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The Duty of Spiritualists to the Young

By:Alfred Kitson
Date: Thu,17 Mar 2011
Submitter:Richard Rowley

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by Alfred Kitson
Honorary Secretary of the British
Spiritualists' Lyceum Union.

Paper read before the General Conference of
Spiritualists, held in Portman - Rooms, London,
May 14th, 1895

“The subject chosen for our consideration this
afternoon is, in my opinion, one of vast importance,
inasmuch as it deals with the young; for all true
reformations - if they are to be permanent - must have
their foundations laid deep in the hearts and
affections of the rising generation. It is a
well-known fact that the ideas and impressions
received during infancy have the most enduring effect
upon the life and character of the individual. It is
an adage that, 'a child's mind is as wax to receive,
but as marble to retain, the impressions made upon
it.' Thus it is that old faiths and traditions die
hard, because, being received in the days of infancy,
when trust and confidence is unbounded, they become
the most deeply seated in the mind, and as such are
held sacred. These impressions become authorities and
standards by which they measure everything; and such a
hold do they ultimately obtain over the hearts and
consciences of the majority that they mistake
tradition for fact, and authority for truth. Hence
has arisen all the ecclesiastical opposition, both in
ancient and modern times, to discoveries and
reformations that were opposed to the cherished
teachings of infancy; hence, too, arises the
opposition to the facts and teachings of the
Spiritualism of today, because the cherished ideas and
impressions received as religious instruction are not
endorsed by it, but opposed, and we see traditions and
authority preferred to its beautiful revealings of an
immortal life, that are in harmony with the needs and
aspirations of the human heart. The same is true of
all religions, because human nature is the same the
world over.
With this brief glance at childhood's
impressional nature let us see how it affects
Spiritualists. Spiritualists, as a rule, are such,
not from choice or belief, but from force of facts
witnessed by them, which, by their persistency, have
compelled acceptance where the parties receiving them
had the moral courage to avow their convictions, and
would not do violence to their reasoning faculties by
ignoring them. Having accepted the facts of spiritual
agency the avenue for spiritual communion is opened,
through which they can receive the testimony of
millions of arisen souls as to the nature, conditions,
laws, morals, and ethics of the great beyond. These
testimonies, be it remembered, are not the subtleties
of the metaphysician, the vapourings of an overheated
imagination, or the party bias of the religious
fanatic, but the veritable observations and
experiences of the parties communicating them. These
testimonies are opposed to the cardinal doctrines of
Christianity, viz., the creation, the fall, the
immaculate conception, the crucifixion, and the
vicarious atonement.
In opposing these, Spiritualism does not stand
alone, for the science of geology has shown that the
Creation according to 'Genesis' is utterly wrong. And
the science of archaeology has proved that the human
race is immeasurably older than the age assigned to it
in the Bible. And these revelations, moreover, point
out, clearly and incontestably, that man was NOT
created perfect, only a little lower than the angels,
but instead he was at the bottom of the ladder of
civilisation, only a LITTLE higher than the brutes.
Therefore, there could be no fall, no
degradation, and mankind owes its present status of
civilisation to a gradual and hard won ascent. These
scientific facts were assailing the Theological
Citadel, undermining its very foundations, and
threatening to annihilate man's belief in the
continuity of life after death of the physical body
when Spiritualism made its appearance, confirmed the
deductions of science in reference to the history of
the earth, and the age of mankind, and supplemented
theology by demonstrating the continuity of a
conscious life beyond the grave. It also cleared the
character of an All-wise, All-good Creator from the
aspersions cast upon Him by representing Him in the
character of a short-sighted, passionate, despotic,
oriental monarch. And instead of a God to be
approached with fear and trembling it has revealed to
humanity a God of infinite love, wisdom, and
beneficence, who is too wise to err in the manner He
has been represented, and too good to be so unkind as
to curse the first human beings He made and all their
progeny, as taught by theology. And while
Spiritualism has revealed to us a more lovable and
adorable God, it has also swept away all creeds and
dogmas as a means of salvation, as being worse than
useless, because they are misleading, and has placed
in their stead the beautiful and simple precept of
doing right, day by day, as the only means of
attaining happiness hereafter; and for every wrong
done, injustice inflicted, and crime committed it
teaches reparation, and retribution; and therefore it
is a far greater deterrent of sin and wickedness than
the doctrine of a fiery hell with its eleventh hour
possibility of escape by believing in the atoning
blood of Jesus and thereby escaping all consequences.

Here we have a clear issue between the teachings
of Christianity and Spiritualism. The former are
opposed by science and all that makes for
righteousness in the human soul; while the latter are
supported by the discoveries of science, and are
attested by witnesses who are with us, who are our own
parents, offspring, relations, and bosom friends.
These, we know, would not have deceived us, while
here, in ordinary matters; how much less will they do
so in matters of such momentous and vital importance
as those which relate to the life and conditions of
the great beyond. Remembering, then, childhood's
impressional nature, I ask: Is it not our duty to
teach them how to use their reasoning faculties so as
to sift truth from error, fact from tradition, and
reality from fancy - to accept truth for authority and
not authority for truth - to teach our children the
beautiful revealings of life and its duties, and that
the future life is the harvest time of the present
one, instead o sending them to be taught that which is
false and misleading, and which we, as Spiritualists,
utterly repudiate? These facts and considerations
ought to infuse energy and enthusiasm into the heart
and soul of all Spiritualists, whether they be parents
or not, and cause them to resolve that such an
inconsistency shall no longer exist. If the doctrines
of Christianity are unworthy of our acceptance, they
are not worthy of our children's acceptance. If
Spiritualism is a fact - and such we have proved it to
be - and its teachings are true and reliable - and we
are assured that they are given by our nearest and
dearest friends who have gone to prove the great
secret for themselves - then it is only right and just
that our children, and the children of all progressive
minds which are in sympathy with us, shall be taught
them, and may our Heavenly Father and His holy angels
inspire and direct us aright.
We must now take a brief survey of what is being
done by the adherents of the former to propagate what
we now know to be false and misleading teachings among
the young, in order to more correctly gauge the
magnitude of our duties to them.
In the first place we notice that almost every
place of worship has a Sunday-school attached to it,
and that the majority of them have select class-rooms
in which the senior scholars can the better apply
themselves to their lessons. They have, also, well
stocked libraries of books, most of which have been
specially written, and the remainder carefully
s3lected. Secondly, these schools are knitted
together by a Sunday School Union whose influence and
power is world-embracing in its magnitude. It
possesses large funds for the maintenance of its
various departments and projects, which are supported
with a liberality that is wonderful. I find that the
donations and grants acknowledged in the 'Sunday
School Chronicle' for four consecutive weeks, ending
April 25th, 1895, amount to the magnificent sum of
1,166 Pounds, 17 Shillings and 1 Penny or 41 Pounds 13
Shillings and 5 1/2 pence per day inclusive of the
Sundays. This Union publishes the 'Sunday School
Chronicle,' in which are given, every week, Scripture
lessons intended for the perusal, study, and use o all
Sunday-schools in the United Kingdom. These lessons
are published simultaneously in America and on the
Continent, being selected and arranged a year in
advance by an International Committee. The best
talent in the ministry is secured to expound these
lessons for the senior scholars; and the ablest
expositors among the females are secured for the
infants. These are published side by side, and thus
an uniformity of the reading, study, and exposition of
the Scriptures is obtained throughout Christendom.
This Union also publishes monthly magazines for
teachers and senior scholars, containing 'teachers'
helps.' It publishes a weekly for boys and girls,
containing stories of thrilling adventures; and others
for infants, all of them being coloured with their
theological doctrines. And thirdly, there is a great
work done by the Society for Promoting Christian
Knowledge, which publishes books on special subjects.
Then there is the gigantic British and Foreign Bible
Society, translating the Scriptures into every known
language, and it supplies the English edition under
cost price, thus rendering it a very easy matter for
every Sunday-school scholar to possess a copy for him
or her self. Sunday-school scholar to possess a copy
for him or her self.
One cannot help admiring the enthusiasm, skill,
and talent thus displayed in their work. At the same
time we deeply deplore the serious errors that are
being so persistently propagated and disseminated by
them throughout the world. I have only named a part
of the work that is being done by the Christians, but
I think I have stated quite sufficient to show that
the harvest is, indeed, great, and calls on everyone
who is able to labour to enter the Spiritual vineyard
and work for the reformation and regeneration of the
world. If we had but half of the earnestness, zeal,
enthusiasm, talent, and liberal support that they
have, what a great and noble work we could do.
Children would be taught to do the right, speak the
truth, and act honestly, not through fear of offending
God, but because it was right, true and just. They
would be taught that no amount of belief or faith in
any doctrinal creeds would avail them aught in the
shirking of the consequences; that they, and they
alone, must bear the consequences of all their
misdeeds; and under such teachings we should soon have
a nobler manhood and more lovable womanhood permeating
society with a higher moral and spiritual life and
conduct; and honesty and truthfulness would soon
become the recognized stamp of true nobility. I hope
the day is not far distant when my brother and sister
Spiritualists will recognize more fully the beautiful
moral and ethical worth of the teachings of
Spiritualism, and not dwell continually on its
startling phenomena. It is not by phenomena that the
world is going to be redeemed from error and
superstitious night, but by the application of its
teachings to everyday life. Shall it be said that the
Christians, who have nothing but faith, derived from
traditions, to work for and guide them, which you know
to be wrong, shall be more zealous and devoted to the
young than you? Remember that ‘of such are the
kingdom of Heaven,’ and we venture to add, that of
such will the kingdom of Heaven be established here on
earth when they are rightly trained. The future of
Spiritualism depends in a large measure on how we deal
with the young, whether we give them of our knowledge
and spiritual light, or selfishly ignore their needs
and our duties. If we do this we shall prove
ourselves guilty of a great omission and unworthy of
the angelic ministrations that have hitherto been
ours. We ought to remember that the teachings of our
infancy have been a hindrance to the pure and
undefiled inspiration of the angels of this new
dispensation, and in many instances those who had the
gifts of clairvoyance and clairaudience in their
infancy have been misunderstood, their gifts have been
looked upon as signs of serious physical weakness, and
as such have been treated medically.
It is now your privilege and duty to instruct the
children aright, and where you find they possess
natural mediumistic gifts, to see that they are
cultivated, kept pure by pure thoughts and habits, and
wisely used. And oh! My friends, you know, you know
not what rare gifts and talents your own children may
possess. You know not how many angels in disguise
your own families contain. They may be able to
transcend all the illustrious workers who have
preceded them. It is through those rightly trained in
their infancy that the angels will be able to effect
most in the future.
Let us, then, earnestly strive to do our duty to
the young by forming Children’s Progressive Lyceums on
the principle of the associations of the young in the
summerland. We have long prayed for the kingdom of
Heaven to be established here on earth, and now that
we have that kingdom revealed to us let us set about
establishing it. I am pleased to be able to report
that there are seventy-eight societies who have
already recognized the importance of the work. But we
must redouble our efforts to obtain sufficient funds
to publish suitable books for the use of Lyceums, and
children in general. And here let me point out to you
the great difference in the encouragement given to the
Sunday-school teachers’ efforts and those which are
accorded to ours. We have seen that for four
consecutive weeks the former have received the sum of
41 Pounds 13s. 5 1/2d. per DAY; while we have failed
to raise 100 Pounds in three YEARS as a nucleus of a
publishing fund, notwithstanding the most strenuous
efforts of which we were capable. We are deeply
grateful, however, for the help we have received, and
mean to persevere. The Lyceums have already formed
themselves into a Union whose objects are: ‘To promote
the welfare of the Lyceum movement, by (a) an Annual
Movable Conference; (b) District assemblages when and
where necessary; (c) Extending the work in new
directions; (d) Bringing Lyceums into closer sympathy,
and promoting greater uniformity in the manner of
working them; (e) Encouraging the publication of
suitable literature; (f) Such other methods as may be
found desirable.’
With regard to the object (c) the Union has
devised and established Lyceum Districts and appointed
district visitors, whose duties are to visit the
Lyceums and render them all the assistance in their
power; also to encourage and help the formation of new
Lyceums, all services to be rendered gratis. With
regard to the object (e) I am pleased to state that
one gentleman, Mr. H.A. Kersey, of Newcastle-on-Tyne,
has generously published a ‘Lyceum Manual,’ which is
indispensable to the Movement, and which contains some
of the richest and most beautiful gems of spiritual
and moral truth that the world has ever received.
Some eight or nine thousand copies of these have been
sold. He has generously undertaken this good work
until the Union is able to relieve him of it. The
same applies to his ‘Spiritual Songster,’ which is
full of bright sparkling gems for young and old alike.
The British Spiritualists’ Lyceum Union has been able
to publish one book as the result of its efforts to
raise a publishing fund, viz., ‘Outlines of
Spiritualism.’ The Union has not as yet been able to
publish a weekly or a monthly magazine for the
information and edification of its members, but it has
found a splendid substitute in the ‘Lyceum Banner,’
published by our noble and highly esteemed co-worker,
Mr. J. J. Morse, ably assisted by Miss Morse.
The Union has just held its Tenth Annual
Conference. Copies of the various reports are before
you, from which you will see that we have made a
determined beginning which we hope will soon attain to
much greater dimensions; and we shall work on till
every Spiritualist Society recognizes its duties to
the young and provides for their due tuition and
training. Then we shall be able to unitedly appeal to
the Sunday schools in general to abandon the erroneous
teachings with which they so assiduously indoctrinate
children’s minds, and substitute for it the purer and
nobler teachings of Spiritualism, and so hasten the
glorious time when the will of God shall be done on
earth as it is in Heaven.”

[There was some adverse reaction to Alfred
Kitson’s speech at the conference, over which W.T.
Stead presided. Before the conference Stead was
beginning to express himself favourably towards
Spiritualism, but after hearing Kitson’s address, he
got up to speak, and said that if he had read what had
been presented in the speech before consenting to
preside over the conference, he would have been
tempted to decline the honour, and then proceeded to
severely criticize the paper from the Christian
standpoint. Kitson writes in his autobiography:
“Several prominent ladies and gentlemen began to
condone with him, and deprecate teaching spiritual
facts, philosophy and religion to children. The
general feeling of the Conference was one of
antagonism to the Children’s Progressive Lyceum
Movement until Mr. James Swindlehurst, of Preston, the
enthusiastic Missioner of the Spiritualists’ National
Federation, made a stirring appeal on behalf of the
Lyceum Movement, and concluded with the following
quotation from the Golden Chain Recitation, No. 123:
“All religion has relation to life, and the life of
religion is to do good!”

“Mr. Stead was not satisfied with his severe
criticism delivered in the Conference, but used his
influential position as Editor and publisher of “The
Review of Reviews.” In this paper he described both
my paper and myself as being anti-Christian, etc,. and
on that account strongly denounced the Lyceum Movement
in general, and Alfred Kitson in particular!
“No doubt he did it in all good faith and felt sure
within himself that he was performing a Christian
duty, as did the Inquisitors of old. I did not mind
for myself so much as for the injurious effects his
bias would have on those who were sympathetically
inclined towards our Movement.”

W. T. Stead did eventually become a convinced
spiritualist himself, and twenty years later,
after his drowning in 1912 when he went down with the
‘Titanic’ he came through at Kitson’s home circle on
several occasions and apologized for the former
misunderstandings between them. It had been the result
of his early orthodox Christian upbringing.
Richard R.].

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