Leading American Spiritualist tells of “Dead” mother’s materialisation

3 Jul

The following article is an interview that I conducted with the Reverend Joseph Merrill in October 1989 at the 97th annual convention of the National Spiritualist Association and was originally published in the British Spiritualist weekly Psychic News in February, 1990.  Joseph Merrill performed the ceremony for me when I was ordained as a minister with the National Spiritualist Association of Churches at the Mediums League building at the Lily Dale Assembly in Lily Dale, New York, USA in August 1992.  I was serving that week at Lily Dale as a guest speaker and medium and I am blessed that Joe was able to do the ceremony for me.  I used to give out copies of this article to participants in my mediumship development classes years ago.  I think that the information is pretty good and I hope that readers of this blog enjoy it.  Let me know what you think.

It is always interesting to read the views of other Spiritualists, all the more as when they live some thousand miles away in America. 

When medium Stephen Hermann attended the Ninety-Seventh annual convention of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches(NSAC) in Washington, DC, he took the opportunity to interview the Rev. Joseph Merrill.

Mr. Merrill has been active within Spiritualism for over seven decades.  Since 1973 he has served as NSAC president.  This is the oldest and largest Spiritualist organization in North America.

Previously, Mr. Merrill served various administrative positions with state Spiritualist associations, as well as secretary and vice-president of the NSAC.  From 1975 to 1981 he was vice-president of the International Spiritualist Federation.

Stephen, of Alexandria, Virginia, put various points to Mr. Merrill.  HIs questions appear in Italics.


How did you become interested in the teachings of Spiritualism?


There came a time when I was bothered by what I was repeating at the Congregational church, of which I was a member.

I had an appointment where I talked with the minister.  I told him that every Sunday when I went to my parents I repeated the Apostles Creed.  In that Apostles Creed we said we believed in life everlasting. I asked the minister what he could give me to cling to as I was growing up and wondering about this life everlasting. But the only thing I got was that it was a blind belief you must have; there was nothing concrete that he could give me. Within the Apostles Creed is a line in which the congregation say they believe in the Communion of Saints.

My question was this: who are the saints we are in communion with? They were a group of people who lived at one time on Earth; they did some miraculous good, died and went to heaven. The saints said the minister are nearer to God than we are so we can pray to them and they will intercede for us. I said that if that small group of people can be prayed to and intercede, where are the billions of people that are not of that particular faith? Why can’t we pray to them? Where are they? Where is heaven?


I couldn’t get any satisfactory answers, but found them in the religion of Spiritualism.



Did you find through Spiritualism that your perspective of God changed from the view you held as a Congregationalist?

 I learned in Spiritualism that my concept of the deity changed.  I could not accept the fact that God was a personal deity. I questioned my inspirers and sent out a thought to them to give me an explanation of what our Infinite Intelligence was.  The answer came to me, and has satisfied me down throughout the years. It was that Infinite Intelligence is something that is back of, part of, and cause of the universe. 

To me Spiritualism is a religion of evolution. If there was a creator, then there must have been a creator to create the creator and so that wouldn’t satisfy me. So I have lived with-and have been satisfied with-the fact that we have a much broader concept of the deity.


When did you become interested in Spiritualism? What was your background?


I became interested in Spiritualism in 1918, and joined a church in 1926.  My background could best be summed up saying that “Spiritualism was my advocation, while photography was my profession.”


In what direction do  you see Spiritualism currently moving?

 It is moving in the direction that was predicted by one of the pioneers of Spiritualism, Emma Hardinge Britten, who foretold that there would be three 50-year cycles in Spiritualism.

The first would be centered around physical phenomena that would give to the word proof.  In the next 50 years Spiritualism would not be accepted and mediums were arrested.  They were scoffed at during this period. Finally there is the third 50-year cycle which we are currently in. This Cycle would move from the physical into the mental phenomena, “the age of the mind.”


It is popular today for many to speak of the New Age. What are your feeling about the New Age?


We are in the New Age, but there’s nothing new about it since every age is a new age. For instance, when man stepped on another planet and telephoned a communication from the moon to the White House, that was a new age.

There’s nothing new as far as New Age metaphysical thinking is concerned.


How about trance channelling? It seems that many people are interested in this phase of mediumship.


Currently we are in a period in which channelling is becoming very, very prominent and everybody wants to become a channeller  A channeller is very psychic. The world is getting full of psychics, but psychics are not mediums.


So there is a difference between a psychic and a medium. Could you elaborate on this further?


A psychic is one who is sensitive to the atmospheric conditions and can tune in on things pertaining to the material world. That is why we have a bad image in Spiritualism of telling fortunes.

As I always say. if you went to a medium to your fortune told, they’d tell you their own before they’d tell tell you yours. Channelling and psychism are not mediumship because mediumship is actual proof that life continues.

There’s no such thing as an extinction of life. Life knows no extinction. Life does not know extinction, only transformation: it transforms into a different form of energy. No one can tell you what “mind” is. Within every single one of us the mind is the dominant factor. We are the infinite respondent to this factor.

The deity within ourselves is what we in Spiritualism try to bring our people to understand. It is they themselves who are responsible for everything they do; they can make or break their own lives.


What do you see as the future of the Spiritualist movement?


Spiritualism as an organization will lessen because all organized religions do so over time.

Spiritualism as an organization may lessen, but the knowledge and understanding of Spiritualism will reach the heart and mind of every living individual that wants to listen.


It is popular for many New Agers to make use of crystals. What are your feelings concerning this sort of device?


Everything is a New Age, like crystals and tarot cards, and so fourth.  They’re being used as crutches.  We in Spiritualism teach you to rely on   your own faculties, then you do not need crutches if you can think.

Over time we learn how to understand and what to expect from our spirit teachers. They are there to guide us and to keep us in our material conditions; they are not there to live our lives for us because live our lives ourselves.  We are responsible. Man is responsible for himself.


Would you say there is a difference in the quality of mediumship today as compared to your early involvement?


Yes, definitely. In the early days mediums delivered messages from the platform and so fourth. It was far more evidential than it is today. Mediumship is moving into the psychic realm without the in-depth working of proof of spirit.

I have seen mental mediums who would give fourth full names-first, middle and last names.


Have you ever seen any examples of physical phenomena that you can describe to readers?


I sat in a darkened room with soft lights on. Present were 32 people with chairs against the wall on three sides.

The mother of a friend of mine had passed away about a year before this happened.

The chairs we sat on were the wooden folding type that had a crossbar underneath. We were up against the wall. If a medium wanted to fake this operation we would have seen so. He would have to go behind the chairs and into the wall.  Neither could they crawl under the chairs.

I felt a nudge at the foot of the chair so looked. Right at the floor by the foot of the chair was a white substance the size of a golf ball.  I said to my friend; “Oh, something wants to manifest. Let’s try to give it room.”

We tried to move the chairs, but couldn’t. By then the golf ball was seen by everybody in the room. Soon the golf ball started to expand. It grew to the size of an orange.  It continued to grow in size; and wax; it took form and had arms and limbs which moved.

It was a woman. She moved in circles around my friend’s back so that the spiritual form was in the wall. It was his mother, who was recognisable to all present. I could not say “That was fake.”


What are the differences between Christianity and Spiritualism?


We say we are not Christians in the sense of the orthodox theological definition of Christianity.

We believe there was a great spiritual teacher that came to the world whom we know as Jesus.

We believe he was a great teacher and healer. We differ with the Christians in believing that “what he did, we too can do.”


What are some of the rewards Spiritualism has given you over the years?


I’m 86 years old-and people think that at 86 you’re on your way out. I was asked by friends a year ago what was my secret for longevity.

I thought for a moment and said, “Well, I don’t know.” Really, I don’t know. I don’t eat right, I don’t live right, but I think right. Thought and mind are tow of the most powerful things we have. We don’t understand the possibilities of the mind, and the mental powers we have.






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