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Social Event in Philadelphia: ICSA 2018 Annual Conference
Sunday, July 8, 2018 

Pat Ryan, Joe Kelly, and Joe Szimhart (see people profiles) are organizing a special guided bus tour of Philadelphia new religious movement sites after the ICSA conference. The tour will take place from 1 pm to 6 pm on Sunday, July 8, 2018. The fee for the tour is $35.

The tour is scheduled to include the Father Divine historical landmark and library, the Kelpius Cave, and narrated drive-byes of the site of the MOVE bombing, the United Lodge of Theosophists, the Quaker Meeting House and School, the Masonic Temple, and the Mummers Museum. The tour will conclude with a stop at the White Dog Café, which was a  residence of Theosophists in the 19th century. Pat and the two Joes will provide an interesting commentary on the various sites to be visited.


Register for Bus Tour Only (for people who are already registered for the conference) 

Details of ICSA tour: 2018 

Joseph Szimhart

The tour is scheduled to include the Father Divine historical landmark and library, the Kelpius Cave, and narrated drive-byes of the site of the MOVE bombing, the United Lodge of Theosophists, the Quaker Meeting House and School, the Masonic Temple, and the Mummers Museum. The tour will conclude with a stop at the White Dog Café, which was a residence and meeting place of the Miracle Club of early Theosophists in 1875. Pat and the two Joes will provide an interesting commentary on the various sites to be visited.

Not quite The Magical Mystery Tour; we are not “coming to take you away.” We will visit and return from sites related to alternative social paths ranging from mystical to radical to dangerous.

We will pass by the MOVE site where a row of buildings burned down in 1985 after law enforcement dropped an ill-advised incendiary device through the roof of the MOVE residence. MOVE is a Philadelphia-based black liberation group founded by John Africa (born Vincent Leaphart) in 1972. All members adopt Africa as a last name. The group lived in a communal setting, abiding by philosophies of anarcho-primitivism while irritating neighbors with sloganeering through a loud speaker. MOVE is not an acronym, but it stands for change. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE

The Cave of Kelpius, an existing landmark, is a remnant of a small, short-lived ascetic movement established by Johannes Kelpius (1667-1708) along the Wissahickon Creek. Known locally as the “Hermits of Wissahickon” but self-proclaimed as the Society of the Woman in the Wilderness, the sect believed in the immanent end of the world in 1694. Members tended to be well-educated; Kelpius earned a master’s in theology in Germany. While adopting a Pietist philosophy influenced by Jacob Boehme, some monks nevertheless sustained professions in the community. Kelpius was thought to have discovered the Philosopher’s Stone as well as immortality. He died at age 41. http://kelpius.org/

United Lodge of Theosophists: Shortly after Madame Blavatsky died in 1891, the Theosophists splintered into several sects that argued over who was properly representing the channeled messages from the Great White Lodge or Brotherhood of super-human beings that secretly guide the affairs of men and nations. Theosophists, like esoteric Freemasons, have been greatly influenced by the mysterious Rosicrucian movement founded around 1614-17. The United Lodge of Theosophists was founded by Robert Crosbie in 1909 and established in Philadelphia in 1925. The ULT moved to its current location on Walnut St. in 1945.

Reverend Major Jealous Divine or Father Divine (1877-1965) founded the International Peace Mission movement. He began preaching in the South of America around 1907 and established a communal following around 1914 in New York. Greatly influenced by 19th Century New Thought teachings, Divine held to a positive thinking message with grandiose themes that included a call for world peace and calling himself “God.” A small, slight black man at 5’ 2,” Divine nevertheless was a powerful speaker who held a charismatic relationship with those who believed in him. Divine and his movement managed to accrue great wealth without overtly demanding money. The elegant mansion we will visit in Gladwyne became his home in 1953. The chateau and the library are testaments to Divine’s incredible powers of persuasion if nothing else. Jim Jones who founded the People’s Temple, famously met with Father Divine several times between 1960 to 1971 before launching his own church employing many of Divine’s ideas and techniques. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_Divine  

The Masonic Temple in center city Philadelphia was built in 1873 using Romanesque and Norman themes in architecture. It has been called one of the “great wonders” of the Masonic world. Coupled with the egalitarian ideas fomented by the European Enlightenment, Freemasonry had great impact on the formation of the American Constitution. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were Freemasons. However, after the “Morgan Affair” in 1826, public sentiment turned against the Masons causing them to turn inward. Christian movements including Catholicism viewed the Deist philosophy of Masonry as heretical, forbidding Christians to join. However, Freemasons have been known for supporting charities and democratic, capitalist ideals, thus attracting many prominent businessmen. Membership among Masonic lodges has declined considerably since the late 20th Century.

http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org/archive/freemasonry/

A Free Quaker Meeting House was established in 1783 on Arch & 5th Streets near Independence Hall. in support of the American revolution. It was at odds with Quakerism or Religious Society of Friends in England launched by George Fox in 1647. A prominent Quaker, William Penn, founded Pennsylvania on a land grant in 1680. Penn saw his venture as a “holy experiment” where religious freedom was granted to all monotheists. William Penn’s statue sits atop Philadelphia’s City Hall. Quakers favor direct and individual communion with and from God especially during meetings where Friends wait patiently until the Spirit moves them. In some cases, this movement was somatic causing a quaking of the body, thus the nickname. Quakers were anti-slavery advocates early in their history. A more modern and larger Quaker Meeting House is now at 1515 Cherry St in center city. http://www.ushistory.org/tour/free-quaker-meeting-house.htm

The Philadelphia Mummers Museum is located at 110 S. 2nd St. Mummers in Philadelphia are costumed citizens celebrating the New Year with family and friends. They belong to clubs in one of 5 Divisions: The Comic, The Fancy, the Wench Brigade, the String Band and the Fancy Brigade Divisions. As the oldest continuous folk parade in America since 1901, in Philadelphia it has developed into the grandest of Mummers traditions, the annual Mummers Parade. Ten thousand participants and hundreds of thousands of parade-viewers take to the streets and sidewalks or view on television on New Year’s Day. Mummery began in ancient times as a Saturnalia dedicated to the Greek myth of Momus, the personification of satire, mockery and censure. Mummer can also be connected to the late Middle English word mommer and the Old French word momeur relating to miming, masking and folk play. http://mummersmuseum.com/

The White Dog Café is a popular casual mid-priced restaurant on 3240 Sansom St. near the Universities of Drexel and Pennsylvania. Some of you may wish to end the tour by eating here. For some personal history with this café, read Joe Szimhart’s blog: http://jszimhart.com/blog/white_dog_cafe that elaborates on the miracle that saved Madame Blavatsky’s gangrenous leg in 1875. The legend states that a small white dog that appeared at her residence laid on her leg and it healed. Early Theosophists met with Blavatsky here to form the “Miracle Club” that was renamed as The Theosophical Society. https://www.whitedog.com/