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Spiritualist Pioneering Mediums

Distant Learning ProgrammeThis is an extract from The Psychics & Mediums Network Teaching Manual that is used as support material for our on-line classes and distance learning projects.

You can join the classes or get a free Kindle edition of this manual at the link below.


The religion, the science and the philosophy of Spiritualism can be established by any serious investigator, to be factually based in that evidence of the survival of the human personality after the change called death is provided in every demonstration of mediumship which takes place within a Spiritualist Church or Centre.

It will also be discovered that the people responsible for Spiritualism as it is perceived today, (the pioneers of Spiritualism) came from various walks of life and were not confined to those with mediumistic abilities. There are pioneering mediums to which Spiritualism owes a great debt of gratitude but there are also pioneering scientists, authors, doctors, lawyers; responsible for the progression of Spiritualism; the list is open-ended.

Spiritualism, as with many other religions, is a great leveller of men and united people from all walks of life in their common interest of spirit communication.

In the next two chapters it is intended to look at a few of the great pioneers of Spiritualism, many of whom sacrificed their lives and/or their careers because of their investigations into the ‘supernormal’; many families were ostracised by neighbours and erstwhile friends because of the interest they had in Spiritualism.

Brief biographies only can be given but further information can be obtained by a search of the Internet.


Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)

Emanuel Swedenborg Born in Stockholm and originally called Swedborg, the family name being changed to Swedenborg when elevated to the rank of nobility by Queen Ulrica, Swedenborg devoted his life to the study of natural science and engineering. There is no doubt, however, that he anticipated many scientific discoveries which were attributed to others.

His work on palaeontology shows him to be the predecessor of all Scandinavian geologists and his work in this department alone would be sufficient to make him famous.

As a physicist he expounded the nebular hypothesis and the formation of the sun and planets before Kant and LaPlace, to whom the nebular hypothesis is generally credited; his theory of light and cosmic atoms is peculiarly interesting to students of psychic science as he postulated that the sun was a reflection of a spiritual sun which casts no shadows. Within all written work on the ‘light’ of the spirit world it is described as having the peculiar property of illuminating all sides at once and, therefore, corresponding to Swedenborg’s theory regarding the sun.

Swedenborg’s followers claimed that he safely held intercourse with the spirit world and the fact that Swedenborg claimed to be guided by Jesus probably saved his life at a time when spirit communication was considered to be a heresy.

There were many churches built wherein followers of Swedenborgianism could worship God and practice the teachings of Swedenborg.

The following is the Swedenborgian creed, copied from the walls of the New Church at Myatts Fields, Camberwell:

1.       That there is one God in whom is a Divine Trinity.

2.       That He is the Lord Jesus Christ.

3.      That saving faith is to believe on Him. That evils are to be shunned because they are of the devil and from the devil.

4.      That good actions are to be done by a man as from himself, but that it ought to be believed that they are done from the Lord, with Him and by Him.

Swedenborg was a noted prophet and seer. One of the most notable of his visions being the time he was in a friends house with fifteen other people when at 6 pm he turned pale and advised all present that a fire had started in the house of one of his friends, such house being very close to his own. At 8 pm he stated that the fire had been extinguished three houses from his own, which event proved to be perfectly accurate down to the minutest details he had given his friends regarding the progress of the fire.

After his passing he eventually became one of the helpers of:


ANDREW JACKSON DAVISKnown as the Poughkeepsie Seer, Andrew Jackson Davis was born into a very poor family; was feeble in body and starved in mind, having read only one child’s primer by the time he was sixteen. Before he reached the age of 20, however, Andrew had written one of the most profound and original books on philosophy ever produced. This book is The Divine Relevation and was followed by the Great Harmonia and voluminous other writings; an example, if ever there was one, of Davis’ unfolding mediumship and closeness of his spirit guides and helpers.

Davis’ mediumship was triggered off by an encounter with an ‘itinerant expositor of Phrenological Sciences’ a Professor Grimes who unsuccessfully attempted to put Davis into a state of mesmeric trance. Following this negative experience a local man, Mr Levingston who had been studying mesmerism, experimented with Davis. So astounding were the results that Mr Levingston gave up his business to devote his life to helping Andrew develop his mediumship.

Andrew’s mediumship continued to unfold and he made many excursions into the world of spirit, in particular to the Children’s Sphere, where he was allowed to watch spirit children being educated. So impressed was he by the methods used in spirit that he promoted the Modern Lyceum Movement which is a movement dedicated to the teaching of children in a natural way.

Andrew Jackson Davis is known as the Father of the Lyceum Movement in the U.S.A. while Alfred Kitson, the Father of the British Lyceum Movement, furthered Andrew’s work in the U.K.

The Lyceum Movement started in a time when education was not available to all children and although times have changed, the Lyceum continues its work  – to bring out the best in each child; to discover hidden talents and to allow each child full expression of its own spirit.


EMMA HARDINGE BRITTENWhile the Fox Sisters are credited with being the forerunners of Modern Spiritualism in America, Emma Hardinge Britten is probably the most notable pioneer of organised Spiritualism in Britain today.

Classic Spiritualist books written by Emma are: Nineteenth Century Miracles and Faiths and Frauds of Religious History.

In 1890 Emma convened a conference in Manchester in which she urged all Spiritualists to unite as one and from this meeting The Spiritualists’ National Union Limited was registered in 1901. This was the only way in which Spiritualists could legally hold property as a religious organisation.

Emma was a prolific writer; an outstanding orator; a deep trance medium through which, in 1871 the Principles of Spiritualism were received. It was the British Socialist Robert Owen, co-founder of the Co-operative Movement, who, after his passing, used Emma’s mediumship to give to Spiritualism its Principles which, after modification, form the basis for its philosophy today and are incorporated in its Articles of Association and Memorandum of Association.

Emma was the Editor of the magazine The Two Worlds for many years and was, together with Harry H Kersey and Alfred Kitson, responsible for compiling the Children’s Lyceum Manual. Both the Two Worlds magazine and Lyceum Manual are still capable of being purchased today.


THE BANGS SISTERSWithin the vast and marvellous records of American physical mediumship, one of the most outstanding chapters belongs indeed, to the turn of the century mediums, the Misses Elizabeth S and May E Bangs, of Chicago, Illinois.  Their gifts included independent writing in broad daylight (mostly slates) and independent drawing and painting;  all forms of fully developed clairvoyance, materialisations, and direct voices, but their most wondrous and spectacular phenomenon was that of precipitated spirit portraits in full colour.

Their mediumship was demonstrated in public, often with scientists sitting on the committee responsible for organising some of their demonstrations.

The sisters used to sit on a stage with a large canvas placed between them at a sufficient distance for them to be unable to touch it. A raffle ticket is selected at random from a tub of raffle ticket stubs and the winner moves forward to sit on the stage in order to have a better vantage point to witness the spirit phenomenon which is to take place.

In one particular instance worth reciting, the winners were a Mr and Mrs Alford who took their place on the stage. Once the stage is set the sisters bow their heads, close their eyes and appear to be in deep concentration

Everyone in the auditorium is watching carefully and after a few minutes there appears a wisp of vapour-like cloud which moves across the picture and then disappears. After a few more minutes colours can be seen which look like finely coloured dust which has been thrown onto the canvas one on top of each to form a background.

Once the spirit operators are satisfied with the background the audience are astonished to see three pairs of eyes placed on various parts of the canvas. Two pairs are open but the third pair, placed in the very centre of the canvas remain closed. The open pairs disappear but the closed pair remain.

As the painting continues, the background becomes even more clear and a faint outline of a face and bust appears, appearing and re-appearing until it finally remains static in the centre of the canvas, surrounding the closed eyes.

The face is an unmistakable likeness of a young girl, about 14 – 15 years old. Gradually the portrait becomes even more clear showing a very beautiful young lady with long brown auburn brown hair and wearing a white dress. Her eyes are still closed.

With the portrait now having been completely precipitated on to the canvas, to the utter and absolute astonishment of all, the eyes suddenly open, and audience thunders in applause.

It comes as no surprise to anyone to learn that the portrait is of Mr and Mrs Alford’s deceased daughter Audrey. What a wonderful gift from spirit. Needless to say the Bangs Sisters had never met Mr and Mrs Alford who were not Spiritualists.


THE DAVENPORT BROTHERSIra Erastus Davenport and William Henry Davenport were born at Buffalo in the State of New York, the former on 17 September 1839 and the latter on 1 February 1841. Their father was American while their mother was from Kent in England and the psychic faculty was inherent in her family.

It was in 1846, two years before the Fox phenomenon,  that the family were disturbed by bumps, knocks, rappings etc. The Davenport boys and their sister Elizabeth, experimented by placing their hands on a table when messages would be spelt out.

Ira developed automatic writing then levitation followed when he would be floated in the air above the heads of the people present; on one occasion all three children floated high up in the room.

Seances were held regularly; lights appeared, musical instruments floated and played above the heads of those witnessing the phenomena.

At the instigation of spirit the brothers travelled demonstrated their mediumship and agreed to be tested by the interested scientists. The boys would be trussed up like chickens in a cabinet with a Professor sitting either side making sure they were incapable of movement every time spirit manifested in the seance.

There is a very detailed report in The History of Spiritualism, vol I of a seance held in England by the Davenports. This was in the house of a Mr  Dion Boucicault. The report describes the people present; the testing to which the brothers submitted and the phenomena that  took place, most of it in gaslight.

The brothers were mobbed in England and eventually refused to demonstrate, leaving England and going to Paris where they held a seance for the Emperor and Empress of France. They went on to tour other countries demonstrating their mediumship to audiences of 1,000.

It has been said that the phenomena produced by the Davenport Brothers  was of such a nature, ie levitation of instruments etc., in order to make a greater impact on the world than might otherwise have been possible


THE EDDY BROTHERSHoratio and William Eddy were the sons of a poor family who farmed a smallholding in Chittenden, in the State of Vermont. They were typical of the hard-working, weather-beaten, rough farmers of the time.

The brothers were not liked; apart from the fact they tended to feud with other families, were very anti-social, reports and rumours were circulating within the area of strange ‘goings on’ in the Eddy homestead. The phenomena the brothers were producing was eventually investigated by a Colonel Olcott, who lived with them for a period of ten weeks. They were astonishing mediums, but very uncongenial hosts.

Upon investigating the family tree to ascertain any psychic inheritance, Colonel Olcott discovered that the brothers’ grandmother, four times removed, had been burned as a witch in the Salem trials of 1692. Because of this ‘demonic’ ancestry the boys bore marks of torture perpetuated upon them by their father in order to cure them of their diabolical powers. Once, when one boy fell into a state of trance, his father poured boiling water over him and placed a red-hot coal on his head, scarring him for life.

The Eddy brothers’ mediumship produced rappings, movement of objects, painting in oils and water colours under influence, prophecy, speaking in strange tongues, healing, clairvoyance, automatic writing, psychometry, and fully materialised forms. When Olcott stayed for the 10 week period, he witnessed, and spoke to, 400 materialised spirit forms. It is interesting to note that the guide who appeared the most often, a giant Native American Indian called Santum was measured and found to be 6’3” while the medium, William Eddy, was a mere 5’9”.

Horatio’s mediumship was different to that of William’s.  A cloth screen was fixed up and Horatio sat in front of it, in good light, with one of the audience sitting with him, holding his hand. Behind the screen was placed various musical instruments which began to play of their own accord; materialised hands appeared over the edge of the screen.

When Horatio held a seance in the dark, a full tribe of Native Americans would appear and do a war dance in the available space, with whoops and yells and accompanied by the musical instruments present.

After all the investigation and testing, Colonel Olcott still felt that the genuineness of the spirit phenomena was ‘not proven’ despite being witnessed by thousands of people.


DANIEL DUNGLAS HOMEThis Scottish medium was born in 1833 at Currie, near Edinburgh but he left at the age of 9 and travelled to New England to live with an aunt who had adopted him. This aunt was very orthodox in her religious views and when she discovered, to her horror, that her young nephew had ‘brought the Devil into the house’ she threw him out onto the streets.

Home returned to England in 1855, a sick young man, with very little money but with powers so great he could have formed his own Church and lived like a King.

He said: “I have been sent on a mission. That mission is to demonstrate immortality. I have never taken money for it and I never will.”

He demonstrated his mediumistic ability before the crowned heads of Europe and never once lost his humility or his sense of purpose.

Home is remembered for his remarkable powers of levitation, in daylight, and it is recorded that he did this over 100 times, the majority of them recorded by those present at the time. The most famous of them all is:

“……when at Ashley House Home, in a state of trance, floated out of the bedroom and into the sitting-room window, passing seventy feet above the street. After his arrival in the sitting-room he went back into the bedroom with Lord Adare, and upon the latter remarking that he could not understand how Home could have fitted through the window which was only partially raised, “he told me to stand a little distance off. He then went through the open space headfirst quite rapidly, his body being nearly horizontal and apparently rigid. He came in again feet foremost.” Such was the account given by Lords Adare and Lindsay.”   The History of Spiritualism, vol.1

Home could produce most mediumistic phenomena, with the exception of materialisation as he would not sit in the dark. He could levitate in the light and therefore did not see the need for such a requirement. Notwithstanding this fact, Home is remembered as one of the most remarkable mediums of his day; his mediumship being attested to by some of the most renowned scientists, including Sir William Crookes.

HELEN DUNCAN 1897-1956

HELEN DUNCANHelen Duncan who was born in Callander in Scotland in 1897 was to become one of the most maligned physical mediums of the 20th Century and also one of the most magnificent. All Spiritualists everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to Helen Duncan that can never be repaid.

Helen was both a mental and physical medium which means that not only was she able to communicate and bring through messages using a clairvoyant link with the spirit world, but she was also capable of being entranced and producing materialised forms of the deceased people.

The most notable control of Helen was Albert who was tall and slim while Helen was small and rounded. When Albert materialised, therefore, as with all the consequent materialised forms, it was obvious to see that it was impossible for it ever to have been Helen dressing up with intent to defraud people, as so many of the physical mediums were so accused.

Unfortunately the accusations against Helen went further resulting in a Court Case held in the Criminal Courts at the Old Bailey in 1944 when she was tried under the ancient Witchcraft Act of 1735. Helen’s crime was that she pretended to be a medium and that mediumship did not exist; the Witchcraft Act attested to this so-called fact. One of the major , eventually becoming President of the Spiritualists’ National Union in 1970. He worked unstintingly for the movement and upon becoming Principal of the Arthur Findlay College situated in Stansted Hall, he devoted much of his time to teaching the thoproblems encountered by the Law was the fact that Mrs Duncan was bringing back men killed in World War II before the release of this information had been made, thus seen as infringing security

The trial was a farce with the strangest allegations being made against Helen, especially her ability to swallow and then regurgitate butter-muslin which was purported to be the animated spirit forms that moved around the room and who spoke and touched their loved ones. During the trial Helen submitted to much testing, having her stomach x-rayed to prove it was normal. In spite of the fact that some of the most knowledgeable people within Spiritualism spoke on her behalf, Helen was found guilty and imprisoned for nine months.

It was because of this tragedy that Spiritualists everywhere lobbied Parliament and started a Parliamentary Campaign to have the ancient law repealed. This was done in 1951 when The Fraudulent Mediums Act was put on the statute books; this Act repealed The Witchcraft Act 1735 and s.4 of The Vagrancy Act 1824. Unfortunately this was a little too late to help Helen who passed to spirit in 1956 five weeks after the Police raided one of her seances and grabbed her, searching for a shroud.

If the people involved in sitting in judgment on Helen Duncan had been well-versed in psychic phenomena, the case against her would have been dismissed and the Police held responsible for her death.


MAURICE BARBANELLMaurice Barbanell was the deep trance medium which the world famous control, Silver Birch, used to bring to the world teachings from spirit of a very high order.

The circle in which Maurice sat entranced was in the home of the renowned journalist Hannen Swaffer who investigated mediumship and psychic phenomena with the same rigor he applied to his journalistic investigations.

Maurice who also worked in the journalistic field, was Editor of the Psychic News for many years. He and his wife, Sylvia, who was also an excellent medium, were responsible for writing much Spiritualist literature; an outstanding book by Maurice being This is Spiritualism and by Sylvia: What happens when a child dies.

The words of Silver Birch; his teachings and his wisdom, together with Answers to questions put to him by numerous people over the years have been recorded and are listed in the Book List at the end of this Course.


Gordon HigginsonGordon Higginson was probably one of the most well-known mediums of the 20th Century. His first experience of sitting for spirit was as a baby for his mother, Fanny Higginson, was also a notable medium. Gordon grew up with spirit and did his first demonstration of mediumship at the age of 14.

His mediumship was both mental and physical and he demonstrated the same within Spiritualism for many years, eventually becoming President of the Spiritualists’ National Union in 1970. He worked unstintingly for the movement and upon becoming Principal of the Arthur Findlay College situated in Stansted Hall, he devoted much of his time to teaching the thousands of students who crossed its portals.

His mental mediumship was extremely detailed, with names, addresses, telephone numbers and the phenomena he produced with his physical mediumship included direct voice and materialisation. He was an orator of great passion and many of the mediums working today (2002) regard Gordon as their greatest teacher and inspiration.

This is an extract from The Psychics & Mediums Network Teaching Manual that is used as support material for our on-line classes and distance learning projects.

You can join the classes or get a free Kindle edition of this manual at the link below.


COPYRIGHT This article is part of our Distance Learning Project DLP – a course specially written for us by the great Spiritualist Violet Kipling and long time worker on this website and the charitable organisation  Rainbows End. No part may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. This material may not be published as web pages or in email correspondence courses without the permission of the copyright owner. World serial rights are owned by the “Psychics and Mediums Network” (

Article Name
Spiritualist Pioneering Mediums From Swedenborg to Gordon Higginson
The Pioneering Mediums of Spiritualism including Emmanuel Swedenborg, Andrew Jackson Davis, Emma Hardinge Britten, the Bang Sisters, the Davenport Brothers, the Eddy Brothers, Daniel Douglas Home, Helen Duncan, Maurice Barbanell, and Gordon Higginson.
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Meet the Author

Craig Hamilton-Parker

CRAIG HAMILTON-PARKER is a celebrated psychic medium who has confounded skeptics by the uncanny accuracy of his readings. Craig is the author of 15 books and together with his wife have their own TV series.

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