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The secret séance rituals of America’s largest Spiritualist community

The secret séance rituals of America's largest Spiritualist community 86

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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Spirituality

The Path to Repentance: The world is on the verge of the most terrible events

The Path to Repentance: The world is on the verge of the most terrible events 87

Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, who lived as an ascetic in Arizona, appeared to a woman in Northern Greece, a long-time spiritual daughter of the elder. At the time of the appearance she was with her daughter-in-law; she was not asleep but actually in a state of alertness.

At one point the woman was unresponsive, as if in ecstasy,* and this lasted for about 10 minutes, according to her daughter-in-law who was watching her. She did not realize or comprehend the time duration — i.e., for how long the vision lasted.

It was something new for her (the content of the conversation) because she has seen the Elder before, after his repose, both in her sleep as well while she was awake. Due to all this (her shock), she contacted her spiritual father and asked whether this experience was real or a deception by the evil one.

She saw Elder Ephraim and he was very sad and was imploring Christ that the ongoing [direction of] events be averted (all this, of course, is in agreement with what the elder said to many while he was alive).

And he told her:

‘Repentance repentance repentance. Christ is very angry…
We, modern people, should not be in such a deplorable spiritual state…
Huge disasters are coming, you cannot even imagine what scale..

Alas to all of you for what awaits you; you must repent as long as there is time…
You need to kneel and cry, to shed tears of repentance, that Christ soften…
This has to do with what is happening in America as well.
Many people will depart through all that is to come, many people will depart (they will die).
You are ruthless towards each other; you have no mercy.
You are so cruel that you are ready to devour each other….
Tell all of this to your spiritual father and to others….’

And as the elder said – so it will be.

The woman who saw this was a spiritual daughter of Elder Ephraim and was in communication with him often up until his repose.

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Spirituality

The ABC of Yoga: Opening the Sixth Ajna Chakra

The ABC of Yoga: Opening the Sixth Ajna Chakra 88

From Sanskrit “ajna” is translated as “order”. The fact is that the sixth chakra in the human body is a kind of command post in relation to other chakras. It is also called the “third eye” chakra, as it is located between the eyebrows. 

Ajna is responsible for memory, intuition, wisdom, objectivity, clairvoyance, willpower. Thanks to the sixth chakra, the right and left hemispheres of our brain, mind and logic, intuition and mysticism are balanced.

The ABC of Yoga: Opening the Sixth Ajna Chakra 89

Ajna’s color is indigo. Its symbol is an eye-shaped two-petalled lotus.
Stones that contribute to the opening of the sixth chakra are sapphire, amethyst, labradorite, lapis lazuli, blue aventurine. But the third eye chakra has no aroma and taste. Moreover, it is often associated with the cold light of the autumn and winter full moon.

Ajna is responsible for the functioning of the brain, nervous system, nose, eyes, ears, the main gland of our body – the pituitary gland. Therefore, if you have problems in these areas, they will first of all indicate a closed sixth chakra.

Also, about violations and blocking in Ajna will be prompted by such states as a lack of understanding of the goals and meaning of life, anxiety, fears, anxiety, illusions, pride, unwillingness to take responsibility, blaming others for their own failures, a sense of their own superiority or, conversely, a sense of their own failure , timidity, suicidal mood. 

Frequent satellites of the closed sixth chakra are headaches, insomnia, nervous disorders, alcoholism, staying in an illusory fantasy world, far from reality. The devastation of energy in Ajna can lead to such sad consequences as blindness, loss of hearing, smell, memory, brain tumors, etc.

If Ajna is harmoniously developed, then a person is psychologically stable, has wisdom and good intuition, has a good memory, knows how to live in the flow, in the present moment, without dwelling on the past and not worrying about the future. 

People with strong Ajna tend to have psychic skills and the gift of clairvoyance. They manage to break the karmic connections of past lives and get out of the wheel of Samsara. It is often possible to hear from such people that they felt an enlightenment, that they received their knowledge from above, without ever learning it.

The ABC of Yoga: Opening the Sixth Ajna Chakra 90

Full opening of the sixth chakra gives an understanding of all the processes taking place in the Universe, acceptance of any life situations without anger and suffering. This is a kind of enlightenment, the highest wisdom, unconditional love for all living things, which, unfortunately, is given to a few. 

A striking example of the opening of Ajna is the Saints in all religions. Unfortunately, the majority of people with an undeveloped or poorly developed sixth chakra, a person with an open Ajna may seem strange, “out of this world”. These features can even make communication difficult.

It is no coincidence that the Ajna chakra is considered to be the link between the divine spirit and the human ego. Above Ajna, only the seventh chakra is Sahasrara. But the opening of the latter is impossible without a developed third eye chakra. However, it is also impossible to deal with the harmonization of Ajna in isolation. 

First, you should open the five lower chakras – Vishuddhi, Anahata, Manipura, Svadhisthana and Muladhara, which we have already considered on the previous yoga pages of our magazine.

The ABC of Yoga: Opening the Sixth Ajna Chakra 91

Why is Ajna blocked?

First , chakra clogs up when you stray too far from your true purpose. To get back to normal, ask yourself if you like what you do in life. If the answer is no, constantly ask yourself what you really want that would make you truly happy.

Secondly , Ajna blockage happens when you look at the world “through rose-colored glasses” and constantly live with illusions. Try to focus on the present moment and learn to be happy in it. Various meditations will help this. At the same time, you should not take other people’s negative emotions at your own expense, blame others for bad mood and failures. One should look at the present a little distantly, taking the position of an observer.

Thirdly , the sixth chakra enters into dissonance, when a person cannot accept some life circumstances, constantly scrolls in his head another potential scenario for the development of events, which is no longer destined to come true.

Fourthly , pride is a great evil for the development of Ajna. When a person thinks himself better or higher than others, falls into a star fever, spiritual knowledge is automatically closed to him.

The chakra of the third eye is activated by chanting the mantra AUM.

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Spirituality

Universal Computer: Formula for God’s existence

Universal Computer: Formula for God's existence 92

We all learned at school that “matter is an objective reality given to us in sensations.” That is, matter is something that you can touch. And if not? Sometimes there is an inextricable connection between completely different phenomena, which cannot be explained by any physical, material laws. 

Maybe this is the proof of the existence of the Higher Mind? After all, somewhere there must be information about the structure of all things in the universe, about the structure of atoms, planets, DNA, about their development, about the past, present and future of the infinite universe.

The language of the Universal Computer

First of all, let us take it as an axiom that our world is multidimensional. However, there is no doubt that all planes of being are connected with each other by some key structure. The Universe is a single information system, similar to a computer. The presence of subtle informational connections between its objects explains most of the phenomena that are now commonly referred to as parapsychology.

Nowadays, a new science has been born – linguobiology, which arose at the junction of linguistics and biology. It is based on the doctrine of language as a universal code of the universe.

In fact, this idea has been encountered earlier in some philosophical teachings. Thus, the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) in his work “Logical-Philosophical Treatise” (1921) put forward the concept of a “logically perfect” or “ideal” language capable of describing the entire body of knowledge about the world.

One of the founders of linguobiology is the poet and linguist Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996), who spoke about the process of language self-knowledge.

In general, there is an opinion that all words are the product of the primary semantic code of the Universe. Moreover, we are talking not only about words, but also about the macro- and microcosm, genetic and molecular structures.

But any operating system is based on a certain code language. Why not assume that the “Universal Computer” is also based on a complex system of codes that determine how the world “programs” work? Otherwise, chaos would reign in the world, and our existence with you would hardly be possible.

In other words, any event in the world is subject to a certain algorithm. Algorithms for different events and objects are able to coincide, differ, consist of repetitive commands, and so on. Moreover, information can be given to us in an explicit form: in the form of some symbols, records, drawings, numerical and letter sequences … Having learned to read these messages of the Higher Powers, we will be able to more accurately navigate this reality, more objectively assess the past and present and even predict the future.

What is Encrypted in the Bible?

At the same time, probably, almost none of us living, do not doubt the existence of God, or the Highest cosmic principle. But in the hands of researchers there is only indirect evidence of Divine intervention in life on Earth – information received from contactees and eyewitnesses of anomalous phenomena, which is often impossible to verify.

Thus, S. Pervozvansky, a contactee from Lvov, claims that all life on Earth is a single organism. The stages of its development are pre-programmed. At a certain stage, humanity begins to form, which is a nervous system. Then each of the “nerve cells” is endowed with a soul. Over time, they will merge together, and each individual will cease to exist as an independent person. An environmental crisis is also inevitable, due to the accumulation of waste products of the body. All cataclysms on the planet are also programmed.

It makes no sense to discuss how all this corresponds to reality. There is only one thing that attracts attention here – we are talking about the program. The program for the development of life on Earth!

This raises many questions. And above all, how did the Higher Mind manage to model such an all-encompassing sign system? In this regard, the discovery of the biblical code made by the Russian mathematician and programmer Eliyahu Rips who emigrated to Israel is of particular interest. Fate brought him together with the American journalist Michael Droznin. Rips offered him his computer program, with the help of which he continued his own study of the Bible. The result of this work was the book “The Bible Code. Cryptography of the future ”.

Droznin counted as many as six references to the word “computer” in the Bible! All of them are associated with the concept of “thought”, and four of them – with a description of the ark of the Lord, in which the ancient Israelites kept the tablets with God’s commandments: “The tablets were the work of God, and the letters inscribed on the tablets were the letters of God” (Exodus 32, sixteen). In this text, the message is encrypted: “This was done by a computer – the letters of God inscribed on the tablets.” There are also words: “The Bible code – sealed before God.”

It stands for this: “Computer – the words were sealed until recently.” “Sealed” – this is undoubtedly an encoded text. But why did you need to code it? Perhaps the answer lies in the word “computer”. The compiler of the universal program knew that over time, mankind will come up with electronic computers and find the code! However, in this case, why not give a forecast without encryption? Maybe at earlier stages humanity was not ready to perceive such information? Or … knowledge of the future should come to people at a critical moment in history and serve as a warning to them?

The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 4.24 light years away. If you try to cover this distance in a car at 100 km / h, you will have to drive about 48 million years.

“Axis of Evil”

There is also a lot of quite weighty, by no means mystical evidence of the presence in the Universe of some “outside” force.

Not so long ago, an American space probe designed to measure the temperature of radiation from different parts of galaxies discovered in space a strange linear region that permeates the universe. It turned out that it is this line that forms the spatial model of the universe.

So, according to the theory of relativity, the universe after the Big Bang developed chaotically. However, measurements of the temperature of the relict radiation indicate that a certain systematic order is visible in the structure of the Universe. At the same time, its entire structure is formed around a mysterious line, which has already been dubbed the “axis of evil” (its discovery casts doubt on all modern ideas about the origin of the universe and its development, including Einstein’s theory of relativity, for which it was given such an unflattering name).

Astrophysicists Stephen Hsu of the University of Oregon and Anthony Zee of the University of California believe that the “map” of the relic radiation is a kind of “message from the Creator” intended for decoding by a highly developed civilization. They calculated that a “cipher program” can contain about 10 kilobytes of information. Unfortunately, it is impossible to read it yet, since modern technologies do not allow detecting small temperature fluctuations.

Universal substance

But Stephen Enwin from the University of Manchester (Britain) claims that he managed to derive, no less, a formula … for the existence of God! For the calculations, the scientist used a formula that calculates the likelihood of rare events. As its constituents, various factors are set in it that can affect the possibility that an event will occur. Enwin suggested that in this case, such factors are various natural disasters, deadly diseases – “natural evil” – and belief in the Higher powers. Taking into account these influences, the probability of God’s existence is as much as 67%!

Most likely, we are talking about some kind of universal substance that defies description. In a sense, it is alive, for it permeates all life in the Universe. It is this Absolute that establishes the laws between the various categories of the universe. And we see its manifestations in every particle of being.

So there is a God! But we want to believe that we are not hostages of our own future and are capable of changing it at will. We have the freedom to choose: reason or madness, order or chaos, rebirth or disaster …

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