it, while a significant minority were vehemently opposed, since it had never been mentioned by spirits contacted in séance. Thus, according to Doyle, it is the empirical bent of Anglophone Spiritualism —its effort to develop religious views from actual observation of phenomena— that kept Spiritualists of this period from embracing reincarnation.[16]

Spiritualism also differs from occult movements, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or the contemporary Wiccan covens, in that spirits are not contacted in order to obtain magical powers (with the single exception of obtaining power for healing). For example, Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891) of the Theosophical Society only practiced mediumship in order to contact powerful spirits capable of conferring esoteric knowledge. Blavatsky apparently did not believe that these spirits were deceased humans, and in fact held beliefs in reincarnation that were quite different from the views of most Spiritualists.[4]
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