It was not by accident, but rather by what seemed to be some undefined mental leading that the founders of the School of Scientific, Philosophic and Ethical Research came to establish first their home, and later the college, at Sea Breeze, Florida. The idea had long been growing and taking shape in their minds of founding an institution, which should be at once an instructor of youth in the ordinary branches under influences that should help them to become Independent thinkers; and also to furnish facilities for investigation and research by the ablest and most mature minds, that could be induced to enter the field, on lines hitherto not only excluded from all regularly organized institutions of learning, but until recently regarded by an orthodox public as not legitimate subjects for investigation.
Finding themselves in some measure relieved for a season from pressing business cares, and thinking to spend a few months in partial rest and recreation, they turned their thoughts and their steps towards Florida. Having received from a lady, who had been healed by the author of this work after having been given over by the doctor?, a description of Daytona, they decided to spend a few weeks of their vacation there before visiting other portions of the State. They reached Daytona, then the terminus of the Florida East Coast Railroad, late one evening in September. As the train backed down through rows of stately palms and wide spreading live oaks, to the then little depot building upon the banks of the River Halifax, the travelers thought they had never anywhere seen anything so beautiful. The moon, nearing its full, threw a band of burnished silver clear across the half-mile of placid waters, softened the harsh outlines of the not too ornate depot buildings, and of the gnarled and twisted tree trunks whose branches overhung and interlaced above the shell road, that wound along the river bank in the direction of the hotel to which they were driven—the whole aspect of the place calling up memories of fairyland, as pictured to the imagination in books for children written by men who are artists in the use of words.
The travelers were never able thereafter permanently to leave the place. They saw other portions of the state, and there are many beautiful spots in Florida, both upon its coasts and in the interior of the state, but none that, in their opinion, nearly equal this. They remained in Daytona, which is upon the mainland side of the Halifax River, .during the winter, and then purchased a home upon the peninsula side, thinking simply to spend the winter here. Then they went forth and bought a residence on one of the most beautiful boulevards near Franklin Park, in Boston, thinking it better that their publications date from that city of culture than from what the world would regard as a wilderness. They would spend the winter in Florida on the banks of the Halifax, they said, and they did. And gradually they got to prolonging their stay, letting the season get farther and farther advanced until spring drifted into summer, before going North, until finally it dawned upon them that right here on the Halifax Peninsula, with the river on one side and the ever sounding sea upon the other, was the most pleasant spot they had ever found in summer, as well as in winter. Then they began to plan to put into execution here their long contemplated, though heretofore but half-digested plans, for the founding of a college, that should offer to the thinking men and women of the whole world opportunities for investigation into the laws of life and of being, never before offered to them by any institution of learning anywhere. Land was comparatively cheap as yet, and they bought a tract and began to make improvements, such as would attract people to the spot, and gain for it such a reputation for healthfulness as would remove from the public mind any prejudices that might exist against it, due to its location in the far South. As opportunity offered and as they acquired means that could be diverted to the purpose, they purchased more land, being compelled—owing to the advance in price—to pay many times more for later than for earlier purchases, but knowing that, since of all places in the state this is the most desirable, either for winter or for all the year-round residence—it would continue to advance, and thus enable them to contribute largely to the endowment of the institution which they were planning. For six years they worked and planned and said little of their intentions. The first tract purchased was platted, a park laid out and some hundreds of dollars spent upon it. Two boulevards were built, extending from river to ocean, each sixty feet wide; and these were lined upon either side with full-grown palm trees transplanted from the native forest. A hotel of one hundred and. twenty rooms, a store-building, a pavilion upon the ocean front with a pier extending six hundred feet into the ocean, a dozen cottages—all these were added as time passed, until the place, from the beauty of its' surroundings and the improvements made, came to be known as "The City Beautiful." It was not, and is not, a city. Perhaps it will never be a city. Certainly we do not expect it ever to become a great city. But it is, and will ever continue to be, one of the most healthful and attractive spots to be found anywhere in this or any other country, though one search the whole world over; and so say ninety-nine out of every hundred of the thousands of tourists who annually spend some portion of the year in the state. The declaration of principles and form of organization, which have been made a part of the general plan of education and investigation, were given to the public some months before this work went to press, and met with a reception most gratifying to the originators of the enterprise. Local associations organized upon the plan suggested were immediately formed in numbers, both in this and in most European countries—in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji—wherever there are English speaking people—evincing the widespread and deep-seated interest existing in the subject of man's relation to the life forces, and in the proposed founding of an institution which should give the widest possible scope to investigations into the, as yet, hidden laws governing the same. Few, perhaps, believe in man's ability to overcome death, but millions hope that at least the span of human life may be greatly lengthened, and thousands desire that their children be educated under influences that shall tend to make them independent thinkers, rather than mere echoes of the thoughts and opinions of generations of men who are dead. The property deeded by Mr. Post and Helen Wilmans Post to the college consists of a tract of land extending from the River Halifax to the sea, an even half-mile in length, and having twelve hundred feet frontage on both bodies of water. This has been platted into two hundred lots varying somewhat in size and in value. Lots similar to these in all respects upon the adjoining plat are even now selling at from $500 to $1,500, and cannot be purchased for less. Of the proceeds arising from the sale of these lots it is proposed that one-quarter go to the improvement and beautifying of streets, and for necessary incidental expenses; and three-quarters to a fund for buildings and the conduct of the institution. Upon this basis the college proper should realize at least $150,000 out of the donation after deductions are made for street improvements. This sum will not be realized all at once, but only as lots are sold; which will, in the main, doubtless be to parties desiring to locate here while their children are being educated; or for the erection of cottages in which to spend some portions of the year for health, and the opportunities which will be afforded for attending lectures upon different subjects, in which they may feel an interest. It is the expectation of those most immediately interested in the matter that the institution will be able to secure the best of talent for lectures upon every branch of science—not of the metaphysical alone, but of the physical also, and that these lectures alone will attract many to the place for a longer or shorter stay.
We do not profess to believe that the donation which we have made of a few hundred residence lots, will produce a fund sufficient to meet the needs for money of the institution which we have founded. What we do believe is that having founded it and endowed it to the extent of our present ability, and after having made the purpose of its founding known to the public, whatever amount of money may be needed for carrying on the proposed investigations into the laws of life and of being will be forthcoming from men and women interested, as all must be, in the work to be done. If it requires a million, then a million let it be; or if two million it is still small in comparison with the results possible of attainment. Whatever the amount may be that is needed we have a perfect faith in its being forthcoming as needed; for rich and poor alike are interested and will give each as he is able, that it may be made possible to discover the law whereby Death may, at least, be forced to delay his coming, if not defeated and overthrown.
The needs of the institution will undoubtedly be great; will be so because it is intended that it shall offer facilities for research such as shall attract the best minds of the age—and such facilities cost, and cost heavily. But there is need, pressing need, that such facilities be afforded; and we have no fear that they will not be supplied through contributions, endowments and such fees as may properly be charged to students in attendance, either upon the ordinary course of instruction, as in other colleges, or from those attending courses of lectures.
More from Helen Wilmans
- Born in 1831 and died in 1907
- Studied under Emma Curtis Hopkins
- Was a journalist and author
- Was active in the Mental Science Movement
- Was charged with postal fraud for healing through mail. Fighting this charged caused her lose most of her fortune.