Tools of Life

Peter Berg, First Spiritualist Church of Austin, Austin, TX

Many of you will think that Tools Of Life are tools for doctors, surgeons and rescue tools.  The tools I will be telling you about are all the tools that we use, yes even BOOKS!  Tools are objects that we use to get a particular job done. In the Stone Age they used rocks to smash coconuts open or hammering an object to get the job done.

Like everything else, we can sometimes use these tools in a way that is not pleasing, such as a knife killing someone.  Now right away you thought of murder.  No, this is not what I mean.  Most deaths are caused by accident, using that knife in a wrong way, or carrying it unsafely, by not putting it in a sheath etc.  I could go on and on giving different examples but I think you got my drift.  I’m a person that likes to come right to the point.

So, how many of us used a tool in a wrong way? How many of us backed a car up and hit an object behind us? How many of us tripped over an object that was misplaced in front of us?  Most accidents are not all our own fault. In fact accidents can happen that are not any one’s fault, such as when the wind blows a tree on someone’s car.

Now why do you think these accidents happen?  Well, we are not perfect beings; we are on this earth plane to learn.  Knowledge stays with us when Spirit calls us. If everything went smoothly all the time we would not have challenges in our life and I think it would be pretty dull.  Ohh! When I used the word dull I thought of that knife again. Did you know most people hurt themselves on dull knives? That’s right. So like the knife, we also have to keep ourselves sharp, so that we can do that job easier and more safely.  You know what I mean?  Read more, keep on top of things. Use the modern tools, a hammer instead of the rock. Now they even have power hammers, did you ever see them being used in the new construction of houses? It sounds like a machine gun. This is what life is all about, constructing.  Yes, we are here to construct our own lives.  We can use the tools that are available to us. Got to get out of using that old typewriter and use a computer with spell-check. See, we have machines to help us correct our mistakes. Search the web, there is so much information out there but you have to be careful and make sure you are getting the right material. You know you do not want to put cardboard on your roof of your house, even though it is cheaper, but when it rains it will get wet and cave in.

This is what we all have to think of when building our spiritual life, to use the correct material that will allow us to grow.  If you have someone telling you what to believe, that is not coming from you. If you had someone giving you answers on you finals and they were wrong, you also will get them wrong, plus you did not learn the lesson! When it comes to our soul growth, lessons are import for us to learn. When I go out and talk to someone about Spiritualism I do not tell them that this is what you have to believe in order to be saved.  Our religion is one of knowing not believing.  I know that Spirit talks to me and watches over me.

I have to tell you this story.  I was attending Spiritualist church years ago and I didn’t know if I believed in Spirit intervention or not.  I heard it talked about a lot, but couldn’t get myself to believe it.  I was burnt severely in believing in what a religion taught me and it didn’t work out for me. It was like a knife stabbing me in the gut.

Accidents can sometimes be good! I was working in my workshop, cutting a notch out of a piece of wood and I used a circular saw instead of saber saw.  Well, when I went to use it I tried it and it didn’t work.  I looked down and it was unplugged.  I said to myself, “that’s funny I just used it a second ago”. Anyway, I plugged it back in again and I went to use it the second time and the same thing happened,  I said to myself jokingly “Spirit are you trying to tell me that I should not use this saw?” So I went back and plugged the saw in again and when I used it the saw backed over my thumb and cut it off.  Wow!  What a lesson to learn!  Spirit gave me the message, “learn to listen!”  That is when I knew about Spirit! You do not fool around when it wants you to do something.

I knew it was my fault that the accident happened but who kept on unplugging the saw?  I had a chance to look back on my life and I saw where Spirit helped me in so many different ways, I did not recognized Spirits care as much as I did when I lost my thumb.  Now when I look at my hand and see the missing thumb, I am reminded to LISTEN TO SPIRIT!

When they carried my thumb out separately, I also learned that I’m not my body. I can live without it, my body is only a tool to learn more lessons.  Yes, my body is a tool of life; I must take care of it and keep it sharp, as Spirit told me.

Spirit blessings to all of you.

Time and Patience

Rev. E. Ann Otzelberger, NST, NSAC Trustee, New Vision Spiritualist Center, Orlando, FL

Good morning, well it is December.

There are only 9 more shopping days till Christmas and that includes today, next Sunday and Christmas Eve.  We must HURRY, HURRY.

The bargains will be gone.  Everything will be picked over and you will not possibly be able to find the correct sizes or colors of anything.

Are the out of town packages in the mail? Are the Holiday cards ready to go? You really must hurry or they cannot possibly be there on time.  There are so many things to do with the shopping, baking, decorating and please don’t forget your Great Aunt this year.

Yes, it is that time of year again, “Heckticksville”, when there is just not enough time in the day to get everything done.  The clocks have cut our daylight time shorter and our lists of “things to do” have gotten much longer.  Add to this the holiday season of extended working hours and you have the clear picture of good old hometown, Heckticksville.

Now, you maybe wondering what all this has to do with Spiritualism, but isn’t our religion our way of life?  And we just can’t leave the whole month of December out of it.  We cannot partition off an area where our lives are good and our intent the best for all, from another area that these intentions would be out of place.  It is so easy to feel our religion here, where everyone is concerned for each other and all try to work in harmony.  It is another thing when we are at work Monday morning and the first person to walk through the door is the “Class A” Troublemaker and they jump on us with both feet.   And so heckticksville also joins our lives.

Patience is required at this time of the year perhaps more than any other.  When we venture out to do our shopping we find the traffic heavy and slow at best.  We wait through light after light to make that left hand turn and always manage to get behind the “Nervous Nellie” who just will not go unless there is enough room for three cars to make it.

Parking is always a problem and when we spot the perfect parking place and head for it, someone gets there just before us, or there is a tiny sports car, totally out of view until we get right on it, taking the entire parking space, when it would have fit on the sidewalk.

We finally make it inside after walking the full length of the shopping center and head for our favorite shop where we saw the perfect shirt we wanted just the other day, but didn’t have time to get it then.  Of course, it is gone and there is not another one like it unless you could settle for three sizes too large.  So you settle for the wine color instead of the blue you really liked.  Now you start your slow progression in the line to the check out.  Here you soon realize that the line is taking much longer than you thought and then you see….the clerk waiting on this line is new….it is her first day to work on HER OWN.

Patience is not the only or even the best remedy for every trouble or problem that comes along, but in such situations as these, it is truly a virtue worth possessing.  Life is what we make it.  It can be tolerable or it can be beautiful.

Patience is one of the biggest lessons in life and it seems we just cannot afford to be with out it.

We will make mistakes and we will pay the price for them.  we should learn from them.  we came into this world to make mistakes; if we were perfect we would not be where we are now today.

All error must be seen as growth towards good.  We are part of an all-knowing mind.  All things are possible in our lives.  All obstacles are stepping stones of experience leading into a brighter life.  They are necessary for our growth.  Can we know our strength if we do not see a weakness?

We must learn and in learning we will grow, evolve, develop and unfold.  Life is not a constant movement upward and we do seem to regress at times.

We must persevere.   Remember what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Perseverance is a great element of success.  If you knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.”

We must persevere, remember there are only 9 days left. And it is so difficult to get in the Holiday Mood with warm weather.

Remember good deeds, kind thoughts, words and actions towards others will never be regretted.  And likely as not, neither will such deeds bring you the slightest pain or cost you more than a moment of your time.

What, of all things in the world is the longest and the shortest, the swiftest and the slowest, the most divisible and the most extended, the most neglected and the most regretted, without which nothing can be done, which devours all that is little, and enlivens all that is good?

The answer is TIME.

Nothing is longer, since it is the measure of eternity.  Nothing is shorter, since it is insufficient for the accomplishment of your projects. Nothing is more slow to him that expects; nothing is more rapid to him that enjoys.

In the greatness it extends to infinity, in smallness it is infinitely divertible.  All men neglect it; all regret the loss of it; nothing can be done without it.  It consigns to oblivion whatever is unworthy of being transmitted to posterity, and it immortalizes such actions as are truly great.

Time is one of man’s most priceless assets.

Patience and time is the foundation for success.  We are responsible for patience and understanding  with each other.  We must learn to be patient with our selves.

Few of us possess an impersonal view of ourselves so we can see the causes of our misjudgments.  If we did the problem would have been avoided in the first place.

Sometimes the situation gets out of focus and we don’t think clearly.  We take on more problems than the particular situation actually merits.  Even with all our modern systems and convinces of our life styles. We find it difficult to look at our problem squarely and face stressful situations directly.

To conquer any situation we must learn to be patient, to give ourselves a chance to find the correct way of handling our problems.

Some things are beyond our control, such as the slow new check out girl.  We must learn to have patience and make the best of the situation.

The most important task in life is to learn how to live.  That is, how to Live So as to make the most and best out of the opportunities life affords.  As a Spiritualist we give purpose to our lives because we build it for tomorrow.

All things of the daily life and activities are to be lived.  We want to make a place in our lives for all which is in accord with the goodness of life.

We are in tune daily with those in the unseen side of life.  They work constantly to assist us in our daily routine.

Lord Chesterfield said, “Know the true value of time, snatch, seize and enjoy every moment of it.  No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination.  Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.”

Andrew Jackson Davis said, “Growth begins with balance.  We must strive to keep our physical, mental and spiritual houses in perspective thus giving proper due to the true value of life.”

Each day brings new opportunity, and growth.  But often it accompanies trial and pain.  We must learn to keep everything in tune. To keep emotions free of high points and low depression.  We must learn the importance of taking one day at a time and living it fully.

Meditation helps keep the proper balance in all things of life, particularly when one begins and ends his day on a note of simple, but godly contemplation.  Pausing during these few moments slows everything down and gives order where problems once reigned.

Meditation even guides us into a better understanding of ourselves. It frees us of false realities and puts things in order.

It never hurts to talk about things even if we must commit ourselves.  Action without purpose or plan breeds failure and contempt. So give each side of your daily life its due, set time for the spiritual values, find enjoyment in the physical activities of life and put them in proper perspective through meditation.

I always talk about things that concern me or that I find myself involved in, so you know the kind of situation I am in right now.  So if you join me or are just a spectator, remember, patience, balance, meditation, a kind  word or thought.  Oh sweet December, you only happen once a year, and there are only 9 days left before Christmas!

What Spiritualism Teaches

Rev. Lelia Cutler, NST, NSAC President, Memorial Spiritualist Church, Norfolk, VA

I have been a teacher all of my life—in so many ways.  When I was a child, other kids would ask:  “Teach me to…  could be bake a cake, crochet a doll dress, draw a picture, or do homework.  Teaching Spiritualism has been my joy for the last thirty-five years.  There is a list of “What Spiritualism Teaches” from the 1994 Centennial Book.   It covers basics, but they are so elementary to the new seeker on our path.

  • A spark of divinity is in all of us.
  • We have personal responsibility for our lives.
  • Death is the doorway to the Spirit World
  • We are spirit persons encased in a physical body.
  • As we live our life, we make our happiness or unhappiness both in the Earth life and the Spirit life.
  • Spirit people are conscious beings who can and do communicate with those on Earth
  • Spirit communication and healing power is demonstrated as part of our religion.

Belief in Infinite Intelligence means we believe that God is a source of creative energy, which is a part of all that exists, human, animal, plant and any other manifestation.  Therefore, this belief that God exists in everything means that we have a spark of divinity in each of us.  We are not disconnected and trying to reach a God in the form of man, but we are a part of this wonderful existence created by and permeating all.  There is a spark of divinity in all of us, and we can contact that divinity by quietness, meditation, or just asking.  It is there for us to acknowledge and use to manifest what is for our greater good in this world.

The responsibility for the use of this wonderful divine spark is all ours.  We can visualize receiving all our wants and desires, and we can accept the responsibility for whatever manifests as a result of our wants and desires.  No one can do it for us.  We forgive ourselves, we like and love ourselves, so that we may have the ability to like and love and forgive others.  What a wonderful concept.  I am in charge of my life and I can soar or I can fall, according to my own knowledge and use of my talents and abilities.  This responsibility trains us for the next stage of life—making the transition to the spirit world.  We know that there is no death and there are no dead.  The change called death is but a transition to a more beautiful and peaceful life in the spirit world.  Death is but a doorway to the Spirit World and is a natural phase of life.

We are a spirit encased in a spiritual body, which happens to be living in a clay temple, called the physical body.  We are a triune being, body, soul and spirit.  When the time comes for the transition to spirit, the soul and spirit ascend to the next plane of life, and the physical body is not needed.  It can be released and returned to mother Earth.  Knowing that there is no pain in this transition—only that from a physical point of view—releases the fear of death.  We rise from this body and feel the loving peaceful calm of the spirit world and see those who wait for us in that realm.

As we live in this world, we continually make our happiness or unhappiness by our understanding of the laws of God, Natural Law, or Universal Law.  They are all the same thing.  As we learn about these laws, we can recognize how they work in our lives.  Cause and effect, action and reaction, law of thought—all of these are working continuously.  We just need to understand how to use that knowledge to make life more enjoyable and productive.  As we improve our spiritual life here on earth, we are also improving our spiritual life for the next phase of life.   Spirit people are just conscious beings who can and do communicate with those of us on Earth.  We are preparing for that opportunity.  When we make the change to spirit, we see loved ones waiting for us.  They may look just like they did while here on Earth, or may present themselves as they most enjoy—possibly younger than the time of transition.  We must remember that our communication with these beings are with those we have known, or maybe not, but they have the same personalities that they enjoyed here.  I would not ask my machinist father to explain a legal problem I am having.  We do not become all knowing just because we pass to spirit.

Spirit communication is a primary part of our religion and is practiced regularly at our services and in our lives.  This is mediumship, and mediumship can also include healing from spirit.  However, all healing comes from Infinite Intelligence and is assisted by our spirit guides and loved ones.

When we learn these lessons, we are preparing and progressing for a more spiritual life both here and in the next plane of life.  Learn all you can for we know that the more we learn, the more we realize we do not know.


Spiritualism and Spirituality

Kenneth W. James, The Church of the Spirit, Chicago IL
June 22, 2008

I would strongly suspect that each of you has at one time experienced questioning from a friend or associate about just what Spiritualism is.  I have had to explain how Spirituality is not exactly the same as Spiritualism several times to different groups who are interested in just what we do here at The Church of The Spirit, and at other Spiritualist churches around the country.  I am always uncomfortable when I explain the “difference” between Spiritualism and Spirituality, because for those of us who embrace the religion, science and philosophy of Spiritualism, these two things are not necessarily distinct.

Spirituality, as it is used today, refers to the recognition and cultivation of those aspects of human experience that are considered not strictly of the material realm—the realm of sensory phenomena that occur as transformations of matter in space/time.  The growing interest in so-called New Age thought, the reconnection with various bodies of spiritual writings including non-Western religious traditions, the more esoteric aspects of Western religious traditions, and the rise in interest in earth-based systems of religion all indicate that humanity in the twenty-first century is hungry for something beyond the material reality that can be discerned by our sense organs.  Some scholars use the term “mysticism” as a synonym for spirituality; mysticism has been defined as a direct experience of the Divine.  Since the term “mysticism” usually connotes a one-god, monotheistic perspective, I will use the term spirituality instead of mysticism to refer to this connection with a “distinctly-other” dimension of experience that may or may not refer to a single divine presence.

The three dominant religious traditions of the West at this time, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all have spiritual components to them.  In Jewish circles, the spiritual quest is mapped by the texts and traditions of the Kabbalah.  In Christianity, the writings of particular saints who are labeled “mystics” form the corpus of spirituality.  In Islam, the Sufi tradition covers the dimension of the deeply spiritual.  Clearly there is a problem with talking about spirituality within these great traditions.  Each tradition, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, purport to express the complete revelation of God in God’s relation to humanity; as such they are by definition spiritual expressions.  However, in each tradition, the perhaps originally spiritual presentation of God became codified into practices and teachings (called in Christianity “ritual” and “dogma”) that gradually separate from their spiritual roots.  Ernest Scott in his book People of the Secret and Idries Shah in his book The Sufis both discuss this gradual separation of the spiritual from the literal expression of religious tradition.  So, over time, some practitioners of these great religions sense this separation as a loss of connection with the spiritual, and move to recover that connection, through Kabbalah, Christian Mysticism, and Sufism.

The pull toward spirituality seems to be like a soul-hunger felt by certain people at different times in their lives.  Others may not ever be aware of this pull toward spirituality.  Yet, wherever someone exhibits passion in regard to some earthly phenomenon, be it God, nature, Wall Street or the Cubs and the Sox, the seeds of spirituality may be found.  The spiritual impulse is part of the human condition; no culture or society has ever been found that does not have an expression of the spiritual, although the specific content of that expression may seem anything but spiritual to others.  So spirituality is the pull toward “something more”, as a response to the emptiness expressed in Peggy Lee’s haunting song, “Is That All There Is?”.

Spirituality may be considered a necessary but not sufficient condition for embracing the science, philosophy and religion of Spiritualism.  If the Fox sisters and their kin were strict materialists, with no spiritual core at all, I’m sure they would have found explanations for the raps they heard by studying the physics of aging wood walls and the effect of moisture on housing structures.  But because their fundamental disposition included the possibility of the spiritual, they began to formulate what has come to be considered the beginnings of Modern American Spiritualism.

For spirituality to become Spiritualism, there must be an appreciation of the particular combination of spirit and personality as we understand it in the human being.  I am not just an accidentally conscious carbon-based life form (although I am that as well); I am also a being who unfolds in space and time with a particular identity and who forms particular relationships with other beings, places and things on the earth plane.  Spiritualism places a great value on these specific, particular aspects of the human being.  Who I become in this life is intimately tied to the particularities of my experience, the specific people, places and things I encounter as I grow and develop, and the connections I establish while I am here on the earth plane.  Spiritualism recognizes that these specifics of my identity cohere in a way that survives what is considered death: I may leave the earth plane, but the structure of my particular being remains intact after this change.  Moreover, I retain the capacity to interact with beings on the earth plane in several ways: directly (although most human beings neither notice nor fully value the sense that the so-called dead are contacting them), through mediums, and through the action of healers who channel the energy of Spirit.

The history of Spiritualism recognizes and chronicles the various ways to verify or demonstrate that the continuity of our personality persists after the change called death.  While in the United States, we call communications from mediums “messages,” in England and elsewhere these mediumistic messages are called “demonstrations,” indicating that when we receive a message, the continuity of the human person after the change called death is being proven.  That’s one reason why some of the messages we hear given to others at our services or in a séance may not make much sense to anyone but the person receiving the message.  The message communicates something more than the words may indicate: the message communicates that our loved one continues whole and intact even though not on the earth plane.

The specifics of Spiritualism expressed in our Principles show that Spiritualism participates in the Spiritual, but also forms a specific tradition that sets it apart from the general impulse toward Spirit that is inherent in human experience.  For some of us, probably for everyone here today, events work together to go beyond simply acknowledging that there is a “something more” to our experience than is covered in materialist perspectives on life.  For some of us, probably for everyone here today, there is an experience that can only be explained as the presence of a loved one who has gone through the change called death, but who has returned to communicate in some manner with us.  Acknowledging that experience and exploring what it means is the fundamental attitude of Spiritualism.  We explore, test, investigate, prove and express what we find to others.  If they accept spirituality, they may come to embrace Spiritualism.  Spiritualism brings new vitality to every form of spirituality.  And I believe that Spiritualism can bring harmony among various religious traditions that, at present, battle with one another for the supremacy of Truth.  As Madame Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, has stated, “There is no religion higher than Truth!”  As Spiritualists, we affirm that this Truth is expressed in the maxim, “There is no death, and there are no dead.”  Our teachings, our services, our séances and our writings all develop this truth, enhancing Spiritualism and enriching spirituality.