In 1848, in a house in Hydesville, NY, USA, an incident of poltergeist activity occurred. The poltergeist activity began, or was first noticed, when the Fox family moved into the house in upstate New York and was bothered by repeated incidents of a rapping noise. This haunting was regarded as a major incident at the time, widely reported in the media.
One day one of the Fox sisters, Kate, called out, “If this noise is the work of a ghost, answer my questions!” and began to clap her hands. When she did so, Kate was amazed to hear the same number of raps come back in reply.
Surprised by this reaction, the family attempted to communicate with the ghost, using a board inscribed with letters (later this idea would become the ouija board, a simple device used to correspond with the spirits of the dead).
When they did so, the ghost responded in clear sentences: “My name is Charles Rosna. I was a peddler killed five years ago by one who lived in this house.” The ghost proceeded to explain in detail how he had been killed, telling the family that his bones lay buried beneath the house.
Later, when an investigation was conducted on the basis of this correspondence, human remains, hair and a peddler’s shoes were found in the earth beneath the house.
And this first correspondence with the ghost occurred on March 31, 1848.
Why does this date mark the birth of Spiritualism? The answer is that, before that date, psychic phenomena (both spiritual and subjective) had been perceived mostly by spirit mediums such as Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). A key point is that the Hydesville visitations were poltergeist phenomena, that is to say material or objective manifestations of psychic phenomena. They could be witnessed by third parties. The first Hydesville visitation was an epoch-making event, as it was the first time in history that correspondence with a ghost could be objectively demonstrated.
That date was March 31, 1848.
After this poltergeist phenomena, research in psychic phenomena became active mainly in Britain which was the center of the scientific-research world those days. Amid great interest in psychic matters, a number of persons associated with Cambridge University founded the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), a body dedicated to research denying the existence of psychic phenomena. What is fascinating about this society is that they are scientists sincerely dedicated to the proposition that, if one does not believe in the spirit , one is duty-bound to prove scientifically that it does not exist. Perhaps this is due to the British temperament, not like Japanese tendency to one-sidedly deny the existence of the spirit realm.
(Incidentally, the term “spirit medium” (reibai in Japanese) is often misunderstood in Japan. The term reibai was coined as a research term, referring to someone who plays a cooperative role in communicating with the spirit world for research purposes. It does not refer to a shaman, as reibai is sometimes misused in Japan.)
Eminent researchers in psychic phenomena include former British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour; William Crookes, discoverer of the element thallium (Crookes became convinced that psychic phenomena were real through the work of D. D. Hume, who was famous for levitating human beings. Florence Cook’s experiments in communicating with the dead; the existence of ectoplasm, the manifestation of spirits in completely material form; and the famous photograph taken together with the “beautiful ghost” Katie King; and cases of ghosts playing piano, all of which were famous in their day); the physicist Oliver Lodge; Nobel Prize–winning physiologist Charles Riche (In 1893 Riche was investigating Eusapia Palladino, an Italian spirit medium much talked about at the time. In the course of his inquiries Riche combined the two Greek roots ecto- meaning “outer” and –plasm meaning “matter” to coin the term “ectoplasm”); and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes series . The ranks of psychic researchers include some of history’s most accomplished scientists and scholars.
The SPR, established to deny the existence of the spirit, is still in operation today. It is most intriguing to observe that, after more than a century of efforts, the society remains unable to furnish evidence denying the existence of spirits.
One after another, scholars pursuing research in psychic phenomena became convinced in the course of their inquiries that spirits do exist. The philosophy of Spiritualism asserts that if we are convinced that the existence of a world beyond death is undeniable, then everything we thought of as common sense is turned on its head, and we must live our lives according to this newfound reality. A person who lives according to this view of life is a Spiritualist.
Later, a wide range of communications with the spirit world spoke with one voice that these poltergeist incidents are messages to humanity planned by the spirit world.
The Spiritualists’ National Union of the United Kingdom announced that the term “Spiritualist ” is defined by the Seven Principles of Spiritualism, as pronounced by the spirit medium Emma Hardinge Britten in a spirit communication.
The Seven Principles of Spiritualism are as follows:
The above summary is open to misunderstanding, however, and a number of problems have been pointed out, such as in the communications of the spirit guide Silver Birch.
I have corrected those errors and amended them to make them easier to understand, as the Eight Laws of Spiritualism .
I proclaimed the Eight Laws of Spiritualism as summarized above and have been preaching about Spiritualism and the Spiritualist way of life in Japan.
I am convinced that Spiritualism is the Good News, the way of living a happy life communicated to humanity. As Immanuel Kant stated, a way of life that views the earthly world in terms of its material value is a way of life in which honesty doesn’t pay. It is an absurd world-view that clouds the heart and blinds one to all but an ephemeral view of life.
The perspective of spiritual value, in contrast, shines the light of hope on the righteous, changing one’s heart toward a forward-looking view of life. In these troubling times of the spirit, Spiritualism is the Good News that leads to great happiness.
My Spiritualism today is based on this Spiritualism, which I studied in the United Kingdom, and adds some messages from the spirit world from which I have drawn inspiration.
Japan is at heart a highly spiritual country. Going forward, Japan must lead the world by showing it the spiritual way of living.
When we analyze the history of psychic phenomena, we see that it consists of five stages.
Spiritualism began in 1848. This was the age of material psychic phenomena, in which the focus was on spirit mediums who manifested psychic phenomena of a material nature.
From the age of material psychic phenomena, the main trend shifted to spiritual psychic phenomena, perceived only by the spirit medium. At this time spirit mediums began to apply their powers to a variety of practical uses, from investigation of crimes to counseling.
Spirit mediums in this period attracted attention with psychic activities of a healing nature, such as curing illnesses. Harry Edwards was a typical example of spirit mediums of this era.
A wide variety of spiritual communications were shown around the world in this era, with the quest for the true way of living as their most notable feature. Spirit mediums such as Silver Birch became well known in Japan, but the number of spirit communications reported around the world was too numerous to count. More than psychic phenomena as such, what especially attracted human interest was the philosophy of living manifested by the spirit world.
Today, in the modern era, we have broken through into an age of practical application of psychic phenomena. In Japan, the Spiritualism communicated through me has resonated deeply. People who shun the principles of unhappiness, of materialism and the egoistic life of “I’m all right, Jack,” instead embrace the principles of happiness, the life of the true self, of the selfless love that prays for happiness for the entire world (called Paramatman in Hinduism), and those who put such principles into practice are sure to attract people’s notice.
The Good News that Spiritualism brings is a simple recommendation: Turn away from the life of the ego and its unhappy dogma of materialism in favor of the life of the true self that achieves love and peace.