By Robert S. Cox
A made of the "spiritual hothouse" of the second one nice Awakening, Spiritualism turned the quickest starting to be faith within the country through the 1850s, and one of many central responses to the common conception that American society used to be descending into atomistic particularity.
InBody and Soul, Robert Cox indicates how Spiritualism sought to remodel sympathy into social perform, arguing that every person, residing and lifeless, was once poised inside of a nexus of impact, and during the lively propagation of those sympathetic bonds, a brand new and coherent society may emerge. Phenomena similar to spontaneous somnambulism and sympathetic communion with the dead―whether via séance or "spirit photography"―were methods of transcending the boundaries dissecting the yank physique politic, together with the final word barrier, loss of life. Drawing both upon social, occult, and physiological registers, Spiritualism created a distinct "social body structure" within which brain used to be built-in into physique and physique into society, major Spiritualists into earthly social reforms, akin to women’s rights and anti-slavery.
From the start, besides the fact that, Spiritualist political and social expression used to be way more assorted than has formerly been well-known, encompassing precise proslavery and antiegalitarian traces, and within the wake of racial and political alterations following the Civil struggle, the stream started to fracture. Cox strains the eventual dissolution of Spiritualism during the contradictions of its numerous local and racial factions and during their more and more circumscribed responses to a altering global. after all, he concludes, the background 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
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. Mansfield, clairvoyantly read sealed letters sent to him by clients from around the country, but his mode of response was noteworthy.
What emerges in the process is a dynamic, heterogeneous, and occasionally murky tale of a somnambular body attuned to the social and physical world in which it operated and yet irrefrangibly alien to it. 2 As a point of departure in exploring these themes, I begin with an outline of the cluster of theories called sympathy, and particularly of the influential moral philosophical system of Adam Smith, sketching some of the ways in which these ideas were interpreted and altered during the early national period by the community of Anglo-American physicians and writers concerned with the corporeal basis of sympathy and more generally with sensibility and its social expression.
42 In sympathetic terms clairvoyance offered more than just the expansion of the mental world; it offered the literal means of becoming a spectator of human relations, that most vital element of Adam Smith’s philosophy. Divorced from the body, a somnambulist could freely judge the content of human interaction by direct apprehension of the parties’ motives, desires, and thoughts. In so doing, however, second sight evoked second thoughts. When “every thought and desire which was passing through the mind” were unveiled by the fictional somnambulist Eulalie, her physicians were stunned, some turning away in anger and others in confusion.