Dialogue in 2010

The following is the content of an email exchange between a member of the local community and Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner, Executive Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation. The community member contacted the Foundation to express her concerns about a seance scheduled to be conducted in the Gage Home in March 2010. She granted permission for the Foundation to post this material on our website in the spirit of promoting open dialogue on differing points of view.

Twenty-five guests later attended the seance, conducted by the Rev. Richard Schoeller of the National Spiritualist Association of Churches, experiencing for themselves an aspect of Spiritualism that Gage investigated during her own lifetime.

To the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation,

This past September, at the Fall Festival, I enjoyed learning about the rich history we have here in Fayetteville at the Matilda Joslyn Gage Home. Her life is fascinating! I was considering becoming more active with this historical landmark. That is until this most recent event you are promoting, a seance, at the Gage Home.

I am proud to be a follower of Jesus Christ and a student of the WORD of God.

The Bible is absolutely clear about God’s thoughts on participating in a seance, communicating with the dead, or being a spiritist.

The Bible, the uncompromised Word of God, states: Concerning occult practices, the Israelites were told: “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire [an ancient occult practice], or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination [detestable] to the LORD”  (Deuteronomy 18:9-12a)

The Bible strongly warns people not to consult mediums and spiritists for the truth, but to inquire of God (Isaiah 8:19). Clearly, if those who practiced these arts have any power (beyond being great deceivers), it is not a gift from God (as some falsely claim). The Bible condemns and forbids these practices several times (Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 27:9; 2 Kings 21:6; 23:24). Divination and Spiritism were despised practices of the heathens (Ezekiel 21:21; Isaiah 19:3; 1 Samuel 28). In Acts 16: 16-18, “One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.”

The Rev. Schoeller, NST, sadly, is deceiving people with his title of Reverend. Most would think that because he holds such a title, the way in which he conducts his life would be following what Our Lord would view as good and acceptable. However, there is a vast divide between what the Word of God is telling us and what Mr. Schoeller is openly practicing in his life.

I understand your quote that Ms. Gage wanted to be an investigator on this subject and thus, all are invited to do as she. Matilda may have many fine attributes, but sadly, in my opinion, this was not one of them. It is also disturbing to me that the Gage Foundation is unable to recognize that this goes against the desires of God and this seance encourages people to behave in a way that is contrary to the Biblical standards this country was built upon.



Dear Joni,

Thank you for sharing your beliefs with us. I completely understand how, if you believe that all of the Bible is literally the word of God and should be followed, you would not want to take part in a seance, and believe that others should not, as well.

Matilda believed that certain parts of the Bible should not be taken literally, but rather should be understood in the practices of the time. For example, the Rev. Sunderland of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Syracuse preached a sermon against women wearing pants in 1852, using Deuteronomy 22:5 as the basis for his sermon. The minister said, “She has no right according to the Bible to wear a man’s clothes, and if she does so she is an abomination to the Lord … in the name of mercy and common sense let not infidelity and social chaos carry it over the minds of our sisters and companions, and so the change which has begun only in the clothes shall be neither a reformation nor an improvement, nor a progress, nor an advancement, nor anything but a social earthquake or volcano that will leave everything in ruins.” Gage didn’t agree, and pointed out that the minister was shaving his beard, which was in violation of the same verse in Deuteronomy.

On the other hand, I have a dear friend who lives in a Hutterite Christian Colony in S.D. who believes in and practices the teachings in the Bible. She always wears a long dress, does not cut her hair and covers her hair with a cap whenever she goes outside.  I respect her beliefs and we remain friends despite the fact that I wear pants, have short hair and don’t wear hats, all of which are against the teachings of the Bible.

While we share Gage’s ideas in the Gage Home, we also welcome opposing ideas to hers, so that all may have an opportunity to think about, and challenge, our own beliefs. In that spirit, I wonder if you would be willing to let us put your ideas up on our website, and encourage visitors to the website to dialogue about them, and Gage’s.

Gratefully to you, for you sharing what is in your heart,


Joni responded, “Thank you, Sally, for your thoughtful reply,” and said that we could put her full email on our website, requesting we not use her full name or email address for obvious reasons.  Sally responded:

All of your requests are good and smart ones, I think, and of course, we will honor them. I am grateful to you for your spirit of openness and willingness to hear each other. It is my hope that, through keeping a respect for each other, that we can hear each other and, if not come to an agreement, come to an understanding for how we each hold our beliefs.  And invite others to join in that dialogue.

With thanks,


The Gage Foundation encourages readers of this exchange to join in the dialogue by emailing your comments to foundation@MatildaJoslynGage.org.

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