Title: The Occult in Nineteenth-Century AmericaAuthor: Cathy Gutierrez, ed.Series: Contexts and Consequences: New Studies in Religion and HistoryImprint: The Davies Group, Publisherssoft cover270 pp.USD 24.00ISBN 978-1888570830August 2005This collection offers critical insight into how the occult affected the range of experience in nineteenth-century America, whether deployed by believers or decried by detractors. Cultural manifestations such as magic shows, secret societies, sexual utopias, and American letters are examined at their intersection with the occult to see how the secret and the hidden shaped both high and low strata of daily life. The fascination with the occult, occurring simultaneously with rapid developments in technologies of communication, reflects a society searching for new frontiers of experience. From the holy to the humbug, this work explores America’s links with Europe’s esoteric past as well as innovations and new religious expressions that touched the lives of Americans ranging from the literary great to folk culture. The interplay and exchange between science and religion foreshadows our own epoch and serves as a timely example of both the creative and destructive aspects of cultural conflict. ContentsArthur Versluis, The ‘Occult’ in Nineteenth-Century AmericaJohn Kucich, Ghostly Communion: Spiritualism, Reform and Harriet Jacobs’ "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl"Matthew deVoll, Emerson and the Realms of Mesmerism, “Where angels fear to tread”Sheri Weinstein, Modern Spiritualism, Science and the Technologies of Literary RealismGeoffrey McVey, Thebes, Luxor, and Loudsville, Georgia: the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the Landscapes of 19th-century OccultismsFred Nadis, ‘If Not Spirits What Is It?’– Turn of the Century Magicians and the Anti-Spiritualistic PerformanceEric Casey and Cathy Gutierrez, From Eleusis to America: Masonry and the Modern MysteriesReviews“A delightful and delightfully learned collection of essays on some of the esoteric, mystical and occult traditions that made America America. Mesmerism, sexual mysticism, the abolitionist movement, social radicalism, early forms of feminism, Emerson and the spiritual potentials of natural science, Eleusinian mysteries, “the East,” Hermetic Brotherhoods and Masonic lodges, even Harry Houdini — it’s all here, and in rich abundance. A timely book about an important and still too often neglected topic.”— Jeffrey J. Kripal, J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Religious Studies, Rice University“This is a fascinating and provocative collection on an important, but relatively unexplored topic — the role of occultism, esotericism and hermeticism in 19th century America. Gutierrez's volume is balanced and well-conceived, and each of the essays opens a unique window onto a remarkable period in American religious history. It should be of real interest to scholars, students and general readers alike.”— Hugh Urban, Religious Studies, Ohio State UniversityEditorCathy Gutierrez is a Professor of Religion at Sweet Briar College. She has co-edited, with Hillel Schwartz, The End that Does: Art, Science, and Millennial Accomplishment(Equinox Books 2006) and has authored Plato’s Ghost: Spiritualism in the American Renaissance (Oxford University Press 2009).