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Modern Occultism in Late Imperial Russia

Julia Mannherz

Publication Year: 2012

Modern Occultism in Late Imperial Russia traces the history of occult thought and practice from its origins in private salons to its popularity in turn-of-the-century mass culture. In lucid prose, Julia Mannherz examines the ferocious public debates of the 1870s on higher dimensional mathematics and the workings of séance phenomena, discusses the world of cheap instruction manuals and popular occult journals, and looks at haunted houses, which brought together the rural settings and the urban masses that obsessed over them. In addition, Mannherz looks at reactions of Russian Orthodox theologians to the occult.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Many people and institutions have helped me write this book. Financial support was provided by the Cambridge European Trust, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, the University of Göttingen, and in Oxford by the History Faculty, Oriel College, and the Fell Fund. I am grateful to all of them. ...

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pp. 3-20

In the early 1890s, the symbolist poet Valerii Iakovlevich Briusov discovered his enthusiasm for the occult, and by the early months of 1893, he was regularly attending spiritualist séances. Several times a week, he joined a circle of acquaintances who gathered in darkened rooms to experience uncanny, supernatural occurrences.1 ...

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1—The Laboratory in the Salon: Spiritualism Comes to Russia

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pp. 21-47

The origins of the widespread late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century fascination with the transcendental in the Russian empire go back about half a century to the 1850s, when spiritualism made its first appearance in Russia.1 Initially, spiritualists constituted a small and exclusive group of highly educated and socially privileged people. ...

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2—Occult Science and the Russian Public

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pp. 48-78

Spiritualism offered contemporaries individual experiences of another reality at private séance gatherings. But, as mentioned in the previous chapter, séance phenomena also transcended the personal realm and became a cause for public debate. Vagner’s claims to spiritualist scientificity gave rise to the public scandal that developed ...

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3—The Occult Metropolis: Putting the Hidden to Practical Use

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pp. 79-110

At the turn of the twentieth century, the occult sphere changed greatly. What in the late 1870s began as a fascination with séance phenomena and an intensely felt need to explain these scientifically metamorphosed into a varied landscape of diverse practices in the new century. ...

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4—Servants, Priests, and Haunted Houses

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pp. 111-139

At the end of the year 1900 and during 1901, several Russian journals and newspapers reported supernatural phenomena that had taken place in the house of the parish priest Ioann Solov’ev, who lived in the village of Lychentsy, some 20 miles from the provincial city of Pereslavl and 130 miles to the northeast of Moscow. ...

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5—Popular Occultism and the Orthodox Church

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pp. 140-162

Adepts of occult teachings claimed with persistent regularity that the Orthodox Church was engaged in a hostile campaign against them. Spiritualists constantly mentioned the vicious and prejudiced attitude of the Church toward them and celebrated themselves as suppressed freethinkers. ...

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6—The Occult at Court: Mariia Puare and the Fate of Occultism during the Great War

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pp. 163-188

In the autumn of 1916, a scandalous court case gripped the Russian public. In front of the St. Petersburg district court, Count Aleksei Orlov-Davydov, wealthy scion of a prominent aristocratic family, entrepreneur, Freemason, and member of the Duma, claimed that he had been duped by his second wife, the actress Mariia Puare, and her dabbling in occultism. ...

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pp. 189-194

The occult in late imperial Russia was widespread, multifaceted, controversial, informal, inclusive, and intricately bound up with the experience of the modern. Occultism grappled with the urgent questions of the day but did not provide straightforward answers. ...


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pp. 195-248

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 249-268


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pp. 269-276

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090647
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804620

Page Count: 316
Illustrations: 15
Publication Year: 2012