A spiritualist is a persons belief system in spirituality. The Spiritual movement that evolved through out the world is premised on the idea that the spirit does not die after death. There is the physical body and the material plane as well as other planes we do not see. A Spiritualist believes in other levels of being that we cannot see with the naked eye unless we are tuned in spiritually to do so. One who is a spiritualist also believes there can be communication between this plane and others. A lot of spiritualists are also mediums, or intermediaries who communicate between this plane and other planes with souls and other entities.
In order to do this a lot of spiritualists have psychic endowments. Some spiritualists are able to alter their state of consciousness to go into trance. In trance the soul or entity can enter their body and use it for communication or physical work such as healing. Some spiritualists do not go into trance but , hear, smell touch and feel spirits around them.
In traditional societies that believe in shamanism the idea of what we call a spiritualist is a natural process in human beings religious or cultural development in that society. In our society however, those that do not have a typical religious back round that we are familiar with tend to be looked upon as the stereotypical idea of a spiritualist. That is, that they do hocus pocus, like conjuring up spirits that float over our heads to do ones bidding. Real spiritualism doesn’t work that way.
It doesn’t matter if one is devoutly religious or not. You can still be a spiritualist. Spiritualists believe in a higher power, some form of god and that the spirit continues to live after the body dies. You can be a Christian spiritualist, a Jewish spiritualist, A Hindu Spiritualist etc. The idea of a Spiritualist supersedes ones religious orientation.
Spiritualist practices in the United States emerged from a Judeo-Christian faith of god and its practices, so you will find Christian Spiritualist churches all across the United States. Unlike other animist and shamanistic faiths, Spiritualism in the Anglo American Culture embraces contact with the dead, but not those forces of nature. In animist and shamanistic faiths there are forces of nature that have spirits and there are deities that one can contact as well.
It wasn’t until Allan Kardec started that Spiritualist movement in the Spanish Speaking Countries of Latin America that people with a catholic back round started accepting the idea of reincarnation. Kardec brought to the spiritualist table the idea that spirits are reborn because they have lessons they still have to learn.
Christian spiritualists view their concept of spiritualism to be different from those who practice occult arts or are in pagan forms of worship as in Wicca. This is because the spirits contacted by Christian spiritualists are claimed not to be contacted for various powers as in those religions except to heal. But as I said before that spiritualism is non denominational and you can be of a pagan faith and be a spiritualist also. One is a spiritualist based on the ideology of spiritualism, not their other religious affiliations.