The History of Modern Spiritualism in Australia      Af ter   the   beginning   of   Modern   Spiritualism   in   NY   State   USA   there   was   a   positive   outpouring   of   contact   with   the   world   of   spirit   and   for   a   world   where there was no immediate form of media communication, very quickly indeed the word about spirit communication spread. All   over   the   USA   groups   formed   around   people   in   who's   presence   psychic   phenomena   occurred   and   many   people   were   found   to   be   extremely mediumistic.   Also   of   course   it   did   not   take   long   for   the   word   to   spread   outside   the   USA   and   all   over   the   western   world   mediumship   and   groups communicating with spirit sprang up. Likewise   Australia   experienced   an   upsurge   of   interest   especially   amongst   professional   people.   Groups   were   formed   in   many   places   and   as   in   the   USA much of the results within the groups were of various physical phenomena. By 1869 a spiritualist newspaper was circulating from Wollongong in NSW. In   some   places   in   the   absence   of   Mediums,   discussion   groups   were   formed   to   hear   about   what   was   being   experienced   in   the   USA.   One   such   group formed   in   prior   to   1870   in   Melbourne   with   a   group   of   25   business   men   lead   by   William   Terry   a   bookshop   owner   and   including   the   American   Ambassador of   the   time.   This   group   called   it   self   The   Victorian   Association   of   Progressive   Spiritualists   and   met   at   Collins   Street   in   Melbourne   later   moving   to Swanston Street Melbourne. An early President of the Association was Alfred Deakin for many years who later became the Prime Minister of Australia. Initially   only   for   men,   later   ladies   were   invited.   After   a   time   a   piano   was   introduced   for   the   singing   of   Hymns.   Of   course   whenever   the   group   could   it entertained visiting mediums. Often at that time meetings were interrupted by children throwing up stones to rattle off of the corrugated iron roof. The   budding   church   later   moved   to   A'Beckett   Street   and   still   holds   a   church   there   today   known   as   The   Victorian   Spiritualists   Union   Inc.   Since   this church   has   been   continuously   running   through   all   the   years   since,   it   can   claim   to   be   the   oldest   continuously   running   spiritualist   church   in   the   world. Early on the Church was instrumental in starting a magazine 'The Harbinger of Light' this continued until 1947. At   the   same   time   as   the   V   S   U   was   established   and   grew   there   were   spiritualist   churches   forming   in   other   states.   One   early   established   church   is   at Boundary   Street   Brisbane   which   was   opened   by   a   great   spiritualist   Sir   Arthur   Connan   Doyle.   Another   old   church   is   that   at   London   Street   Enmore Sydney (Unfortunately this church is not operating at the time of writing). Although   churches   formed   in   many   of   the   towns   and   cities   in   Australia   the   main   drive   of   spiritualism   in   the   country   was   in   home   circles   and   these   for many   years   proliferated   in   a   very   large   number   of   places.   Unfortunately   due   to   the   nature   of   these   circles   being   for   families   or   just   a   group   of   friends records of nearly all have now disappeared. In   the   first   years   of   the   20th   century   a   number   of   overseas   celebrities   came   to   Australia   to   bring   the   message   of   spiritualism.   Among   these   were   Mrs Emma   Hardinge   Brittain   and   Sir   Arthur   Conan   Doyle.   Mrs   Hardinge   Brittain   was   a   very   famous   writer   and   medium   from   Britain   and   the   USA   and   Sir Conan   Doyle   was   the   author   of   the   stories   about   Sherlock   Holmes   the   detective   who   basically   gave   up   his   career   to   lecture   on   Spiritualism   all   over   the world,   for   example   he   addressed   packed   meetings   at   the   Sydney   Town   Hall   where   thousands   of   people   were   present   and   overlapping   from   the   building onto George Street. The   orthodox   churches   perhaps   due   to   fear   of   loosing   their   congregations   early   on   began   to   preach   against   spiritualism   and   often   accused   it   and mediums of witchcraft and Satanism. They said it was evil and warned congregations against spiritualism on pain of going to hell etc etc. The   result   of   this   is   that   spiritualists   and   mediums   were   persecuted.   Mediums   as   in   the   UK   were   imprisoned   for   'fortune   telling'   and   spiritualists   often   if it   became   known   that   they   were   spiritualists   would   arbitrarily   be   fired   from   their   jobs.   This   continued   to   a   greater   or   lesser   degree   for   many   years.   Even as recently as the 1970s the QLD police bought cases to court for fortune telling but mostly against people who read Taro cards. Incidentally   at   many   spiritualist   meetings   of   the   time   so   many   crowds   of   people   attended   that   people   who   had   been   before   were   asked   not   to   come again so that all the people who had not experienced the phenomena previously could get in. The   first   world   war   1914   to   1918   seemed   to   only   temporarily   stop   spiritualism   and   there   was   a   resurgence   to   some   extent   afterwards   but   the   second world war 1939 to 1945 reduced spiritualism to an extent that in some countries it has never recovered from. During   the   time   of   the   Whitlam   Government   in   the   1970s,   groups   of   churches   sought   recognition   as   religious   denominations   for   the   purposes   of   the marriage   act   so   that   ordained   ministers   within   the   churches   could   perform   marriages.   N.B.   Australia   has   no   official   state   religion,   recognises   no   religion and only recognises religious organisations for the purposes of the marriage act. The   first   to   spiritualists   to   achieve   this   recognition   was   a   group   of   churches   under   the   auspices   of   the   Victorian   Spiritualists   Union   lead   by   its   then   long time president and deep trance medium the Rev George Eldred. In   1975   this   was   immediately   followed   by   a   group   of   churches   in   NSW   and   QLD   called   United   Spiritualism   of   Australia   under   the   leadership   of   Rev   Anne McCanne also a fine medium. Later   another   group   of   churches   in   1987   in   Victoria   called   The   Associated   Christian   Spiritual   Churches   of   Australia   was   organised   and   now   has   many associated churches throughout Australia. However   even   with   the   formation   of   these   'denominations'   the   bulk   of   spiritualist   churches   in   Australia   remain   independent.   In   fact   it   is   sad   to   note   that spiritualist churches do tend to come and go mainly with the availability of dedicated mediums to serve them and dedicated people to run them. In   the   late   1960s   to   early   1970s   there   was   a   intrastate   organisation   formed   called   the   Australian   Spiritualist   Association   but   after   a   few   meetings   this folded no doubt because of the difficulty in getting people from different states to be able to travel to meetings. In   approx   1983   An   organisation   was   formed   in   NSW   to   bring   spiritualists   together   called   the   Australian   Spiritual   Association   (but   then   did   not   truly represent   spiritualists   or   spiritualist   churches).   Later   it   changed   names   to   The   Australian   Spiritualists   Association   and   later   to   The   Australian   Spiritualists Union. Today   Spiritualism   continues   but   support   varies   greatly.   There   are   still   many   churches   especially   in   Victoria   but   not   so   many   people   are   interested particularly among the professional people who perhaps don't want professional stigma by being recognised as a Spiritualist. The   standard   of   mediumship   has   fallen   somewhat   -   Physical   mediums   are   rare   today   and   commitment   is   lessened.   Many   good   mediums   are   turning   to stage   productions   where   money   seems   to   be   a   large   factor   although   it   must   be   said   that   there   always   was   a   faction   of   mediums   who   only   appeared   on stage like early on the physical mediums the Davenport Brothers. As   in   Spiritualist   churches   the   vast   majority   of   mediums   today   are   not   physical   mediums   but   are   mental   mediums   giving   clairvoyantly   and   clairaudiently received information but of course when accurate and evidential this is very effective. There is of course much more to this history in Australia and this article will be updated from time to time.
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