Synopses & Reviews
"At a time when the New Age movement is starting to make good on the Spiritualists' vision of America as a 'grand clairvoyant nation', Carroll's work raises provocative questions about the tension betwen freedom and authority in the harmonial religions of today." --Church History
"... offers the most comprehensive, sane examination of its topic yet available, no mean achievement for a subject long afflicted by religious partisanship and now perhaps in danger of sympathetic attraction." --Journal of American History
"... fascinating reading it will be for those with a taste for good scholarly writing and a love of the American past and the manifold varieties of the spiritual quest." --The Quest
"In addition to being an excellent introduction to mid-19th-century Spiritualism, Carroll's work also offers scholars a new vantage point from which to view the religious creativity that was so prominent in antebellum America in general." --Choice
During the decade before the Civil War, a growing number of Americans gathered around tables in dimly lit rooms, joined hands, and sought enlightening contact with spirits. The result was Spiritualism, a distinctly colorful religious ideology centered on spirit communication and spirit activity. Spiritualism in Antebellum America analyzes the attempt by spiritually restless Americans of the 1840s and 1850s to negotiate a satisfying combination of freedom and authority as they sought a sense of harmony with the universe.
In this study, Spiritualism emerges as a reflection of and a reaction to many currents in antebellum American life, including more democratic conceptions of religious authority, the revolt against religious formalism, the emergence of new religious groups, the liberalization of Protestant theology, the growing cultural power of science, and the rise of commercial capitalism. For believers, Spiritualism was a liberating rebellion against the religious status quo and a new religion that brought order, structure, comfort, and a sense of community to their lives. This is the story of spiritually restless Americans of the 1840s and 1850s attempting to create a space of ordered freedom in which to seek harmony with the universe.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -217) and index.
About the Author
Bret E. Carroll is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Foreword by Catherine L. Albanese and Stephen J. Stein
1. Introduction: Spiritualist Religion and the Search for Order
2. American Spiritualism and the Swedenborgian Order
3. Spiritualist Republicanism
4. The Structure of the Spirit World
5. The Ministry of Spirits
6. The Structure of Spiritualist Practice
7. The Structure of Spiritualist Society
List of Abbreviations