The connections between the
suffrage movement, spiritualism and the emerging notions of sanity throughout
the latter part of the 19th century make a fascinating her-storical
study. I've spent more than 40 years
researching and writing on subjects related to the psycho-spiritual realm and
women. From Yoga to Carl Jung, feminism
to psychic development and literature to psychology, I've relentlessly sought
answers to my restless soul's quest to understand the spiritual feminine.
The Spiritualist tradition has
been in my family for two generations.
My mother and father's father were separated when my parents were
divorced in the early '60's yet both attended the Spiritualist Church services
in different cities spanning several decades. Following a parallel path yet
neither knowing the other were serious followers of the same spiritual
tradition. The Spiritualist Church had
an enormous impact on both their lives respectively.
People Wanted to Know More About the Spirit World
The budding romance of psychology
and philosophy of the 19th century was keen to show that both spiritualist
mediums and believers were mentally deranged.
Bombastically, spiritualism attracted the insane. No doubt the popularity and buzz value of
spiritualism was affording the new psychologies a weigh-in to centre
stage. Any religious experience that
involved the suspension of everyday consciousness, including ecstatic divine
communion or mediumship, was reducible to a pathological model. Sadly, this remains an insidious barrier to
authentic research in this field.
Considering that spiritualism
is a gift to prove the existence of afterlife, this obnoxious and pseudo-scientific
pronouncement has effectively kept spiritualism in a dark corner for most
people. Its growth has been
systematically stunted on all fronts.
When it emerged in full force by the middle of the 19th century, the Titans
of science and religion came out in full force to discredit, dishonour and obliterate
it. Interestingly, no matter how hard
the Titans stomped, Spiritualism continued to grow like a weed. People wanted
to know more about the spirit world. How it was organized, what souls did while
there, how was it different from this corporal world and most of all, how can
we reach these souls? It seemed that
gifted, trance mediums were the only ones willing and able to convey this
Women dominated the
mediumship field by more than 100 to 1 male.
This didn't escape the notice of the medical profession, one of the most
veraciously opposed of the Titans. In
females who were diagnosed with insanity, the disease was not surprisingly
aligned with their sexuality. This explained why so many women succumbed to the
pathological condition of mediumship (an interesting circular argument favoured
by the Victorian mind). Vibrancy and
feminine sexuality were virtually contradictory notions.
There were a few gifted
mediums in that enlightened period that challenged the notion that only males
were designed for higher levels of spiritual attainment. On the heels of the witch burnings there had
to be an inordinate degree of prudence applied as the miracles performed by
these mediums came into the public forum of debate. All mediums were urged to emphasize their
Christian roots and use language familiar and acceptable to the Christian
majority. There remain vestiges of this
caution evident in many spiritualism adherents. Male dominated language and
perceptions in the official doctrine of Spiritualism continues to this
day. Very odd considering!
Our Grandmother of Wisdom & Light
If you decide to pursue this
line of query, I recommend Mrs. Cora L. V. Richmond be the first trance medium
on your list to study. Many claimed she
was a female Avatar (the materialization in an earthly body, by choice, to
promote an issue important for the progress of the human family) or announcer
like John the Baptist. She was exceptionally gifted and the best known
Spiritual phenomenon of her day. Cora was one of a kind.
She was born in 1840 in Cuba
N.Y. and died in Chicago in early 1923.
When she was a young child, people travelled days to sit with her and be
healed. At 15 years old, she was on the
stage going into deep trance and bringing forth messages that would affect the
course of American history. She
attracted thousands of followers from around the world, inspired the brightest
minds of the 19th century and was the first American woman to earn her own
income. Susan B. Anthony, the renowned
feminist of the 19th century, was counted among her closest friends.
She was at the centre of the
first Parliament of Religions in Chicago (yet was soon banned from attending). The first Spiritualist Church was built for
her followers in Chicago, called the Church of the Soul.
She wrote prolifically and
her discourses under trance were all published.
She taught the most gifted mediums and attracted thousands to Cassadaga
Camp every year (later called Lilydale).
The vestiges of this are evident in Lilydale's Waterlily Logo which was
Cora's spirit world name given to her by one of her guides, Ouina.
Cora Richmond’s Brilliance & Gift are Un-Matched
Why do spiritualists today
still fail to highlight the contributions made by this stunningly gifted
medium? Why were her stories, writings, and teachings moved to the backstage of
spiritualism's archives? Why did they
destroy her books and articles immediately after her death? All questions worthy of ponder.
She was the most loved of the
19th century inspirational speakers. She
spent months at a time at the White House as one of Lincoln's mediums; William
James cast her in his famous novel The Bostonians; and she attracted thousands
of people in America and England to her discourses. She taught and supervised
the development of the most gifted mediums at the time. Her book published in 1888 titled, The
Soul in its Human Embodiments was a primary training manual for mediumship
study and development.
If for no other reason than
curiosity, I highly recommend you study Cora’s works. Her brilliance and gift are un-matched.
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