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"Feeling Lost? Discover the Path to Enlightenment with Spiritualism!"

America, a new nation, is populated by people from all over the world, bringing their diverse cultures and spiritual beliefs. America, with her indigenous peoples and their deep spiritual beliefs and earth-based religious cultures. By the mid-1800s, America was a rich, diverse melting pot of various cultures, religions, and spiritual beliefs. We had won our freedom from Britain and founded a new alliance. The Western territories were opening up. Women had not yet begun the fight for the vote, and slavery was still legal. The growing number of religions offered a freer, more open view of God, humanity, and the afterlife. It was an environment that contended God was not vengeful and that direct communication was possible. According to the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg, spirits were intermediates between humans and God, so the divine would sometimes use them as a means of communication. Swedenborg did, however, warn against seeking out spirit contact.

The 1840s saw the birth of Spiritualism in upstate New York, the same place that saw the birth of Millerism and Mormonism. On March 31, 1848, Kate and Margaret Fox claimed they had contacted the spirit of a murdered peddler. The spirit communicated through a series of rapping noises that were audible to onlookers. Two of the witnesses were Mr. and Mrs. Post, Quakers who were convinced and introduced the sisters to their Quaker friends. Because of this, many of the early practitioners of Spiritualism were radical Quakers who were unhappy with their churches. Spiritualism was also very popular with women because they had a place as clairvoyants and mediums, even though they could not even vote at that time. Many practitioners were not only advocates of women’s rights but also abolition as well. Many slaves still carried strong spiritual roots to their tribal African past. These tribes had strong deep-seated beliefs in spirits and the afterlife, and these beliefs were brought to the New World with them. The Spiritualism movement quickly spread throughout the world, but only in the UK did it become as widespread as in America.

Spiritualism was very individualistic. Each person relied upon his or her own experiences to discern the nature of the afterlife. Despite the individualism, like-minded thinkers came together, forming different societies, of which several are still in existence today. The Ghost Club was formed in London in 1862. The club has its roots in Trinity College in Cambridge when in 1855, fellows began to discuss ghosts and psychic phenomena. Charles Dickens was the founding member of the Ghost Club. They would investigate ghostly phenomena and meet later to discuss their findings. After Dickens’s death in the 1870s, the club seems to have dissolved until the 1880s when it was revitalized by Alfred Alaric Watts. At the same time, the Society for Psychical Research was also founded. Some of the most well-known members were Harry Price, Sigmund Freud, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Society for Psychical Research was formed to encourage scientific research into psychic or paranormal phenomena in order to establish truth. The society is still active today and includes chapters in France and America. Harry Price also later established the National Laboratory of Psychical Research in London to investigate every phase of psychic phenomena in a purely scientific manner.

During the popularity of the Spiritualist Movement, we see the first spirit photograph. Contrary to popular belief, William H. Mumler did not produce the first spirit photograph. In 1860 W. Campbell captured the first ghost or spirit photograph. He was taking a test photo of an empty chair alone in his studio, yet when he developed the picture, there was a ghostly image of a little boy in the photo sitting in the chair. He was never able to replicate the photo or any like it, therefore, he is not credited as the father of spirit photography. It wasn’t until 1861 that William H. Mumler caught his first ghost in a photograph. He took a test photograph of himself in the studio, and upon developing the photo, the image of a deceased cousin was standing next to him. In subsequent years, however, he began to fake his photographs, thereby branding himself a fraud, although he did have at least one authentic spirit photo. One of Mr. Mumler’s most famous photographs is that of Mary Todd Lincoln, with her late husband, President Lincoln, standing behind her. This photo was, of course, a fraud.

The Spiritualism movement lasted well into the 20th century, enjoying a nice long run and spurring a renewed interest in spiritual investigation. As a matter of fact, my great-grandparents and their siblings were part of the early Spiritualism movement in Florida during the early 1900s. I have come across meeting notes in which they were investigating paranormal happenings in their local area.

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