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  1. Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State (SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions)
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  2. Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State (SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions)

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A guide to the phenomenal crop of prophets, cults, and utopian communities that arose in Upstate New York from 1776 to 1914.

From 1776 to 1914, an amazing collection of prophets, mediums, sects, cults, utopian communities, and spiritual leaders arose in Upstate New York. Along with the best known of these, such as the Shakers, Mormons, and Spiritualists, this book explores more than forty other spiritual leaders or groups, some of them virtually unknown, but all of them fascinating. The author uncovers common threads that characterize these homegrown spiritualities, including roots in Western esoteric traditions, liberation from the psychological pressures of dogmatic Christianity, a preoccupation with sex, and involvement in the radical reform movements of the day. In addition to maps and photographs of surviving buildings and monuments, the book also features a gazetteer of sites listing 150 locations connected to these groups, which may be used as a helpful travel guide to the region.

“The dean of alternative spiritual history produces one of his central and most thoughtful works in Upstate Cauldron. This book is more than a cauldron: It is a melting pot into which Joscelyn Godwin blends the diffuse and complex religious movements that once converged in Upstate New York to show how we became a modern civilization indelibly stamped by the experience of spiritual outsiders. This is both splendid history and a book of wonders in uncovering lost fragments of our world. Throw away your highlighter—because you won’t know where to stop.” — Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America: White House Séances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation

“Joscelyn Godwin has written a book that is very difficult to put down, introducing us to the most wonderful and exotic individuals. He tells the story of a little-known historical chapter of the area with insight and great liveliness. As the author myself of a half dozen books about Upstate New York, I found this book irresistible and absorbing.” — Chuck D’Imperio, author of Unknown Museums of Upstate New York: A Guide to 50 Treasures

“Destined to become the definitive book on eccentric religion in this geographical area, this is a fascinating account of unusual and inventive religious figures and movements. Sure-handed, even-tempered, and wry, Joscelyn Godwin is the ideal guide, and his book is one that all readers will want to have in hand as they explore this historically rich and important region. What’s more, it is an important book for understanding a vital part of American religious history.” — Arthur Versluis, author of American Gurus: From Transcendentalism to New Age Religion

Joscelyn Godwin is Professor of Music at Colgate University. He has written many books on music, mysticism, and Western esoteric traditions.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

I am really enjoying it. There is much here I have not read elsewhere, so I thank the author.
Not much (if any) analysis. It does identify a range of eccentric, nonorthodox religious traditions, providing basic information about them. I expect more from a book published on a university press.
Professor Godwin has written a epoch making work on the history of religion in America that is remarkably good! Focusing on those groups that sprang from or intersected with the burned over, hallowed ground district of upstate and western New York. The sacred traditions, religious movements and leaders of these often forgotten sects are examined in rich detail. Placing the foundations of those groups in a historic perspective with the interdependent elements that lead to their development and often the appeal of these groups and the motivation of followers that affirmed the teachings.

The examination of these traditions proves that America in its relatively short history has been host and home to a rich spiritual mystery tradition. The array of sects examined proves the spiritual diversity unique to this country, demonstrating that the recent cults that find fertile ground in California are neither unique to that location or of recent creation. Spiritual renegades have... Read more
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