Spiritism, also called Spiritualism, is a system of religious beliefs centered on the assumption that communication with the dead, or spirits, is possible. It implies that the human personality, the spirit, or soul, survives death. Practitioners of Spiritism believe that mediums are able to communicate with the dead by receiving radiations, frequencies, or vibrations that cannot be sensed by an ordinary person.
Communication from the spirit world manifests itself in psychical phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance, trance speaking, and apparitions, and in physical phenomena such as levitation, automatic writing, and poltergeist activities.
Modern Spiritualism was founded in 1848 in Sweden by Emanuel Swedenborg, who maintained that spirits actively help people and that mediums can prove the existence of an afterlife. Another main idea of spiritualism, that one can develop one’s soul through doing good out of love for God and shunning evil, was also developed by Swedenborg. Swedenborg combined these ideas with Christianity, and eventually other religions as well.
The main belief of Spiritualists is that a spirit world coexists with the living world. When a person dies, his or her soul moves to the spirit world and will continue to progress for eternity with each progression moving the soul closer to God.
Spiritualists’ belief in the afterlife is different from other religions in that they believe the spirits of the dead can communicate with the living through mediums and psychics, and that they actively act as guides to help the living develop their souls.
Spiritualism has several main principles that followers believe in: God is infinite and people are part of God; service to others is the way to improve one’s spirit; people are able to communicate with the spirits of the departed; the soul exists for eternity; people are responsible for their own actions; all the evil one does in this life will lead to painful struggles in the spirit world; and that souls continue on a path of eternal progress.
Modern spiritualism is practiced in many small organized groups, and under many different names. Studies of the paranormal indicate that large proportions of the American population believe in contact with the dead, but do not necessarily participate in organized efforts to do so. Nearly every community has individuals who offer various kinds of spiritualist services.