By Robert S. Cox
A fabricated from the "spiritual hothouse" of the second one nice Awakening, Spiritualism turned the quickest growing to be faith within the state in the course of the 1850s, and one of many significant responses to the frequent conception that American society was once descending into atomistic particularity.
InBody and Soul, Robert Cox exhibits how Spiritualism sought to remodel sympathy into social perform, arguing that every person, dwelling and lifeless, was once poised inside of a nexus of have an effect on, and during the lively propagation of those sympathetic bonds, a brand new and coherent society might emerge. Phenomena corresponding to spontaneous somnambulism and sympathetic communion with the dead―whether via séance or "spirit photography"―were methods of transcending the boundaries dissecting the yankee physique politic, together with the final word barrier, loss of life. Drawing both upon social, occult, and physiological registers, Spiritualism created a different "social body structure" within which brain was once built-in into physique and physique into society, top Spiritualists into earthly social reforms, similar to women’s rights and anti-slavery.
From the start, despite the fact that, Spiritualist political and social expression used to be way more assorted than has formerly been famous, encompassing certain proslavery and antiegalitarian traces, and within the wake of racial and political alterations following the Civil warfare, the stream started to fracture. Cox lines the eventual dissolution of Spiritualism in the course of the contradictions of its a number of neighborhood and racial factions and during their more and more circumscribed responses to a altering global. in spite of everything, he concludes, the historical past of Spiritualism used to be written within the limits of sympathy, and never its unlimited potential.
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Extra resources for Body and Soul: A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism
After about several mediums began to materialize spirits themselves, either in the séance room or in photographs. A few like G. A. Redman employed a full array of methods, communicating not only by raps and tilts but by clairvoyant visions of rebuslike spiritual symbols (a spirit pointing to a wall and bridge in succession to spell out the name Wallbridge, for example). 38 By any reckoning mediumship and the physical body became inseparable. One of the best-known mediums of midcentury, the “Spiritual Postmaster” James V.
Complicating the situation still further, Bell noted that a “privation” of sight or hearing in somnambulists was often “amply compensated by an incredible delicacy both of feeling and taste,” analogous, as a later writer suggested, to the exquisitely refined sense of touch exhibited by the sightless marvel Laura Bridgman. In the most advanced stages of somnambulism, sensory compensation produced synesthetic forms of sensation. 35 In an individual deprived of waking consciousness, such adventitious forms of sensation, such “magic sensibility,” seemed to corroborate theories of the sympathetic integration of bodily and mental systems: somnambules, one physician reported, showed that sound impressions were “transferred to the great ganglionic system of the grand sympathetic” nerve, which then assumed the role of the quiescent brain in registering Sleepwalking and Sympathy • sensation.
More than the pleasure of mutual joy, more than the abatement of pain through emotional exchange, fear, dread, and death were the stuff of society. 15 Adela Pinch has suggested that in the hands of Hume, not only was sympathy socially poetic, it was individually poetic. Skeptical about the content of the self and believing that the self “independent of the perception of every other object” was, in reality, nothing, Hume argued that when the passions were turned onto the self, they perform, in Pinch’s words, “a kind of person-ification” that ties the complex “bundle of perceptions” within the individual into a package that can called the self.