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Dispatches from America - November 2009
By:The Reverend John E. Otey, NST CM

Philosophy is the search for Wisdom

Dr. Wayne Knoll, esteemed professor of English Literature at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and Vice-President of my home church, the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, NSAC in Falls Church, Virginia delivered a very informative sermon several weeks ago. Dr. Knoll, a former Jesuit priest, presented a sermon that focused on the Catholic understanding of the Trinity and contrasted that with Spiritualist understandings. His insightful lecture provided the inspiration for this month’s “Dispatches” which shall investigate Spiritualist philosophy, particularly as it relates to the Trinity. Source material was derived from several diverse publications, including the “New Testament”, the Christian website www.crosswalk.com, Wikipedia, Lesson IV of the Morris Pratt Institute “Course on Modern Spiritualism,” the National Spiritualist Association of Churches “Spiritualist Manual”, and “The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours” by Mr. Kersey Graves.

Most of the denominational Christian religions share a Trinitarian view that includes the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Bear in mind that the terms, “Holy Ghost” and “Holy Spirit” are often used interchangeably, although the term “Holy Ghost” will be used throughout this piece. This triumvirate represents the God-Head and is thought to be composed of God, Jesus the Son of God, and the Holy Ghost. Denominational religion teaches that the Holy Ghost is the spirit of God, and coequal to God the Father and God the Son. Brief examinations of these components of the God-Head follow below.

Religions throughout antiquity have ascribed several characteristics to God the Father, among them Saviour-God; Justice-God; and Warrior-God. Adherents to a Saviour-God look toward their deity to save their immortal soul, while devotees of a Justice-God view the deity as the ultimate arbiter of justice and dispenser of punishment on transgressors. Those who worship a Warrior-God look toward divine intervention to vanquish all belligerents in a conflict.

The conception of God the Son includes such terms as Saviour, Redeemer, the Way and the Light, and the Lamb. The preceding terms taken directly from the New Testament describe Jesus whom Christians believe sacrificed himself to cleanse mankind of their sins. Controversial research conducted by Mr. Kersey Graves and published in his work, “The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours” (1875) indicated that the story of Jesus’ virgin birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection was a shared experience with fifteen other historical figures.

Finally, the conception of God the Holy Spirit, as described at www.crosswalk.com, was imbued with the divine functions of the conviction of sin, bringing to conversion, enabling the Christian life, and inspiration and interpretation of Scripture. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians addressed the various gifts of Spirit, among them the gifts of healing, prophesy, and the manifestation of spirits, all which, Paul wrote, require the intervention of the Holy Ghost. Spiritualists accept the spiritual gifts as described by Paul but believe that they pertain to all people irrespective of our belief in the Holy Ghost because of our being co-creators with God and possessive of that small spark of the Divine within each of us.

Other religions have a Non-Trinitarian view as they either view the Holy Ghost as a separate being apart from God the Father and God the Son, or they view the Holy Ghost as some action or aspect of God. For instance, Unitarians as represented by the Unity Church, headquartered in your correspondent’s home town of Kansas City, Missouri interpret the terms Father, Son, and Holy Ghost purely in metaphysical terms and equate them with three aspects of “mind action” which includes mind, idea, and expression. Mind action is defined as “the process by which all takes place.” Spiritualists generally feel a close kinship with Unitarians, especially Universalist Unitarians, because of their philosophy. Even though Unitarians reject the denominational understanding of the Trinity their rejection does embrace a trinity of sorts; mind, idea, and expression.

Metaphysicians have their own alternative understanding of the Trinity and it can be found in the trio of the body, mind, and spirit. Many Spiritualists have a great understanding of this metaphysical concept as many healing mediums aver that disease and sickness, although it outwardly manifests on the human body, can actually be the result of a disease or imbalance centred either in the body, mind, or spirit. The efficacy of spiritual healing is that it simultaneously affects all three of these components and does not merely focus on treating the body’s outward manifestation of sickness. Perhaps this type of spiritual healing was practiced in the healing temples dedicated to the Greek god of Medicine, Asclepius, where the sick and infirm would go to be healed by the practicing priest-physicians.

Spiritualists generally reject the Christian understanding of the Holy Trinity for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, Spiritualists do not accept the anthropomorphic (Man in God’s image) conception of God but view god-force as Infinite Intelligence. Infinite Intelligence is an all pervasive, omnipresent force that pervades the Universe. Given man’s inherent inability to intellectually grasp the nature or true scope of infinity, the concept of Infinite Intelligence is often not fully understood or appreciated. Perhaps it should be written that National Spiritualists in the United States lack that acceptance, but our British cousins in the Spiritualist National Union may have the anthropomorphic understanding of God due to their first of Seven Principles which is “The Fatherhood of God”. Additionally, Spiritualists reject the conception of Jesus as saviour due to our understanding that individuals are morally responsible and that no one can intercede on behalf of the individual. Jesus was a remarkable man, prophet, healer, and teacher who holds an esteemed position in Spiritualist philosophy and is considered to be the Wayshower. What of the Holy Ghost? Spiritualists generally dismiss the concept of the “Holy” aspect but of course can generally embrace a conceptual understanding of a ghost or spirit.

While Spiritualists reject the Holy Trinity this does not negate the acceptance of a different trinity as Spiritualists view man as a Triune being. Just as the Holy Trinity provided three aspects to the god-head, the triune being nature of man encompasses three different aspects; body, soul, and spirit. Please note the Spiritualist divergence from the metaphysician who has a similar, but different interpretation. The Spiritualists replace the metaphysician’s conception of “mind” with “soul”. All three components of the triune being; body, soul, and spirit are composed of different energetic characteristics and will be examined below.

The body is composed of matter, and is subject to constant change and is of a transitory nature. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The body can be viewed as an encounter suit, similar to a scuba diver’s kit, which allows the finer characteristics of the soul and spirit to venture into the relatively harsh environment of the physical world. Without the body, the soul and spirit would likely be unable to experience the earth plane. Andrew Jackson Davis, Spiritualist pioneer who, although functionally illiterate, could dictate some of the most profound philosophy whilst under spirit control, wrote that “matter came from heat, light, and electricity, and that solid matter, when decayed would return to the attributes from which it was formed.”

The soul is the “celestial body” or the spiritual body (also known as the astral or etheric body). Davis wrote that the soul is the “fine, impalpable, almost immaterial body which clothes the Spirit from the moment of death throughout eternity.” In other words, the soul, in conjunction with the body, allows the spirit to interact with the material world.

Finally, the Spiritualist Manual states that the spirit is “the God-Spark, the highest attribute of man. It is the motivating power of all matter and it exists in its highest vibration in the soul of man.”

Further analysis indicates that Spiritualism is Trinitarian in and of itself. Spiritualism is a science, philosophy, and religion.

The Spiritualist Manual wrote that Spiritualism is a science because it “investigates, analyses, and classifies facts and manifestations, demonstrated from the spirit side of life.” All of the phenomena embraced by Spiritualism have been subject to rigorous scientific scrutiny conducted over the years. One only need read the accounts of the investigations done into Spiritualism’s most famous physical mediums, such as D. D. Home, to gain an understanding as to the scientific rigor emplaced to verify the authenticity of the demonstrations.

The manual continues by addressing Spiritualism as a philosophy by writing, “…it studies the laws of nature both on the seen and unseen sides of life and bases its conclusions upon present observed facts.”

Finally, the manual notes that Spiritualism is also a science because it, “…strives to understand and to comply with the Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Laws of Nature which are the Laws of God.”

Just as the words delivered in a recent Sunday sermon by Dr. Knoll provided inspiration for this piece, words herein might motivate the reader to dig deeper into Spiritualist philosophy.