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