The Sleeping Preacher (1794– )
Rachel Baker, known as ‘‘the Sleeping Preacher,’’ was born
at Pelham, Massachusetts, in 1794. When she was nine years
old, her parents moved to Marcellus, New York. As a child she
had religious training, her parents being devout people, and
she manifested a strong conviction about sinfulness. In 1811
she showed symptoms of somnambulism, in which she seemed
stricken with horror and despondency. But gradually her mind
became calmer, and she delivered discourses of singular clarity,
marked by a devout and solemn tone. Reportedly, these fits of
somnambulism, or trance-speaking, seized her regularly every
day.
She began and concluded her devotional exercises with
prayer, between which came the discourse. Then a period of
apparent physical distress appeared, characterized by shaking,
sobs, and groans. At length the paroxysms passed, and she
would fall into a natural sleep. Change of scene did not affect
these exercises, but the administration of opium would interrupt
them.
Such trance sermons later became an integral phenomenon
of the Spiritualist movement. Among famous later trance
speakers were Nettie Colburn (Henrietta Maynard), remembered
for the trance address before Abraham Lincoln, and
Louis Anne Meurig Morris in Britain. Trance addresses of an
inspirational or a spiritually guiding nature became an important
part of the modern New Age movement under the label
channeling.
Sources
Devotional Somnium; or a Collection of Prayers and Exhortations
Uttered by Rachel Baker . . . During her Abstracted and Unconscious
State. New York, 1815.
Remarkable Sermons of Rachel Baker and Pious Ejaculations Delivered
During Sleep Taken Down in Shorthand. London, 1815.

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