Spiritualism or Spiritism?

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Spiritualism or Spiritism?



There is some confusion with the terms spiritualism and spiritism. Some see these as interchangeable. To others, the correct term is spiritism and they object to the use of the term ’spiritualist,’ believing they are one and the same. A third view is that both groups are involved in activities which result in contact being made with the deceased and the receiving of revelations from beyond; but there is a distinction made between the two.

Both attempt to communicate with the dead but spiritualists are people who profess to believe in the Bible and open their meetings with prayer and have hymn singing whilst the spiritists attempt to communicate with the dead without distinct reference to the Christian faith. We look at both groups, with the latter distinction in mind.



The Bible reveals that the Ancient Egyptians, were practitioners of magic, sorcery and necromancy, (predicting the future by means of communicating with the dead) and the people of God are warned against consulting mediums or wizards, with dire consequences if the warnings are ignored.

In 1848, spiritism received a modern rebirth near New York, when Mrs. John Fox heard peculiar noises in the upstairs rooms and cellar of her home. Her two daughters, Margaret and Katie, seemed to be very sensitive to these sounds and developed into mediums. These communications became known as ’Rochester Rappings.’ These were exposed as fraudulent ’parlour tricks’ in 1851 (sounds of the sisters snapping their toe and knee joints). A relative gave a sworn statement that the girls had confessed to her how they faked their ’spirit sounds’. Some thirty-eight years later, the Fox sisters themselves publicly confessed their fraud, and even gave toe-joint snapping demonstrations. But long before then the ’true believers’ had made up their minds that it was all for real.

When a public demonstration was held in Rochester, U.S.A., in 1849, mediums began to appear and spiritist circles were formed in many localities in the U.S.A. In 1852, a Scot, Daniel Douglas Home, who had been a successful medium in the U.S.A., returned to Britain and introduced spiritism there.

Spiritism spread to Australia in the 1850’s as emigrants from Britain came to the Victorian Goldfields.

By 1900, spiritism had waned but interest in it grew again after the first world war, as those suffering from the loss of loved ones turned to spiritism to try and make contact with those loved ones, especially husbands, brothers and sons.



Many people like to disregard the activities of spiritists and spiritualists as nonsensical or fraudulent but it is worth noting the words of one man, Victor H. Ernest, who was involved in spiritism as a young man:

Many people think that spirit phenomena are accompanied by trickery, slight of hand or black magic. I agree that many mysterious happenings associated with prominent psychic small-town fortune tellers are hoaxes — perhaps 85% of them, but I believe the rest are actual deeds of evil spirits counterfeiting the power of the Holy Spirit.’

A much- quoted extract from C.S. Lewis in his book, Screwtape Letters, is also worth noting:

’There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.’




A condition in which a spiritist medium allegedly loses consciousness and passes under control of some external force, (called a control spirit), for the supposed transmission of communications from the dead, or messages for an individual or a group.


A person possessing an unusual amount of psychic ability, supposedly enabling him/them to make contact with the spirit world.


A meeting at which a group of spiritists or spiritualists attempt to make communication with the spirit of the dead. The messages can come as:

1) ’Planchette writing’ — the planchette is a small board on wheels, attached to a pencil. When a participant in the seance places a hand on the board, it may move in a manner that forms letters, which are then variously interpreted.

2) ’Automatic writing’ — the medium’s hand appears to be guided in composing the ’message’.

3) ’Table rapping’ — the participants place their hands upon the table and questions are addressed to the spirits. If rapping noises occur, these are interpreted as spirit messages and normally their meaning is given by the medium.

4) Ouija Board messages - where a tumbler or planchette is used - with several people resting a finger on the planchette or tumbler - to spell out a message.

5) ’Flower readings’ - where the medium holds a flower contributed by one of several persons and then ’reads’ a message through the flower for that perticular person.

6) The provision of a special trumpet - shaped device through which the spirit can supposedly speak to those present.



1) Evolutionary process of spiritual development.

Spiritists believe that all dead people become spirits and enter the spirit-world. There is no hell, hence its attraction to many people. There are several planes in this spirit-world (usually seven but there can be as many as thirty-three!) and which one you enter, depends on how good you have been on earth.

There are spirits in this spirit-world to assist you to climb to a higher level. People who live very sinful lives, are earthbound spirits when they die and need the help of other spirits to begin to evolve. This is known as ’The school for earthbound spirits.’

2) Belief in God.

Generally, it is believed that God is a spirit like everyone else, but is evolving to a higher place. He is not a person as such, but the creative universal spirit.

Jesus is the master medium of all mediums, not the saviour. When on earth, He was like a supreme master of spiritual law.

3) Man.

Man has no saviour but himself. He has to acknowledge his sins and make his own amends.

4) Psychic powers.

All people have inherent psychic powers which, if developed, enables them to make contact with the spirit world.



Spiritualists claim that spiritualism is a way of life and it combines philosophy, science and religion.

Most of them tend to generally agree on seven principles:-

1) The fatherhood of God;

2) The brotherhood of man;

3) The communion of spirits and the ministry of angels;

4) The continuous existence of the human soul;

5) Personal responsibility;

6) Compensation and retribution hereafter for all good and evil deeds done on earth;

7) External progress open to every human soul.

Spiritualism world-wide

Some have estimated that there are anywhere between sixteen to thirty-five million people in Brazil alone, associated with various forms of spiritualism, and well over a million in other Latin American countries. Britain probably has well over a thousand Spiritualist Churches with an estimated two hundred and fifty thousand or so members.

There are Spiritualist groups throughout Europe, South Africa, India, Japan and New Zealand and an estimated two hundred thousand Spiritualists in some fifty different groups in Canada and the U.S.A.

Spiritualism in Australia

There are about seventy Spiritualist churches in Australia and they are affiliated with several different key groups. It is sometimes said, that for every actual member of a Spiritualist church, there are ten to fifteen other persons who are, in some way, interested in Spiritualism.

Spiritualist Services

In most Spiritualist services traditional hymns are sung (but often with some subtle and hardly noticed changes to some of the wording), prayers offered and a sermon or message is given, often by (through) a medium speaking (usually the senior medium or ’minister’ of that Spiritualist church).

The traditional Christian sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are not observed in the usual forms. Children of Spiritualists are often given a ’spirit - name’ in a ceremony called ’spirit naming’.

Some Spiritualist churches hold a weekly school called a ’Lyceum’ for religious instruction of children, youth and adults.

Marriage and funeral services are held.

There is an emphasis on spiritual healing but it is generally used to supplement rather than replace traditional medical treatment.


Once recognised as a medium, an individual can become a minister of a local Spiritualist church. The majority of Australian mediums are women.



1) Scripture condemns the practice of consultation with the spirits.

’I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spirits to prostitute himself by following them and I will cut him off from his people’. (Leviticus 20:6)

’Let no-one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist, or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.’ (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

2) The fact that a phenomenon is spiritual, does not necessarily mean that it is an act of God. There may be supernatural manifestations in spiritism and spiritualism but the Bible not only condemns them but teaches to ’test the spirits’.

’Dear friends, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.' (1 John 1:1)

3) While fraud and trickery are a big part of Spiritism/Spiritualism, if there ARE any spirits involved at seances, who and what are such spirits? Are they the spirits of the deceased people, as they claim? The Bible teaches that the spirits of the departed do not become either angels or demon spirits but rather that they are with the Lord, waiting for the resurrection of their bodies, (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17), or they are in hell.

There is evidence in Scripture, that the spirits who appear at seances are rebel angels (Jude 6). They are in Satan’s realm and the earth is that realm, for Satan is called the ’god of this world.’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). When the medium enters a trance and allegedly introduces the spirit of a dead person, he or she may actually be in touch with a deceiving spirit who knows that person well. These are sometimes referred to as ’familiar spirits’ and are convincing in what they appear to know about the deceased one.

4) The emphasis in spiritualism on one’s self-dependence, denies the need for a Saviour and negates the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

5) Spiritualism denies the Bible as the unique written Word of God, since they choose to go directly to a spirit for personal instruction and interpretation.

6) In order to embrace the teachings of Spiritualism, one would need to reject the major doctrines of the Christian faith, particularly the authority of the Bible, the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Atonement and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus.



Whilst Spiritism and Spiritualism are attractive because they promise communication with dead loved ones and knowledge of the future, it is clear that the practices of are a tool of Satan and he is the motivating force behind all the activities. We remember the words of Jesus when he said of Satan, ’he is a liar and the father of lies” and “he was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.’ (John 8:44)

Any involvement in Spiritism and Spiritualism leads not ’towards’ God but rather ’away from’ God and will meet with His condemnation. The wise person will avoid all association with these activities.


(From TACL Vol 21 #4 Aug 2000)