mad in pursuit journal


Road Trip to Beyond - Report

Thursday's entry was in anticipation of going to Lily Dale, the "world's largest center for... the practice of the Spiritualist religion." It is a lovely old village perched on a lake -- narrow streets lined with Victorian gingerbread houses -- run down enough to look genuine and not like a theme park. The auditorium is semi-open-air, with antique wooden chairs. Surrounding the village is an amazing old growth forest -- a sight in itself.

Jim and I arrived about 12:30. I was open to anything and everything. We were in time for the 1 PM "message service" at Inspiration Stump.

We headed for the Stump -- the remains of an ancient tree, which had (over nearly 100 years) become a legendary spot for mediums to deliver messages from loved ones who have departed to the other side. I had worn my grandfather's ring, just in case. The Stump sitting area was one of those hushed "sacred spaces" where nature is in perfect harmony.

...Till the mediums started delivering their messages to people in the audience. The idea was that various mediums would take the podium, tune into the spirits who accompanied someone, and tell that person what the spirits had to say to them. Suddenly, the whole thing felt like a carnival act. Audience members beamed and nodded while "grandma" or "grandpa" expressed loving and encouraging messages. After about twenty minutes of this, Jim and I quietly snuck out and, waiting till we were out of earshot before we looked at each other, started laughing.

The harmony of the space, the potential mystical moment was shattered by the glib, fast-talking mediums delivering sound-bites from beyond. I realized this: Whatever my dearly departed loved ones might have to say to me, I already know in my heart.

After lunch, we stopped by the auditorium for the 2:30 service. An ex-Jesuit (who left the priesthood to marry a medium) lectured that (in a nutshell) in Spiritualism "we no longer have to rely on faith alone to believe in God" (and/or the "Infinite Intelligence") because the fact that mediums communicate with the dead scientifically proves God's existence. Oh dear. Maybe it was being insulted by Jesuit sophistry or being forced to sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hand" -- whatever -- Jim and I turned in our hymnals and snuck out the back of the auditorium before the clairvoyant "act" began.

I should say this: The atmosphere in Lily Dale is not a carnival. They aren't sideshow fortune-tellers. It is a seriously peaceful and religious place. The 50 or so mediums who practice there every summer are undoubtedly good people, who are using their intuition, their compassion and their emotional intelligence to bring a healing message to troubled lives.

I can't say whether Jim and I are too "sophisticated" or too spiritually dense. There was nothing weird or creepy but nothing exhilarating or moving either. We just didn't get the vibe.

I have to think about it some more... Maybe I want a "message" that is wondrous and that pulls me out of myself and opens up new ways of sensing the world. The mediums' messages fell flat -- a message from "a female ancestor spirit" urging you "to finish the projects you started" doesn't fill me with wonder -- it makes me say, oh yeah, I knew that already. (Really, I need a message from an ancestor that says, yes, you need an iPhone!)


Drop me a line!