The Strange Case of Alfred Wallace

Ariel Glucklich

in The End of Magic

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780195108798
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853434 | DOI:
The Strange Case of Alfred Wallace

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In 1886, while visiting Boston on a speaking tour, Alfred Russell Wallace was taken by William James to a séance where several apparitions were expected to materialize. Wallace was not the only famous individual in England who was attracted by the lure of ghosts, but his passionate embrace of spiritualism may have been the strangest considering his career as a naturalist. The phenomena of spiritualism are related to the spirits' efforts to draw attention and to communicate and to the methods of the mediums for receiving information. They include raps and other noises, apports and the manipulation of objects, automatic writing, psychic photography, touching, appearances, and clairvoyance or clairaudience. Wallace's fascination with the occult was probably a result of an aversion he shared with Charles Darwin toward the dominant forms of Christianity. His inherent sense of justice and his appreciation of the uniquely human potential of mind and spirit led him away from evolution and Christian ethics alike and toward the third path of spiritual evolution as described by the spiritualist movement.

Keywords: Alfred Russell Wallace; séance; apparitions; William James; ghosts; spiritualism; England; occult; evolution; ethics

Chapter.  3155 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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