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Secular Spirituality
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Secular Spirituality challenges the traditional dichotomy between Enlightenment reason and religion. It follows French romantic socialists' and spiritists' search for a new spirituality based on reincarnation as a path to progress for individuals and society. Leaders like Allan Kardec argued for social reform; spiritist groups strove for equality; and women mediums challenged gender roles. Lynn L. Sharp looks closely at what it meant to practice spiritism, analyszing the movement's social and political critique and explaining the popularity of the new belief. She explores points of convergence and conflict in the interplay between spiritism and science, spiritism and psychology, and spiritism and the Catholic church to argue that the nineteenth century was not as 'disenchanted' as has been thought. Secular Spirituality successfully places spiritism within a larger cultural conversation, going beyond the leaders of the movement to look at the way spiritism functioned for its followers.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Secularism and spirituality Chapter 2 Romantic Reincarnation and Social Reform Chapter 3 1850-1880: Building a Movement Chapter 4 Progress of the Seance: Progress, Gender, Equality Chapter 5 Struggles for Legitimacy: Science and Religion Chapter 6 Spiritism, Occultism, Science: Meanings of Reincarnation in the Fin de Siecle Chapter 7 Conclusion: Thoughts for "Modern" Spirits

About the Author

Lynn L. Sharp is associate professor of history at Whitman College.

Reviews

Recommended. -- D. A. Harvey, New College of Florida CHOICE This fine study of French spiritism in the nineteenth century confirms a growing recognition by historians that various forms of modern religiosity survived the development of materialist critique of traditional religion. These movements, which Sharp deftly and judiciously surveys here, combined the humanist vision of a progressive and egalitarian society with a mystical faith in everyday miracles. It provides a more complex story about the growth of reason and the decline of religious observance than can be told in the conventional discourse of the struggle between clericalism and anti-clericalism. -- Robert A. Nye, Horning Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History, Oregon State University

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