We believe in Infinite Spirit, and that God is Infinite Spirit.
Spiritualism, unlike most of the religions of the world, does not have a dogma or a creed. We are guided, instead, by a set of nine principles, which state beliefs held by Spiritualists throughout the United States. We read them aloud at almost every service as a reminder of the Spiritualist view of the spiritual path. These principles had an unusual beginning.
Modern Spiritualism began to flourish in the second half of the nineteenth century. During this time there was only one short-lived national organization, the National Association of Spiritualists, founded in 1864, operating through 1873. It ceased to function for reasons unknown. The Spiritualist religion continued to operate in independent churches and state Spiritualist organizations. Many people abandoned mainstream religions and joined the ranks of Spiritualism. Dedicated workers attempted to weave their dogmas and creeds, along with their interpretations into the religion and philosophy of Spiritualism. This led to confusion over what Spiritualism was and what it stood for. A new organization, The National Spiritualist Association, was formed in 1893 to organize the Spiritualists in the US into one working organization. As the organization found itself constantly defending it mediums and ministers, it recognized the need for a Declaration of Principles expressing the understanding of Spiritualists.
Six different sets of principle were developed by different committees to be presented before the annual convention. They all differ slightly, but generally conformed to sentiments expressed by the California Sate Spiritualist Association in 1898, “Spiritualists believe in liberty, and will not be bound by dogmatic creeds, which enslave the mind and destroy the spiritual nature…”
In the principles ,we now have the wording is slightly different from those eventually adopted by the National Spiritualist Association.
Our First Principle now sates,
We believe in Infinite Spirit, and that god is Infinite Spirit .
For many years, the first principle read ,
We believe in Infinite Intelligence, and that God is Infinite Intelligence.
Here are some of the early proposals for the first principle:
- We acknowledge an unlimited intelligence in the universe, of which we are all partakers.
- The Progressive Visible Universe is but a proportional manifestation of Infinite Spirit as soul.
- We believe in the Infinite Spirit and Intelligence called God and the immortality of every human being.
In 1919, Joseph P. Whitwell offered this interpretation of the first principle,
“By this, we express our belief in a supreme Impersonal Power, everywhere present, manifesting as life, through all forms of organized matter, called by some God, by others, Spirit, and by Spiritualists, Infinite Intelligence.”
Spiritualists do not believe that can be represented by any anthropomorphic likeness, male or female. To me, God is energy, a sum total of all the energy available in the universe, a balanced union of opposites. God is synergy, a whole energy, which is greater than the sum of all the component energy. Since our own personal energy emerges from and contributes to the God energy, there is a spark of the divine and infinite within each of us. It is a common bond we have with each other as well. The Infinite Spirit is an energy that each of us has to define in our own terms in order to have a personal relationship with divine order.
“In the music, in the sea, in a flower, a leaf, in an act of kindness… I see what people call God in all these things.” – Pablo Casals
“Belief in God is the acceptance of the basic principle that the universe makes sense. That there is behind it an ultimate purpose.” – Carl Wallace Miller
We believe that the phenomena of Nature, both physical and spiritual are the expression of Infinite Spirit.
So reads our second principle. This one, like others of the Principles, has gone through many transformations. One version, proposed in1899 read, “We recognize nature as one infinite whole, and her phenomena as the expression of life, energy and intelligence imminent in the constitution of things.” Another version, which was used for many years is, “ We believe that that the phenomena of Nature, both physical and spiritual are the expression of Infinite Intelligence”.
Joseph P. Whitwell had this to say about the second principle, “ In this manner we express our belief in the immanence of Spirit, and that all forms of life are manifestations of Spirit or Infinite Intelligence, and thus that all are the children of God”.
The second principle is the reminder that God is present in everything, made manifest in countless ways. There is a universality to Infinite Intelligence. This principle is perhaps one of the most powerful statements that we as Spiritualists make. There are neither stated nor implied exceptions to physical and spiritual phenomena in nature as being an expression of the Infinite. It does not apply just to humans. This principle does not recognize the superiority of any species. To be in tune with the Infinite, all must be in balance.
Historically, we have lived out the story that humans a re the superior beings of creation. We were to be the masters of all we surveyed. We exempted ourselves from whatever natural laws were inconvenient. Forests have disappeared, water supplies have been polluted, much of the air has become un-breathable. This is what happens when we set ourselves above a natural law that provides an order to all things. God is manifest in everything, a simple statement that intelligent beings have a hard time accepting. When we interrupt or divert the flow of divine energy by failing to acknowledge its presence in all things, we ask the Infinite to go against its own nature and behave in a finite manner for our benefit
When we accept the divine manifestation in all things, we prepare ourselves to accept our responsibility to maintain the balance of physical and spiritual life forces in all our activities on this road to remembering our divine essence.
We affirm that a correct understanding of such expression and living in accordance therewith constitute true religion. (ref. Principle #2)
In the second principle, we recognized the presence of God in all things. The phenomena of nature, physical and spiritual are the manifestation of Infinite Spirit. The third principle sets before the life-long challenge of developing a correct understanding of the expression of the infinite in all things. The God power is the unifying force that pervades all of creation. It is the power that connects us to each other. Every thing we think, feel or do is interconnected with a divine force that continually urges us to participate in the creative process. We have been given a unified principle, a natural law, a natural order which keeps all things in the universe in balance. Our job is to is to remember to be constantly aware of this divine order by observing and blending with the energy of the natural world to create harmony in the human experience. It is a delicate balance that we must maintain: We learn what things are by knowing what there opposite is. For something to be perceived as beautiful, another is defined as ugly. In between there is a full range of experience that is relative to the two opposites. The opposite of love is fear. Between these two poles is another full range of experience form ecstasy to hatred, from serenity to despair.. All created by and manifesting the Infinite Intelligence.
To “live in accordance therewith..” means that we learn to experience the balance of opposites, yin and yang, with out judgment. The experiences of our earth plane journey constantly present us with opportunities to become aware of the divine essence in all situations. We are trained to judge things as good or bad, beneficial or harmful. Sometimes we make these judgments on our own. Most often we replay judgments which have been handed down to us without giving them a second thought.
On the spiritual path, our decisions need to lead us toward a union with the Infinite. This is a positive motivation , always leading back to our Source. When our decisions are motivated by our desire to avoid something we have judged as negative, we divert our energy away from the awareness that God manifests in all things. The forces of nature are morally neutral. The energy is just there. It does not make value judgments; it does not discriminate between good and evil. It has no need to. It is always in balance with the Infinite.
For many centuries, much of humanity has lived under the illusion that it has mastery over all the forces of nature, that the Infinite created all this, just for humans. Most of us have been handed this story from birth. It has been passed down from generation to generation. When our soul makes itself known to our conscious minds, we begin to realize that the story may have some holes in it. The soul does not seek mastery of the material world. The soul seeks reunion with the Infinite, to merge and become one again.
Religion is a joining together. Remembering that we are all joined as one with the Infinite constitutes true religion.
The Principles #4
We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continues after the change called death.
As individual islands and continents are part of the single sphere we call the Earth, we, individual humans, are part of an Infinite Source. The land masses maintain their individuality in shape size and location, at the same time, always remaining rooted in Earth. Human individuality adds the element of personality to help us distinguish ourselves, one from another. At the same time, we remain united to each other and the Infinite source. Our thought patterns, (including judgments and prejudices), experience, knowledge and wisdom are some of the elements that comprise our personal identity. These are part of our unseen selves. They are recognizable but intangible, existing in the realm beyond the five physical senses. Our bodily size and shape, voice patterns, language, race and color are accessible through the five senses, allowing us to quickly identify ourselves on a crowded street. Like all the elements in the physical world, our personal physical characteristics are subject to the various cycles that make up what is life on earth: birth, maturation, death, decay, and a return to the earth to provide a source for new life. The physical world is all transient. Even islands and continents appear and disappear as a result of various eruptions of the Earth’s core.
It is the Spiritualists’ belief that the unseen elements of our personal identity, along with our spirit and soul, are not subject to the transient cycle of the physical body. When we experience the change call death, we are merely casting off the physical mechanism through which we experience life on the earth plane. We experience a rebirth into the Spirit World, carrying with us our personal identities along with all the knowledge we have gained from all the triumphs and tribulations of our earth plane experience. Our lives continue on, freed from the confinements of the physical body. In the Spirit World, we recognize each other by the vibrations of our energies. Time and space disappear. It is always the present.
The belief that some sort of life continues after physical death is not unique to Spiritualism. Most belief systems embrace the existence of an afterlife. Spiritualists do not believe that that we have to wait for a judgment day to continue on with life. We believe that our life is continuous from our obstructed universe of the physical world to the unobstructed universe of the Spirit world, as Stewart Edward White suggests. We don’t become instantly enlightened nor do our personalities automatically take on saintly proportions. We are who we have evolved to be. Or, another way of looking at it, we remember who we are: an expression of Infinite Spirit. We get to know the Infinite by experiencing the transient. We become aware of the absolute by experiencing the relative. We get to know God by recognizing the god within the personal identity of each individual.
The Principles… #5
We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the phenomena of Spiritualism.
Life after death has been a concern of humanity for centuries. Most religions make some type of accommodation for an afterlife. There are as many different concepts of life after death as there are different cultures. Those of us raised under the Judeo/Christian tradition are most familiar an afterlife embracing the concepts of judgment, reward and punishment: heaven, hell, purgatory, and limbo. Unless you happen to be a saint, communication was cut off between the so-called dead and the families and friends left behind on the earth plane until judgment day. Spiritualism did away with the concepts of heaven and hell, that some supreme being stands in judgment measuring out reward and punishments for good or evil deeds done during the earth life. To us, life simply continues, freed from the physical body. Souls are not detained in some holding cell waiting some future disposition. The spirit plane inter-penetrates the physical world at a different rate of vibration. It sands to reason that, if the spirit world is close at hand, and spirits are not in some inaccessible place, communication should be possible.
On March 29, 1848, in Hydesville, New York, the Fox sisters bridged the gap between the physical world and the spirit world. They were able to establish a communication pattern with the rappings that had been heard in their home. The spirit correctly rapped out the correct number of children in the Fox family, and their ages. As the communication process was refined, it was learned that this spirit was a peddler who had been murdered some years earlier. Items were found in the cottage that were consistent with those that might have been carried by an itinerant peddler. Communication with the spirit world was established, once and for all, for the modern world. Shortly thereafter, the Fox sisters demonstrated their ability to communicate with the spirit world at Corinthian Hall, Rochester, NY. Modern Spiritualism was born. The ability to deal with things metaphysical and mystical was out of the hands of prophets and seers and in the hands of the common person.
In the last half of the nineteenth century, many members of the scientific community were drawn to investigate the claims of communication with the spirit world. Many mediums, those who serve as a bridge between the physical world and the spirit world, were observed and tested. In most cases, the evidence presented by the mediums, and given to them from the spirit world proved that life continues beyond the change called death. Mediumship is not a phenomenon that lends itself to strict scientific investigation . It does not repeat in exactly the same way every time. It is presented in a different style by each medium. However, the evidence is still provided by the communicating spirit. It is the connection with this energy in our hearts, that proves that life continues, that it is a true communication that is taking places.
The Principles #6
We believe that the highest morality is contained in the golden rule: “Whatsoever ye would that others should do unto you, do ye also unto them.”
Morality is a judgment call. It is usually dictated by the customs of the society in which one lives. What is considered moral in one society may be taboo in another. By selecting the Golden rule as the standard of morality, Spiritualists bypass the customs of any given culture. It is centered on personal responsibility, how we act with one another, on an individual basis. In the 2nd principle, we acknowledged that all things are a manifestation of God. I f we wish to have the divine spark recognized within us, we must recognize the divine within everyone else. As one affirmation states, “ The Christ within me salutes the Christ within you.” This refers to the Christ consciousness, not necessarily Jesus of Nazareth. There is a sacredness within each of us that remembers our unity with the Infinite Spirit.
When Jesus did walk the earth plane, he promoted a philosophy of love replacing the strict laws of Moses which spoke mostly of a vengeful god. He felt that the ten commandments could be replaced by two: Love God above all else. Love your neighbor as yourself. It is this second commandment from which the Golden rule is derived. In it is contained all that is needed for moral behavior, regardless of social custom. The assumption is that all of us have learned how to love ourselves. Most of us haven’t. We may love this or that about ourselves but rarely do we love and accept ourselves as God does: unconditionally, without judgment. Western traditions tend to equate self love with selfishness or narcissism . That’s the story we’ve been handed. We feel guilty if we go against it. In truth, we cannot give what we haven’t got. If we don’t treat ourselves with loving kindness, we can’t treat anyone else with loving kindness. It is a fluid process, like the tides of the ocean coming in and going out. It’s not a one way operation. Even things that come easy to us must maintain and in and out flow. It’s not even an expectation of a return from when one has given out. It is an openness to the flow of knowing that love given out will be returned Rev. Gladys Worsencroft used to say that love is repaid by love alone. All love comes from the Infinite Spirit. We are part of the Infinite Spirit. All love comes from us as well. If we can’t recognize in ourselves, we can’t recognize it in anyone else either. To love one another as we love ourselves is the highest morality. It is Divine Love in action. It is recognizing the God in everyone.
We affirm the moral responsibility of individuals, and we make our own happiness or unhappiness we obey or disobey Nature’s physical and spiritual laws.
This principle seems, on the surface, to be simple enough. Live in balance with Nature’s physical and spiritual laws and everything will be just fine. But, like the second principle, it makes no exceptions. The individual is always responsible for the individual. There is no where else to pass to pass the buck. Our lives are all the product of our own creation. When we create things in balance we are happy. When we create things that are out of balance, we’re not. Even in the face of tragedy, we have the ability to move in any direction to change our lives to either help heal or worsen the conditions around us. In the same way that our feet, placed one in front of the other, get us from place to place, our thoughts, placed one in front of the other create the circumstances into which we move. As Thomas Moore says in Care Of the Soul, the circumstances into which we are born become the raw material of our lives. It is our responsibility to work with these and fashion the experiences of lives in such a way the leads to the balance of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energies.
Nature is the model that the Infinite Spirit has provided us. The forces in nature always operate in balance. Each element makes its contribution to the balance of the biosphere in which we also live. The human species also contributes to this balance. In Nature, a tree is always a tree, a dog is always a dog, a sparrow is always a sparrow. It’s a simple model that humans have trouble fathoming. We’ve grown to think that we’re in charge and are somehow superior to the other elements of this planet. Our superiority lies in our ability to make bad decisions, that we can manipulate the resources of the earth for our own ends without consequences. Humans have to be taught what balance is, that we are interconnected with everything that is around us. Remove one element and all things that are connected to it and dependent upon it disappear. When an ecosystem can no longer provide a habitat for a particular species, that species becomes extinct. Here the species of nature automatically live in balance, humans have to decide to live in balance and the create the circumstances by which it happens. When we’re successful, we’re happy. When we’re unsuccessful, we’re not. Humans like to pass blame on for the unhappiness or lack of perceived success in their lives. The principle of personal responsibility does not allow this.
A religion, such as Spiritualism, that promotes personal responsibility lays down a great challenge before us. It says that we have to figure it out for ourselves. No one can tell us, absolutely, what is right or wrong. No one can tell us , absolutely, what will make us happy or unhappy. It is only by accepting the responsibility for our own lives that that we can discover how best to keep in harmony with Nature’s physical and spiritual laws.
The Principles #8
We affirm that the doorway to reformation is never closed against any human soul here or hereafter.
With the philosophy of continuous life as the cornerstone of its belief system, it stands to reason that Spiritualism promotes the continuous opportunity to learn and grow. Learning does not end with the death of the physical body. Our divine essence, the soul, remains conscious in the spirit world and continues to grow in balance with the Infinite Source. We have opportunities to learn in the physical word as well as in the spirit world.
Reformation, i.e. learning to remove imbalances, is different on the earth plane from what it is in the spirit world. On the earth plane, we live in the world of opposites, positive and negative, good and evil, love and hate, up and down, right and left, etc. There is a whole range of experiences between one thing and its opposite. Somewhere in the middle of extremes lies a balance. The varieties of learning experiences available on the earth plane are endless. No two days are ever alike; no two moments are ever alike. How aware we are of all these possibilities and how willing we are to participate fully in them determines the extent of our progress in the physical life. Free will allows us to pick and chose how and what we learn. The doors to learning are always open. It is our personal responsibility to walk through them. If we use our earth life wisely, we can resolve many of the issues involved in bringing our souls into a more complete union with the Infinite Spirit. We get to know ourselves relative to what we experience. On the earth plane, all things are relative as black is to white, noise is to silence. As it says in the Tao Te Ching, “ Being and non-being create each other. Difficult and easy support each other. High and low depend on each other. Before and after follow each other.” To which I’ve added: emptiness and fulfillment love each other.
In the spirit world, the doors of learning are still open but the experience is quite different. We are no longer in a world defined by opposites. We are in a world defined by degrees of light, the light of the Infinite as it is mirrored in our own soul. How much light we have let into our soul in our physical life affects the intensity or our light in the spirit world. One of the ways that we can intensify our light as a spirit is by attaching ourselves, as guides, as teachers, to those still participating in the physical experience. We have the opportunity to reverse some of our unfortunate decisions by sending positive energy those who are having similar experiences to ours. It’s a process that is difficult to describe because we are forced to do it in earth terms: not the most precise method of description. If we learn to share our light on the earth plane, it will be easier to share our light from the spirit world. In spirit, we are in a timeless world without boundaries. We know that unconditional love is the power that renders all experience significant.
The doors are never closed.
We affirm that the precepts of Prophecy and Healing are Divine attributes proven through Mediumship.
Of the two precepts mentioned in this principle, prophecy is probably the least understood. Prophecy usually refers to an ability to look into the future and predict particular events. The assumption is that the future actually exits. It doesn’t. It’s a fantasy world into which we humans indulge in order to ignore the circumstances of the present moment or perhaps correct conditions of the past. However, everything about us only exists in the present. Even our memories of the past occur in the present. We store the energy of our experiences as they happen. This energy which is effected by our desires, thoughts and judgments propels us in specific directions, i.e. the path we follow in this life. If we project our minds too often into the fantasy worlds of the future and past, we can lose sight of the direction our lives are heading, individually or as a society. A person with the gift of prophecy connects with the energy of the present, assesses it, and predicts the likelihood of future events occurring. Those in the spirit world have an unobstructed view of our energy. In communicating with us, either directly or through a medium, spirits offer insight into the direction we are heading and the events that are likely to occur, all things being equal. Prophetic messages often are not realized. We always have free will in play. We often change our minds even without being aware of it. Events do or do not take place depending on how our minds manage the direction of the energies that either attract or repel them. Even the prophets of the Old Testament could only predict the present. None of them gave the day nor the hour that Jesus of Nazareth would appear on the earth plane. Nor did they tell what he would look like. The arrival of a messiah was only known in hindsight. For Christians, the prophecy was fulfilled. For Jews, it was not. The Roman poet, Virgil, was also credited with predicting the advent of a messiah. For centuries, people thought it was the birth of Jesus that he predicted. Most likely, it was the birth of Augustus Caesar.
All in all, we become prophetic in our own lives by developing our intuitive sense and learning how to trust it. A keen intuition is most of the most helpful and reliable tools for managing the direction of the energy we use to move along our paths. Bottom line: don’t get hung up on the future. The present holds it all.
The reference to healing in this principle is a fairly recent addition. It acknowledges that healing is also a divine attribute and is an integral part of mediumship. Spiritual healing by the laying on of hands and spirit communication with the spirit world through mediumship are demonstrable tools of spiritual growth. Neither are ends in themselves. They are both demonstrations of the ability to link with the total resources of the divine universe, with the Infinite Spirit, to help us progress on our spiritual paths.