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Spiritualism and the Survivalist Theory

The focus of Spiritualism today is on spirit phenomena. This is evident in the television series The Medium and Ghost Whisperer and even in the ghost series that fill the cable television. The focus of spirit phenomena is the way Spiritualist churches build their memberships, through spirit messages and readings. The Spiritist side of Spiritualism is based upon what is called the Survivalist theory. Michael Sudduth writes, “Survival arguments postulate surviving persons to explain the observable phenomena. So, they presuppose that surviving persons causally interact with living persons and the physical world at some level. (Sudduth, 2009)” Think about what this implies. For mediums to give messages, they assume that everyone who dies has a strong desire to communicate with the living. So, when I die, mediums just assume that I will want to hurry back and tell everyone that I am okay.


Declaration four of the Declarations of Principles states:

         We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change                called death.


Now, I would like to put forth a problem to the assumption of the Spiritualist medium. If, Uncle Lee keeps to himself and avoids talking to others, will he start talking to everybody after he dies?


In the world today, or any other day, we strive to learn to treat people with dignity, kindness, and respect without judgment. We try to live up to not only our parent’s expectations, but also everyone else’s and sometimes our own. Do we extend the same courtesy to our family and friends who are now in sprit? Do we even extend the same courtesy to God?


In order to prove that the mind survives death, we assume that when people die, they want to continue their life on this plane, even on this planet. Sudduth explains that the survivalist theory is dependent on the interactions of the spirit. (Sudduth, 2009) He also includes the possibility that spirits have no desire to interact with the earth plane. This is more than most Spiritualist allow.


Not all mediums make this assumption. Recall declaration number four, the personality survives death. If we adopt this as being true, then why would we expect them to be our beck and call. Most of these people were not that involved in our lives when they were on this plane, why should they suddenly take an interest in our lives now? Why do Spiritualists know that the personality continues? A good medium will bring proof of the identity of the spirit bringing the message.


Mediumship compares the medium to a telephone. The sitter makes the call. The medium directs the call. The spirit receives the call. With this in mind, did Aunt Sue always answer the phone? Well, no, she did not. Aunt Sue had other things to do besides waiting for you to call. Of course, when she got the answering machine, she may have screened her calls. What if a bond existed between the two of you, how would this affect you? Sometimes she would call when you were thinking about her, or perhaps you would call when she was thinking about you. This bond still exists and when the need arises, Aunt Sue will be there to take the call. The idea is that if we were to assume that a person would act differently after death than before death, we be oblivious to our loved one’s needs.


When a medium gives a message, or asks a spirit a question for you, the medium is supposed to find out whom you are talking with. The medium does this by telling you something about the spirit when the spirit walked the earth. Generally, the spirit will indicate a condition, he or she had when he or she was alive. Sometimes, the medium will be able to hear the spirit’s name, and there may be another means to identify who is being consulted. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many lazy mediums that do not bother to identify whom the loved one is. Mediums such as these are being discourteous to you and the spirit. They do not realize that they may be talking to any spirit that feels like chatting.


Imagine yourself standing in line at the customer service desk waiting for a clerk. When the clerk arrives, you tell the clerk you are here to make an exchange. The clerk takes the package you are exchanging and asks you what would you like? You tell the clerk, the clerk hands you a package, and you leave. When you open the package, you discover that the clerk gave you something else. The same is true with mediums who feel they do not need to identify who the spirit is. They do not care.

Let us consider another assumption made about those who die. Rev. Dan Kivel used to quote Rev. Lynette May, “Just because they’re dead, don’t make them smart.” This is true. Spiritualism also teaches that a person continues to grow after leaving this plane. Some believe that after a person passes into life’s other room, he becomes perfect and knows everything. This is not entirely true. As a spirit, the person is able to see events from a different perspective. There are other forces at work. Some of these forces are pulling obstacles into your path and other forces are pushing them away. As a spirit, these people are able to see a possible future.


If we continue to grow after death, then how is Aunt Sue able to help me if she is busy? Some teach that spirit has no sense of time. Well, if this were true I would not be able to tell you that an opportunity may manifest in two to three weeks. If a spirit is able to act in this dimension, one can assume that spirit is also aware of the limitations that exist and may be bound to some of those limitations. Remember that bond that exists between you and Aunt Sue, this bond is what notifies her that you need her. Just as she stopped doing what she was doing on this plane, she stops doing what she is doing in the spirit realm. She is able to look at what you have been doing, and can glimpse what may result by your actions. Opportunities like these help her to grow. I am sure there are other lessons for her and us to learn, lessons that I cannot even dream of right now. However, there is one other thing I need to mention. The reason why people assume that spirit does not know time is because a spirit can exist in two places at once. That would take some time to explain.


One other issue I would like to discuss. I have been talking about the idea that when a person dies, that person has the same personality as before. When we greet another, generally we stand up to shake his or her hand. When I attend Spiritualist churches, I do not see very many people rising from their seat to greet the messenger. When our loved ones do arrive and bring us a message, we should at least be thankful. Most of us lounge in our seat and give a barely perceptible nod. When a visitor arrives at your doorstep, do you yell from whatever room you are in and tell whomever to ‘just come in?’ No, you treat them with some measure of respect. You should treat spirit with some respect as well. Just because a loved one is dead, is no reason for you or the medium to be rude.


Remember, the survivalist theory is based on observed spirit phenomena. This assumes that a person who has passed on has a desire to continue to interact with you and others on the earth. The possibility that the person does not wish to contact you exists. There is also the possibility that a loved one is trying to communicate with you, but the medium does not care who you are communicating with.


Works Cited

Morita, S. J. (1995). Modern Spiritualism and reform in America. University of Oregon , Retrieved August 1, 2006 from ProQuest database.

Sudduth, M. (2009). Super-psi and the survivalist interpretation of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration , 23 (2), 167-193.


The Science of Continued Life

Sometime in 2002, I had approached the president of the Independent Spiritualist Association about reincarnation. The word reincarnation, had become a dirty word officially and a bit of controversy unofficially. You see, reincarnation was a discouraged teaching in Spiritualism. The reason for the discouragement of this aspect of continued life was that there was no scientific support. Apparently, the group has been so engrossed in table tipping, message work, and other spirit phenomena that none of them has bothered to do any real research. A few years ago, reincarnation was the topic of one of the Independent Spiritualist Association’s educational events. The speaker presented information published by Hereward Carrington. Carrington wrote in his book Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them that as of yet, there was no scientific evidence. He also based his conclusions on the fact that no one could remember a previous life (Carrington, 1920). That was over 80 years ago. You may be wondering just what the theory of continued life is.


The theory is simple. If one were to avail themselves of the Declarations of Principles, one would find that the theory lies hidden within. I wonder if any of the Spiritualists are aware of that. The summarized version states that living within the spiritual and physical laws is an expression of life. When a person passes on, the personality of that person survives death and can communicate with the living. This communication with the so-called dead is proof that human kind survives death. There is more, but this is sufficient. Therefore, you live on earth, or in this plane; you die and continue to live in the other plane.


Spiritualists are not the only ones with a theory of continued life. Within the realm of science, there is the survivalist hypothesis, which “asserts the continued postmortem existence of a formerly living agent (Sudduth, 2009).” Observable evidence, such as table tipping, message work, other spirit phenomena supports the survivalist hypothesis. Fantastic, but does this mean that after I die the only thing left for me to do is to talk to the living? No, there has to be something more than that. Science also suggests that something is pulling us forward in our development. Therefore, the answer is no, and the theory of continued life is incomplete.


While real evidence of past-life regression is questionable, reincarnation is not. I know some of you would like to argue the point, but this is not the place or the topic. Psychologist Ian Stevenson of Canada has developed criteria that support the age-old teaching of reincarnation. He uses odd-looking birthmarks as guideposts. The birthmarks are in the shape of wounds that may have been fatal, or marks that people have placed on the body after death. When these odd birthmarks are added to unexplained behaviors in children below the age 10, Stevenson asks questions and looks for answers. What he has found does not demonstrate a past-life regression, but a past life remembrance. Many adults claim to remember past lives, but the likelihood of a child boasting of these claims is slim. What is it that Christ said? An old man will ask a babe what heaven is like (Gaffeny, 2004).


This is what many call fringe science. This has nothing to do the TV show. Statistical support for reincarnation on a scientific level exists. The fact that the scientific community has problems accepting the information makes it fringe science. Science is not actually afraid of exploring religious based phenomena. The difficulty lies on obtaining the funding to investigate the phenomena. This is why science knows very little about religious and psychic phenomena. Do not blame the scientists; blame the foundations that provide the funding.


Reincarnation is a tricky subject to discuss because many do not understand it. I do not understand it, but I do recognize its value. If spirit communication is the foundation of continued life, then the spirit realm would be the transition point. This would mean that reincarnation is the summarization of continued life.


I would like to share a story with you. Part of the application process of becoming an Associate Minister with the Independent Spiritualist Association is an interview with the board of trustees. As part of my interview, the president at that time, in an accusatory tone, demanded to know if I was going to continue to teach reincarnation from the platform. At that time, no one discussed reincarnation openly, much less taught it. As astounding as the accusation was, my reply, though calmly given was just as astounding. There is a verse in Matthew, and probably in Luke as well, that describes Christ teaching in the temple. He reads aloud that Elijah returns to make the way clear for the Messiah. After announcing that the prophecy has been fulfilled, he closes the book. This could very well support reincarnation, but the Independent Spiritualist Association did not believe in reincarnation. Keep in mind that Elijah lived before Isaiah wrote the prophecy, and Isaiah lived before Christ. How would you explain this?

Some ministers are of the opinion that the Bible has nothing written in it about reincarnation. They talk about the conundrum of those that asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah, and he tells them no. Apparently, they were unfamiliar with the workings of reincarnation. John was too old to have remembered. If they knew that he might have known when he was a child, would they have asked? More than likely not. Nevertheless, Christ announced that Elijah had been there and gone. If you pay close attention, and here is where many get it wrong, Elijah, along with Moses speaks with Christ just before his apprehension. This took place after the execution of John.


Anyway, what you need to pay attention to, is that the Hindus taught reincarnation, the Gnostics taught reincarnation, and now science has leant its support for reincarnation. The theory of continued life is incomplete without reincarnation. According to Spiritualism’s edicts, Spiritualism is a science, reincarnation has the needed requirement to be part of the theory and complete the cycle. If this does not convince any of them, think of it like this; after spending some time on earth, are we to just hang out in the spirit realm forever? Stevenson tells of an organizing principle within the process of reincarnation. This tells me that reincarnation is part of the overall plan.


Works Cited

Carrington, H. (1920). Your Psychic Powers and How to Develop Them. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co.

Gaffeny, M. (2004). The Gnostic Secrets of the Naassense: The Initiatory Teachings ofs the Last Supper. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Sudduth, M. (2009). Super-psi and the survivalist interpretation of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration , 23 (2), 167-193.

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