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Lily Dale Symposium 2018

  • Lily Dale Assembly Lily Dale, New York 14752 USA (map)

The Science of Things Spiritual: A Symposium in Lily Dale, New York
Programmed by Shannon Taggart, with Susan B. Barnes

Purchase Tickets Here
9:00am – 6:00pm – lectures
6:30pm – Reception

9:00 am
The Moment of Revelation: Cases from Upstate New York’s Spiritual History
Joscelyn Godwin, Ph.D., Professor of Music Emeritus, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York

Upstate New York is well known as the cradle of the Shakers, Mormonism, Spiritualism, Adventism, Theosophy, and many lesser-known movements. This talk asks the question: How exactly did the leaders get started on their missions? Examples may include Jemima Wilkinson, Joseph Smith, Charles Grandison Finney, John Humphrey Noyes, Thomas Lake Harris, Andrew Jackson Davis, Paschal Beverly Randolph, John Murray Spear, Isaac Post, Amanda Jones, Cyrus Teed, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. What patterns and lessons emerge from this?

10:00 am
Linen Veils and Lightning Masks: Theurgical Mediumship of Late Antiquity
Leonard George, Ph.D., Chair of the School of Social Sciences, Capilano University

Combining the metaphysics of Plato with ecstatic rites of paganism, theurgy emerged from Syria in the second century and became one of the most important spiritual practices of late antiquity. In contrast with theology (“talking about the sacred”), theurgy (“sacred action”) involved direct mediumistic access to wisdom conveyed by a range of spiritual entities, from departed souls to deities. Aspects of theurgy were preserved in the Byzantine Empire and transmitted to Renaissance Italy, and fed the roots of modern Spiritualism.

11:00 am
A Survey of Spirit Architecture
Steve Bass, Architect

Though construction is a very practical matter, many buildings have been designed by people engaged in spiritual contact.  This presentation looks at houses and buildings that have been designed with the aid of spiritual forces, whether those forces act through direct communication, symbolic inspiration, or magical affectation.  We’ll look at the buildings themselves and recount the stories of their creators.


2:00 pm
The Ancient Oracles Revived: Sibyls, Spirits, and the Extraordinary Power of a Woman’s Voice
Marjorie Roth, Ph.D., D.M.A., Professor of Music and Director of the Honors Program, Nazareth College, Rochester, New York

This talk contemplates the phenomenon of Sibylline prophecy and its distant echo in the practice of Spiritualism today. The legendary Sibyls of antiquity uttered their oracles “with frenzied mouth, unadorned and unperfumed,” using a voice so strong it would “reach for a thousand years.” We will encounter “Sibyls” belonging to several different time periods and walks of life up to and including the mediums of Lily Dale, exploring how their voices—and their messages—have changed their worlds.

3:00 pm
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and The Coming of the Fairies
Massimo Introvigne, Managing Director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR)

This talk will explore the controversial case of the “Cottingley Fairies.” In 1917, 10-year-old Frances Griffiths and her teenage cousin Elsie Wright claimed to have photographed fairies in Cottingley, England. Theosophist Edward Gardner introduced them to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a well-known supporter of Spiritualism. In September 1922, Doyle published The Coming of the Fairies, where he defended the genuineness of the photographs. Skepticism about the photographs grew as more sophisticated analyses became available. In 1983, Elsie confessed that the pictures had been created by using paper figures of fairies, although Frances maintained that one of the photographs was genuine and that they had really seen the fairies.

4:00 pm
Spiritual Healing: The Fate of a Traditional Practice in a Scientific Age

J. Gordon Melton, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of American Religious History at the Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University, Waco, Texas

The modern practice of spiritual healing was born in the eighteenth century as Austrian physician Franz Anton Mesmer attempted to find the scientific underpinnings of natural healing in the study of magnets the positing of a universal cosmic fluid which could be manipulated for bodily health. His success led to a popular movement which would become one of the building blocks of Spiritualism in the following century. Passed from generation to generation through the twentieth century, the practice would periodically become the subject of scientific experimentation. This presentation will explore why spiritual healing has yet to experience acceptance in medical circles, despite maintaining a large base of support and at times producing spectacular results.

5:00 pm
Transgender, Spiritualism, and the Paranormal
George P. Hansen, author of The Trickster and the Paranormal

Historically, transgender persons have been leaders of ritual and were seen as possessing supernatural powers. Among Native Americans are found two-spirit people—persons who would take the role of the opposite sex—who often became shamans and communicated with spirits. Many nat kadaws, spirit mediums in Burma, are transgender. The same pattern is found in numerous cultures worldwide, including Spiritualism. This pattern of gender ambiguity will be discussed in relation to liminality, a concept that gives deep insight into myth, ritual, and paranormal phenomena.

6:30 pm
Informal reception for the audience and speakers
12 Third St. in Lily Dale. (free)