The South's Oldest Spiritualist Community

Edited by John J. Guthrie, Jr., Phillip Charles Lucas, and Gary Monroe

Foreword by Raymond Arsenault and Gary R. Mormino, Series Editors
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From the preface:
"The contributors to this volume invite us to explore this unexpected religious community from a combination of perspectives as revelatory as their subject matter . . . Their Cassadaga is at once surprising and familiar. To travel with them to Cassadaga is not only to travel back in time but also to see how America's past is present in its most modern religious developments. At Cassadaga the New Age does not appear as a foreign element on America's religious landscape but rather as a domestic product that is as American as the Bible Belt and as deeply rooted in our national religious longings."--Ann Braude, Harvard University, The Divinity School

"Finally, the important story of Cassadaga has been recorded, and these authors tell that story with eloquence and insight."--Timothy Miller, University of Kansas

"Brilliantly demonstrates the potential of a multifaceted team study of a single religious phenomenon, at the same time enhancing our awareness of the importance of the spiritualist strand in American religion."--Robert Ellwood, Goodwin-Philpott Eminent Scholar in Religion, Auburn University

Calling itself a "metaphysical mecca," the small town of Cassadaga, between Orlando and Daytona Beach in central Florida, was established more than a century ago on the principle of continuous life, the idea that spirits of the dead commune with the living. Though the founders of Cassadaga have passed on to the "spirit plane," the quaint Victorian town remains the oldest continuously active Spiritualist center in the South and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. While the community has often been sensationalized and misrepresented, this is the first serious work to examine its history, people, cultural environment, and religious system.
After presenting an overview of 19th-century religion, the book explores the town's early years, distinctive architecture, ritual life, core beliefs, healing work, and view of the future. It also probes the extent to which Cassadaga has assimilated New Age beliefs and reflects larger trends in contemporary American religious culture.
The study includes a group biography based on interviews with four older residents, plus a chapter on the colorful life of Eloise Page, a practicing medium in Cassadaga for more than 40 years. In addition, it features 47 photographs that guide readers through the town and portray residents engaged in various sacred and everyday activities.

John J. Guthrie, Jr., (1955-2000) was associate professor of history at Daytona Beach Community College, the author of Keepers of the Spirits: The Judicial Response to Prohibition Enforcement in Florida, 1885-1935, and coauthor of The Florida Land Boom: Speculation, Money, and the Banks.

Phillip Charles Lucas, associate professor of religious studies at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, and general editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, is the author of Prime Time Religion: An Encyclopedia of Religious Broadcasting and The Odyssey of a New Religion: The Holy Order of MANS from New Age to Orthodoxy.

Gary Monroe, professor of art at Daytona Beach Community College's Southeast Museum School of Photography, has published his photographs in several books including Miami Beach, Haiti, and (with Jerome Stern) Florida Dreams.

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The Best of the Best of the University Presses - 2001

"Fascinating . . . An objective and readable description of a distinctive and largely unknown faith in American religion." --Library Journal
--Library Journal

"Cassadaga: The South's Oldest Spiritualist Community: does a remarkable job of detailing the town's history, people and culture. And it doesn't give short shrift to spiritualism, either." -Daytona Beach News-Journal
--Daytona Beach News-Journal

"The authors of the chapters in this collection provide depth and understanding to counter the fairly shallow popular-culture impression of Cassadaga." -Tallahassee Democrat
--Tallahassee Democrat

"Anyone interested in America's religious past and present will find this glimpse into a lesser-known area rewarding." -ForeWord

"This volume is a worthy reminder of the religious pluralism of contemporary America and a sympathetic introduction to a movement unfamiliar to many scholars." - Journal of Southern History
--Jounal of Southern History

"a splendid account of the neglected history of an important Spiritualist community." "illuminates how a religious community on the periphery exists not only by maintaining its distinctive beliefs but also by its ability to adapt and blend into the surrounding environment." - Florida Historical Quarterly
--Florida Historical Quarterly

"a worthy tribute to this exceptional place. Though an academic book by professional scholars, it is rarely dull or inaccessible to the ordinary reader." - the quest
--the quest

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