On March 31, 1848, a remarkable, yet, much maligned and misunderstood movement sprang into being in a strange and otherworldly manner. It baffled all who came in contact with it. This was the date of the birth of the Spiritualism Movement. In the small town of Hydesville, in upstate New York, the spirit world announced its arrival through two young women, Kate and Margaretta Fox. The Fox sisters discovered that they could communicate with the spirit of a peddler who claimed to have been murdered and buried in their basement. The spirit communicated with them through rapping noises that seemed to come from the floor, the walls, and other areas in the room. When human remains were found under the basement floor, the news electrified the surrounding areas. Soon, others found they could communicate with the spirit world as well and spiritualism spread like a rising flood.
After centuries of silence, the spirit world suddenly began communicating with almost anyone who would take the time to ask a question. It was not long, however, before the spirits began to manifest a curious ambiguity that seems to be universally characteristic of spiritualism. While spirit manifestations often seemed genuine in the sense that they were not deliberately contrived, they always fell short of being finally convincing. From this ambiguous phenomenon, believers and skeptics alike drew their own subjective conclusions. By 1860, a great deal of deliberate fraud had been uncovered and a multitude of self-serving mediums discredited. Despite the fraud, there can be no doubt that many of the spiritualistic manifestations were genuine.
Unlike the table rappings evident during the advent of the spirits, later phenomena were far more dramatic. The most famous and well documented of spiritualist mediums was Daniel Dunglas Home. Born March 20th, 1833, in the village of Currie, near Edinburgh, Scotland, his mother was a Highlander that came from a long line of seers. Daniel himself began having visions by the age of four, seeing things that were happening in other places. By 1846, a committee from Harvard, including the poet, William Cullen Bryant, testified that the table they had been sitting around, in broad daylight, had not only moved enough to push them backwards, but had actually floated several inches off the ground. While the table floated, the floor vibrated as if cannons were being fired, and the table rose up on two legs like a horse rearing. Meanwhile, Home urged his distinguished observers to hold tightly to his arms and legs. Doing so, they were convinced that there could be no doubt whatsoever that the outrageous spectacle they were witnessing was genuine. What is finally convincing about Home is the sheer volume of his evidence. He continued to perform astounding paranormal feats for the remainder of his life, and hundreds of credible witnesses vouched for the phenomena.
Homes manifestations can only be described as spectacular, as if the spirits were determined to prove their existence by sheer weight of evidence. On one occasion, as a heavy table shook and vibrated, the crashing sound of ocean waves filled the room, together with the creaking of a ships timbers. The spirit spelled out its name with the use of an alphabet, and was immediately recognized by someone present as a friend who had drowned during a gale in the Gulf of Mexico. The spirits seemed able to suspend the laws of nature. When a table tilted, the objects on it seemed to be glued to its surface; a burning candle not only continued to burn, but the flame burned at an angle, as if still upright.
In March, 1871, Home agreed to be investigated by a brilliant young physicist, William Crookes. British scientists who heard of the investigation had no doubt that Crookes would finally demolish Homes reputation. To everyones astonishment, Crookes report, which was published in the Quarterly Journal of Science (July 1871,) was entirely favorable. Crookes admitted that his rational mind told him that the things he had seen were impossible. In spite of that, he had to admit that he was totally convinced by Homes amazing repertoire of levitation, fire handling, elongating, causing to float, and so on. Charles Darwin voiced the general feeling when he said that he could neither disbelieve Crookes statements, nor believe the results. Home died in 1866, at the age of fifty-three, and has remained a subject of controversy ever since. It is difficult to understand the controversy in light of the evidence that documents his amazing abilities. In regard to the authenticity of his Homes extraordinary abilities, author Colin Wilson writes, "If the vast number of reports of his manifestations does not constitute unshakable scientific evidence, then that term is completely meaningless."
Paranormal abilities so well attested and so extraordinary raise a fundamental question. What does it all mean? Unfortunately, the prevalence of fraud among mediums dominated discussion about spiritualism and undermined any serious contemplation of the meaning of genuine spiritualistic phenomena. Conventional wisdom holds that the Spiritualism Movement was comprised mostly of misguided souls who were taken advantage of by clever con artists. Conventional wisdom also has concluded that there was no deeper meaning conveyed by the "spirits."
In order to derive meaning, we must first understand the context of the event. What possible context could explain a thoroughly documented invasion from the spirit world? While researching the history and origins of psychic surgery in the Philippines, I gained possession of a remarkable book, entitled "Antikey A Doctrina Espiritista" (A Short Spiritist Doctrine.) With great difficulty, I managed to have it translated into English. The translation was especially difficult because the book was written in a combination of Spanish, Tagalog, and a provincial Filipino dialect known as Pangasinese. Finding someone who was able to translate all three languages into English was very difficult. A year and a half later I finally received the translated text.
First published in 1909, A Short Spiritist Doctrine was the first textbook of the Union Espiritista Christiana de Filipinas (The Christian Spiritist Union of the Philippines.) On the cover page of the Doctrina were the words "Adopted from the writings of the first apostle of Spiritism, Allan Kardec, and the result of thorough research by the author on True Spiritism." A Short Spiritist Doctrine was written by a highly intelligent and well-educated Filipino, Juan Alvear. Writing under the pen name of J. Obdell Alexis, Alvear wrote the textbook to teach the Spiritist Doctrine of Allan Kardec to his fellow Filipinos and Filipinas. In studying the works of Kardec, the Filipinos learned of what Kardec called True, or Christian Spiritism. Since only a brief reference is made to True Spiritism in the works of Kardec, its meaning was a mystery.
A deeply mediumistic, yet Christian culture, the Filipinos grasped the significance of Christian Spiritism immediately. A Short Spiritist Doctrine is unique in that it documents little known developments in the history of both Spiritism and Christianity. The series of events that Juan Alvear describes in a concise and articulate manner in the textbook is nothing less than the atavistic resurgence of the source of original Christianity the Holy Spirit. Juan Alvear taught that the emergence of Christian Spiritism marked, not only the dawning of the fullness of the Spiritist Doctrine but of Biblical prophecy as well. Under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, the Filipino Christian Spiritists gained an unprecedented understanding of the most profound mysteries of the Bible in the context of the Spiritist Doctrine of Allan Kardec.