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Tuesday, September 02, 2003
  Ouija board, Ouija board

I finally got round to watching the Channel 4 documentary on spiritualism from their recent 'Psychic Night' (surely a misnomer, as they are talking solely about mediums rather than the more broad church of psychics)... anyway it seemed to me that they missed a fundamental point about the brief popularity of this faith. Rather like the other recent documentary on the Panacea Society who are still proudly clinging to Joanna Southcott's box (chortle chortle) this spiritualism documentary got it right in ascribing some of its popularity to the fact that it invited modern women into a newly created priesthood, that retained some of the trappings of the traditional Christian Priesthood.

However, surely more important than this was the way in which spiritualism transgressed the American Calvinist view of the afterlife. If at the moment of death you become instantly contactable by any passing Medium, this must be indicative that you aren't suffering spiritual purgation or punishment: there is no 'elect', just a teeming hotel on the 'other side' with a bustling switchboard.

They also missed the rather obvious point (though quite how I do not know) that the two upsurges in popular spiritualist interest occured in the 1870s and then again in the early 1920s; coinciding with the end of the American Civil war, and WWI respectively, when there was a considerable influx of new residents at said hotel... 
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