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The Other Side of Salvation

Spiritualism and the Nineteenth-Century Religious Experience

John B. Buescher

“You likely have never heard of the extraordinary characters that inhabit these pages. But after reading about them, you may wonder how we developed the blind spot in which these people have been made invisible."
—John B. Buescher

During the 1850s, a surprising number of Americans believed that the deceased could be contacted through trance mediums and séances. Many of the radical leaders of the anti-slavery, women’s rights, Temperance, prison reform and labor reform movements were involved in spiritualism and used it as a conduit for social and political reform. To them, spiritualism was a scientific alternative to religious systems that they believed relied on speculation and arbitrary dogma. Among the liberal religious denominations, Universalism was the one most affected by the spiritualist movement. Drawing from journals, newspapers, manuscripts and the personal papers of spiritualists and their opponents, this book tells the stories of visionary seers, prophets and inventors, pioneers in psychic healing and public lecturers who took to the podium, while in trance, to deliver communications from the spirits and to simultaneously agitate for reforms in society. The Other Side of Salvation is a fascinating read for anyone interested in America’s religious history.

John B. Buescher is chief of the Tibetan Broadcast Service of the Voice of America in Washington, D.C., which broadcasts in Tibetan to Tibet. He received his Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, focusing on the history of religions. He is the proprietor of the website, a website devoted the study of spiritualism. He lives in Annandale, Virginia.

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Last updated on Wednesday, June 2, 2010.

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