Spiritualism

Question: Where does the Course stand on the phenomena of spiritualism and mediumship?

Short answer: Section 25 of the Manual, "Are 'Psychic' Powers Desirable?", is the Course's most succinct statement of its views on psychic phenomena in general. As such, I think it is the best place to find the Course's stance on the phenomena of spiritualism and mediumship (both terms refer to communicating with the dead—a "medium" is a person who does this). I recommend reading this section in its entirety. I will draw from this section and elsewhere in the Course to answer two questions pertinent to the subject of spiritualism and mediumship: 1. Is communicating with the dead possible? and 2. Is communicating with the dead desirable?


Is communicating with the dead possible?

My own belief is that communicating with the dead is possible and that some people really do it, though I also believe there are those who claim to do it (and who may sincerely believe their claims) but really don't. The Course doesn't say anything about where people go after they die, but it does say without reservation that they continue to exist, since of course all of us are eternal beings: "Birth was not the beginning, and death is not the end" (M-24.5:7). And Section 25 of the Manual certainly seems to imply that the dead can be contacted, for "communication is not limited to the small range of channels the world recognizes" (M-25.2:2). We are told that "certainly there are many 'psychic' powers that are clearly in line with this course" (M-25.2:1), and I believe the ability to communicate with the dead is among them. After all, the Course itself came about through Helen's psychic communication with a "dead" person, Jesus.

There are even Course passages which tell us that our Course practice will benefit those who have passed away and those who are not yet born, which certainly tells me that our minds are communicating with theirs. The following passage tells us what can happen when we remind ourselves that we rest in God:

"I rest in God." This thought has power to wake the sleeping truth in you, whose vision sees beyond appearances to that same truth in everyone and everything there is. Here is the end of suffering for all the world, and everyone who ever came and yet will come to linger for a while (W-pI.109.2:3-5, italics mine).

In a broader sense, then, it can be said that since minds are joined, all of us are always in communication with the dead all the time. If this is true, then why couldn't we communicate with the dead in the narrower sense of direct, conscious communication with departed spirits? Since the dead are still with us in some form, and our true communication abilities are far beyond our earthly senses and their extensions, I have every reason to believe that direct communication with departed spirits is possible and sometimes really happens.

Is communicating with the dead desirable?

This depends on our purpose for it. Do we communicate with the dead to serve the ego's purpose, or the Holy Spirit's purpose? Section 25 of the Manual (all of the following quotes are from that section) warns that psychic powers (like mediumship) can be real stumbling blocks to our growth if placed in the service of the ego. The ego can make mediumship an end in itself, rather than a means of serving God (3:5). It can turn communicating with the dead into a trivial parlor game, as when college students play with an Ouija board in a dorm room (as I did) or when people ask dearly departed relatives for winning Lotto numbers. It can use mediumship to enhance specialness, to "prove" that the medium has "unusual attunement with the 'unseen,' or 'special' favors from God" (3:6). And if the medium succumbs to the temptation to use this ability to serve the ego, the ability itself "is no longer a genuine ability, and cannot be used dependably" (5:6). The ability can actually diminish over time (this diminishment over time has actually been demonstrated in scientific studies of ESP). In the ego's service, it becomes mindless magic, erratic and undependable.

Yet when "given to the Holy Spirit, and used under His direction, [psychic powers] are valuable teaching aids" (3:2). Certainly this must be true of communication with the dead. While the medium's ability is potentially "available to everyone" (3:7), it is an unusual ability that not many have developed, "and the more unusual and unexpected the power, the greater its potential usefulness" (6:3). Thus, as long as the ability to communicate with the dead is placed in the hands of the Holy Spirit, it is desirable indeed. It can be used to demonstrate that life is not of the body, and that the "dead" still live. It can be used to extend love to those who have gone before us, and thus help them in their journey to God. The ability to communicate with the dead, like all psychic powers, is a true blessing, if it is offered as a gift to the Holy Spirit to serve His purpose of salvation: "The Holy Spirit needs these gifts, and those who offer them to Him and Him alone go with Christ's gratitude upon their hearts, and His holy sight not far behind" (6:9).

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