Here's some interesting material from Arthur Conan Doyle's History of Spiritualism, Vol. II. All the excerpts are taken from Chapter 10, "The Religious Aspect of Spiritualism." I have added a few pertinent links and omitted a couple of minor digressions (marked with ellipses).
Everything that follows is from Doyle's book.
[Start of excerpts]
It is quite amazing when we read the early documents of the Church, and
especially the writings of the so-called "Fathers," to find out the
psychic knowledge and the psychic practice which were in vogue in those
days. The early Christians lived in close and familiar touch with the
unseen, and their absolute faith and constancy were founded upon the
positive personal knowledge which each of them had acquired. They were
aware, not as a speculation but as an absolute fact, that death meant no
more than a translation to a wider life, and might more properly be
called birth. Therefore they feared it not at all, and regarded it rather
as Dr. Hodgson did when he cried, "Oh, I can hardly bear to wait!" Such
an attitude did not affect their industry and value in this world, which
have been attested even by their enemies. If converts in far-off lands
have in these days been shown to deteriorate when they become Christians,
it is because the Christianity which they have embraced has lost all the
direct compelling power which existed of old.
Apart from the early Fathers, we have evidence of early Christian
sentiment in the inscriptions of the Catacombs. An interesting book on
early Christian remains in Rome, by the Rev. Spence Jones, Dean of
Gloucester, deals in part with these strange and pathetic records. These
inscriptions have the advantage over all our documentary evidence that
they have certainly not been forged, and that there has been no
possibility of interpolation.
Dr. Jones, after having read many hundreds of them, says: "The early
Christians speak of the dead as though they were still living. They talk
to their dead." That is the point of view of the present-day
Spiritualists-one which the Churches have so long lost. The early
Christian graves present a strange contrast to those of the heathen which
surround them. The latter always refer to death as a final, terrible and
irrevocable thing. "Fuisti Vale" sums up their sentiment. The Christians,
on the other hand, dwelt always upon the happy continuance of life.
"Agape, thou shalt live for ever," "Victorina is in peace and in Christ,"
"May God refresh thy spirit," "Mayest thou live in God." These
inscriptions alone are enough to show that a new and infinitely consoling
view of death had come to the human race....
It is not possible, however, to draw any psychic inferences from the
inscriptions or drawings in the Catacombs. For these we must turn to the
pre-Nicene Fathers, and there we find so many references that a small
book which would contain nothing else might easily be compiled. We have,
however, to tune-in our thoughts and phrases to theirs in order to get
the full meaning. Prophecy, for example, we now call mediumship, and an
Angel has become a high spirit or a Guide. Let us take a few typical
quotations at random.
Saint Augustine, in his "De cura pro Mortuis," says: "The spirits of the
dead can be sent to the living and can unveil to them the future which
they them selves have learned either from other spirits or from angels"
(i.e. spiritual guides) "or by divine revelation." This is pure
Spiritualism exactly as we know and define it. Augustine would not have
spoken so surely of it and with such an accuracy of definition if he had
not been quite familiar with it. There is no hint of its being illicit.
He comes back to the subject in his "The City of God," where he refers to
practices which enable the ethereal body of a person to communicate with
the spirits and higher guides and to receive visions. These persons were,
of course, mediums -- the name simply meaning the intermediate between the
carnate and discarnate organism.
Saint Clement of Alexandria makes similar allusions, and so does Saint
Jerome in his controversy with Vigilantius the Gaul. This, however, is,
of course, at a later date-after the Council of Nicaea.
Hermas, a somewhat shadowy person, who was said to have been a friend of
St. Paul's, and to have been the direct disciple of the Apostles, is
credited with being the author of a book "The Pastor." Whether this
authorship is apocryphal or not, the book is certainly written by someone
in the early centuries of Christianity, and it therefore represents the
ideas which then prevailed. He says: "The spirit does not answer all who
question nor any particular person, for the spirit that comes from God
does not speak to man when man wills but when God permits. Therefore,
when a man who has a spirit from God" (i.e. a control) "comes into an
assembly of the faithful, and when prayer has been offered, the spirit
fills this man who speaks as God wills."
This exactly describes our own psychic experience, when séances are
properly conducted. We do not invoke spirits, as ignorant critics
continually assert, and we do not know what is coming. But we pray -- using
the "Our Father," as a rule -- and we await events. Then such spirit as is
chosen and permitted comes to us and speaks or writes through the medium.
Hermas, like Augustine, would not have spoken so accurately had he not
had personal experience of the procedure.
Origen has many allusions to psychic knowledge. It is curious to compare
the crass ignorance of our present spiritual chiefs with the wisdom of
the ancients. Very many quotations could be given, but a short one may be
taken from his controversy with Celsus.
Many people have embraced the Christian faith in spite of themselves,
their hearts having been suddenly changed by some spirit, either in an
apparition or in a dream.
In exactly this way leaders among the materialists, from Dr. Elliotson
onwards, have been brought back to a belief in the life to come and its
relation to this life by the study of psychic evidence.
It is the earlier Fathers who are the most definite upon this matter, for
they were nearer to the great psychic source. Thus Irenaeus and
Tertullian, who lived about the end of the second century, are full of
allusions to psychic signs, while Eusebius, writing later, mourns their
scarcity and complains that the Church had become unworthy of them.
Irenaeus wrote: "We hear of many brethren in the Church possessing
prophetic" (i.e. mediumistic) "gifts, and speaking through the spirit in
all kinds of tongues and bringing to light for the general advantage the
hidden things of men, and setting forth the mysteries of God." No passage
could better describe the functions of a high-class medium.
When Tertullian had his great controversy with Marcion, he made the
Spiritualistic gifts the test of truth between the two parties. He
claimed that these were forthcoming in greater profusion upon his own
side, and includes among them trance-utterance, prophecy, and revelation
of secret things. Thus the things, which are now sneered at or condemned
by so many clergymen, were in the year 200 the actual touchstones of
Christianity. Tertullian also in his De Anima says: "We have to-day
among us a sister who has received gifts on the nature of revelations
which she undergoes in spirit in the church amid the rites of the Lord's
Day, falling into ecstasy. She converses with angels" -- that is, high
spirits -- "sees and hears mysteries, and reads the hearts of certain people
and brings healings to those who ask. 'Among other things,' she said, 'a
soul was shown to me in bodily form, and it seemed to be a spirit, but
not empty nor a thing of vacuity. On the contrary, it seemed as if it
might be touched, soft, lucid, of the colour of air, and of the human
form in every detail.'"
One mine of information as to the views of the primitive Christians is to
be found in the "Apostolic Constitutions." It is true that they are not
Apostolic, but Whiston, Krabbe and Bunsen are all agreed that at least
seven out of the eight books are genuine ante-Nicene documents, probably
of the early third century. A study of them reveals some curious facts....
It is, however, in discussing the "gifts," or varied forms of mediumship,
that these ancient documents throw a light upon psychic subjects. Then,
as now, mediumship took different forms, the gift of tongues, of healing,
of prophecy and the like. Harnack says that in each early Christian
Church there were three discreet women, one for healing and two for
prophecy. The whole subject is freely discussed in the "Constitutions."
It appears that those who had gifts became conceited over them, and they
are earnestly adjured to remember that a man may have gifts and yet have
no great virtue, so that he is really the spiritual inferior of many who
have no gifts.
The object of phenomena is shown, as in Modern Spiritualism, to be the
conversion of the unbeliever, rather than the entertainment of the
orthodox. They are "not for the advantage of those who perform them, but
for the conviction of the unbelievers, that those whom the word did not
persuade the power of signs might put to shame, for signs are not for us
who believe, but for the unbelievers, both Jews and Gentiles"
(Constitutions, Book VIII, Sec. I).
Later the various gifts, which roughly correspond with our different
forms of mediumship, are given as follows. "Let not therefore anyone that
works signs and wonders judge anyone of the faithful who is not
vouchsafed the same. For the gifts of God which are bestowed through
Christ are various, and one man receives one gift and another another.
For perhaps one has the word of wisdom" (trance-speaking), "and another
the word of knowledge" (inspiration), "another discerning of spirits"
(clairvoyance), "another foreknowledge of things to come, another the
word of teaching" (spirit addresses), "another long-suffering," -- all our
mediums need that gift.
One may well ask oneself where, outside the ranks of the Spiritualists,
are these gifts or these observances to be found in any of those Churches
which profess to be the branches of this early root?
[End of excerpts]