Sunday, January 7, 2007

Over on the other side

At Christianity Today's Books & Culture, a good, long, review of books describing the influence of Spiritualism - primarily a mid-to-late 19th century religious movement, but with echoes today. In the midst of much interesting material, there is this description of its origins:
One night in 1848, the Fox sisters [see picture] and their parents and siblings heard loud knockings after going to bed in their family's cabin. Whatever was making the noises proved to be intelligent. It could respond to questions, one knock for yes, two for no. The resulting "conversations" became increasingly extravagant, such that the "raps" could knock on specific letters of the alphabet and enunciate entire sentences.

The sisters claimed their source was a certain peddler who had been murdered in that very house during a sales stop while traveling through selling his wares some years before. Quickly observers noted the raps occurred when either Kate or Maggie was present, but not otherwise. They were soon celebrities, given opportunities to speak and demonstrate their ability as mediums before large audiences in cities all over the United States and Europe. [More]
Before long séances were seemingly being held everywhere. The Civil War and a very high mortality rate for the young in that era increased the desire to know how those who had "passed over" were doing. The appeal of Spiritualism wasn't just to the gullible, or, at least it was to those made gullible by a desperate desire to communicate with lost loved ones. Most mediums, including the Fox sisters, were eventually exposed as charlatans - taking advantage of that desperation. The yearning illustrated by Spiritualism is still evident in novels, films and television with plots based on the efforts of ghosts to engage with the living.

God once told His people:
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a wizard or a necromancer, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. (Dt 18:9 [ESV])
Source: If Death Is No Barrier - Books & Culture

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