This article was published in my Newsletter in 2011 after my first visit to Lily Dale.
Being a curious Sagittarius, I am continually seeking and exploring in the realm of religion and philosophy. In August I had the pleasure of visiting Lily Dale, a Spiritualist Community in western New York that was founded in 1879. I first remember hearing about Lily Dale several years ago from a woman that told me “the veil is thinner in Lily Dale‘. At the time this sounded very intriguing, but other spiritual journeys were awaiting me first. This past spring I came across the book, Lily Dale, the true story of the town that talks to the dead, by Christine Wicker, while looking through many long book filled tables at the Poughkeepsie Library book fair. Lily Dale was back in the radar. I quickly got into reading my new book and began realizing that something was calling me to go.
Lily Dale originally began as a summer camp/retreat for Spiritualists. Spiritualism is the Science, Philosophy and Religion of continuous life, based upon the demonstrated fact of communication, by means of mediumship, with those who live in the Spirit World. People now live in Lily Dale year round, but it is during the summer months that the mediums return and a wide variety of programs are offered for the thousands of visitors who come. It is very affordable to stay at the Maplewood Hotel, built in the 1880’s, only $49 a night, as long as you don’t mind having to walk down the hall to use the bathroom facilities. (They do have rooms with bathrooms available.)
While I was simply looking forward to seeing how I would experience the veil being thinner, my husband, who was joining me, wanted to know as much as possible before getting there. I’m glad he had this urge, because we soon discovered that the roots of American Spiritualism and Lily Dale are richly entwined with New York State history, the American pursuit of religious freedom and more.
The school (or Lyceum) at Lily Dale was named for Andrew Jackson Davis. It was amazing to discover that Andrew Jackson Davis was also known as the Poughkeepsie Seer! Born in Blooming Grove, Orange County, in 1826, he moved to Poughkeepsie in 1837. When Davis was 17 years old he was mesmerized (an early form of hypnotism) and entered into a deep trance state during which he accessed higher states of consciousness. At that time he had very little education and was working as a shoemaker’s apprentice. This was the beginning of his life as a renowned trance channeling medium who diagnosed illnesses as well as prescribed treatments. At the age of 56 he entered medical school so that he could continue his healing practice as a licensed doctor. In addition to his healing work, Davis was a prolific writer on esoteric topics that are still relevant today. Adriance Library in Poughkeepsie has original copies of many of his books that were published in the mid-1800’s (in library use only). It is interesting to note that Andrew Jackson Davis predated Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet, who had similar gifts, by 50 years.
Andrew Jackson Davis’ writings were inspirational to the Principles used in Spirititsm.
Although various Spiritualist traditions have their own beliefs, known as Principles, there are some shared concepts:
A belief in spirit communication.
A belief that the soul continues to exist after the death of the physical body.
Personal responsibility for life circumstances.
Even after death it is possible for the soul to learn and improve
A belief in a God, often referred to as "Infinite Intelligence".
The natural world considered as an expression of said intelligence.
From Wikipedia on Spiritualism)
Visiting Lily Dale was like stepping back in time for me. My husband and I attended some beautiful morning meditations, a variety of Spiritualist services where medium’s delivered messages to loved ones in attendance, spent time in the traditional outdoor meeting area (called the Stump) surrounded by magnificent old growth trees, and sat by Cassadaga Lake relaxing and wondering about who had passed through this space before us. It was a magical way to experience a thinner veil.
For more information about Spiritualism visit the website for the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, http://www.nsac.org/ . If you are interested, they have an online bookstore with a great listing of books, which you can also purchase directly from them. For more information about the Lily Dale Assembly visit http://www.lilydaleassembly.com/ . For more about the Poughkeepsie Seer visit http://andrewjacksondavis.com/ .