[The following reflection on spiritualism may be of interest in the wake of the scandal around João Teixera de Faria, known as John of God, a world-renowned, sensational, spiritualist healer in Brazil who was recently accused of sexually abusing more than 500+ women over 40+ years. João channeled more than 30 disembodied spirits to help heal others—but he was clearly not fully dedicated to helping others develop a direct communion with God. Spiritualism is not always dedicated to this goal.
Below are comments by Sri Daya Mata, the woman who was President of the Self-Realization Fellowship, SRF, from 1995 to her passing in 2010. SRF began in 1920. SRF was founded by a Self-realized man, Paramahansa Yogananda, who referred to the community as the Church of All Religions.–-Emma Bragdon]
Many people claim that there are numerous other planets with living beings on them.
DAYA MATA: [Yogananda] said that there is definitely life on other planets in this vast universe. But he did not discuss these matters much, and neither do we [Self-Realization Fellowship], because his mission was to help devotees who truly want to know God. He was not interested in drawing people who would be attracted by sensationalism or dramatic pronouncements about subjects that might be fascinating but are spiritually useless.
What can bring inspiration is simply to realize that God’s drama of creation is infinite and far more diverse than this tiny earth of ours. And though [Yogananda] stated that intelligent life does exist on other planets, he explained that it is not necessarily life as we know it. He said that scientists are foolish to think that life can exist only in the environmental conditions we find on earth (air and water, for example), because there are higher forms of life, and also lower forms of life, that have no dependence on these conditions at all.
I will also say this, to give you more of an understanding of [Yogananda’s] views, that one of the great fallacies in our western ideas about spiritual progress is the tendency to think that communicating with beings from other planets or from the astral world is a way to advance spiritually. [Yogananda] was very definite in telling us that this is a mistake. In every age God sends his enlightened incarnations with His message of liberation. There is no reason to think that any lesser being from some other planet or from the astral realm [where disembodied beings who are not enlightened live] is qualified, or needed, to give us God-communion or divine realization.
Regarding spiritualism (as communication with departed souls in the astral world is called):[Yogananda] said that these phenomena are real and can be demonstrated scientifically, if practiced properly. But unless contact with departed souls is practiced by one who has divine realization, spiritualism, (or “channeling”) can lead to very serious dangers.*
In any case, spiritualism is not a path to God-realization. What those sincerely seeking God are really craving is the divine love and wisdom, the reassurance and joy unending, that are from God himself. These are inherent in his grace attained by communing directly with Him through the meditation methods taught by real saints and masters, not by trying to contact and receive instruction from any lesser beings.
It is so easy to become distracted from the single-pointed purpose of the spiritual path. Do not let yourself be sidetracked. Seek God first; seek him earnestly. Divine communion with Him will gradually transform your life and fulfill every spiritual yearning.
Excerpted from “The Experience of Loving God” by Sri Daya Mata, from the Self-Realization magazine, Winter 2010.
* Yogananda wrote extensively on Spiritualism: See God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita–Chapter XVII verse 4, covers: Departed souls and astral entities are unreliable guides. No true saint or master communicates through mediums. Danger of possession by “tramp souls”.