By John Warne Monroe
At a desirable second in French highbrow historical past, an curiosity in concerns occult was once no longer corresponding to a rejection of medical suggestion; contributors in séances and magic rituals have been seekers after experimental info in addition to non secular fact. a tender astronomy scholar wrote of his quest: "I am no longer within the presence or below the impact of any evil spirit: I learn Spiritism as I research 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 historical past of other spiritual practices in France within the moment half 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 aid for metaphysical techniques. rather than trusting theological hypothesis concerning the nature of the soul, those believers tried to assemble tangible facts via Mesmeric experiments, séances, and ceremonial magic. whereas few French humans have been energetic Mesmerists, Spiritists, or Occultists, huge segments of the knowledgeable common public have been accustomed to those pursuits and sometimes appeared them as interesting expressions of the "modern condition," a amazing 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 could even have felt like and why those emotions attracted members. whereas they by no means completed the transformation of human awareness for which they strove, those thinkers and believers however pioneered a fashion of "being spiritual" that has develop 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
M12 bis. 20 Abbé A. Almignana, Du Somnambulisme, des tables tournantes, et des médiums, considérés dans leurs rapports avec la théologie et la physique (Paris: Dentu, 1854), 29, 11. 17 18 28 Interpreting the Tables Tournantes Fig. 7. Posthumous autograph attributed to Voltaire, received by the Catholic journalist Henri Carion via planchette and published in 1854. ) favored Carion with visits. Joan of Arc informed him that Louis XVI and his family, “martyred on the scaffold of ’93,” were in paradise.
37 37 L a b o r ato r i e s o f Fa i t h Tables Tournantes and the Académie des Sciences Like the Catholic response to the new phenomena, the scientiﬁc one moved through several stages, culminating in a synthesis that dealt with the phenomena in at least partially psychological terms. During the spring of 1853, the Académie des sciences quickly agreed on a hypothesis to account for the tables tournantes—that their rotation was the product of imperceptibly tiny muscular tremors produced by séance participants.
25 For these Catholic commentators, attacks on the séance vogue provided a point of departure for more sweeping critiques of Second Empire French society. Their countrymen had left traditional faith behind, these writers argued, and had succumbed to the easy charms of crass materialism. The tables tournantes were a celestial rebuke to those who had previously denied the reality of the supernatural. According to these critics, unseen spirit forces clearly caused the phenomena that took place in séances.
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