The Principles of Spiritualism


It is often quoted that Spiritualism is a gift given to humankind, a revelation from which humankind may start to awaken from its sleepy slumber of materialistic ideals.

This is a view shared by many Spiritualists’ for Spiritualism is truly a revelation of a kind never before seen. As a religion, Spiritualism avoids the use of words commonly uttered from the pulpit such as faith and belief, instead replacing with words such as fact and truth.

As Spiritualists we ask not of our members to believe in our claims or have faith in the knowledge of an after-life. But instead we ask our members to experience and investigate the truth for themselves, for we know it’s only through such a personal quest that the truth will present it self.

Spiritualism, as a science has investigated claims of everlasting life, and time and time again found such claims to be true. Reports have been written, papers published in scientific and peer reviewed journals and yet many in the scientific community who fear the ramifications of this knowledge stifle this truth. Failing to understand that if they would only raise their heads from the pit of ignorance, they would see how the truth Spiritualism tries to share, may be used to further benefit the world and its occupants. Imagine for a moment if the power that we know is Spiritual Healing was to combine with the technological advances science has brought. Imagine if Healing and the science community were to truly work together in cooperation, sharing knowledge and understanding – think of the benefit this would have on all of us.

However in contrast the mainstream scientific community in its quest to gain understanding believes it must dissect by nth’ degree, down to the microcosmic particles. Instead Spiritualism asks us to step back and at the macrocosmic level, witness the elegance and simplicity of its philosophy.

Spiritualism is concerned with enjoying life, our earthly life and the life that we’ll enjoy when we return to etheric realms. This could not be emphasized well than in our philosophy, encompassed within our Seven Principles. Rather than demanding and confining the lives of its members as is commonplace in other religious systems. Instead these principles guide us on how maximize our life experiences while all the time giving explanations behind the purpose of these experiences. Like a trusted friend these Principles remain faithful to us at times of difficultly, constantly reminding us that we are loved and every breath we take has the potential to progress our understanding and knowledge of this experience we call ‘life’.

But what are these principles? And from where did they originate?

It is these questions that this essay will seek to answer before then looking in more depth at the Principle that I feel reflects best the Philosophy of Spiritualism.

The Origins

Spiritualism like all philosophy-based religions i.e. Taoism, Confucianism etc. has from its early beginnings been defined by a set of principles upon which the framework of the Spiritualist religion has evolved. It is alleged that the socialist reformer and founder of the cooperative movement Robert Owen gave these principles through the trance mediumship of Emma Hardinge Britten in the year 1871. Robert Owen passing in 1858.

It is has been understood that the principles originally five in number were later published in the Two Worlds in the year 1889, and read as follows:

Fatherhood of God,

Brotherhood of Man,

The Immortality of the Soul and its Personal Characteristics,

Personal Responsibility;

Compensation and Retribution hereafter for all the good and evil deeds done here and a path of Eternal Progress open to every Human Soul that wills to tread it by the path of Eternal Good.

Then when the foundations of the Spiritualist National Union as a limited company were agreed upon the principles had to be reformed into what is now known as the Seven Principles thus making them acceptable to the Union’s legal advisors.

The Fatherhood of God;

The Brotherhood of Man;

The Communion of Spirit and the Ministry of Angels;

The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul;

Personal Responsibility;

Compensation and Retribution hereafter for all good and evil deeds done whilst here on earth;

Eternal progress open to every Human Soul.

It is this account of the origin of the Seven Principles that has been taught within our SNU churches and within the SNU Education courses since it first instigated by past SNU President Ernest Thompson in the late 1940’s.

However more recently research into the archives of correspondence and past journals by the Arthur Findlay College museum curator Mr Paul Gaunt has uncovered findings that instead raise many questions upon the legitimacy of an account so entrenched into the psyche of so many Spiritualists’.

Records show that on the 30th April 1871 Emma Hardinge Britten gave a speech at Cleveland Hall. Although Robert Owen had passed to spirit some 13 years earlier there is no suggestion in any records to indicate that Emma was actually entranced by Robert Owen during the speech. But perhaps more importantly during this speech titled “The Creed of Spirits. And the Influence of the Religion of Spiritualism” four principles mentioned and interestingly these are different to those we are led to believe that were given.

I believe in God,

I believe in the immortality of the human soul,

I believe in right and wrong,

I believe in the communion of spirits as ministering angels.

Emma followed each principle given during the speech with a detailed explanation describing the philosophy pertaining to that principle. It is noted that these explanations were for some not adopted and eventually, with the exception of the record detailing the speech, were lost in time.

Further to these four principles being announced the principles again underwent change in 1883 when Emma responding to an attack on Spiritualism by Reverend Skewes, published in the weekly journal The Medium and Daybreak her response which ended with the following five principles.

I believe in the Fatherhood of God,

The Brotherhood of Man,

The Immortality of the Soul,

Personal Responsibility Here and Hereafter,

And Eternal Progress.

It appears the only time that the alleged original five principles were ever mentioned was in the 1889 Two Worlds publication. But it is of importance to note that these principles show clearly multiple iterations from 1871 to 1889; and not the single iteration alleged to be given by Robert Owen through the trance mediumship of Emma.

It is of course undeniably attractive for a movement that promotes the life after and the communion of those who have passed to have a narrative that explains the origins of its philosophy, which also embodies such beliefs.

Whatever the method by which we arrived at these principles I am left wondering upon if there is any real significance in how these principles arrived? But rather should be not just be grateful that through the passing of time such principles, which provide such insight, have found there way into the lives of thousands of Spiritualists’ across the world.

The Seven Principles

The understanding we gain from the Seven Principles is common and complements the theology of many religions that are based upon a monotheistic ideology of God and the accompanying afterlife. As a religion based upon the Seven Principles Spiritualism assists in the removal of doubt cast over the concept of an afterlife, eliminating fear of death and replacing with the knowledge that our loved ones continue their life without interruption in the next world. Bringing with it an understanding that the consequences of our earth deeds do not die with the physical but continue with us into the next life. It is this understanding that is the constant reminder of our responsibilities to our self and to others that also removes the fear of judgement and damnation.

But equally important for a religion in the 21s Century it challenges the common misconception of religion being stuffy and un-modern. These Principles remind us of the importance of enjoying our earthly life and the life that we’ll enjoy when we return to etheric realms. Rather than demanding and confining the lives of its members these principles guide us on how maximise our life experiences while all the time giving explanations behind the purpose of these experiences. Like a trusted friend these Principles remain faithful to us at times of difficultly, constantly reminding us that we are loved and every breath we take has the potential to progress our understanding and knowledge of this experience we call ‘life’.

The philosophy contained within these principles are seen to be shared with many other religions denominations and even those persons that would not necessarily subscribe to any one denomination but instead hold a Humanist view or those that subscribe to a moral or ethical philosophy based upon their life experiences.

It is this ‘encompassing of all’, in my view, which makes the Seven Principle particularly and perhaps uniquely suitable to guide individuals through their life here and in the here-after.

What follows is a simplified explanation of each of the principles, however the author notes that it is through our life experiences that individuals interpret for themselves the meaning of each.

Fatherhood of God

Science tells us that every particle of matter and energy originated at a single point in time which then spread throughout the universe where it formed into larger particles and objects before finally creating stars, planets, the world we live on and ultimately leading to the creation of Life. This continual creation can be seen all around us and that it is this force of creation - directly, or indirectly, in all things that leads us to the inescapable conclusion of the existence of God and its parental nature.

Brotherhood of Man

This principle essentially reminds us that as we have all originated from the same source of matter and energy, so then may it be considered that we are all the same, regardless of ethnicity, colour, creed, gender or disability. This principle provides in many ways the moral and ethical framework upon which we as Spiritualists’ may be mindful of how we should aim to live our lives and how we treat each other.

The Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels

All faiths and religious systems have a philosophy that includes the understanding of a ‘life after death’. It is however within the Spiritualists’ churches that it is demonstrated that we are able to communicate with our departed loved-ones for the benefit of those who have departed and those left behind. We understand that it is only through the ministry and co-operation of those in the Spirit World that this phenomenon takes place, and though such ministry that the healing phenomenon may also manifest.

The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul

We understand that energy cannot be destroyed and only transmutes from one form to another. We also understand that matter and energy are intrinsically linked such that they become interchangeable. This leads us to the conclusion that the very material that forms us physically must also have an energetic equivalent and vice versa. This form being composed of energy cannot be destroyed and so must be everlasting or continuous.

Personal Responsibility

This principle reminds us with whom the responsibility for all thoughts and deeds belongs – that being us the individual. So we must learn to accept of the responsibility for the conduct of our lives and understand that it contravenes natural law to suppose that any other person, or outside influence can release us from such responsibilities. No one can put right our wrongdoing except ourselves – this is a principle of natural law.

Compensation and Retribution for all the Good and Evil deeds done on earth

Everything is governed by inescapable natural laws that are signposts pointing us to the rules or instructions of life. One such law is the law of Cause and Effect or commonly referred to “as you sow, so shall you reap”. This Principle reminds us that we cannot be cruel and hurtful towards others and then expect love and kindness in return. We must always be mindful that the compensatory and retributive effect of this natural law operates continually around us, here on earth and not only on our return to the Spirit World.

Eternal Progress open to every Human Soul

An innate desire to progress exists in every human spirit – and as such this principle explains that every step we take in our life is a step contributing to our eternal progression. This progression is not something that only exists or starts in the Spirit World or is it a progression of material things. But instead this is a process that started long before we were born, accompanies us through this life and continues with us in to the next sphere of life. A process where we are given the opportunities to experience, learn and ultimately progress ourselves spiritually. Providing us gradually with an understanding of our purpose and the role we play in the lives of others.

Chris Connelly 2017