On March thirty-first, the Anniversary of Modern Spiritualism is observed. In the year of 1848, tiny raps manifesting through the mediumship of the Fox Sisters at Hydesville, New York, announced to the world an intelligence personified beyond the grave. An intelligence that was accepted as based on Natural Law and not miraculous or supernatural as heretofore had been accepted. This is the fact that distinguishes Modern from Ancient Spiritualism.

There have always been spirit manifestations, and we need but refer to races of the past; religious leaders and sensitives who were guided by the voices from beyond. Just recently the birthday of Joan of Arc was celebrated in Domremy, Lorraine, France, where in the Chehu woods, she “heard the voices”; the command to lead the French armies against the British invaders.

On the twenty-ninth of January is celebrated the Anniversary of Emanuel Swedenborg, a remarkable Seer of pioneer days, who was the first to conceive the Spirit World as a realm of law. The spiritual manifestations of Edward Irving from 1830 to 1833 and the Shakers from 1837 to 1844 paved the way for the Hydesville manifestations. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in The History of Spiritualism, in speaking of the Shakers and their spirit visitors, “When the spirits left they informed their hosts that they were going, but that presently they would return, and that when they did so they would pervade the world and enter the palace as well as the cottage.”

Just four years later, we find the strange happenings in the Fox cottage and Elder Evans and another Shaker visiting the home where they were greeted with great enthusiasm from the unseen guests.

The scene is laid at Hydesville, Wayne County, New York; a small frame cottage where lived Mr. John Fox, his wife Margaret and two young daughters, Margaretta aged fifteen and Kate aged eleven. An elder daughter Leah was living in Rochester where she was teaching music, and a son David was also away from home. The manifestations occurring at this time are known the world over. The code established between the sisters and the unseen guests; the mystery of the peddler, Charles B. Rosna as it was revealed through the raps and later verified by the discovery of the peddler’s pack. Not until November 22, 1904, was the skeleton unearthed, at the time when school children were playing in the cottage and the walls caved in revealing the mystery of the murder.

Turning to a former issue of The National Spiritualist, we find an interesting article written by the late Rev. Thomas Grimshaw in which he tells us how the idea of the Anniversary of Modern Spiritualism was first suggested. In a letter written by Mr. James Lawrence on May 2, 1870 at Cleveland, Ohio, he states how, on November 12, 1869, he received the following communication through the spiritdial known as Prof. Hare’s dial.

“Some acknowledgment should be made of the most glorious change, the advent of which has never yet been celebrated as a matter of public rejoicing by the assembled multitudes of Spiritualists throughout the land. Shall all the minor circumstances of earth life have their days of commemoration, and this glorious, new, and holy dispensation be neglected? It is time some such tribute should be paid to those who have thus presented to the world a means of emancipation from error, such as will meet the requirements of an all day of universal jubilee, to be observed through all coming time.”

This communication was presented at the National Convention the following year in the form of a resolution on the advice of spirit friends and my own convictions. So we are indebted to Mr. James Lawrence, the instrument through whom this communication was given and through whose effort a resolution was passed inaugurating March 31st as the Commemoration of the Advent of Modern Spiritualism.

The resolution was proposed to the convention as follows:

“Whereas Spiritualism has become a power in the land and may be deemed the great growing religious idea of the country; and, It is well to revert to the time of small beginnings and hold in remembrance the first pioneers in this Spiritual movement; therefore, ‘Resolved, that this convention recommend to all State conventions and local societies to make the time of the appearance of the Hydesville rappings an anniversary day, the services of that day to be conducted in each locality as may be deemed most practical.’”

The resolution was unanimously adopted and in response the 31st of March 1870, was almost universally observed.

The Hydesville Cottage was destroyed by fire, September 21, 1955. The Peddler’s pack may be seen at Lily Dale Camp, New York.

On January twenty-fifth, we celebrate the Anniversary of the founding of the Spiritualist Children’s Progressive Lyceum by Andrew Jackson Davis, 1863. The wonderful revelation that he had of the teaching and training of the children in the Spirit World and his desire to give the child the same advantage and privilege in this plane of existence.

It opened a new world to the adult as well as the child; to break the bonds of ignorance and superstitions of old religious ideas; that the child was a repository of infinite possibilities and not born in sin but needed training and an avenue of expression.

Spiritualism, in its entirety, has so much to offer. So many valiant men and women have made invaluable contributions to make the history of this organization. The fundamental principles, based on the Declaration of Principles as adopted by the Parent Body, The National Spiritualist Association of Churches, give us a working hypothesis. If this thought is predominant, there need be no ceremonial rites observed, such as are too often borrowed from other religious denominations, for effect and to attract attention.

Know ye the Truth and the Truth shall make you free. The Truth must be recognized from within, and if we live this Truth as we know it, believe it and affirm it, the ceremony need not be ornamented merely to attract. We who believe—how well we know when at the evening time of life, or at any time when the call may come, that no one can save us, that no one can stay our time, but unflinchingly, unafraid and gladly do we go to meet our loved ones and journey to our heavenly homes. Merely moving into another room, as has been said, and quoting from Lilian Whiting—“Life here and life hereafter is all one Life, whose continuity of consciousness is unbroken by that mere change in form, whose process we call Death.”

For references on Modern Spiritualism, refer to:

Modern American Spiritualism,  Emma Hardinge

History of Spiritualism,  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Modern Spiritualism Course
Morris Pratt Institute
11811 Watertown Plank Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226