Spiritualist Camp Meetings
Emma Hardinge Britten, “Spiritual Camp Meetings,” Nineteenth Century Miracles; or, Spirits and Their Work in Every Country of the Earth. A Complete Historical Compendium of the Great Movement Known as “Modern Spiritualism.” New York: William Britten, 1884, pp. 542-550.
[Partial quote from–http://www.spirithistory.com/80camps.html]
To a visitor who has never before beheld, or taken part in such a scene, a Spiritualistic camp meeting produces an indescribable feeling of strangeness and bewilderment, which scarcely allows him to determine whether he is under the influence of pleasure or pain. The gatherings are so vast, the scenes so new, and each member of the busy crowd seems so intent on pursuing his own special avocation, that a sense of loneliness, even of desolation, such as if often experienced by strangers in thronged cities, almost invariably possesses the sensitive mind. Gradually, the multitude of objects crowding in upon view on every side, arrange themselves into order, and then the sight is one of endless interest and amusement. To a lounger passing through the various groups, some arranged in picturesque knots at the tent doors, others reclining beneath shady trees, or stretched out upon grassy knolls, the fragments of conversation that meet the ear are as curious and heterogeneous, as the objects that appeal to the sense of vision. From the first peep of day, the campers are astir, lighting gipsy fires, preparing breakfast, and trading with the various hawkers who ply with their provisions regularly through the white-tented streets. After the morning meal, visits are exchanged, and the business of the day proceeds with as much energy and order as in the cities. Sailing parties, séances, amusements, and business, all proceed in due course, until the hour for speaking arrives, when thousands assemble at the speaker’s stand, to partake of the solid intellectual refreshment of the day. Lectures, balls, parties, illuminations, public discussions, &c., &c., fill up the time until midnight, when the white tents enclose the slumbering hosts; the fires and lamps are extinguished, and the pale moonbeam shines over rocks, groves, and lakes, illumining scenes as strange and picturesque as ever the eye of mortal gazed upon. Resembling to some extent a martial camp, but adorned with flowers, wreaths, and emblems of taste and beauty, instead of the grim paraphernalia of war, the stern sentinel with musket in hand is exchanged for watching angels. Instead of the savage password, “Death and glory,” “Life eternal” is whispered in every breeze that stirs the tree tops, and the white tents, instead of sheltering the fever-racked forms of mailed victims, only waiting for the shrill cry of the bugle to marshal them to murder or death, shade the peaceful slumbers of those who know no death, and who are tenderly guarded by the glittering rank and file who have triumphed over the grave, and risen as immortal victors from life’s cruel battlefields.
Amongst those who greet you as you take your morning’s walk from street to avenue, or linger on rocky pinnacles to contemplate the busy hive of life thronging below, are strangers from States a thousand miles off, and neighbours from the next village. You may talk politics with a white-haired knot of grandsires sunning themselves on a social bench, around an ancient elm; talk metaphysics with a group of lecturers assembled “from the four corners of the earth,” hear some merry “Indian maid” pouring out through the lips of her entranced “medy,” shrewd philosophy.