Archive for the 'Religion & Spirituality' Category

Re-examining “the Elephant Man”…

 

There is another account of Joseph Merrick’s life that suggests he may have been better off if he had stayed in the freakshow, living out his days as one of the most respected showmen of his day. The memoirs of Tom Norman, Merrick’s London manager are most certainly biased, but his version presents a compelling challenge to the more widely-known claim that Merrick was better off in the hospital.

 

Was the exploitation of Merrick by the well-heeled society folks of his day just another type of freakshow? Possibly one in which Merrick was debased even more than he was in his former life as a respected sideshow entertainer? It’s an interesting question, and one that we here at the Museum find incredibly fascinating. I think that many of us probably share a deep sympathy for Joseph Merrick — a man with what seemed like an artist’s sensitivity and a beautiful heart and mind.

 

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Image of Joseph Merrick published in the British Medical Journal in 1886.

 

 

Re-examining ‘the Elephant Man’ (The Public Domain Review)

 

Nadja Durbach questions the extent to which Joseph Merrick, known as the Elephant Man, was exploited during his time in a Victorian ‘freakshow’, and asks if it wasn’t perhaps the medical establishment, often seen as his saviour, who really took advantage of Merrick and his condition.

 

“The scenes are among the most heartless in cinema history: a drunken, abusive showman exhibiting the severely deformed Joseph Merrick to horrified punters. David Lynch’s The Elephant Man begins with its lead character being treated little better than an animal in a cage. But it soon finds a clean-cut hero in the ambitious young surgeon Frederick Treves, who rescues the hapless Merrick from his keeper and gives him permanent shelter at the London Hospital. Supported by charitable donations, the victim recovers his humanity: he learns to speak again (in a decidedly middle-class accent), to entertain society guests and to dress and behave like a well-heeled young dandy. Merrick, no more the degraded show freak, reveals his inner goodness and spirituality and dies happy.

 

Lynch’s movie is based largely on Treves’ sentimental chronicle. But that narrative is merely one version of events – and one that in the end tells us more about middle-class morality than it does about Merrick. There is another story that casts a different light on what happened. The memoirs of Tom Norman, Merrick’s London manager, are surely as biased as Treves’. But as one of the most respected showmen of his day, Norman’s account challenges head on Treves’ claim that Merrick was ultimately better off in the hospital than at the freakshow…”

 

See the rest here.

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Pack Your Ouija Boards, We’re Going to Lily Dale.

Have you heard of Lily Dale, New York? The spiritualist community of the Modern Spiritualist movement? If séances, crystal balls, mediumship demonstrations, lectures, and private appointments with mediums sounds like a dream come true to you, search no more – you have found your ideal vacation spot…

 

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Here’s a HuffPost piece about Lily Dale…

 

Lily Dale: Where Mediums, Healers And Spiritualists Summer

 

By Kathleen Poliquin

 

“The lobby and the wide front porch of the Lily Dale’s Maplewood Hotel are typical of a place built in 1888, except for the sign that reads “No readings, healing circles or seances in this area please.”

 

The sign’s not out of place here. It’s posted among the hotel’s vintage furnishings as well as its paintings and tapestries, said to have been created with help from the spirit world. The Maplewood, with about 40 guest rooms but no air conditioning, televisions, telephones or elevators, is the social hub of Lily Dale, a gated community of about 500 Spiritualists in southwest New York, on the east shore of Upper Cassadaga Lake.

 

For 133 years, Lily Dale has been home to the Lily Dale Assembly, a religious organization of mediums and healers who claim to communicate messages from those who have passed on to those still living on the Earthly plane…

 

For the rest, click here.

 

More about Lily Dale here and here.

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The self-mummifying monks of Japan

The glorious Atlas Obscura offers this interesting piece about a group of monks from Japan who died in the ultimate act of self-denial…and ultimately became relics -

 

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Sokushinbutsu of Dainichi temple

The self-mummified monks of Japan

 

(Atlas Obscura)

 

“Scattered throughout northern Japan are over two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as sokushinbutsu. Followers of shugend?, an ancient form of Buddhism, the monks died in the ultimate act of self-denial.

 

For three years, the priests would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds, while taking part in a regimen of rigorous physical activity that stripped them of their body fat. They then ate only bark and roots for another three years and began drinking a poisonous tea made from the sap of the urushi tree, normally used to lacquer bowls. This caused vomiting and a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and—most importantly—it killed off any maggots that might cause the body to decay after death. Finally, a self-mummifying monk would lock himself in a stone tomb barely larger than his body, wherein he would not move from the lotus position. His only connection to the outside world was an air tube and a bell. Each day, he rang a bell to let those outside know that he was still alive. When the bell stopped ringing, the tube was removed and the tomb sealed.

 

Not all monks who attempted self-mummification were successful. When the tombs were finally opened, some bodies were found to have rotted…”

 

For the rest, and many photos, click here to visit to Atlas Obscura.

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