By Robert S. Cox
A manufactured from the "spiritual hothouse" of the second one nice Awakening, Spiritualism grew to become the quickest starting to be faith within the kingdom in the course of the 1850s, and one of many vital responses to the frequent belief that American society was once descending into atomistic particularity.
InBody and Soul, Robert Cox indicates how Spiritualism sought to rework sympathy into social perform, arguing that every person, dwelling and useless, was once poised inside a nexus of have an effect on, and during the lively propagation of those sympathetic bonds, a brand new and coherent society could emerge. Phenomena reminiscent of spontaneous somnambulism and sympathetic communion with the dead―whether via séance or "spirit photography"―were methods of transcending the obstacles dissecting the yank physique politic, together with the last word barrier, demise. Drawing both upon social, occult, and physiological registers, Spiritualism created a distinct "social body structure" during which brain used to be built-in into physique and physique into society, prime Spiritualists into earthly social reforms, corresponding to women’s rights and anti-slavery.
From the start, despite the fact that, Spiritualist political and social expression was once way more different than has formerly been well-known, encompassing designated proslavery and antiegalitarian lines, and within the wake of racial and political changes following the Civil battle, the move started to fracture. Cox lines the eventual dissolution of Spiritualism during the contradictions of its quite a few nearby and racial factions and during their more and more circumscribed responses to a altering global. in any case, he concludes, the heritage of Spiritualism used to be written within the limits of sympathy, and never its unlimited potential.
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Extra info for Body and Soul: A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism
Philosophers vigorously debated the existence of a “moral sense” and inquired whether it was innate or acquired and whether the calipers of reason or the compass of emotion held the better measure of human lives. Although perspectives varied widely, the course of this debate firmly wedded reason and emotion as opposing end points in a continuum governing the language and practice of morality. ” For properly disciplined minds—and discipline was essential—reason would reveal the principles “implanted in our moral constitution,” yet even when leading to such desirable results, reason was impaired.
Sleepwalking farmers pitched hay or fed chickens, millers ground corn, students studied, and clergymen wrote and corrected sermons, saddlers worked leather, and servants performed domestic service. To the most mechanistically inclined observers like Benjamin Rush, this implied that the “habitual exercises or employments” of daily existence had imprinted themselves so firmly on the individual’s being as to shape the sleeping self—we were what we worked— suggesting that human behavior might be little more than the product of the association of memory and habit expressed through neural and physiological channels.
11 As natural and powerful as it was, however, sympathy had expressive limits: it was “habitual” (learned), and its experience was therefore predicated upon the tenor of the relationship of the individuals involved: a person sympathized most powerfully with those with whom he or she was most frequently in contact and much less powerfully with others. 12 Adding a further wrinkle, while the sympathetic response was like the originating sentiment, it was of nowhere near the “same degree of violence,” particularly with respect to bodily pain, and it was of only limited duration.
Body and Soul: A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism by Robert S. Cox