Stephen Pearl Andrews’ “New Catholic Church”

[Here is a very nice account of a visit with Stephen Pearl Andrews, including excerpts that appear to come from his Constitution or Organic Basis of the New Catholic Church (1860). From Spiritualism in American, by Benjamin Coleman (1861), pages 82-4.]

Mr. Freeland, an intelligent, gentlemanly young man, called on me at my hotel, explaining the object of his visit to be, that hearing of my visit to New York, and that I was enquiring into the subject of Spiritualism, he was anxious that I should make the acquaintance of his friend Mr. Andrews. I ought not, he said, to leave the country without seeing Mr. Andrews, and hearing his peculiar views; and he thought I should also be interested with Mrs. Andrews, who is a remarkable trance medium. I accordingly accompanied Mr. Freeland at once, and was introduced to this gentleman and his wife, who reside in a superior house, with all comforts about them. The walls of the room in which we sat were hung with a variety of frames, containing trite aphorisms and moral exhortations. Mr. Andrews, who is a man of education, past the middle age, of grave mien, and evidently a serious and deep thinker, explained to me that he and a few others were engaged in organizing a society, spiritually originated, and guided, for the universal regeneration of mankind, which embraced the establishment of a Catholic Church, in the broadest sense of the word. “Of course,” he remarked with a smile, “I and my followers are looked upon by the multitude as a band of madmen.” The plan of this party proposes a new SPIRITUAL GOVERNMENT FOR THE WORLD, called THE PANTARCHY, which includes a NEW CHURCH and a NEW STATE, with, to use his own language, “all other subordinate institutions, educational, informational, &c., which are universal in their scope and nature, and which can be devised and established as subservient to the collective wants of mankind.”

The new church called “THE NEW CATHOLIC CHURCH,” as described by Mr. Andrews, is “to concern itself especially with the culture of the EMOTIONAL and SENSATIONAL attributes of man, and more especially of these in their higher and universal aspect, known as religion,” &c. &c.

From a printed pamphlet, describing the constitution and organic basis of this NEW CATHOLIC CHURCH, I extract the following:—


“The Church is the world. The Church universal can do no less than embrace all mankind. This is in the largest or most extended meaning of the term. In another sense, the true CATHOLIC CHURCH is an interior organized body, which should be the spiritual mother of the race. The relation between mother and child exists equally, whether the children have so grown as to recognize the mother’s face or not; so, in the world, great numbers of men and women have not hitherto known any spiritual mother, nor consciously recognized their need of one. Others, following legitimately the analytical process of the intellect, or the self-assertive instinct of individuality, have been led to deny and abjure all relation to the Church; the truth of their essential and spiritual unity with the race and hence with the true spiritual Church, is not however affected thereby. These two classes of persons, the uninformed or ignorant and the intelligently infidel, belonging, equally with the most spiritualized or sanctified persons, to the CHURCH UNIVERSAL, should be the especial objects of the labours and care of the more interior body,” &c.

In Article VII., entitled “FAITH AND PRACTICE,” it is prescribed—

“That unity of the FAITH of the CHURCH is not to be found in the truths apprehended and accepted by any single or individual mind, but in all the truths apprehended and accepted by all minds. Hence the creeds of the Church are not one, but many; different and even opposite faiths, combining, balancing, and harmonizing with each other in the bosom of the greater truth—INFINITE VARIETY in UNITY. As in the constitution of the Church, so in its faith’ all truths derived from all sources—or the universe of truth, observational, scientific, institutional, and inspirational—constitute the universal creed of the Church—a creed which is therefore progressively developing in time; but, in a special or interior sense, the creed of the Church is the aggregate of the TRUTH, known or believed, in relation to the highest sphere of thought and feeling, and in relation to the outworking of DIVINE LOVE and WISDOM in beneficent action.

“Every pastor of a Church congregation will rally his flock under that creed, which will best express the aggregate unity of his and their sentiments or religious beliefs; or under no written or formally constituted creed, if that method is more highly approved—the religious unity consisting of love, and of that knowledge of principles which not merely tolerates but accepts and approves of diversity of opinion as necessary and beautiful, resulting from diversity of organization and development.”


During my visit, and whilst in conversation with Mr. Andrews, his wife passed into the trance state. Laying her hand on my breast and her head on my shoulder, she addressed her husband and Mr. Freeland, and gave them a minute description of my character. It will be sufficient for me to say on thus head, that her remarks were very flattering. I said, “Her language is glowing; but I am afraid the picture is too highly coloured.” Mr. Andrews replied in a very serious tone, “Mr. Coleman, her words have a deep significance with us. We are almost entirely guided by the precepts which fall from her lips, inspirationally influenced as we believe her to be whilst in that state, and we never think of acting contrary to her dictum.”

I mention the fact of this visit to Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, to show my friends at home one of the many, and certainly not the least curious phase of American Spiritualism. I make no comment on Mr. Andrews’ scheme of universal regeneration, for, indeed, I do not, as I candidly told him, fully comprehend it. My experience, however, teaches me to be humble in my judgments of other men’s philosophy, and rather at all times to mistrust my own wisdom, than deride what I do not understand. I recollect the words of that eminently learned and pious prelate, Jeremy Taylor, who said—”Although I be as desirous to know what I should, and what I should not, as any of my brethren, the sons of Adam, yet I find that the more I search, the further I am from being satisfied, and make but few discoveries, save of my own ignorance.”

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.