• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Why did nineteenth-century radicals such as Robert Owen and Alfred Russel Wallace, embrace the philosophy of spiritualism?

Extracts from this document...


Transfer-Encoding: chunked Why did nineteenth-century radicals such as Robert Owen and Alfred Russel Wallace, embrace the philosophy of spiritualism? The origins of Spiritualism can be traced back to 1848, when two teenage sisters, Kate and Margaret Fox supposedly communicated with the spirit of a peddler who had been murdered in their house fifteen years prior. News of this ?discovery? spread like wildfire and very soon people across the country and on the other side of the Atlantic were embracing the philosophy of spiritualism. Spiritualism, according to Alfred Russell Wallace, is the idea that after death, a man?s spirit survives in an ethereal body and commences and apparently endless moral progression. [1] To practice spiritualism is to communicate with spirits through a medium. The following essay will analyse the appeal of spiritualism and specifically why radicals in the Nineteenth-century; such as Robert Owen and Alfred Russel Wallace, embraced this philosophy. By analysing the three key factors of science, religion and socialism, it will be demonstrated that spiritualism was embraced by radicals because it both offered a curious alternative to traditional life, and provided a platform to build an idealistic future for society. A major reason why so many radicals embraced spiritualism is because this philosophy was a unique platform for expressing socialist opinions. Wallace had long been a social activist. He was very vocal in such matters ? in 1881, he criticised the UK?s free trade policies for the negative impact they were having on working-class people.[2] He also ...read more.


One could engage in spiritualist inspiration from their own homes. As Slotten explains, spiritualism appealed to many educated Victorians who no longer found the traditional religious doctrine acceptable, yet were unsatisfied with the increasingly materialistic and mechanical views emerging from Nineteenth-century science.[6] This idea of taking power away from the Church was reinforced by the on-going Industrial Revolution. As a result of industrialisation, there was increasing urbanisation and more goods were available for consumption. Before, much of the freedom of people was restricted ? either by the Church or the government, but now people could express themselves. The rise of spiritualism emphasised effects of Industrialisation and convinced many people that the Church is not a do-or-die form of authority. As the power of the Church declined, the power of science began to rise. In 1774, German doctor Franz Anton Mesmer began conducting experiments to discover if humans can be treated via the use of mechanical manipulation. In his work titled Planetarium Influxu, Mesmer argued the existence of animal magnetism, claiming that the movement of planets influences the conduction of invisible fluids. He claimed that health is influenced through bodily tides, and health and personality move in correspondence with various astrological influences. This scientific theory of mesmerism caught the eyes of many. The new and emerging bourgeois class in Paris was fascinated by Mesmer?s actions and this provided him with a new market. ...read more.


As well as the fundamentals of spiritualism being attractive to many, a key reason why so many radicals embraced spiritualism is because of the flourishing printing press. For many radicals who were already disillusioned by the Church, enticed by science, and driven by socialism; mass media reports of spiritualism acted as the final-step in the embracing of spiritualism. News of the Fox sisters? ?discovery? spread fast thanks to the new and improving communication technologies such as the mass media and the printing press. Additionally, popular literature (circulating rapidly during the Enlightenment era) often depicted ghost stories and hauntings, drawing in popular audiences. The Yorkshire Spiritualist Telegraph, Britain?s first supernatural newspaper, and other similar institutions appealed to masses. With the media and printing press constantly circulating information and stories on spiritualism ? it is inevitable that some radicals, and general people, would have been fascinated by this philosophy which was gaining mass coverage. ________________ [1] Alfred Russell Wallace, Miracles and Modern Spiritualism [1874] 3rd. ed. (London: George Redway, 1896), p. 115. [2] Slotten, The Heretic in Darwin?s Court, pp. 365-372. [3] Ibid., pp. 436-438, 366, 453, 487-488. [4] Ibid., pp. 265-267, 299-300, 361-364. [5] Frank Podmore, Robert Owen, a biography: Volume 2 (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1906), pp. 604-614. [6] Ross A. Slotten, The Heretic in Darwin?s Court: The Life of Alfred Russell Wallace (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), p. 4. [a]This needs to be footnoted somehow [b]I can talk about the Scientific Revolution if words are needed [c]An historian from the Reformation parts and a piece of evidence for scientific developments during the Enlightenment ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree 1800-1899 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree 1800-1899 essays

  1. Why was there so much interest in attempting to communicate with the spirit world ...

    monkey", to which Huxley replied "I am not ashamed to have a monkey for an ancestor but I am ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth"5. The controversy of religion against science led to both losing credibility6 in full view of Victorian

  2. Industrial Revolution and Marxism. As the Revolution progressed, the economic changes of the ...

    Thus, the second social impact of the Industrial Revolution was the ultimate breakdown of the family unit. The family unity was deteriorating. The family members were only sleeping at home and children were uneducated. Additionally, families lived in slums with little or no sanitation that led to high infant mortality rates.

  1. An In-depth comparison of two major Confederate Commanders: Robert. E. Lee and Braxton Bragg, ...

    Lee asks Jackson 'How can we get at those people?' and Jackson replies: 'You know best. Show me what to do, and we will do it.'iv This therefore shows that Jackson had faith in his commanding officer and was willing to implement any strategy that Lee came up with.

  2. The evolving identity of Scottish peoples in New Zealand during the 19th century

    and are not like a hat or item of clothing that can only be worn at a time. Sometimes people exhibited only one identity according to the circumstances in which they found themselves and the company they happened to be keeping at the time."16 Thus, while Scots could be broadly

  1. The turno pacfico system, although fraudulent and corrupt, was the best means to ensure ...

    As stated by Christopher Ross: C�novas' role as architect "had persuaded almost all Spaniards of any influence not only that the monarchy must be restored, but that Alfonso was the legitimate and only realistic candidate."2 In order for his system to function therefore, all he required was that the 'non-influential Spaniards' were either converted to support Alfonso or indeed himself.

  2. To what extent can Britishness be equated with Protestantism during the long eighteenth century?

    Successes in these wars led to vast colonial gains such as the acquisition of Bengal in 1757 only strengthened the idea, as will be discussed, that the defeat of popery at home and abroad and the spread of Protestantism could lead to a British Utopia of Liberty at home with a vast Empire7.

  1. The Development of the Telegraph and its Social Impact

    An experienced House telegraph operator could transmit between 1,800 and 2,600 words per hour, considerably faster than a Morse telegraph operator. What was the problem with the House telegraph? It was more complex and worked imperfectly on the wires of the day.

  2. In this essay I shall consider how all three explanations contributed to Chartisms support ...

    800 words[ac] Task 2 Write no more than 150 words for this task. Part 1 Briefly write down two or three pieces of feedback from your tutor on TMA 01. My tutor?s feedback on TMA01 included encouraging remarks regarding the structure and format of my work; I also received good comments on my referencing skills.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work