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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual movements’

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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