By Robert S. Cox
A manufactured from the "spiritual hothouse" of the second one nice Awakening, Spiritualism grew to become the quickest growing to be faith within the country through the 1850s, and one of many important responses to the common conception that American society used to be descending into atomistic particularity.
InBody and Soul, Robert Cox exhibits how Spiritualism sought to remodel sympathy into social perform, arguing that every person, residing and lifeless, was once poised inside of a nexus of have an effect on, and during the energetic propagation of those sympathetic bonds, a brand new and coherent society might emerge. Phenomena comparable to spontaneous somnambulism and sympathetic communion with the dead―whether via séance or "spirit photography"―were methods of transcending the obstacles dissecting the yankee physique politic, together with the final word barrier, dying. 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, prime Spiritualists into earthly social reforms, resembling women’s rights and anti-slavery.
From the start, even though, Spiritualist political and social expression used to be way more diversified than has formerly been famous, encompassing precise proslavery and antiegalitarian traces, and within the wake of racial and political alterations following the Civil struggle, the circulate started to fracture. Cox lines the eventual dissolution of Spiritualism throughout the contradictions of its quite a few nearby and racial factions and during their more and more circumscribed responses to a altering global. finally, he concludes, the background of Spiritualism was once written within the limits of sympathy, and never its unlimited potential.
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Additional resources for Body and Soul: A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism
Natural” somnambulism, on the other hand, presents a less-traveled road, one that from the present vantage offers novel analytical ground, even as it shares a theoretical and ideological vocabulary with the other forms of somnambulism. Inevitably the discourses of all these forms intersect, and at the time they were considered as facets of a single phenomenon, but in natural, as opposed to “artificial,” somnambulism, the absence of an external operator was a critical factor in shaping meaning, transforming its moral, mental, and social implications.
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.
28 Taking the argument further still, such sympathies stretched beyond the confines of the individual body. 29 As bodies and identities were united through the diverse discourses of sympathy, somnambulism became the centerpiece in an extended conversation over the issues of automatism and mechanism, will and habit, mind and desire, and a key means of assessing the limits of sympathetic action. The languages of sympathy suffused discussions of sleepwalking during the early Republic, revealing how these theories were embodied and experienced.