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Posts Tagged ‘mental science’

Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 145                                      Days Blogged: 129 

New Mileage: 4                                                   Total Trip Mileage: 1010

Helen Wilmans

As I ride the bike this evening I ponder the sense of enjoyment and discovery that comes about even on a virtual bike journey.  In exploring the significance of the SeaBreeze church in Daytona Beach I came across the history of the town which mentioned Helen Post, her “School of Mental Science” and paper entitled “Freedom.”  As I explored the significance of Mrs. Post I uncovered a story of a strong willed self-made women embedded in the spirituality of the late 1800s who apparently became a victim of political intrigue.

First let us review the spiritual landscape in the United States in the late 1880s. The US represented a melting pots of spiritual and philosophical ideas, some new, some old repackaged ideas, and some foreign.  At this time a number of spiritual “movements” were under way that including: the Mind-cure movement; health mysticism; and Mental Science.  By the early 1900s these had come together to form what was termed the “New Thought” Movement.  Many authors trace the beginnings of this movement to Phineas Quimby, a rural doctor who lived in northern Maine in the early 1800s.  He explored the ideas and methods of mesmerism (e.g., later to be called hypnotism) and develop a theory about the relationship of the mind to both physical and mental problems.  He was rumored to have the ability to cure a wide range of physical problems and influenced a number of his patients to follow in his footsteps carrying the ideas of his “healing ministry” to other parts of the country.

The New Thought movement consisted of a loosely allied group of religious denominations, secular organizations, authors, philosophers and lay individuals who share: “a set of metaphysical beliefs concerning the effects of positive thinking, the law of attraction (that our thoughts are made manifest in the material realm), healing, life force, creative visualization and personal power.”  In general, they interpreted “God” as a supreme, universal, everlasting, divinity that dwells in each person.  That all human beings are divine and that loving, teaching and healing each other was the highest spiritual principle.

William James, one of the first American Psychologists noted that the primary sources of this movement’s ideas included: the Christian Gospels; Emerson’s transcendental movement; Spiritualisms law of attraction; optimism about science and evolution; Hinduism’s beliefs in a Universal Godhead; America’s Freedom of Religion; and American materialism.  With the growing literacy of the population after the Civil War and the rise of feminist sentiments more people, especially women, turned to self-help book and religions that included female ministers, like Christian Scientists, for guidance.

Unity Church

Into this mixture entered Helen Wilmans, a poor downtrodden farm wife who after twenty years left her husband and move to San Francisco to fulfill her dream of becoming a “literary women.”  Working in a local paper she developed her journalistic skills and steadily raised her standard of living.  She wrote her life story in a book titled “The Conquest of Poverty” and then began a very successful paper called The Women’s World.  During this time she became deeply involved in the mental science movement with its message of positive thinking and self-help, she also began a “healing” ministry, with testimonials of cures for a wide range of aliments.  She married Col. C.C. Post and had attained a wealthy status.  At this point she and her husband moved to the small settlement of Sea Breeze on the east coast of Florida.  She had envisioned the creation of a settlement named “City Beautiful” where everyone would plant flowers and create an idyllic and serene environment.  She started a School of Mental Science and a monthly magazine entitled Freedom.  The success of her endeavor grew and when she decided to start her City Beautiful six miles up the beach from Sea Breeze the Postal Office moved to better serve the needs of her magazine.

This is where the intrigue began, because a powerful and revengeful backer of settlement of Sea Breeze took offense at the removal of the Post office.  He blamed Helen for this turn of events.  He was reportedly a close personal friend of the powerful Senator Goodall of Maine.  Quickly a new post office opened in Sea Breeze named after the powerful senator. This politically connected individual was then elected mayor of Sea Breeze.  A short time later, without any warning, a post office fraud order was place on Helen to cease all of her business dealings.  This was reportedly done with no public hearing or warning.  She was accused of advertising in her publications for “cure by absent treatment” which was deemed to be a fraudulent and impossible cure by the judge overseeing the case.  Helen and her husband exhausted their financial resources fighting the accusation and although it was reported that the US Supreme Court eventually reversed the decision against her, she was left impoverished, her business ruined and her spirit broken.  Shortly after this her husband died and she followed him within a year.

While her books were, and still are today, available her influence in the New Thought movement faded with her passing.  The movement itself eventually resulted in the establishment of the Christian Scientist denomination, the Unity Church of Practical Christianity and the Religious Science. With the coming of the Great Depression and World War II the New thought movement faded into the background of the American spiritual and religious landscape.  However, many of its main tenets found new life in the last thirty years within the “self-help” movement, positive thinking movement, New Age Spirituality, the explosion of Eastern religion thought systems (e.g., Zen, Taoism, Buddhism), and even within a number of recent forms of psychotherapy (e.g., RET, TA, Gestalt).

I hope you enjoyed this brief journey into our countries spiritual history and the sad story of a jealous business man who used political connections to destroy a spiritual pilgrim.  Tomorrow we continue our trip up the Florida coast toward St. Augustine.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 143                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 127

Today’s Mileage: 6                                        Total Trip Mileage: 1002

It’s good to be back on the bike after a couple days in the mountains with my church youth.  Today we’re going to visit a pilgrimage site in Daytona Beach Florida and then start to head north up the coast towards as St. Augustine and Jacksonville. 

On the surface today’s site may not seem all that special or significant.  It is a Christian church built in 1928 which was uniquely named: “The Tourist Church.”  This choice spoke to the fact that it served many of the tourists who visited the pristine beaches of East Central Florida.  It was built just as the speculative land booms boom of the 1920s ended and the great depression started.

 The church itself is unique and I will speak to the design and designer in a moment.  But I wanted to note that the process of in investigating these pilgrimage sites can lead to the discovery of intriguing aspect of the local history.  This process can also gives us insights into the social, political and religious forces that shaped these areas.  

In 1892 Col. C.C. Post and his wife Helen purchased a stretch of the barrier island east of the small settlement of Daytona.  Helen Post was a proponent of the new “Mental Science” movement; she proposed founding a settlement called: “City Beautiful.”  She spread her message of positive thinking and self improvement through several books and a paper called “Freedom”

 Her paper was such a success that after several years the post office moved to a larger facility up the beach in an area that was to later become the settlement of Daytona Beach.  After several years the people of Sea Breeze petitioned for a new post office and in 1898 a new one was built and named after Senator Ernest Goodall of Maine. In 1925 the three small settlements of Daytona, Daytona Beach and Sea Breeze combined to become Daytona Beach. 

A decision was also made to build a church to serve the needs of the tourist population.  The tourist church, while affiliated with the Congregational Society, was built in 1929 to cater to the diverse religious backgrounds of tourists. A well-known Midwestern architect Harry Griffin had moved to the Daytona area.  The church was designing in the Mission/ Spanish Colonial Revival styles of architecture.  It was constructed with “bog rock” a type of stone that was unique to the coast and quarried in the ridge west of Daytona Beach.  The church went through a denominational change and became known as the Sea Breeze United Church of Christ. The church was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1995.

As I look through the photos of the church I was struck by the large stained glass windows, featuring Christ’s birth, at the rear of the building.  The front of the church contains a beautiful wooden pipe organ.

I find this process of discovering pilgrimages sites to be enjoyable and informative.  Sometimes more of a story lurks below the surface!  I noted earlier that the Sea Breeze post office was named for a Senator from Maine.  I wondered if he was a frequent visitor to the area, but thought little more of it.  I wondered about the “popular” paper of Mrs. Post, so I searched the internet for references and uncovered a story of spiritual movements, dreams of a utopian settlement, political intrigue (including a US Senator), postal fraud, and disgraced lives.  Tomorrow I will spin the intriguing tale of Mrs.Post, the New Thought movement, distant healing and a case that made its way to the Supreme Court.

It was a dynamic process that brought the community of Sea Breeze to the edge of a pristine and beautiful beach.  It was a dynamic process that brought me to learn of this site and its story.  It is a dynamic process that brought me to share it with you.  It will be a similar dynamic and unfolding process that will help us connect with each other, connect with our shared history and connect with the world.

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