Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lessons from the Spirit World. Why McCain and Obama should visit Lily Dale

Where do you go to get your vision corrected, your crystal ball polished? I figured August offered one last chance to check the instruments before the campaign homestretch. And in an election year haunted by all kinds of ghosts, I thought I'd check in with the people who talk to the dead all the time--just to get a different feel for the spirits that move us.

A hundred years ago, the New York Times described the Lily Dale Assembly, a gated compound in far western New York State, as "the most famous and aristocratic spiritualistic camp in America." Freethinking, forward-leaning, this was a place for prophets of all kinds. Susan B. Anthony visited half a dozen times; Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt came, and Harry Houdini and Mae West, and seekers from around the world looking to explore the continuity between life and what locals refer to as "so-called death."

A company town of old oaks and Victorian gingerbread, Lily Dale specializes in building bridges to the Beyond. You can't buy a house here unless you are a practicing spiritualist. But anyone can stay in the Maplewood Hotel, which might be the perfect place for political junkies to detox. There are no TVs, no phones in the rooms. A sign is posted in the lobby: NO READINGS, HEALINGS, CIRCLES OR SÉANCES IN THIS AREA, PLEASE. This is the place to come if you're sick of the mainstream mediums.

"There are no strangers here," residents will tell you, just friendly souls who missed you the first time around. Days are filled with classes and lectures exploring the far corners of the otherworldly: Spoon Bending, Mask Making (in the past seven elections, the candidate with the best-selling Halloween mask has won), Past-Life Regression, Alien Abduction Case Histories. I missed the Astrology Roundtable, which explored how the transit of Pluto into Capricorn--occurring once every 248 years--affects me, the nation and the world.

The Crystal Cove Gift Shop offers all kinds of relief from the campaign trail. There are handy guidebooks--like The Beginner's Guide for the Recently Deceased--and trays of polished stones. Ametrine, perfect for prospective running mates, "releases tension, improves compatibility" while jasper promotes "harmony and global awareness." Ron Nagy, a historian and researcher at the local museum, leads Wednesday-evening Ghostwalks to help people learn to spot the spirits around them. I asked him about the mood of the country. He thinks that "if Obama wins, people will be scared to death, because he doesn't have much experience."

But to that challenge, Lily Dale offers an answer, which essentially comes down to better communication. "We believe spirit is always available if called to help," explains Lelia Cutler, a medium who serves as president of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches. She'd advise politicians to recruit their role models as advisers. "Say you're going to have a vote in Congress on a key bill on Social Security; wouldn't you think Franklin Roosevelt would be interested in what happens? Wouldn't you think Eisenhower would come and help with decisions having to do with the war?" she says. And she's just warming up. "I'd think Lincoln would be very interested in how all this plays out. I think he'd want to bring the country together, as he did in the Civil War. It was gray and blue then. It's red and blue now."

To believers, this town is hallowed ground; to skeptics, it's an amusement park. But whatever you expect to find here, Lily Dale offers a chastening lesson. I chatted with Ron Ehmke at the Good Vibrations Café; he's here celebrating his 48th birthday. He considers himself an open-minded skeptic, and he thinks America's mood right now is "pretty apocalyptic." But he hasn't come here looking for comfort. He's "come to be challenged by things that defy rationality--kind of like this campaign has defied rationality."

When the medium finished Ehmke's reading, she offered a blanket disclaimer: Bear in mind, she told him, that all of this can change because you have free will. Ehmke thinks there's a lesson there. "What worries me most is when politicians talk about their sense of destiny. I don't think there's some great Book of Life that foretells all things, and people--especially politicians--who think there is one tend to want to write that book themselves."

When certified clairvoyants operate on the premise that, whatever they may foresee, anything can still happen, the rest of us in the prediction business might try to find a little humility. The injunction not to try to write the end of the story applies to us as well; this fateful passage can't be polled, can't be foretold. We'll just have to wait, until the answers come to us.

(Article originally by Times, September 1st, Nancy Gibbs)

Love your way... you are Brilliant!

Alan Davidson is the author of the Free report

"Body Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your

Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a

Sensational Life"

available at www.throughyourbody.com

Alan is also the author of Body Brilliance:

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