17 April 2011
Seances

I’m watching Blithe Spirit on the telly.  Seances, trances and ouija boards in the 1940s.  It’s amazing how big a thing that sort of thing was back in those days.  It crops up in Brighton Rock and Agatha Christie.  Probably a few other things too.  Arthur Conan Doyle was a firm believer.  So was Dowding.  It was one of the things they used to get rid of the guy.  I guess the death toll in the First World War was a big factor in its popularity.

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  1. I always got the impression seances and spiritualism were popular in Victorian times, and only really went out of fashion in the second half of the 20th century.  Suspect rising life expectancies had a lot to do with it.

    Posted by Tim Hall on 17 April 2011 at 08:12pm

  2. I wonder if the development of science - in particular of biochemistry - might have something to do with the decline of spiritualism.  Quite educated people used to be believe in the “life force”, which inhabited the body but was separate from it, as a radio signal is separate from a radio receiver.

    Meanwhile, biologists catalogued life, but did not know much of what all living things had in common.  Now, they have cracked DNA, and made life seem more mechanical, the body less separable from the “spirit”.

    I am not saying that science has entirely scrubbed out the philosophical basis of spiritualism, but that has been the direction it has been moving in.

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 18 April 2011 at 01:00am

  3. Actually, I don’t “wonder” this.  I assert it.

    But I don’t think this is the only thing going on here though. I agree about all the premature deaths in the first half of the twentieth century, and all the people who missed them and wanted to get back in touch.

    Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 18 April 2011 at 01:02am

  4. Victor Hugo was another enthusiast for this stuff.

    Posted by Johnathan Pearce on 20 April 2011 at 07:58pm

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