Body and Soul: A Sympathetic History of American by Robert S. Cox

By Robert S. Cox

A made from the "spiritual hothouse" of the second one nice Awakening, Spiritualism grew to become the quickest starting to be faith within the country throughout the 1850s, and one of many imperative responses to the frequent notion that American society used to be descending into atomistic particularity.

InBody and Soul, Robert Cox indicates how Spiritualism sought to remodel sympathy into social perform, arguing that every person, residing and lifeless, used to be poised inside a nexus of impact, and during the energetic propagation of those sympathetic bonds, a brand new and coherent society may emerge. Phenomena corresponding to spontaneous somnambulism and sympathetic communion with the dead―whether via séance or "spirit photography"―were methods of transcending the obstacles dissecting the yankee physique politic, together with the final word barrier, demise. Drawing both upon social, occult, and physiological registers, Spiritualism created a different "social body structure" within which brain was once built-in into physique and physique into society, top Spiritualists into earthly social reforms, comparable to women’s rights and anti-slavery.

From the start, even if, Spiritualist political and social expression used to be way more varied than has formerly been famous, encompassing exact proslavery and antiegalitarian traces, and within the wake of racial and political changes following the Civil struggle, the move started to fracture. Cox strains the eventual dissolution of Spiritualism in the course of the contradictions of its quite a few local and racial factions and during their more and more circumscribed responses to a altering global. after all, he concludes, the background of Spiritualism was once written within the limits of sympathy, and never its unlimited potential.

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12 Adding a further wrinkle, while the sympathetic response was like the originating sentiment, it was of nowhere near the “same degree of violence,” particularly with respect to bodily pain, and it was of only limited duration. In a sense, sympathetic experience was as constrained by social relations as it was constitutive of them: the desire for self-command and the need for approbation were so powerful for Smith that they blunted the sympathetic sharing of pain. 13 In the same way that the capacity for sympathetic exchange was innate, so too was an “original desire to please, and an original aversion to offend,” and these sentiments were so powerful, and the dread of social isolation so intense, that together they comprised a system that ensured not only that individuals would sympathize and restrain antisocial behaviors, they would need to sympathize.

23 From Whytt to William Alison (a “zealous disciple” of Reid and Stewart), it was more typical, however, to envision the nervous system as implicated in the sympathetic response but only with the participation of the brain, the seat of the mind. An irritation at the surface of the body or in the viscera was thought to excite a sensation in the brain, which then excited a response elsewhere in the body. 24 Sleepwalking and Sympathy •  James Rodgers has argued that the ideological nexus of occult, social, and physiological conceptions of sympathy provided the means for the nervous system to become a discourse about social systems and vice versa, and even a cursory examination demonstrates how readily such connections were made and how slippery the argument could be.

Skeptical about the content of the self and believing that the self “independent of the perception of every other object” was, in reality, nothing, Hume argued that when the passions were turned onto the self, they perform, in Pinch’s words, “a kind of person-ification” that ties the complex “bundle of perceptions” within the individual into a package that can called the self. 16 The high-water mark of Smithian sympathy was reached during the somnambular years of the s through s. Although Smith’s theories  • Sleepwalking and Sympathy were far from universally accepted, familiarity with them was widespread.

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