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Posts Tagged ‘new age’

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

Consecutive Days Riding: 138                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 120

Today’s Mileage: 10                                             Total Trip Mileage: 968

Tarot Card "The Universe"

When I started this pilgrimage journey I expected that I would experience a fair degree of diversity as part of my journey. Yesterday we celebrated an important holiday for most Muslims commemorating the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.  Tomorrow we will talk about a significant holiday for the Hindu faith but sandwiched between these holidays we are going to visit a pilgrimage site representing a spiritual movement which four a time had gained prominence and notoriety in Western societies.

We are visiting the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, located 30 miles Northeast of Orlando.  The camp makes up a small town by the same name.  The history of the camp highlights many of the most important features of Spiritualist beliefs.   It was the brainchild of George Colby a young man from New York who was told during a séance that he would someday be instrumental in founding a spiritualist community in South.  Reported in 1875 Colby was led through the wilderness of Central Florida by his “spirit guide” Seneca to an area with a lake and surround hills.  He homesteaded the land and in 1890 deeded it to the newly incorporated Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association.   Colby was reported to have TB; however, a small spring located on his homestead provided the elixir that healed him.  Years later the county purchased additional acreage of the adjoining property with the goal of preserving sensitive environmental species and the historical significance of the area.

The Temple

The Cassadaga spiritualist community was formally established in 1894 as a community of residents who   “have chosen to share the community with like-minded people.”  A significant number of the camp’s residents are mediums who offer counseling from their homes.  The camp includes a temple, a healing center, a museum and various stores.  The town was added to the National Registry of Historical Places in 1991, and the camp meeting Association is the oldest active Spiritualist religious community in southeastern United States.  The camps webpage notes:  “Spiritualism has experienced a resent resurgence of interest with the recent new age movement and has attracted many people who are searching for better way of life and wish to empower themselves and take responsibility for their life.  Spiritualism holds something for everyone no matter what their religion or where they are on their spiritual path, the camp welcomes not only believers but the curious and the skeptical as well.”

The healing center

Prior to riding today I spent some time reading up on spiritualism.  It appears that the movement began in the middle 1800s when the Fox sisters reported being in contact with an entity that explained mysterious night time noises.  This spurred an interest in the idea of “mediumship” or contact with spirits.  The movement saw considerable growth in the late 1800s but spawned a great deal of skepticism within the scientific community.  Spiritualism was describes as having a main focus on promoting an individual’s personal experience with God, it recognizes all prophets that come to mankind throughout the ages, it is based upon the idea that we are all to form our own relationship with God to obtain guidance, also individual must accept responsibility for our actions.  Spiritualism believes in the survival of our personality after death in a spiritual form this provides the basis for mediumship.  Spiritualism believes that the nature of humankind is to be good not evil, they do not believe in sin and repentance only spiritual progression by natural law.

Spiritualists believe that our purpose for being here is to evolve spiritually and then use that to be of service to others as we continue to evolve.   Spiritualist also believe in what they call the expression of spirit which represents different ways in which people connect with the spiritual realm like different abilities that people have, these include:  the ideas of automatic writing, card reading (such as tarot cards) healing, séances (connection with a spirits and perhaps ancestors), spirit art (artwork either created by a spirit or with directions provided by the spirit) prosthetic dreams, and trance-mediumship (where a spirit takes over the person such as in channeling).

Sunrise at Spirit Pond!

Spiritualism seemed to have waned with the advent of science and the apparent fraudulent practices of some charlatans who wrap themselves in spiritualist clothing.  However recently there’s been a renewed interest in spiritualist practices and ideas in what is now called “New Age” spirituality.  I have several friends who follow many of the tenets of Spiritualism, they are happy adjusted loving parents, friends and citizens.  I will leave you with a Spiritualist prayer for healing:

      I ask the Great Unseen Healing Force

     To help both present and absent ones

     Who are in need of help

     And to restore them to perfect health.

     I put my trust

     In the love and power of God.

 Tomorrow we celebrate a joyful and colorful Hindu holiday… see you then!

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