Spirit Matters

Spirit Matters

Occult Beliefs, Alternative Religions, and the Crisis of Faith in Victorian Britain

Spirit Matters explores the heterodox and unorthodox religions and spiritualities that arose in Victorian Britain as a result of the faltering of Christian faith in the face of modernity, the rise of the truth-telling authority of science, and the first full exposure of the West to non-Christian religions. J. Jeffrey Franklin investigates the diversity of ways that spiritual seekers struggled to maintain faith or to create new faiths by reconciling elements of the Judeo-Christian heritage with Spiritualism, Buddhism, occultism, and scientific naturalism. Spirit Matters covers a range of scenarios from the Victorian hearth and the state-Church altar to the frontiers of empire in Buddhist countries and Egyptian crypts. Franklin reveals how this diversity of elements provided the materials for the formation of new hybrid religions and the emergence in the 20th century of New Age spiritualities.

Franklin investigates a broad spectrum of experiences through a series of representative case studies that together trace the development of unorthodox religious and spiritual discourses. The ideas and events discussed by Franklin through these case studies were considered outside the domain of orthodox religion yet still religious or spiritual rather than atheistic or materialistic. Among the works—obscure and canonical—he analyzes are Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Zanoni and A Strange Story; Forest Life in Ceylon, by William Knighton; Anthony Trollope’s The Vicar of Bullhampton; Anna Leonowens’s The English Governess at the Siamese Court; Literature and Dogma, by Matthew Arnold; and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

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