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spiritism or spiritualism, belief that the human personality continues to exist after death and can communicate with the living through the agency of a medium or psychic. The advocates of spiritism argue that death merely means a change of wavelength for those who die, and the medium is said to be able to receive radiations, frequencies, or vibrations that cannot be sensed by an ordinary person. Communication from the spirit world manifests itself in psychical phenomena (e.g., telepathy, clairvoyance, trance speaking, and apparitions) and in physical phenomena (e.g., levitation, automatic writing, and poltergeist and ectoplasmic activities). Ectoplasm is the mysterious visible substance in which the forces of the “other world” materialize. Closely related to the concept of the ectoplasm is the aura, a colored emanation that supposedly surrounds all individuals and that can be perceived by the medium. By noting variations in the hues of a person's aura, the medium is able to describe his personality, needs, and illnesses. The shriveling of the aura is considered a sign of an impending death. In what is known as solar plexus voice mediumship, a spirit appears to speak through a medium's body. Modern spiritism in the United States dates from the activities of the Fox sisters in 1848. Such notable figures as Andrew Jackson Davis, Daniel Dunglas Home, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and Arthur Conan Doyle later became widely known spiritualists. The Society for Psychical Research has carried on investigations with some phenomena, mainly in connection with telepathy and apparitions, in hopes of finding scientific explanations for various spiritualistic occurrences (see parapsychology).


See A. F. Schrenck von Notzing, Phenomena of Materialization (1920); Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, History of Spiritualism (1926); Sir Oliver Lodge, Phantom Walls (1930); S. E. White, The Unobstructed Universe (repr. 1959); G. K. Nelson, Spiritualism and Society (1969); S. Brown, The Heyday of Spiritualism (1970).

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Medium; Mediumship

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

ASpiritualist medium is one who is able to act as a connection between this physical world and the world of the afterlife, to facilitate messages between the living and the dead. Although all mediums are psychic, not all psychics are mediums. Hence, the terms “medium” and “psychic” are not interchangeable. A medium is acting between this physical world and the world of the deceased; a psychic is dealing only on this level, with no connection to spirit. Most professional psychics act in that capacity with no form of certification or anything other than previously satisfied clients to give them veracity. Mediums, on the other hand, have to submit to rigorous examination and are certified by the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, the (British) Spiritualists’ National Union, or similar established professional organizations.

Maurice Barbanell, the British medium through whom the Native American spirit guide Silver Birch spoke, said:

Mediumship is sensitiveness, the ability to register vibrations, radiations, or frequencies which cannot be captured by any of the five senses. Man has constructed a variety of instruments which enable him to be aware of sights and sounds that are otherwise lost to his senses. The telescope reveals the majesty of the heavens that the eye cannot see. The microscope enables us to be familiar with minute forms of life which are beyond our vision. Radar, X-ray, radio, and television capture for us vibrations that are beyond the range of our visual and auditory organs. The medium, as the name implies, is a go-between, an intermediary—is in effect a human radio or television set. He or she—it is usually a she because women are more sensitive than men—is able to tune in to a world of activity that for the rest of mankind is invisible and inaudible. Just like the radio or television set, every medium is limited in her range of reception. Unlike their mechanical counterparts, however, mediums can, by development, increase their capacity for reception.

French psychical investigator Dr. Joseph Maxwell said that a medium is “a person in the presence of whom psychical phenomena can be observed.” The famous English psychical researcher Frederick W. H. Myers (1843–1901) said that the word medium was “a barbarous and question-begging term” because many mediumistic communications are nothing but subconscious revelation such as found with a psychic. Nandor Fodor points out that Myers refers to the confusion that is noticeable on the point and is the result of the observation that supernormal phenomena use the same channels for manifestation as do abnormal phenomena. Fodor said, “The abnormal phenomena are degenerative, the phenomena of mediumship are developmental, they show the promise of powers as yet unknown whereas the abnormal phenomena, like hysteria or epilepsy, show the degeneration of powers already acquired.”

Lewis Spence suggests that the essential qualification of a medium is an abnormal sensitiveness “which enables him to be readily ‘controlled’ by disembodied spirits.” He added that for this reason mediums are also known as sensitives. Yet most mediums do not look upon their connections with spirit as being “controlled” from the other side. The medium Hudson Tuttle (1836–1910) stated, “A medium cannot be controlled to do anything against his determined will, and the plea that he is compelled by spirits is no excuse for wrongdoing. The medium, like anyone else, knows right from wrong, and if the controlling spirit urges towards the wrong, yielding is as reprehensible as it would be to the promptings of passion or the appetite.” The National Spiritualist Association of Churches says in NSAC Spiritualist Manual that “there is no uniformity of temperament or personality among trance-mediums. They come from among all conditions and grades of social and intellectual life. Many people have erroneously supposed that trance-mediumship causes a loss of individuality or that it is followed by detrimental results to the mentality; but, as a matter of fact, the best trance, as well as inspirational, speakers and mediums, are also the best unfolded otherwise.”

The abilities of a medium are not necessarily there for all time. Many well known mediums in the past gradually lost their ability to produce certain phenomena. Some of them were unable to accept the loss of their gift and resorted to deception in order to maintain the illusion of still holding mediumship. The apport medium Heinrich Melzer was caught with small stones—a regular apport in his sittings—taped behind his ears with flesh-colored plaster tape. Melzer admitted that his power was waning. The mediumship of Emanuel Swedenborg did not develop until the age of fifty-five but lasted until his death. Stainton Moses maintained his powers for only eleven years. At the age of twelve, the daughter of Dr. Segard, a close friend of Professor Charles Richet, showed remarkable psychokinetic ability only for three days.

It is within the capabilities of most people to develop mediumship. With careful training, almost anyone can cultivate one of more forms of it, in either the mental or physical branch of the practice. In the mental category, a Spiritualist medium can receive messages from the spirits through clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, clairhambience, clairalience or clairgustance. He or she may mentally “hear” what the spirits are saying or may see them and describe what is seen, interpreting actions almost as is done in the game “charades,” or may simply sense what is being passed on. In physical mediumship, there are such forms as materialization, etherialization, transfiguration, apports, trumpets, slates, rappings, levitation, and the production of ectoplasm. Mediumship is also expressed in automatic writing and drawing, table tipping, direct voice, and other phenomena.


Barbanell, Maurice: This Is Spiritualism. Oxshott: The Spiritual Truth Press, 1959
Berkowitz, Rita S. and Deborah S. Romaine: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Communicatingeith Spirits. New York: Penguin/Alpha, 2003
Boddington, Harry: The University of Spiritualism. London: Spiritualist Press, 1947 Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933 National Spiritualist Association of Churches: NSAC Spiritualist Manual. Lily Dale: NSAC, 1911; 2002
Spence, Lewis: An Encyclopedia of the Occult. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1920
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


(chemical engineering)
The carrier in which a chemical reaction takes place.
Material of controlled pore size used to remove foreign particles or liquid droplets from fluid carriers.
(computer science)
The material, or configuration thereof, on which data are recorded; usually not applied to disk, drum, or core, but to storable, removable media, such as paper tape, cards, and magnetic tape.
That entity in which objects exist and phenomena take place; examples are free space and various fluids and solids.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


The liquid or semiliquid ingredient of a paint which controls ease of application, appearance, gloss, adhesion, durability, and chemical inertness.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. (of a colour) reflecting or transmitting a moderate amount of light
2. a person supposedly used as a spiritual intermediary between the dead and the living
3. the substance in which specimens of animals and plants are preserved or displayed
4. the substance or surroundings in which an organism naturally lives or grows
5. Art
a. the category of a work of art, as determined by its materials and methods of production
b. the materials used in a work of art
6. any solvent in which pigments are mixed and thinned
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(1) See social media.

(2) Materials that hold data in any form or that allow data to pass through them. Media includes paper, transparencies, multipart forms, hard drives, solid state drives (SSDs), optical discs, magnetic tape, wire, cable and fiber. Media is the plural of "medium."

(3) Prerecorded information. Media may refer to material on CDs, DVDs and videotapes. See multimedia.

(4) The trade press. Media may refer to magazines, newspapers and websites that disseminate the news. See electronic media.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
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