Are you a Real or Unreal Spiritualist?
Asks Leslie Price (Article from Spiritual News)
Please add your own comments at the bottom of the page.
This curious question was posed years ago by a North London Spiritualist friend of mine called Edwin Butler. (He was so old he once passed a cup of tea to Sir Oliver Lodge at a meeting.) Real Spiritualists, he suggested were those who took their Spiritualist philosophy or religion neat. They had no need of extra doctrines, dogmas, trappings or affiliations,
They might be admirers of guides like Silver Birch, of mediums like Emma Hardinge Britten or books like “The Rock of Truth”. Ernest Oaten, who did the first UK radio broadcast on Spiritualism, was a fine exponent of Real Spiritualism.
Unreal Spiritualists (and by now you may appreciate that my friend Edwin was being humorous with a serious purpose) are the rest. They usually belong to some other tradition as well. They may be Christian Spiritualists, Buddhist Spiritualists and so on. Sometimes they are rather looked down on, and thought to be in need of orthodox crutches, rather than face the full implications of Spiritualist philosophy!
Edwin was an Unreal Spiritualist by his own definition. He had become a Spiritualist, and then a Christian, without ceasing to be a Spiritualist. Indeed, since his second wife was the medium Maisie Besant (who passed recently) he experienced more of Spiritualism than most people.
Needless to say, I think there is room for both Real and Unreal Spiritualists in the Movement. People are at different stages of their spiritual journey, and may be called to particular places. To argue that Real or Unreal is superior is wrong.
Notable Unreal Spiritualists include William Crookes, who was a Churchwarden in the Anglican Church; Percy Wilson sometime SNU president who was a Unitarian (today he could not join the SNU possibly); W.T. Stead who was a Congregationalist, and C.W. Leadbeater who was a Theosophist.
How about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Was he Real or Unreal? He obviously rejected the biblical faith, and taught “The New Revelation”. Yet he wanted Spiritualists in the SNU and elsewhere, to accept the leadership of Jesus Christ? Perhaps he was partly Real!
All this shows the limitations of labels. In any case, there have always been both Real and Unreal Spiritualists. Sometimes, one or other tendency has a boost. In the 1930s, for example, the Greater World led by Winifred Moyes forged ahead with Christian Spiritualism, while at the same time Arthur Findlay launched a powerful series of work on Real Spiritualism.
The important thing is mutual respect, regardless of label. Membership qualifications that limit applicants are quite legitimate, so long as they don’t lead to denigration of those who do not qualify. What do you think?
Leslie Price was editor of the Christian Parapsychologist for many years. He is the founding editor of Psypioneer.
What do you think? Is a Spiritualist someone who simply comes to church to get a message or should it be more about embracing the Spiritualist Philosophy?