Era of Manifestations


Era of Manifestations

The Shakers came under a spiritual revival called the Era of Manifestations, which lasted from the late 1830s to about 1850. According to Shaker tradition, heavenly spirits came to earth, bringing visions, often giving them to young Shaker women, who danced, whirled, spoke in tongues, and interpreted these visions through their drawings and dancing. While the Era of Manifestations strengthened the spiritual roots and bonds of the Shakers, several of the leaders of this movement later left the Shakers. As pacifiists,the Shakers did not believe that it was acceptable to kill or harm others, even in time of war. As a result the Civil War brought with it a strange time for the Shaker communities in America. Both Union and Confederate soldiers found their way to the Shaker communities. Shakers tended to sympathize with the Union but they did feed and care for both Union and Confederate soldiers. President Lincoln exempted Shaker males from military service, and they became some of the first conscientious objectors in American history. The end of the Civil War brought large changes to the Shaker communities. One of the most important changes was the post- war economy. The Shakers had a hard time competing in the industrialized economy that followed the Civil War. With prosperity falling, converts were hard to come by. By the early 20th century the once numerous Shaker communities were failing and closing. Today, in the 21st century, the Shaker community that still exists--the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community--denies that Shakerism was a failed utopian experiment. Their message, surviving over two centuries in America, reads in part as follows: " Shakerism is not, as many would claim, an anachronism; nor can it be dismissed as the final sad flowering of nineteenth century liberal utopian fervor. Shakerism has a message for this present age--a message as valid today as when it was first expressed. It teaches above all else that God is Love and that our most solemn duty is to show forth that God who is love in the World."

Several pieces of art were created as part of the manifestation in New Lebanon, New York and Hancock, Massachusetts. These were called "gift drawings" and depicted visions received by the Shakers during this time. Some of these "drawings" are now part of the American Folk Art Museum collection.

References

* [http://www.passtheword.org/SHAKER-MANUSCRIPTS/Shakers-Compendium/shaker1x.htm Rules and Regulations, Government, and Doctrines of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing]
* [http://www.shaker.lib.me.us Sabbethday Lake Shaker Community]
* [http://www.folkartmuseum.org/images/afam_995.pdf American Folk Art Museum: A House of Blue (PDF)]


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