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Benjamin Fish Austin (September 10, 1850 – January 22, 1933) was an ardent spirtualist who became popular in both his native Canada and the United States. Today he is celebrated and honored by the United Church of Canada. In 1899 he gave a passionate speech encouraging people to "seek the truth within themselves even if this truth conflicts with church doctrine."
Following in the path of many New Thought teachers, including Anne Hutchinson, this speech led to his trial. The Methodist Church convicted him of heresy on three counts.
Links to B.F. Austin's Works:
Many of B. F. Austin's teachings have become accepted by certain New Thought ministers who seek the counsel and guidance of John of God and his "guides." More than one Religious Science center has acquired the
John of God Crystal Bed. In 2014, a pair of ministers in CSL (Centers for Spiritual Living) sold a "Graduate Course in Metaphysics and Communication with the Celestial Realm" for $2850
The course included the study of crystals and every participant was given a "jar of celestial substance."
The guiding principles of the National Spiritualist .Association of Churches:
- 1. We believe in Infinite Intelligence.
- 2. We believe that the phenomena of Nature, both physical and spiritual, are the expression of Infinite Intelligence.
- 3. We affirm that a correct understanding of such expression and living in accordance therewith, constitute true religion.
- 4. We affirm that the existence and personal identity of the individual continue after the change called death.
- 5. We affirm that communication with the so-called dead is a fact, scientifically proven by the phenomena of Spiritualism.
- 6. We believe that the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: "Whatsoever ye would that others should do unto you, do ye also unto them."
- 7. We affirm the moral responsibility of individuals, and that we make our own happiness or unhappiness as we obey or disobey Nature's physical and spiritual laws.
- 8. We affirm that the doorway to reformation is never closed against any human soul here or hereafter.
- 9. We affirm that the precepts of Prophecy and Healing are Divine attributes proven through Mediumship.
Spiritualism continues to attract many Abrahamic Spiritual Leaders as well as New Thought Spiritual Leaders who are neither Christian nor Islamic. Teachings discussed in Ernest Holmes 1927 version of Science of Mind, such as astral projection play are role in Spiritualism.
New Thought adherents are not usually spiritualists, but as one can see from the proliferation of Crystal beds
and ministers selling "jars of "celestial substance" and crystal lessons at their retreats, some of the old New Thought "transdenominations" are opening their doors to these practices which are considered New Age but not New Thought.
Austin illucidated his viewpoints in ABC's of Spiritualism expaaining that Spiritualists "Most assuredly", believe in the divinity of Jesus: "Spiritualists believe in the divinity of all men. Every man is divine in that he is a child of God and inherits a divinely spiritual nature. We are all 'God made manifest in the flesh'" ix. This view of all people (one can assume that Austin meant 'Men' to be read as people,) as being divine by their existence echoes many modern Humanist teachings and New Thought today.
Rev. Austin was able to help many people through his writing in "Reason" magazine, at one point he pointed out 100 different "conundrums" adherents of fundamentalist christian churches must deal with. Some of these include:
"16 – Who decided on the Canon of Scripture? Where did the deciders get their authority for rejecting some books and including others? Was the selection process infallibly inspired? What proof can you offer of this? 17- Was not the First Council of Nicaea convened by Constantine the Great? A man who murdered his father-in-law, cut the throat of his 12-year-old nephew and in the same year he convened the council beheaded his eldest son, and put Fausta his wife to death?
18- Is the inspiration that would come to a Council presided over by such a monster likely to be 'plenary' and 'divine' and 'infallible'? … 22 – Is it true that there were 50 gospels submitted and only four accepted, and that Luke had a majority of one vote?"
The entire work is a valiant effort supporting reform in mainstream Christianity which probably stems from the deep and thoughtful insights which came to him as the head of a Christian school only seven years before.
Perhaps B. F. Austin's most important work was his support for women's suffrage and equal rights. In his 1890 book Woman: Maiden, Wife, Mother, argues that women should be equal members of society and should never be forced into marriage on economic or social grounds. B. F. Austin was the principal of two prestigious colleges for young ladies and viewed the education of women to be of pressing importance. "Christ", he wrote, "has declared Woman's equality with Man"