Spiritualism has been defined as the belief that departed or disembodied spirits hold intercourse with mortals by means of physical phenomenon (as by rapping) or during “abnormal” mental states as in trances commonly manifest through a medium. Lewis Spence defines it as “the belief in the continuance of life after death, and the possibility of communication between the dead and the living, through the agency of a medium or psychic, a person qualified in some unknown manner to be the mouthpiece of supernatural beings ... variously regarded as a religion or philosophy.”
While attempts to contact spirits of the dead have been seen throughout recorded history, the ascended masters El Morya and Kuthumi were responsible for a sudden and swift blossoming of spiritualism during the latter part of the nineteenth century.
In 1848 the Fox sisters testified to “rappings” in their home in Hydesville, New York. In 1862 Hypolyte Leon Denyad Rivail, known to his followers as “Allan Kardec,” founded Spiritism in France, including in its tenets the doctrine of reincarnation. (This constituted a departure from spiritualism as it was expounded in Britain and America.) In 1882 the Society for Psychical Research was founded in London. The cumulative psychic stir in society had not been equalled since the eighteenth century when, midst the skepticism of the Renaissance, a flair for the occult had been aroused by that mysterious figure, the celebrated mystic le Comte de Saint Germain.
Spiritualism also paved the way for the successive revelations to be made by the Brotherhood through metaphysics, first systematically set forth by Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (1866); through Madame Helena P. Blavatsky in Theosophy (1875); through the writings of Max Heindel (1911); through the Agni Yoga Society under Nicholas and Helena Roerich; and through other ascended master activities of the early twentieth century such as the I AM Activity headed by Guy and Edna Ballard under the guidance of the master Saint Germain.
Historians trace the ancestry of spiritualism to witchcraft, demoniac possession, poltergeistic disturbances and animal magnetism. But there is a clear-cut line of demarcation between these activities of the lower astral order and the inspired work of the masters, which was to presage the dawn of a new era of the Brotherhood’s contact with humanity on a world scale.
In their sponsoring of spiritualism, it was the desire of the masters to give hope to a tired and weary world of a life beyond, of comfort from the departed, even of the possibility of their own immortality. Spiritualism also paved the way for the successive revelations to be made by the Brotherhood through metaphysics.
Speaking of the masters’ introduction of spiritualism, Kuthumi says:
When beloved El Morya and I introduced spiritualism to the advanced students of the West in the [nineteenth] century, it was with the fond hope of increasing men’s understanding of survival after death. We longed to see the receding of fear in men’s consciousness and the reflection of a more expanded vision of the eternal nature of life. Therefore, contacts carried on from a very high plane were permitted that the blessing to men might be very great. However, frequently the reverse was true.
Fraud and deceit entered into the practice of spiritualism. Charlatans who took pleasure in entrancing the people with their own personalities for the love of money and self-glory perverted the original design of this potential avenue for Truth. Contacts debased themselves through association with the lower psychic or astral realm, paying heed to those discarnate entities whom they would never have deigned worthy of their attention while in embodiment. Thus, another door was closed that we might have used to bring humanity nearer to the Godhead.
It must ever be recognized that the real and the counterfeit have been with humanity for a long time. Whenever God has blessed men with Truth, the counterfeit, or Antichrist, has also asserted itself. Each attempt for Good is usually inverted and the opposite end of the axis is brought to the fore in the attempt to alienate the allegiance of men from their highest Selfhood.”
Thus the ascended masters sponsored an activity (spiritualism), destined to serve a twofold purpose: as a catalyst in world thought and as a foundation stone for future revelation. However, it is never the purpose of religion to bind man to a system, to dogma or to a set of doctrines, but to bind him to God. When a particular form of religion ceases to serve this specific reason for being—when through progressive revelation new dispensations of enlightenment are released by the Hierarchy—the old form must be remodeled to conform to the accelerated momentums of light that are made available to a planet and its evolutions. Or, when this is not forthcoming, the old form must be discarded—however painful this process may be, however much good may still remain within it.
Just as old buildings are condemned and torn down to make way for developments that better serve the current needs of a community, so the followers of God should not fear to reject a system that seeks to bind them to itself rather than to free them to reach for the heights of divine reunion.
The story of spiritualism is long and involved—intriguing to the mind, perhaps, but nevertheless a dangerous byway that can only detour the seeker from the main highway that leads to the acquisition of true spirituality.
The science of ectoplasm
In all groups where genuine contact is being made with departed entities, the circle itself is nothing more than a battery, the counterpart of a galvanic system that uses the energies and vital essences of the members of the group to supply the muscle and mind power for the spirits. This essence is siphoned off from the individuals in attendance by the discarnates in order to produce psychic phenomena; without it, they can neither communicate nor perform. A gradual drain of vital spiritual energies and a deterioration of the physical body and the brain occurs in those who practice necromancy (communion with the dead) or hold consort with the spirits of the departed over a considerable period of time.
Most dangerous of all are those discarnates who profess to be masters of the psychic realm but who, in reality, merely masquerade as “angels of light” or as “masters” to defame and discredit the true Masters of Wisdom of the ascended realm and their teachings. These discarnates not only drain the vital energies of their auditors but also release confusing information, half-truths and such an unwholesome conglomeration of predictions, personal flattery and wild prophecies as to completely discourage anyone who has the least discernment or true spirituality from any further pursuit of higher Truth. Many of these earthbound departed ones enjoy little pranks that they can pull upon embodied mankind from the invisible realm, much the same as children would raid an apple tree or cavort in Halloween pranks or masquerade as hobgoblins.
The energy that is used to produce the phenomena associated with spiritualism has been called “ectoplasm” or “ectoplasy” by researchers in this field. Sir William F. Barrett in his book On the Threshold of the Unseen defined ectoplasy as “the power of forming outside the body of the medium a concentration of vital energy or vitalized matter which operates temporarily in the same way as the body from which it is drawn, so that visible, audible or tangible humanlike phenomena are produced.”
Ectoplasm (from the Greek ektos, “exteriorized,” and plasma, “substance”) is described as “matter which is invisible and impalpable in its primary state, but assuming the state of a vapor, liquid or solid, according to its stage of condensation.... Ectoplasm is considered by spiritualists to be the materialization of the astral body.”
To this “psychic force” or “exteriorized protoplasm” is attributed the power to produce direct voice, to effect the locomotion of objects (telekinesis), to mold or rearrange matter to produce the imitation of known objects (simulacra of hands and faces and other parts of the human organism), and even to rearrange particles in a photographic plate to produce a supernormal image—whether human, animal or handwriting. Authentic photographs of spiritualistic materializations showing the emanations of ectoplasm may be studied in Rev. G. Henslow’s Proof of the Truth of Spiritualism.
It is said that the force exerted by ectoplasm is great enough to raise a table with a man’s weight on it completely off the ground. Interestingly, attempts have been made to measure this force by weighing the medium from whom the ectoplasm had hypothetically been removed. The weight of substance externalized is said to be the exact amount of the weight loss of the medium during the séance.
Dangers of spiritualism
The theory of ectoplasy holds that the vital energies taken by the spirits from those who participate in spiritualistic activities return to the medium after the manifestation has occurred. In fact, the energy used to produce psychic phenomena, taken from those in embodiment by the discarnate, can never be returned to the donor, for this energy is immediately used to produce psychic phenomena and to sustain the existence of the discarnate (just as we cannot return the food we have eaten and digested to its original state).
Furthermore, the life force is taken from the vital solar body (soul body). Prolonged involvement in trance work, psychic phenomena and spiritualistic activities can result in a critical drain upon the allotment of solar energies given to each lifestream at the commencement of each embodiment.
The abortion of the solar fires in man through this type of misqualification can cause him to forfeit his ascension in the embodiment during which such activities have been engaged in. The ascended masters have told us that it may require as many as three or four succeeding embodiments to balance this misuse of the creative force. It is for this reason that the masters have cautioned their students about the extreme dangers of taking dictations or “channeling” from astral entities purporting to be ascended masters. For in all cases, unless the being is in fact ascended, he is draining the channel of his portion of light for his present embodiment.
For more information
Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Paths of Light and Darkness, chapter 2, “Psychic Thralldom.”
Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Paths of Light and Darkness, chapter 2, “Psychic Thralldom.”
- Lewis Spence, Encyclopedia of Occultism, (New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960), s.v. “spiritualism.”
- Pearls of Wisdom, vol. 6, no. 39, September 27, 1963.
- II Cor. 11:14.
- William F. Barrett, On the Threshold of the Unseen: An Examination of the Phenomena of Spiritualism and of the Evidence for Survival after Death (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1917).
- Frank Gaynor, ed., Dictionary of Mysticism (New York: Philosophical Library, 1953), s.v. “ectoplasm.”
- G. Henslow, Proof of the Truth of Spiritualism (New York: Dodd, 1928).