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Upstate Cauldron
Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State
Upstate Cauldron
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Joscelyn Godwin - Author
Excelsior Editions
SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions
Price: $95.00 
Hardcover - 386 pages
Release Date: June 2015
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-5595-2

Price: $33.95 
Paperback - 386 pages
Release Date: June 2015
ISBN13: 978-1-4384-5594-5

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Summary Read First Chapter image missing

Bronze Medalist 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the US Northeast – Best Regional Non-Fiction Category

ForeWord INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award in the Religion Category

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.

“…an encyclopedic tour…” — Kaatskill Life

“Godwin’s conversational style and his attention to narrative detail make Upstate Cauldron a book that would be appreciated by academic and non-academic audiences alike. As a survey text, this book is invaluable, pointing to areas that are currently under-researched in the field, offering suggestions for further study. But any reader interested in the history of upstate New York would come away with an enriched appreciation for the region’s history and culture.” — Nova Religio

“...[Godwin] has made a solid contribution to the genre with Upstate Cauldron, building most capably on the work of his noted predecessors … It is a solid book that will stand as a classic exposition of the often-misunderstood world of religious change and innovation.” — Communal Societies

“ after page of fascinating detail.” — Journal of Mormon History

“Every chapter of this book has a wealth of intriguing details. Godwin excels at telling the personal stories of preachers and prophets … very nicely written and endlessly fascinating.” — Magonia Review of Books

“…a very readable, enjoyable book, and its engaging and wide-ranging coverage of the spiritual territory of upstate New York would make it a good starting point for anyone beginning research into nineteenth- or early twentieth-century spiritual phenomena.” — H-Net Review (H-AmRel)

“…[a] fascinating study of alternative religions, utopian communities, and Doomsday cults.” — Chronogram

Upstate Cauldron is both academically solid and wildly entertaining … Godwin has the poet’s pen.” — Fortean Times

“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

“What a fascinating book! Upstate Cauldron takes a refreshing and new look at the period of time when Upstate New York was the center of the Spiritualist movement in America. Joscelyn Godwin has written a book that is very difficult to put down, introducing us to the most wonderful and exotic individuals. People like Timothy Brown, who built one of the most intricate (and most photographed) homes in Central New York with his own hands and out of his own head. Can you say ‘spiritual guidance’? And we meet Kate and Maggie Fox, who may have been America’s earliest rap stars. The fabulous Fox sisters used secret rapping sounds to convince converts that they were communicating with the ‘other world.’ Anthony Damiani was a spiritual godfather to many young people in the university city of Ithaca. He doled out his visions of wisdom on Ithaca’s main street, and when done, raced fifty miles to his job as a New York State Thruway toll taker. These are just some of the sometimes incredible, sometimes bizarre, but always interesting people at the core of Upstate’s Spiritualism history. Godwin 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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Table of Contents


1. The Historical Background

2. The Religious Background

3. The Female Face of God

4. The Indian Tragedy

5. Sleeping Preachers

6. Mormon Roots

7. The Square and Compass

8. Not the End of the World

9. Not the End of the World

10. Perfection in This Life

11. The Poughkeepsie Seer

12. Rapping Spirits

13. The Progressives Take Notice

14. Sex, Drugs, and Mirrors

15. Chautauqua Follies

16. Open Breathing

17. Practical Spirits

18. Theosophy, from Ithaca to Halcyon

19. The Hollow Earth

20. Freethought

21. Oz and Ends

22. The Fra

23. The Craftsman

24. The Rochester Yogi

25. The Cauldron Refired

Gazetteer of Sites

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