By definition, Spiritualism can be defined as a belief in the possibility of a way of communication between human beings and the spirits of the living dead and the mechanisms through which this is achieved in practice.
In its doctrine, Spiritualism argues that all that is within the universe can not only exhibit the material characteristics but also exhibit other properties far much beyond the natural human understanding, otherwise known as metaphysics. As such, it is the exact opposite of Materialism, which explains the occurrence, and properties of matter as found in the theories of physical sciences. In addition, it can be thought of as a belief that what exists is either a spirit or soul. An important distinguishing feature of spiritualism as a kind of religion is that here the spirits of the living dead can be communicated to and a medium exists that can convey to the living the information concerning life after death. Various spiritualists have different belief but there exists beliefs that are common to all. They all believe in the existence of God and that the soul continues to exist in the world of the living dead, that every one will carry his own cross and that even after death the soul can change. Having come out of Christian religion and being a religion kind of, Spiritualism has some relationships with those other religions namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Spiritism, and other indigenous religions but receive strong opposition from religions like Judaism. Both Christians and spiritualists believe in the existence of God, death of Jesus Christ on the cross as well as conducting church services on Sundays.
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However, spiritualists believe that the death of Jesus on the cross was not to save humankind as per the Christians and that every soul shall be individually responsible for the deeds or sins committed. They also believe that even after death one can still change and that there is no particular hell or heaven but a series of such depending on the performance of the individuals. Both Islam and Spiritualism share the concept of spirits existing between man and God. Hindus, who believe that if one dies before the right time then the spirit hangs around in form of a ghost until the right time of his death after which he is reincarnated, share the same concept of existence of soul after death. However, Judaism differs with the spiritualists and argues that God forbids any form of worship connected to the spirits and that such people shall be permanently cut off from His people.
In the native America, there exists various religious cultures among them Christianity, and Islam, alongside many others. One important and interesting effect off having a wide diversity in religious culture in the Native America is the impact of such beliefs and culture on the way people relate with one another. The coming of the European missionaries into America back to the 16th century and the sticking of the Native Americans to their traditions blended to give rise to other religions that are partly traditional and partly Christian. Native American attached a lot of value to their tradition and culture more so in an attempt resist the oppression of Europeans who conquered their land. There was also the desire to have one common Indian religion. (Neuser 23) In fact, the whole concept of religion changed meaning to Native Americans and to them it simply denoted Christianity.
Therefore, the love for this Indian religion led to emergence of spiritualist religion. One of these people who are closely attached to this religion is an Indian known as Don Juan Matus who had various teaching on the understanding of mankind and the universe in general. His teachings have since been written by different authors some of whom had personal interviews with him.
Juan was mystical and always had strong belief in signs coming to him from an unnatural source. Specifically, Juan believed that the universe consists of two worlds namely: tonal: – the world of material and the first in hierarchy and naugal, the non-material world (Antonov 5). He said that communication in the world of materials was through the senses of our physical body, which he referred to as first-attention. However, to be able to sense anything in the second world one is required to develop a second-attention, which he termed as clairvoyance. There was also the third-attention through which one would communicate to God and his signs. Before and during the times of Don Juan, the concept God was taken to be a universal Eagle that was the sole controller of the universe. The Eagle fed on the souls of human beings leaving the body and that was the cause of death. Besides, it would allow the soul of one to move on to the next stage if the person had gained the required power during their lifetime.
This belief was frightening and Juan had to come out strongly to oppose it. He argued that approaching God only required one to manifest love, just as the teachings of most other religions. Spiritualism was also characterized by other beliefs like those that were referred to as The Sacred Tree.
This Sacred Tree had a lot of symbolic meaning and thus had a variety of functions. This holy place was believed to be the dwelling place of the Supreme Being. According to Bopp, the Sacred Tree was a symbol that had a great importance to the traditionalists as it represented life, cycle of time, the earth, and the universe (20). In the ordinary context, the shade of a tree can provide protection from strong heat or rainfall. Similarly, the Sacred Tree is believed to be a source of protection. The Sacred Tree connotes a place where people come together for certain purposes; it can also be thought of as a “womb that gives birth to our values and potentiality as human beings” (Bopp 22). Besides, the fruits of the sacred Tree can be view in the perspective of the food needed for human growth; that is it represents the “nurturing that human beings receive in interacting with other human, physical, and spiritual environment” (Bopp 22). Finally, the leaves of the Sacred Tree are a representation of man; ordinarily, the leaves fall off a tree to the ground to form manure, which later helps other trees to come up, a phenomenon that depicts people who pass the teaching to the generation that will succeed them.
The need to explain the origin of mankind, the concept God and Life after death that led to the emergence of such beliefs and doctrines as seen in Spiritualism is still a point of concern to many philosophers and other scholars to date and will continue giving birth to more religions
Antonov, Vladimir. Native American Spirituality: Path of Heart (Don Juan Matus, Eagle and Others). Ontario: CreateSpace. 2008. Bopp, Judie. The Sacred Tree. WI: Lotus Press. 1984.
Neuser, Jacob. World Religions in America: An Introduction. Fourth Edition. Westminister: John Knox Press.