(Reprinted with permission from Library Journal, written by Robert Nixon.)
This book of seven chapters by various qualified scholars and observers provides a fascinating look at Cassadaga, a Spiritualist community formed over a century ago just north of Orlando. Beginning with the early history of Spiritualism in America, the book describes the founding of Cassadaga and its ongoing development, including its interaction with New Age spiritual ideas. The editors, professors of history, religious studies, and art, provide a good explanation of the Spiritualist belief system (which holds that the spirits of the dead interact with the living) and a detailed description of several healing services and spirit readings. They also probe the community’s relationship with people from the surrounding area. A number of interviews with long-term residents, a chapter on the community’s distinctive architecture, a pictorial study, and an excellent bibliography enliven the book. This is an objective and readable description of a distinctive and largely unknown faith in American religion.
However bizarre outsiders might consider Spiritualism and its adherents, the religion expresses the same spiritual longings that move people to join other religious bodies. Belief in immortality, curiosity about an afterlife, and the desire to establish communication with a higher spiritual world are as old and widespread as humanity. Yet modern Spiritualism is also a product...of nineteenth-century America.
—Cassadaga: The South’s Oldest Spiritualist Community