Spiritualism was the Psychedelic Movement of the 1870s

Spiritualism…complete with altered states, free love, and millenarian ideals. In this piece, Victorian Gothic discusses “The Lighter Side of Victorian Spiritualism”:

“One important and often overlooked aspect of Victorian mediumship is that it could be enormous fun,” says Alex Owen in The Darkened Room: Women, Power and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England. This is the picture that emerges when one looks particularly at the “star mediums” of the 1870′s, who were known for performing theatrical, full-body materializations for eager audiences.

In a dim seance room, the medium would enter a closed cabinet wherein she would tap the mysterious psychical forces that would allow her to manifest one of her spirit familiars. This familiar would then emerge to from behind the curtain to entertain the assembled sitters. Each medium had her own repertoire of otherworldly entitles at her command, each with his or her own distinct personality, speech patterns, favored tricks and antics. They could be gallant, flirtatious, aggressive, or playful, as suited them.

Florence Cook’s child spirit Pocha “stole money and trinkets from the sitters, climbed on the laps of gentlemen, stroked their whiskers, and allowed herself to be kissed and cuddled.” Annie Fairlamb’s male familiar Sam repeatedly boxed a sitter on the side of the head until the man guessed his name right. Elizabeth d’Esperance manifested Yolande, a sensual, oriental girl who kissed and caressed her sitters, and made gifts of exotic flowers that she materialized into the room.

These encounters often took on highly sexual overtones. Clad in loose-fitting garments, liberated from extraneous corsets and underwear, spirits sometimes invited sitters to explore their corporeal forms and prove to themselves just how very real they were. Florence Cook was famously purported to have carried on an affair with one of her investigators, whom she allowed to enter the materialization cabinet with her. The seance room was a liminal space where participants were afford greater license to transgress the ordinary norms of Victorian society.

[More at Victorian Gothic]

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  • Anonymous

    This is something that is sort of forgotten in cultural memory. Canada’s first  PM was an avid spiritualist and had a live-in Kardecian practioner. Many of his US contemporaries also held occult and spiritualist beliefs. In places like brasil and cuba, many of the syncretic religions also have trace elements of european spiritualism. Materialism cannot account for the acccordances of consciousness and it’s altered states. If you have ever experienced altered consciousness you understand that there is so much MORE than the physical and quantifiable.

  • Jin The Ninja

    This is something that is sort of forgotten in cultural memory. Canada’s first  PM was an avid spiritualist and had a live-in Kardecian practioner. Many of his US contemporaries also held occult and spiritualist beliefs. In places like brasil and cuba, many of the syncretic religions also have trace elements of european spiritualism. Materialism cannot account for the acccordances of consciousness and it’s altered states. If you have ever experienced altered consciousness you understand that there is so much MORE than the physical and quantifiable.

    • Redacted

      The Universe is a machine. We create Entropy as a part of the Universe.
      We exist because we exist, why is this so difficult to understand?

      • Anarchy Pony

        Yeah, burden of proof and all that. I can’t entertain such life hating nonsense.

      • Jin The Ninja

        entropy is not without form or pattern.

  • Anonymous

    The Universe is a machine. We create Entropy as a part of the Universe.
    We exist because we exist, why is this so difficult to understand?

  • Wanooski

    Yeah, burden of proof and all that. I can’t entertain such life hating nonsense.

  • Anonymous

    entropy is not without form or pattern.

  • Anonymous

    entropy is not without form or pattern.

  • Anonymous

    entropy is not without form or pattern.

  • rtb61

    It might seem rather quaint no but at least it was done in the spirit of exploration and the investigation of the human spirit. Look at the late 1900 and early 2000, our only spiritual movement is the bowel movement of greed, not giving a shot about anyone just as long as you are richest.
    This era will be looked on with disgust by all future generations.

    • Anarchy Pony

      With all three of their mutated eyes.

  • Anonymous

    It might seem rather quaint no but at least it was done in the spirit of exploration and the investigation of the human spirit. Look at the late 1900 and early 2000, our only spiritual movement is the bowel movement of greed, not giving a shot about anyone just as long as you are richest.
    This era will be looked on with disgust by all future generations.

  • Wanooski

    With all three of their mutated eyes.

  • Wanooski

    With all three of their mutated eyes.

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