From the publisher’s website: In its day, spiritualism brought hundreds of thousands of Americans to séance tables and trance lectures. It has alternately been ridiculed as the apogee of fatuous credulity and hailed as a feminist movement. Its tricks have been exposed, its charlatans unmasked, and its heroes' names lost to posterity. In its day, however, its leaders were household names and politicians worried about capturing the Spiritualist vote. Cathy Gutierrez places Spiritualism in the context of the 19th-century American Renaissance. Although this epithet usually signifies the sudden blossoming of American letters, Gutierrez points to its original meaning: a cultural imagination enraptured with the past and the classics in particular, accompanied by a cultural efflorescence. Spiritualism, she contends, was the religious articulation of the American Renaissance, and the ramifications of looking backward for advice about the present were far-reaching. The Spiritualist movement, says Gutierrez, was a 'renaissance of the Renaissance,' a culture in love with history as much as it trumpeted progress and futurity, and an expression of what constituted religious hope among burgeoning technology and colonialism. Rejecting Christian ideas about salvation, Spiritualists embraced Platonic and Neoplatonic ideas. Humans were shot through with the divine, rather than seen as helpless and inexorably corrupt sinners in the hands of a transcendent, angry God. Gutierrez's study of this fascinating and important movement is organized thematically. She analyzes Spiritualist conceptions of memory, marriage, medicine, and minds, explores such phenomena as machines for contacting the dead, spirit-photography, the idea of eternal spiritual affinity (which implied the necessity for marriage reform), the connection between health and spirituality, and mesmerism.
New Books and Media
Plato's Ghost: Spiritualism in the American Renaissance, by Cathy Gutierrez
The Science of Life After Death: New Research Shows Human Consciousness Lives On, by Stephen Martin
From the publisher’s website: What does science have to say about life after death? Until recently, very little. But now there are answers, and this book lays them out. Literally every person alive today will be better off if they know them. An exhaustive study by the University of Virginia Medical School clearly indicates consciousness continues after death in at least some cases, if not all. Research by others, however, shows that not knowing what to expect when death arrives, or being in denial about our demise, can lead to situations none of us would choose, or wish upon a loved one. This is reason enough to read this book and to make those close to you aware of what you learn.
But there are other benefits to reading it as well. Research by the Windbridge Institute strongly indicates it may be possible for living loved ones to get in touch with deceased loved ones. This book tells how, which will surely be good news for those who wonder about or have questions for close friends and family on the other side. Readers will learn death is a transition and not necessarily something to fear, provided we prepare for it mentally as well as understand and anticipate the stages our disembodied consciousness is likely to pass through. Those with an interest in science will be fascinated by the new discoveries and the theories postulated to explain them. Those interested in religion and spirituality will have some beliefs confirmed while others may be challenged. Whatever the case, this book could at last provide common ground for science and religion to occupy.
Filters and Reflections: Perspectives on Reality, edited by Zachary Jones, Brenda Dunne, Elissa Hoeger and Robert Jahn
From the publisher’s website: This new book is a series of essays related and responding to the PEAR laboratory publication, “Sensors, Filters, and the Source of Reality." This anthology presents an assortment of perspectives on how consciousness creates its experiential reality through an array of subjective “filters” by which “we endeavor to infer, either intuitively or analytically, composite functional models of our world and of ourselves.” Taken together, the individual contributions serve as an array of lenses that amplify the seminal essay.
The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind, by Claude Lecouteux
From the publisher’s website: How the ghost stories of pagan times reveal the seamless union existing between the world of the living and the afterlife.
• Demonstrates how Medieval Christianity transformed the more corporeal ghost encountered in pagan cultures with the disembodied form known today
• Explains how the returning dead were once viewed as either troublemakers or guarantors of the social order
The impermeable border the modern world sees existing between the world of the living and the afterlife was not visible to our ancestors. The dead could--and did--cross back and forth at will. The pagan mind had no fear of death, but some of the dead were definitely to be dreaded: those who failed to go peacefully into the afterlife but remained on this side in order to right a wrong that had befallen them personally or to ensure that the law promoted by the ancestors was being respected. But these dead individuals were a far cry from the amorphous ectoplasm that is featured in modern ghost stories. These earlier visitors from beyond the grave--known as revenants--slept, ate, and fought like men, even when, like Klaufi of the Svarfdaela Saga, they carried their heads in their arms.
Revenants were part of the ancestor worship prevalent in the pagan world and still practiced in indigenous cultures such as the Fang and Kota of equatorial Africa, among others. The Church, eager to supplant this familial faith with its own, engineered the transformation of the corporeal revenant into the disembodied ghost of modern times, which could then be easily discounted as a figment of the imagination or the work of the devil. The sanctified grounds of the church cemetery replaced the burial mounds on the family farm, where the ancestors remained as an integral part of the living community. This exile to the formal graveyard, ironically enough, has contributed to the great loss of the sacred that characterizes the modern world.
This book has been reviewed by John Newton in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research Vol 75(3).
Stuart Cumberland: The Victorian Mind Reader (CD), edited by Todd Karr and Barry Wiley
Stuart Cumberland (1857 – 1922) astonished Europe with his pioneer performances in mindreading, drawing acclaim and fame with miracles like finding hidden objects through supposed psychic power. A skilful writer, Cumberland (born Charles Garner) wrote several books on his life in mentalism and the techniques of phony mediums and psychics.
Our Stuart Cumberland: The Victorian Mind Reader CD brings you all of his rare mindreading publications, as well as several Cumberland-penned articles on mentalism and spiritualism, plus bonus books recounting his travels around the world.
With the help of mentalism historian Barry Wiley, we’ve also collected for you articles on his career from the Victorian press; his rare Cumberland News souvenir newspaper; and a complete Cumberland bibliography.
The CD includes over 2000 pages of material, all in convenient PDF format on CD with an index included for easy access.
Immortal Longings: F.W.H. Myers And The Victorian Search For Life After Death, by Trevor Hamilton
From the publisher’s website: Immortal Longings: FWH Myers and the Victorian search for life after death is the first full-length biography of Frederic W.H. Myers, leading figure in the Society for Psychical Research and friend and associate of Browning, Gladstone, Ruskin, Tennyson, Swinburne, Henry James, Prince Leopold and other influential Victorians. The book offers a fascinating insight into a key period in the development of Victorian thought.
Among many things it covers:
1. Extraordinary Phenomena Myers investigated extraordinary phenomena, much of which is still reported today: out of body experiences and astral projection, near death experiences, poltergeists, gurus like Madame Blavatsky claiming strange powers, mediums both private and public, and haunted houses (for example, the giant warrior haunting a chateau near Heidelberg, the Cheltenham Ghost that was seen by a considerable number of people, and the odd doings at Ballechin House in Scotland which caused a scandal in the press.
2. Life After Death Investigations Myers believed he had virtually proved life after death by a) the link he thought established between hundreds of apparitions and living or dead human beings b) the messages that the outstanding mediums Mrs Piper and Mrs Thompson gave him from his first great love Annie and his intimate friend and co-worker Edmund Gurney which contained information the medium could not know and was delivered in a way highly characteristic of the personality concerned.
3. Automatic Writing Some researchers have claimed that he has returned after death and proved his continued existence through the automatic writings of a number of mediums in England, America, India. These writings continued for thirty years.
4. Romance & Suicide There is also love, tragedy and jealousy in Myers' life. His first great love Annie, a married woman, committed suicide and Myers' wife, a rather possessive person, tried to prevent any detail about this being made public after his death, even though the relationship was platonic. This inhibited the work of researchers who were trying to verify the 'post-mortem' communications from Myers, since, for many years, they could not check the facts.
5. Credibility Myers researches led him to forming a view about human personality and psychology which Aldous Huxley has said is much richer than Freud's
Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot, by Bruce and Andrea Leininger with Ken Gross
From the publisher’s website: This is the story of James Leininger, who – a little more than two weeks after his second birthday – began having blood-curdling nightmares that just would not stop. When James began screaming out recurring phrases like, "Plane on fire! Little man can't get out!" the Leiningers finally admitted that they truly had to take notice.
When details of planes and war tragedies no two-year-old boy could know continued-- even in stark daylight-- Bruce and Andrea Leininger began to realize that this was an incredible situation. Soul Survivor is the story of how the Leiningers pieced together what their son was communicating and eventually discovered that he was reliving the past life of World War II fighter pilot James Huston. As Bruce Leininger struggled to understand what was happening to his son, he also uncovered details of James Huston's life-- and death-- as a pilot that will fascinate military buffs everywhere.
In Soul Survivor, we are taken for a gripping ride as the Leiningers' belief system is shaken to the core, and both of these families come to know a little boy who, against all odds and even in the face of true skeptics, harbors the soul of this man who died long ago.
The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences, edited by Janice Minor Holden, Bruce Greyson and Debbie James
From the publisher’s website: Experts from around the world share the history and current state of near-death experience (NDE) knowledge. They explore controversies in the field, offer stories from their research, and express their hopes for the future of investigation into this fascinating phenomenon.
As modern medical techniques for resuscitation advance, NDEs are more frequently reported. These include more than the popular notions of moving through a tunnel or seeing a light. They also include people, once revived, knowing things their knowledge of which can't currently be explained. As The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation makes clear, great controversy exists in the medical and psychological fields concerning NDEs. Are they caused by physiological changes in the brain, or are they biological reactions to oxygen loss or impending death? Are they a product of changing states of consciousness? Or are they caused by something else altogether? All of these ideas and more are discussed in this unique and comprehensive volume.
The Case Against Reincarnation, by James Webster
Customer review: At last, a long awaited study of the controversial subject of reincarnation and its bedfellow karma. Hitherto, books on the subject have generally supported reincarnation as a reality. James Webster's new book challenges most eloquently alleged cases of reincarnation which to some offers part explanation of the purpose of life.
The author quotes cases of spirit overshadowing, spirit attachment, false memories and the frailty of hypnotic regression which can be confused with evidence of reincarnation or past lives. Sometimes these manifestations are of a third person in the Spirit World projecting thoughts of their past life through the aura of the unwilling subject in the present.
Webster also quotes from the research of numerous intellectuals from the fields of philosophy, psychiatry and science along with contributions from the pioneers of spiritualism and psychical research, past and present. Most interesting are accounts of the work of Dr. Carl Wickland, an American psychiatrist whose work in spirit attachment is becoming recognised in modern psychiatry. Dr. Wickland helped patients who had been mentally disturbed by confused thoughts of being reincarnated or holding attachments of persons in spirit attempting to reincarnate. This milestone book is a must read and represents a definitive reference for students of spiritualism and philosophy.
Conceptions of the Afterlife in Early Civilizations: Universalism, Constructivism and Near-death Experience, by Gregory Shushan
This book has been reviewed by David Rousseau in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research Vol 75(2).
Life Force, the Scientific Basis: Volume 2 of the Synchronized Universe, by Claude Swanson
From the publisher’s website: It is the most comprehensive handbook on subtle energy: 720 pages, 1,500 references, 450 figures, it establishes the science and the physics which backs up and explains many mysteries, including long distance healing, the nature of the aura, and how shamanism creates instantaneous changes. It explains what "subtle energy," also called "chi," prana, "orgone" and torsion, really is. It explains what energy healers are really doing when they send their energy to a faraway client. It connects the mystical part with the scientific part of healing. Devices are now being built and patented, and equations being developed which integrate this ancient and elusive force with modern science.
Dr. Claude Swanson was educated as a physicist at MIT and Princeton University. During those years he worked at the MIT Science Teaching Center, Brookhaven National Laboratory and a Virginia cyclotron in the summer. At Princeton he received the National Science Foundation Fellowship and Putnam Fellowship. His Ph.D. thesis at Princeton was done in the "Gravity Group," which focuses on experimental cosmology and astronomy.
For the last fifteen years, interspersed with his conventional professional career in applied physics, Dr. Swanson has pursued investigations into "unconventional physics." His principal interest has been unified field theory, the so-called "Theory of Everything" which could explain the universe at the deepest possible level. This has led him to investigate many aspects of the paranormal, which appear to be completely real phenomena which violate our present science. Paranormal phenomena, which have now been proven in the laboratory in many cases, offer a window into the deeper universe, the mysteries of consciousness, and unlock new forces and principles which conventional science has only begun to glimpse.
The End Of Materialism: How Evidence Of The Paranormal Is Bringing Science And Spirit Together, by Charles Tart
From the publisher’s website: Charles Tart reconciles the scientific and spiritual worlds by looking at empirical evidence for the existence of paranormal phenomena that point toward our spiritual nature, including telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis, and psychic healing. Science seems to tell us that we are all meaningless products of blind biological and chemical forces, leading meaningless lives that will eventually end in death. The truth is that unseen forces such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and other phenomena inextricably link us to the spiritual world, and while many skeptics and scientists deny the existence of these spiritual phenomena, the experiences of millions of people indicate that they do take place. In this book, transpersonal psychologist Charles Tart presents over fifty years of scientific research conducted at the nation's leading universities that proves humans do have natural spiritual impulses and abilities. The End of Materialism presents an elegant argument for the union of science and spirituality in light of this new evidence, and explains why a truly rational viewpoint must address the reality of a spiritual world. Tart's work marks the beginning of an evidence-based spiritual awakening that will profoundly influence your understanding of the deeper forces at work in our lives.