Our interview with Molly McGarry, Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Riverside. To wrap up our exploration of spiritualism, we follow her observations about the power and influence of spiritualism in American life, from past to present.
Our interview with Cathy Gutierrez, who has served as Professor of Religion at Sweet Briar College and Scholar in Residence at the New York Public Library. We discuss the nuances and historical development of spiritualist theology, as she explores it in her book Plato's Ghost: Spiritualism in the American Renaissance.
Our interview with John Buescher, co-director of the International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals. His dedication to cataloging and preserving spiritualist newspapers give his books on mediums a remarkable command of the people and ideas driving the movement forward.
Our interview with Mary Gabriel, whose books have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critic's Circle Award. Her biographies of Victoria Woodhull and Karl & Jenny Marx unveil the radical threads running through American spiritualism.
Our interview with Nancy Rubin Stuart, whose award winning biographies of American women include The Reluctant Spiritualist, our guide to the life of Maggie Fox for this season of Unobscured.
Our interview with Emily Clark, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga University. Her first book, A Luminous Brotherhood, explores spiritualism in New Orleans, giving us a perspective on spiritualism beyond the northeastern hubs of the movement.
Our interview with Margaret Washington, professor of History and American Studies at Cornell University. Her work on Sojourner Truth's life in the American landscape was invaluable for seeing spiritualism in a broad historical context.
Our interview with Ann Braude, Senior Lecturer on American Religious History at Harvard Divinity School. Her book, Radical Spirits, was a guiding light for our exploration of the role of spiritualism in American life.
Blows fell. Times changed. New voices rose up with answers to the nation’s pressing questions. But through it all, spiritualists worked to create an enduring place for themselves where the spirits could go on speaking.
What power did the spirits wield? They had convinced millions of their presence. They had moved mediums into high places. They had crossed oceans and shaken slumbering nations. Now the movement's leading lights saw a world to win.
Seances circled a high stakes table. Spirits were still comforting families, but in cities like New Orleans and New York, they also held to a glowing vision. The future of the nation's laws, and the levers of its economy, were up for grabs. Now was the time to bring heaven down to earth.
The war was over but the fight to determine the future of the nation continued. And the spirits had much to say. Devastated families cried out for their lost loved ones. Sometimes, the beloved dead answered back.
As shots rang out and armies crossed the nation, black spiritualists in New Orleans found themselves fighting for their homes against all comers. But most of the nation’s spirit believers were focused on the spirits clamoring around a different residence—Abraham Lincoln’s White House. Could they guide a generation of followers through the fires of conflict into the light of a new day?
The news was grim. Across the south, slave states were withdrawing from the nation. In the north, some spiritualists saw their chance to take their winnings and withdraw from conflict. But others kept their printing presses running. In their pages, the spirits raised their voices to a military march, singing songs of freedom—and war.
The child stars of spiritualism were growing up. And facing a whole host of new realities about their world. Were the spirits up to helping their young vessels find love and fight for reform as the storm clouds gathered?
The movement continued to swell. It found friends in high places. But everywhere it went, it found entrenched beliefs threatened by this new source of revelation. Finding harmony around a table was one thing. But when mediums met ministers, the seance became a street fight.
Spiritualists weren't the only ones who believed the dead could still be heard. That belief came trailing many stories. And with many aims. Some found a nourishing home. Others found a hunting ground.
Who could have imagined how quickly their message would cross oceans? Even as they traveled from city to city, the first spiritualists were celebrated by seekers. But an anarchic new faith wasn't met kindly when it faced the authorities of the old world.
A Harmonial Philosophy was one thing. But Rochester, New York, was about to become the cradle for so much more. The city wanted more than just words. They wanted a demonstration of power.
It was all wide open. Great awakenings shattered the old religions. Showmen made spectacles of cutting-edge science. Radicals campaigned for a social revolution. The nation waited with bated breath for a new kind of prophet to take the stage.