Question: "What is the Church of Spiritualism?"

Answer: The Church of Spiritualism, also known as the Spiritualist Church, has its roots in the ancient practice of communicating with the spirits of the dead. On March 31, 1848, in Hydesville, New York, this ancient pagan practice exploded into what adherents now term “Modern American Spiritualism.” It began with the Fox sisters: Margaretta, 15, and Kate, 11. One evening Mrs. Fox heard loud pops, cracks, and thumps originating from the girls’ room. When she investigated, the thumps responded accurately to her questions, and the girls claimed they were being contacted by spirits. These noises later turned into a “code” by which the alleged spirits could answer questions, spell words, and give direction.

The girls claimed they were communicating with a spirit they dubbed Mr. Splitfoot; he later identified himself as Charles B. Rosna and said he had been murdered five years previous and buried in the cellar. Mrs. Fox sent for her eldest daughter Leah in Rochester, and she helped publicize this phenomenal occurrence. The “ghosts” quickly drew the attention of the whole town, and searchers dug up the cellar. They found a few pieces of bone, but no person named Charles B. Rosna was ever identified.

Word of the haunting spread. Kate and Margaretta became sought-after mediums and held public séances around New York. Many other mediums also claimed such powers, and spiritualism began to attract thousands, including Horace Greeley and William Lloyd Garrison. Kate moved in with her sister Leah, who managed the girls’ careers. Margaretta was sent to live with a Quaker family, who became convinced of the validity of her claims. Belief in spiritualism spread throughout the Quaker community. The Fox girls traveled extensively and enjoyed successful careers as mediums and speakers, although their personal lives deteriorated with broken marriages and alcoholism.

Forty years later, in an October 21, 1888, interview with the New York World, Margaretta revealed the truth. It was all a hoax. It had begun as a prank that she and Kate played on their mother. They learned to produce pops and cracks by cracking their fingers and toes, dropping apples down the stairs, and doing it all undetected. In a signed statement published by the New York World, the New York Herald, and the New York Daily Tribune, Margaretta Fox Kane stated, “That I have been chiefly instrumental in perpetrating the fraud of Spiritualism upon a too-confiding public, most of you doubtless know. The greatest sorrow in my life has been that this is true, and though it has come late in my day, I am now prepared to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God! . . . I am here tonight as one of the founders of Spiritualism to denounce it as an absolute falsehood from beginning to end, as the flimsiest of superstitions, the most wicked blasphemy known to the world.”

The confession was not welcome news to the now-established Church of Spiritualism. Die-hard believers refused to accept Margaretta’s revelations as truth and insisted that, although the communications may have begun as a prank, spirits were in fact manifesting themselves. They claimed her recantation was due to alcohol abuse and not to be believed. This insistence continues in the modern Church of Spiritualism, where there is no mention of the recantation.

So what is Spiritualism and the Church of Spiritualism? Their national website states, “A spiritualist is one who believes, as the basis of his or her religion, in the communication between this and the Spirit World by means of mediumship and who endeavors to mold his or her character and conduct in accordance with the highest teachings derived from such communication.” By this definition, spiritualism is directly contrary to biblical teaching. In Leviticus 19:1, God says, “Don’t turn to those who are mediums, nor to the wizards. Don’t seek them out, to be defiled by them. I am Yahweh your God.” Many other references clearly state God’s opposition to Spiritualism (Leviticus 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:10–12; 2 Kings 23:24). Isaiah 8:19 says, “When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?”

The Church of Spiritualism website defines the foundational doctrine of Spiritualism: “We accept all truths and endeavor to prove their validity. Truths are found in nature, in other religions, in writings, in science, in philosophy, in Divine Law and are received through spirit communication.” It also says, “A belief in spirit communication does not conflict with the Teachings ascribed to Jesus.” These statements themselves are untrue. Scriptural truth is in direct opposition to the spiritualist’s beliefs. Both cannot be true. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). He also said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). That is truth according to Scripture. But that is not a truth espoused by the spiritualist; therefore, Spiritualism’s claim that they “accept all truths” is false.

About God they say, “In Spiritualism we believe in one God, that we call Infinite Intelligence, which is All in All or within everything.” They capitalize the name “God,” yet do not attribute personal qualities to Him. They define God as “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.” However, God gives us His many characteristic names by which He wants us to identify Him: Yahweh (Malachi 3:16), El Shaddai (Genesis 17:1), and I AM (Exodus 3:14), among others. So when a spiritualist speaks of “God,” he is not referring to the Creator God who reveals Himself in the Bible. Spiritualism has created its own idea of a god that does not exist.

Spiritualists do not believe in heaven or hell (Matthew 10:28; 25:46), evil spirits (Mark 5:8; Matthew 12:43), or salvation by faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9). They believe that human life continues after death, “where the opportunity for growth and progress to better, higher and more spiritual conditions are open to all.” An attempt to combine Christianity with occult practices has resulted in the formation of Christian Spiritualist Churches—which are neither Christian nor spiritual.

The supernatural phenomena experienced by many adherents of the Church of Spiritualism may very well be real. Satan has real power and can even masquerade as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). The fact that spiritualists deny the existence of Satan or demons gives those evil spirits more freedom to work unobstructed among them and to convince many gullible souls that they are finding God.

Galatians 1:8 says, “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (see also 2 Corinthians 11:4). Any attempt to deny the deity of Christ, His finished work of salvation on behalf of His children, or the true nature of God is “another gospel” and subject to the judgment of God. The Church of Spiritualism falls into that category.