Spiritualism, which had its heyday in the latter half of the nineteenth century, is having a surprising revival in North America. Hundreds of so-called spiritualist churches regularly engage in healing sessions, led by mystics who claim to transmit “spirit messages.” Scores of summer camps implement church programs. Publications such as Psychic Observer and Tomorrow work hand-in-hand with the American Society for Psychic Research, promoting “scientific proof” of the reality of psychic phenomena. In March, 1956, a group of American ministers, missionaries, and lay leaders organized the Spiritual Frontiers Fellowship, patterned after the British Churches Fellowship for Psychical Research, “to sponsor, explore and interpret the growing interest in psychic phenomena and mystical experience within the church, wherever these experiences relate to effective prayer, spiritual healing, and personal survival.” It claims Christian origin and interfaith scope.

Focal point of spiritualism is the seance, ostensible counterpart of a religious service, led by a medium, an individual “gifted” with psychic powers. The medium lapses into a trance which supposedly enables him to contact spiritual forces and to act as speaking intermediary between these forces and other participants in the séance.

Nineteenth-century pioneers of spiritualism like Conan Doyle, with his photographs of ectoplasm, Oliver Lodge and Flammarion had almost faded from memory when mediums like Eileen Garrett, Edgar Cayce, Alice A. Bailey and Arthur Ford revived it. Today spiritualism surrounds itself with a scientific aura and takes advantage of the widespread interest in parapsychology, or ESP (extra-sensory perception).

In Parapsychology, Dr. J. B. Rhine, leading American ...

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