At home with the dead: Spiritualism, domesticity and the quiet contestation of authority
Marion Bowman [+]
Spiritualism in Britain traditionally has had a marginal and ambivalent relationship with various aspects of mainstream society: the law, the institutional Christian Church, and secular worldviews. Key beliefs such as the communion of spirits, the ministry of angels, the continuous existence of the human soul, and by extension the ability to communicate with deceased loved ones, have caused it to be denounced and derided for decades. However, it has nonetheless existed as a constant if somewhat neglected phenomenon in British religious and spiritual life, providing comfort, hope, healing and alternative sources of experience and authority not only for its members, but for those of other religious persuasion or none who have been drawn to it, often in times of crisis. This chapter explores both the domestic and gendered aspects of Spiritualism (which have perhaps contributed to its neglect or undervaluing as a religious phenomenon), and the ways in which it quietly contests authority.