Professor J. S. Loveland wrote the first American book on Spiritualism, The Esoteric Truths of Spiritualism.
He was born in 1818 on March 21st in New England. His family was very poor so he worked hard as a young boy and went to school only sporadically.
He came from a family of free thinkers and had no religious teachings to pay lip service to as he grew up. At nineteen he began a job with a Methodist farmer in Gilsum, New Hampshire. He went with his boss to Methodist church meetings, became a member, and continued as a member for 16 years. Soon he decided he felt a "call" to preach.
Even though he was poor, shy and uneducated the ministers and his elders encouraged his ministerial aspirations. By the time he was 20 he was part of the Methodist ministry on a "circuit" in Vermont. The young man attended several terms in seminaries and in the first Methodist Theological School.
His childhood exposure to free thinking led him to notice the inconsistencies in orthodox theology. Soon he wondered how he would be able to continue his preaching career. In those years in Methodism members of the congregation experienced trance states that were the same phenomena we are familiar with in Spiritualism today. J. S. Loveland began to experience these, also.
At first he believed, as his congregants did, that such visions and trance teachings were the result of the doctrines and the creed of his religious denomination--Methodism. He couldn't fit the physical phenomena he had experienced into a uniform system though, until he investigated Spiritualism.
He didn't look into Spiritualism trying to get proof of the continued existence of his loved ones on the other side of life, but to see whether it was reality or a hoax. Quickly he realized it was genuine, but when he told his Methodist congregation about the similarities between the phenomena of the Spiritualists and those of the Methodists, he was shown the hypocrisy of theology. Apparently, it was fine and dandy for Methodists to experience trance revelations, but Methodists believed Spiritualist trance teachings were fraudulent because they happened to people who weren't Methodists.
He renounced the whole system of what he called supernaturalism, then and there.
Here was a young man who had worked his way up in the Methodist Church from a near-ignorant circuit preacher to a position of such respect as a minister of the gospel that any appointment to any of the pastorates in major New England cities would be his for the asking. Instead, he could no longer honestly preach in orthodox pulpits and he left the Methodist ministry with no job in sight. His only plan was to rent some land and farm it so that he could support his family.
Friends requested that he lecture on Spiritualism. He consented and the rest, as they say, was history. After his first lecture people demanded lecture after lecture. He was the first lecturer to start a regular meeting on the philosophy of Spiritualism and continue it for any length of time. He also became the first to dedicate his life to lecturing on Spiritualist philosophy.
He had several phases of mediumship which he used to prove the identity of spirit people and to transmit important messages from them. He emphatically did not believe in telling fortunes through mediumship and calling it Spiritualism.
He traveled to all parts of the United States carrying the message of the philosophy of Spiritualism as taught by those from the Spirit Side of life. He believed Spiritualism should become a strong working body and he worked very hard to make that happen.
Reverend Pat Smith of the Spiritualist Chapel of the Flowers, Van Nuys, California, kindly loaned me a collection of lectures he gave at a camp in the Eastern United States. I've only had time to read part of the book but I could see that Professor J.S. Loveland was a man after my own heart. I got into writing for newspapers and magazines in the 70s with a column about parapsychology, the science that scientifically investigates metaphysical happenings.
That was Professor Loveland's interest, too. He approached trance phenomena in terms of science.
Here's a quotation that will show what I mean: "If spirits produce the phenomena ascribed to them, I want to know the law by which they do them. If, as affirmed, mediumship is necessary, and human beings are the necessary agents, I want to know what vital and other forces of man are required. I want to know what effects, good or bad, this mediumship will produce upon the medium. I want to comprehend the physiological and psychological laws of this condition, to know how to avoid dangers if there are any, and how to come into harmony with the forces and conditions inducing the state."
It's difficult to do justice to Professor Loveland's teachings and life story in this amount of space but perhaps you'll be intrigued enough to find a long history of his work and read it. It's well worth while. Professor J.S. Loveland, was truly a Spiritualist Pioneer.
More J.S. Loveland
by Pat Chalfant July, 1997
When I gave a student speech on Spiritualist pioneers several months ago, I spoke about the life of Professor J.S. Loveland. I said then that I hadn't realized when I chose him that I had chosen "a man after my own heart" who had been interested in establishing the scientific basis of mediumship and trance.
I explained then that I started writing in the metaphysical field years ago looking at psychic phenomena from the scientific point of view. That was why it seemed incredible to me that the pioneer I had picked at random turned out to be of a scientific bent. But, as they say, there are no accidents.
When I went away for the fourth of July weekend recently, I discovered something I hadn't known about this pioneer, J.S. Loveland. I think it may interest you.
But first, as an introduction to what I discovered about Professor Loveland, I want to do a little exercise with you--kind of a little self-discovery exercise. Actually, I think of it as a little time-travel experiment.
Imagine that you are going back in history, back to the 1950s, then the 1920s, back to the turn of the century and now you're back in the 1890s--but instead of the giddiness of the "gay" nineties, you find yourself caught up in the Spiritualist movement. You're living in a bustling big city on the East Coast of the U.S. You feel proud and fulfilled to be a Spiritualist.
You pick up a newspaper at your local Spiritualist Church one Sunday morning and find a front page story by a Mr. H.L. Williams who is inviting Spiritualists from all over the world to come and live with him on the West Coast of America--in California, in fact. You and your family have been looking for a cleaner, less crowded place to live, where you can spend plenty of time outdoors, something with beautiful scenery. The article describes lots for sale at $25 apiece.
These are only large enough to put a tent on, because Williams' original purpose was to create a campground for Spiritualists. But you read further and learn that people are now buying several lots grouped together and building permanent houses on them. The terms are easy, the weather beautiful and very mild year 'round. You learn that Williams has contributed money for public buildings, there is a school that your children can attend, there are two hotels, four newspapers, shops of all kinds, and the Southern Pacific Railroad is building a branch through the town, so transportation to and from the area is being arranged.
You read what Mr. Williams goals and ideals are in this news release that is being disseminated worldwide and you learn he plans: "...to secure these ends and make (this new Southern California town) what it was intended by the spirit world to be--a beacon light for the world--and to secure the undoubted and immense mineral resources of the Ortega Rancho for the benefit of, and to aid the promulgation of the truths of Spiritualism; to better both the spiritual and material condition of mankind; to aid in building cheap homes for Spiritualists; to build homes for worn out mediums (you privately wonder how older mediums will take that description) sanitariums, colleges and other institutions of learning; to aid in the most practical way, the higher classes of mediumship."
In closing, the author writes: "Spiritualism, with its millions of believers needs a home where its truths may be developed and taught in a systematic manner, which home should be in as perfect a climate as possible, where the climatic conditions will aid in securing the ends to be accomplished. All of these conditions exist in Summerland. The Spiritualists of California, both Northern and Southern, need a permanent Camp-Meeting ground, one which is cheaply accessible, as this will be on the completion of the connecting link to San Francisco which the Southern Pacific Railroad Company is under contract to do at once."
You give the paper to your spouse to read, you discuss it and decide to explore this possibility. You are going to pack up your children and travel to California by railroad on your next vacation. When vacation time comes around and you're buying tickets for the train, you are delighted to find that the connecting link on the Southern Pacific Railroad has actually been finished just as Mr. Williams had promised, and you ride the train right into the center of the brand-new, beautiful little town that Williams built.
You inspect the territory to see if the promises the article makes are true. There is, indeed, a school for the children, there is a Spiritualist Church, plus the shops and various other structures it promised. And there are seances and Spiritualist meetings. Mediums are holding circles regularly in various homes and in a particular hall that Mr. Williams has built called Liberty Hall. You are agog to see people who have dug holes on their lots pulling oil right out of the ground. When you ask about this, they say they are selling it to help support themselves and their families. You find that drinking water is plentiful. Each lot has a well that provides the family living there with clean, cool water.
You attend a night baseball game, the first of its kind in the entire world. It's played on a diamond lighted by natural gas that pours out through sections of metal pipe pounded into the ground around the field. By day, you walk for miles in the clean, sunny, invigorating, ocean air. Everywhere you see men at work building oil wells to pump the oil that is so plentiful here.
One of the most famous attractions in this splendid place, however, is the world-renowned lecturer on Spiritualism, Professor J.S. Loveland. Mr. Williams has invited him to live in Summerland and serve as its medium in residence. J.S. Loveland had built a house directly behind the house occupied by Mr. Williams' family. You've heard stories of the marvelous seances that are held there and you've made a friend among the new residents who invites you to one of the seances held at the Loveland residence.
Before the seance begins, Professor Loveland delivers one of his famous lectures. Soon, you are spellbound by this man who has brought a powerful intellect and incredible powers of observation to bear on the subject of Spiritualism. You have never heard anyone else who approached Spiritualism in such a scientific way.
Here's the kind of quotation you ponder later:
"If spirits produce the phenomena ascribed to them, I want to know the law by which they do them. If, as affirmed, mediumship is necessary, and human beings are the necessary agents, I want to know what vital and other forces of man are required. I want to know what effects, good or bad, this mediumship will produce upon the medium. I want to comprehend the physiological and psychological laws of this condition, to know how to avoid dangers if there are any, and how to come into harmony with the forces and conditions inducing the state.
"We have referred to clairvoyance and psychometry; but in considering the possibilities of mediumship, we must discuss them more thoroughly. Clairvoyance means clear seeing. But what sees?
"What is the organ of vision? We know it is not the eye; and yet what the eye can see, is perceived by this seeing sense, whatever it may be. It is independent of the ordinary condition of vision. It can see in the dark, it can see through material substances, and at great distances. Common vision is dependent upon light vibrations, producing an image upon the retina of the eye. But clairvoyance is entirely independent of those conditions. Again, I ask, what sees, and how is it done? It is easy to say that it is the mind which sees in both cases. That is true, but THE question, which the common scientist cannot answer, is, How does the mind see independent of eyes? How does it see the interior of the human body, which the eye cannot see? There is but one answer; clairvoyance is the sight of the eye of the spiritual body, and its perception is by the medium of the odyllic ether.
"Psychometry literally means 'soul measuring;' but I do not think this expresses the nature of the sense it is intended to designate; for the power or function attributed to it has no more reference to soul than to body. Clairvoyance corresponds to outer sight and psychometry to the general sense of feeling. Its range of functions is not confined to either body or mind; it comprehends them both, it feels them both. Strictly speaking, through its sensings, the mind discerns the character of both minds and things. What entirely eludes the outer senses, impresses itself with the distinctness of light upon this inner sense. To the clairvoyant psychometrist the life of man is often as plain as the sun's pathway in the heavens is to the external senses."!!!
The wonders of the seance that follows Professor Loveland's speech are more impressive than those of any other seance you have ever attended. There are trumpet voices, mysterious flashing lights, several materializations at a time. As you leave, you peek into one hallway that leads from the main hall outside the seance room, and are amazed to see that this auxiliary hall seems to lead to a dead end. You see rooms draped entirely in white, and other things that you ponder as you leave this remarkable place.
That very evening the decision is made. You are so impressed with this unique little town that the following day you put money down on several of Mr. Williams lots and you return to the east and prepare to relocate as quickly as possible to this haven of Spiritualism, this Spiritualist Mecca, this Summerland, California.
I went to the Big Yellow House in Summerland to have lunch along the way to Solvang over the fourth of July weekend and discovered that the restaurant now carries a book that was written by an employee who once managed their basement gift shop. The shop no longer exists, but when it did it had been called "The Wine Cellar."
The book is called "The Spirit of the Big Yellow House." Rod Lathim, the author, had became aware of the spirit of a child who occupied the cellar with him while he worked there and that's the spirit he refers to. Then, of course, there's the double meaning, as well, with "spirit" referring to the atmosphere or the elan of the place, as well.
I bought the book and, as I read, I found that my old friend J.S. Loveland was mentioned in the book because he had been invited to relocate to Summerland by the owner of the property upon which Summerland was founded. The owner was H. L. Williams, the man I mentioned earlier as the author of the newspaper story in the 19th century Spiritualist newspaper. He was a man who had worked for the U.S. government as a customs inspector at the end of his service in the Civil War and had uncovered a scandal in the government that had reached to officials in very high places.
He had been pensioned off and told to relocate, leave the east and go somewhere far away because the evidence he had uncovered could have toppled several high level career politicians. He moved west immediately when President Grant himself pointed out that his knowledge could be dangerous to his health and the health of his family.
He arrived finally in Santa Barbara and bought the area around what is now Summerland. He bought over a thousand acres of land called the Ortega Rancho and settled his family there. Because his wife was a Spiritualist, he began to take an interest in Spiritualism. In the end, he decided to build an international Spiritualist meeting place and campground on his land. As I said before, the price he put on the 25' x 60' lots that he offered for sale as tent spaces was $25 a lot! Very soon his lots were selling in multiples and people were erecting houses on them.
Williams took steps to promote his burgeoning new spiritualist community. He dispatched stories to newspapers and magazines all over the world, inviting people to visit Summerland and see this beautiful area for themselves.
It was not a surprise when oil was discovered on Williams' property. Before he had bought the ranch, oil had been discovered on adjoining property and Williams had been aware of that. The natural gas that was discovered even before the oil, was, indeed, channeled into metal lampposts that burned both day and night. Summerland was the first place in the world to have night baseball games under natural gaslight. Sadly, several years after Williams death, the oil business which eventually grew into the first offshore oil drilling in the world met an untimely death.
Its unpleasant smells, the often rowdy behavior of the oilmen, and the unsightliness of the many piers that were built out into the ocean to harvest the oil eventually destroyed oil business in the area. Sabotage of the oil rigging by irate citizens and the changing tides which brought such high surf that all the offshore oil rigs were eventually toppled, brought an end to the oil business that Williams had thought would bring such prosperity to Spiritualists in Summerland. Perhaps it was for the best that he didn't live long enough to see this happen.
It was into this kind of boomtown, however, that J.S. Loveland came to make his home. His house was built directly behind the house now called the Big Yellow House, H.L. Williams' house. The house he built on Lillie Avenue is still standing behind the Big Yellow House.
Professor J.S. Loveland was formerly a Pennsylvania medium and as I mentioned in my talk several months ago, when he retired from his public life as a minister, he became the spokesperson for Spiritualism across the United States.
As I read the book, I thought of what J.S. Loveland had been trying to teach the world as he appeared in lecture halls all over the U.S....that mediumship is a natural phenomenon, not something supernatural that should frighten us. He wanted people to understand that mediumship operates by natural law and is undergirded by, and as natural as, the basic energy of the universe as evidenced in the shining of our sun, the growth of plant life that results from that, the storage of energy in the coal and oil beneath the ground that can be used by all of us to maintain life upon this earth.
I thought of the reassuring words he spoke in the collection of speeches he made to an eastern camp meeting in the late 1800s, when he said that mediumship is: "...not a land of darkness and terror unless we make it so. With the torch of science, we may safely explore all its mysteries, only to find them the wondrous workings of our mother, Nature, on the high plane of creative or constructive being. We will approach it reverently, we will approach it boldly, and will explore it critically, with the expectation of reaping a grand harvest of knowledge"!!!
Remembering these words of Loveland's, I believe that there was probably no one H. L. Williams could have invited to Summerland who would have been more likely to help Williams realize the goals he had set forth for his new town: "...the education of humanity, the bettering of its condition both spiritually and materially...to secure these ends and make Summerland what it was intended by the spirit world--to be a beacon light for the world."
And there you have it--something you may not have known about Summerland, California, and more about one of Spiritualism's famous pioneers, J. S. Loveland. And one final thing: it is believed that Summerland got its name from the writings of another pioneer of Spiritualism, Andrew Jackson Davis, who named the world where spirits go after the change called death, "Summerland."