Spiritualism In The News
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Spiritualist community Cassadaga is one of the overlooked treasures of old Florida
May 24, 2017
Photo by Moriah Russo
If you're heading up I-4 East on a lazy summer weekend and suddenly the thought of jostling for your two square feet of space on a crowded Daytona or New Smyrna Beach gives you premonitions of disaster, then friend, you need to reward those budding divination skills and get off on the Deltona/DeLand exit to take the road less traveled to Cassadaga.
Cassadaga – the oldest and most active community of psychics and mediums in the United States – was founded in 1875 by George Colby, himself a medium, and has endured and thrived in the years since. Dubbed the "Psychic Capital of the World," Cassadaga circa 2017 is still a can't-miss destination for the psychically sensitive or curious traveler who wants to see a very different side of Central Florida's living history.
Cassadaga is not a tourist destination, per se. The community is quiet and compact – light-years away from the sprawl of, say, International Drive – and the residents, though eager to ply their psychic trades, do not make spectacles of themselves. But there's no shortage of interesting shopping, scenic walks or opportunities for varying types of readings and predictions – including tarot and oracle card readings, aura readings, astrological readings and psychic healers – that are a great way to while away a summer's day ... or change the very course of your life, perhaps?
Start your journey into the unknown at the Cassadaga Bookstore & Information Center (1112 Stevens St.). It's your one-stop shop for crystals, candles, new age music, esoteric tomes, jewelry and, crucially, a good amount of self-published pamphlets, tracts and books that go into the history and philosophies that underlie this town. You can also pick up a house phone in the building and reserve appointments with nearby psychics, and check out bulletin-board postings from local mediums.
As you're exiting the bookstore, we recommend you take a free map and go for a wander; it's going to yield unexpected delights. On our perambulations we encountered the Fairy Garden – a fascinating mix of folk-art assemblages and sincere tokens to sprites all orbiting around the Fairy Throne, a charming and very oversized chair perfect for reclining and surveying your kingdom – the Eloise Page Meditation Garden, and local landmarks like Harmony Hall and the Colby Memorial Temple. Since most mediums and psychics in the area operate out of their homes, the lawn decor and paint jobs of many of the buildings are pretty quirky and amazing. So there's really no such thing as a wrong turn.
Your trip's not complete until you perch in the Devil's Chair, so take a leisurely stroll over to the Lake Helen Cemetery – also the final resting place of many of the original residents – and sit a spell in the frankly sinister stone throne. If you're in the mood for something a little more bucolic, Colby-Alderman Park (1099 Massachusetts St.) offers some meditative natural quiet. Note that guided historical walking tours – or "Spirit Encounter Night Tours," if you're made of braver stuff – also happen daily for those interested in more context and colorful yarns.
Aside from the bookstore, another recommended shopping spot is the Cassadaga Psychic Shop (460 Cassadaga Road), which, in addition to a large selection of crystals, herbs, smudges and charms, also offers in-house psychic readings and aura photography.
If, at the end of a long day of discovering truths about your inner essence and receiving messages from deceased loved ones, you're hungry (or you decide that one day in Cassadaga just isn't enough), hie thee to the Cassadaga Hotel (355 Cassadaga Road). A beautiful old lodge-style building that merges Twin Peaks with the old South, the building is notable for elegant decor, a small cadre of psychics and tarot readers on call, and the one restaurant – and piano bar – in the area, Sinatra's. (Oh, and it's apparently haunted ... of course.) Somewhat at odds with the usually ethereal thematics of Cassadaga, the restaurant has a certain charm – augmented by a full bar and a surprisingly large menu.
As you either head back home or press on to DeLand in search of further amusement, it doesn't take a psychic to see that this won't be your last trip to Cassadaga.
HOW THE TINY TOWN OF LILY DALE BRINGS DEATH TO LIFE Part I
Streets in Lily Dale, NY
Margaret & Katie Fox
In Lily Dale, New York, residents nourish a belief in a literal afterlife not too different from our present existence. For over a century, they have relied on mediums for messages from spirits, which they cherish as proof of “the continuity of life.” Lily Dale’s worldview is derived from Spiritualism, a religious and social movement beginning in 1848, which, despite rampant fraud, counted prominent members into the 20th century like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. Nowadays, the town continues to host Spiritualist conferences replete with speakers and classes on topics ranging from spiritual guides to healing. The possibility of communicating with the deceased still attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Often dismissed as ludicrous, the community faces critical challenges in a modern-day society. What’s more Lily Dale’s survival has meant blending in business and showmanship with what the town regards as a spiritual gift: communicating with the deceased. Residents are sensitive about being gawked at or accused of fraud. But most visitors who make the trek to Lily Dale are at least open to the idea of spirits.
Nestled in the southwestern corner of the State, the town is 50 miles south of Buffalo and 150 miles away from the nearest major city, Toronto, Canada. In the middle of nowhere, mediums, some of them fourth or fifth generation, live in quaint clapboard houses.
I’ve been harboring a fascination with Lily Dale for over a decade, ever since my aunt and mother embarked on a daylong road trip there. So when I decided to do a profile on the town, I called them. Looking at a split-screen on Skype, I asked when they made the trip. In the ‘80s, my mother thought. No, much later, countered my aunt, who discovered the community through a book, which she thought was Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town That Talks to the Dead only published in 2003; their answers were decades apart testifying to the elasticity of memory and experience.
But they did agree on why they went. “It was an outing,” said my aunt. “I went on a lark,” my Mom agreed. Neither would spend a lot of money on a psychic reading or focus on any particular book; instead they draw from various sources always with a grain of salt and blending in their own beliefs.
My aunt remembered the most about Lily Dale. In town, “there was that tree or stump which is supposed to have a lot of energy.” Mediums give members of the audience messages from dead relatives and friends in an amphitheater oriented toward the stump and surrounded by old-growth forest. “Your Mom and I went a few times,” my aunt said. “You were singled out twice” she reminded my Mom, who in turn, vaguely remembered being advised to do more yoga. According to the Lily Dale website, services have been held in this clearing, which is called Inspiration Stump, since 1898.
Eager to experience the town for myself, I set out on the eight-hour drive. As I approach the Buffalo area, I pass slate blue silhouetted mountains. Dark gray clouds line the sky over sparsely maintained wooden houses. On a weathered church hangs a white cross that almost covers its façade. American flags line the roadside, one painted on a rock with the word “best” over it. Eventually, I spot signs for Dale Drive, leading into town.
Arriving in Lily Dale
I pull up to a small shed where I buy my weekly ticket; it’s a gated community. In Lily Dale’s narrow streets, I begin to wrestle with how I imagined the town and the reality in front of me. True, the quiet streets are lined with ornate wooden houses with intricate trimming straight out of a fairy tale, but the houses seem so solid and the people strolling are in sneakers and shorts.
But after I check into a small guesthouse by the lake, I set out on foot and the more mystical details of the town become apparent. Nepalese prayer flags decorate one house. Several others have wooden plaques hanging out front with the occupant’s name in a sweeping script followed by the title “medium.”
I head to Inspiration Stump which is ringed by the forest my aunt described. Fenced off to prevent people from standing on it, the Stump faces rows of rough-hewn wooden benches. The clearing is ancient and bright and green. I feel awe, but not the groundswell of energy I was told to expect and which, in my defense, I have felt in churches in Europe and Africa. I find myself wondering if humans need more than a century of daily praying to create a space that makes you feel something. Can I compare the Stump to a church hewn out of rock in Ethiopia in the 13th century whose front door is kissed hundreds of times a day? Perhaps it isn’t fair.
Due to rain, the message service will be held in the auditorium, so I head out of the grove down a gravelly pathway into the center of town. In the auditorium, metal folding chairs line the main hall. On the high ceiling suspended fans are interspersed with glass lamps. Either side of the auditorium is lined with large windows in front of which are wooden trellises, the kind you might see roses growing on.
A few mediums are lined up at the right side of the stage. One is standing in front of the audience taking a few steps in one direction, then pacing back. “May I come to you?” she asks a women in the front row. “As I step in with you, there is a very close relationship with someone who you depended upon and spent a lot of time with. They were sick for a short period of time. Does that make sense to you?” The woman nods. “Her message is to continue to live life with a lot of joy. May God bless you.” One medium asks a man a few rows in if he is aware that his relatives “touch in a lot.” Another relays to an audience member that a deceased relative has “bobby pins and knows now that that’s why she gets headaches.”
Each medium speaks quickly delivering powerfully positive messages, albeit seemingly vague. Some messages are affirmations of love. “He loves you very much.” Some are meant to demonstrate that our relatives are watching our lives unfold. “He’s very proud of some situation you stuck with.” Others express the support Spiritualists believe spirits provide. “You have been comforting so many people. He’s doing it for you. He wants you to know.” And still others describe the small ways that Spiritualists believe our deceased loved ones make their presence felt. “She says she’s the one who moves your keys,” said one medium of a spirit. Another medium finishes her message with “he gives you pennies, so I’ll let you have that with God’s love.”
Some of the language used sounds old-timey. After the service I find two of the mediums on a bench outside the auditorium and ask about the phrase “May I come to you?” One tells me that it is important to ask permission since much of what mediums deal with is personal and at times tragic. She tells me a story of one client whom she asked if she might deliver a message from a particular relative and the client shot back with, “I don’t want to speak to that bitch!”
Watching the mediums work, I get a sense of their investment in the craft of mediumship. They refer to God, anchoring their purported messages from deceased loved ones in the framework of Spiritualism, a religion with an over century-long history.
Spiritualism and Its Origin Story
Mediums at Lily Dale, and in fact all residents of the town, ascribe to Spiritualism. Spiritualists consider that their religion is also a philosophy and a science; they turn to mediums to bring proof of “the continuity of life” by relaying from spirits what they call “evidential” detail like names, events, and specifics that only a few people could know. For them, death is simply a change in situation; it’s not an end. This is not to be confused with psychic powers, many tell me. Psychics read the thoughts of the living. In contrast, mediums communicate with spirits, which is the crux of Spiritualism.
Lily Dale is just one center for the religion in the United States. There are others throughout the country like Florida’s Cassadaga community, and abroad including in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, the town of Lily Dale holds particular significance. It bills itself as the “world’s largest center for the science, philosophy and religion of Spiritualism.” What’s more Lily Dale holds relics of the movement’s beginnings.
In 1848, two sisters Kate and Margaret Fox claimed to hear knockings made by a spirit in their farmhouse in Hydesville, New York, only 150 miles northeast of Lily Dale. According to contemporary journalistic accounts, a system of communication was developed through which the spirit revealed himself to be a “peddler” who was murdered and buried in the basement of their home. Several years later, a trunk attributed to the salesman was discovered; Lily Dale acquired it and the box is displayed in the town’s museum. In 1916, Lily Dale obtained the Fox family’s cottage, and although it burned down in 1955, a plaque and garden still mark the spot on Lily Dale grounds.
Spiritualists tend to focus on the events of 1848, yet the Fox sisters’ full life trajectory epitomizes challenges that have dogged the religion for decades, like the difficulties of combining business and showmanship with what is presented as a spiritual gift, and the movement’s troubled relationship with fraud. Over the years investigators have visited the town to expose fraudulent mediums in the act; according to Lily Dale oral history, the magician Harry Houdini came in disguise probably sometime in the 1920s.
At the same time, the sisters’ story has been told and retold since the mid-19th century and versions vary. Margaretta, though widely known as Margaret or Maggie, was around fourteen years old in 1848 and Kate was eleven, though accounts of their age differ, as do descriptions of their appearance. Kate was said to have black or even dark purple eyes. One historian remarked:
However, there are aspects of the accounts that converge. As they grew into attractive young women, Kate and Maggie, as well as their older sister Leah, who served as manager and then medium in her own right, became quintessentially modern celebrities, combining traits of reality stars like the Kardashians and today’s high-profile psychics like John Edward and James Van Praagh.
Their private lives were under scrutiny. The youngest, Kate, married in London where observers speculated that her first son had mediumistic powers. In the US, Maggie Fox met and may have married in secret Elisha Kent Kane a famed arctic explorer of the day. After his death, Maggie published his love letters to her in The Love-Life of Dr. Kane. Both Kate and Maggie had life-long struggles with alcohol and some suggest drug addition. Kate attributed this to the fact that she and her sister received gifts of champagne from high-profile clients at a young age. Through mediumship the sisters earned a level of income rare for women, but both Maggie and Leah had a reputation for spending money.
The sisters’ celebrity status as mediums earned them equal levels of adoration and scorn, and they were constantly pursued by accusations of fraud. But in 1888, it was Maggie herself who appeared before an audience at the since-closed New York Academy of Music to confess that she and her sister had faked the knocking noises and to demonstrate how. She removed her shoe, set her foot on a table and proceeded to crack her toe. Some speculated that the confession was sparked by a rift between Kate and Maggie on the one hand, and their sister Leah on the other. Others surmised that Maggie was motivated by financial concerns, and that she could no longer make a living from her mediumship, and so would try her hand as a public critic of the practice. Commentators at the time called Maggie’s announcement the “death-blow” to Spiritualism, but it didn’t do much to quell belief.
What’s more, Maggie withdrew her confession a year after making it, and Kate continued to practice mediumship until her death in 1892. Maggie passed not long after in 1893. That same year Spiritualists established the National Spiritualist Association, now headquartered at Lily Dale and renamed the National Spiritualist Association of Churches (NSAC), but by then Spiritualism was waning.
Yet Lily Dale survived into the present as more than a church. It operates as a fully-fledged town, and has continued to do so in spite of the “death-blow” to the religion in the late 1800s. Lily Dale has pushed through to an era in which mainstream figures no longer entertain the idea of spiritual communication and the town’s beliefs are largely dismissed as marginal.
I ask around about who would be best placed to talk about the town’s history. Several people recommend the librarian, the consensus in town being that she is excellent at what she does despite her interesting look. I’m not at all sure what that means and nobody explains.
*You’ve reached the end of Part I. Part II in which I interview Lily Dale’s librarian and the town’s Executive Director will be published next week. You can check back then or sign up here to have Parts II, III and IV delivered right to your inbox.
Scientists Found That The Soul Doesn’t Die - It Goes Back To The Universe
Posted on April 1, 2017
According to two leading scientists, the human brain is in fact a ‘biological computer’ and the consciousness of humans is a program run by the quantum computer located inside the brain that even continues to exist after we die.
As experts explain it; “after people die, their soul comes back to the universe, and it does not die.”
The debate about the existence of the soul and whether it is immortal or dies with the person is an endless story that for centuries has occupied the time of the great thinkers of universal history. Its mysterious nature continues to fascinate different areas of science, but now a group of researchers has discovered a new truth about it: the “soul” does not die; it returns to the universe.
Since 1996, Dr. Stuart Hameroff, an American Physicist and Emeritus in the Department of Anesthesiology and Psychology, and Sir Roger Penrose, a mathematical physicist at Oxford University, have worked in a Quantum Theory of Consciousness in which they state that the soul is maintained in micro-tubules of the brain cells.
Their provocative theory states that the human soul is be contained by the brain cells in structures inside them called micro-tubules.
The two researchers believe the human brain is in fact a biological computer and the consciousness of humans is a program run by the quantum computer located inside the brain that even continues to exist after we die.
Furthermore, both scientists argue that what humans perceive as ‘consciousness’ is in fact the result of quantum gravity effects located within the so-called micro-tubules.
This process is named by the two scientists “Orchestrated Objective Reduction – (Orch-OR)“.
The theory indicates that when people enter a phase known as ‘clinical death,’ the microtubules located in the brain lose their quantum state but maintain the information contained within them. In other words – as experts explain it after people die, their soul returns to the universe, and it does not die’.
Speaking to the Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole documentary, Dr. Hameroff said:
“Let’s say the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing; the micro-tubules lose their quantum state. The quantum information within the micro-tubules is not destroyed, it can’t be destroyed, and it just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large. If the patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the micro-tubules and the patient says ‘I had a near-death experience.’ If they’re not revived, and the patient dies, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul.”
According to this theory, the human souls are more than just ‘interactions’ of neurons in our brain and could have been present since the beginning of time.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Spiritualism Gaining in Popularity
But still looking for scientific acceptance
Bill Buell/Gazette Reporter
Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini fought about it, while Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, famously not in agreement on electricity, often wondered about it. Is there life after death?
Spiritualism, the belief that the dead survive as spirits that can communicate with the living, has been debated throughout history, and in 2017 the discussion continues unabated. Believers will tell you that the number of like-minded people is growing, and while some in the other camp may dispute that, it’s undeniable that a portion of the scientific community is conceding that the practice does have value. Dr. Robert L. Miller, a professor in the Social Welfare School at the University at Albany, says it’s a subject he addresses in his class, Social Welfare and Spirituality.
“Throughout history one of the challenges of social work was that it had a religious connotation,” said Miller, who was recognized by the America East Conference of schools for his research on the “intersection of spirituality, social welfare and public health.” “We got in trouble because that turned into moralizing, so people stepped away from it. But I feel the best part of religion and spirituality is essential to good social work. People can use different terms, and in my class we talk about it rhetorically, but when we assess our clients, we have to let them talk about the various strengths they need to help them, and spirituality may indeed be included in that group.”
In Monica McGoldrick’s book, “The Expanded Family Life Cycle,” read by students in the Social Welfare program at UAlbany, the author conceded that “although spirituality can be a resource in many circumstances, it is particularly appropriate for bereavement issues because all religions have rituals or beliefs for dealing with death, and this comforts many people.”
And comforting people, for many psychics, is what it’s all about.
“It’s about relief and release, and if I felt my work didn’t have any value, I wouldn’t do it,” said D. Anne Austin, a native of Scotland, a Cypress resident and world-renown psychic who was offering readings at the Crossroads Gifts and Wellness on Jay Street in Schenectady last week. “I work in light, love and truth, and it’s very rewarding work. When you see someone who is downhearted and doesn’t know where to go, I help them play to their strengths and use the power that they have. I’ve had people come to me after 10 years and they’ll say how our reading was the turning point in their life. That is a fabulous thing to hear.”
Dr. J.B. Goss, a Sharon Springs resident, has worked in the pharmaceutical and health care field for more than three decades, and was Senior Vice-President of Comprehensive Neuroscience as well as director of Public Health for Johnson & Johnson.
“When I teach students I tell them the first thing you have to have is a healthy respect for what you don’t know,” said Goss, a graduate of St. John’s University. “There’s no scientific evidence to support psychics, but there’s none out there to debunk them. There are charlatans and fakes out there, but there are also things we can’t explain.”
An example, according to Goss, is what seems to be the telepathic ability of twins.
“There are a couple of good studies out there that show when you separate twins and show one an image, the brain changes, and the twin who was not in the room has the same brain change,” said Goss. “Even Einstein said that intelligence was important, but imagination is also very important. We’re always improving testing. We’re continuing to validate. But we have to respect what we don’t know and go into it with a sense of wonder.”
According to Austin, that’s exactly what great scientists do.
“There are absolute truths, and sometimes science is rightly in advance,” she said. “But people like Tesla and Einstein, they had the same gifts that I do. People like Beethoven and Bach had all their musical opus in its entirety and then had to work back to source. It’s the same with inventors. They have an idea and have to figure out, ‘how can I make this work.’ It’s science and spirituality marching hand-in-hand together.”
Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and Houdini, the world’s top illusionist of his time, were great friends before a dispute in 1923 over spiritualism — Doyle was a believer, Houdini wasn’t — ended their friendship. For the last 10 years of his life, Edison tried to build a machine to talk to the dead, and Tesla certainly didn’t rule out the value of spirituality, asserting that; “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
Even if most in the scientific community continue to scoff at spiritualism, there are indications that the general public’s interest in that realm is growing. In 2007, Cobleskill psychic Corbie Mitleid listened to Elisabeth Rolfe’s hopes and dreams of starting a business centered around spiritualism, and a decade later she’s getting enough traffic that Crossroads Gifts and Wellness is still a major presence on Jay Street in Schenectady. Rolfe, a Schoharie County native, met Mitleid at a psychic fair in Schenectady a little more than 10 years ago.
“I was in the spiritual manifesting stages of birthing my business and was seeking some clarity as to whether this was the path for me,” said Rolfe, who moved her store from Duanesburg to Schenectady four years ago. “Her reading very quickly focused on my desire to offer the community a place where like minds could come together, and her message was to go for it, and that my vision would eventually be a success but with the warning that the first few years would be challenging.”
According to Austin, the field of spiritualism is growing because more people are realizing that to some degree, they have the gift themselves.
“I fought against it for a while, trying to use the logical and scientific side of my brain,” said Austin, “but eventually I realized that there were very smart people who were interested in all of it, the mind, body and spirit. We all have some sort of gift. We just to have work at bringing them forward.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or email@example.com.
JANUARY 21, 2016
Americans may be getting less religious,
feelings of spirituality but are on the rise.
The phrase “spiritual but not religious” has become widely used in recent years by some Americans who are trying to describe their religious identity. While Pew Research Center does not categorize survey respondents in such a way, our surveys do find that the U.S. public overall appears to be growing a bit less religious – but also somewhat more spiritual.
Americans have become less religious in recent years by standard measures such as how important they say religion is to them and their frequency of religious service attendance and prayer. But, at the same time, the share of people across a wide variety of religious identities who say they often feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being as well as a deep sense of wonder about the universe has risen.
The drop in religiosity in the U.S. has been limited to religious “nones” (that is, those who describe themselves as atheists or agnostics and those who say they have no particular religion). The growth of the unaffiliated population and their decreasing religiosity have been the main factors behind the emergence of a less religious public overall. But, interestingly, the rise in spirituality has been happening among both highly religious people and the religiously unaffiliated.
For instance, among U.S. Christians, there has been an increase of 7 percentage points between 2007 and 2014 in the share who say they feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe at least weekly (from 38% to 45%). And there has been a similar rise in the share of religious “nones” who say the same (from 39% to 47%) – not to mention a 17-point jump among self-described atheists.
To be sure, the most religious segments of the population are still the most likely to say they feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being at least weekly, including 81% of Mormons and 75% of evangelical Protestants. Overall, 64% of religiously affiliated adults say they feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being at least weekly, compared with only 40% those who are unaffiliated.
But even among the “nones,” there has been a 5-point rise in recent years in the share who say they frequently feel spiritual peace (from 35% in 2007 to 40% in 2014).