Upstate Cauldron

Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State

By Joscelyn Godwin

Subjects: Religion, New York/regional, History, History Of Religion, Esotericism And Gnosticism
Series: SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions, Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438455945, 386 pages, June 2015
Hardcover : 9781438455952, 386 pages, June 2015

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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

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


Bronze Medalist, 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the US Northeast -Best Regional Non-Fiction Category
Honorable Mention, 2015 Foreword Reviews INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards in the Religion Category

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.

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


"…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

"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