Stacy Kopchinski, Trustee on the National Board of the NSAC (National Spiritualist Association of Churches), gives us an in depth understanding of what this Modern Spiritualist Movement represents, its origins and how it came to be such a recognised and well respected organisation in our world today.
When was the NSAC founded and please share a brief history of its foundations?
Technically, the NSAC was founded in 1893 but the Movement of Modern Spiritualism started in 1848 in Hydesville, New York. In 1893, a convention was held in Chicago, Illinois, and hundreds of Spiritualists came to attend. They officially formed what we now know as the NSAC, but back then it was known only as the NSA. Only in 1954 did we become an Association of Churches.
When we first formed our organisation in 1893, it was for the protection of mediums, to communicate with those living in the spiritual world, and to help the movement spread across the world. Although the movement started in the US, we consider our pioneers to be English and some of them did return to England and consequently took the movement back with them.
We became an Association of Churches because of Federal regulations here in the United States. In 1900, we started chartering churches and giving people credentials as workers and as ministers. We are registered with the US government in Washington DC as an official religious sect. Modern Spiritualism is considered a religious denomination in the United States.
Are Spiritualists religious?
It’s interesting to note that one can embrace both Spiritualism and other religious affiliations such as Catholicism or Buddhism. However, if you identify as a Spiritualist within the NSAC, the primary belief system centers around Modern Spiritualism, which we consider a unique combination of science, philosophy, and religion. Rather than imposing dogmas or creeds, we acknowledge that religion is a product of human creation, and we encourage individuals to have faith and believe in ways that resonate with them personally. Our core belief lies in fostering communication with those who have transitioned to the spirit side of life.
We do believe in a God but we don’t like to define God for people, or put God into a box. We believe more in a collective consciousness than in an anthropomorphic sense. That would be too simple. We use the word Infinite Intelligence which represents more of an energy than a being.
Would you say the NSAC falls under the classic definition of a church?
I’d describe it as more of a religious organization. In addition to churches, we conduct camps that revolve around spiritualist philosophies, beliefs, and teachings. While churches make up the primary part of our organization, we offer various other aspects. Our regular in-person services have been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic. However, since the pandemic’s onset, we’ve introduced online services, allowing Spiritualism to reach a global audience.
You describe Spiritualism as being founded upon a Declaration of nine Principles. Can this be compared to The Ten Commandments?
In a way, yes. In 1898 we needed to decide how we were going to define ourselves to the world, how we were going to define ourselves as spiritualists and what that meant. So it was a group of many people, and not just one, who originally formed six initial principles. They defined us as believing in God, but a God that is expressed through all nature; so everything that ever was, is and will be, is a piece of that God, however which way you look at that God. We believe in living in accordance with natural and spiritual laws. These principles which are now nine, have evolved as we have evolved. They are not dogmas, they are not creeds. They are the foundations of what we choose, as a united group of individuals, to be the ideas of who we are. Our principles change as our understanding changes. They are of a more fluid nature than The Ten Commandments for example.
You speak of Modern Spiritualism. What is the difference between Modern and Ancient Spiritualism?
The thought of communication between this world and the next world, or the next dimension, has been around since the beginning of mankind. If you look at Greek mythology, the Druids or the Pagans, there was always some form of spirit communication. When we speak of Ancient Spiritualism, we think of magic and supernatural powers, and only certain people having the ability to practice. It is presented in a very mystical way and is often ritualistic by nature. In Modern Spiritualism, we believe in the continuity of life. We believe our souls go on. A medium can bring to you a loved one that you are able to recognise by characteristics, personality and memories that come through from that spirit. You will know at this moment that, without a doubt, life continues. That medium will prove to you at this point the undeniable existence of continuity of life. What it looks like, we don’t really know.
One of the biggest differences between Modern and Ancient Spiritualism is that in Modern Spiritualism, we believe that everybody has the ability to talk to their loved ones on the spirit side of life. It’s not just for gifted or special people. It works for anyone who chooses to exercise, learn and develop their mediumship. We call it a muscle. When we learn to develop that, there is no limit. We prove the continuity of life in Modern Spiritualism by giving evidential information. Once this has been established, it opens this sense of freedom for all of us to live the best life we can, to be the best person we can. It opens up a doorway to spiritual living.
‘Magic’ and ‘miracles’ are fun words used to depict miraculous things that occasionally unfold in our lives, which we can’t explain. As you delve into comprehending the spiritual laws, we come to realize that these miraculous things have been orchestrated by the bigger picture, or the greater Source.
Education plays a large role in your organisation. Please tell us more.
Yes. I am also an administrator for the Morris Pratt Institute which is a Spiritualist College in the United States. It offers a correspondence course on Modern Spiritualism, from its founding in 1848 until now. We have students from all over the world. Our national organisation also credentials what we call National Spiritualist Teachers. I am one of these teachers. We go out into the camps and churches and into the public and we teach about all aspects of Spiritualism, not just the mediumship, but spiritualist healing and the philosophy (natural and spiritual laws). We consider our religion very much a lifestyle, and not really a typical religion. We think of it more as a way of living.
Does the NSAC have an international following?
Yes, we do have a few credentialed ministers from England and Canada. We have students from all over the world and as I said earlier, the practice of online services during the pandemic has helped spread the word on a global scale too.
How do people usually come to learn of the NSAC and why do they become a member/follower?
Generally speaking and sad to say, most of the time people find us after the loss of a loved one. Although of late this has started to shift. In the past, we could see spikes in memberships after a war for example, where people would be seeking to communicate with lost loved ones on a large scale. Over the last ten to twenty years however, people seem to be seeking more understanding and answers. Nowadays, when people find us, it can still be over the loss of a loved one, but can also be because they are looking for a new pathway in life. In this case, it is usually through a church. Once they meet us and hear what we talk about, they usually want to find out more. They then become members of a camp or of the church and then by default belong to the organisation. Once part of the organisation, you can do as little or as much as you like. Some come for the educational aspect which can eventually credential them as a certified medium, as a commissioned spiritualist healer, teacher, or minister if they feel that this is their calling. Some people come for a short period of time and others stay for good. We are a religion of conviction, not conversion.
How would you define spiritual healing and what role does it play within your organisation?
Healing is a form of mediumship. When we first formed and started defining who we are, ‘spiritual healing’ is the term that was used. At the time, energy healing did not really exist as it does today. Today there are numerous healing modalities such as reiki etc… When we say spiritual healing, we believe that all healing comes from God or Source, and we can be the medium to bring that healing from spirit, through spirit, to spirit. So we practice laying of hands healing, distance healing and we believe that our guides and teachers in the spiritual realm can be used as a helpful tool in Source to allow the healing energy to come through. We are healing mediums. Keep in mind that mediumship is a huge word. You can be a healing medium, you can be a physical medium or a trans medium. There are so many forms.
We honor, just like all religions, all different forms of spiritual healing modalities. However, in Spiritualist healing, to become a commissioned healer, the process of connecting to Spirit and then bringing Spirit to you is employed.
I quote from your website; ‘Spiritualism began in a small Hamlet in Hydesville…A Religion based fully on the continuity of life, giving proof that “there is no death”’. Could you elaborate?
There were two young girls of eleven and thirteen who lived in Hydesville, New York. They started hearing these random knocks and eventually started knocking back and communicating with this ‘person’. They told the neighbours, and from there, it went viral. It was the proof of the continuity of life. This was the start of the movement. We continue on past this physical existence. However you visualize that continuation is entirely your choice.