Is Spiritualism a Cult??

By Travis Sanders

Since my teen years I have been very vocal about anti-organized religion, and yet since my early to mid-twenties I have identified as Modern Spiritualist. That being said, Modern Spiritualism is a recognized religion in the US and the UK, and yet I feel no qualms about being a member of the Spiritualist Church. Why is this? Frankly, because, unlike other organized religions, especially those that are Abrahamic, Spiritualism doesn’t hold Dogma. At least, it shouldn’t.

Dogma: a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

While there are “National” Spiritualist Churches and independent Spiritualist Churches, most outline their tenets similarly to:

  1. We believe in Infinite Intelligence.
  2. We believe that the phenomena of Nature, both physical and spiritual, are the expression of Infinite Intelligence.
  3. We affirm that a correct understanding of such expression and living in accordance therewith, constitute true religion.
  4. We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death.
  5. We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the phenomena of Spiritualism.
  6. We believe that the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  7. We affirm the moral responsibility of individuals and that we make our own happiness or unhappiness as we obey or disobey Nature’s physical and spiritual laws.
  8. We affirm that the doorway to reformation is never closed against any soul here or hereafter.
  9. We affirm that the precepts of Prophecy and Healing are Divine attributes proven through Mediumship.

    They”re pretty basic and too the point. To be blunt, life continues, mediumship allows us to interface with Spirit, and don’t be a dick.
    You can be a Christian Spiritualist, a Buddhist Spiritualist, or a Pagan Spiritualist. Our principles are harmonious with most spiritual truths or paths. However, when you hear of things like seances, camps, or “the medium’s league,” I can understand how to those on the outside might see it as culty.

    One such culty religion is Mormonism (sorry mormons, it is…along with Scientology, Catholicism, and a vast host of others) . An internet blogger and social media influencer I follow, by the name of Tanner Gilliland, an ex-mormon, along with Samantha Shelley (who comprise Zelph on the Shelf) used basic traits associated with cult phenomena to illustrate how and why they believe Mormonism holds the characteristics of a cult.

    I thought I would put Modern Spiritualism to the test!

    Cult 101

    1) The Leader is the ultimate authority.

    Spiritualism has no leader. There is no pope, llama, or celestial Messiah. Only pastors, ministers, and board members which change over time.

    2) The group supresses skepticism.

    Anyone involved in mediumship I think, who is genuine, is and should be open to skepticism and critical analysis. There is such a thing as healthy skepticism. It is grounded. Cynicism is another story.

    3) The group de-legitimatizes former members.

    To be clear, yes Spiritualism is a religion, but it is also a philosophy, science and way of life. One can identify from any of those perspectives and consider oneself a Spiritualist. You do not have to be a member of a Spiritualist church or organization to be considered a Spiritualist.

    Those who do whoever, are not stigmatized for leaving churches or organizations. Spiritualist believe that everyone’s path is unique to them, and everyone’s journey is different, as it should be.

    4) The group is paranoid about the outside world.

    We WANT those to come and experience mediumship and the philosophy of Spiritualism for themselves. We encourage it.

    5) The group relies on shame cycles

    While many abrahamic-derived faiths deal with sin, which is what you need in order to impose guilt or shame, sin is not part of Spiritualist ideology. There is simply choice, and natural law, cause and effect. As the principles state, we are free to chose to make our own happiness or unhappiness.

    6) The leader is above the law.

    Again, there is no leader or authority figure in Spiritualism, both in this life or the afterlife. Even in regard to God, in Spiritualism god is not a personified being, but a force present in all things.

    7) Thought Reform Methodology

    While many people learn a nice pretty-packaged version of how Spiritualism came into the world via the Fox sisters in 1848, there is no mass recon about the ups and downs of our movement (though Im sure some don’t like to discuss the controversy of the past surrounding fraud).

    Many places such as Lily Dale acknowledge there have been frauds or wolves among sheep and have taken to testing and certification of their mediums to try to ensure genuine phenomena and spirit contact.

    Furthermore to reform thought or essentially brainwash, one must be told what to do/think or feel for extended periods of time. Spiritualist meetings are usually once a week for about an hour. Additionally we encourage people to think for themselves, as we have no holy book and therefore no dogma or a list of breakable rules.

    One thing that I love about Spiritualism is that over the years it has updated and modernized it’s principles, because we believe we all continue to learn and grow and change vs the old testament mindset of a God who is ” the same today, tomorrow and always.”

    8) The group is elitist.

    While specific mediums with egos may personally hold elitist and competitive mindsets towards other working mediums, the religion of Spiritualism honors all paths, knowing that we are “walking each other home.” No one is better or worse than anyone else because we all came from Spirit, and to Spirit we will all return, regardless.

    9) There is no financial transparency

    Unlike the Vatican, and other centers of other movements, Spiritualism has no one headquarters. There many churches and centers, some associated with larger organizations like NSAC or SNU and many of them are independent charters. Therefore each church and/or organization handles its own finances. Like any organization we may need money for electricity and building maintenance, but we don’t require that anyone give anything, or tithe. And we certainly don’t want your assets when you die.

    Lastly, the group performs secret rites.

    There or no sacrifices, secret rituals, or strange initiations. In fact pretty much any service or offering within a Spiritualist church is open to the public. Perhaps the strangest of things that might be considered a ceremony of sorts is a seance, which depending on whether it’s being hosted by an organization or an individual may or may not be open to the public, or by invite only.

    The purpose of a seance is to connect with the other side, usually in regards to witnessing lesser seen aspects of physical phenomena vs the mental mediumship we see on platforms and in churches. That being said they usually consist of a prayer, singing, conversation and meditation- and do not require any specific clothes, or lack thereof, sacrifices, uncomfortable request, or requests unknown to the sitter before signing up.

    So no, Spiritualism doesn’t fit the parameters of a cult. It is simply a path, and for other’s a calling. It may not being the roaring lion it once was, but for those of us who walk the path, it provides a way of looking at life (and death) that provide comfort and help us to navigate this crazy world that we live in.