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Seraphim and the “Russian Lourdes”

Looking for something different to get into today, and was paging through some of those old journal volumes [c.1880s-1910s mostly] which have produced several intriguing topics in the past months. Went through four of them and it was pretty slim pickings this time. The closest thing was an article from The Century, September 1904, entitled “The Russian Lourdes” by David Bell MacGowan.
The article was stimulated by the canonization of a legendary holy person of Sarov, Russia, named St. Seraphim. The “Lourdes” allusion was due to the location having a well and flowing stream with alleged healing properties, attributable to a vision/interaction of Seraphim with the Blessed Virgin, whereupon the stream was formed. To make this make some sort of sense, a thumbnail account of Seraphim’s life is in order.

Seraphim was a pacifist at heart from his early youth and was once beaten so thoroughly by a gang of thugs that he spent his adulthood as a bent hunchbacked cripple. Whether because of this infirmity or probably more so because of his non-violent and spiritual frame of mind, Seraphim entered into the religious life, ultimately achieving status amongst a monastic society near Sarov. For whatever reasons, Seraphim preferred the company of nature to that of humans, and became a hermit.

As his life in solitude went on, apparently Seraphim not only deepened in his devotions to prayer and fasting and attempts to demonstrate his faithfulness to God and the Blessed Virgin, but he began to wake up to the fact that there were other persons about for whom he should be doing some sort of service. Thus Seraphim began a phase of his life which was actually useful [this last sentence is showing my bias against wasting the time you have on Earth doing nothing but avoiding the rest of us regardless of how much self-oriented praying you do]. [Sorry, hermits, but that’s my opinion about excessive “solitude” — get your butts “out there” where there are so many folks needing your help].
Anyway…. Seraphim DID finally “get it” and began admitting folks into his presence, happily even. When he did that, others found a gentle man who had an eery ability to know precisely what was troubling their health [and other matters], who had a concomitant gift of healing. Even then though, it took a vision of Mary wherein she ordered him to quit floundering about doing his own business in the forest, and get out there and minister to people. He was 66 when he finally got moving. Well, better late than never, and Seraphim began “receiving” over 2000 folks a day, as his reputation as a counsellor-healer spread.

Well, we all have our prejudices and I have more than my share [Hey! I’m Catholic! I’m all for Seraphim now that he’s moving, and doing good works. And I’m predisposed to believe that he actually DID do them]. One of my prejudices hints to me that all that “forest time” might not really have been wasted. Excessive maybe. Wasted ? no. This is because there are instances remembered of Seraphim’s life where he reminds you of St. Kevin of Ireland in his ability to be in harmonious communion with the Natural World. Seraphim seemed to have achieved a “peace” and a oneness with that forest and its life. Stories, most spectacularly of interactions with bears, paint a life of a half-saint, half-druid in tune with reality in dimensions that the rest of us lack. It is my [prejudiced] intuition that this connectivity with things has much to do with his ability to “know” what was out-of-harmony with his human visitors and, often, make it right.

One of the strongest attested to healings by Seraphim was his first. A former Russian soldier had contracted some mysterious wasting disease which was affecting his legs and crippling him. No doctor had a clue. He came to Seraphim and begged for help. Seraphim asked him several times if he believed in God and His healing power. The soldier affirmed straightforwardly that he did, each time. Seraphim then massaged lampoil into his legs, wrapped them in canvas, and began to pray. He then blessed bread and put it into the soldier’s pockets, saying he should now go to the guest house, eat, and rest. The soldier got up and began walking out, only to be stunned to see that he was walking completely unassisted by his forgotten canes. He turned threw himself at Seraphim’s feet in gratitude. Seraphim hushed him and said that this was God’s doing not his. This man later sold his properties and moved to Sarov, where he spent the rest of his life helping the local sisters with their work with the poor.

Seraphim’s second most strongly attested to cure also resulted in a lifetime commitment to spiritual work. This person had suffered from an undiagnosed array of problems which most prominently exhibited themselves in the complete loss of use of his legs. Seraphim, after recommending to him that he should go to an actual doctor to be treated, succumbed to the man’s pleas, and asked him [as he had done before] if the man believed in God and in his healing power. The man said: ” I trust with all my heart and believe it, and if I did not believe it, then I would not have asked them to bring me to you”. Seraphim then said that he already was cured. He ordered the people who were holding the man upright to step away, and the man attested: ” I felt within me some kind of power descending upon me from on high, I lightened up a little and walked”.
These events were taking place in the 1830s and many people became interested naturally and interviewed the persons cured. The second man then dropped his previous life, came to Sarov whereupon he tried to help Seraphim with his work [Seraphim being then a very old man] as much as he could. They spent much time in prayer and speaking about the world of Grace and the Holy Spirit, and this man felt that often when they spoke he could see Seraphim begin to actually glow, sometimes with blinding brightness. Whether anyone else attested to this claim, I do not know.

Regardless of what we choose to believe, the Russian people began to hear about and reverence Seraphim and his counsel and healing talents. This extended even up to the Czar himself. The above is a picture taken of the procession led by Czar Nicholas upon the celebration of the canonization of the Saint [It’s from the article.]
Seraphim was just as much a spiritual “power” after his death as before. In fact upon the taking over of Russia by the Bolsheviks, they, with their atheistic fear of the “fifth column” of religious faith, began systematically destroying and/or closing Orthodox cathedrals and shrines all over the nation. Particularly on their hit list was the shrine of Seraphim in Sarov and its pilgrim attraction of the healing stream. Seraphim’s remains even were stolen and hidden away in a secret location [they were restored to the convent near Sarov in recent times].

What did the Soviets fear? They feared the fact that pilgrims continued to pour into Sarov to partake of the healing waters of what was felt to be a miraculous stream. Such continued reinforcement of the faith in a Higher Power was not in the tyranny’s best interests.
This tradition of healing had begun when Seraphim was having one of his visions of the Blessed Virgin [alongside Sts. John and Peter], and She struck the ground with her staff, bringing forth the healing stream. Afterwards many came to bathe and seek cures — thus the comparison with France’s Lourdes. Our “intellectual” interest is, of course, DID any of them get cures?
That of course is a pretty tough topic to get good data on, as the Sarov site seems to have nothing in place like the Church initiated at Lourdes to document if any miraculous cures occurred. All I can do for you is give the impressions of the writer of the article, who tried to observe as much as he could about this topic, merely by just being around, looking, and asking. [This guy, by the way, was no full blown romantic about this; his attitude seems fairly cool and not in the least a cheerleader].
Here is what he saw. At both the well site and the stream there were policemen trying to keep the massive crowds in some civilized order and priests scattered about who would listen to the pilgrims who felt that they had just had a cure of some kind, and register them. The lines at the two sites were hundreds of yards long. MacGowan felt that most of the afflictions that he witnessed were forms of hysteria. Some of these cases were interpreted as demonic possession. One priest on the grounds had a reputation for efficacious cures of such possessions, and MacGowan witnessed some non-debatable calming effect coincident with what the priest was doing. He refused to speculate as to whether that had to do with treatment in the waters, prayers by the priest, or merely a change of mindset of the cured.
MacGowan witnessed the apparent cure of a woman with a deformed hand. Here the priest bathed her hand in the water while exhorting the faithful to pray along with him for her cure. He then pressed his own hand onto hers, straightening it. She then was told to make the sign of the cross with that hand. Going back to her hand, she was told to continue to make that sign of the cross several more times, which she was able to do. In this sense her hand was at least temporarily straightened. MacGowan then remarked that he could not afterwards determine whether anyone had any information as to whether the hand remained cured. Regardless, this overt demonstration before hundreds served to affirm the faith in the waters.
Generally speaking, MacGowan had little luck in following up anything. The atmosphere of the place was all wrong for that. Questions about the reality of the cures was pretty much akin to sacrilegious behavior. He did notice some evidence of what he called “imposture”. One woman was going about claiming a cure and would tell you about it if you gave a coin.
The actual Church records for the canonization of Seraphim list many cures in the period following his death, which the cured persons attributed to him. All but two of these, interestingly, were to peasant women. These included the straightening of deformed extremities, cures of paralysis, fever, blindness, rheumatism, epilepsy, chronic headache, pains, loss of hearing, and skin diseases. In an exceptionally spectacular case, a child was healed of deafness and inability to speak just as the image of Seraphim was passing by. As the crowd went wild and gave much money to the family spontaneously, I believe that MacGowan had his doubts, even though he did not express them concretely. Another case of a mother with her blind child suddenly cured at the well after drinking seems a similar situation in MacGowan’s mind.

It’s too sketchy for us to say how much if any healing has gone on at Sarov, as the “records” aren’t available to us, and seem to have been kept MUCH more crudely than those at Lourdes. But Lourdes seems to indicate that such cures are truly possible. I’ve read a lot of the Lourdes Commission’s records and some of the cases are extremely impressive [and really hard-nosed as far as the way they were critiqued]. For me, the point of this is not whether some people get cures, even of a significant sort, but how?
There are several hypotheses out there. The fellow above, an SSE colleague of mine, Bob Jahn of Princeton, has set a feasibility groundwork for one of these: paranormal healing by psychokinesis. Bob doesn’t talk of this particularly, and what his work has demonstrated [over and over] is the step before this: that the human mind can generate PK at all. Jahn and the Princeton team have demonstrated the reality of micro-PK to any but the most closed minds. If micro-PK is possible, it is a fairly small step from that to the idea that another mind/healer might influence either the mind’s own full powers in self-healing, or even the point of cure in the body itself. Seraphim somehow “knew” just what was wrong with his visitors’ health. He could “direct” his prayers there. Seraphim felt that the cures were God’s, thus making this insight irrelevant, but maybe the vessel-of-transmission [Seraphim] played a role, too.

Above, in my friend Larry Dossey — another SSE colleague. Larry probably knows more about alternative healing claims than any other human being. He has a lifetime of studying this, a spinoff from his “normal” life as an MD. He has written in many places of his confidence that not only do many alternative methods have the ability to affect cures, but that there is plenty of data supporting that.
Larry wrote in his 2001 book, Healing Beyond the Body, that there is much healing to be had by all of us, but that the modern world, since about the 1600s on, has been systematically expunging the “Enchantment” of the world in its pursuit of materialist rationalism. This is an opinion that he and I precisely share along with the further belief that it is one of our most foolish cultural evolutions.
He and I don’t quite see the Enchantment identically, but that’s OK; I could comfortably live in his world, and I’ll bet he in mine. Larry sees the lost or disappearing enchantment mostly as a loss of our in-touchness with the life and essential unity of everything about us. We are losing our “mystical” sense, and with that, the ability to profoundly join into communion with the “other”. It is that in-touchedness that allows, for instance, all sorts of “faith” or “distant” healing. It is in that that we feel where harmony resides and where it does not. Perhaps just like Seraphim.
I actually like all of that. For me, however, there is more “out there”, though. Larry thinks that much of the inexplicable occurs through the Trickster phenomenon, but that it is we who are the Tricksters. Well, maybe, some of the time. But you know my view of the Trickster. For me those characters are usually conscious entities not ourselves, and mainly having a different [and paranormal/spiritual] base. They can be meddlers in our business whether we are mystics and cosmic harmonizers or not. But, on this current topic, that may not matter much. Seraphim seems like a very good candidate for a nature-communing spiritually-based harmonizer and consequently a man capable of assisting cures. Whether that goes on after his death, at Sarov, is another question.

So, I’ll still say my prayers in the company of Nature…
… and so should you.

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Spirituality

Laura Eisenhower: Galactic Astrology and the Inner Work

Laura Eisenhower on The Cosmic Secret and understanding the planetary, galactic, and cosmic support that Humanity continues to receive in the Awakening transitions. Laura and Kalyn, on a fascinating crash course in Galactic Astrology as they discuss healing the bridge between Science and Spirituality and the tools we can use to smooth out the bumpy road of Inner Work

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Spirituality

The Ley Lines: could they influence the Earth in any physical way?

Credit: lifecoachcode.com.

The Ley lines would be “subtle” magnetic energy flows that would be found throughout the Earth. They would physically influence the places they travel.

The Ley Lines are hypothetical energy routes that run throughout the Earth. According to experts on this subject, many ancient megalithic monuments were built in vortices or intersection points of these lines (like Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Egypt). These routes would establish a planetary harmonical energy and it is thought that would influence the ecology of the planet, since the energy would be perceived concentrated in fertile natural places such as mountains, lakes and forests. They would also affect the human beings!

This kind of Energy has been referred to as “subtle” or “etheric”, since it is different from the types of magnetic energy that science knows. Different ancient cultures would also have called them: dragon trails, dragon currents or snake paths.

The Law Lines: could they influence the Earth in any physical way?
The so-called San Miguel Law Line, with several sacred places lined up by Europe (Public domain).

The term was coined in 1921 by amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins, who observed a alignment of several megalithic monuments and ancient places from Great Britain. First it was considered that the Ley Lines were only alignments, but then they were given an esoteric character, with the rectilinear flow of that subtle energy of the Earth.

The Ley Lines influence the ecology of the Earth

Theorists of this esoteric phenomenon say that the lines intersect in several places, forming power points or vortex points around the planet. These vortex points would influence the ecology and life of each place. This is also related to the so-called geomancy.

In fact, this concept has bases in the ancient Chinese religious philosophy of feng shui. Feng shui speaks of chi, or “vital breath” that moves in currents and is affected by the shapes, space and direction of the cardinal points. The art of feng shui seeks to perceive the flow of lung-mei or dragon currents and accommodate space and objects to benefit that flow.

The Law Lines: could they influence the Earth in any physical way?
Another illustration of the lines, look at the vortex of Giza, Egypt (Public domain).

The Ley lines, and especially the vortex points, would be places of concentration of positive chi (energy). A great natural example where this occurs is a valley surrounded by hills: the mountainous circle would create a vortex point of etheric energy, forming a kind of shield and fortress. The green valley with the help of that vortex, attracts water currents and creates fertile soils.

In druid belief, the energy of the Earth was called wyvern, and it slid across the ground. The wyvern lines transmitted life (or vitality) and fertilized the land.

Magnetism affects water and earth

You have to keep in mind that magnetism affects water (can purify it). According to researcher Rene Noorbergen, the ancient civilizations knew about Earth’s magnetism (or of one type of energy, at least) and that would have been used to fertilize the earth (Modern horticulturists know about the fertilizing properties of magnetic fields).

The Law Lines: could they influence the Earth in any physical way?
Malvern hills in England. Alfred Watkins thought that a LeyLine passed along its mountainous ridge. Credit: Daderot / Wikimedia commons.

In the vortex points too, observable energy phenomena would be generated, like strange lights that have been reported near a Dolmen monument  in Loon and near a monastery in Aduard, both in the Netherlands.

Will the existence of these Ley lines be possible? Scientists have not really investigated this, but it is known that the Earth has enough movement of magnetic energy which, in addition to the known electromagnetic spectrum, is very wide, with different wavelengths (such as visible light and X-rays).

References: EarthGeomancy / Ancient-Wisdom / LeyLijnen / IntuitiveDoc.

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Spirituality

The secret séance rituals of America’s largest Spiritualist community

Eric Spitznagel
NY Post

Medium Annette Rodgers leads a séance, allegedly with the help of her deceased daughter, Lauren.

Shannon Taggart was never a big believer in ghosts. But that changed in 2001, during one of her first visits to Lily Dale — a hamlet in southwestern New York state that’s home to the world’s largest spiritualist community.

The Brooklyn photojournalist was taken by surprise while watching a private reading with Gretchen Clark, a fifth-generation medium.

“All of a sudden, she started laughing at nothing,” Taggart tells The Post. “Apparently the spirit of her brother was in the room and told her a joke.”

“I told him not to interrupt me while I’m working,” Clark explained to her client and then turned to an empty spot and yelled, “Chapman, we’ve talked about this!”

She composed herself and returned to the reading and then just as quickly turned back to Taggart.

“Margaret’s here,” Clark announced.

“Margaret? I don’t know any Margaret,” Taggart insisted.

Clark closed her eyes and listened. “She says ‘Texas.’ What does ‘Texas’ mean?”

Taggart instantly knew. “My great aunt Margaret lived in Texas and she’d died a few months earlier,” Taggart says. “I’d totally forgotten. My whole body just tensed up. It was truly spooky.”

That encounter was just the beginning of a spiritual awakening for Taggart, who would spend the next 18 years documenting mediums in New York as well as Essex, England, and Antequera, Spain. More than 150 of her photographs, many never before seen, are published in her new book Séance (Fulgur Press).

Taggart didn’t set out to prove or disprove spiritualism. Rather, she says, she was driven by “a sinking feeling that these mediums knew something about life that I didn’t.”

When she first traveled to Lily Dale, it was out of curiosity.

Years earlier, her cousin had learned from a medium that their grandfather hadn’t died from heart disease — as Taggart had always believed — but by asphyxiation. She laughed off the story, until her parents confirmed it.

“Someone at the hospital put food into his mouth and left him alone,” her father had said, “and he choked.”

This story stayed with Taggart over the years, and she became consumed with “how a total stranger could have known the details of this tragedy.”

In 2001, at age 26, she decided to visit Lily Dale despite knowing nothing about the place except that it was a short drive from Buffalo, where she grew up, and the medium who revealed her grandfather’s secret had lived there.

The town was founded as a gated spiritualist summer retreat in 1879, and not much has changed since then. With a population of some 275 residents — many of whom are practicing mediums — it looks like a town frozen in the mid-19th century. Narrow roads are lined with old-fashioned houses, many adorned with signs announcing “the medium is in.” A rickety wooden auditorium in the center of town is typically “papered with flyers advertising trumpet séances, past-life regressions, astral-travel workshops, spoon-bending classes and circles to develop mediumship,” Taggart writes.

She arrived with no plan and was initially too nervous to do anything but drive around.

But Taggart eventually wrote a letter to the Lily Dale Assembly’s board of directors asking permission to take photos during what she first thought would be “one summer making a photo essay about this quirky little town.”

“I would just wander around and literally knock on people’s doors and say, ‘Would you talk to me? Would you teach me about spiritualism?’ ” she recalled. “And they very graciously did.”

medium letters

A medium claims to have received letters under her pillow from a man who lived in the 1800s after meeting him through a Ouija board.

What she learned from them wasn’t necessarily how to communicate with ghosts. It was a peek into a shadowy subculture that “was once a seminal force in Western culture,” Taggart writes. “A legacy that was absent from every textbook I had ever studied, including my histories of photography.”

Spiritualism — a belief system based not just on the existence of spirits, but the idea that they want to stay in contact with the living — was once part of the mainstream. It was embraced by public figures like psychoanalyst Carl Jung, evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, poet William Butler Yeats and even Abraham Lincoln. But today, it’s almost entirely hidden.

“It flourishes in fiction and entertainment but is marginalized by academia and the media,” Taggart writes. The contemporary Western worldview is that spiritualism is the stuff of fiction. But after what Taggart witnessed, and photographed, she wasn’t so sure.

As her exploration took her overseas, she learned that not all mediums started out wanting to be mediums.

Reverend Jane from Erie, Pa., found the calling at age 6, when “she saw a spirit standing inside her grandmother’s closet,” Taggart writes, and discovered she could make supermarket cans fly across shelves and candles do somersaults in the air.

Others came to it after being triggered by the grief of losing a loved one.

British medium Simone Key, a lifelong atheist, was drawn to spiritualism after her mother passed and she began getting messages, on her long-broken word processor, that read: “We must communicate.”

Annette Rodgers of Essex, England, felt the calling after her 16-year-old daughter, Lauren, died from a heroin overdose. Two years later, still deep in depression, Rodgers attended a spiritualist church “on a whim and immediately felt ‘Yes, this is what I need,’ ” she told Taggart.

She now runs a spiritualist center in Spain and says her dead daughter visits regularly.

Lily dale museum

Dorothy Pries works at the Lily Dale Museum

“I once saw Lauren turn Annette’s iPhone around on a table,” a fellow medium recounted to Taggart. “Her connection to her mother is that strong.”

But mediumship isn’t limited to communication with dead loved ones. Sometimes things get awkward.

Lily Dale medium Betty Schultz recalled a reading she had with a Catholic priest who was a regular client. “The spirits showed Betty a baby who had died and told her the priest was its father,” Taggart writes. Betty silently insisted to the spirits that there was no way she’d be sharing this information.

Without explaining why, she sent him to another medium — who later scolded Schultz: “Why didn’t you give that man the message from his baby?”

Taggart developed close friendships with some of her photo subjects, like Lauren Thibodeau, a longtime Lily Dale resident who found her way to spiritualism without any warning. She explained how she first went into a trance on New Year’s Eve 1989 in front of her husband and his friend, the best man from their wedding, “who never came to their home again,” writes Taggart.

Thibodeau shared one of the biggest headaches of spiritualism: uninvited famous people. Most mediums want nothing to do with celebrity ghosts — there’s no faster way to drive away an on-the-fence skeptic than “I have a message from Albert Einstein” — but Thibodeau says it’s sometimes unavoidable.

She remembers a session in which Elvis Presley’s ghost showed up unannounced.

“No!” Thibodeau shouted at the ghost. “I’m not doing this, get out of here!”

When the spirit refused to leave, Thibodeau apologized to her clients. “I’m sorry, I have Elvis here and I don’t know why,” she said. She then learned that the mother of the woman she was doing a reading for had been a housekeeper at Graceland.

For Thibodeau, it was a lesson in not being too quick to cast judgment. “Now, any time a spirit comes, regardless of who they are, I’ll give a message,” she told Taggart. “I don’t shoo them away. We communicate with dead people, and a dead celebrity is still dead.”

Even after almost two decades following mediums, Taggart isn’t sure she’d call herself a believer just yet. “I no longer subscribe to the popular belief that spiritualists are charlatans just trying to make money off of people,” Taggart says. “For the most part, I found them to be very sincere.”

But as for whether she believes in ghosts and life after death, the now 44-year-old is still on the fence. The closest she comes to sounding like a convert is when discussing an unsettling experience from 2013. It happened while she was visiting Sylvia and Chris Howarth, a married medium couple in England.

The morning after watching Sylvia do a séance in the dark — something the experienced spiritualist rarely did because “sometimes the phenomena continued into the next day” — Taggart was making tea in their kitchen and reached to open a cupboard.

“The ceramic knob exploded in my hands,” Taggart remembers. “Half of it shot into the air and crashed to the floor. The other half became razor-sharp and cut into my hand, and it started gushing blood.” Chris ran into the room, reached for the broken knob, and soon he was bleeding too.

“Just telling that story again, it gives me chills,” Taggart says.

So was it a paranormal encounter? She isn’t sure.

“All I know is, I still have a scar because of what happened that day,” she says. “And I still think about it all the time. So who knows?”

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