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By John Warne Monroe

At a desirable second in French highbrow historical past, an curiosity in concerns occult was once no longer akin to a rejection of medical proposal; members in séances and magic rituals have been seekers after experimental information in addition to religious fact. a tender astronomy pupil wrote of his quest: "I am no longer within the presence or below the impression of any evil spirit: I examine Spiritism as I examine mathematics." He didn't see himself as an ecstatic visionary yet particularly 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 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 through supplying empirical aid for metaphysical recommendations. 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 trained common public have been acquainted with those activities and infrequently 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 pictures, fun Daumier lithographs, and a posthumous autograph from Voltaire, in addition to vast documentary facts, Laboratories of Faith supplies readers a feeling of what being in a séance or a secret-society ritual could even have felt like and why those emotions attracted contributors. whereas they by no means completed the transformation of human realization for which they strove, those thinkers and believers however pioneered a manner of "being spiritual" that has turn into an everlasting a part of the Western cultural vocabulary.

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