Laboratories of Faith in the Guardian

Great review of Laboratories of Faith: Mesmerism, Spiritism, and Occultism in Modern France by John Warne Monroe, along with two other books on the uncanny, by Jad Adams in the Guardian. A highlight:

“This is an excellently researched, scholarly look at serious-minded people seeking empirical truth for the doctrines they already believed by faith, a ‘science of God.’ With a firmer grip than most writers on his subject, Monroe puts these events into their political context, showing how psychic phenomena had a rewarding way of changing shape to reflect the preoccupations of those observing them. In the post-1848 atmosphere of political repression journalists enjoyed reporting exciting events that were not subject to censorship; Catholic priests were able to play on anxieties by presenting the devil as a demonstrable presence in the séance room; scientists could portray themselves as objective guardians of rationality. The political left also gained solace from these phenomena, following revolution and a conservative backlash. Victor Hugo, for example, in 1853 asked a table for a ‘commentary,’ to which it replied ‘Republic.’ He asked the table to strike the floor as many times as there were years from then until the republic; the table struck two blows. Thus a divine order ruled the universe and a French republic was part of that order. It was very reassuring, once you had overcome your reserve about talking to a table.”

Bigfoot was here: Jad Adams enjoys three studies of the persistence of belief in the paranormal

Laboratories of Faith in the Guardian