Investigating the Supernatural
From Spiritism and Occultism to Psychical Research and Metapsychics in France, 1853–1931
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Between 1859 and 1862, the popular science writer Louis Figuier, a former professor at the Paris �cole de pharmacie, published his Histoire du merveilleux dans les temps modernes, a momentous work in four volumes relating many mysterious phenomena witnessed throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Featured in his collection of supernatural occurrences were divining rods, pendulums, cases of group possessions, electric girls, and mediums communicating with ...
1 From Turning Tables to Spiritism
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One evening in May 1853, about twenty people gathered at the home of M. Delamarre, a Parisian banker, to witness an exciting and mysterious new phenomenon. Forming a chain, hands resting on a table, the participants waited patiently for unprovoked movements of the table or sounds of rapping to occur.1 The Parisians had discovered a new game: turning tables. In many salons that season, evenings would be spent in a similar manner, waiting for tables to turn of their own ...
2 Occult Wisdoms, Astral Bodies, and Human Fluids
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In September 1889, as many as forty thousand participants came to Paris for the first meeting of the Congr�s spirite et spiritualiste international. Although united in their belief in the authenticity of mediumistic phenomena, those who partook in the proceedings adhered to no set explanation about them. At the congress, ...
3 Pathologies of the Supernatural
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The city of Lyon was in danger, Dr. Philibert Burlet warned in a lecture at the Société des sciences médicales at the end of 1862 in which he reported on the cases of six patients at the Antiquaille hospital who he thought were exhibiting signs of mental illness directly related to the practice of spiritism. Moreover, this situation was not unique, Burlet told his audience—every physician in the region dealing ...
4 Witnessing Psychical Phenomena
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Psychical research officially began in France with the founding of the Annales des sciences psychiques in 1891. In the opening pages of the first issue, the physiologist Charles Richet declared: “We are of the firm conviction that, alongside the known and described forces, there are forces that we do not know; that ordinary, simple mechanical explanations do not suffice to explain all that is happening ...
5 The Rise and Fall of Metapsychics
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In October 1918, Dr. Rocco Santoliquido, a public health official, informed numerous friends and colleagues of his intention to create an international institute of metapsychics in Paris. Far from eclipsing national and regional societies, he wrote, the new institution would allow better communication and collaboration across the discipline.1 Santoliquido had obtained funding for his institute from the French industrialist Jean Meyer, a committed spiritist, who had proposed to ...
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The 1930s opened with dark clouds hovering over the Institut m�tapsychique international. With the deaths of Rocco Santoliquido and Jean Meyer, the institute lost two of its most dynamic and valuable leaders. By then, Gabriel Delanne, Camille Flammarion, Gustave Geley, and most of the initial advocates of psychical research and metapsychics in France were gone. The few that were left would ...
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I am very grateful for the support I received from numerous corners for this project. For their financial and institutional support, I am indebted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the University of Notre Dame, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and the University of Guelph. For the generous use of their archives, I want to thank Jacques Pernet and Patrick Fuentes at the Observatoire Flammarion, and Mario Varvoglis at the Institut m�tapsychique international. ...
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Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 7 halftones
Publication Year: 2011