Universalism and Spiritual Science

Ann Lee Bressler

in The Universalist Movement in America, 1770-1880

Published in print May 2001 | ISBN: 9780195129861
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834013 | DOI:

Series: Religion in America

Universalism and Spiritual Science

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A major part of Universalism’s appeal through the first half of the nineteenth century was its proponents’ reputation for contentiousness. The movement had always attracted more than its share of self-taught religious critics, and this was never more the case than during the Second Great Awakening, when the opportunities for denouncing irrationality and superstition seemed endless. However, as the revivals subsided, the targets for popular rationalism became less obvious, and Universalist energies were forced to seek new outlets. Without their traditional enemies, many Universalists began to waver in their sense of direction, and the denomination became subject to powerful centrifugal tendencies. Among the major new preoccupations of Universalists in this period were the popular “spiritual sciences” of phrenology, mesmerism, and spiritualism, and the heirs of John Murray and Hosea Ballou proved remarkably receptive to these and related teachings, which flowered in the period from the 1830s to the 1870s.

Keywords: American Universalism; contentiousness; mesmerism; phrenology; popular rationalism; Second Great Awakening; spiritual sciences; spiritualism

Chapter.  15235 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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