By John Warne Monroe
At a desirable second in French highbrow heritage, an curiosity in issues occult used to be now not such as a rejection of medical idea; individuals in séances and magic rituals have been seekers after experimental facts in addition to religious fact. a tender astronomy pupil wrote of his quest: "I am no longer within the presence or lower than the impression of any evil spirit: I examine Spiritism as I examine mathematics." He didn't see himself as an ecstatic visionary yet relatively as a sober observer. For him, the darkened room of occult perform was once as a lot laboratory as church.
In an evocative heritage of other non secular practices in France within the moment 1/2 the 19th and starting of the 20 th centuries, John Warne Monroe tells the interconnected tales of 3 movements―Mesmerism, Spiritism, and Occultism. Adherents of those teams, Monroe finds, tried to "modernize" religion by means of offering empirical help for metaphysical ideas. rather than trusting theological hypothesis in regards to the nature of the soul, those believers tried to assemble tangible proof via Mesmeric experiments, séances, and ceremonial magic. whereas few French humans have been lively Mesmerists, Spiritists, or Occultists, huge segments of the knowledgeable common public have been acquainted with those events and sometimes looked them as attention-grabbing expressions of the "modern condition," a striking distinction to the Catholicism and secular materialism that prevailed of their culture.
Featuring eerie spirit photos, a laugh Daumier lithographs, and a posthumous autograph from Voltaire, in addition to broad documentary proof, Laboratories of Faith offers readers a feeling of what being in a séance or a secret-society ritual may perhaps even have felt like and why those emotions attracted contributors. whereas they by no means accomplished the transformation of human awareness for which they strove, those thinkers and believers however pioneered a manner of "being spiritual" that has turn into a permanent a part of the Western cultural vocabulary.
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Additional resources for Laboratories of faith : mesmerism, spiritism, and occultism in modern France
What had begun as “an amusing physics experiment,” the bishop wrote, had transformed itself into something that closely resembled the “mysterious operations of magic, divination, or necromancy,” all of which the Church forbade. 35 Though he readily connected the tables tournantes to “spirits of the abyss,” the bishop stopped short of fully endorsing the lurid claims other Catholic commentators had made in less formal contexts. In his view, it was more likely that “these marvelous phenomena exist only in the imaginations 34 Le Journal du magnétisme 13 (1854): 150.
Readers were wrong to consider the tables tournantes to be farfetched, Cherreau argued. The nineteenth century had already proved to be remarkably “fertile in brilliant discoveries”—this new human ability to move objects spontaneously, with negligible physical effort, was merely the latest in the long string of scientiﬁc advances that had come to characterize the age. 7 The range of these dramatic new phenomena was not limited to simple movement. Most accounts, particularly those appearing in May, described 6 7 Le Siècle, May 13, 1853, 3.
13 Le Charivari, May 5, 1853, 2. 14 The series of lithographs Honoré Daumier devoted to the new phenomena—aptly titled “ﬂuidomanie”—ran the gamut of these social-satirical tropes, presenting them with particular effectiveness (ﬁgs. 2–5, 6). For all their formulaic qualities, these satirical commentaries were as revealing as the more serious accounts they sought to debunk. Both showed the tables’ remarkable capacity to disrupt and challenge taken-for-granted ideas in ways that could seem either liberating or disturbing.
Laboratories of faith : mesmerism, spiritism, and occultism in modern France by John Warne Monroe