Miracles and Modern Spiritualism: A Re-Review


About 1875, Modern Spiritualism in Britain attained a peak of cultural influence. In January 1874 William Crookes published “Notes of an Enquiry into the Phenomena called Spiritual during the Years 1870–1873” in his Quarterly Journal of Science, reaching positive conclusions and postulating the existence of a psychic force. Another scientist was also reporting on his investigations. Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of evolution with Darwin, contributed “A Defence of Modern Spiritualism” to The Fortnightly Review in May 1874. James Burns, a Spiritualist editor, publisher, and bookseller, gathered together Crookes’s writings on Spiritualism, to form a volume Research into the Phenomena of Spiritualism (1874) which was to be very influential. In March 1875, Burns enjoyed another coup when he issued On Miracles and Modern Spiritualism. Three Essays by Alfred Russel Wallace (OMMS). Although this was a much more comprehensive work than Crookes’, it has had less impact, perhaps because it did not include the kind of laboratory experiments which Crookes reported with the medium D. D. Home. Nevertheless, OMMS was often reprinted, and has merits which still commend it to us today, which outweigh its disjointed origin. Wallace wrote clearly, and had a command of the literature, a background in science, and personal experience of the phenomena.

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