For a ‘spiritual’ day trip, visit Cassadaga


By Victor Block

As my wife Fyllis and I contemplated our visit to a tiny town in Florida, the choices we faced were as intriguing as they were varied. Did we prefer to join a healing circle or seek spiritual counseling? Would we opt for a séance or a class in Ancient Wisdom Teachings?

This is how planning for a day trip to the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp went. Cassadaga was founded by a man from New York named George Colby, who reported that his “psychic guide” advised him to go to Florida and establish a spiritual center. Colby led several fellow believers there, purchased land and in 1894 incorporated the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association.

Tours are a popular pastime in Cassadaga
Tours are a popular pastime in Cassadaga
Photos/Victor Block

Today the camp – which is, in effect, a neighborhood-sized town — occupies 57 acres. Of its approximately 100 permanent residents, about 75 are spiritualists. In 1992, the village was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Bookstore & Welcome Center is the logical place to begin a visit. Its selection of books explores topics ranging from spiritualism, metaphysics and Buddhism to meditation, yoga and ghosts. Crystal balls and candles share shelf space with incense, Tibetan singing bowls and small statues of angels and fairies.

This is where most people choose the activities they wish to experience and make their arrangements. The names and telephone numbers of mediums and healers who are on duty that day are listed on a board, and business cards of dozens of other spiritualists are on display.

While Fyllis headed for a session with a “Certified Medium, Healer and Teacher,” I met with Reverend Doctor Louis Gates. In addition to providing services to clients, he is pastor of the Colby Memorial Temple. My goal was to learn more about spiritualism and he turned out to be a treasure-trove of knowledge.

I found Reverend Gates to be very affable and down-to-earth which, I concluded, are perfect traits for one who serves as both a pastor and a medium, healer and teacher. Our conversation began with a recounting of when the reverend first started to believe in the tenets of spiritualism. That occurred at the early age of three when he said his grandmother, who had died, appeared to him.

His brief description of Spiritualism led me to infer that it is a combination of religion, philosophy and, among its disciples, science. I found that I could relate to a number of the precepts that Reverend Gates outlined. He said it is very welcoming, accepting and supportive. The overall message is one of love and hope without a lot of dogma.

While I was receiving an introduction to Spiritualism, Fyllis was participating in a session with one of the practitioners who were on duty that day. She came away impressed with a number of the woman’s observations, and said she would adopt a wait-and-see attitude about others.

The overriding goal, I concluded, is one with which both believers and any doubters can relate, at least to some extent. For example, I suspect that many people agree with an inspirational saying on the wall of a bathroom in the lobby of the hotel: “Forgiveness lifts heaviness from the burdened heart.”

On the other hand, skeptics might have less faith in another nearby pronouncement, which reads: “I believe in fairies. I do, I do, I do.”

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