The Making of a Victorian Spiritualist: Multiple Directions and Inevitable Tensions

in An Elusive Victorian

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780226246130
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226246154 | DOI:
The Making of a Victorian Spiritualist: Multiple Directions and Inevitable Tensions

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This chapter elaborates on the Victorian spiritualism that has been a problematic area of inquiry. This is because the reasons for its mixed reception in the Victorian period are complex but comprehensible. Wallace extended the biogeographical arguments he used in analyzing zoological distribution in the Malay Archipelago to encompass the islands' human inhabitants. Wallace was not alone in his interest in studying mesmerism just as his approach to spiritualism was shared by many of his contemporaries. He was not the only one advancing the hypothesis that the [alleged] ether might be the medium linking the material to the spiritual world; William Crookes and Oliver Lodge, among other scientists, maintained similar suppositions. Wallace's career path placed him at times at the epicenter of the British scientific community and at other times at its margins. Thus, this shifting status had ramifications that intensified as he turned his formidable energies from spiritualism to political activism.

Keywords: Victorian spiritualism; Wallace; spiritual world; career path; political activism

Chapter.  31500 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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