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Lily Dale Symposium 2019

  • 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
Making the Invisible Real: Shamanism in Northeast Asia
Richard Noll, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, DeSales University, Center Valley, PA

In this talk we will encounter “shamans” and the techniques they use to communicate with spirits.  Richard Noll’s fieldwork in Northeast China, Mongolia and Japan from 1994 to 2018 will be our guide on this cross-cultural journey through differing conceptions of the spirit world.  We will learn how ancient shamanic practices vary according to geography, lifestyle, and cultural history.

10:00 am
Spiritualism, the Science of Crime and Early Forensics
Cathy Guiterrez Ph.D., Adelphi University, Garden City, NY

 Caesare Lombroso, father of modern criminology and avid Spiritualist, formulated his theory of criminals using the same instruments that he brought to the séance when investigating mediums for the Society of Psychical Research.  Spirit materializations and catching criminals both created bodies of absent people through foot prints, finger prints, and photographs.  By combining Darwinian evolution and phrenology, Lombroso focused on the criminal rather than the crime, and a new science had begun.  We will discover how ancient Greek wisdom, Neanderthal skulls, and mediumship all coalesced into the birth of forensics. 

11:00 am
Octagon Houses and Ideal Form
Jesse Bransford, Associate Professor of Art, New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York City

 The octagon is a sacred shape in most cultures, and buildings made to the octagonal plan have a long and storied history.  The late-nineteenth century saw a boom in octagonal structures, an example of which can be seen here in Lily Dale on Library Street.  This talk will look at the history of the octagonal form and its connections to the ideas that influenced the Spiritualist movement.  Sacred geometry, place, and spirit all affect the aims and goals of octagonal constructions.  These ideas will be integral to our discussion on this unique moment in American architecture.


 2:00 pm
“Transporte!”: Espiritismo, Spiritualism, and Latin America
Jason Baumann, Assistant Director for Collection Development, The New York Public Library and Visiting Associate Professor, Pratt Institute, New York City

 Latin American and Caribbean Espiritismo is usually described as the meeting and mixing of French Kardecism (Spiritism) with forms of African Kongo spirituality.  However, Spiritualism was an influence from the start, via exchanges across the Americas. In this session, we will explore the connections and cross-fertilizations between Espiritismo in Latin America and Spiritualism in the United States.

3:00 pm
Inside SORRAT: The True Story of America’s Most Active Physical Mediumship Group, 1961-2015.
James McClenon, Ph.D., Author of The Entity Letters

 The Society for Research on Rapport and Telekinesis—known as SORRAT—was founded in 1961 by the poet John G. Neihardt, author of the best-seller Black Elk Speaks. Shortly after forming, the group experienced robust Spiritualist phenomena including rapping sounds, table levitation, anomalous lights, trance messages, written messages, and earthquake effects which shook the room. James McClenon, one of several investigators who studied the group, began working with SORRAT in 1981.  In this illustrated talk, McClenon will present an overview of the group, explore theories explaining their psychokinetic activities, and discuss the high strangeness and intense ambiguity that permeated his experiences. Films made by parapsychologist William Edward Cox of SORRAT’s famous ‘mini-lab’ phenomena will also be shared.

 4:00 pm
Investigating the Supernatural: Scientific Quests to Colonize Hysterical Women and Psychic Mediums
Asti Hustvedt, Ph.D., author of Medical Muses

During the late-nineteenth century and early-twentieth century, the female bodies of hysterics and mediums were understood as being untethered from the laws of physiology, capable of extraordinary physical and mental feats. Author Asti Hustvedt, an independent scholar who has written extensively on hysteria and literature, discusses some of the ways in which male scientists attempted to investigate these bewildering female bodies.

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

French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the founder of deconstruction, wrote on telepathy, ghosts, and hauntology.  However, his work has been almost entirely ignored by academics identified with paranormal topics.  This talk will explore how postmodern methods of deconstruction have deep implications for the study of the paranormal.  Derrida’s work is currently inspiring innovation in paranormal research in some unexpected places. 

 6:30 pm – Informal reception for the audience and speakers to be held at 12 Third Street in Lily Dale.