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Those who believe that the dead can make contact with the living through the person of a medium (see spiri tualism; spiritism). The Spiritualist movement in America originated (1848) in Hydesville, later Rochester, New York. Margaret and Kate Fox heard strange knockings and began to interpret them as sounds coming from spirits of the other world. Earlier, Andrew Jackson Davis had published a book, Nature's Divine Revelations (1847), from which the basic principles of Spiritualism are taken. Within a few years after the Fox sisters went on tour, giving demonstrations of their extraordinary abilities, there were thousands of mediums holding séances throughout the country.

Spiritualists took some time to become firmly established as a sect. In general they consider themselves to be Christian, with churches, ministers, and a basic doctrine. Christ, though not considered to be God, is the great medium, while the Annunciation is looked upon as a communication with the spirit world, and the Resurrection as a proof of the existence of the continued life of the spirit beyond the grave. The doctrinal position for most Spiritualists is set forth as follows:

We believe in Infinite Intelligence; and that the phenomena of nature, both physical and spiritual, are the expression of Infinite Intelligence.

We affirm that a correct understanding of such expressions and living in accordance with them constitute the true religion; that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death; that the communication with the so-called dead is a fact scientifically proved by the phenomena of Spiritualism.

We believe that the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: "Whatsoever ye would that others do unto you, do ye also unto them."

We affirm the moral responsibility of the individual, and that he makes his own happiness or unhappiness as he obeys or disobeys Nature's physical and spiritual laws.

We affirm that the doorway to reformation is never closed against any human soul, here or hereafter.

Spiritualists hold worship services patterned generally on the Protestant worship service, with the addition of messages from the spirits of the departed. Members are encouraged to make private, even daily, contact with the spirit world. For this a medium, not necessarily a minister, is employed. The medium is usually a highly psychic person, usually a female, though there are some male mediums. Contact is made at a séance, or group meeting, in which the medium goes into a trancelike state to communicate with the spirits. Responses are had through knocks, voices, or the emission of a vaporous substance, called ectoplasm.

The main Spiritualists organizations in the United States include the International General Assembly of Spiritualists (1936), with headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, a federation to charter local groups throughout the world; the National Spiritualist Association (1893), at Chicago, Illinois, the largest of the Spiritualist denominations in the United States, with more than 8,000 members adhering to the doctrinal and religious practices cited above; the National Spiritual Alliance (1913), at Lake Pleasant, Massachusetts, "emphasizes subnormal and impersonal spirit manifestations"; and the Progressive Spiritual Church founded (1907) in Chicago by the Reverend G. Cordingly, which holds essentially to the doctrinal position stated above, with the addition that the Sacred Scriptures are recognized as the necessary guide for spirit communication. The major stronghold for the movement has been Latin America, especially Brazil, where a large segment of the population practices Spiritualism in some way.

Bibliography: j. a. hardon, The Protestant Churches of America (rev. ed. Westminster, Maryland 1962). national spiritualist association, Spiritualist Lyceum Manual, comp. v. k. kuhlig (Washington 1944). g. weigel, Churches in North America (Baltimore 1961). w. j. whalen, Faiths for the Few (Milwaukee 1963).

[j. taran/eds.]