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Scandinavian Spiritualism

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Scandinavian Spiritualism


The seer, Swedenborg’s writings were popular for almost a century before Spiritualism arrived in Scandinavia. The idea of being able to converse with spirits was not something new.

Spiritualism began in Sweden with Johan Carl Hellberg. Hellberg was born in 1815 and worked as the director for the Hamburg mail service. He began to spread the word about Spiritualism in the mid-1800s and established an organization in his home in 1877 called The Spiritualist Library. Other members were from the academic community.

Dentist, A. Dahlin, became one of the first to hold seances at his home in 1885. The medium presiding most seances was Bertha Valerius. Because attending seances was looked down upon, many memberships were secret. That may be why the first Spiritualist church in Sweden wasn’t founded until until 2005. Sveriges Spiritualistiska Kyrka (The First Spiritualist Church of Sweden) is a member of the International Council of Spiritualists Incorporated, the largest Spiritualist organization in Australia with members from different areas of the world.

Spiritualism came to Denmark from Germany in 1850s and was the subject of public debate in 1853. The writings of politician, Constant Dirckinck-Holmfield attracted the most attention within the discussion. By the late 1850s Danish artists and intellectuals such as theologian Hans Lassen Martensen showed an interest in Spiritualism. A small home circle was established to study séance phenomena. The first organization, The Society for the Investigation of the so-called Spiritualist Phenomena, was founded by bookkeeper Harald Jensen.

It was not until the 1880s that a larger movement took place and journals were published on the subject. By the 1930s, more than sixty organizations were part of the Danske Spiritisters Kirkesamfund (Religious Community of Danish Spiritualists). The largest had over 2000 members. There were also many smaller, non-affiliated home circles. The Danes tended to take a more scientific approach to Spiritualism rather than a religious one.

Spiritualism didn’t arrive in Finland until the beginning of the 20th century, at the same time as Theosophy. Some English mediums, such as Alfred Vouis, arrived in the country and held seances. That was followed by the publication of the first Finnish Spiritualist magazine, Spiritualisti. By 1909, societies were founded in Helsinki and Tampere. The study of parapsychology also took hold at that time. Professor Arvi Grotenfelt was one of few academics who tried to establish a scientific society.

After WWII, interest in Spiritualism increased. The Spiritualist Association of Finland was founded in 1946 with several members playing key roles on promoting it. Finnish journalist, Oskar Reponen published her biography in 1977, which brought Spiritualism to the forefront. By 1988, smaller local groups formed Spiritual Growth associations. They promote the seven basic tenets of Spiritualism given by Emma Hardinge Britten during a séance in 1871.

Although ghosts have been part of folklore in Norway for centuries, Spiritualism did not become as popular in Norway as in other countries. Adolph Theodor Boyesen, a teacher who had studied in America, translated Swedenborgs writings first. In 1880s, French spiritualism arrived. Hendrik Storjohann became an early spokesman.  He opened a private library in Kristiania with books he had collected.

After American medium Henry Slade visited Norway in 1886, Bernt Torstenson was inspired by Allan Kardec’s writings and saw his views as a renewal of Christianity. He founded the only Norwegian Spiritualist journal, Morgendaemringen (Dawn).

After waning, there was some renewed interest in Spiritualism after WWI. The Norwegian Spiritualist’s Union was eventually established in Oslo in 2007 under the initiative of Andrè Kirsebom. They support mediumship, have regular meetings, and demonstrate mediumship and healing.  They have established circles and offered courses throughout Norway.

Carleson, Robert & Caroline Levander (2016) “Spiritualism in Sweden” In Western Esotericism in Scandinavia. Brill, Netherlands

Kragh, Jesper V. (2016) “Spiritualism in Denmark” In Western Esotericism in Scandinavia. Brill, Netherlands

Mehren, Tinje M. (2016) “Spiritualism in Finland” In Western Esotericism in Scandinavia. Brill, Netherlands

Sohlberg, Jussi (2016) “Spiritualism in Norway” In Western Esotericism in Scandinavia. Brill, Netherlands


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