The Intersection Between Mystery Schools and Spiritualism

Mystery schools and spiritualism are two fascinating and complex topics that have a long and intertwined history. Spiritualism is a belief system that emerged in the 19th century and centers around communication with the spirit world. Mystery schools, on the other hand, are ancient institutions that were established to teach esoteric knowledge and spiritual practices to initiates. This article will explore the intersection between these two fields, looking at the ways in which spiritualism has been influenced by mystery schools and vice versa. We will delve into the history of both topics and examine some of the key figures and practices that have contributed to this rich and diverse tradition.


Mystery Schools and Spiritualism are two distinct but interconnected phenomena that have influenced the Western world for centuries. Mystery Schools refer to ancient and modern esoteric organizations that impart spiritual teachings and practices to their members. On the other hand, Spiritualism is a religious movement that emerged in the 19th century, based on the belief that the spirits of the dead can communicate with the living. While the two have different histories and origins, they share a common interest in exploring the spiritual and mystical aspects of existence. Understanding the intersection between Mystery Schools and Spiritualism can provide insight into the evolution of spiritual beliefs and practices in the Western world.

History of Spiritualism

Spiritualism emerged in the United States in the mid-19th century, growing out of the religious revivalism of the Second Great Awakening. The movement was characterized by the belief that the spirits of the dead could communicate with the living, and mediums began to offer their services as channels for these messages. Notable figures in the early development of Spiritualism include the Fox sisters, who claimed to be able to communicate with spirits through rapping sounds, and Andrew Jackson Davis, who wrote extensively about his spiritual visions and experiences. Spiritualism quickly gained popularity, and by the late 19th century, it had become a global phenomenon, with Spiritualist churches and organizations spreading throughout Europe, North America, and other parts of the world. Spiritualism had a significant impact on Western spirituality, paving the way for other New Age and occult movements in the 20th century.

Spiritualism and Mediumship

Mediumship is the ability to communicate with spirits of the deceased. Mediums are individuals who have this ability to communicate with the dead and are often sought after for their services by people who wish to communicate with their loved ones who have passed away.

Mediumship played a central role in the development of Spiritualism. Spiritualist mediums claimed to communicate with the spirits of the dead and brought messages from the afterlife to the living. Mediumship was seen as a way to provide proof of the continuity of life after death and offer comfort to those who had lost loved ones.

Spiritualist mediumship has been criticized for various reasons, including fraud, deception, and exploitation. Skeptics have often accused Spiritualist mediums of using cold reading and other tricks to give the illusion of communicating with the dead. Additionally, some Spiritualist mediums have been accused of taking advantage of vulnerable individuals who are grieving and seeking closure. Despite these criticisms, Spiritualist mediumship continues to be practiced today and remains an important aspect of Spiritualist belief.

Spiritualism and Esoteric Knowledge

Spiritualism and esoteric knowledge have had a complex and intertwined relationship throughout history. Many Spiritualists believe in the existence of an afterlife and attempt to communicate with the deceased through mediumship. This pursuit of knowledge about the spiritual realm is closely tied to the pursuit of esoteric knowledge, which seeks to understand the hidden or secret aspects of the world.

Mystery Schools have played a significant role in the development of Spiritualism. Many of the key figures in the Spiritualist movement were also members of or influenced by Mystery Schools. For example, the Fox sisters, who were instrumental in the early days of Spiritualism, were said to have been initiated into the Masonic Order. The teachings and practices of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn also had a profound impact on the development of Spiritualist beliefs and practices.

Additionally, Spiritualist beliefs have influenced modern esotericism in a number of ways. For example, the idea of communicating with spirits and entities from other realms is a central tenet of many modern occult practices. Spiritualist beliefs about the afterlife have also had a significant impact on the development of New Age spirituality.

However, the intersection of Spiritualism and esoteric knowledge has not been without controversy. Some have criticized Spiritualist mediumship as fraudulent or manipulative, while others have accused Spiritualist organizations of exploiting vulnerable people. Despite these criticisms, Spiritualism continues to be an important part of Western spirituality, and its influence on the pursuit of esoteric knowledge cannot be denied.

Theosophical Society and Spiritualism

The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky, Henry Steel Olcott, William Quan Judge, and others. The organization was established to promote the study of esoteric wisdom and to explore the spiritual nature of humanity. Blavatsky was a renowned spiritual teacher who claimed to have received teachings from spiritual masters known as the Mahatmas. She authored several influential works, including “The Secret Doctrine” and “Isis Unveiled,” which helped to popularize esoteric and mystical teachings.

The Theosophical Society had a complex relationship with Spiritualism. On one hand, Blavatsky was critical of many aspects of Spiritualism, including its tendency towards mediumship and its lack of a comprehensive spiritual philosophy. On the other hand, the Theosophical Society was instrumental in bringing Spiritualism to a wider audience, and many Spiritualists were drawn to the organization’s teachings.

The Theosophical Society also incorporated many Spiritualist beliefs into its own philosophy. For example, both movements believed in the existence of spirits and the possibility of communicating with the dead. Theosophists also adopted many Spiritualist practices, such as seances and automatic writing, as methods of communicating with spiritual beings.

The Theosophical Society had a significant impact on modern spirituality. Its teachings helped to popularize esoteric and mystical knowledge, and many of its ideas, such as the concept of karma and the existence of spiritual masters, continue to be influential today. The organization also helped to promote a more inclusive and tolerant approach to spirituality, emphasizing the unity of all religions and the importance of individual spiritual exploration.

The Theosophical Society also had a major influence on the development of New Age spirituality, which emerged in the 1960s and 70s. Many New Age beliefs and practices, such as crystal healing and chakra balancing, can be traced back to Theosophical teachings. Overall, the Theosophical Society played a key role in bringing esoteric knowledge and spirituality to a wider audience, and its legacy continues to be felt in modern spirituality.

Modern Spiritualism and New Age Spirituality

New Age spirituality is a broad and diverse movement that emerged in the Western world in the 1960s and 70s. It draws on a variety of religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions, including Eastern religions, paganism, Gnosticism, esotericism, and the occult. New Age spirituality emphasizes personal spiritual growth, holistic health, environmentalism, and a belief in the interconnectedness of all things.

Spiritualism has had a significant influence on the development of New Age spirituality. Many of the key beliefs and practices of Spiritualism, such as mediumship, reincarnation, and the existence of spirit guides, have been adopted and adapted by the New Age movement. In addition, the emphasis on personal spiritual growth and the belief in the power of the individual to shape their own reality are also central themes in New Age spirituality.

New Age spirituality New Age spirituality has been criticized for its lack of intellectual rigor and scientific basis, and for promoting a form of narcissism and self-indulgence. Critics argue that the emphasis on personal spiritual growth and individual empowerment can be taken to an extreme, leading to a disregard for social and environmental issues. In addition, some critics have raised concerns about the appropriation of indigenous and Eastern spiritual traditions by Western New Age practitioners.


In conclusion, the intersection between Mystery Schools and Spiritualism is a fascinating area of study that sheds light on the development of Western spirituality. The origins of Spiritualism in the 19th century and the key figures and movements that shaped it demonstrate how it has impacted spirituality and popular culture. The role of mediumship in Spiritualism and the pursuit of esoteric knowledge in both Spiritualism and Mystery Schools show how these two traditions intersect. The influence of the Theosophical Society and its impact on modern spirituality, as well as the connection between Spiritualism and New Age spirituality, highlight the continuing legacy of these traditions in the present day. However, criticisms and controversies surrounding mediumship and New Age spirituality serve as reminders that there are still debates surrounding these practices and beliefs. Overall, studying the intersection between Mystery Schools and Spiritualism provides a unique perspective on the evolution of Western spirituality.

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