Imagine a religion based entirely on an understanding of Spirit; One based on an individual’s personal experience with God; one in which revelation comes directly from heavenly spirits; one that believes that the nature of human kind is good, and not evil. This is the religion practiced by a relatively small group of people scattered throughout the world. They call themselves “Spiritualists.” Their guiding principle is the Golden Rule; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” They pride themselves on an understanding of spiritual values and adhere to them on a daily basis in order to live good lives. Most believe in biblical teachings, but most do not believe in the Devil, Hell or the concept of sin. Their beliefs and interpretation of biblical teachings are selective and liberal. Most live happy, fulfilling and moral lives.
But there’s a catch! Spiritualism is absolutely wonderful as a personal belief, but unfortunately, it can never function as a foundational religion. The reason for this is that Spiritualism avoids all religious dogmas related to sin and spiritual punishment for bad behavior. In Spiritualism, sin is left in the eye of the beholder. After all, Spiritualism was founded as a religion without dogmas in order to avoid the hypocrisies and the temporal politics that permeate all the dominant foundational religions. Non-judgementalism is a spiritual sacrament. There is no judgement in the world of spirit, but in the world of matter, non-judgementalism really has its limitations.
Spiritualism is based upon a belief in spiritual values maintained and modified by regularly communicating with the spirits of “dead” people through the use of mediums. By this means, they believe that each person can form his or her own personal relationship with God. Skeptics laugh at the idea that anyone can communicate with dead people, or that anything “dead” can communicate at all. However, after you have dealt directly with enough mediums, you will come to realize that there is more going on than trickery, naiveté or sophisticated guesswork. This book is dedicated to the proposition that the world of spirit is as real as the reality we occupy every day, and mediums are our best, if imperfect, links with that world.
But as I have emphasized throughout this book, the spirits of dead people are no different than those same people before they died. They are fallible, and far from omniscient. For this reason, Spiritualism, with its psychics and mediums, has had a rather tumultuous history with fraudulent mediums and magicians who use their skills to bilk the public. Spiritualism, at its core, is an honest religion, and it DOES have a very good handle on the nature of psychics, mediums and the reality of spirits! (For this reason, I have covered its history and its controversies in chapter 24.)
“The Golden Rule” may be the ultimate organizing principle in a spiritual world devoid of matter, but unfortunately, in a material world, human beings have to deal with human nature. Greed, avarice and depravity of all kinds are facts of life down here. Traditional religions deal quite nicely with the nastier aspects of human nature. They have very good reasons for the dogmas that ban certain behaviors, especially when those behaviors interfere with the creation and maintenance of families or the peaceful coexistence of friends, enemies and business associates.
Spiritualist communities like Lily Dale and Cassadaga can exist only because of the peace and prosperity provided by the moral code of the surrounding non-spiritualist community. Spiritualism itself relies on the fact that each of its members brings with him or her a preexisting Judeo-Christian moral code that they learned long before they became Spiritualists. And that moral code is the result of centuries of dogmatic religious belief!
Dogmatic foundational religions have always regulated peoples’ intimate behaviors. Sex and sexual responsibilities are heavily regulated because monogamous sexual relations do not come naturally, and without common agreement on the norms of sexual decorum, families disintegrate. The family is, and always has been the most basic unit upon which all societies rest, and without them, the entire social enterprise falls apart.
The basic tenets of personal honesty are regulated by dogmatic religions because people are not naturally honest. Traditionally, interpersonal and commercial relationships have always been regulated by religious edict to enforce ethical behavior and maintain order. People obeyed these laws because they believed that if they didn’t they would go to Hell.
A myriad of other religious dogmas, some still functional, others obsolete, have molded the unconsciously practiced morality that makes it possible for us in our supposedly secular society to live with our neighbors, friends and enemies. It is unfortunate that moral codes tend to disintegrate without socially functional religious organizations to keep them alive over the generations. However, this not only happens, but figures heavily in the decline and fall of numerous ancient civilizations.